Division of Labour: Culture Archives
March 13, 2013

My wife and I have been reading and enjoying young adult literature with libertarian/dystopic themes for many years. It started with The Giver books, then The Shadow Children set, and of course lately The Hunger Games trilogy.

After publishing a couple non-fiction books, she's decided to try her own hand at the genre and has a draft young adult novel ready. She is now trying to get noticed by an agent or publisher, and has a nifty new website to promote it.

It’s the year 2034. Terrorists with chemical weapons are about to attack the United States. But don’t panic—the government is distributing an antidote, and three drops a day will keep you safe. Taking that daily dose is a small price to pay for your safety, right? It may seem that way, but soon Careen Catecher and Tommy Bailey will discover the truth...

You can download a chapter by joining her "fan club". If you like, help her out by sharing with your friends, re-blogging, etc..

Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:31 PM in Culture

October 13, 2012
This is my life

Billy Joel's classic "My Life" was released 24 years ago this month, peaking at #3 on Billboard in January of 1979.

This is one of my favorite rock songs, because, although I doubt that Joel intended it as such, the lyrics are a great summary of the libertarian philosophy. This includes the importance of voluntary social institutions. Indeed, my favorite line is when the singer notes "I still belong, don't get me wrong" - getting it wrong is what the statist left routinely does, assuming anyone who wants control of his own life or who opposes state coercion is somehow anti-social.

Got a call from an old friend
We used to be real close
Said he couldn't go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house
Bought a ticket to the West Coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.

I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone

I never said you had to offer me a second chance
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
I still belong, don't get me wrong
You can speak your mind
But not on my time

They will tell you, you can't sleep alone in a strange place
Then they'll tell you, you can't sleep with somebody else
Ah, but sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it's okay to wake up with yourself.

Posted by Brad Smith at 11:00 AM in Culture

April 24, 2012
On duty and bravery c. 1912

From the April 23, NYT comes a story concerning the engineers of the Titanic who, as witnesses attest, kept the lights burning almost to the very moment the ship finally sank:

"It is seldom that an engineer is saved in the wreck of a great vessel," said the Rev. G. McPherson Hunter, Secretary of the American Seamen's Friend Society, who is said to be the only clergyman in the country holding the certificate of a Chief Engineer. "Their conduct calls for the same kind of bravery which is exhibited by the skipper, who stands on the bridge and goes down with the ship. when the call of danger comes their duty is down in the bottom of the vessel instead of up on deck. In the case of the Titanic it is impossible to estimate how many lives were saved by their faithfulness. how many would have perished who are now saved had the lights on that great liner gone out? The engineers kept them burning almost to the last minute.

"The engineers were not deceived by false hope. They were in a position to know how badly the vessel was injured. then they worked in an uncertainty which must have been maddening. On deck the crew and passengers could see what was going on. Down in the engine room they could not tell how the work of lowering the boats was progressing. they had no chance and they must have known it.

The Rev. Mr. Hunter's theory is that the engineers off duty went to the assistance of those working, and it was the blessing of hard work which kept them from thinking.

They did not hear the Captain's last word as the vessel began to sink that, duty done, every man must take care of himself. Even if they had they wold never have been able to climb up steep iron ladders before they could reach the deck. It was ninety feet from the water line to the boat deck, and they were thirty-two feet below that.

"They died like men," said Mr. Hunter," and their bravery seems to have been overlooked. It can be said of them that, like the higher officers, they stuck to their posts until death."

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:16 PM in Culture

April 23, 2012
On what matters c. 1912

The April 23, 1912 NYT has an obituary for one Bram Sroker. It is interesting what the folks of the time thought was important about Mr. Sroker's life:

Bram Stoker, author, theatrical manager, close friend and adviser of the late Sir Henry Irving, died in London last Sunday. For twenty-seven years he was business manager for the famous English actor, in charge of the Lyceum Theatre during Irving's tenancy of that house....

His [Stoker's] best-known publication is "Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving," issued in 1908. Among his other works, mostly fantastic fiction, are "Under the Sunset," "The Snake's Pass," The Watter's Mou," The Shoulder of Shasta," "Dracula," "The Mystery of the Sea," and "The Lady of the Shroud."

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:45 PM in Culture

April 15, 2012
Marriage advice c. 1912

The April 15, 1912 NYT provides a list of "don'ts" for husbands of the time:

The Rev. Dr. W.W. Bustard, pastor of John D. Rockefeller's Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, in a prelude to his regular sermon last night gave these ten "Don'ts" for husbands as a solution of the divorce evil:

Don't forget your wife wants to be loved as much after marriage as before.

Don't arrange for your second marriage before your first wife is either dead or divorced.

Don't compel your wife to ask for a cent every time she needs one.

Don't carry all your religion in your wife's name.

Don't let your neighbors pity your children because you were their father.

Don't gossip - men should not encroach on a woman's privilege.

Don't try to run a 40 horse power automobile on a 4 horse power salary.

Don't live beyond your means, or according to your mean-ness.

Don't forget the best legacy you can leave your family is the memory of a good husband and a kind father.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:32 AM in Culture

Heart Wrenching c. 1912

The April 15, 1912 NYT has three articles concerning the disaster unfolding on the HMS Titanic. The first is optimistic but, in retrospect, very heart wrenching:

At 10:25 o'clock to-night the White Star line steamship Titanic called "C.Q.D" to the Marconic wireless station here, and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.

Half an hour afterward another message came reporting that they were sinking by the head and that women were being put off in the lifeboats.

The weather was calm and clear, the Titanic's wireless operator reported, and gave the position of the vessel at 41.46 north latitude and 50.14 west longitude.

The Marconi station at Cape Race notified the Allan liner Virginian, the captain of which immediately advised that he was proceeding for the scene of the disaster.

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic and expected to reach that vessel about 10 A.M. Monday.

2 A.M. Monday - The Olympic at an early hour this, Monday morning, was in latitude 40.32 north and longitude 61.18 west. She was in direct communication with the Titanic, and is now making all haste toward her.

The steamship Baltic also reported herself as about 200 miles east of the Titanic, and was making all possible sped (sic) toward her.

The last signals from the Titanic were heard by the Virginian at 12:27 A.M.

The wireless operator on the Virginian say these signals were blurred and ended adruptly (sic).

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:27 AM in Culture

April 12, 2012
Navel-gazing c. 1912

The April 12, 2012 issue of the NYT:

Secretary Benjamin R. Andrews of the School of Industrial and Household Arts at Columbia says that household economics was taught in the young women's seminaries of this country as far back as 1835. Now 132 schools give collegiate degrees for proficiency in the courses of home-making.

But conditions in the home have changed within seventy-five years. The original teachers of housekeeping trained their pupils in butter and soap making, knitting, spinning, weaving, the manufacture of garments, and many kindred occupations, which have been segregated from the home and specialized in factories. Were domestic servants as plentiful now as then, housewives would have nothing to do.

Most of the present teaching of housekeeping is confined to the use of mechanical substitutes for the house servant. 'We are already teaching laundry work," Dr. Andrews says: "you should see the array of mangles [wringers] and other washing machinery in our basement." Such of the arts and crafts of housekeeping as could be transferred to factories equipped by machines have departed from the home. For those that remain machinery is being brought in, and the women are being taught how to use it. Thus the last of mediaeval (sic) institutions, that of mistress and servant, is disappearing.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:37 PM in Culture

March 27, 2011
Lanny Friedlander, R.I.P.

Lanny Friedlander, the founder of Reason, the flagship magazine of libertarianism, has passed away. Nick Gillespie has a nice memoriam here.

Posted by Brad Smith at 02:47 PM in Culture

March 14, 2011
On Moving Pictures c. 1911

From the March 14, 1911 NYT:


Children's Society Going Before the Legislature and Conference Appeals to the Mayor

"The Children's Society's opposition is based upon the objection that men may sit beside children in the darkness attending the performances in moving picture houses, and it is advocating a State law for segregation of the sexes and the showing of pictures while the lights are on.

No mention about content of the movies - that agenda will come later.

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:25 PM in Culture

March 10, 2011
On legislating fashion c. 1911

Today we worry about baggy pants, in 1910 and 1911 there were concerns about hat pins and, evidently, the harem and hobble skirt. The social stigma associated with the Harem Skirt [or new-found popularity for those women who chose to wear one] was enough to merit a 1911 movie short movie about the issue.

From the March 10, 1911 NYT:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Harem and hobble skirts were the subject of a bill presented in the House to-day by Representative Murphy of Chicago. "Hobbles" measuring less than one and one-half yards and not more than three yards at the bottom are prohibited. An absolute ban is placed upon the "harem skirt" by the bill, which prohibits any women appearing in public in the garb.

The penalty for violation of the proposed law is a fine of not less than $10 nor more than $50 for each and every offense. Each appearance upon any public street or thoroughfare or in any public place constitutes a separate offense.

Yes, upon seeing the Hobble Skirts from the early 1910s, Rep. Murphy was right to rid the society of such evil. And the harem skirt? Don't get me started.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:44 AM in Culture

December 28, 2010

My son Kevin gives us the scoop on hipness: it's costly signals. Makes sense, though, 'cause EVERYTHING is about costly signals.

Check it out. Article starts on p. 110.

Posted by Michael Munger at 11:43 PM in Culture

December 25, 2010
The Greenwood Lake Philosopher c. 1910

From the Dec. 25, 1910 NYT:

- Hustle is the yeast that causes a man to rise in the world.
- The man who marries a widow must expect her to be on to all the old excuses.
- Never trust a man who deceives himself.
- A dollar looks mighty small when you borrow it, but it looks ten times as big when you have to pay it back.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:30 PM in Culture

The Gentle Cynic c. 1910

From the Dec. 25, 1910 NYT:

- The man who borrows trouble never gets out of debt.
- It is difficult to build up credit on counterfeit prosperity.
- Some people get out of tune with the world because they constantly harp on one string.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:27 PM in Culture

On the customer is always right c. 1910

An amazing story from the Dec. 25, 1910 NYT:

St. Louis - Enraged because a steak he had ordered in a restaurant was not served promptly, John Bennett, aged 18 years, a newsboy, this afternoon drew a revolver and killed James Costas, an employe of the restaurant.

Bennett then excused himself to the other diners for the disturbance and walked out. He was arrested two blocks from the restaurant.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:23 PM in Culture

December 21, 2010
Christmas Extravagance c. 1910

A letter to the editor in the Dec. 21, 1910 NYT reminds us that the "Buy Nothing Day" folks are nothing new:

It is astonishing to see what lengths some people will go to in giving presents at Christmas. I am told they will borrow, go in debt, or even steal to gratify their desires. The ladies get the worst of it, of course. It requires great skill to manage the whole business successfully and economically. I was told by a lady friend not long ago that in her exchanges last Christmas one of her friends returned, through a mistake, the gift she had sent to her the year before.

File this in the "things never change drawer:" Complaints about over-indulgence in materialism during Christmas and the horrors of re-gifting are nothing new.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:31 AM in Culture

December 09, 2010
Anti-Obamacare c. 1910

A letter to the editor in the Dec. 9, 1910 NYT provides something to think about:

In a recent editorial article you state: "Just now the Government at Washington, in seeking to direct too many affairs in widely scattered portions of the confederation of States, has permitted its own affairs to be managed extravagantly. It is to-day in as bad a condition as any of the States - in worse condition, even."

I agree with you that the Federal Government is seeking to direct too many affairs in all sections of the country, but cannot understand how, in the face of this fact, you favor the enactment of legislation creating a new Cabinet department, to be called the Department of Public Health, which, according to its advocates, would involve the employment of thousands of officials and the expenditure of millions of dollars.

If the Health Departments of the various States are inefficient, the remedy would seem to be to make them efficient, and not to make conditions more complicated by dividing authority between them and a National Department of Health.

Does THE TIMES believe that the remedy for too much Federal interference with State affairs is more paternalism on the part of the National Government?


Posted by Craig Depken at 02:57 PM in Culture

December 03, 2010
On Journalism c. 1910

From a short bit in the December 3, 1910 NYT:

JACKSON, La: A decided novelty in the way of newspaper publication is soon to be introduced at Jackson. It will be issued by inmates of the State Insane Asylum here. The paper will be called the Bulletin, and will be published "Every Once in a While."

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:54 PM in Culture

September 24, 2010
Herbert Spencer on Fashion and Freedom

While consuming Daniel Leonhard Purdy's nice anthology of 18th and 19th century writings on fashion, The Rise of Fashion (2004), I stumbled upon this passage by Herbert Spencer, highlighting one of the many intersections between fashion and politics.

As now existing, Fashion is a form of social regulation analogous to constitutional government as a form of political regulation: displaying, as it does, a compromise between governmental coercion and individual freedom. Just as, along with the transition from compulsory co-operation to voluntary co-operation in public action, there has been a growth of the representative agency serving to express the average volition; so has there been a growth of this indefinite aggregate of wealthy and cultured people, whose consensus of habits rules the private life of society at large. And it is observable in the one case as in the other, that this ever-changing compromise between restraint and freedom, tends towards increase of freedom. For while, on the average, governmental control of individual action decreases, there is a decrease in the rigidity of Fashion; as is shown by the greater latitude of private judgment exercised within certain vaguely marked limits.

Imitative, then, from the beginning, first of a superior's defects, and then, little by little, of other traits peculiar to him, Fashion has ever tended towards equalization. Serving to obscure, and eventually to obliterate, the marks of class distinction, it has favored the growth of individuality; and by so doing has aided in weakening Ceremonial, which implies subordination of the individual.

From "Fashion" by Herbert Spencer in The Principles of Sociology (1902).

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:30 PM in Culture

September 17, 2010
You Mean She Wasn't There Already?

Report: Octo-Mom headed for welfare

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:11 AM in Culture

August 09, 2010
Police: Man had beer in pants

That's the headline on the website of the local fishwrap. I was going to wonder aloud which of my friends/co-bloggers might be the culprit until I saw this paragraph in the article:

Police said Whitehead took a 12-pack of Budweiser Light valued at $9.69 and hid it in his pants leg.

Wow, I'd like to see those pants.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:54 AM in Culture

June 16, 2010
A Book I Look Forward to Reading

Jeffrey A. Tucker, Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:58 AM in Culture

June 07, 2010
Why is Hollywood Anti-Capitalist?

Alex Tabarrok offers a nice three-fold explanation at the WSJ Online here.

Hollywood's anti-capitalism is not accidental. It stems from three sources: the rage of directors and screenwriters against their own capitalist backers, the difficulty of using a visual medium to depict the invisible hand, and an ethical framework which Hollywood shares with most of our culture that regards self-interest as inherently immoral or, at best, amoral.

On the first point, Alex says filmmakers need investors (i.e. capitalists) for financial support and get resentful when they have to compromise artistic imperative for market gains. I imagine a director shouting, "I hate you Mark Cuban for making me make movies that will actually sell tickets!" Perhaps this is one-directional, though. I certainly buy Alex's constraint argument. But why would capitalists systematically keep returning to directors who portray capitalists negatively? The most obvious answer to me is they don't care how alternative economic systems are portayed. They care about profits.

Yet if profit is the driving force, we also have to ask why viewers keep coming back. (If viewers were really turned off by a filmmakers anti-capitalist ways, that would hurt the bottom line and Mark Cuban would put his money elsewhere.) This is a more nuanced question since viewers' objectives are not as cleanly captured as are producers' with the profit motive. Interestingly, Alex's second and third arguments help point the way.

Behavioral economics has established that we all give in to several forms of cognitive biases. There are anchoring effects and informational cascades. There is confirmation bias. And so on. For moviegoers, who presumably go to movies to be entertained, this gives an advantage to simple narratives as carried by pre-fab characters.

This guy is evil.danny-de-vito-other-people-money.jpg

This guy is good.otherpeoplesmoneyjorgenson1.JPG

By this reasoning, you don't necessarily have to be an anti-capitalist filmmaker to portray a capitalist negatively. Actually, your producers might want you to if doing so sells more tickets! "Don't make me think too much at the movies, that messes up my being entertained!" If this explanation holds water, one interesting implication is that viewers can see through Hollywood's biases. They just don't care. What's that phrase, "suspension of disbelief" is it?

A related though broader issue is why the intellectual class tends to be anti-capitalist. Robert Nozick offers a brief response in this Cato Policy Report: intellectuals resent that their talents are not rewarded in the marketplace. In "The Intellectuals and Socialism," F. A. Hayek famously attributes the bias of intellectuals to their beliefs that human institutions can be scientifically designed as can physical systems (pdf here). Ludwig von Mises, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, says intellectuals become envious of capitalists because they rub elbows in the same social circles but don't have any of the money.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 07:26 AM in Culture

May 26, 2010
Fashion Copyright?

In a a new TED talk on fashion copyright, Johanna Blakely poses an interesting question: what is the ownership model that will promote innovation in an age where everything is digitized? Anticipating ongoing work on fashion, mostly by legal scholars rather than economists, she suggests that fashion is a good place to start looking for answers. In my view the association is a powerful one for two sets of reasons. First, fashion designs are not protected by copyright yet the industry is highly innovative and possibly even more so as the medium has become increasingly digitized (in terms of design and communication tools, not wearing of course). Second, fashion is a market process of entrepreneurship in two stages -- there are design originators mostly at the high end, and then there are design imitators who not only copy but also adapt designs to be more palatable for wide audiences on the one hand, while innovating cost-reducing production methods on the other hand. It is the market process of fashion, these two forms of entrepreneurship that feed off one another, which makes fashion innovative without intellectual monopoly. More research is needed to discern what ways these features generalize to other "digitized" media.

Interested readers can review some of my previous posts on this here:
Why Fashion? Paris gets clothed
I, Pencil Skirt

This summer I will be working on a related book, currently titled Fashion Econ: How Fashion Cycles and Knock-Off Designs Help Make the World a Better Place, while I'm a visiting scholar at Bowling Green's Social Philosophy and Policy Center.

Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:59 AM in Culture

May 13, 2010
The compound interest of "compound interest" c. 1910

From the May 13, 1910 NYT:

CHICAGO - The old familiar dates of history and the old problems in compound interest and compound fractions in arithmetic are to disappear from the curriculum of the Chicago public schools.

They have been blacklisted by the committees appointed by Mrs. Ella Flagg Young, Superintendent of Schools, to revise the courses of study and trim out the non-essentials. The report of the committee was received by Principals and teachers throughout Chicago yesterday.

"What your schools need is more thorough education and more practical training," said Mrs. Young. "Things that have happened in past years, unless of vital importance, do not remain in children's minds."

Maybe, maybe not. An interesting parallel to today's curriculum debates.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:42 PM in Culture

May 11, 2010
Those darned kids c. 1910

From a letter published in the May 11, 1910 NYT:

In my many years' experience as a district nurse I have found no children as ill-behaved as the children of to-day, and the reason for this lies, I believe, in the lax discipline of the public schools. But it is not the fault of the teacher. The pupil "sasses teacher back," and rather than keep the child and herself in after school she must overlook it.

I can see as I go to families in the tenements that the mothers have little or no control over their children. I wanted to see a child whom I suspected of having measles. The youngster scurried downstairs, while the mother wrung her hands, saying: "I can't do nuttings, mine children never behaves me." This is a "downtown" woman, but exactly the same condition may be met with further up in the brownstone districts.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:42 AM in Culture

May 07, 2010
Just Say NO c. 1910

From the May 7, 1910 NYT:

Mrs. J. Rechtin, wife of a well-known business man, has set out to do away with the bacteria-spreading kiss through the World's Health Organization, of which she is president. "Kiss not," is the motto of the W.H.O. It is emblazoned in red letters on a white button worn by the members. Hundreds of circulars are being sent through the mails, one part of which reads:

"Why not stop kissing? It is a time-honored custom, and one person cannot stop it. It is only in unity that sufficient strength can be gained to convince the world that kissing is pernicious and unhealthful."

Attached to the circular is a pledge, which converts are urged to sign and forward to the President. It is suggested that women wear "Kiss-not" buttons to teas and receptions where indiscriminate kissing is much in order; also, that it be attached to the clothing of babies.


Posted by Craig Depken at 12:07 PM in Culture

April 30, 2010
Sport c. 1910

From a short article in the April 30, 1910 NYT:

SARDIS, Miss. - The Rev. Dr. Mitchell, Methodist minister and father of Robert Mitchell, State University pitcher, who has just agreed to a trial offered by the Chicago Nationals, says baseball is a "cold-blooded money-making business nowadays, and that no element of sport lies in the game of to-day." For that reason he will forbid his son to enter the professional field. "Bob" is touring with the Varsity squad, and it is not known whether he will abide by his father's decision. He is over 21 years old.
Money-making indeed. Given this attitude, poor Dr. Mitchell would be apoplectic today.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:47 AM in Culture

April 28, 2010
Best Recent Addition to My Google Reader Feed

The I Love Memphis Blog (HT: Doctor J). First, it's a great source of information about our adopted home. Second, the daily updates really contribute to our assessment of the Bluff City's sense of place. My contribution to the "I Love Memphis" photo album is below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by Art Carden at 09:28 PM in Culture

April 22, 2010
Correlation vs. Causation c. 1910

From a letter to the editor printed in the April 22, 1910 NYT:

Mr. Schaefer of the New York Brewers' Association states that "insanity has not diminished where the liquor traffic is supposed to be driven to the wall."

[the letter goes on to list several states and the number of liquor dealers and "insane" - see below]


Mr Schaefer refers to the relation of intemperance to to pauperism. May we point out that in a book called "Text Book of True Temperance," compiled, published, and distributed in great numbers by the United States Brewers' Association, it is admitted that an examination of over 80,000 cases of pauperism showed 87.95[?] per cent. caused by drink?

The temperance movement, at this time, has been making considerable progress around the country. One argument offered for banning alcohol was the reduction in "mental disease" - however roughly that was defined in 1910. This letter tries to show that where the liquor traffic still persists that there is "more insane" individuals.

The letter writer relies upon the reader to do some mental computations to determine the correlation between the number of liquor dealers per capita and the number of "insane" per capita. Luckily, I have Stata.

Assuming the letter-writer's data are correct, the correlation between the number of liquor dealers per-capita and the number of "insane" per capita comes out to be 0.88. Here's a scatter plot of the data:

Of course, one has to ask whether this is causation or correlation.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:14 AM in Culture

April 17, 2010
"Freedom means freedom to be stupid"

So says Penn Jillette in his excellent essay, "An Homage to the Hummer," in today's WSJ. A snip:

Hummers are stupid and wasteful and if they go away because no one wants to buy one, that'll be just a little sad. It's always a little sad to lose some stupid. I love people doing stupid things that I'd never do—different stupid things than all the stupid things I do. It reminds me that although all over the world we humans have so much in common, so much love, and need, and desire, and compassion and loneliness, some of us still want to do things that the rest of us think are bug-nutty. Some of us want to drive a Hummer, some of us want to eat sheep's heart, liver and lungs simmered in an animal's stomach for three hours, some us want to play poker with professionals and some of us want a Broadway musical based on the music of ABBA. I love people doing things I can't understand. It's heartbreaking to me when people stop doing things that I can't see any reason for them to be doing in the first place. I like people watching curling while eating pork rinds.

But if any part of the Hummer going belly-up are those government rules we're putting in on miles per gallon, or us taking over of GM, then I'm not just sad, I'm also angry. Lack of freedom can be measured directly by lack of stupid. Freedom means freedom to be stupid. We never need freedom to do the smart thing. You don't need any freedom to go with majority opinion. There was no freedom required to drive a Prius before the recall. We don't need freedom to recycle, reuse and reduce. We don't need freedom to listen to classic rock, classic classical, classic anything or Terry Gross. We exercise our freedom to its fullest when we are at our stupidest.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:04 AM in Culture

April 13, 2010
Tween pregnancy crisis c. 1910

From the April 13, 1910 NYT:

Officers of the Juvenile Court to-day began an investigation of the case of Annie Epps, 10 years old, who gave girth (sic) to a girl baby at the County Hospital several days ago. It was reported to-night that the young mother and her child were doing well.

From the February 3, 2010 Daily Mail:

A nine-year-old Chinese schoolgirl has become one of the world's youngest mothers after giving birth to a healthy boy.

The unnamed girl was brought to a hospital in Changchun, which lies in the north-east of the country, when she was eight and a half months pregnant.

Two days later, she gave birth to the 6lb boy by Cesarean section, a Chinese newspaper has reported.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:29 AM in Culture

April 05, 2010
Americana the Beautiful: "Memphis IS Music"

I'm working on our taxes, and I was looking for a soundtrack when Doctor J's latest post came across my Google Reader feed. She hosted a radio show a couple of years ago called "Americana the Beautiful," and apparently the shows are now online; I'm listening to "Memphis IS Music," which is all songs about or featuring Memphis.

If you're looking for good music at a price of $0, here's a post from the vault with a couple of links.

Posted by Art Carden at 01:13 PM in Culture

March 10, 2010
The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History

That's the title of a new book by Bridgewater College history prof Jason Vuic. Yesterday, Prof. Vuic gave a lively talk at Berry about his book. The book is reviewed in the WSJ and The Economist. BTW, he doesn't think the Yugo was actually the worst car in history. The communist bloc offered up several other gems.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:44 PM in Culture

March 05, 2010
Memphis Music

Local radio station WEVL is having it's annual Spring Concert at the Hi-Tone at 10:00 PM on Saturday night. Family responsibilities will prevent me from attending, but the lineup sounds pretty good based on what I heard on the drive home yesterday (Jack-O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Mouserocket, and The New Mary Jane). In taking a break a minute ago I looked to see if The New Mary Jane has an album I could buy solely on the strength of their song "Murder is Easy." I couldn't find an album, but you can listen to them at their Myspace Music Page. Here's are the Myspace Music Pages for Jack-O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers (European readers, they're coming your way in May and June) and Mouserocket. I can't find anywhere to buy any of their music online, so a trip to Goner Records might be in order this weekend.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:50 AM in Culture

February 28, 2010
Music to My Ears: Johnny Cash's American VI: Ain't No Grave

I thought I got a great deal on Johnny Cash's new album American VI: Ain't No Grave for $10 at Walmart yesterday (I visit Walmarts and other retailers when I'm on the road--since I've been studying retail, I figure it's a good idea to follow Coase's advice and look out the window every so often). Lo and behold, it's $8.99 on Amazon. Was I ripped off? No: WM had it at a price I was willing to pay in a store in rural New York, and I could listen to it on my drive to the airport. At $10 plus tax, it was a great deal. At $8.99 without tax, it's an even better deal. It's a fantastic album from start to finish, and the title track is one of the best if not the best track in his later "American" catalog: it's expertly and beautifully produced--haunting in some places and inspiring in others. The American recordings were not the ones that made Cash a superstar, but they were a fitting and reflective end to a great career and a great life.

The Man in Black would have been 78 this past Friday. Here's Dr. J's take.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:01 PM in Culture

February 27, 2010
I recommend "The Crisis of Islam"

I just completed Bernard Lewis's The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. Read one short, quick book and you, too, will be better informed than 95 percent of the non-Muslim population. The book is under 200 pages, and Lewis' elegant writing will let you breeze through it in a matter of hours, despite the volume of information and analysis the book conveys.

There is enough in the traditional culture of Islam on the one hand and the modern experience of the Muslim peoples on the other to provide the basis for an advance toward freedom in the true sense of that word.
The war against terror and the quest for freedom are inextricably linked, and neither can succeed without the other. The struggle is no longer limited to one or two countries, as some Westerners still manage to believe. It has acquired... a global dimension, with profound consequences for all of us."
If freedom fails and terror triumphs, the peoples of Islam will be the first and greatest victims. They will not be alone, and many others will suffer with them.
Posted by Noel Campbell at 06:39 PM in Culture

February 08, 2010
New Light on the Star Wars Saga

R2-D2 and Chewbacca: long-term Rebel agents (HT: Mike Ray). I've wondered about what I see as a hole in the plot at the end of ROTS: first, since it's clear that Palpatine is very, very strong--too strong for Obi-Wan alone--and that Anakin is strong and getting stronger, why didn't Obi-Wan and Yoda team up to take out Palpatine and then hunt down Anakin? Given Obi-Wan's experiences fighting Count Dooku and the fact that Palpatine very quickly dispatched the Jedi who had accompanied Mace Windu to arrest him, this looks like a pretty serious tactical blunder. Comments are open.

Posted by Art Carden at 03:55 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (11)

February 07, 2010
Truly Frightening

Those are the only words appropriate for describing today's cartoon by the AJC's Mike Luckovich. I don't know what promted the GA Senate to pass a bill opposing the forced implantation of microchips nor do I know why anyone would even want to force people to have microchips implanted. But somehow finding a bill opposing forced implantation objectionable means Luckovich has about as illiberal attitude as one could possibly have. (I bet he also considers himself, without recognizing the irony, to be "pro-choice.")

UPDATE: This article explains that the Senate passed the bill 47-2 and that if the bill becomes a law GA would join states including CA and WI in having such a law. It's hard to fathom why Luckovich could consider such a bill to be harmful.

UPDATE2: Maybe there's a good reason to fear forced implants. After all: The government has your baby's DNA.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 07:48 PM in Culture

February 03, 2010
Markets in Everything: Tiger Mistress Golf Balls

Tiger Woods Mistress Golf Ball Set

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:01 PM in Culture

January 13, 2010
Bet You Didn't Know That ...

... at UNC-Chapel Hill one can earn a minor in social and economic justice without taking an economics course. See for yourself here (scroll down)--the minor includes some economics courses as electives but does not require even a single principles course.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:06 PM in Culture

January 12, 2010
Eschatology Bleg

I had a very interesting conversation at lunch today with someone who wanted to discuss a paper he had written for the meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society. I learned a few things about eschatology (the study of the Biblical end times) that I didn't know before, and I want to make a further study of premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. I just read an interesting essay by Gary North on the eschatological schizophrenia of the American right, and I want to learn more. In my limited understanding, the premillennialist view that things will get progressively worse and progressively darker doesn't square with the global spread of Christianity or the explosive growth in prosperity that we've seen in the last two hundred and fifty years. If you have any reading suggestions, I would be grateful.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:55 PM in Culture

December 21, 2009

Here's a recent cartoon from the Rome News-Tribune's Mike Lester.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:37 PM in Culture

December 14, 2009
Anti-Science Liberals

The public perception of conservatives (and I have to lump libertarians into this category, which I think is accurate here, and there's not really separate polling data for libertarians - see below), fostered by Hollywood and TV, many major media publications, and of course liberals, is that conservatives are uptight, unhappy, nasty people.

I have noted in this space that these perceptions are not true - polling data has consistently shown that conservatives are more likely to say they are happy with their lives; they are more active, both in terms of hobbies and sports and in terms of volunteer activities; they are more likely to be satisfied with their sex lives (and to have sex more often), than are liberals.

The latest part of the mantra from the cultural elites is that conservatives are also anti-science. Remember how Barack Obama even promised to restore science "to its rightful place."

Well, now comes an interesting survey from Pew that debunks the idea that liberals are more science oriented, too. In fact, it turns out that liberals are nearly twice as likely as conservatives to believe in astrology (30% to 16%), "spiritual energy" (35% to 18%), or reincarnation (33% to 18%). It's interesting to note that while conservatives and liberals are equally likely to believe in the "evil eye" (17% each), Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe in the evil eye by 19% to 12%.

Maybe all those "Reagan Democrats" of a generation ago were just fans of Nancy, who was said to have an interest in astrology. But clearly the rejection of science for superstition knows no ideological boundaries.

Posted by Brad Smith at 11:24 AM in Culture ~ in Politics ~ in Science

December 12, 2009
Two random things

Apropos of exactly nothing, two links that caught my fancy:

1. The Strange Economics of Apple-picking....

2. "Let me google that for you!" Along with GIYF (google is your friend), the new insult sweeping the interwebs. Let me google that for you, as perhaps everyone but I already knows, requires you to fill in the search field in this URL:

Suppose someone in comments says, "Ludwig von Mises! Who is Ludwig von Mises?" You would say, condescendingly, "GIYF!" (In other words, the doofus should use Google, not use you as a research assistant.)

But you could also just give them, http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=Ludwig+von+Mises" (TRY IT!)

The implied insult is even clearer, and LOTS more fun. Try it at Christmas parties. If you read DoL, you likely ALREADY don't have any real friends, so what harm can it do?

Posted by Michael Munger at 11:32 AM in Culture

December 08, 2009
Raising costs or raising benefits?

The State of North Carolina today announced a new website for bank robbers in the state. No, the web-site doesn't provide tips and FAQs about the art of the heist. Rather, the website provides CC photos and descriptions of bank robberies.

Check it out here.

Luckily, I didn't see any family or friends on the site.

I wonder if, all else equal, this raises the costs of being a bank robber, which is expected to reduce bank robbing (on the margin), or if this adds to the cache of being a bank robber, again on the margin, which might lead to an increase in bank robberies (on the margin).

I might file this one away for a potential masters thesis idea.

I found this one interesting. The bank robber, er, withdraw expert, is on the phone - I wonder how that conversation went.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:24 AM in Culture

December 03, 2009
Informal survey of the day

My undergraduate sports class is wrapping up and it has been one of the best group of students I have had in almost 15 years of teaching. They are bright, energetic and intuitive. I have a renewed hope for the undergraduate corps, at least at my institution.

Given the events surrounding one professional golfer, I held an informal poll in my class this morning.

"Who has heard of Tiger-gate?" 30 of 30 or 100% of those in attendance.
"Who has heard of Climate-gate?" 2 of 30 or 6.6% of those in attendance.

Regardless of whether climate-gate is true or not - that won't be decided for some weeks, months, perhaps never - the fact that these kids had heard nothing about a potential scandal surrounding international public policy but had heard about the actual scandal surrounding what ultimate comes to a non-issue in our lives was an eye-opener.

I have not finished my magnum opus "Robust Inference on One Observation," (which when finished will assure me the Nobel Prize), so I hesitate to generalize too much from my one data point, but I wonder if other informal surveys would have the same result.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:33 PM in Culture

December 02, 2009
One Of The Benefits Of Being At A Liberal Arts College ...

is to be able to hear wonderful lunchtime presentations by fellow faculty members across the curriculum. Today, retiring English Professor John Rosenwald (co-editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal) read ten poems. All were beautiful, but "Declaration" by the Chinese poet Bei Dao really struck me because of its pro-freedom message. I could not find a copy on-line, but it is well worth the effort to look up.

Two of my favorite parts:

I'm no hero
In an age without heroes
I just want to be a man


I will not kneel
And let the executioners look tall
Blocking the winds of freedom

Bullet holes are like stars:
From them flows the blood-red dawn

Posted by Joshua Hall at 03:44 PM in Culture

November 25, 2009
On feeding the poor c. 1909

There are some problems that seem to persist no matter how much money, time, or other resources are thrown at them. This suggests that either the problems are systemic and cannot be resolved or we haven't thrown enough money, time, and other resources at the problem. However, I find the latter to be less credible than the former because for far too long we have, as a society, tried to help the poor in various ways.

The Nov. 25, 1909 NYT reports on private charity efforts to provide Thanksgiving dinners to those who could not afford to purchase the items necessary (another story in the NYT reports that the ingredients for a generic meal was around $4.25 or around $103 in 2008 dollars, which is perhaps not far from the mark for today's meal):

There was much bustle at the Little Missionaries' Day Nursery...last night for between 900 and 1,000 baskets containing Thanksgiving dinners for families averaging five to eight members each, were sent out, or were called on by those for whom they were intended. Last year nearly 700 dinners were given away, but last night saw the biggest free distribution of dinners which the nursery has managed since its organization in 1896 by Miss. Sara Curry.

Each basket contained potatoes, turnips, cabbage, onions, rice, coffee, tea, milk, sugar, pies, canned soups and vegetables of other kinds, as well as a whole chicken, the size of the latter depending upon the number of persons in the family for whom the basket was intended.

One wonders how many, in today's world of processed and prepared foods, would turn down such a basket today - not so much because they didn't "like" what was in the basket but because they wouldn't know what to do with the items in the basket.

Another article describes other private efforts in the city:

  • The Salvation Army has not done much this year in preparing Thanksgiving Day baskets of food, as it is keeping its energies in reserve for Christmas. The Volunteers of America, however, will distribute a large number of dinners, which it has provided out of its regular funds without recourse to outside contributions.

  • William J. Wollman of the firm of J. S. Bache & Co. has provided 1,000 baskets for the poor and is sending them out through nine charitable agencies.

  • The Rescue Society will deliver its annual message to-night at the Doyer Street Mission to the drifters and other frequenters of Chinatown and the Bowery. A thousand will be gathered into the mission house and there furnished a meal consisting of roast turkey and cranberry sauce, mince pie, vegetables, fruit, and tea or coffee.

  • At the expense of the estate of the late Mrs. William Astor about 500 newsboys will have a feast at the Newsboys' Home.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:55 AM in Culture

    November 12, 2009
    Libertarian moments in the movies: "I wanna smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section."

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:36 AM in Culture

    November 11, 2009
    Being rich enough to afford not being greedy

    It strikes me that the film industry is a decent example of a competitive industry. Granted, states like mine (LA) provide tax credits for companies filming here, but there seems to be a highly competitive labor market, no salary caps (though the SGA seems to enforce wage floors), and lots of substitutes available to consumers.

    So why are the most successful employees in this industry typically the most anti-capitalist? To wit, Jim Carrey:

    I was thinking about it this morning, how this story ties into everything we’re going through...Every construct we’ve built in American life is falling apart. Why? Because of personal greed and ambition. Capitalism without regulation can’t protect us against personal greed.

    Way ahead of you Jim; many of my students proudly eschew personal ambition.

    Capitalism is not intended to protect against personal greed, any more than it is intended to protect us against pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, or sloth. Last I checked, capitalism was a way of organizing an economy most efficiently, not a system of morality. Two fallacies: 1) association is not causation ("there are lots of jerks in our capitalist system, so capitalism causes jerks"); and 2) I'd bet you don't have to look too hard to find personal greed in non-capitalist or even highly regulated capitalist economies. The "capitalism=immorality" or "socialism/regulation=morality" argument is seriously lacking logical or empirical support.

    A successful businessman/entertainer who hates capitalism. Almost as hypocritical as a state employee who hates big government.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 11:24 PM in Culture

    Libertarian moments in the movies (in honor of Veterans Day)

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:42 PM in Culture

    November 10, 2009
    The plural of anecdote is data, Campbell


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 04:14 PM in Culture


    Well, I don't know how common comedies were in the old USSR, but one comedy, Mimino (1977), is famous throughout the old empire. The story tells of a simple Georgian and Armenian who meet up in Moscow to pursue their varied dreams. Antics ensue.

    My Georgian friends will sit around quoting this movie like we quote Airplane or the Blue Brothers.

    For you Russian speakers out there you can see it all here apparently:

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:39 PM in Culture

    November 03, 2009
    Jayson Blair Gives Ethics Talk at W&L

    Former New York Times Reporter Jayson Blair to Address W&L Journalism Ethics Institute

    I understand the argument that having a speaker who committed ethical trangressions might provide valuable ethics lessions for aspiring journalists. Still, as a W&L grad, I think this is an embarrassment to the university.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:31 PM in Culture

    October 15, 2009
    Man vs. Beast c. 1909

    From the Oct. 15, 1909 NYT:

    Overexertion while whipping a balky horse caused the death of John Duffy, a wealthy farmer of Elmsford, to-day. Duffy was driving up the State road toward East View when his horse balked. He took out the whip and hit the horse a few times and then fell over the dashboard dead.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:30 AM in Culture

    October 14, 2009
    My hometown makes the Associated Press!

    Don't tase me, bro!

    Posted by Noel Campbell at 08:14 PM in Culture

    October 13, 2009
    On the squirrel c. 1909

    A letter to the editor in the October 13, 1909 NYT:

    On a trip through the northern part of the Bronx Park on Saturday afternoon I discovered that the squirrels are in an actual state of starvation. The parasite that has destroyed the chestnut trees has left nothing for them to live on. They are not fond of acorns, except in a pinch, and the boys are seen gathering those up in bags, which they cart away to their homes, leaving the squirrels actually without food to go through this Winter.

    Will you kindly call it to the attention of those in power, so that a remedy may be taken whereby a supply of nuts can be scattered broadcast, so that the boys will not get them but the squirrels may?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:34 AM in Culture

    September 24, 2009
    End-of-the-world festivities c. 1909

    The Sept. 24, 1909 NYT follows up on yesterday's story concerning the sect planning for the end of the world tomorrow (Sept. 25, 1909):

    Three hundred men and women of the Free Christian Society, at their camp five miles from here [DUXBURY, Mass], began at 10 o'clock to-day their final preparation for the end of the world, which they are convinced will come tomorrow night. The service, which consisted of prayer, penitence, and baptism, was observed with fanatical enthusiasm. It is to be kept up until tomorrow night.
    Okay, so the moonbats faithful are still at it 24 hours later. But where, you might ask, did they find this prophesy that the wold was to end? From a highly credible source:
    Practically all of the 300 adherents of the queer sect have disposed of all their worldly goods in anticipation of the ending of all things. The cause of all this was the revelation that came to Eva Brown of Pawtucket, who declares that the destruction of the world was foretold to her in a dream a year ago.
    Yes, there is no reason at all to be suspicious of the claim that whatever Supreme Being there is would choose a generic person in Pawtucket to get the word out.

    Was there any specifics on the end of the world? Oh yes:

    Believing, as they do, that the top crust of the earth will peel off and that the damned souls will be hurled into a cauldron of boiling fire, the intensity of their closing services may be imagined.
    I wonder how the physics of this particular scenario was imagined to play out.

    De gustibus.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:51 AM in Culture

    September 23, 2009
    Option value lost c. 1909

    Life is full of options. Generally speaking, options have value. Thus, the amazing fits of charity by those predicting that the world is going to end in the near future would seem to violate economic reasoning. After all, if the world truly ends when predicted, what use to anyone are the goods given away? If the world happens not to end then life can continue as before with little loss in material well-being (although the mental state of the individual who is let down that the earth didn't dematerialized is beyond the economist's purview).

    However, showing up to the end-of-the-world rally with all your possessions in tow, or not being able to credibly signal that the possessions are no longer yours, doesn't send a strong signal of solidarity with the rest of the moonbats faithful. This then leads to a bizarre question - if the price of joining in with the moonbats faithful is all your worldly goods what kind of person joins such a group? I would generally suspect that the relative poor (or those with relatively few possessions in the first place) would find such a price none too high for a night or two of excitement and frenzy. This would imply that moonbat end-of-the-world-celebrating is an inferior good.

    De gustibus non est disputandum.

    Giving it all away seems like a silly way to go about preparing for the end of the world. However, if the primary reason for doing so is to be accepted by the group then it might actually be consistent with economic reasoning. It would seem much better than drinking the (poisoned) kool-aid, which definitely removes all future options.

    The Sept. 23, 1909 NYT reports on such an event:


    Crust of the Earth to Peel Off, Followers of Queer Religion Say.


    Believers Dispose of All Their Possessions and Gather at Massachusetts Town to Await the Millennium.

    WEST DUXBURY, Mass - Firm in their conviction that the world will come to an end at 10 A.M. next Friday, about 300 members of the denomination known as the Latter Reign of the Apostolic Church are spending the few remaining hours in prayer, song, and exhortation...

    Worldly tasks have been laid aside and jobs have been thrown up that the faithful may prepare themselves for the millennium. Many have disposed of all their possessions. Believers are here from all over New England, especially large delegations having come from Springfield, Mass., and Providence and Pawtucket, R.I.

    Wonder what the faithful did on Saturday?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:50 PM in Culture

    Deterrence vs. Retribution c. 1909

    From the Sept. 23, 1909 NYT:

    VALENCE, Drome, France - A triple execution by guillotine took place in this city at daylight to-day.

    Three men, Berruyer, David, and Liottard were decapitated for a series of atrocious crimes in the Department of Drome which created a reign of terror. No less than twelve murders and 200 robberies are laid at the doors of these men. They often tortured their victims with red hot irons.

    A great crowd witnessed the executions and applauded wildly every time the knife fell.

    How would such an event be viewed today? Oh my.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:22 PM in Culture

    August 24, 2009
    Expanding My Musical Horizons Bleg

    I'm trying to expand my musical horizons a bit and have asked friends and students for recommendations. Several have come in so far, and one of the clearest indicators that the modern world is a uniquely great place to live was the phrase "Swedish jazz-swing-hip hop sensation" that appeared in one recommendation. Last summer, I posted about a friend's defunct-but-not-forgotten band Poor Yorick, and I've enjoyed listening to them and reliving the halcyon days of college (you can download their stuff at the link!). You can also download some of TEDster Jill Sobule's stuff here. Comments are open if you have any (preferably free) music suggestions.

    Posted by Art Carden at 02:18 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (2)

    August 20, 2009
    New season, new city, new network: Project Runway is back

    Evidently I will be watching the Lifetime channel this fall (at least until college football season starts--then I'll DVR it). Slate's Troy Patterson dishes hints at what to expect:

    In moving from New York to Los Angeles this season, Project Runway has gone Hollywood in order to get to middle America. The initial challenge finds the 16 contestants whipping up dresses appropriate for an awards show. I'll take this as a sign that PR, already increasingly celebrity-infested, is trying to broaden its reach by cultivating an US Weekly populism and making its take on the grammar of chic more approachable. Every good American, after all, knows how to eyeball a girl in a gown on a red carpet. "Here, it's as much about who you're wearing as who you are," says Heidi, dashing off a fashion-semiotics line while the local sunlight enhances her smile and vice versa.

    Some of my previous posts on fashion are here and here and here.

    Email me if you'd like a working copy of my paper, "Of Human Action and Human Design: Adaptive Entrepreneurship and the Marketization of Fashion."

    Ciao, dahlings.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:40 PM in Culture

    July 28, 2009
    She can dance for me but not for thee c. 1909

    The July 28, 1909 NYT reports on the arrest and arraignment of one Gertrude Hoffman who:

    was arrested last Friday evening at the theatre after giving her dance, on the charge of offending public decency, [and] had a second hearing of her case. The merits of the case were not gone into yesterday, however, as most of the lawyers concerned seemed anxious to get away on vacations...One result of yesterday's proceedings, however, will act as a limitation to the original unadorned act such as Miss Hoffmann gave before Police Commissioner Baker interfered and ordered her arrest after witnessing the performance from a front seat. The dancer will have to put ...
    Wait, what? The Commish saw the dance and then decided to arrest her AFTER she was finished? I am sure the Commissioner was only doing his job by making sure that all counts of offending the public's decency had been accounted for. I am sure, as well, that the Commissioner had NO idea about Ms. Hoffmann's act. Yep, it's good to be the king, bishop, the Commissioner.

    The temporary solution to reestablishing public decency in the case of Ms. Hoffmann is outlined in the story:

    The dancer will have to put on her stage costume in her dressing room every afternoon and evening hereafter under the watchful eye of Mrs. McMahon, the probation officer of the West forty-seventh Street Station. The police insist that Miss Hoffman wear tights that come down well below her knees, until the court shall decide otherwise, and the Magistrate ordered Mrs. McMahon to see that long tights are used.

    In an eerily similar manner one might suspect people to act today, the word had spread that Miss Hoffmann might show up to her court appearance in her dance costume, the prospect of which generated considerable interest:
    The news had gone forth that Miss Hoffmann would probably appear in court in her flimsy dancing costume, thus allowing the Magistrate to decide at first hand just wherein the alleged immorality consisted, and the courtroom was thronged. It was observed that the crowding for good seats down in front was not confined entirely to the court attendance. Well-dressed men, apparently from the Rialto district, were on hand early, but they left hurriedly when Miss Hoffman appeared in an automobile costume of purple, which reached from head to foot.
    To discourage such lewd behavior, the Magistrate could have insisted that once an individual was seated they had to stay until the end of the court's business that day. It would have been interesting to see whether a glipse of Miss Hoffmann would have commanded such a price.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:05 AM in Culture

    July 16, 2009
    Need an indulgence? There's an app for that

    Next time you're thinking of skipping church.....


    HT my boy Phil Duncanson, taking the photo with his iPhone of course.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 04:26 PM in Culture

    June 30, 2009
    Mike Lester on the Media Coverage of Michael Jackson's Death

    From today's Rome News-Tribune:


    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:18 PM in Culture

    June 12, 2009
    High Culture Friday: The Art of Economics and the Economics of Art

    This is really, really impressive:

    And here's the "making of" video that shows how the ultra-intricate social division of labour helped make it possible:

    HT: A.J. Roach.

    Posted by Art Carden at 11:55 AM in Culture

    June 11, 2009
    In a pinch?

    The homosexual movement seems to be gaining small and medium size victories with relatively little fanfare. One wonders how much of the outrage we witnessed over the past eight years was purely political rather than principle - and I am casting aspersions at both sides.

    Now there is evidence that while the self-described left has not waned in its support for openly homosexual men and women serving in the military, the self-described "conservatives" have increased their support for the policy by 12 percentage points over the past five years.

    I question whether this is more to do with the shadow costs of allowing homosexuals in the military than a great change in heart. As the GWOT (or whatever we want to call it this week) seems to be perpetual, either more volunteers need to be allowed to volunteer or the threat of a draft of some form might become more real. On the margin, how much is the principle of keeping openly homosexual men and women from serving worth? If it isn't worth re-instituting the draft, this might explain the increased support on the part of the "conservatives."

    More about the poll here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:45 PM in Culture

    On swimming upstream c. 1909

    The June 11, 1909 NYT reports on the attempts of the city council of Seney, Georgia (located near Rome, GA) to fight the tide of history:

    The little town of Seney, near here [Rome, GA], has declared war on automobiles. At a meeting of the Town Council recently, after a spirited discussion, an ordinance was adopted prohibiting the use of automobiles within the city limits.

    The Town Marshal was authorized to arrest any one passing through Seney with such "engines of destruction."

    I grew up in the far northwest corner of the great state of Georgia (Lookout Mountain, Georgia) about eighty miles from Rome, and always found the angst of folks in that part of the state interesting.

    Given recent political trends, the folly of trying to stave off the automobile a hundred years ago might now be viewed as prescient policy. How long until towns and cities around the country today to follow the path blazed so long ago by little Seney, GA.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:47 PM in Culture

    On substitutes c. 1909

    The June 11, 1909 NYT reports on concerns similar to those voiced today by some social conservatives:

    Speaking yesterday before the National Conference of Charities and Correction at Buffalo, Mr. [Joseph] Lee had this to say about the plan urged by some philanthropists to feed school children at public expense:

    The community's present determination to do everything possible for the child has resulted in cutting down the functions of the home. The school, for instance, has taken over the provision of the play and manual training; has introduced medical inspection, the school nurses and in some instances school visitors. Now come such questions as school feeding, and behind that, perhaps, the question of furnishing lodging also. Are all these activities accomplishing the same thing, or do we somewhere cross a line beyond which they are doing a different thing, or even undoing the thing which we started out to do? I think that school feeding represents the crossing of such a line.
    The question of public schools providing meals for "less advantaged" children is evidently not new and opponents voiced the same concerns 100 years ago as they do today. It is likely true that an undernourished child is less capable of learning, all else equal. To the extent that the public education system is intended to help create productive individuals who provide positive externalities, or fewer negative externalities, and to the extent that proper nutrition helps that process along, there might be justification for public schools feeding children.

    However, as the quote points out, there are few areas of a child's life that doesn't indirectly or directly impact the ability to learn. Once the education bureaucracy has taken it upon itself to ensure "quality of learning" then all areas of a child's life become fair game, including medical situations, home life, and, today, stretching to anti-bullying legislation and the like.

    In one sense the mission creep seems to be a direct assault on the freedoms of both the child and the parents. To many there is no compensation for these lost freedoms that justify the mission creep of the education system. For others, the mission creep is worth the expenditure so that no child is left behind. Whether the increased expenditures provide net social benefits would seem to be an empirical question but one that might be impossible to accurately assess. However, Coasian firm theory would suggest that there are limits to what the education establishment (as a quasi-firm) can internalize efficiently. It might not be practical, efficient, or even desirable for the schools to be teaching the three R's, while simultaneously discussing homosexuality with kindergartners (as they propose to do in NC), making sure everyone is healthy, fit, prepared to remain morally uncompromised, prepared to be morally compromised, to make sure that no child is bullied, and on and on.

    It is not in the nature of the bureaucrat, perhaps, to recognize the limits of efficient internalization. Thus it is incumbent upon parents and tax payers to at least suggest some limits. Alas, appealing to efficient firm theory is not likely to stir the emotions of the masses.

    The story goes on to suggest, much as people do today, that once schools start feeding students and providing medical inspections the country is on the slippery slope toward Socialism, not because of the teachers union but because the state starts to offer cost-effective (if not child-effective) substitutes to the family unit. I have bounced this hypothesis off my colleagues during more than one lunch. If parents are rational economic agents, and it is dangerous to assume they are not, then they are likely to substitute into relatively cheaper inputs to their household production function.

    Whether this constitutes State Socialism is a matter of opinion, perhaps, but it seems clear that the politicians and bureaucrats have figured out that some (most?) people demand, implicitly or explicitly, cheaper inputs to their household production function and the politicians/bureaucrats are all too happy to provide them. Unfortunately, when it comes to the care of children, the state's provision of care is what economists would characterize as a credence good - that is one where quality cannot be accurately assessed even after consumption. For example, how much better would Johnny have done in college if he had attended private high school? He can't repeat high-school so we will never know. Producers of credence goods get a little more scrutiny by industrial organization economists and policy (e.g., past limitations on lawyers advertising) but surprisingly not so much when it comes to education (and ostensibly health care in the future).

    The NYT story continues on with a kernel of economic intuition coated in the spectre of Socialism:

    Anything that enables the family provider to shift his burdens upon the State tends directly to State Socialism. Socialism and the integrity of the family are essentially opposed. While the Socialists talk about "trial marriages" and view with delight the record of increased divorce in this country, amounting in the ratio of one decree to ten or twelve marriages, clergymen like Dr. Samuel Dike point to one chief occasion for the increase. It lies in the gradual "disuse of the family" by the transfer of its "legitimate functions to the Church, school, and other substitutes for the home." The home has been regarded as the cradle of religion, intelligence, industry, and patriotism. Can the State, which sprung from the family, supersede it, or even exist without it?
    My understanding of Socialist theory is that the claims of the story are generally correct. The family unit was destroyed under most (all?) of the implementations of State Socialism of which I am aware. Children were turned against their parents and other relatives and as a parent of three youngsters I am not sure there would be anything worse than such an event being caused by pure politics (rather than true criminal behavior).

    It is an interesting thought experiment whether the State can survive without the Family. This has me thinking about an Econ Talk podcast from a couple of years ago (to which I recently re-listened) of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on how politicians stay in power, and how his hypotheses mesh with the concerns of those who see the State achieving an agenda through the children.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:58 AM in Culture

    May 19, 2009
    Famous people in the NYT c. 1909

    The title might not make sense, but let me explain. I find it interesting how many famous people are famous long after they have been mentioned in the NYT or other major media. For example, one can search the NYT for George Bush and find a reference to a 1967 article in which the future president is interviewed concerning hazing at his fraternity at Yale (Available here for subscribers to Proquest). A search for Barack Obama yields the first mention of him in a 1990 article in the NYT concerning his selection to the Harvard Law Review (Available here for ProQuest subscribers).

    The May 19, 1909 NYT has a similar story concerning one Branch Rickey, who will later become most famous for assisting Jackie Robinson break the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 (but who also led a most fascinating life and career beyond this obvious achievement):

    TOLEDO - Branch Rickey, the well-known baseball player, former catcher for the New York Americans and for several years coach for both baseball and football teams at Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio, has broken down in health and been compelled to go to Saranac Lake for a complete rest. Rickey, besides performing his coaching duties, has been attending law school at Columbus, each day teaching a beginner's law class at Ohio Wesleyan, and travelling over the country making speeches for the "drys" in the local option campaign.
    What if Branch Rickey had succumbed to his ill health?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:10 AM in Culture

    May 13, 2009
    "The Simpsons" does The Fountainhead

    I did not see the episode, but Jonathan Freinberg at IHS forwards this segment, in which "Maggie Roark's" architectural genius confronts Ellseworth Toohey's brutish egalitarianism at the Mediocri-Tots Day Care.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:22 AM in Culture

    May 12, 2009
    On killing giraffes

    The May 12, 1909 NYT publishes a letter to the editor concerning ex-president Roosevelt's hunts in Africa:

    Another bull rhinoceros! five lions! a bag of thirteen big beasts! An ex-President who has dazzled a nation of eighty millions of citizens by the force of his imperialism and militarism and has led them up the ladder of glorious noisy monarchism - can such an ex-President do better than go thousands of miles to the wilderness, where he can give an example of how to murder God's creatures, his own fellow creatures? Is it not titanic and heroic to go with a staff of three hundred natives and hunt a poor lion? An animal that, if left alone, would not hurt anybody, and whose sporting ground will not be needed for many years to come by either white or black man. A Christian, too, is Mr. Roosevelt, preferring the religion of love, but also preferring to be a good shot and to excel in the art of killing. How civilized and how noble!

    However, Mr. Roosevelt's barbarism does not, after all, shock us half as much as does the admiration, nay, applause of the people. The blame should fall where it belongs. If we did not admire him, if we did not applaud, he would probably not have moved a foot. So the enormity is rather ours and it seems time that we woke to it.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:31 AM in Culture

    Best Sentences I've Read Today: 9:07 AM Edition

    Here's Jeff Tucker on McCafe fancy coffee drinks at McDonald's:

    "One of the reasons that the elites loathe places like McDonald's, or Wal-Mart, or Target, or any of these places that cater to Everyman – and you might suppose that the champions of the workers and peasants would love these places – is precisely their capacity to rob the rich of their distinctive social markers. One day it was a sign of class and distinction to drink a latte; the next day, every construction worker is doing it."


    "Yes, it is all about profits. Sorry socialists: this also means that it is all about people."

    Posted by Art Carden at 10:12 AM in Culture

    May 08, 2009
    Hope springs eternal c. 1909

    The May 8, 1909 NYT published the following letter to the editor:

    In view of the remarkable achievements in aviation of the Wright brothers, may I not suggest the propriety of advocating an award to them of one of the Alfred Nobel Prizes? Their accomplishments come within the Department of Physics, and possibly also, within the Department of Peace. Public agitation seems to be necessary - vide the case of ex-President Roosevelt.
    I might grant the letter writer their appeal to a Physics award, but the Peace award? If offered in 1909 the award would most certainly have to be repealed only a few years later as the military applications of their invention matured.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:56 AM in Culture

    May 07, 2009
    On the M.R.S. c. 1909

    A story from the May 7, 1909 NYT provides one anecdote of how less free we were in many ways one hundred years ago:

    BERKELEY, Cal. - Startled by the announcement during the past week of ten engagements among the students of the University of California, the Faculty of that institution has decided to add a course in household economics to the curriculum of the coming Summer session. Several years ago there was an epidemic of engagements and secret marriages among the students of the university, and so serious was the matter considered that President Benjamin Ide Wheeler made a special address to the "co-eds," advising them against encouraging marriage until the men students had become wage earners.

    This talk put an end to the secret marriages but the engagements have gone serenely on until the record of this week was made. The announcements have revived the question of the desirability of co-education and the discussion among the Faculty and students has already become animated.

    I am not sure if I would characterize any number of engagements an "epidemic." Nor would I, as a faculty member of a reasonably large state school, want the president (actually chancellor, here) to spend time providing a speech concerning the "appropriate" way to go about deciding who and when to marry.

    More to the point, what business does a University's faculty and administration have in the area of freely entered contracts and arrangements between students? Indeed, discouraging the social or romantic interaction of students would seem to invite inefficiencies.

    The college years provide many opportunities for economies of scale and scope. Obviously one dimension of economies of scale is the spatial agglomeration of a widely diverse faculty from which a student can take four or six courses a semester in a form of one-stop shopping.

    One dimension of economies of scope is that an individual can gain an education at the same time that they are introduced to any number of similarly aged, and ostensibly similarly educated, individuals. I have never seen a mission statement that proclaimed a moral judgement concerning whether the introductions lead to romance, love, marriage, or co-habitation. Thus, the perceived or actual cultural pressure to "do something" must have been felt by the Faculty and administration, even if such pressure seems foreign to us today.

    While it might be good advice for "co-eds" to hold off until their suitors have jobs, the same could have been said for the suitors, if society hadn't been busy restricting the employment opportunities through formal and informal institutions. Was there an assumption that individuals in their twenties were blindly entering marriage because of hormonal influences?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:19 PM in Culture

    May 04, 2009
    Non-PC Headline c. 1909

    From the May 4, 1909 NYT:


    Quick Work with Rifle Astonishes Escort - Kermit Shoots a Cheetah.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:59 AM in Culture

    The Umpire c. 1909

    The May 4, 1909 NYT publishes the following poem:


    Who is it, reckless of his fame
    And deaf to yells of praise or blame,
    Unmoved by glory or by shame
    Hands down decisions on the game?
    His Umps.

    Who calmly stands where spinning spheres,
    Projected by the hand that steers
    The low or high, curved, straight, or queers,
    Whiz past his body, face and ears,
    And calls them balls or strikes, while cheers
    From grand stand throngs or bleachers jeer,
    Do not affect his hopes or fears?
    His Umps.

    Who faces thousands every day
    Ranged 'round' the grounds in fierce array,
    All with a hot desire to slay
    When he decides a quick, close play
    Not in accordance with their way,
    No matter what they want and say?
    His Umps.

    Who wears the diamond like a king?
    Who has the players on the string?
    Who carries pennants in a sling?
    Who simply runs the whole darn thing?
    His Umps.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:55 AM in Culture

    May 02, 2009
    Non-PC Headline c. 1909

    From the May 2, 1909 NYT:


    Each Falls on the First Shot - Kermit Bags Another with Three Bullets


    Selous Arranged the Successful Day's Beat and Killing - Ex-President Will Now Go Out for Giraffes

    This could have come from today's Onion and we would all laugh. In the pre-post modern society of the United States in 1909 this headline was evidently put forth with seriousness and applaud.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:32 PM in Culture

    Temperance c. 1909

    The May 1, 1909 NYT reports:

    DETROIT - At midnight tonight 585 saloons and ten breweries in nineteen counties of Michigan which voted "dry" at the last election closed their doors. Thirty of the eighty-three counties in the State are now "dry." Stocks have been closed out at reduced rates in many instances.
    I wonder why the "stocks" had to be closed out if there are counties that are not "dry"? Perhaps there were limits (like today) on bars selling to other bars. If you were a bar owner in County A which was going dry, why not purchase a liquor license in County B and open a bar there? Perhaps there were limits on the number of bars that could be opened in non-dry counties?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:49 PM in Culture

    April 26, 2009
    Word of the Day: Environmysticism

    After doing a bit of reading about green initiatives and the mystical fringes of the environmental movement, I propose a new word to describe ecocentric environmentalism: "environmysticism." A Google search turned up a couple of previous hits, but there's no definition. Environmysticism holds that environmental problems transcend human conflicts over property and the use of resources. The claim that the natural world is valuable as such and that we can violate the rights of nature is an environmystical claim. One has to wonder how the environmystic comes to this conclusion. Does the Holy Spirit tell us? Do we learn it by communicating with Gaia the Earth Mother through transcendental meditation? How is the right to use force to override over others' value judgments allocated?

    As I have said before, I consider myself an anthropocentric environmentalist. I care about environmental problems because I'm an economist and because human happiness is important to me. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit out there: a lot of "green" policies are actually bad for the environment, and a lot of policies that would make housing cheaper will also reduce pollution. I see no reason to grant the premise that water, soil, and air have enforceable rights.

    In the last chapter of "The Armchair Economist," Steven Landburg contrasts "the science of economics" with "the religion of ecology." It's worth reading often: http://www.shrubwalkers.com/prose/list/not.html.

    Finally, here's the definition of environmysticism I sent to the Urban Dictionary:

    noun, also "environmystic," "environmystical" (adj.).

    1. A body of propositions claiming that nature has enforceable rights independent of human wants and needs.

    2. The view that the natural world is valuable for its own sake.

    3. The view that one can make definitive, specific, and actionable claims about the costs and benefits of environmental changes independent of the price system.

    The essay was an exercise in environmysticism: the author claimed that no matter the costs, recycling is always right.

    Really finally, here's the only English site I can find that uses the word: http://alchemistpq.livejournal.com/909.html.

    Posted by Art Carden at 09:45 AM in Culture

    April 17, 2009
    Whence Higgs?

    Posting in which Bob Higgs discusses his lineage (and its relevance), the nature of political discourse in the era of The Uniter, and his hope for the future, to wit:

    We can transcend this disgusting political spectrum, placing ourselves neither on the left nor on the right – nor even in the so-called "independent" zone somewhere between them – but rather rising above the entire line and insisting that red-state savagery and blue-state savagery are equally despicable and intolerable. I daresay that the future of our civilization hinges on whether a sufficient number of us will choose this transcendence.

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 07:57 PM in Culture

    April 01, 2009
    What's in a name? Apparently self-selction, for one

    From my Reuters "news of the weird" feed a couple of days ago.

    Balls and Bottoms give way to Wangs in name game Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:02am EDT

    LONDON (Reuters) - The number of people in Britain with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom -- likely the source of schoolroom laughter -- has declined by up to 75 percent in the last century.


    People named Smellie decreased by 70 percent, Dafts by 51 percent, Gotobeds by 42 percent, Shufflebottoms by 40 percent, and Cockshotts by 34 percent, said Richard Webber, visiting professor of geography at King's College, London.

    "If you find the (absolute) number goes down, it's either because they changed their names or they emigrated," Webber, author of the study, told Reuters on Wednesday.

    Hmm. Seems there should be more to it than switching names or emigrating. Like procreating---unless you assume (or know) that the rate of non-procreation is evenly distributed across surnames. That doesnt' sound right, though. Wouldn't a guy named Smellie have more difficulty attracting women and having babies?

    But this is a nice story of subjective value on the most subjective of "goods". Personally I would prefer to be called Professor Death rather than Professor Anthrax, but Yellowbeard would disagree.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:59 AM in Culture

    March 31, 2009
    Quintomom c. 1909

    From the March 31, 1909 NYT:

    The wife of a farmer named Turner, residing near the Forsythe County [North Carolina] line, has given birth to five healthy children, three boys and two girls. The weights of the children range from four to six pounds. All of them are living and thriving, and the mother is doing nicely. The birth rate in this family heretofore has been normal.

    The quintuplex birth has created considerable interest throughout the county. People from every section are journeying to Rockingham to see the wonderful children.

    No new problems, just our problems.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:24 PM in Culture

    March 24, 2009
    Letting the cat out of the bag c. 1909

    A story in the March 24, 1909 NYT reports on a shyster with a convenient last name:

    Fritb F. Marx, who was arrested in Hoboken on Monday charged with swindling John Steneck & Sons, bankers, of 95 River Street, Hoboken, out of $44,250 by using forged letters on credit purporting to come from a Bremen bank, at first agreed to let John Steneck & Sons have the $7,000 in cash which was found on him...

    So far so good. The story is one of a financial swindler who played a local bank for some cash but got pinched. The last paragraph of the story is rather odd:
    Marx, who is only 22 years old, occupied a luxurious apartment at 363 Riverside Drive, employing a butler and several other servants. His young wife, who gave birth to a boy on Sunday, has not been told her husband is in jail. She thinks he is absent on a business trip.
    Being postpartum, I suppose she wasn't reading the New York Times either.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:04 PM in Culture

    March 06, 2009
    On the good old days c. 1909

    The March 6, 1909 NYT reports on an inheritance tax proposed by a New York State Assemblyman. The graduated tax kicks in for estates valued at $500 or more. A proposed 1% tax on estates from $500-$10,000 with the highest rate being 25% on estates of more than $20,000,000 [$488,215,419.50 in 2008 dollars]. In justifying the tax, the Assemblyman, one Mr. Oliver, had this to say, as reported in the story:

    Speaking of his bill Mr. Oliver said today that a little more than fifty years ago there were very few millionaires in the country...

    "We were a prosperous, happy, and contented people then," said Mr. Oliver, "because the wealth of the country was so much more evenly divided. Now many persons count their millions by the score and some even their hundreds of millions - to the constant impoverishment of our people. This condition brings about a feeling of unrest and discontent, and it is but a step to a state of anarchy and mob violence when these great masses of the population rise up in their strength and help themselves to that of which they believe a small number have with so much greed deprived them."

    Mr. Oliver believes his bill will tend to lighten the rent burdens and go a long way toward solving a great problem.

    Sound familiar?

    I understand there is an economics literature that claims to show that "wealth envy" is a real issue and that in some "games" people are willing to take less if that means someone else also has less (more here). However, I wonder about that finding.

    In a mano-a-mano interaction the findings might play out. However, day to day, my bet is that most people do not think about the wealth or income of those that are far removed from themselves. This would play into Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. For example, I do not know Alex Rodgriguez, although I saw him play for three years in Arlington, Texas, and therefore do not think about him on a daily basis. More importantly, I do not think about his accumulated millions and I certainly do not keep myself up at night worried about how his millions have somehow deprived me of the ability to earn a dollar. If I was the first baseman of the New York Yankees, perhaps my sentiments would be different.

    However, I have never understood how the government taking dollars away from someone else is supposed to make me FEEL better about myself. I might get some benefit from the theft in the form of government services, or in the case of Mr. Oliver's reckoning, a reduction in my rent bill. However, it would seem immaterial whether that subsidy is funded by import taxes, excise taxes, or an estate tax. In one sense, it is more "efficient" on the part of the government to take 25% of a $40,000,000 estate than it is to tax a dollar on 10,000,000 different transactions, but efficient theft is not a justification for theft.

    Whether income concentration leads to social unrest seems to be an untested hypothesis. It is easy enough to create ex post narratives about how income concentration led to revolutions in the past. However, it is also plausible that egregious political behavior of those with the concentration of wealth led to social unrest.

    I have no direct experience, but I wonder how many robbers, pick pockets, and muggers justify their theft with the "good old days" argument. Indeed, it seems that this argument is most often employed by politicians, many of whom might have been "more content" in that distant past than the average person (at least as measured by material goods).

    Just another example of how our problems aren't new, they are just ours.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:25 PM in Culture

    February 25, 2009
    On vice c. 1909

    The February 25, 1909 NYT has a number of interesting, and sometimes conflicting, stories from around the country concerning vice:

  • Nevada has anti-gambling fever: an anti-gambling sentiment in Nevada?
  • "New Boxing Bill at Albany": A bill to permit six-round boxing - whether this was an expansion or a contraction of existing limits to boxing bouts was not clear.
  • "Texas Racing Bill Held Up": State senate postpones a vote on an anti-racing bill.
  • "Tennessee in Favor of Boxing": The state Senate passed a bill allowing "scientific boxing" in the state.
  • "Sunday Baseball for Indiana": Was allowing professional baseball on Sunday the beginning of the end?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:46 AM in Culture

    February 23, 2009

    As a Bollywood (popular Hindi cinema) fan, I enjoyed seeing – for the first time ever on a prime-time American network television – Bollywood actors (Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan) on stage for Slumdog Millionaire’s Best Motion Picture victory last night. It was a bonus that I was rooting for Slumdog Millionaire.

    Even more prominent was Bollywood’s leading film composer, A. R. Rahman, who won an Oscar for best score, sang a nominated song (though singing is not his strong suit), then won a second Oscar for the song. To my ears, the Slumdog Millionaire’s songs are not Rahman’s catchiest work. He has scored something close to 5 films a year (with 4-6 songs per film) for the last 15 years, so he has an amazingly large body of work to try to top. Of the soundtracks I’ve heard, his catchiest songs are for the films Rangeela, Lagaan, and Taal. The first two are worth watching, especially the anti-tax pro-cricket Lagaan.

    My favorite CD of Rahman’s music, by the way, is the instrumental covers (with remixes) album Rahmania by London’s brilliant Bollywood Brass Band.

    An interesting account of how Rahman’s creative process works (and incidentally of how an Andrew Lloyd Weber - produced stage musical is put together) is available in Salaam: Bombay Dreams, a making-of documentary (with hours of extras) about Rahman’s London smash (but Broadway flop) Bombay Dreams.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:37 PM in Culture

    February 12, 2009
    Customer-made Theatre c. 1909

    In February 1909 there is a running theme in the NYT concerning indecency in the theaters. There have been several letters to the editor complaining about the license being taken by directors and actors, with some calling for censorship or at best a return to the "good old days." In the February 12, 1909 NYT there is a story reporting on a speech given by on Mr. Burnham, President of the Association of Theatre Managers:

    Every self-respecting manager would like to be an Irving or a Daly," he [Burnham] continued, "but New York is a town of sensations. It runs wild after a reputation. Let but the word be passed that a play is broad or indelicate, and the town runs wild about it, while some play of merit, bright and entertaining, is laid on the shelf.

    "Women are more to be blamed for this than men. No play can exist that is not patronized by women. When `Sapho' was put on a man haunted the box office to get tickets for himself and his wife, because the police had raided it. When the official ban was withdrawn the man returned the tickets and said in apology, `My wife doesn't want to see it now. She says it can't be so very bad after all.'"

    In illustration of his point, Mr. Burnham told how while `Sapho' was drawing $18,000 a week, an adequate performance of "As You Like It" brought in only $200 a night. Lester Wallack's widow is now in want, he said, because her husband stuck to the standard comedies at $300 a night, when "Forbidden Fruit" was drawing three times as much."

    "The lesson of theatrical history," he concluded," is that the theatre is made by the public, and when the public demands higher things the theatre will respond."

    We see the same thing today in movies, music, television, and the Internet, where the "indecency" seems to increase every year (although Gordon Tullock has an interesting take on censorship and how it might have the unintended effect of leading to more of the censored behavior).

    The idea that the public drives the theatre might also apply to professional sports where doping is decried on the radio and in the halls of Congress (neither of which directly affect player/manager/team owner wages) even while revealed preference at the events or for telecasts (both of which do directly affect player/manager/team owner wages) show that the public appreciates the outcome of the doping.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:43 PM in Culture

    February 05, 2009
    The Best of the Beatles

    A guy with lots of time on his hands has ranked every original Beatles song, from 185 to #1. His commentary on each song is fun, too. The guy knows a lot about the Beatles.

    I'll just list my top 15, knowing they could change tomorrow:

    15. Ob-la-di Ob-la-da
    14. Hard Days Night
    13. I Feel Fine
    12. Octopus's Garden
    11. Back in the USSR
    10. All My Lovin
    9. The Ballad of John & Yoko
    8. Paperback Writer
    7. Lady Madonna
    6. Drive My Car
    5. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
    4. Penny Lane
    3. Ticket to Ride
    2. I Saw Her Standing There
    1. Here Comes the Sun

    I'll allow comments for a little while if anyone wants to list or discuss favorites. I should note - to tie it to the theme of this blog - it pained me to leave off the Beatles great anti-tax anthem, the Taxman.

    Posted by Brad Smith at 09:18 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (3)

    January 30, 2009
    I Can't Tell if This is Funny...

    ...or if I should expect to see it in my lifetime. From The Onion's archives, here's "Child-Safety Experts Call For Restrictions on Childhood Imagination." Here are the last three paragraphs:

    "Many of the suggestions are really quite simple, like breaking down cardboard boxes or sewing cushions to couches so they cannot be converted into forts or playhouses," McMillan said. "Blank pieces of paper, which can inspire non-reality-based drawings, should be discarded unless they are used in one of our recommended diagonal folding and unfolding activities. And all loose sticks left lying in the yard should be carefully labeled 'Not a Sword.'"

    Unfortunately, removing everything from a child's field of view that could stimulate his active young mind is extremely time-consuming, and infeasible as a long-term solution, McMillan acknowledges. "To truly protect your children, you must go to great lengths to completely eliminate their curiosity, crush their spirit of amazement, and eradicate their childlike glee. Watch for the danger signs: faraway expressions, giggle fits, and a general air of carefree contentment."

    Added McMillan: "Remember, if you see a single sparkle of excitement in their eyes, you haven't done enough."

    Posted by Art Carden at 02:57 PM in Culture

    January 28, 2009
    An ode to C.Q.D. c. 1909

    On January 23, 1909 the SS Florida collided with the RMS Republic off the island of Nantucket (I missed the original story). There was considerable response by other ships in the area after the call "C.Q.D." went out over the wireless. This collision was the first time the call had been used after it was standardized in February 1904 (which sounds like a long time to me).

    Here's a poem commemorating the "first responders" in this accident printed in the Jan. 28, 1909 NYT:

    "C.Q.D.! C.Q.D.!!"
    Binns sent it flashing out over the sea
    To where'er a ship or a port might be -
    "C.Q.D.! C.Q.D.!!"
    On went the message of peril and fear,
    Winging its way to whoever might hear
    The call borne out on the ether's thin breath,
    A cry of disaster and imminent death.
    And, instant, wherever a ship could be found,
    Homeward or outward or anywhere bound,
    That caught the alarm, it turned in its course
    And rushed through the dark with all of the force
    Of steam-driven speed to rescue and save,
    Heedless themselves of a possible grave
    For them and their crews in the fog-covered wave.
    And, again, as so oft, out of peril were born
    Names that shall live till earth's final morn,
    Names of true heroes as great as of old,
    The records of daring and honor have told -
    Ruspini and Sealby and Ranson, and he
    Who fearless, persistent, sent over the sea
    That call of distress, "C.Q.D.! C.Q.D.!!"

    J.A. METS

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:38 PM in Culture

    January 13, 2009
    On the paparazzi c. 1909

    We like to think that the paparazzi today is something new but it is really more of an evolution over time. For instance, the Jan. 13, 1909 NYT reports on the marriage of one John J. Evers. That name probably doesn't evoke a lot of interest from the average person. Perhaps the name is more recognizable after a hint from the baseball refrain "Tinkers to Evers to Chance"?

    John Evers, the famous Cubs second basemen got married on January 12, 1909 and merited a total of 17 lines of text in the NYT. Here is the entirety of the story:

    John J. Evers, the second baseman of the Chicago Cubs, this afternoon was married to Miss Helen Fitzgibbons, one of Troy's most popular young women. The ceremony was performed at St. Joseph's church by the Rev. Father Leo O'Haire, in the presence of relatives. The pride was attended by Miss Ellen C. Evers, a sister of the groom. Edward Wansbro of Albany, a cousin of the groom, was the best man. The second baseman's gift to his bride was a pair of diamond earrings. He gave the bridesmaid a diamond brooch and the best man a diamond stickpin.

    Mr. and Mrs. Evers will spend their honeymoon in New York, Washington, and Palm Beach. They will return home Feb. 1.

    Granted, this is a lot more information than was ever printed about my wedding, but I am not nor ever will be a famous second baseman.

    An interesting question is why we have so much more paparazzi today than we did a century ago. Clearly there are influences on both the supply and the demand side. On the supply side there are two distinct influences: first the technology to distribute information about Britney and Paris is much more developed today than a century ago. Thus the costs of providing information about the rich and famous has declined. Ceteris paribus, we would expect a lower cost of production to lead to more coverage.

    However, this is not guaranteed if those who are the subject of paparazzi focus truly wanted the paparazzi to go away. The rich and famous could lobby for legislation that would restrict the paparazzi snooping around their private lives, or they could continually sue individual paparazzi or their sponsors to drive up the cost of providing coverage of private lives. The fact that there are so few law suits in this area (regardless of the true legal standing of the claim), suggests to me that a) those who are the focus of paparazzi are resigned to their fate or b) are not that torn up about it. It seems, on the surface at least, that those subjected to paparazzi treatment often seek out the "coverage" in an attempt to improve their marketability, improve their image, or simply to "have a gas" at being in the magazines in the grocery store.

    There are enough counter-factuals that suggest that famous people can keep a low(er) profile if they wish - I don't hear much about the daily goings-on of Clint Eastwood. Admittedly there seem to be times when famous people wish to keep a low profile and this desire is seemingly ignored, such as the case of Princess Diana. However, cases such as Princess Diana seem to be relatively rare. On the contrary, it seems the paparazzi provide a middle-man service to those members of the rich and famous who want to have some portions of their private lives exposed to their "fans." In return, the rich and famous pay for this service by suffering the "snooping." Perhaps the endogenously determined "price" between the paparazzi and the rich and famous leads to a natural limit for how far the paparazzi can go. If true, this would partially explain why the Diana-type scenario seems relatively rare.

    On the demand side, there are a lot more people in this country who seem to have an insatiable appetite for other people's business. This is clearly not unique to the modern era, but the number of people and their willingness and ability to pay for information about where [insert name here] had a latte seems different than a century ago. Perhaps this is a function of affluence and increased leisure time which is filled with liviing vicariously through Tom Cruise rather than through Cousin Melba.

    Another thought experiment is whether there is feedback between all-star salaries of athletes and actors and the interest people have in their daily lives. The feedback would arise if some/enough individuals feel a sense of "ownership" of their favorite athlete or actor, perhaps because they directly contribute to the athlete's/actor's high salary by attending games or movies. As interest in the private actions of the actor/athlete increases, this could cause an increase peoples' interest in the public/professional actions (such as games or movies) thereby increasing the salary of the athlete/actor.

    While some condemn the paparazzi for invading the privacy of individuals, in many cases it is less clear whether paparazzi coverage is truly an "invasion." Both supply and demand-side effects seem to encourage more revelations of what might have been considered private or uninteresting behavior in the past.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:21 PM in Culture

    January 10, 2009
    The Musing Philosopher c. 1909

    From the Jan 10, 1909 NYT:

  • The man who forgets what he ought to know seldom knows what he ought to forget.

  • There isn't anything much more uncomfortable than a professional hero who has lost his job.

  • The hardest obstacle a man has to overcome is frequently himself.

  • The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the sword swallower generally makes more money than the poet.

  • The quarrelsome man should remember that a chip on the shoulder never won a jackpot.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:19 PM in Culture

    On Mere Man c. 1909

    From the January 10, 1909 NYT:

  • Man that is born of woman is small potatoes and few to the hill, and usually about as necessary as a smokestack on a watering cart.

  • He takes pride to himself, in his indomitable will, but it only needs an 89-cent alarm clock to wake him up in the morning.

  • Man goes about in a spike-tailed coat and a skyscraper hat and declares bridges and tunnels open "in the name of the Commonwealth," and he wouldn't know a Commonwealth if he fell over one.

  • His wife takes his name, his creditors take his money, his tailor takes his measure - but none of them take him seriously.

  • Man is merely a matter of opinion - his wife's opinion. And that is a serial without an end.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:13 PM in Culture

    January 08, 2009
    On progress c. 1909

    The January 8, 1909 NYT has the following poem:



    It seems so rash, their setting forth
    To Western wilds, this youthful pair,
    Forsaking homefolk, comforts, friends,
    For life of toil, privations, care!

    A prairie schooner holds their all.
    Through weary weeks they keep their way;
    Cross dusty plains, ford swollen streams,
    Dire perils brave by night and day.

    Content when rough log cabin's built,
    Secure from storm, from savage beast.
    Still grateful for life's common joys;'
    For land reclaimed for crops increased.


    Their grandson's coming East this week,
    To see the home of his sires
    In prairie schooner does not jolt,
    But glides along on rubber tires.

    His family quite comfy is
    In car six-cylinder, or so;
    Still, last year's model; chances are
    He'll buy a costlier at the Show!

    It would seem that a new stanza should be added. Suggestions taken.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:43 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (3)

    December 27, 2008
    Of faith, aid, and development

    And the greatest of these is ... ? Interesting essay:

    Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

    It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

    Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do.

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 04:14 PM in Culture

    December 16, 2008
    Great Rant: I hate kids

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:21 PM in Culture

    November 13, 2008
    Tolerate this

    President-elect Obama provided a short essay for "Teaching Tolerance," a website maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Too bad that not all of his followers got the memo. This from the Chicago Tribune:

    Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

    So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:"McCain Girl."

    "People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn't be wearing it," Catherine said.

    Then it got worse.

    "One person told me to go die. It was a lot of dying. A lot of comments about how I should be killed," Catherine said, of the tolerance in Oak Park.

    But students weren't the only ones surprised that she wore a shirt supporting McCain.

    "In one class, I had one teacher say she will not judge me for my choice, but that she was surprised that I supported McCain," Catherine said.

    Only a few times did anyone say anything remotely positive about her McCain shirt. One girl pulled her aside in a corner, out of earshot of other students, and whispered, "I really like your shirt."

    The next day, in part 2 of The Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment, she wore another T-shirt, this one with "Obama Girl" written in blue. And an amazing thing happened.

    Catherine wasn't very stupid anymore. She grew brains.

    "People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today," Catherine said.

    Some students accused her of playing both sides. "A lot of people liked it. But some people told me I was a flip-flopper," she said. "They said, 'You can't make up your mind. You can't wear a McCain shirt one day and an Obama shirt the next day.' "

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 02:15 PM in Culture

    October 29, 2008
    Bizarre medical advice c. 1908

    The Oct. 29, 1908 NYT has two stories which deal with questionable medical conclusions:

    Dr. L.E. Landrone...commended the modern corset. In an address before the members of the Women's Literary Club he declared that the stays were good for the reason that the torso muscles have been weakened for centuries through the generous support of the corset until now the average female form could not stand without its help...

    The speaker said that the body was composed of chemical fluids at the mercy of emotions. Anger, hatred, sorrow poison the fluids of the body while love, cheerfulness, and happiness serve as eliminators of the motive fatigue poisons.

    "Anger and hatred will poison forty-two fluids of the woman's body," said Dr. Landrone. "Pleasure stimulates, and that is why, when tired, especially when young, an evening of dancing and music will remove all signs of fatigue."

    Exactly 42 fluids?

    Another story is even more shocking:


    Dr. Rachel Skidelsky, one of the best known women physicians of Philadelphia, started a brisk discussion last night when, at a meeting of the Women's Club, she supported the right of women to smoke. She said that smoking would undoubtedly be beneficial to the fair sex if it were properly indulged in. To bear out her statements she produced scientific data.

    In the course of her arguments Dr. Skidelsky stated that men found relief from worry by smoking. "If a woman would sit down for five minutes before beginning her day and give the time to a cigarette," said Dr. Skidelsky, "she would be able to plan better her day's work. And the five minutes used, three times daily, would be, I think, of much benefit to her.

    Many physicians held similar views, said Dr. Skidelsky, but hesitated to advise their women patients to smoke because of a fear that what was offered as medicine might become a habitual indulgence.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:34 AM in Culture

    October 16, 2008
    Virginia Postrel on Glamour

    Here's a very interesting TED Talk in which Virginia Postrel talks about glamour. And here's one of my favorite books for a penny plus shipping.

    Posted by Art Carden at 02:00 PM in Culture

    October 13, 2008
    On PDA c. 1908

    From the Oct. 13, 1908 NYT:

    Waterbury, Conn. - Dennis Burns of Bridgeport and his wife made themselves objectionable on a trolley car running from Bridgeport to Waterbury last night. Because the man insisted on hugging and kissing the woman dramatically to the disgust of the passengers he was stopped at Naugatuck and arrested under an old blue law which says a man may not kiss even his wife in such a public and ostentatious manner.

    Judge Hungerford did not care to entertain the charge of wife kissing on Sunday, and Burns has fined for disorderly conduct enough to make a total with costs of nearly $20.

    Burns justified his conduct by the statement, "I love my wife dearly and have a right to kiss her, law or no law."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:15 PM in Culture

    October 06, 2008
    A limit to markets in everything? c. 1908

    From the October 6, 1908 NYT:

    A boy baby, six months old, will be raffled off at an Alton theatre Saturday evening. Commencing with this evening's performance a ticket will be issued to those in the audience, allowing one chance for the baby. No tickets will be issued to [African Americans] and bachelors.

    The managers insist that their offer is genuine and is countenance by the authorities. The object of the raffle, say the promoters, is to obtain a good home for the baby. The winner of the child must be able to exhibit credentials as to his or her ability to care for it before the prize is awarded.

    This sounds like a hoax - how can a random lottery, albeit among a population that self-selects into seeing an event at the theatre, assure a "good home" for a child?

    This sounds like a form of viral advertising to get people to attend the theater, as I find it difficult to believe that such a raffle would be allowed to happen, even in 1908 United States.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:06 PM in Culture

    October 04, 2008
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1908

    From the Oct. 4, 1908 NYT:

  • The difference between a burglar and a promoter of high finance is that a burglar would hesitate to rob the widow and orphan.
  • The good that men do may live after them, but it isn't so apt to keep on drawing interest as the evil.
  • The only way to get friends is to make them yourself.
  • A man's enemies will unconsciously do more to boost him into prominence than his friends.
  • A little learning is a dangerous thing, especially if it's about an automobile.
  • Many a man doesn't do anything worth while because he thinks it isn't worth while.
  • Any man can learn to love if the girl makes the lessons easy enough.

  • I might tweak the learning quip to read "A little learning is a dangerous thing, especially if it's about economics."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:40 PM in Culture

    September 12, 2008
    Japan Fun Fact #2

    Searching in Tokyo's mammoth Tower Records for Japanese "eleki" ('60s instrumental rock n' roll) and contemporary Japanese surf bands, I discovered that CDs were organized alphabetically by band name, as usual, but alphabetically according to the Japanese alphabet. Bands whose names are in English beginning with R (e.g. the Royal Fingers) were shelved together bands whose names are in English begin with L. Apparently the same Japanese character is used for both R and L. That may explain the stereotypical conflation of the two sounds in English spoken by native Japanese speakers. (If I'm way off on this, please let me know.)

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:24 AM in Culture

    September 02, 2008
    Creative Destruction: this is a really neat idea, but...

    ...if you're the kind of person who is likely to find yourself needing a hammer to open a bottle of wine, should you really be buying expensive wine? Steve Levitt offers evidence that could help us answer a better question: should you be drinking expensive wine at all?

    Nonetheless, I find the idea inspiring. I'm the last person you would want to ask about wine, but instead of all the convoluted advice that you would get from an outlet like Wine Spectator or Bon Apetit, I propose the following parsimonious formula for willingness-to-pay for wine. The formula relies on proxy variables that should be highly correlated with individual type:

    Willingness to Pay = f(time it takes to find your hammer, time it takes to find your corkscrew)

    WTP is an increasing function of the amount of time it takes you to find your hammer and a decreasing function of the amount of time it takes you to find your corkscrew. If you could find your corkscrew blindfolded but aren't sure where to find a hammer (or aren't sure you even own one), you're probably a good candidate for expensive wine. If you know exactly where your hammer is but aren't sure where your corkscrew is (or if you even own one), you're probably better off saving your money. In either case, according to the research cited by Levitt, most of us who don't have extensive training probably can't distinguish between high- and low-quality wine.

    If you're me, the formula breaks down because while I know where to find our hammers and while I think I know where our corkscrew is, I'm more or less incompetent with both. Therefore, I stick with coffee.

    Posted by Art Carden at 05:51 PM in Culture

    August 22, 2008
    On National Anthems c. 1908

    As of 1908, the United States didn't have a national anthem? This seems to be the case, given the discussion in the NYT during the Summer of 1908. Throughout that summer there were a number of candidates offered, but the odds favorite seemed to be the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    The August 22, 1908 NYT has this opinion:

    All recognized critics agree, I believe, in calling the "Battle Hymn" one of the few great poetical productions of America. The lyrical structure of the piece is simple, yet superb. It is a truly passionate appeal. I fear, however, that the unpleasant memories it brings up in the South will prove too strong an objection to overcome.
    It is somewhat ironic that, 100 years later, many universities in the South play the Battle Hymn during football games. Indeed, my two-time alma mater, and pre-season #1 ranked, University of Georgia's primary fight song is the

    August 21, 2008
    Music Review: Eve's Burden

    A California band called Eve's Burden was kind enough to send me a digital press kit (I'm not sure why; perhaps somehow they saw some of my music posts). I felt obliged to honor their troubles and give a listen to the tracks that were available their website (www.evesburden.com). After a first listen, the songs are a little nondescript and the production quality seems a tad iffy on some tracks. "The Black Letter" has a good melody but I'm not really taken with the chorus. Their song "Love Keeps Me Hangin On" turns me off by rhyming "standing in the rain" with "tears of pain" immediately. One of my artistic pet peeves has been over-use of the cliched rain/pain coupling, but this is hardly unique to Eve's Burden--many bands I like do it a lot. It seems like space filler when the lyricist can't think of anything else to say. "Like A Wildcat" is rap-heavy, but Rage Against the Machine does it better. "The dogs are licking my face/I eat the leftover food from behind the pizza place" (followed by a second use of "face" as a rhyme) in "Peace to a Fool" doesn't really do much for me in a song that takes itself seriously. I'm pretty easy to please and a total skinflint, so the questions I would ask are as follows: is it worth a listen? Sure. Would I pay for it? No. But don't take my word for it. You can check them out at www.evesburden.com.

    On the "rain/pain" thing: what do you think are the worst rhymes in rock songs? Comments are open; I nominate this gem from the third verse of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive:"

    "I walk these streets, a loaded six string on my back
    I play for keeps, cause I might not make it back"

    It's not nearly as good a question as the ones Steve Horwitz posted on The Austrian Economists a few days ago, but Josh et al. might find your answers useful for the "Abba to Zeppelin, Led" music site.

    Posted by Art Carden at 07:29 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (5)

    August 20, 2008
    The t-shirt of gold standards

    Celebrate "the original currency of kings". (A riff on the Original Kings of Comedy?) Available here.

    HT: Peter Klein

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:20 PM in Culture

    August 17, 2008
    Chez Schumpeter: Creative Destruction in the Kitchen

    In the last couple of years I have developed an interest in food as a metaphor for economic and social progress. I don't have much to add to what Tyler Cowen and others have already written on the subject, but I can offer some personal case studies. Over the next few weeks, I'll be experimenting with leftovers and some of the provisions I bought during a Sam's Club buying spree a few months ago. I claim no expertise, particularly since I don't have any culinary training, but if these ideas can be improved on by abler hands I would be happy to hear about it. Experiment #1, which involves leftover noodle soup from Pho Saigon and barbecue from Germantown Commissary, is discussed below the fold (cross-posted at www.blog.mises.org/blog).

    Read More »

    Posted by Art Carden at 05:57 PM in Culture

    August 09, 2008
    George Orwell, blogger

    George Orwell's diaries begin on August 9, 1938 -- so The Orwell Trust had the idea to post the entries online, one day at a time, exactly 70 years after they were written. You can read the first entry (and all subsequent ones, for that matter) here.

    Posted by Mike DeBow at 03:57 PM in Culture

    July 31, 2008
    Here is a Van Gogh you haven't seen before


    The deal is, scientists in Amsterdam have produced a "color X-ray" of Van Gogh's "Patch of grass" (1887) and found an earlier painting that the artist rejected. From the Reuters story:

    "It is estimated that one third of Vincent van Gogh's early paintings have been painted on top of existing ones. Van Gogh literally recycled his own canvasses," scientist Joris Dik of the Delft University of Technology said.

    Here is greater detail, including speculation that the rejected painting is tied to "The Potato Eaters."

    Question: Why would Van Gogh "recycle"? Was canvas relatively expensive? Or was it driven by the artist's preferences? In Tyler Cowen's break out book, In Praise of Commercial Culture (1998), he writes on point (pp. 19-20):

    Falling prices for materials have made the arts affordable to millions of enthusiasts and would-be professionals. In previous eras, even paper was costly, limiting the development of both writing and drawing skills to relatively well-off families. Vincent Van Gogh, an ascetic loner who ignored public taste, could not have managed his very poor lifestyle at an earlier time in history. His nonconformism was possible because technological progress had lowered the costs of paints and canvas and enabled him to persist as an artist.

    Cowen's over arching theme is that the arts generally benefit from technological progress. French Impressionism, no less, would not have been possible without the invention of small lead tubes that allowed painters to take their studios outdoors, where the effects of different lighting were studied. But none of this directly answers why Van Gogh would recycle, much less why one-third of his canvases.

    More questions:
    Have paintings become larger over time as the price of canvas has fallen?
    Does this lessen the relative value of "Patch of Grass"? Did Van Gogh hate the painting underneath sufficiently that he just wanted to cover it up? Or did he love the Patch of Grass so much it was worth covering up even the mysterious face?
    Does an artist's economy of necessity lend itself to artistic innovation?
    Does creative destruction describe artistic innovation? A recent favorite example of mine is Tom Nozkowski, as recently featured in W magazine.

    If the canvas isn’t right, Nozkowski simply reworks it. “I don’t like tinkering. Whenever I go back to a painting, I try to open up the entire surface—you know, run a wash of color over it, or I’ll scrape it down, or I’ll rub it off with a rag—so that everything is back in play,” he says. “They can change pretty radically. I’ve always felt that probably the good stuff will keep coming back.” (To avoid that “Oh s---” sinking feeling that can arise from erasing something good, Nozkowski keeps paper handy to quickly re-create images worth saving before they fade from memory.) Traces of what came before are often left visible, like haunting memories or jumbled-up dreams. “It’s like character in somebody’s face,” Nozkowski says.... “I believe that what I’m doing is actually very close to our normal way of looking at and thinking about the world,” Nozkowski says before getting up to stir the roasted red pepper and white bean soup he’s cooked up for lunch. “We slowly build up a whole web of associations and meanings.”
    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:32 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (1)

    July 29, 2008
    Review of Richard Land, The Divided States of America

    I've written a rough draft of a review of Richard Land's interesting The Divided States of America? What Liberals AND Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Art Carden at 04:19 PM in Culture

    July 28, 2008
    Bush or Batman?

    An interviewer challenges folks in the street: did the following anti-evildoer quote come from George W. Bush or from the 1960s TV version of Batman? Great fun, and harder than you might think!

    HT: The Lone Libertarian

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 05:33 PM in Culture

    July 25, 2008
    On inventions c. 1908

    Here's are the first and last paragraphs from an article in the New Scientist from May 2005:

    A gun that spits out ball bearings after spinning them to extreme speeds is being developed by a US inventor. The novel design has already caught the imagination of some defence industry experts.

    But Abrahams finds the idea outlandish. "Anything that seems so far beyond anything else is worth a moment's thought before you completely gulp it down," he told New Scientist. "It is way out on the side of the scale that deals with high levels of imagination."

    All of this sounds intriguing until you read the July 25, 1908 NYT:

    The science of war will be revolutionized and standing armies vastly reduced if a rapid-firing gun invented by William Patten of 270 West 136th Street can duplicate in the field the work of a ten-inch model which Mr. Patten has built and is demonstrating.

    The gun is noiseless, and is fired without powder. And this is not all. Mr. Patten asserts that the gun can discharge bullets faster than they can be loaded into its magazine, and that the loading speed is therefore practically the only limit to the number of shots that can be fired. He maintains that 50,000 shots a minute can be discharged from this new weapon, and adds that he'll demonstrate this when he gets a full-sized one in commission.

    The gun is fired by centrifugal force. All there is to it is a big wheel with a crank for revolving it. In the ten-inch model this can be turned by hand. A motor of fifty horse power would be required to turn the six foot model Mr. Patten hopes to built.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:08 AM in Culture

    July 17, 2008
    Colbert Report Online

    Via Steve Horwitz blogging at The Austrian Economists, here's an absolutely awesome episode of the Colbert Report. This won't be a supplement for econ 101 or economic history, but it's pretty cool.

    Posted by Art Carden at 04:34 PM in Culture

    July 14, 2008

    Mrs. Carden and I saw Wall-E with my in-laws on Friday night. My take: very cute, visually spectacular, economically illiterate. Mike Hammock, who really liked it, offers a detailed discussion here. Writing for the Mises Institute, Gennady Stolyarov II is much less kind. The trailer for The Clone Wars was worth the price of admission.

    A few questions and major, major spoilers are below the fold. Do not proceed unless you have already seen the movie or at least want to know how it ends.

    Read More »

    Posted by Art Carden at 12:25 PM in Culture

    What I've Been Reading Lately*

    1. Bill Hybels, Holy Discontent. We were in Birmingham over the weekend, and I picked this up yesterday at the bookstore at Gardendale's First Baptist Church. It was a very interesting book; my review (submitted to The Christian Century) is here.

    2. My email, which included a notice that my paper "Sound and Fury: Rhetoric and Rebound After Katrina" has been accepted by the Journal of Business Valuation and Economic Loss Analysis.

    *-Marginal Revolution.

    Posted by Art Carden at 11:33 AM in Culture

    July 08, 2008
    Poor Yorick: Rockin' the Late-90s Tuscaloosa Scene

    My friend S. Taylor Williams has an online archive of songs by her defunct-but-not-forgotten band Poor Yorick. A steal at the price of $0.00.

    Posted by Art Carden at 03:09 PM in Culture

    July 04, 2008
    Celebrating Independence Day

    We're spending the night in Bristol, VA on our way back to Memphis from Bryn Mawr. On our way down, we stopped at Bob's Shabu-Shabu in Rockville, MD for an excellent lunch with Tara Sinclair. There seems to be something appropriate about going to a restaurant with a multi-lingual, multi-cultural menu as part of our celebration of one of history's greatest experiments in liberty.

    Posted by Art Carden at 10:34 PM in Culture

    July 03, 2008
    Exercising outside the box
    The latest study, from researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, included six boys and five girls between the ages of 13 and 15. The children were fitted with a calorie-counting monitoring device while they played games on the Xbox 360 and the Wii. The kids burned up to 66 percent more calories playing the Wii than the Xbox, the researchers found. That translates to about 179 calories burned an hour playing Wii tennis compared to 107 calories on the Xbox. At rest, a child expends about 70 calories.

    But the most active game, Wii Tennis, fell far short of the calorie-burning effects of the real game. The researchers estimated kids playing real tennis for an hour would burn about 270 calories.

    That's "Wii Video Workouts Don't Beat Real Sports," from the NYT's informative blog, Well. Personally I think Wii boxing is more of a workout than Wii tennis.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:22 AM in Culture

    July 02, 2008
    Pope Benedict's shoes: Not knock-offs

    From The Manolo (the most charming blog for extraneous definite articles and third-person self-references), a fun post, "The Pope Does Not Wear Prada"

    The Devil may wear Prada — but the Pope does not, according to the Vatican.

    The pontiff has been hailed as a "style icon" since his election just over three years ago and speculation has been rife that he enjoys designer clothes. Attention has focused not only on his often elaborate headgear and fashionable sunglasses but also on his dainty red shoes, or moccasins, widely assumed to be made by Prada.

    However L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, categorically denied reports today that the shoes were a Prada product, saying this was "of course false". According to Vatican sources the Pope's shoes are made by a cobbler from Novara called Adriano Stefanelli, who makes them from calf or kid for the winter and nappa leather for the summer.

    Full story here.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:03 PM in Culture

    June 28, 2008
    The Greenwood Lake Philosopher c. 1908

    From the June 28, 1908 NYT:

  • The black sheep of the family may really be a blonde.
  • Don't waste your time. You will need it all before you die.
  • It seems as though only the wealthy can afford to have no manners.
  • We all know a sure cure for the other fellow's ills.
  • Wise is the man who wants no more than he can get.
  • The eleventh commandment might very well be, "Mind your own business."
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:17 PM in Culture

    June 23, 2008
    George Carlin

    Pour a little out for George Carlin, who died of heart failure Sunday. The link is to a long article carried by Reuters:

    Known for his edgy, provocative material developed over 50 years, the bald, bearded Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television." A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin's routine were indecent, and that the government's broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.


    Carlin wrote three best-selling books, won four Grammy Awards, recorded 22 comedy albums, headlined 14 HBO television specials, and hosted hundreds of variety shows. One was the first episode of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975, when he was high on cocaine.

    Ordinarily I probably wouldn't blog this, but I recently invoked Carlin in a post on innovation and the environment that I titled after one of his lines, "The Earth...plus plastic." The Earth will miss you, George.... Or not.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:33 PM in Culture

    June 17, 2008
    South Park Online

    I just gave a "Brain Candy" talk to students at the Rhodes summer Writing Institute on an economics lesson from the Simpsons episode in which Homer tries to gain weight so he can qualify for disability. At the end, I mentioned the fact that all South Park episodes are now available online, at no charge, with very short commercial breaks during the episodes.

    Posted by Art Carden at 10:18 PM in Culture

    The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of Tolerance
    "In general, I think product differentiation expressive of differing values is a very good thing for a free, pluralistic society... If we can have 20 different brands of toothpaste, why not a few different conceptions of how pharmacies ought to operate?"

    That's Loren Lomasky as quoted in a Washington Post article on the marketization of conservative Christian beliefs through drug stores that don't sell contraceptives and such. Indeed, as the article describes, an abundance of choice is apparently emerging in the marketplace.

    Some pro-life pharmacies are identical to typical drugstores except that they do not stock some or all forms of contraception. Others also refuse to sell tobacco, rolling papers or pornography. Many offer "alternative" products, including individually compounded prescription drugs, as well as vitamins and homeopathic and herbal remedies.

    Would that it were as simple as critics valuing a plurality of choice. One shrill critic:
    "I'm very, very troubled by this," said Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center, a Washington advocacy group. "Contraception is essential for women's health. A pharmacy like this is walling off an essential part of health care. That could endanger women's health."
    . Another outburst: "We're talking about creating a separate universe of pharmacies that puts women at a disadvantage." And another: "Why do you care about the sexual health of men but not women?" asked Anita L. Nelson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "If he gets his Viagra, why can't she get her contraception?"

    Several states have passed or are considering legislation.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:15 AM in Culture

    June 12, 2008
    The Depravity of Modernity: Rocking Out to Pachelbel

    With every passing day I become more convinced that we are in a cultural golden age: more artistic output of higher quality is available to more people at lower prices than ever before. I'm particularly interested in the processes by which knowledge and cultural forms are re-combined to create new cultural output. A friend showed me this video of someone giving a virtuoso performance of Pachelbel's Canon on electric guitar; it has close to 45 million Youtube views. So I ask: is it art? Comments are open.

    Posted by Art Carden at 11:25 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (14)

    June 07, 2008
    Musings of the Gentle Cynic c. 1908

    The June 7, 1908 NYT has the following quips:

  • Few men believe they are working for all they are worth.
  • It is hard to be an enthusiast without being something of a liar.
  • "Joy cometh in the morning," but not if you've been making a night of it.
  • Many a man's popularity begins and ends with himself.
  • In looking ahead some people are entirely too previous.
  • It's a safe plan to believe only half you hear, and then forget most of that.
  • When a man complains that he is unable to collect his thoughts it may be because there are none coming to him.
  • and these from the "Dyspeptic Philosopher":

  • The man who is long-headed is seldom short-sighted.
  • It is better to swallow your pride than to chew the rag.
  • Revenge is sweet, when it isn't an instance of sour grapes.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 09:11 PM in Culture

    Irony: Internet Shopping

    A few minutes ago I clicked an ad (?!) at www.adbusters.com for a really cool shirt, but the $34 price tag was way too much for me. The other shirt in the Adbusters shop was only $29, but it wasn't nearly as clever. By comparison, here's the Bureaucrash shirt store, with better selection, prices that are about half of what Adbusters is asking, and more sizes (I prefer XXL; Adbusters only goes up to XL). I might need to pick up something to complement one of my favorite shirts. If I actually make a few bucks with the futures market trading I mentioned yesterday, I might have to get this. I wonder what Ayn Rand would say?

    Posted by Art Carden at 02:50 PM in Culture

    May 30, 2008
    On immigrants c. 1908

    Just to prove that there are no "new problems" only "our problems" the May 30, 1908, NYT has a letter to the editor concerning Italian immigrants:

    Italians come here to better the condition. They come here in response to demand for their labor. As long as these demands are made they will continue to come, and no missionary work in the world can stop them. Admitting this fact, it is desirable that they should become American in thought and aspiration in the shortest time possible. This can only be done by having them learn about American life and institutions through a knowledge of the English language. The danger Italians run here through the demonstration of the "Black Hand," as pointed out by "An American" [a previous letter writer], would therefore necessarily end, for of course no Americanized Italian would think of paying blackmail to a criminal countryman.

    Now, as to this criminal countryman: His presence here is due to inadequate immigration laws rather than to a laxity in enforcing extradition laws. Possibly "An American" will be able to tell his Government how to keep the criminal Italian out; possibly,also, he may have some special ideas as to how the good Italian can be made a useful American citizen without a knowledge of the English language and without a knowledge of American institutions.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:35 AM in Culture

    On Memorial Day c. 1908

    Memorial Day 1908 was celebrated on Saturday May 30 (I suppose the labor movement had not yet lobbied for the National holiday). An editorial in the May 30, 1908 NYT shows two things: a) for statists, the 100 years war continues (indeed, with a few victories), and b) how far the editorial page of the New York Times has moved in the past 100 years:

    To-day, by National agreement, we remember the dead who gave their lives for the preservation of the Republic and its Constitution, its just laws for every man, the liberty it insures to all alike. Most of the people of this broad land believe that its Government is the wisest and best ever established by man, its institutions the safest. From time to time they may develop obvious defects which must be judiciously corrected; there is nothing perfect in the works of man. But the country since the beginning has been one providing the best chance to the honest, sensible human being to develop body, mind, and soul; a country worth dying for.

    A small but vociferous number of our fellow-citizens, scattered in all parts of the country, seem bent on its destruction. They are trying to change it into a huge Socialistic community, in which the chances of individual development shall be restricted, and industry and talent hampered. They demand, insanely, the demolition of the Government, and the substitution for it of a vaguely constituted paternal machine which shall support the incompetent and lazy at the expense of the competent and industrious. They clamor for State insurance against unemployment, accident, and the diseases incidental to old age. They demand the abolition of private ownership in productive property.

    If they could have their way the Republic would be destroyed and a tyrannical form of government, with an imperator or dictator at the head, eventually established. That i the lesson of history. Of course, they will not have their way, but they are doing much to unsettle the minds of the young, to stir up the discontented, to check progress. It is well to bear in mind, in to-day's ceremonies, what they are striving to accomplished.

    The blood that was shed for the preservation of the Union would be shed in vain would be shed in vain in independence and the right of every man to make his way in the world, so long as he respects his neighbor's rights, were denied under the Stars and Stripes. The heroes of the Union fought and died for the Republic as it is. The people who are crying out for the abolition of the Supreme Court, and of the President's veto power, and the other safeguards of the Nation, can have no sympathy with today's exercises, and no tender regrets for the sacrifices of our National heroes.

    Wow!! If there were more editorials like this, I might actually read contemporaneous newspapers. It is a shame that both major parties seem content going down the road many seem to have found troubling 100 years ago.

    Cross-posted at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:27 AM in Culture

    May 23, 2008
    Verbing Weirds Language*

    Regarding my earlier post about "thinkiness," co-blogger Bob sent me an email about one of Hayek's favorite words, "scientistic," which is not in the Urban Dictionary. The Urban Dictionary is a slang dictionary that strikes me as an opportunity for armchair lexicographers to have their voice. I checked and "scientistic" does have definitions in the unabridged Merriam-Webster dictionary, www.dictionary.com, and the OED.

    *--Do you know the reference?

    For your weekend enjoyment, here's a fascinating TED talk by lexicographer Erin McKean entitled "Redefining the Dictionary."

    Posted by Art Carden at 03:53 PM in Culture

    May 22, 2008
    Thinkiness: Adding to the Spontaneous Order

    A few weeks ago I started using the term "thinkiness." In academia, one might say that something is very "thinky" if it is heavy on big ideas but light on precision. It's a quality I'm trying to expunge from my own work. I googled it this morning to see if there was a commonly accepted definition. Google helps us find out that there is indeed nothing new under the sun: I got 1100 hits, but couldn't find a clear definition after scanning a few entries. There was no entry at urbandictionary.com, so I proposed the following, which is under review by their editors:

    noun. The appearance of careful consideration, importance, substance, or profundity while lacking each.

    Adjective: thinky.

    cf. truthiness [NB: "truthiness" was Merriam-Webster's 2006 Word of the Year]
    1. The book was a masterpiece of thinkiness: there were a lot of big ideas, but it wasn't at all clear what the author was actually saying.

    2. The ideas here are half-baked; cut down on the thinkiness and try to increase the substance.

    etymology: 1100 hits in a Google search conducted on May 22, 2008, no immediate definition proposed.

    Posted by Art Carden at 10:16 AM in Culture

    May 14, 2008
    Four lines c. 1908

    The May 14, 1908 NYT has a four line "story" that would today generate hundreds of pages of print, hundreds if not thousands of hours of air time, and perhaps a march of several thousand in Washington:

    The Senate to-day passed without amendment the House bill restoring the motto "In God We Trust" on coins of the United States.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:40 PM in Culture

    May 11, 2008
    Value of time c. 1908

    From the May 11, 1908 NYT:

    One night in jail was enough for Edwald Siebert. Rather than pay a fine of $10 and costs, assessed on a charge of being disorderly, Siebert, who is 60 years old and reputed to be worth $60,000, declared he would work it out in the county workhouse.

    After spending last night in a cell, Siebert sent for his secretary and had him go to Justice Wangelin's court and pay $18.50, the fine and costs.

    $10 in 1908 was approximately $226 in 2006 dollars. It seems that Mr. Siebert had a mistaken impression of the net costs of jail. However, given that his information set had changed, particularly that the value of time behind bars was considerably less than the value of time not behind bars, at least Mr. Siebert had a buy-out option (for $418 2006 dollars).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:36 AM in Culture

    May 06, 2008
    1968: The revolution that wasn't

    City Journal has a retrospective of of the 1968 student protests, most notably the May 1968 Paris unrest. Six accomplished contributors talk about the political, sexual, journalistic, and other cultural inheritances of the 60's. I don't pretend to know a lot about those days; I'm barely a sixty-niner myself (born with 33 days left in the decade). But these six essays leave me with the impression that the events of 40 years ago had an influence that was narrow and misdirected. See below the fold for my top three excerpts. The whole thing is worth a read. Hat tip, Emilio Pacheco.

    Read More »

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 04:47 PM in Culture

    May 01, 2008
    Spring Haiku - Bowling Green State U version

    Sun- and keg-filled yards
    Dozens tossing “cornhole” bags
    One group playing Jarts!

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:22 AM in Culture

    April 28, 2008
    Business as per Hollywood

    Good summary statement from the NYTimes:

    In truth, movie plots operate according to a self-contained value system that has only an occasional relationship with the real. In movie-think, media figures, at least lately, tend to be much worse than they really are. (One hopes.) Think of Meryl Streep as the nightmare magazine editor in “The Devil Wears Prada,” or Katie Holmes as the skunky reporter in “Thank You for Smoking.”

    Dumb slackers, by contrast, are basically good. So it will be in the coming “Pineapple Express,” about a couple of dope smokers on a tear; “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantánamo Bay,” also about a couple of dope smokers on a tear; and “Step Brothers,” about a couple of feckless middle-aged men who get stuck with each other when their parents marry.

    But those who produce things or manage wealth have almost always been the worst.

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 09:46 AM in Culture

    April 27, 2008
    Greed is Effective

    From "How 'Dallas' Won the Cold War":

    Joseph Stalin is said to have screened the 1940 movie "The Grapes of Wrath" in the Soviet Union to showcase the depredations of life under capitalism. Russian audiences watched the final scenes of the Okies' westward trek aboard overladen, broken-down jalopies -- and marveled that in the United States, even poor people had cars. "Dallas" functioned similarly.

    "I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire," [Actor Larry] Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. "They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, 'Hey, we don't have all this stuff.' I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority."

    In Romania, "Dallas" was the last Western show allowed during the nightmare 1980s because President Nicolae Ceausescu was persuaded that it was sufficiently anti-capitalistic. By the time he changed his mind, it was already too late -- he had paid for the full run in precious hard currency. [...]

    After the dictator and his wife were shot on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode of "Dallas" -- with a previously censored sex scene edited back in -- was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on the liberated Romanian TV. Over the next few years, Hagman became a ubiquitous pitchman in the country for firms such as the Russian petroleum company Lukoil ("The Choice of a True Texan").

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 10:59 AM in Culture

    April 25, 2008
    Dog mangles child c. 1908

    The dog attack, shark attack, mountain lion attack, or, in general, the "fill in the blank" attack story is a prime example of how the media can generate a crisis even in the face of overall declines in such attacks. The lowly pit bull has been through a rocky patch for the past ten to fifteen years, although I understand that there is some inherent danger with those and other particular breeds.

    The old adage "if it bleeds, it leads" is a common criticism of today's media, but the adage simply represents the form of competition in which local news outlets, especially, find themselves engaged. My guess is that the two, three, or four local news outlets find themselves in a prisoner's dilemma where all of them run with the "worst" of local incidents because the perceived (or actual) benefit of leading with the "good news" isn't as great.

    Nevertheless, the "dog bites child" story is evidently not new (go figure), as the April 25, 1908 NYT reports:

    ELIZABETH, N.J. - While playing with a pet bulldog near her home, 310 Morris Avenue, here to-night, Bessie Berglund, 8 years old, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gustave Berglund, was bitten so severely on the right thigh that she will probably have to have her leg amputated to save her life. It was necessary for Frank Scheer, a neighbor, to shoot the dog before he would release his grip.
    The story itself is sad, but on brief reflection I wonder how many law suits derived from this incident in 1908 relative the number that would accompany a similar incident today.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:43 AM in Culture

    April 11, 2008
    Visions of Paradise

    Paul Koontz goes to North Korea:

    No mention is made of a grand architectural achievement. I wonder what Howard Roark would say?

    Posted by Art Carden at 03:44 PM in Culture

    April 09, 2008
    Flawed experimental design c. 1908

    From the April 9, 1908 NYT (if true):

    ST. PAUL, Minn - Knute Ohnstead died here to-day from starvation, after an attempt to fast for forty days in order to demonstrate his theory that the mind controls the body and that the mind is mightier than matter.

    Ohnstead's fast lasted 31 days.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:55 AM in Culture

    April 03, 2008
    Devoted Fans
    Fans of CBS' "Moonlight" are so passionate about the vampire drama that they're willing to sacrifice their own blood to keep the series on the air.

    Teaming with the Red Cross and online protest rally point YouChoose.net, "Moonlight" viewers are organizing a nationwide blood drive to garner network support for a second season. They claim that more than 3,000 fans have pledged to donate a pint.

    I hope they succeed--my sister works on the show. Source.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:38 AM in Culture

    March 11, 2008
    Happy 400th to John Milton

    By email from Emilio Pacheco, COO of Liberty Fund:

    John Milton born in 1608 is celebrated in two exhibitions, at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and the University of Cambridge Library. The links below will take you to the websites for these exhibitions.



    The latter has a series of worthwhile yet breezy essays on Milton's influences. The little section on Milton's and today's pop culture is interesting. I found a nice connection to one of my favorite novels and novelists:

    Several modern novelists have also drawn a lot of inspiration from Milton's work. Pullman aside, the poet has also deeply inspired the American novelist Paul Auster, whose postmodern New York Trilogy (1985-86), picks up several Miltonic themes including the nature of Paradise and the relationship between words and things (both works are haunted by the idea of a perfect language).

    I first read Paradise Lost in its entirety for a Liberty Fund conference. A conference on Milton and Auster would be a good one. Hmmmm....

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:01 PM in Culture

    March 08, 2008
    The Greenwood Lake Philosopher c. 1908

    From the March 8, 1908 NYT:

  • Time is money, but we can't pay our debts with it.
  • We wouldn't mind the unexpected if it didn't happen so often.
  • A sermon is sometimes based upon a text, and sometimes upon a pretext.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 03:28 PM in Culture

    March 05, 2008
    School disasters c. 1908

    On March 4, 1908 in Cleveland, Ohio, a fire at Lake View school in Collinwood killed 165 children and 2 teachers (one died while guiding some children to fire escapes). The entire student population was 310 children, thus more than half died in the fire.

    The story unfolds much like we have come to expect. The fire started in the basement from an unknown source (perhaps arson), the fire gong was sounded but everyone acted as if it were only a drill. Thus, only those on the first of three floors were able to get out of the building in time. It is claimed that the doors opened inward and therefore the press of panicked students from the upper floors precluded opening the doors.

    All drills had used the front door as the primary exit, but the front door was inaccessible by the time the kids from the upper floors reached the first floor. This, in turn, made progress to the back door of the school somewhat chaotic. Then, it turns out the rear door was locked. Those children who made it to the bottom of the stairs tried to return to the upper floors but were met with more students coming down the stairs. The article points out "[w]hat happened at the foot of that first flight of stairs will never be knwn...[a]fter the flames had died away, however, a huge heap of little bodies, burned by the fire and trampled into things of horror, told the tale."

    The paper provides a list of those children who had been identified. In total, they listed 120 of which 100 had ages reported. Here are the descriptive statistics and a histogram:

        Variable |       Obs        Mean    Std. Dev.       Min        Max
              age |       100        9.97    2.341781          6         15

    Thank goodness these type of events are incredibly rare.

    Wikipedia Entry (with pictures) here: The Wikipedia entry reports that the doors didn't open inward. The original NYT article suggests that the building was designed with doors that opened outward but that it was not clear how the doors had been installed.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:57 PM in Culture

    February 28, 2008
    Not-so-spontaneous order

    Admittedly, I usually get creeped out most of the time while listening to NPR's Morning Edition. But today was especially creepifying. The headline on the website sounds great: "Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control." Unfortunately, the actual story is about stifling creativity:

    In a normal preschool, playing bookstore would be a pretty casual affair. They would just pick up some books, set the shiny toy cash register on the table by the blackboard, and get down to business.

    But this isn't a normal school. It's based on the Tools of the Mind program. In other words, it's a school where almost every moment of the day is devoted in some way to teaching the kids — mostly low-income children who live in the poor surrounding community — how to regulate their behavior and emotions.

    So before Emmy and Zee even think about picking up a toy, they sit down with their teacher at a small classroom table and fill out some paperwork.

    Basically, the kids write out a plan of what and how they are going to play. I know, the "plan" part seems to diminish the "play" part. Am I wrong to be creeped out by the idea that kids may feel obligated to get permission or seek assurance from an authority figure before they can satisfactorily play?

    "Regulating behavior." "Play plans." I know Hayek is dead, but he did win a Nobel. I guess the idea of unregulated socities resulting in spontaneous order is passe.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 03:31 PM in Culture

    February 27, 2008
    The value of a concscience c. 1908

    From the Feb. 27, 1908 NYT:

    A $12,000 pearl and diamond necklace was reported to have been lost this afternoon in Poinciana Garden, and a $500 reward was this evening offered for its return to "Frank of New York."

    There seems to be a good deal of mystery about the affair.

    I wonder how that worked out. Perhaps it was not advisable to advertise the value of the necklace along with the substantially lower reward.

    The alias might have been an attempt to avoid a black-mail situation, but revealing the value of the necklace [about $270,000 in 2006 dollars] would seem to have invited whoever has the necklace to ask for a higher reward or to fence the item at a value between $12,000 and $500.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:11 PM in Culture

    February 26, 2008
    As they say...

    This is nothing new but interesting, I hope. I've recently been reading different sorts of parables. I'm struck by the economics and policy implications in many of them.

    Some of my favorites:
    -Absence makes the heart grow fonder (diminishing marginal utility).
    -A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (depends on your discount rate).
    -Don't cry over spilt milk (sunk costs).
    -Don't put all your eggs in one basket (diversify your portfolio).
    -Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater (heterodox schools of thought).
    -Don't lock the stable door once the horse is gone (sometimes it's better not to rebuild).
    -The game isn't worth the candle (information costs).
    -Good fences make good neighbors (property rights).
    -Life is short; art is long (structure of production).
    -There's no accounting for tastes.
    -Too many cooks spoils the broth (diminishing marginal product).
    -You can't have yoru cake and eat it too (opportunity cost).
    -You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs (creative destruction).

    Tyler Cowen's favorite Haitian proverbs offer similar implications.

    Menken speaks to Art's post below about systematic voter beliefs.
    "Noone ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." (Of course, we know it's the low costs of being wrong, not intelligence, at issue.)

    A good Chinese proverb for the classroom:
    -He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool forever.

    A couple of Mexican proverbs I managed to retain,
    -Hay mas tiempo que la vida (there is more time than life).
    -Salud, amor, dinero, y tiempo para gustarlo (health, love, money, and time to enjoy)

    The Bartleby Dictionary of Cultural Literacy has a nice introduction in its entry on Proverbs:

    Well, back to work. As they say, it's best to make hay while the sun shines.

    Do you have some favorites, comments open.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:34 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)

    February 21, 2008
    On Prohibition c. 1908

    An article concerning the march of prohibition across the South from the Feb. 21, 1908 NYT includes the following poem:

    Lay the jest about the julep in the camphor ball at last,
    For the miracle has happened and the olden days are past,
    That which made Milwaukee famous doesn't foam in Tennessee
    And the lid in Alabama is as tight locked as can be
    And the comic paper Colonel and his cronies well may sigh,
    For the mint is waving gaily
    And the South is going dry.

    By the stillside on the hillside in Kentucky all is still,
    And the only damp refreshment must be dipped up from the rill.
    North Car'lina's stately Governor gives his soda glass a shove,
    And discusses local option with the South Car'lina Gove.
    It is useless at the fountain to be winkful of the eye,
    For the cocktail glass is dusty,
    And the South is going dry.

    It is water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
    We no longer hear the music of the mellow crystal clink
    When the Colonel and the General, and the Major and the Judge
    Meet to have a little nip to give the appetite an edge,
    For the eggnog it is nogless and the rye has gone awry,
    The punch bowl holds carnations,
    And the South is going dry.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:06 PM in Culture

    February 09, 2008
    Musings c. 1908

    From the Feb. 9, 1908 NYT:

  • Poets are born, not paid.
  • Too many cooks spoil the intelligence office.
  • All things come to those who wait on themselves.
  • Be careful how you grasp a red-hot opportunity.
  • Sometimes an exploded theory doesn't even wake up the theorist.
  • An expert is a man who is able to impress us with how little we know.
  • The philanthropy of some men consists of a willingness to pass the hat.
  • Pride goeth before a fall, and it doesn't soften the bumps any at that.
  • The trouble with some people is that they believe twice as much as they hear.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:28 AM in Culture

    February 07, 2008
    Why Fashion? Paris gets clothed.

    Would you wear this?



    Okay, let me rephrase. Do you think you'd see anyone wearing this in public?

    What you see is part of Carolina Herrera's fall 2008 collection shown Monday in New York. Here are some more moderate examples based on the same ideas. And here are some other design goodies of various wearability.

    As Carolina Herrera said in a related interview, fashion week is not about every day life. For her it is about "fantasizing." Yes, mass market apparel has little resemblance to runway offerings, especially during the showcase that is fashion week. However, the experiments that occur at that high level of abstraction--those ideas--are crucial to the designs that appear in stores the following season.

    High-level, abstract ideas can at first only be appreciated by niches of expertise and taste. Through analysis, imitation and reformulation, such abstract ideas can be diffused to broader and in some cases eventually mass populations.

    I don't understand any of the programming that makes this blog possible. To me it's as difficult to comprehend as it would be to see a woman on her morning commute wearing Herrera's feather tweed hat. But the fact that programming-dummies like me click at the keyboard, as I'm doing now, is the sole motivator of the experts at MovableType. The consuming public doesn't think about spontaneous orders, but those abstract ideas matter to "how Paris gets fed." Cell phone users don't know the difference between a Becker-DeGroot-Marshak and a Vickery auction, but these made over 200 million cellular subscribers possible.

    With fashion, we get a visual on the general relationship between the abstract and the concrete. Tracing ideas "from the catwalk to the sidewalk" offers clues for how ideas matter generally and for social change more broadly. Because fashion ideas enjoy little intellectual property protection, the imitative force is very strong. Many of the design ideas that are now appearing at fashion week will not take long to cascade down through the boutiques, department stores, and eventually big boxes. Even a modest income can afford to have a look that is both in taste and in fashion. Paris gets clothed, too.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:28 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)

    Classic Lileks

    Whenever I get the bright idea that I might want to write something, you know really write something real, not a journal article or book that no one cares about, but something interesting that real people might want to really read, I read something by James Lileks, and crawl sheepishly back into my dark cave.*

    Check out Lileks' latest about a contest at Freakonomics to create a six-word motto for the U.S.:

    Hundreds of snippets of derisive snark. You can picture the satisfied little grins on the authors’ faces; you can imagine the whole tableau – the computer (which most people in the world will never touch, let alone use, let alone own) the TV in the corner connected to a network that has channels catering to every taste, the iPod stocked with music hoovered up free of charge without consequence, the fridge stocked with food – the light comes on when you open the door, too, unless it’s burned out, and then you go to the store and get another one; they always have another one. The soft bed, the coffee machine, the well-fed pet, the vast panoply of free information and unfettered opinion flowing 24/7 from the internet. You can drink alcohol without being sentenced to death; you can be a girl alone in a room with a man without earning a public stoning; you can stand up in a room and argue for the candidate of your choice without being arrested; you stand in a society that allows for astonishing amounts of freedom, comfort and opportunity. But.

    *nice run-on sentence dontchathink?

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:55 AM in Culture

    February 04, 2008
    Rational ignorance?

    According to a survey of 3000 UK residents taken by UKTV Gold television,

    nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real. … 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist. … Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed …

    Hat tip: Fleeman

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:43 AM in Culture

    February 03, 2008
    Fashion Cycle, Business Cycle

    When less is more.

    Fashion is one of the greatest forces in present-day life. It pervades every field and reaches every class. Fashion leads business and determines its direction. It has always been a factor in human life but never more forceful, never more influential and never wider in scope than in the last decade, and it gives every indication of growing still more important.

    I'd bet even the fashion statement-making New York Giants wouldn't guess what year those words were published. The quote is the opening paragraph of the preface of The Economics of Fashion by a Professor Paul H. Nystrom, published in 1928. A decade after the end of war, and nearing the end of a 21-month economic expansion on the eve of the depression. Any recession coming up is likely to be pretty mild historically. Our current expansion is going on 75 months and the one before that was 120. But still. Nystrom's words seem to ring pretty solid today.

    Is the fashion industry procyclical? Of course it is. Fashion is a luxury good, so demand for it moves in the same direction with income. Everyone expects a recession. Consumer confidence is down. Job growth is dead in the water. Luxury brands are in for lean times, just like people are expecting lower spending on vacations, cosmetic surgery, and domestic help. So designers are competing for slices of a shrinking pie. But couldn't this easily spur even greater creativity and innovation, so that despite being in an economic slump the fashion cycle is booming? At fashion week, necessity is all that (!), plus the mother of invention.

    Certainly, less business will be done than usual, and some designs will be muted, industry experts say. But at the same time, some designers will interpret the financial downturn as an excuse to turn up the fashion excess.... Just when you would think things would be more conservative, there are likely to be more lavish, extreme displays on the catwalk, Aguiar said. "If anything, people will be more desperate to get attention that they think is going to generate business,"...

    Does anyone know what spending on fashion is annually, or maybe how cyclical it is?

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:04 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)

    January 31, 2008
    Fashion Week

    Had too much stimulus? Not super psyched about football? Then grab your Manolos and give New York's fall fashion week a try beginning Friday through Feb. 8. New York's is the oldest, but dozens of cities globally now have fashion weeks. Wikipedia's list of cities with fashion weeks is good but incomplete. From the official website:

    The international coverage of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week shines the spotlight on New York City and the many talented designers presenting on the runways in Bryant Park. Over 100,000 guests are expected to attend, including some 3,000 members of the press and fashion industry from around the world. The journalists, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers convening in the iconic tents, designed this season as a Greco Roman "Temple of Fashion," will bring the Fall 2008 Collections to fashion-lovers worldwide.

    Emphasis added... Why should DOL readers care about fashion? I'll take a stab at that with a series of posts in the week to come.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:37 PM in Culture

    January 23, 2008
    On school shooting c. 1908

    Okay - I admit to a misleading title. The Jan. 23, 1908 NYT reports:


    Congress May Aid Public Schools in Encouragment of Marksmanship

    It is probable that within two weeks a bill will be introduced in Congress with a view to the encouragement of marksmanship among the schoolboys throughout the country, and supplying them with rifles and ammunition. The bill wil have the indorsement of President Roosevelt, who is known to favor the project...

    Shooting is a growing sport among the schoolboys of this State,and the lads have made marked progress in their work during the past two years...

    It is clear that any attempt to pass a similar bill today would flame out in about two seconds. However, here is an interesting thought experiment: Would state sponsored marksmanship increase, reduce, or have no effect on school shootings in which students and teachers are the victims rather than paper targets?

    [Update: A helpful reader points out that up until 1996 this program existed as the Department of Civilian Marksmanship of the U.S. Army. In 1996, the program was privatized and renamed the Civilian Marksmanship Program.]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:53 PM in Culture

    January 20, 2008
    Local Rent Seeking

    From the local fish wrapper,

    With corporate and private donors stretched thin, taxpayers might be the best hope for solving the immediate financial problems of the Columbus Symphony.

    The symphony is pinning its hopes on a city-county arts package -- dubbed Thrive in Five -- to help eliminate its deficit this year. The fundraising campaign would provide $4 million annually for 16 arts groups -- including $1.2 million for the symphony the first year.

    Sigh. At least they're not selling it as an "economic stimulus package".

    Btw, welcome back Larry. We all hope you're doing well!

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:31 AM in Culture ~ in Economics

    January 19, 2008
    On holding parents accountable c. 1908

    Contemporary threats to punish parents for childhood obesity sound novel and to many a bit of an over-reach by government schools. Yet, perhaps the idea isn't as new as we think.

    The Jan. 19, 1908 NYT contains is a story concerning hygiene in the public schools:

    This plan calls for the establishment of a Department of School Hygiene under the control of the Board of Education. This department would consist of a corps of physicians and nurses, under the direction of a medical expert skilled in the diseases of children. It would be clothed with the power, according to Dr. Maxwell [City Superintendent], not only to make physical examinations, but to prosecute parents who fail to put their children in proper physical condition to profit by the work of the school.
    Prosecute parents? Wow.

    Education economists today discuss the "education production function" for which the inputs are the student, her teachers, her peers, and the infrastructure. This is the same intuition being offered in the 1908 plan, that undernourished and otherwise physically unfit children are not efficient inputs to the education production function.

    The good Dr. Maxwell (of 1908) offers some reasons for why city kids are not physically fit:

    Lack of exercise, city children seldom having to walk more than two or three blocks to school, and having little work to perform about the home that would develop muscles and breathing capacity; crowding in poorly lighted and poorly ventilated apartments, which results in various forms of tuberculosis; lack of space for free play; lack of interesting occupation outside of school hours; excessive noise; lack of sufficient sleep; insufficient or unwise feeding; uncleanly habits of person...
    Many of these reasons are now applicable to the suburban dweller as well, except, perhaps, the crowding in poorly lighted and ventilated apartments. After substituting asthma and other respiratory problems for tuberculosis, the list is almost exactly the same as we hear directed towards both city and suburban dweller. How many kids are washing dishes and cutting firewood in the suburbs today?

    Dr. Maxwell then points out the effects of these maladies:

    These conditions tend to produce various forms of nervousness, lowered vitality, defective eyesight, defective teeth, and probably growths in the nose and throat which restrict respiration and drive the child into reckless mischief and defiance of authority.
    Is the nervousness of yesterday the ADHD of today? (Note: Although my two kids are 3.5 and 1.5 yrs old, I have no experience with ADHD) Is the "lowered vitality" of 1908 the "couch potato" or "video game fatigue" of today? Is there evidence that the maladies of today lead to poor eyesight and teeth? If so, then it would seem that after dedicating untold billions of dollars (and the efforts those dollars represent) to these problems, we haven't come all that far.

    Dr. Maxwell then proposes the "make an example of somebody" approach to getting the parents in line:

    If half a dozen parents were fined or imprisoned for failures, after repeated warnings to provide their children with necessary eyeglasses or to have adenoid growths removed, the example thus set would do more lasting good than any preaching on the subject.
    At least he didn't suggest throwing one or both of the parents up against the wall.

    I would suggest that Dr. Maxwell's plan was just about 100 years ahead of his time, although perhaps his plan will be implemented for a radically different reason.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:00 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1908

    From the Jan. 19, 1908 NYT:

  • The fellow who blows his own horn may come out at the little end of it.
  • Sometimes fate makes a hero of a man, but he can't always hold the job.
  • So long as a man isn't miserable he ought to be happy.
  • Many a man complains that he is misunderstood when he is really unintelligible.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 02:14 PM in Culture

    January 15, 2008
    Ode to the Constitution c. 1908

    From the Jan. 15, 1908 NYT:


    Old George the Third of merry fame
    Possessed a great Big Stick,
    J. Caesar had another one
    With which he loved to lick;
    O. Cromwell armed himself with one
    To smite his fellow-man;
    In fact, each tyrant, good or bad,
    Had one since earth began.

    When this Republic's fathers met
    To make a nation free,
    They took all big sticks in the world
    That were or yet to be;
    They ground the wood into a pulp,
    A deed of might note,
    And on the paper thus produced
    The Constitution wrote.

    McLandburgh Wilson

    Perhaps Mr. Wilson was a bit optimistic?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:50 AM in Culture

    January 05, 2008
    The War on Smoking c. 1908

    The Jan 5, 1908, NYT reports on a pending battle in the war on smoking, this time from Germany:

    War has been declared by the German medical authorities against the familiar apparatus in use in cigar stores all over the world for cutting off the ends of cigars. It is said to be a prolific source of disease, especially tuberculosis and other infectious maladies whose germs are transmissible.

    The danger doesn't lie in the cigars themselves, but in the habit of many smokers who insert the cigars in the little guillotine arrangement after the tobacco has already been in their mouths...

    It is proposed that the cutting machines shall either be abolished or the smokers warned of the dangers lurking therein by huge placards hung up in all the places where cigars are sold. The apparatus used in private houses and clubs is described as equally deleterious. [emphasis mine]

    It would seem that the personal cigar cutter would be a practical market solution, perhaps they weren't available at the time? Moreover, why weren't customers more demanding of their local tobacconists? I suppose there could be lack of information on the part of consumers, but are we supposed to believe that men (and women?) were generally okay with the status quo?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:04 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1908

    From the Jan. 5, 1908 NYT:

  • We never know what we can do till we try, and then very often we are sorry we found out.
  • The bigger the fish the less necessity for lying about it.
  • A white lie is seldom as immaculate as it sounds.
  • The best time for a girl to marry is when the fellow is willing.
  • The hardest part of knowing some people is to conceal our opinion of them.
  • A diplomat is a man who doesn't say everything he thinks, or think everything he says.
  • Adam and Eve, it must be clear, had not a pedigree, and yet from all the tales we hear they had a family tree.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 05:55 PM in Culture

    December 31, 2007
    Government waste c. 1907

    The December 31, 1907 NYT reports a government outrage:

    OKLAHOMA CITY - Twenty-three hundred barrels of beer, valued at $17,500 and belonging to the New State Brewery to-day were emptied into the sewers by Internal Revenue Collector Charles Howard.

    The brew was completed after Oklahoma became a state. The State would not permit its sale and shipment from the state.

    The horror.....the horror.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:54 PM in Culture

    December 30, 2007
    Smoking policy c. 1907

    On January 1, 2008, the state of Illinois will ban almost all smoking in enclosed public spaces, including private restaurants and bars. Moreover, it will be illegal to smoke a cigarette in a car in which children less than 18 years of age are riding (enforcement issues would seem to abound with this one) [more state laws going into effect 1/1/08].

    In the December 30, 1907 NYT there was a rather different policy concerning smoking:

    On New Year's Eve "all ladies" may smoke cigarettes in any of the rooms of the restaurant [Cafe Martin], at Twenty-sixth Street and Fifth Aveneu, and this privelege may become permanent thereafter, if all goes well. With his shrewd eye on his guests, Mr. Martin will determine whether New York is ready to follow the precedent of Paris and London...

    Said Mr. Martin yesterday:

    "On New Year's Eve all ladies who come to the Cafe Martin may smoke if they so desire. After this one night I may or I may not withdraw this privelege. Smoking by ladies is never objectionable. The smartest women in New York smoke, so why should puritanical proprietors rule against this mode of procedure any more than against the drinking of cocktails or highballs."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:50 AM in Culture

    December 23, 2007
    Christmas scams c. 1907

    From the Dec. 23, 1907 NYT:

    Residents of Newark, N.J. have been made the victims of a Christmas swindle in the last few days. The trick consists of collecting charges on worthless packages. Men appear at houses with bundles addressed to persons living at the addresses, and state that there is a special delivery charge of 50 cents of $1. The amount is nearly always paid without question, in the belief that the package contains a Christmas gift. When opened the box or pacel contains only old papers.
    It would seem a) the sender would pay the delivery fee; b) you wouldn't accept a package without some indication about who sent it. Perhaps it was much different one hundred years ago.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:07 PM in Culture

    December 22, 2007
    Corporal punishment c. 1907

    From the Dec. 22, 1907 NYT:

    According to a special committee of the Board of Education, which is investigation the advisability of restoring corporal punishment in the schools, there is a strong feeling among Superintendents, Principals, and teachers that the use of the rod should be permitted. Of about 1,000 opinions received by the committee, the majority take this view of the question.

    Under the present system of discipline it is impossible to maintain order in the schools, say most of the persons from whom the committee solicited opinions. It is recommended by most persons...that the power to punish in this particular manner should be vested in the Principal and regulated by rules.

    ...Only nine of the thirty-nine largest cities in the country bar flogging from the schools. These nine are New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Jersey City, Louisville, Newark, Charleston, Syracuse, and Toledo.

    I wonder about the results of a similar survey given today.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:11 PM in Culture

    December 20, 2007
    What color is in your laundry chute?

    When Baby New Year pops on the scene, what fashion statement will his swaddling garments make? That depends partly on color, at least if we can take seriously this New York Times fashion article, Pantone's Color of the Year Is....

    At least one color authority, Pantone, has taken the plunge and announced its favorite color for 2008. [...] In a statement, Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said: “Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.”

    Uhm.... Okay. Somehow I sense that Pantone realized "hey, no one else is doing this" and took the opportunity. Which is cool. But so what?

    It's nearly tautological that colors come and go with fashion. But it's empirically interesting to ask which colors and why? For starters, is Pantone actually the leader it's posing to be, or does the designation of blue iris reflect the net leanings of fashion's myriad of tastes and designs?

    There has indeed been a surge of blue on the runways in the last year, beginning last February with Raf Simons’s dresses and pantsuits, in an Yves Klein blue, for Jil Sander and extending into the spring 2008 collections with Nicolas Ghesquiere’s explosive floral prints for Balenciaga. Mr. Elbaz used a deep lagoon blue in his spring Lanvin show, and one found lighter but no less robust shades in collections by Marni and Chloé, and in the men’s lines of Prada and Alexander McQueen. Dolce & Gabbana called its new fragrance Light Blue. And JWT, the advertising and marketing company, just named blue as one of the top 10 trends for 2008, saying that “blue is the new green”...

    Never mind all the name dropping. I think this is interesting because it suggests (albeit mildly) a catallactic understanding of trends--that trends, like market prices, can be traced to the points where individual actors make choices among alternatives. More on this to come.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:28 PM in Culture

    December 17, 2007
    Getting a Liberal Education

    Tyler Cowen gives a thoughtful list here. The gist is to learn to evaluate various forms of information, from marketing to information to knowledge to judgment. While Tyler gives some hard suggestions (date foreigners, for example). I would add:

    1. Study logic.
    2. Join a debate team.
    3. Write something everyday.
    4. Defy your comfort zones. Practice tolerance, e.g.

    If all else fails, remember the song "Not the Sunscreen"by Safran John, opening lines below:

    Ladies and gentleman of the class of '98 people often ask me if I have any advice to offer and when they do, I tell them this:

    If you're unsure about what you're going to do with your life try to remember some of the most interesting people didn't know what they were going to do at age 22 or even at 40, and nearly all of them are unemployed drug addicts forced to live on cat food. ...

    Ahh, the heady 1990's....

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:30 AM in Culture

    December 13, 2007
    "Christmas Cheer" recipes c. 1907

    The Dec. 15, 1907 NYT has three recipes for "Christmas Cheer." I wonder if any of these really taste all that good?


    To make a gallon of this eggnog will require a pound and a quarter of pulverized sugar, twelve fresh eggs, a quart of cognac, half a pint of champagne, two quarts of fresh milk, one quart of rich cream, and about a tablespoon of powdered nutmeg. Mix these ingredients thoroughly, then incorporate with them the yokes of the dozen eggs that have already been beaten to a froth. Stir persistently and steadily until the blend is perfect; pour the result into the well-chilled punch bowl.

    Punch with a punch?

    The "Van Cortlandt recipe" has been constantly used since 1775. It may, therefore, be said to have stood the test of time:

    Pour a quart of rare old Jamaica rum into a punchbowl with two quarts and a half of water and enough loaf sugar to sweeten agreeably. Put the peel of three lemons into the mixture and let it remain for about twenty minutes while you stir the ingredients together. At the expiration of this time, remove the lemon peel; let the bowl stand undisturbed for a full half hour; then add a lump of ice and serve.

    An "ordinary" punch:

    If it is merely an ordinary punch that is to be prepared, however, here is a recipe that has been served by one New England family every Christmas for more than fifty years...

    Squeeze the juice of five lemons into the punchbowl, being careful to insert no pips or pulp; add half a pint of water and the same quantity of sugar, and stir until the latter has dissolved. At this moment add three pints of fine whisky, about a third of a jar of Maraschino cherries, with their liquor; a whisky glassful of Jamaica rum, and about three bottles of club soda, or its equivalent in some other carbonated water. While mixing stir constantly that the blend may be perfected. Just before serving add some thinly sliced bits of lemon, and two more bottles of soda to produce an effervescent effect. Although ice may be put into this punch it is better to ice if from the outside.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:17 PM in Culture

    Cynical Yuletide Musings c. 1907

    From the December 15, 1907 NYT (I know, I am reading ahead a couple of days but I am heading out of town until next Monday and I will be off the grid):

  • Ask a truthful woman what she enjoys most about Christmas, and she will tell you the bargain sales afterwards.
  • No Christmas present is so worthless that you can't pass it on to some one else next year.
  • Remember that it is better ot give than to receive - the things you don't want.
  • Take off the tags. Many a friendship has been severed by the price mark on a Christmas present.
  • It's all right to pity the poor at this peace-on-earth season, but it is also well to remember that sympathy doesn't fill an empty stomach.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:01 PM in Culture

    December 03, 2007
    You've come a long way, baby c. 1907

    From the Dec. 3, 1907 NYT:

    Women who smoke cigarettes in public are still generally accounted vulgar, if not actually wicked, in a land where the prejudices of Puritanism still survive...

    No thoroughly sophisticated American woman of good breeding would think of lighting a cigarette in a New York restaurant, because she would know that the men puffing cigar smoke in her face would consider the act unladylike. When you are in Europe you may do as you please...

    Perhaps a few years more the last traces of our Puritanism may disappear. Perhaps not. There may be a revival of old prejudices and beliefs. Meanwhile the managers of our hotels are to be commended for prohibiting cigarette smoking by women, because they are acting in accord with public opinion.

    Nevertheless, everybody who knows the ways of the world at all, knows that women smoke cigarettes nowadays, and knows also that the cigarette habit is no worse for them, morally or hygienically, than it is for the men. We are no better than the Europeans, and they know it; wherefore our pretenses make them smile.

    Customer-based discrimination may have been a reason to ban smoking (at least of women) in 1907, much like it seems to be a reason to ban smoking in 2007. However, the key statement is that the bans were voluntary on the part of the restaurant and hotel managers; the bans were not legislated by local, state, or federal officials.

    I would wager that most of today's temperance movements, whether directed toward narcotics, cigarettes, smoking, or trans-fatty acids for that matter, would not admit to "Puritan prejudices." However, the similar outcomes of yesterday and today, i.e., limiting the actions of other people, offer food for thought.

    Is there another source of temperance movements beyond "public opinion"? Or has it always been "public opinion" but this "opinion" is "formed" by different organizations or incentives in different eras?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:04 PM in Culture

    December 02, 2007
    Musings of the Gentle Cynic

    From the Dec. 1, 1907 NYT:

  • It is said that wealth doesn't bring happiness, but most of us are willing to try the experiment.
  • Adam looked out for number one, and his descendents have been doing the same thing ever since.
  • The fool jumps at conclusions, the wise man jumps away from them.
  • It is hard to preach total abstinence when lemonade costs more than beer.
  • Many a fellow has fallen in love with a peach, only to discover that fate has handed him a lemon.
  • Strange as it may seem you can save yourself a lot of trouble by not borrowing any.
  • An ounce of scare is often worth a pound of advice.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:13 PM in Culture

    November 29, 2007
    There oughta be a law

    My own daughter is twelve, has a myspace page, and this NYT article scared the $hit out of me:

    DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo., Nov. 21 — Megan Meier died believing that somewhere in this world lived a boy named Josh Evans who hated her. He was 16, owned a pet snake, and she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had.

    Josh contacted Megan through her page on MySpace.com, the social networking Web site, said Megan’s mother, Tina Meier. They flirted for weeks, but only online — Josh said his family had no phone. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour.

    The next day, in his final message, said Megan’s father, Ron Meier, Josh wrote, “The world would be a better place without you.”

    Sobbing, Megan ran into her bedroom closet. Her mother found her there, hanging from a belt. She was 13.

    Six weeks after Megan’s death, her parents learned that Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by Lori Drew, then 47, who lived four houses down the street in this rapidly growing community 35 miles northwest of St. Louis.

    I don't say this often, but there oughta be a law. Heck forget the law, this calls for an angry mob with torches and pitchforks.

    UPDATE: No I am not joking.

    [HT: Al]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:06 AM in Culture

    November 25, 2007
    On book reviews c. 1907

    An interesting question is posed in an article in the Nov. 23, 1907 NYT:

    In an article headed "Breakfast Food and Literature," The Saturday Evening Post supplies an excellent reason for reading the New York Times Saturday Review of Books. Thus the Saturday Evening Post:

    Suppose you should see several solid pages devoted to advertising some fifty kinds of breakfast food, and the advertisements were all just like this:

    15 cents per package

    The color is a deep, rich brown - The Critic
    Fresh, invigorating, wholesome - New York Sun
    Well cooked, appetizing - Chicago Tribune
    One of the best breakfast foods of the season - The Nation

    15 cents per package

    The color is a deep, rich brown - New York Sun
    Not only well cooked, but appetizing - The Nation
    Wholesome, invigorating, and fresh - Chicago Tribune
    One of the best breakfast foods we have eaten this year - The Critic

    15 cents per package

    Wholesome, appetizing - New York Sun
    Well cooked, invigorating - The Critic
    We cannot too much admire the rich, brown color - Chicago Tribune
    few of this year's breakfast foods please us better - The Nation

    Which breakfast food would you buy?

    I have often felt the same about movie and music reviews, as well as whatever the so-called news channels report. Interesting that the problem of relatively homogeneous reviews (perhaps a symptom of a principal-agent problem between publishers and reviewers?), doesn't seem to be a new problem.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:01 PM in Culture

    November 19, 2007
    More on Thanksgiving prices c. 1907

    A follow up on yesterday's discussion of turkey prices, the Nov. 19, 1907 NYT reports the following prices for Thanksgiving staples (perhaps an undergraduate paper lies in these data?):

  • Pudding maker sells cans at 22, 40, 50, and 75 cents for one, two, three, and four pound cans.
  • Canned plum pudding sauce can be bought at 16 and 30 cents a can, large and small sizes.
  • Mince pies vary in size and price from 75 cents, $1, $1.25, and $1.50. Pumpkin pies are the same price.
  • Sterilized figs are 25 and 50 cents in one and two pound baskets.
  • Baskets of stuffed figs and dates are 55 cents, large jars 90 cents.
  • Assorted glace fruits are 35, 65, $1.75 and $2.50 for half pound, one, two, and five pound boxes.
  • Apricot glaces are 90 cents and $1.60, one and two pounds.
  • Cherry glaces are 65 cents a pound.
  • Prunes stuffed with ginger or walnuts are 50 cents a pound.
  • Chinese cumquats, little Chinese oranges, are 50 cents a pound.
  • Crystallized pineapple is 50 cents a pound.
  • Crystallized strawberries are $2 a pound.
  • Chocolate maraschino cherries are 50 cents and $1 for half-pound and one pound.
  • Chocolate cream peppermints are 40 cents of a half-pound box and 20 cents for a quarter pound.
  • Cream peppermint or wintergreen wafers are 25 cents for a half-pound box.

  • One dollar in 1907 is approximately $22 in consumer price index adjusted 2006 dollars.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:10 PM in Culture

    November 15, 2007
    On drug sentencing c. 1907

    From the Nov. 15, 1907 NYT:

    Convicted of selling cocaine without a physician's prescription, Charles W. Hitch, who has a pharmacy at Mott and Worth Streets, was sentenced yesterday to serve six months in the penitentiary by the Justices of Special Sessions.

    Hitch was fined twice before in Special Sessions on similar charges. Last December he was fined $75 [$1,659 in 2006] and in April $250 [$5,532 in 2006]...

    Health Inspector Masterson testified that on July 26 he bought 25 cents' worth of cocaine at the Hitch pharmacy. This had been analyzed and found to be 99 per cent. pure...

    When Hitch was sentenced he turned pale and staggered. His defense was that he was out of town when it is charged the drug was sold.

    How times have changed. In 1907, those caught driving an automobile faster than the posted speed limit were immediately arrested, thrown in the holding tank, arraigned, fined (or released on bail), and given the perp-walk treatment, as I have pointed out here and here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:57 AM in Culture

    November 14, 2007
    At long last …

    A courageous town government steps forward to rescue our culture.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:22 AM in Culture

    November 12, 2007
    "Tootsie" in reverse c. 1907

    From the Nov. 12, 1907 NYT:

    Trinidad, Colo. - Miss Catherine Vosbaugh, who for nearly sixty years passed as a man, died at a hospital to-day.

    Miss Vosbaugh was born in France eighty-three years ago. When a young woman she found it difficult to make her way on account of her sex. Adopting men's clothes, she obtained employment as a bookkeeper in Joplin, Mo. this position she held for nine years and then accepted a position in a St. Joseph, Mo. bank.

    While in St. Joseph she married a woman, with whom she lived for thirty years as "Charles" Vosbaugh. The two women came to Trinidad two years ago. After the death of the "wife" Miss Vosbaugh worked in various capacities until she became so feeble that last year she was taken to a hospital. It was then that her sex was discovered. But even after her recovery she refused to change her clothing, and continued to wear her masculine habiliments to the end.

    Somehow I don't think her sex was "discovered" at the hospital.

    I don't know what it all means, except that perhaps the movie "Tootsie" wasn't all that original.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:00 PM in Culture

    November 09, 2007
    Dennis Miller, unfiltered and overexposed

    Dennis Miller has a three-hour daily syndicated radio show, which I listen to if I'm driving between 10am and 1pm. On it he’s libertarian some of the time, witty much of the time, but occasionally half-witted when he cheerleads for the Iraq war or Rudy Giuliani.

    On Tuesday night, Miller debuted a weekly one-hour sports-themed TV talk show, Sports Unfiltered with Dennis Miller, on the Vs. cable channel. The first show wore me out, with Dennis on camera for the entire 60 minutes, starting with a 15 minute (!) monologue. (See a more detailed critique here.)

    Now come reports that Miller will host a new game show on NBC-TV, "Amne$ia". No more than once a week, I imagine. But still, with all this on-air time, how many hours a day will the poor man have left to watch old movies and vintage TV shows? How will he continue to keep his obscure pop-culture references fresh?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:17 AM in Culture

    November 03, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the Nov 3, 1907 NYT :

  • Lots of us won't listen to advice unless we are giving it.
  • True dignity doesn't stop at a frock coat and a high hat.
  • Enthusiasm doesn't accomplish much without a certain amount of hustle.
  • In politics it's the man who sells his vote who is corrupt, not the man who buys it.
  • Many a man secures a place in history as an also-ran.
  • Another list of quips from the same issue:

  • Graft and the world grafts with you.
  • Silence might be golden but you can't always convert it into cash.
  • A man has to have a certain amount of wisdom to realize what a fool he is.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:14 PM in Culture

    October 28, 2007
    Musings c. 1907

    From the October 27, 1907 NYT:

  • In society many a bud blossoms into a wallflower.
  • Life is a game of chance in which the cards are often stacked.
  • Perhaps Justice is blindfolded because she so often gets a black eye.
  • The smaller the bribe the greater seems to be the disgrace.
  • Love knows no law, unless we except [sic] the mother-in-law.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:12 PM in Culture

    October 20, 2007
    Musings of the Greenwood Lake Philosopher c. 1907

    From the Oct. 20, 1907 NYT:

  • The man who thinks twice before he speaks doesn't do a great deal of talking.
  • Some people are so refined they object to even having common sense.
  • Many a fellow has become all tangled up in a string of lies.
  • The first requisite of a good husband is a good wife.
  • One foot in the grave is worth two in the same place.
  • A man is known by the company he keeps and the friends he gives away.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:21 PM in Culture

    October 14, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    A few of the days I did not get a chance to read the NYT from a hundred years to the day contained the musings of the anonymous "gentle cynic." Here are a few of his/her(?) better quips:

    Sept. 1, 1907
  • The girl who marries a man to reform him is generally spoiling a good husband for some other girl.
  • It may be true that wealth doesn't bring happiness, but most of us only know it from heresay.
  • Some actors get fabulous salaries and some get imaginary ones. There's a difference.
  • An optimist is any man who thinks it might have been worse.
  • Money talks, but lots of us only hear the echo.
  • A man may speculate in wheat without having a grain of common sense.

    Sept. 8, 1907

  • Luck won't overcome laziness.
  • There are times when we are also thankful for what we don't get [wasn't there a country song about this?]
  • Some men are so versatile that they never know which side they are on.
  • Few of us get what we want, but most of us get what we deserve [wasn't there another song about this, okay substitute "need" for "deserve"?]
  • Wine is a mocker, especially when you haven't the price.
  • Egotism is always willing to work overtime without extra pay.

    Sept. 15, 1907

  • When you have a chance to get something for nothing, look carefully for the concealed price tag.
  • Perhaps silence is golden, because it is so scarce.
  • Many a fellow will stand up for himself even when he has to lie to do it.

    October 13, 1907

  • The trouble with an ideal is that after we attain it we are always looking around for another.
  • Some of us descend from our ancestors, and some of us rise above them.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 07:38 PM in Culture

    October 07, 2007
    King of Bollywood

    In the New York Times today, Charles Taylor reviews Anupama Chopra’s new book King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema. As Taylor notes, it’s remarkable that a book on a foreign movie star, virtually unknown in the US outside the South Asian community, is being published by a major US press (Time Warner).

    Taylor writes: “At the moment no one represents Bollywood more than Shah Rukh Khan. It’s not just that this epitome of Hindi cinema is a Muslim, which makes Khan an unusual star. Part leading man, larger part buoyant goofball, Khan looks something like the offspring of John Stamos and Jerry Lewis.” I agree with the first and third sentences. But a Bollywood star being Muslim isn’t so unusual. It's less unusual than (say) a Hollywood star being black. Consider just the list of other leading men surnamed Khan: Aamir, Feroz, Saif Ali, Salman, Sohail, Zayed.

    This is a matter of taste, but I think Taylor also errs in calling SRK’s most famous film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), “wonderful”. It’s a sappy romance with far too much mugging by Khan and pouting by his co-star Kajol. The most vital films in Bollywood, for my money, are the gangster flicks.

    Anupama Chopra was the author of Sholay: The Making of a Classic, a well-written book that I had to import from India (via eBay). Even though I’m not a fan of SRK, I look forward to being able to buy her new book domestically.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 02:40 PM in Culture

    September 20, 2007
    OJ Trial: On two, ready break

    There will soon be another O. J. Simpson trial. He is going to plead not guilty on all charges. Get ready for a huge shift in what the American public debates talk about.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 07:28 AM in Culture

    August 31, 2007
    Michael Jackson Dies

    No, not, freak show Michael Jackson--beer hunter Michael Jackson:

    “He was simply the best beer writer we’ve ever known,” said Tim Hampson, chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers. “He told wonderful stories about beer, breweries and far away places. He told the story of beer through people, and he was humorous and erudite at the same time,” Hampson told The Associated Press.

    Jackson especially loved Belgian brews. His books “The Great Beers of Belgium” and “World Guide to Beer” introduced them to many export markets, including the United States.

    By identifying beers by their flavors and styles, and by pairing them with particular foods and dishes, Jackson helped give birth to a renaissance of interest in beer and breweries worldwide that began in the 1970s, including the North American microbrewery movement.

    His TV documentary series, “The Beer Hunter” — which popularized his nickname — was filmed around the world and shown in 15 countries.

    He worked as a beer critic for more than 30 years, writing in newspapers and gastronomic magazines, holding seminars and giving speeches, appearing on U.S. talk shows and writing books about beer and whiskeys published in 18 languages.

    Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson the rock star, and that was reflected on the beer critic’s Web site. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter,” it says.

    HT: Kara

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:07 PM in Culture

    July 31, 2007
    Bollywood star sentenced on weapons charges

    The New York Times reports that Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, son of 1960s Bollywood stars Sunil Dutt and Nargis, was sentenced to six years today for his conviction on illegal weapons charges from 1993. Dutt obtained the illegal weapons from Muslim gangsters who were setting off terror bombs in the city of Bombay. He said he was worried about defending his family against Hindu rioters who were targeting Muslims in retaliation for the bombings (his mother was Muslim). After a long trial Dutt was convicted of the possession charges in November 2006, though cleared of involvement in the bombings.

    Dutt rose to stardom playing gangsters in such (recommended!) movies as J. P. Dutta’s Hathyar (1989) and Mahesh Manjrekar’s Vastaav (1999). In recent years (out on bail pending conclustion of his trial and sentencing), his biggest hits came playing a gangster who becomes a medical student in the comedies Munna Bhai, MBBS (2003) and its sequel Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) (I haven't seen either one). He also played a gangster named Munna Bhai in the (not recommended!) comedy Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (2002), a Bollywood adaptation of Hollywood’s Analyze This.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 07:36 PM in Culture

    July 29, 2007
    Say it ain't so, Bear

    Man v. Wild star Bear Grylls is under fire for faking parts of his show including staying in hotels on some occasions when he's supposedly been out in the wild.

    There's also some questioning about his real service in the "British Special Forces", his being airlifted off Everest after his successful summit, and some of his survival advice.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:36 PM in Culture

    July 24, 2007
    Call your Congressman c. 1907

    From the July 24, 1907 NYT:

    WASHINGTON - Members of Congress receive many strange requests from their constituents, but probably the most curious one ever received came to a representative from Minnesota recently from Capt. J. F. Allen of St. Paul. Capt. Allen asked the member to look up his arm, which he had lost at the battle of Antietam.

    Capt. Allen learned that the surgeon who performed the operation had preserved the member and sent it to the Army Medical Museum. Capt. Allen expressed a desire to have a photograph of the arm, and as he was a very influential man in the district, the Congressman instructed his Secretary to make an investigation.

    The arm of the Captain was found at the museum in an excellent state of preservation and a photograph was forwarded to Capt. Allen.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:06 PM in Culture

    July 23, 2007
    On the bookshelf c. 1907

    From the July 23, 1907 NYT:

    PRESENT LITERARY DEMAND From the London Times:

    The demand for all kinds of reflective writing is now very small, and the vehicles for such writing are diminishing in number. The paying public of to-day want to be told how to do things, where to go, what to read, how to dress and behave, and how to keep string in a string box; in short, how to do the things which their parents did every day of their lives by common sense and mother wit. At present it is indifferent to essays and poetry and every kind of pure literature.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:00 PM in Culture

    Harry Potter (no spoilers)

    I spent all day (12 straight hours) reading the book yesterday. My wife read it all day Saturday. We spent most of the evening going over the twists and turns.

    Now the kid has it but will take a few days I'm sure for her to finish it.

    All this for $35!

    Frankly I feel guilty that J.K. Rowling didn't get more from us--we would've paid much, much more! Bottom line: She deserves every penny she has. Maybe I should send her some more money? Nah.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:50 AM in Culture

    July 19, 2007
    Easy bake ovens recalled again

    Toy ovens + children = burned fingers. Who would have suspected?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:42 AM in Culture

    July 17, 2007
    Bad history in Charlotte c. 1907

    As I relocate to the Charlotte, NC area, this story from the July 17, 1907 NYT caught my attention:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The trial of twenty citizens of Anson County, this State, charged with lynching J.V. Johnson, a white man, which was begun yesterday at Monroe, continued to-day.

    Miss Alice Bogan, daughter of the Sheriff, resumed her testimony, detailing how the mob broke into the jail on the plea of having a prisoner to commit, how they seized and held her father, took the keys to Johnson's cell from him, released Johnson, and, after tying him with ropes, dragged him down the road to the point where he was lynched. She positively identified several of the indicted men as being members of the mob.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:49 PM in Culture

    Intolerable losses c. 1907

    One wonders how the world would respond if a story similar to this one from the July 17, 1907 NYT was to occur today:

    Returns of deaths from the plague in India show the appalling total of 1,060,067 for the six months ended June 30. The monthly total is at present decreasing, however, the death roll for June being placed at 69,064.

    The total for the first six months of 1907 already surpasses that for the entire twelve months of 1904, when 1,022,000 persons died. It is the highest ever recorded previous to the present year.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:45 PM in Culture

    July 09, 2007
    Cultural Wars

    Whilst Larry spent his weekend doing the Hookie Lau, I spent several hours myself at the Origins International Game Expo here in Columbus.

    Once upon a time I was into board wargames (especially Squad Leader) but haven't played in years. Still it was great fun to see all the new games and game systems that have come out in recent years.

    By the way, if you want to feel normal and socially well-adjusted I suggest a few minutes at a gaming convention.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:52 PM in Culture

    Cultural weekend

    I spent the weekend in Chicago absorbing some culture, specifically Polynesian decorative arts and the indigenous folk music of Southern California. In other words, tiki collectibles and instrumental surf music. The occasion was a music fest called Exotica 2007. 2 bands / 3 sets on Friday night, 8 bands / 9 sets on Saturday, 2 bands / 2 sets on Sunday. Exhausting but fun. Highlight was Saturday night’s headlining appearance by the legendary Trashmen (of “Surfin’ Bird” infamy). For “gramps with amps” they sounded great!

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:13 AM in Culture

    July 06, 2007
    On to-be famous ships c. 1907

    The July 6, 1907 NYT reports:

    The Lusitania, the new liner of the Cunard Line, has been carrying out her experimental trials this week. The results are regarded as extremely satisfactory. The steamer twice covered a measured mile in 144 seconds, giving her a speed of 25 knots. Considering the fact that the Lusitania was not running under full pressure and has still to be dry-docked, her performance is considered remarkably promising.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:12 PM in Culture

    July 03, 2007
    Marketing genius

    Tie a quirky flavor variation on a well-known candy bar to a revered dead celebrity? Yes! It’s the new Reese’s Collector Edition Elvis Peanut Butter and Banana Creme Cup!

    Elvis, as every pop-culture otaku knows, loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

    Collect all four Collector Edition packages: Leather Jacket Elvis, Crooning Sweater Elvis, Vegas Jump Suit Elvis, and Hawaiian Lei Elvis!

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:03 AM in Culture

    June 30, 2007
    Demand curves are downward sloping c. 1907

    The June 30, 1907 NYT has the following story:

    A newspaper published in Suffolk has somehow become the vehicle of a discussion of the Rev. Mr. Campbell's so-called new theology. It seemed as though every man and woman in England who could write had turned theologian and was sending letters for publication in this paper. The editor got very tired of these effusions, but did not dare say he would have no more of them. His wife told him what to do, and now there is a notice running in his paper that whoever wishes to express his opinions on the new theology must pay five shillings an opinion, the money to go to a local hospital. It is almost needless to say that the hospital is not getting rich.
    Now that's a smart wife...

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:43 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the June 30, 1907 NYT:

  • In some circles a gentleman is a man who gets drunk with a dress suit on.
  • He who has implicit faith in his fellow man is apt to lose that faith with his umbrella.
  • We all appreciate the good things of life; but few of us want to be the "good things."
  • The egoist is the first to recognize egotism in those who pay no attention to him.
  • A man is a failure when he is willing to sell his experience for less than he paid for it.
  • There's a lot of difference between what we think we know and what we know we think.
  • When a fellow has money to burn, it is natural for the rest of us to make light of his fortune.
  • Old friends are like old shoes. They are very comfortable, but we are sometimes ashamed of their shabbiness.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 05:33 PM in Culture

    June 24, 2007
    Lindsay Lohan Moment c. 1907

    From the June 24, 1907 NYT:

    Can you explain why Mark Twain, while visiting London to accept a complimentary degree from Oxford University, whould consider worth while to make such a spectacel of himself as he appears to have done by appearing in the foyer of one of London's best hotels in bath gown and slippers...As a reasonable American I should like to know what treatement would be meted out to any Englishman behaving in a like manner in the Waldorf-Astoria or Astor Hotel. Every newspaper in the city would howl its indignation at the insult offered our beautiful city, especially if it it occured, as it has done in London, during the season. Is it any wonder our manners are sometimes called into question.
    Today, we celebrate such behavior. Oh, how times are changed.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:58 AM in Culture

    June 23, 2007
    Musings of the gentle cynic c. 1907

    From the June 23, 1907 NYT:

  • It's the things we don't get that often make us happiest.
  • We are often accused of not listening when we really have no reason to listen.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 06:13 PM in Culture

    June 16, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the June 16, 1907 NYT:

  • It's always the under dog that yells for fair play.
  • The man who nurses a grievance must expect it to grow.
  • Every man is entitled to his opinion, even the weather man.
  • The minute a man begins to feel that he is popular, he becomes a bore.
  • Don't try to convince the mother of a first baby that we are all born equal.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:11 AM in Culture

    June 10, 2007
    Rosa Parks c. 1907

    The June 8, 1907 NYT reports on an early attempt to kill "Jim Crow":

    Whether railroads have the right, under the law, to provide separate cars for white and colored passengers in Inter-State traffic practically is the question which was argued to-day before the Inter-State Commerce Commission.

    The case was that of Georgia Edwards against the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Company...The complainant alleged that on Aug. 31, 1906, she purchased a ticket from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Dalton, GA.., and was compelled by the defendant company to ride in an inferior coach, popularly known as a "Jim Crow" car, although on the same train white passengers were permitted to ride in first-class coaches....

    In the hearing of the case it was asserted by the railroad company that the facilities afforded the passengers in the car set apart for the negro passengers were equal to those in the cars set aside for white passengers, although not necessarily identical.

    I am so glad that I did not grow up in a Chattanooga (and country in general) characterized by such blatant racism, although the practice surely still exists today. The whole separate but equal argument was such a farce it is amazing to me that it worked for so long. How much further along would we have been if Georgia Edwards was remembered the same way as Rosa Parks?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:09 AM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the June 8, 1907 NYT:

  • There are people who could help more by giving less advice.
  • You can take many a man's measure by pints and quarts.
  • When a woman needs sympathy, cry with her; when a man needs it, swear with him.
  • A pessimist is merely a man who expects to get the worst of it sooner than the rest of us.
  • The trouble with the truth is that most of us are too polite to tell it.
  • A man convinced against his will will have to be convinced all over again the next time you meet him.
  • Don't worry about what the world thinks of you. The world has several billions of people to think about.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:02 AM in Culture

    June 06, 2007
    Curious headlines c. 1907

    Given our advantage of historical perspective, stories from 100 years ago in the New York Times often merit a little extra interest based on who is being described in the story - a few days ago I mentioned a baseball story with the headline claiming that Cy Young had beaten St. Louis.

    In the June 6, 1906 NYT:

    The Brothers Wright, whose negotiations for the sale of their airship to the German Government were announced exclusively in the cables of the New York Times, left Paris to-day for Berlin to conclude arrangements for the construction of a number of airships.

    It is understood that they will be paid $10,000 for each machine constructed by them.

    In 2005 dollars, that's $250,000 each.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:59 AM in Culture

    June 02, 2007
    Musing of the Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the June 2, 1907 NYT:

  • We are constantly adding wings to our castles in the air.
  • The cost of experience is generally money well invested.
  • The trouble with the average bread-winner is that he wants cake.
  • There's a lot of difference between forgetting what we ought to know and knowing what we ought to forget.
  • When a man likes to be different from other people, the other people are generally quite satisfied to have him so.
  • The root of all evil seems to thrive in any soil.
  • It is when duty calls that we are apt to send word we are out.
  • It isn't until a man lives to learn that he really learns to live.
  • Besides gathering no moss, a rolling stone gravitates down hill.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 04:03 PM in Culture

    May 31, 2007
    On Memorial Day c. 1907

    Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 until 1971. May 30, 1907 was a Thursday, whereas May 31, 2007 is a Thursday. Therefore, the May 31, 1907 paper reports on those activities that took place on the day of the week if not the day of the month as in 2007.

    Now that I have confused everyone, two articles concerning the 1907 Memorial Day celebrations were noteworthy.

    The first concerned activities south of the Mason-Dixon:

    RICHMOND, Va. - The twelfth annual reunion of the Confederate Veterans began here to-day. Gen Boiling called the convention to order. Gen Stephon D. Lee was the presiding officer and delivered his annual address.

    The session adjourned at noon for the unveiling of the equestrian statue of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. The parade started at 2 P.M. and was a brilliant pageant.

    The second concerned activities north of the Mason-Dixon:

    Nearly sixteen thousand men, soldiers and sailors, veterans of three wars, regulars, militiamen, and cadets,, marched in review along Riverside Drive before General O.O. Howard yesterday, constituting the annual Memorial Day parade of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was a great parade...notable, too, for the decrease in the number of veterans...

    Interest in the parade ebbed and flowed, the crowd growing enthusiastic when the Seventh and the Twelfth passed, all the time waiting for the veterans, for they, of course, were the real attraction of the day. When the hove in sight round the turn of the drive there was a buzz of expectancy and whispers: "Here they come."

    So they passed along, the old and grizzled soldiers of the civil war, post after post. In some ranks there were less than a score of men and no post had very many...But as they passed the crowd stood and cheered, seemingly realizing more than ever the purport of the whole idea of Memorial Day.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:22 PM in Culture

    May 28, 2007
    On Memorial Day c. 1907

    From the May 28, 1907 NYT:

    Next Thursday is Memorial Day, and if you will permit me, I would like to express a little sentiment regarding the day and its observance through your columns...in an attempt to rouse a little more thought and patriotic zeal in the reverence and honor which all true Americans should feel for the American soldier, and especially for those gray-headed veterans who are yet with us of the Grand Army of the Republic.

    Last Memorial Day I was struck with the absence of cheering and of enthusiasm when the veterans of one of the greatest wars in history marched past, bearing their tattered battle flags, torn by shot and shell, and stained with the blood of some of the finest, bravest, manliest men whom God has seen fit to place upon our earth.

    When next Thursday comes and the street is echoing with the step of marching feet, the beat of the drum and call of the bugle, let all of us rend the air with cheers to make those blue-clad veterans realize that, although forty-two years have dawned since their leader said "Let us have peace," that we have not forgotten them who at the call of the Nation left the desk, the forge, the plow in the furrow, left mothers, sisters, sweethearts, and went willingly forward to the Nation's altar to offer their own bodies as a living sacrifice that this Nation should live, and that we are not ungrateful or unmindful of their unselfishness and sacrifice.

    Yet a little while, a score of years at most, and they will no longer be with us; therefore unto the fathers of our Nation render what is of a right theirs, the appreciation of another generation who as yet have not tried, but if the time comes, pray God, as they were not, we shall not be found wanting.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:40 PM in Culture

    May 26, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the May 26, 1907 NYT:

  • Even wisdom may be only skin deep.
  • All men are equal - till they are found out.
  • Many a fellow sows his wild oats and reaps a grass widow.
  • A wise woman never quarrels with her husband till after pay day.
  • The worst thing about common sense is that is it so unfashionable.
  • No search warrant is necessary in looking for trouble or finding fault.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:51 AM in Culture

    May 25, 2007
    On income inequality c. 1907

    File this in the "things never change" drawer.

    In the May 25, 1907 NYT is this nugget:

    There is no prejudice in this country against honestly acquired wealth, however large - Judge William J. Gaynor, speaking in Kansas City.

    That has been said thousands of times. It may have been true once. It is not true now, and the phrase might just as well be dropped from the formulas of declamation and agitation.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:09 PM in Culture

    May 23, 2007
    Mmm, the Apple Pan

    The LA Times brings back culinary memories for those of us who spent four years in the Westwood area on a grad student's income.

    Hat tip: Craig Newmark.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:23 PM in Culture

    May 08, 2007
    Jingle-jangle question

    You know the lyrics: “Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me …”. But did you ever stop to wonder: how can anyone be expected to play a song melody on a tambourine?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 05:53 PM in Culture

    April 30, 2007
    Crime of passion c. 1907

    The April 30, 1907 NYT reports the following:

    PHILADELPHIA - Miss Martha Korais, a Prussian girl, was killed here to-day by Franz Endrukat, who then mortally wounded himself.

    Endrukat followed the girl to this country from Pomerania, Rhenish Prussia, where four years ago he attempted to kill her by beating her over the head with a hatchet because she would not marry him. He then cut his throat, and, after lying for four months in a hospital, was sentenced to one year and eight months' imprisonment.

    Endrukat to-day met Miss Korais and followed here from the home of her employer to a near-by bakery, and again pressed his suit. The girl told him she would sooner die than marry him, whereupon he drew a pistol and sent to bullets into her head. He then turned the weapon on himself and sent a bullet into his head, falling unconscious across the body of the girl. Endrukat is 33 years of age, and his victim was 22.

    Amazing. The term "crime of passion" has come to mean a crime commited in the heat of the moment and one that, implicitly, the offending party regrets. Yet the more sinister "crime of passion" would seem to be the kind Mr. Endrukat undertook.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:30 PM in Culture

    April 28, 2007
    The gentle cynic c. 1907

    From the April 28, 1907 NYT:

  • Some people don't believe all they hear, even when their conscience tells it to them.
  • A peck of trouble is easier to get into than a pint of happiness.
  • When a man boasts that he never did anything he is ashamed of, it may merely indicate that he is lacking in a sense of shame.
  • Our sins also have an uncomfortable habit of finding us in.
  • A lot of sympathy is wasted on the under dog and the old maid.
  • Of course the bachelor should be taxed, it's worth it.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 04:31 PM in Culture

    April 16, 2007
    Thoughts on "Harrison Bergeron"

    Kurt Vonnegut passed away last week. I am no Vonnegut expert, although I've read some of the novels and found much of it disturbingly delicious and deliciously confounding. DOL readers are probably familiar with the short story, "Harrison Bergeron" (text here), which I first read as an undergrad in Eric Schansberg's poverty and inequality class at Texas A&M. An futuristic dystopia, the story rivals Anthem and 1984 in its overtly favorable comparison of liberalism (respect for the individual) over radical egalitarianism (reverence for the collective) as political philosophies.

    The opening paragraph sets the tone:

    The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

    How was this equality achieved? Hilariously, by the use of mental and physical handicapping equipment that people were forced to wear. In the first scene, we go to the living room of George and Hazel Bergeron (parents of the protagonist) to witness the mundane existence of a perfectly average couple. George is naturally smarter and stronger than average, so the Handicapper-General has fitted George with a 47-pound bag of bird shot to hang around his neck, plus an ear implant set to blare thought-disrupting noises at the moment George thinks above average thoughts. The more profound the thought, the louder the burst.

    This is the kind of world into which Vonnegut brings us. In this world, there is no individuality, no excellence, no merit. None of the things that libertarians believe to be inherent rights and predicates to prosperity. The ethical backwardness shown to us in this world, and the story's tragic and dreadful conclusion, suggest a negative commentary on egalitarianism. Hence the story is seen as a libertarian favorite, even among libertarians critical of Vonnegut more broadly (like this Cato blog entry).

    A few observations that make me think the story is more than its appearance:

    1. Of what use is the story to libertarians?

    a. Expresses a logical-conclusion critique of egalitarianism. It's not just folly (weighing down better than average ballerinas) but a trampling of individual rights that is anathema (seizing one's thoughts) to the classical liberalism ideals that gird the American founding.
    b. Highlights utilitarian costs of central planning. Much of the technology in the story (set in 2081) is 19th century technology. In the wake of the story's climax, the Handicapper General executes the offenders with.....a shotgun (HT Schansberg for that one).
    c. For the hard core: constitutions fail to restrain the state from infringing on rights.
    d. There are doubtless others that do not occur to me at the moment.

    But the point of my post is that "Harrison Bergeron" is more than it seems, especially with regard to the libertarian theme. A few more observations on this.

    2. In other aspects the technology is remarkable and subtle. For example, with the ear buzzing implants the state can literally read minds, in real time, and almost in anticipation of the individual's thoughts. The state can also apparently control the weather, having taken "springtime" out of the month of April. (That sure beats our capitalist society's control over the climate!) Vonnegut doesn't mention the technology required to accomplish this degree of control. It's left to back story in this incredibly lean tale. But it's there.

    3. I've always wondered why Vonnegut framed the setting, story, characters and dialogue in such blatant terms. It is a plain, almost in-your-face story, as though Vonnegut donned himself with creative weights to use language "as good as anybody else" could. By comparison, I've found his other works (Hocus Pocus, e.g.) to be cryptic, though perhaps no darker. Extending this point of comparison to Rand, her style in Anthem is more poetically subtle than in her other novels.

    4. Vonnegut's protagonist/hero is no libertarian. Unlike Anthem's protagonist, who dreamed of becoming a scholar, Harrison Bergeron wants to be emperor. When he breaks out of prison, he violently storms into the television studio (maximum exposure) with the following:

    “I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook. “Even as I stand here –” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

    In a peek of how he might rule, Harrison bribes the musicians to play their best, promising royal favors

    “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

    The secondary characters also have aspirations, though not of the individualist sort. Harrison's mother, for example, says she wants to be Handicapper General.

    “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

    “Good as anybody else,” said George.

    “Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

    These characters aren't independent achievers, they're meddling tyrants.

    In all I have always found Vonnegut to be a dazzler, his tales a seeming refuge for readers with various types of self-deception in tow but with deep counter currents. In Vonnegut the profound is wrapped in the mundane. It's genius. But I don't think it's at all libertarian.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:39 PM in Culture

    April 14, 2007
    Dyspeptic Philosophy c. 1907

    From the April 14, 1907 NYT:

  • There is no rest for the wicked - or the gas meter.
  • The man who puts up a good front often does it to compensate for his lack of backing.
  • One-half the world, suffering from the pangs of hunger, doesn't know how the other half suffers from indigestion.
  • "The trouble with taking one drink is that it gets miserable in a man's stomach," says a bibulous friend of mine, "and you know how misery loves company."
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 06:47 PM in Culture

    April 13, 2007
    Creating on/off the hooch

    From this CNN story, Ozzy's forthcoming new album has an unprecedented twist:

    NEW YORK (Billboard) -- Ozzy Osbourne's first new studio album in almost six years is also the first he has ever recorded sober.

    "I thought I'd never write again without any stimulation," the recovering drugs aficionado told Billboard. "But you know what? Instead of picking of the bottle I just got honest and said, 'I don't want life to go (to pieces).' "

    Tobias Wolff's 2003 novel, Old School, has become one of my enduring favorites. In a relevant scene, Ernest Hemingway has just judged the school boy protagonist's short story as the best of the 1961 class, and writes with advice about writing:

    Advice... Don't take advice, I never did. And don't get swell-headed. Writers are just like everyone else, only worse. Did he [the school boy] rewrite the story forty times? He could throw away some stuff, I've thrown away enough in my time. The kid knows what he's writing about and that's good, now he should go out and know some other things to write about.

    But I don't mean wars, not the way you probably think I mean. You don't go to war as a tourist. War'll get you killed and dead men don't write books. Same with hunting. Same with the sauce. Take Joyce. A rummy. Chained to his desk. Liked to read his work out loud, pretty tenor voice. Blind as a bat. You know what his wife told me? Said he ought to go lion hunting, that it would be good for his work and I should take him lion hunting. Can you imagine that? James Joyce lion hunting, with those eyes? Maybe I should have, come to think of it.

    Watch the sauce. The sauce kills more writers than war, just takes longer. If you're going up against the giant killer, you'd better be damned sure you can win. Some of us can, some can't. Scott never had a chance, poor soft [-----]. Mouth like a girl's. Between the rum and that pretty mouth and that wife of his he never had a chance. But he didn't write drunk, not like Bill Faulkner. With Bill
    Faulkner you can tell, right in the middle of a sentence, where the mash kicked in. Called me a coward once. A coward. I had to have Buck Lanham set him straight.

    The amazing fictional tirade goes on, but for now Hemingway via Wolff has made his point. BTW, the censored [----] is in the novel and becomes a sticking point between characters.

    Side note: Ozzy was once banned from my hometown, San Antonio, for giving in to micturating on the Alamo. I wonder what Papa would do if the Ozz called him a coward....

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:06 PM in Culture

    April 11, 2007
    The broadband jukebox

    Apparently this device has been around for a couple of years, but reading about it this morning was news to me (I guess I haven’t been hanging around in the right bars, and I let my subscription to Wired lapse). It’s the broadband-enabled jukebox, able to play any of hundreds of thousands of requested songs within a few minutes. Just think:

    Now you can dial up some obscure Frank Zappa song from 1982 that nobody else in the room has ever heard before except you.

    Another cool feature: the bar owner can program the jukebox so that it won’t play the wrong music, e.g. the Village People’s “YMCA” in a country-western bar. Or vice-versa.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:27 AM in Culture

    April 10, 2007
    If It's Good, Can It Be News?

    So, I'm a little sick of the whole "we hate Duke!" movement in the U.S. Fact is, the big D is a WHOLE lot more open to alternative viewpoints, and real education, than we get credit for. The fact that most faculty are unwilling to take public positions, or to pretend to represent the university, on matters of pending litigation does not make us complicit in the activities of a clinically insane legal system. But it seems that Duke has become a lightning rod for anger about universities and their intellectual insularity and ideological monochromaticity.

    It was nice, therefore, to see this report come out from the Pope Center in Raleigh.

    Excerpt below the fold....But the entire report is worth reading. The author, Russ Nieli, did a remarkable job in setting the context of the decline, and partial rise, of intellectual pursuit in American universities. A terrific piece of work.

    Read More »

    Posted by Michael Munger at 08:29 PM in Culture

    April 02, 2007
    Bollywood fact of the day

    Business of Cinema reports:

    2006 was a record-breaking year for Hindi films at the US box office, with seven of the 14 foreign language films that grossed over $2 million, being Hindi films.

    The Bollywood box-office authority, ibos.com, lists six 2006 Bollywood films each with a >$2m US gross:

    Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, $3.1m – another Karan Johar weepie
    Dhoom 2, $2.6m – sequel to the motorcycle caper flick
    Don, $2.2m – SRK remake of the AB classic from the ‘70s
    Lage Raho Munnabhai, $2.2m – sequel to the comedy Munnabhai MBBS
    Rang De Basanti, $2.2m – Aamir Khan starrer
    Fanaa, $2.1m – Ditto

    In seventh place was Krrish, at $1.4m – Hrithik Roshan superhero flick, sequel to Koi Mil Gaya.

    By either measure, a record-breaking year indeed. Also a year of remakes and sequels -- which may have helped the overseas box office. Of these seven I’ve only seen Don (which was pretty good), but I’m planning to rent Dhoom 2.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:40 PM in Culture

    April 01, 2007
    On speeding c. 1907

    The April 1, 1907 NYT reports on a day's worth of arresting automobile drivers who were "caught" speeding on Manhattan Island. The story sounds much like This November (1906) story concerning the arrests of drivers in Peekskill, NY. However, the price of a speeding ticket in New York City was considerably higher:

    Bicycle Policeman Gibney took Waler C. Martin of 344 West Seventy-seventh Street to the 157th Street Station. He had been timed as going at the rate of twenty-four miles an hour on Broadway...He was released on $100 cash bail. Frederick Lauterback...had been timed as going at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour on Broadway...he was compelled to deposit $100 cash bail before he could proceed.

    William Erhardt ...was taken to the 125th street station by Policeman Mara, who timed the car at twenty miles an hour on Broadway. Erhardt gave $100 cash bail.

    The story goes on to mention others caught for speeding at 18 mph, 18mph, and 20mph. This might imply a speed limit of 15 mph, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

    In November, 1906, a fine for speeding in Peekskill was $10-$25 or $225-$575 in 2005 dollars. The bails in NYC were around $2,100 in 2005 dollars - plus you were embarrassed with the NYT perp walk, which seems eerily similar to the rehab, divorce-court, murder-trial perp walks today's Who's Who endures.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:58 AM in Culture

    March 31, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the March 31, 1907 NYT:

  • Don't pawn your gun to buy ammunition.
  • Fate is the scapegoat on which we blame our shortcomings.
  • A fellow can't do two things well if being in love is one of them.
  • It doesn't require a college education to make fools of some young men.
  • Most fathers try to bring up their children in the way they should have gone.
  • There lots of good points about a man we never suspect till we read his obituary.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 08:55 AM in Culture

    March 21, 2007
    Opening Friday

    The Last Mimzy, starring Rainn Wilson ( Dwight Schrute from NBC's The Office) as a teacher named -- wait for it -- Larry White. No, I was not a script consultant. Here's an early review.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:53 AM in Culture

    March 12, 2007
    Decreased Violence

    According to this article by Stephen Pinker,

    Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.

    In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.


    The other major challenge posed by the decline of violence is how to explain it. A force that pushes in the same direction across many epochs, continents, and scales of social organization mocks our standard tools of causal explanation ... No one knows why our behavior has come under the control of the better angels of our nature, but there are four plausible suggestions.

    The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy ... These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation.

    [A]nother possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one's own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

    A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms, ... because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

    [Fourth, e]volution [may have] bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, ... but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs.

    I suspect (3) is the major player, but who knows?

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 05:16 PM in Culture

    On the value of a reputation c. 1907

    I have previously mentioned lawsuits filed by women because of slights to their reputation. In Nov. 2005, I mentioned a 1905 case of a woman suing for $10,000 ( $208,000 in 2005 dollars) because of a stolen kiss. In November 2006, I mentioned a 1906 suit filed for a broken engagement and damages of $25,000 ($560,000 in CPI adjusted 2005 dollars) and property of $2,000.

    In the March 12, 2007 NYT is another reported stolen kiss, this time in Newburg, New York:

    John J. Scannell...is to be sued for $15,000 by Mrs. Laura White of Central Valley, N.Y.

    Mrs. White's mother was employed as housekeeper on the Scannell estate, and the young woman, who is 25 years old, was with her in October. While they were alone in the house, Mrs. White will say, Mr. Scannell kissed her three times. Mrs. White at once notified her mother, they packed up their belongings, and left immediately, going to Central Valley, where they had friends.

    $15,000 in 1907 would be $321,570 in 2005 dollars.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:17 PM in Culture

    March 10, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the March 10, 1907 NYT:

  • Even wild oats seem tame to some wild young men.
  • The very best business for a man to be in his own.
  • Many a man's principles are sound; in fact, nothing but sound.
  • The living the world owes a man costs more to collect than it is worth.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 07:22 PM in Culture

    March 05, 2007
    Listen to Milan Kundera

    From Russell Banks' NYT review of Milan Kundera's The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts, the next book I'll buy.

    ...reading “The Curtain” is like spending a long desultory afternoon into the evening sitting over coffee and cigarettes in a pleasant cafe listening to Milan Kundera hold forth on history, literature, music, politics, large countries versus small, East versus West, the lyric versus the novelistic, Paris versus Prague and so on into the night....

    “The novel alone,” [Kundera] says, “could reveal the immense, mysterious power of the pointless,” in opposition to the “pre-interpretation” of reality. The novel, in Kundera’s view, is not a genre; it’s a way of busting through the myriad lies regarding human nature and our collective and individual fates, lies that serve the purposes of bureaucracy and greed and the joyless quest for power. The “pre-interpretation” of reality is the curtain referred to by the book’s title, “a magic curtain, woven of legends ... already made-up, masked, reinterpreted. ... It is by tearing through the curtain of pre-interpretation that Cervantes set the new art going; his destructive act echoes and extends to every novel worthy of the name; it is the identifying sign of the art of the novel.”

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:26 AM in Culture

    March 03, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the March 3, 1907 NYT:

  • Many a man who spurns tobacco in this world will need a smoking jacket in the next.
  • The worst thing about looking for trouble is that we sometimes stack up against some fellow who is willing to accommodate us.
  • Many a great man who began his career as an office boy owes his success in life to the fact that his first boss fired him.
  • It's a sure sign of rain when someone swipes your umbrella.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:53 AM in Culture

    February 23, 2007
    On family values c. 1907

    The Feb. 23, 1907 NYT reports on the first wave of divorce statistics being gathered by the Bureau of the Census (the data collection started in Summer 1906):

    Applications for divorce filed throughout the United States in the two decades up to 1907 number 1,400,000. Upon these applications, 1,000,000 were granted, as against only 328,000 divorces granted in the preceding twenty-year period. For the earlier period the number of divorces averages 33 per 100,000 of population, and 70 per 100,000 for the later period. The average annual ratio of divorces for Chicago has risen from 73 to 107 per 100,000 during the two decades; for Boston from 40 to 63 per 100,000, and from 22 to 63 for Philadelphia...Divorces for the whole country have more than doubled, and they are increasing in the rural districts as well as in the cities.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:31 AM in Culture

    February 21, 2007
    Hear me on Weekend America

    This afternoon I went down to my campus radio station's studio to be interviewed. Not about economics -- I was there in the guise of my alter ego, the surf music and spaghetti-western maven. The subject was the CD "For a Few Guitars More" (Dancing Bear, 2003), which I co-organized, on which a variety of surf bands pay tribute to Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western themes. The interview is for a segment to air this weekend on the public radio show "Weekend America". They're also planning to interview a guitarist (Ferenc Dobronyi) from one of the bands (Pollo del Mar) that contributed.

    From what I gather, one of the show's hosts was looking for a different hook to the story about Ennio Morricone finally getting an Oscar. She found the website that has my liner notes for the CD and a link to a news article about it. The radio show will play from clips from the CD intercut with me and Ferenc talking about Morricone and the CD. I was interviewed for half an hour, but I'm guessing they'll boil it down to 5 minutes.

    The show airs at different times in different cities, usually on Saturday afternoon. The stations and times are listed here. Podcasts of the show are available after 3pm Saturday here.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 05:59 PM in Culture

    February 17, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the Feb. 17, 1907 NYT:

  • The road to pleasure is much shorter going than coming back.
  • Experience makes a cynic, lack of it a fool.
  • A closed mouth is seldom open to suspicion.
  • You can't expect a mere man to be perfect when even the sun has spots on it.
  • Prejudices are merely other people's opinions.
  • An innocent lie never hurts quite as much as a malicious truth.
  • The office holder always believes that one good term deserves another.
  • Good deeds may never die, but lots of them seem to go into a trance.
  • Lots of us would rather be happy than be in love.
    It's too bad a man can't get into heaven with his tombstone inscription as a passport.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 01:44 PM in Culture

    February 10, 2007
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the Feb. 10, 1907 NYT:

  • A man with a wooden leg naturally has a lumbering gait.
  • The average man doesn't know what he wants until he can't get it.
  • We always see the worst of people when we fail to get the best of them.
  • Our credit is indeed bad when we feel that we can't trust ourselves.
  • A man is either taken aback by criticism, or he takes affront.
  • A girl can either make a fool of a fellow or make him make one of himself.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 03:42 PM in Culture

    February 08, 2007
    Anti-smoking laws c. 1907

    A factoid in the back of my brain suggests that colonial Wilmington (?) banned smoking in the late 1600s. The ban wasn't intended to reduce second hand smoke or reduce health care expenditures. Rather, because everything was made of wood and straw, the ban on public smoking aimed at reducing the probability of a fire which could raze large swaths of the town very quickly. In other words, the negative externalities of public smoking have been around for a while although the natures of the externalities have changed over time.

    While we pat ourselves on the back for our progressive and enlightened attitude toward smoking, both in public and increasingly in private, the Feb. 8, 1907 NYT reminds us that we are not doing anything "new" today:

    SPRINGFIELD, ILL - The Senate passed a bill to-day prohibiting persons under 18 years of age, pupils in schools, and students in universities from smoking cigarettes in any public place.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:58 AM in Culture

    January 30, 2007
    A war on drugs c. 1907

    The Jan. 30, 1907 NYT reports on the bizarre incentives (and extremely wishful thinking) embodied in the "War on Cocaine" in India:

    Consul General William H. Michael of Calcutta advises the Bureau of Commerce and Labor that the Government of India has prohibited the bringing in of cocaine by means fo the post, and has restricted its importation by any other means to cases in which it is imported by persons, or by their authorized agents, who have been especially permitted to import the drug by a local Government or administration. In consequence of this order the Government has also empowered certain postal officials to search for any cocaine in course of transmission by post and to deliver all such to the nearest excise officer.
    At least India singled out a particular drug with which to go to war. However, the particular form of warfare would seem ripe for corruption and one wonders how long before it was "reformed."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:27 AM in Culture

    January 24, 2007
    Appeals for help c. 1907

    Over the past two years of reading the NYT from 100 years ago, I have mentioned multiple instances in which disasters struck and there was little inclination for the Federal government to provide extraordinary aid nor was there an expectation for the government to do so. Admittedly, this was pre-income tax, pre-New Deal, and I am sure there was a much different attitude between the citizenry and their governments.

    Because of this general attitude, the following article in the Jan. 24, 1907 NYT caught my eye:


    WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - This telegram was received by the Inter-State Commerce Commission to-day from R. M. Kennedy at New Rockford, N.D., a town of about 700 inhabitants on a branch line of the Northern Pacific Railroad:

    "Must have aid at once. No fuel for ten days; no groceries for three weeks. Cars of fuel on road for six weeks not received. People are suffering."

    An effort will be made to get fuel and food to the town.

    Granted this is the telegraph age, and telegraphing words was (marginally?) more expensive at that time. Yet, how austere is the appeal. The lack of emotion and exported guilt is striking.

    Given recent events in the Dakotas, and the lack of cries for help, demands for FEMA directors to step down, and for Pres. Bush to "do something," perhaps the reputation for heartiness among the people of that region is well deserved.

    Today, the web-site for New Rockford proclaims the city is up to 1,600 inhabitants. If I have worked my solar calculator correctly, that implies an annual population growth rate of 0.0083.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:41 PM in Culture

    January 23, 2007
    Eiffel Tower decision c. 1907

    From the Jan. 23, 1907 NYT:

    The Eiffel Tower, one of the marvels of the Paris Expositions of 1889 and 1900, will become a permanent institution as a result of the decision of the Government to use it as part of the army wireless telegraph system. From its great height, 900 feet, the War Department, during the Fall army manoeuvres was able to maintain communication with the eastern frontier along the Vosges, and since then the Eiffel Tower station has communicated with Berlin and London. New installations are being made by which regular communication with Algeria and Tunis, the French African colonies, is expected to be assured.
    There was actually a movement to take down the Eiffel Tower? Aesthetics might gasp at the idea that a primary reason the Tower was saved was its ability to help the military (which tends to destroy great architectural monuments, either on purpose or by accident) communicate with far-flung reaches of the French "empire."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:47 PM in Culture

    Marriage counseling c. 1907

    From the Jan. 23, 1907 NYT:

    A young couple who gave their names of John C. Rea of Bloomfield and Miss Katheryn Ready of Glen Ridge appeared at the office of Justice of the Peace George W. Cadmus of Bloomfield [New Jersey] about ten day s ago and asked to be married. The Justice quickly tied the knot, and they went away happy.

    Their happiness was short, however, for to-day the bride appeared before Justice Cadmus and asked for a warrant for her husband's arrest.

    "He didn't like my cooking, Judge," she said, "and then he threatened to strike me, so I want him arrested."

    Rea was arrested. He told the Justice that he had only been joking with his wife. In court the couple made up their differences, and Justice Cadmus advised them to try and live peacefully together hereafter, and they promised to do so. Mrs. Rea left the courtroom arm in arm with her husband.

    And we wonder about television shows with Judge X or Judge Y offering advice. Perhaps our society has been seeking guidance from the bench for longer than most of us realize?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:40 PM in Culture

    January 22, 2007
    Markets in everything c. 1907

    In the early 1900s, social drinking by women was still a bit frowned upon. Regardless of social mores, there were obviously those who wanted nip from time to time.

    From the Jan. 22, 1907 NYT:

    The cocktail bracelet is the latest for women. There are fashionable women of this city who wear circlets on their wrists which sometimes contain a Martini dry or a Manhattan. The bracelets have one drawback, it is said, and this is they will not accommodate the cherry that goes with the fairy cocktail. The other night a Pittsburg attorney observed a woman of fashion place her lips to her bracelet. He thought that she was paying tribute to her own loveliness, but learned later she was merely refreshing her inner self with a mixture of cordials....With one of those graceful movements which appear to be natural with a woman the drink may be imbibed without fear of detection...A Broadway goldsmith sells numbers of the bracelets every week, and as most of the purchasers prefer secrecy in connection with the transaction they pay a pretty penny for the dubiously useful trinkets.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:16 PM in Culture

    January 16, 2007
    Excuses, excuses, excuses...

    Today's Chronicle of Higher Education includes an article concerning student excuses. Sometimes I wonder how much though the student actually applied to their particular excuse. Often I suggest recording the excuse before bringing it to my attention. The student can then listen to themselves, or better yet have someone else listen to them, to determine if the excuse has any plausibility. A lot of headaches on both sides of the desk could be avoided with this self-check.

    The article points to this blog concerning both sides of the excuse market.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:36 AM in Culture

    January 13, 2007
    On Christmas debt c. 1907

    One thing you learn from reading the paper from 100 years ago is that our modern-day problems are, for the most part, not new problems they are simply our problems.

    The Jan. 13, 1907 NYT has the following ditty:

    He steals away at early dusk,
    A bundle 'neath his coat,
    And both his pockets bulging, too,
    As all the neighbors note.

    With furtive looks on every side
    He dodges down the street,
    And starts and pales at every step,
    Afraid his friends to meet.

    He disappears within a shop
    Above whose dingy door
    Three tarnished golden balls display
    The Mecca of the poor -

    And now we know the cause of
    His secrecy and thrills,
    He's had to pawn his Christmas gifts
    To pay his New Year bills.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:52 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1907

    From the Jan. 13, 1906 NYT:

  • The lofty ideals of some men are restricted to high living.
  • Contentment is merely dividing what you have with what you want.
  • There is plenty of room at the top without pushing anyone else off.
  • Some men look so far ahead that they lose sight of the opportunities under their very noses.
  • When the parlor gas is turned down its a pretty good sign that the young fellow calling there isn't.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 07:01 PM in Culture

    January 08, 2007
    The War on Drugs c. 1907

    I have returned from the AEA's in Chicago where I caught up for a chin-wag with co-blogger Frank Stephenson. It was a long but productive weekend.

    The Jan. 8, 1907 NYT reports on the increasing plague of Cocaine Fiends and society's response:

    [F]ive boys escaped capture last night by plain-clothes policemen sent to the place by Capt. Russell of the West Thirty-seventh Street Station. The Captain had been informed that a gang of boys who had become addicted to the cocaine habit frequented the cave. He said he would investigate for the purpose of getting evidence against certain druggists who, it was alleged, had been selling cocaine to boys of tender age.
    The interesting point here is that the police want information on who is selling the drug, and do not necessarily seem intent on arresting the drug user.

    The story goes on to describe the plight of a mother whose two sons were heading toward addiction. The eldest son allegedly pawned his clothes in order to purchase cocaine and "after learning this...she caused the boy's arrest." The story is less clear on what, exactly, the son was charged with.

    However, similar to today's meth problem, the article reports that

    [w]hile is was a criminal offense for a druggist to sell cocaine to any one who did not have a physician's prescription, the boys managed to get it at first by buying catarrhal and toothache preparations which contained the drug. Under the pure food law the makers of these catarrh cures were compelled to print on the label the fact that the powders contained cocaine.
    There's one of the unintended consequences of an otherwise reasonable law (as far as laws go).

    The story goes on:

    Dr. Gregory, the chief of the psychopathic ward of Bellevue Hospital, said that unless something is done to put a stop to the manner in which some druggists sold cocaine, the hospitals would soon be filled with cocaine users. Many hospitals now had a cocaine ward set aside especially for the treatment of cocaine fiends.

    Another physician of prominence said that it is worse in a way than the morphine habit, as it killed by inches the person who became addicted to the drug. A person taking an overdose of morphine, he said, would die immediately, while cocaine killed slowly, but surely, those who snuffed it after acquiring the cocaine habit.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:41 PM in Culture

    December 30, 2006
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the Dec. 30, 1906 NYT:

  • All the world loves a lover, especially the jeweler, the florist, and confectionist.
  • The rich man always goes to extremes. He either buys an automobile, or walks to save carfare.
  • Appearances are almost as deceptive as trying to keep them up.
  • Fame often merely makes it harder for a man to dodge his creditors.
  • Many a man who is clothed in his own righteousness has a mighty poor fit.
  • Marriage generally proves that two can live quite as expensively as one.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:50 AM in Culture

    December 29, 2006
    Is it that good to be a Dane?

    This paper titled "Why Danes are smug: comparative study of life satisfaction in the European Union" published in the British Medical Journal, investigates the phenomenon of why the Danish are always so happy.

    The paper includes this graph showing the percentage of survey respondents who admit to being very satisfied with their life. The Danes consistently come out on top (BTW, what's up with Portugal?):

    The authors posit a number of reasons for why the Danes are so much happier than the rest of Europe:

    1. Hair colour
    2. Genes
    3. Food
    4. Climate
    5. Native tongue
    6. Alcohol and smoking
    7. Marriage and children
    8. General health
    9. Welfare state
    10. Exercise
    11. Prowess in sports
    12. Expectations

    The article is written in what starts out as serious tones and ends up sounding like one of Preston McAfee's "tounge-in-cheek, but hey there is something important here" pieces. It is hard to tell if the journal and the article are meant to be taken seriously - I leave it to the reader to decide. The article concludes:

    The causes of the stolid depth of Danish wellbeing are undoubtedly multifactorial. We are satisfied, however, that in the end and against all odds we have contributed to comprehension of the conundrum of Danish contentment. We doubt that further research would lead, in the foreseeable future, to deeper understanding, but decades of effort might possibly result in some incremental advance. Optimism is unwarranted.

    Our analysis points to two explanatory factors. The Danish football triumph of 1992 has had a lasting impact. This victory arguably provided the biggest boost to the Danish psyche since the protracted history of Danish setbacks began with defeat in England in 1066, followed by the loss of Sweden, Norway, Northern Germany, the Danish West Indies, and Iceland. The satisfaction of the Danes, however, began well before 1992, albeit at a more moderate level. The key factor that explains this and that differentiates Danes from Swedes and Finns seems to be that Danes have consistently low (and indubitably realistic) expectations for the year to come. Year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark.

    This is the type of research I want to perform.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:35 PM in Culture

    December 27, 2006
    On curriculum reform c. 1906

    To be filed in the TNC (Things Never Change) drawer, the Dec. 27, 1906 NYT reports on "College Reform". The President of Yale, speaking to a convention of teachers and principals:

    We have to-day a great many more elective courses of study than we need, and we have multiplied them without any definite principle or clear understanding of the purpose for which the elective systems exists. Its true object is to find out the lines of work a boy [or girl] is good for. To do this it is not necessary to have as many different studies as there are different kinds of human interest...There are three well-defined types of mind - the scientific, the literary, and the practical. If you have arranged your courses so that you can find out to which of these types a pupil belongs...you have done all that is needed. The work of the school will be more efficiently and economically accomplished if this adaptation is made with a few subjects instead of a great many.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:53 AM in Culture

    December 26, 2006
    Quote of the day
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. --Peter De Vries

    HT: usemycomputer dot com

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:39 PM in Culture

    December 25, 2006
    James Brown, RIP

    Music legend James Brown, 73, died early this morning in Atlanta. It would be difficult to overstate his influence on contemporary music.

    When I was young, Brown once appeared on TV wearing an outfit with the initials GFOS spelled out in sequins on his cummerbund. Contrary to the joke at my junior high the next day, the initials did not stand for “Go $#@! O’ Self”. They stood for “Godfather of Soul”.

    Brown was best known as a vocalist, but he was also an amazing bandleader and organist. For his best instrumental work, check out the 2-CD set Soul Pride: The Instrumentals.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 09:31 AM in Culture

    December 24, 2006
    To be a record holder or to be alive? c. 1906

    From the Dec. 24, 1906 NYT:

    [S]everal stories underground, underneath the Hotel Astor, Times Square, the coalpassers had some tests of endurance yesterday afternoon. One of these men, John Faulkner, of 400 West Fortieth Street, tried to break the record for the number of shovelfuls of coas passed in an hour.

    Faulkner hit an average of 100 shovelfuls to the minute, according to the story told by Patrolman Nelson...

    But Faulkner didn't last long. Accompanying one of the full body swings that sends forty pounds of coal across many feet of space came a cry of distress. The man straightened up and toppled over backward.

    100 x 40 lbs = 4,000 lbs/ min = 2 tons of coal/min.

    Before technological change, such a record might have been impressive - at least enough to get a couple of beers at the Pub. Perhaps the competitive spirit took over to the extent that he gave his life for a record that no-one would remember until someone with strange habit of reading the paper from 100 years ago would come across his feat. Notice today that watch feats of strength such as Mr. Faulkner's on ESPN's "World's Strongest Man."

    Faulkner's record was very impressive, but, alas, didn't come with an endorsement from a body-building enhancement.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:37 PM in Culture

    December 21, 2006
    Christmas materialism c. 1906

    Occasionally the paper from 100 years ago reveals, in a subtle way, that many of the problems we face today are not new problems, they are just our problems.

    From the Dec. 21, 1906 NYT:

    As Christmas Approaches

    'Tis now the gladsome Christmas time
    Too suddenly draws near,
    When puzzled mortals, such as I,
    Must face this problem drear -
       How to make every dollar do
       The necessary work of two!

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:34 AM in Culture

    December 19, 2006
    Know thy enemy c. 1906

    The Dec. 19, 1906 NYT contains an argument for allowing women in the jury pool:

    In breach of promise cases the presence of female jurors among the male jurors would certainly benefit the men, as they would at once see through the wiles of their own sex, disconnect the picture hat and the pretty gown, and disclose the hussy at heart in the pleading innocent betrayed one.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:38 AM in Culture

    December 16, 2006
    Dyspeptic Philosophy c. 1906

    From the December 16, 1906 NYT:

  • Flattery is a fault that is easily cured by marriage.
  • The man with a grievance never seems to have an impediment in his speech.
  • It is almost as hard to live up to a good reputation as to live down a bad one.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 05:36 PM in Culture

    December 14, 2006
    English 1, Teddy Roosevelt 0 c. 1906

    The Dec. 13, 1906 NYT reports that President Teddy Roosevelt was abandoning his "simplified English" executive order:

    President Roosevelt has surrendered gracefully to the English language, and Noah Webster is to-night receiving congratulations from Samuel Johnson, Worcester, and all his chums on the other side of the Styx. Representative Landis of Indiana, Chairman of the House Printing Committee, is authority for the statement that the President will issue an oder complying with the House's wishes on the subject, not waiting for Senatorial action, and that this order will regulate thru, clipt, and dropt to Skibo Castle and other places where the air is more congenial than in Washington.
    Thk gdness.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:51 AM in Culture

    December 12, 2006
    On Africa c. 1906

    From the Dec. 12, 1906 NYT:

    "The dark places of the earth are full of horrible cruelty." That is a saying a great many centuries anterior to either the existence of sensational newspapers or the formation of the Congo Free State. But it seems to have an impressive modern instance in the case of the Congo Free State...The evidence of "horrible cruelty" has been so abundant and so shocking that it has penetrated to Belgium.
    Belgium was, at the time, the "administrator" of the country.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:39 AM in Culture

    December 09, 2006
    Humor, and the lack thereof

    If you want to stir up some discord in your household, I recommend Christopher Hitchens's "Why Women Aren't Funny."

    Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.

    The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. ... Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.

    Hitchens follows Kipling in attributing the relative lack of humor to childbirth:
    She who faces Death by torture for
    each life beneath her breast
    May not deal in doubt or pity—must
    not swerve for fact or jest.

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 02:16 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the Dec. 9, 1906 NYT:

  • Never hit a man when he has got you down.
  • Don't wear out your welcome. It's hard to get another.
  • No man can make a mistake without learning something.
  • No man can serve two masters such as dyspepsia and optimism.
  • Some people believe everything they hear, and take the rest for granted.
  • Some men never succeed because they are afraid of doing more than their share.
  • Some men seem to get a heap of melancholy satisfaction from being misunderstood.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention, but the children don't always turn out well.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:07 AM in Culture

    December 06, 2006
    Set your Tivo®

    The ABC Family cable network will air “The Year without a Santa Claus,” the original Rankin-Bass puppetoon (stop-motion-animated; similar to but not quite the same as Claymation because it uses hard puppets rather than modeling clay), this Saturday (9 Dec.) at 5pm Eastern (4pm central). And again on Friday, 15 Dec., 7/6c; Weds. 20 Dec. 7/6c; and Sun. 24 Dec. 9/8c.

    Sure, you’ve seen (or deliberately skipped) it every year since in debuted in 1974; why see it again? Because you’ll need to refresh your memory before you tackle the new live-action version, which NBC will air Monday, December 11th at 9/8c. John Goodman plays Santa, Delta Burke plays Mrs. Claus, Chris Kattan (naturally) plays the devious elf Sparky. Carole Kane is Mother Nature, Harvey Fierstein (!) is the Heat Miser; Michael McKean is the Snow Miser. In case you think I must be making all this up, here’s the IMDB link, and here’s a YouTube clip.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:54 PM in Culture

    December 05, 2006
    On college slobs c. 1906

    From the Dec. 5, 1906 NYT:

    The tailor whose shop is located near Columbia University sighed as he regarded a crowd of students passing his doorway. "The college boy is the worst dressed young man in America," he announced. "Why so?" inquired the customer to whom he was talking.

    "Because the college boy goes in for such exaggerations," was the answer. "Instead of following a new fashion with restraint, he seizes upon it and enlarges on it until on his figure an attractive garment becomes a caricature. Look at those boys. Notice their shoes - soles an inch thick and extensions all out of proportion. Take notice of their coats, their trousers, their overcoats, their waistcoats - all overdone, all burlesques of the real fashion...If he were simply and quietly well dressed he is afraid no one would know he was a college man, so he takes every feature and exaggerates it...So on account of his tendency to distort everything, I call the college student the worst dressed young man in America."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:57 AM in Culture

    December 01, 2006
    This I already knew...

    From the movie, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, comes this wonderful, and very crude song, "The Government Totally Sucks." Lyrics and a link to listen are found below the fold. WARNING: very foul language!

    HT: JCH

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:06 AM in Culture

    Clueless on Immigration

    No, this isn't a rant about anti-immigration economists. I just wanted to share the following clip from the movie Clueless that I've showed in class to introduce my discussion of immigration. It helps to reinforce to my students the importance of the argument that led to a conclusion. To often they think because they got the right answer they deserve 100 percent, even if everything leading them there was wrong.

    I've placed the clip below the fold.

    Read More »

    Posted by Joshua Hall at 10:54 AM in Culture

    November 30, 2006
    Bernard Shaw on Religion c. 1906

    While Richard Dawkins makes a name for himself today criticizing religion and those who are religious (Youtube clips here), Bernard Shaw had similar comments 100 years ago. In the Nov. 30, 1906 NYT:

    Bernard Shaw lectured to-night in the Essex Hall, in connection with the Guild of St. Matthew, his subject being "Some Necessary Repairs to Religions." Mr. Shaw said we had a great many pressing social problems to solve, but lacked a religion which would impel us to tackle them.

    The Socialism presented by those able middle-class Jews, Marx and Lasalle, was a demonstration that the workingmen were being robbed of 50 per cent. of the proceeds of their labor, but it was found that people would not make a revolution for 50 per cent. Men were always cowards. If they were not afraid they would not be constantly be getting run over. The more intelligent and sensitive a man was the more cowardly he was.

    Those are some tough words in just the first two paragraphs of the story. Yet, the third paragraph is even tougher:
    If the great congregation of cowards called the human race were to be got to disregard their own safety and interest, they must be made religious. A religious man was not one who belonged to the Church of England or who did not...[n]or was he a man with a special creed. A religious man was one who had sure knowledge that he was here, not to fulfill some narrow purpose, but as an instrument of the force which created the world and probably the universe. Religion made a man courageous, and if he was not intelligent it made him extremely dangerous. In the absence of religion a coarse man had the most courage, but with religion the most fragile and sensitive became enormously courageous.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:05 PM in Culture

    No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

    From the NY Post:

    THE K-K-Kramer scandal murdered Michael Richards' career - but it's doing wonders for sales of the latest "Seinfeld" DVD.

    Season 7 of the popular sitcom is outselling the Season 6 set (released on the same day last year) by more than 75 percent, and more than 90 percent over season 5 at some online DVD retailers, according to TMZ.com.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:24 AM in Culture

    November 29, 2006
    Self-citations and selection bias

    The Annals of Improbable Research (home of the Ig-Nobel Prize) recently directed a "challenge" to its readers - "If you know of a published academic study that surpasses Werner-Michael Kulicke’s record of including 23 self-references, please send us a copy."

    Today's email contains at least one contender, and it's Nobel winner James Heckman. In this 110 page working paper, Heckman (and two co-authors) cite 30 Heckman papers (that's only two fewer than my entire resume).

    Now, I respect Heckman for his contribution, but 30 self-cites? As the AIR points out:

    One of the studies he [Heckman] cites is:

    "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," J.J. Heckman, Econometrica, vol. 47, no. 1, 1979, pp. 153-62.

    No small irony there.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:27 PM in Culture

    November 28, 2006
    A matter of semantics?

    The valuable NCPA Policy Digest passes along this observation:

    In France, growing numbers of couples are choosing to raise children, buy homes and build family lives without religious or civil approval of their partnerships, says the Washington Post.

    Do they mean civil approval or approval by the state? Later in the cllipping this appears:

    The result is massive migration to urban areas, where young adults are more independent from their families; and a society that has become not only tolerant but supportive of personal choice in lifestyles.

    If "society" is both tolerant and supportive of these unions, doesn't this constitute civil approval?

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 01:27 PM in Culture

    November 26, 2006
    On cigarette smoking c. 1906

    I recall the famous picture of Rep. Henry Waxman swearing in the tobacco executives before asking them what they knew about the dangers of cigarette smoking and when they knew it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the general public knew of a correlation between cigarette smoking and illnesses of certain types long before the Surgeon General reports in the 1960s.

    From a letter to the editor of the Nov. 26, 1906 NYT:

    I want to say a word or two against cigarette smoking. Every place one goes a man or a boy is seen smoking a cigarette. It is bad enough to see boys smoking this poison, but when it comes to men over 50 years old it looks silly. In fact foolish.

    It is said that President Grant brought on cancer of the throat from his long habit of smoking. In fact, I know of an elderly man who has been smoking cigarettes for over thirty ears...Yes, I suppose he will smoke as long as he is living. It is too bad - that is, it will bring on a disease that will kill him.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:14 PM in Culture

    November 22, 2006
    World's best beef

    Due to excessive travelling, I won't be back home with family on Thanksgiving. So this holiday I will do the untraditional and dine at Harris, a San Francisco institution, with my wife (to be) and her sister. On the menu is a Kobe Wagyu boneless ribeye. After reading this story, "the world's most expensive steaks," I know what I'll be ordering:

    It's a steak with the texture of foie gras, and it comes from cattle that, according to legend, are fed beer and massaged by human hands. In its raw state, the meat is pale--almost white--packed with what Chef de Cuisine David Varley of Las Vegas' Bradley Ogden restaurant calls "an ungodly amount of fat."

    This marbled delicacy is the product of Japanese beef cattle, or "Wagyu," raised both in and outside of Japan, and it dominates high-end steak menus internationally.

    Now THERE'S the beef. Happy Thanksgiving, all.


    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:29 PM in Culture

    November 15, 2006
    Sixes are Sevens: California edition

    This article reports that San Francisco plans to place marijuana enforcement near the bottom of the list:

    Legislation approved Tuesday afternoon by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors will have police put the enforcement of marijuana laws on the bottom of the priority list, although prohibitions remain for marijuana sales in public, possession by minors or use by motorists.
    Good for them, I suppose, but 22.37 miles away, Belmont, CA, plans to ban smoking of cigarettes everywhere except for single-family detached residences.:
    “We have a tremendous opportunity here. We need to pass as stringent a law as we can, I would like to make it illegal,” said Councilman Dave Warden. “What if every city did this, image how many lives would be saved? If we can do one little thing here at this level it will matter.”

    Armed with growing evidence that second-hand smoke causes negative health effects, the council chose to pursue the strictest law possible and deal with any legal challenges later. Last month, the council said it wanted to pursue a law similar to ones passed in Dublin and the Southern California city of Calabasas. It took up the cause after a citizen at a senior living facility requested smoke be declared a public nuisance, allowing him to sue neighbors who smoke.

    Is government supposed to pass ordinances so that a single citizen can sue his neighbors? That doesn't sound right.

    Freedom goes 1-1 this round?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:45 PM in Culture

    November 12, 2006
    Speed traps and perp walks c. 1906

    From the Nov. 11, 1906 NYT:

    PEEKSKILL, N.Y. - A number of arrests were made here to-day for automobile speeding. Fourteen prisoners were held and all pleaded guilty when arraigned before Judge Travis. Fines ranging from $10 to $25 were imposed.

    The prosecutions were the first of their kind here. The police marked a course of an eighth of a mile, and at either end men were stationed with signal flags and stop watches. It was expected that many automobiles would pass through the village to-day with parties bound for the Princeton-West Point football game at West Point, and in this the authorities were not disappointed. All those arrested were either going to or coming from the game.

    If only Einstein's Theory of Relativity had been around, a good lawyer might have been able to get the speeders off the hook.

    The folks at EH.net suggest that the range in fines was approximately $225 to $575 in 2005 CPI adjusted dollars. Ouch.

    Why were speeders arrested rather than simply given a ticket and sent on their way? Perhaps the (marginal) cost of arresting a particular speeder was less because there were fewer cars on the road? On the other hand, perhaps the marginal benefit of arresting a particular speeder was greater. At the time, only the rather well-to-do drive cars, so perhaps there was a bit of scandal involved that would titillate the common man and "make an example" of someone?

    Indeed, the article describes several of the people stopped:

    Among those stopped for exceeding the speed limit was a man who said he was the ex-Gov. Robert L. Pattison of Pennsylvania....Another said he was George W. Morgan and persons in the court room said he was the Superintendent of Elections in New York....Elben Van Cott, who said he was the son-in-law of Isaac N. Mills, the newly elected supreme Court Justice.
    The perp walk (whether on Court TV or in the columns of the NYT) might have held as much fascination in 1906 as it seems to today?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:56 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the Nov. 11, 1906 NYT:

  • No man's respect for old age extends to eggs.
  • Some people can't even do their duty without striking an attitude.
  • A young man doesn't think seriously about marriage until after it happens.
  • Many a man gambles with his reputation, losing it in an effort to gain a bigger one.
  • Heaven is a place where the pedestrian will have just as many rights as the automobile.
  • A jury is a body of twelve men selected to decide which of the contestants has the best lawyer.
  • The glutton is always thinking of what he is going to eat, the dyspeptic of what he has just eaten.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 12:47 PM in Culture

    November 01, 2006
    Cultural commentary c. 1906

    A snippet from the Springfield Homestead repeated in the Nov. 1, 1906 NYT :

    There need be no misgivings anywhere or at any time over the usual good sense of the people of the United States or of any State thereof. This is a democratic Government of a well-intending and fairly intelligent democracy, and a Government by it and for it. Out of our scares the Government has gone on to better things. The American public is not a mob. It is a sane and self-controlled Nation.
    This is something to mull over.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:27 PM in Culture

    The value of a reputation c. 1906

    From the Nov. 1, 1906 NYT:

    PHILADELPHIA - Miss Bella Blum, daughter of Israel Blum, a wealthy resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., instituted suit in the Common Pleas Court to-day to recover $25,000 damages from Abraham Press, charging breach of promise of marriage. Press is a jeweler. Miss Blum, who is 19 years old, is seeking to recover jewelry worth over $2,000, which, she declares, Press gave her but afterward obtained on the pretext of having it repaired.
    The folks at EH.net suggest that $25,000 in 1906 is approximately $560,000 in CPI adjusted 2005 dollars. Was the reputation of the jilted bride-to-be damaged that much? What a difference 100 years makes.

    On a similar note, last year I "reported" on the alleged value of a stolen kiss in 1905 - approximately $208,000 in 2005 dollars. It is interesting(?) that a stolen kiss wasn't worth as much as being left at the altar, so to speak.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:25 PM in Culture

    October 28, 2006
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the Oct. 28, 1906 NYT:

  • Killing time is the assassination of opportunities.
  • Some people hate to take advice, even when they pay for it.
  • A diamond is one thing that matches every woman's complexion.
  • Perhaps you have noticed that the married cynic is usually anonymous.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 03:26 PM in Culture

    October 27, 2006
    The value of a finger c. 1906

    From the Oct. 27, 1906 NYT:

    LONDON - Thomas Henry Morris has been fined 2£ 10s by a Chester magistrate for squeezing a woman's hand so that her little finger was broken. The woman had lost her husband, and the man had called to offer condolences. It was as he was leaving her that he broke her finger. He put altogether too much muscle into his sympathetic handshake.
    EH.net suggests that the fine is equivalent to £179.07 using the retail price index. At today's exchange rate, that would be about $340.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:21 PM in Culture

    October 26, 2006
    Priorities alignment c. 1906

    From a letter to the editor in the Oct. 26, 1906 NYT:

    Our citizens should not lose sight of other public matters of interest just because we are to have an election next month, i.e., pushcarts are just as much a nuisance as ever and should be driven off the streets. Likewise stands on all sidewalks and in the public parks, at the Brooklyn bridges, under "L" stations should be removed and never permitted again.
    A platform for the ages.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:07 PM in Culture

    Conspicuous consumption c. 1906

    From a letter to the editor in the Oct. 26, 1906 NYT:

    I am sure that Grossmutter Knickerbocker would have held up her hands in amazement, as I did the other day when I saw three articles of lingerie in a new dry goods shop on Fifth Avenue that were market to cost $2,000.

    EH.net suggests:

    In 2005, $2,000.00 from 1906 is worth:
    $45,791.32 using the Consumer Price Index
    $35,904.46 using the GDP deflator
    $200,254.78 using the unskilled wage
    $244,351.51 using the nominal GDP per capita
    $862,888.81 using the relative share of GDP


    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:01 PM in Culture

    October 24, 2006
    Grounds for divorce c. 1906

    A story in the Oct. 24, 1906 NYT reports on the "Divorce Congress" which is in session to try to revamp divorce (and in the process marriage?):

    [One] enactment prohibits the solicitation of a divorce case by advertisement, circular, or otherwise, and prescribes for such an offense a fine of not more than $1000 and imprisonment of not more than one year.
    Here in the DFW area, and I am sure elsewhere, different divorce lawyers advertise during different radio and television shows. During late night sports talk, one law firm advertises it's focus on the man's side of the divorce proceedings.

    The story goes on

    Annulment of the marriage contract, as distinguished from divorce, will be made for the following causes: Impotency, consanguinity, existing former marriage, fraud, force or coercion, insanity, and illegal age.
    At least today's ED medication might solve the first problem.

    Divorce, it is provided, shall be of two kinds - absolute, or divorce a vincule matrimonii, and divorce from bed and board, or divorce a mensa et thoro. Under the first classification the grounds shall be adultery, bigamy, conviction and sentence for crime followed by two years' continual imprisonment, extreme cruelty, willful desertion, and habitual drunkenness for two years. The same causes will prevail for the second class with the additional cause of "hopeless insanity of the husband."
    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:28 PM in Culture

    October 05, 2006
    Mass diagnosis c. 1906

    From the October 5, 1906 NYT:

    LONDON - The delightful forecast of the world gone made is held up to us by Dr. Forbes Winslow.

    "According to the statistical figures on insanity," says the doctor in an interview, "it can be shown that before long there will be actually more lunatics in the world than sane people. The burning problem of the day is how to prevent this increase in insanity. What is the use of wasting time and energy on an education bill when we have before us this absorbing problem, the contemplation of an insane world, to deal with?"

    Indeed, good doctor, indeed.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:28 PM in Culture

    Walmart v. My Space

    And the winner is? One guess.

    Rant begins.

    During the past week it has become abundantly clear that the culture and innovation on the web is progressing far faster than folks over, say, 25 years of age can maintain. When folks in Congress, the media, and on the street can't or won't distinguish between email, text messages, and instant messages, one fears that whatever legislation being written concerning the net is mis-informed.

    Rant ends. We return to regularly scheduled blogging...

    Evidently Walmart initiated a myspace-type system aimed at teens. Why Walmart would think this is a good idea seems a bit strained, but nevertheless Walmart invested some scarce resources in a failed experiment. Advertising Age reports that Walmart pulled the plug after three months.

    That seems like a short amount of time for an Internet startup nowadays - how long did Amazon make "negative" profits? On the other hand, give credit to Walmart that it recognized its mistake.

    The article provides some insight as to why teens would not flock to Walmart's version of myspace:

    "The Hub" was designed by Wal-Mart to allow teens to "express their individuality" but it screened all the content, informed parents when their children joined and forbade users to e-mail one another.
    Let's see. Express your individuality as far as I will let you, I will inform your mom and dad about you are saying and seeing on the Wally-world network and no, Virginia, there are no emails. Yep, that sounds like a winner. In fact, it sounds exactly like the responsible type of social networking parents and congress people would applaud.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the target audience said "Nyet!."

    Anti Walmart folks might sleep better tonight knowing that, at least in one instance, Walmart did not have "lower" prices and lost a battle in convincing fashion. How convincing? The article goes on to say:

    In August, the site attracted 91,000 unique visitors, according to ComScore Networks. Social-networking giant MySpace.com garnered 55.8 million unique visitors the same month
    Ouch!! Granted, 91,000 hits is more than I get at my personal blog, but I wonder how much more than DoL?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:14 PM in Culture

    October 02, 2006
    For a fistful of gold bugs

    Here's a video clip of Ennio Morricone himself conducting "The Ectsasy of Gold," the best piece of music ever written about the yellow metal.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:01 PM in Culture

    October 01, 2006
    Cultural comparisons c. 1906

    From a letter to the editor in the October 1, 1906 NYT:

    We have reached a time in the history of this country where every department of our social, financial, and political life is rotten to the core, and even more so than Rome was in the last days of the empire. We desire a change before it is too late, and the people who are going to bring it about are the solid rank and file, the pride and backbone of every progressive country.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:15 PM in Culture

    September 30, 2006
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the Sept. 30, 1906 NYT:

  • The flatterer is never a bore.
  • Only the rich can afford to be stingy.
  • Good resolutions too often die of malnutrition.
  • At any rate, the loser is never accused of cheating.
  • Only a fool will rock the boat on the sea of matrimony.
  • Faith may move mountains, but it won't remove freckles.
  • Most troubles are not worth the time it takes to tell them.
  • Success is often the result of a one-card draw in the game of life.
  • When a man takes whisky for a cold he doesn't care whether he gets over it or not.
  • The man who makes his money in trade is sneered at by the man who makes his by marrying it.
  • The fellow who is imbued with the idea that the world owes him a living can get it in the penitentiary.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:39 AM in Culture

    September 29, 2006
    Tivo tip

    If you get the AZN channel on cable, set your Tivo to record "Ab Tak Chhappan" tomorrow morning at 9am Eastern, 8 am Central. It's a ruthlessly unsentimental cop/mafia drama, the best Indian movie of 2005. (I'd call it Bollywood, but there are no songs. There will be subtitles.) Nana Patekar plays an "encounter specialist" whose assignment is to shoot gangsters and then make up a story about how he did it in self-defense. I thought the premise was a bit over the top until I read Maximum City, which has a chapter about a real-life Bombay cop whose job is exactly the one depicted in the movie.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 08:37 PM in Culture

    On wealth c. 1906

    From the Sept. 29, 1906 NYT:

    "Wealth has its disadvantages," said the philosopher.

    "Yes," answered the man with sporting inclinations, "it must be very monotonous for a man to be able to bet $5,000 or $10,000 on a horse race without caring whether he loses or not."

    Yet, if you don't care if you win or lose, why place the bet in the first place?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:50 PM in Culture

    September 26, 2006
    I want my L-TV

    Until now, the only self-identified libertarian among fictional TV characters has been “Penn Jillette” on the Showtime series “Bull$#@!”. But on Sunday’s season opener of Desperate Housewives on ABC, we got this exchange during a bedroom scene between Bree and her new boyfriend Orson:

    "I don't do that," she says. "I'm a Republican."

    “I'm a Libertarian," Orson replies. "I believe in minimizing the role of the state and maximizing individual rights. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."

    Hah! Too bad they made the libertarian character not only a creepy control freak who murdered his wife and put Mike into a coma, but a dentist.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:32 PM in Culture

    September 13, 2006
    Those who can do, those who can't?

    From a story linked at Drudge concerning the possible demise of Air America:

    Norman Wain, a Cleveland-based former radio executive and investor in Air America, says he hadn't heard about any financial difficulties. "I know nothing about it," he says. "They don't communicate with investors very well. They only come to us when they're looking for more money." The last time that happened, he says, was "three or four months ago."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:30 PM in Culture

    One Book Meme

    I've been tagged so here goes:

    1. One book that changed my life: Although it is overly dramatic to say it changed my life, when I read Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom in college I realized that I had left behind my liberal Democrat upbringing (when I was a child my father had a McGovern pin on the visor of his car) and embraced liberty.

    2. One Book I've Read More Than Once: Steve Landsburg's The Armchair Economist. A bit contrarian but a fun read.

    3. One Book I Would Want on a Desert Island: I'm tempted to say The Wealth of Nations so I'd finally have an opportunity to read all of it, but the depressing circumstances of being stuck on an island leads me to choose something humorous. My choice--Parliament of Whores by O'Rourke.

    4. One Book that Made Me Laugh: I've used O'Rourke already and it's tempting to choose an early offering from Tom Wolfe, but let's go with A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. My hiking buddy Chris gave me a copy and it's a stitch. Although Bryson is a bit crunchy for my taste he also ridicules the Forest Service for its ineptitude.

    5. One Book that Made Me Cry: I haven't read any 9/11 books but one of those would almost certainly do the trick. The sheer evil of 9/11 upsets me more than most tragedies; I remember taking my son (then about 4 months old) home that afternoon and wondering what sort of world my wife and I had brought him into. (BTW, like Brad, I am offended by folks--like here and here--who think 9/11 is some sort of government conspiracy. There's a difference between favoring limited government and being just plain nuts.) As for a book I've actually read--All But My Life by Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.

    6. One Book that I Wish Had Been Written: Something by me. I don't mean to sound flippant or narcissistic; I mean it as an indicator of respect for people who have written books.

    7. One Book I Wish Had Not Been Written: Instead of serious answer like The Communist Manifesto, I'll offer a somewhat whimsical one--my father wrote a chitlin cookbook. A truly awful concept; fortunately, I had left home before he started trying these out on the family. My father has also written several local history books, perhaps similar to the one on Granville OH that Brad is reading. I only wish he'd stuck to history and left the stomach churning cooking to someone else.

    8. One Book I'm Currently Reading: The Shackled Continent by Robert Guest. The human misery inflicted by predatory African governments would actually make this book a good candidate for the made me cry category.

    9. One Book I've Been Meaning to Read: I have a draft of JC Bradbury's forthcoming The Baseball Economist that I've been meaning to read. Technically it probably shouldn't be considered a book yet since it hasn't yet been published. Instead, I'll go with Bees in America by Tammy Horn; I hope to have a bout of nostalgia thinking about the fun I had keeping bees as a kid.

    Now to pay the tag forward--I'll tag Aeon Skoble, George Leef, and co-bloggers Tim Shaughnessy, Michael Munger, and Mike DeBow.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:13 PM in Culture

    September 11, 2006
    One book Meme

    I've been tagged in the one book meme game.

    Here are my picks:

    1. One book that has changed your life: Anarchy, State and Utopia, by Robert Nozick. I remember reading this book as a college sophomore with growing excitement: why, the things I felt in my gut actually had intellectual heft and support behind them. People much younger than me will often not realize difficult it was to grow up libertarian in the 1960s and early 1970s.
    (more below the fold)

    Read More »

    Posted by Brad Smith at 06:51 PM in Culture

    Headlines c. 2001

    As a reference, here are some random headlines from the 9/11/2001 NYT:

  • Advertising; Marshall Field's decides it's time for a big branding effort.
  • Arsenic Standard for Water Is Too Lax, Study Concludes
  • Biden Opens Wide Critique Of Bush Plan For a Shield
  • City Voters Have Heard It All As Campaign Din Nears End
  • Crowd Beats Truck Driver for Killing a 4-Year-Old
  • Despite Plan for Talks, Mideast Violence Explodes
  • E.P.A. Finds Some Soot Is Bad, Other Soot Is Worse
  • Federal Agency Says Verizon Broke Law Regarding Union
  • High and Dry in Denver; Giants Are Perfect Guests in the Broncos' New Stadium
  • Man Clinton Pardoned Balks at Testifying
  • Protect Sharks? Attacks Fuel Old Argument
  • Report Cites Vulnerabilities Of Global Navigation System
  • Reports Disagree on Fate of Anti-Taliban Rebel Chief
  • Scientists Urge Bigger Supply Of Stem Cells
  • Suicide Bomb Kills 2 Police Officers in Istanbul
  • The Politics of Panic
  • The last article is about how the administration is beginning to "panic" about the economy and criticizes the proposal to reduce the capital gains tax from 20 percent to 15 percent.

    The Biden article starts out:

    Washington, Sept. 10 - Declaring a profound difference with President Bush, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., said today that plans for missile defense sacrifice national security for the sake of a "theological" belief - and that the effort to make such a system work would cost astronomical amounts of money...Mr. Biden said the administration would create greater insecurity than at any time since the 1960s if it went ahead [with the plans to test a limited national defense system]...


    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:02 PM in Culture

    September 09, 2006
    I've been Tagged!

    Yes, tagged. More to come.

    Posted by Brad Smith at 09:05 PM in Culture

    Musings of the Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the September 9, 1906 NYT:

  • Fame is sometimes a bubble that comes from blowing our own horn.
  • Never bluntly call a man a liar. Break the news to him gently.
  • Drinking to drown sorrow is merely feeding a fire with alcohol.
  • A snapshot photograph often demonstrates that truth is stranger than fiction.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 01:11 PM in Culture

    September 05, 2006
    I have yet another namesake

    This one demonstrates remarkable talent with little physical capital.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 06:59 PM in Culture

    What's in a name?

    Advertising Age reports that Taco Bell is having a hard time convincing Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, to eat at their restaurants.

    Taco Bell's fast-food version of Mexican food isn't playing very well with Hispanics, who contributed just a half-percent to the company's same-store-sales gain of 7% in 2005, despite making up 20% of Taco Bell's core 18-to-34-year-old target market.

    If native Mexicans choose not to eat at TB is it because of the advertising or because the food isn't really Mexican food? According to one Carl Kravetz, who handles advertising for El Pollo Loco (The Crazy Chicken?!?), it's the food:
    "If they say they deliver good Mexican food to [Hispanics] they won't be believed. If they say they have good, filling, cheap American food, they may have a chance."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:58 AM in Culture

    September 02, 2006
    Musings of the Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the September 2, 1906 NYT:

  • An affinity is generally a person with money.
  • Too many cozy corners will drive a man to his club.
  • The greatness that is thrust upon a man generally goes to his head.
  • A true friend is one who won't hold you responsible tomorrow for what you say to-day.
  • Peppery remarks should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • It's the things we don't do that often give us the most unhappiness.
  • A man talks louder when he knows he is wrong than when he realizes he is right.
  • No man can hope to shine in society unless he can say nothing and make it sound interesting.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 10:54 AM in Culture

    September 01, 2006
    "You're Fired" - Who me?

    I quit watching "The Apprentice" a few years ago, but I did find it somewhat intriguing for a while. I especially liked Carolyn. Alas, Carolyn may not be on the show any more as The Don cracks the whip:

    "Being on 'The Apprentice' went to her head. She was no longer focused on business. She was giving speeches for $25,000 and doing endorsements," said a person quoted in the New York Post as an "insider."

    I wonder why Trump didn't incorporate this into the show. Instead of firing one of the apprentice-wanna-bes, he could have fired Carolyn on the show and shocked the world. As it is, it seems like The Don might be concerned that focus stays on the middle chair in the boardroom.

    I wonder if she received the news via email?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:24 AM in Culture

    August 29, 2006
    The Duke Rape Case Fraud

    Stuart Taylor has this excellent column at Slate, on the alleged - and it now appears almost certainly false - rape of a stripper by members of the Duke Lacrosse team. It's a story of dishonest, politically ambitious prosecutors; crooked cops bent on making the evidence fit the crime, ideologically driven academics, and mostly, the shameless, ideologically charged reporting of America's most influential newspaper. It's long, but well worth a read - a real life Bonfire of the Vanities.

    Posted by Brad Smith at 08:27 PM in Culture ~ in Misc. ~ in Politics

    On spelling reform c. 1906

    Filed in the things don't change drawer is the 1906 movement to reform spelling in American. Teddy Roosevelt passed an executive public order [to the Public Printer] last week ordering all government documents to be printed with the new English spellings, including tho for though, altho for although, stopt for stopped, and so forth. Andrew Carnegie has thrown some money at the project, but in the end it will die.

    In the August 29, 1906 NYT is an article announcing that Webster's Dictionary would not include the new spellings simply because Roosevelt said so. The company had this to say:

    "English is a lively enough language without a wholesale change such as that which is now being agitated. Snipped particles, like `stopt' for stopped are particularly undesirable, and hideous, and will not come into good use for a long time."
    How long? Perhaps until text messaging? What was that, 2003 or 2004?

    In another article there is concern that Congress will try to block the President's move by requiring that Congressional documents be printed using standard English with the President's/Executive branch documents being printed in reformed English. This leads to the following concern:

    [I]t may easily produce a vexatious mix-up in requiring two sets of employes at the printing office. It will be practically impossible for one set of men to follow both styles alternately without making frequent blunders in each, and two sets of men means two sets of salaries.

    As an aside, you might notice that there seem to be typos in the 1906 articles I pull from. There might be some typos, but fortunately for me many of what seem to be typos are accurate. For example, employe and to-day and per-cent are typed as they were spelled in 1905/1906. Thus, it is apparent that English does evolve and "reform" although it is interesting that the President of the United States would attempt such a reform unilaterally (consider if Bush tried to change nuclear to nucular and strategy to strategery? Although some of these Bushisms are already creeping into the language even if only in jest.)

    The simplified spelling movement is still rolling along.

    More here
    More here
    More here
    More here

    Heck, with my bad primary education you would think I'd be a life-time member.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:05 AM in Culture

    On disaster's aftermath c. 1906

    An amazing letter to the editor in the August 29, 1906 NYT:

    We had an earthquake that scared us all up to our full capacity to be frightened, followed by a conflagration which devoured all the business section and about one half the resident section, reckoning in point of population, (not area.) The loss of life will never be known, I might say three thousand, or again five thousand. Each would be simply a guess. The property loss likewise may have been $500,000,000 or again $700,000,000. I don't know, nor does any one else. Discomforts were plenty; actual suffering not at all. My family and I dined off a can of corn, eaten cold out of the can, this being our sole dish the evening after the earthquake...I carried wood and water, cooked in the streets, stood in the bread line for four hours, and with thankful heart received, in the shape of two hard-boiled eggs, my share of the millions the country at large had contributed.

    But all this is forgotten, the fact being that we are all too busy to think of it...All the weakkneed gleaners have fled; leaving the ever-springing crop of those who remained. Everybody here is busy. Personally, I hear no one discussing the safety of the city or its advantages or disadvantages as a place of investment...I have found nobody who is worrying himself over the question as to the opinions of outsiders...

    I am doing all the business I can take care of...Whether there are 70,000 people here of 350,000 I don't know, but I do know the business is here, which is the thing of interest. And it must not be forgotten that the good-will of thousands of firms went up in the fire, and the business of to-day is anybody's who goes after it. I don't believe in the history of the country there has been such an opportunity for a new house as exists to-day in San Francisco...

    That is the great advantage of this city to-day. The population has been winnowed and the chaff is scattered to the four winds of heaven. The present population of San Francisco is not worrying about its future. We haven't time at present to take much interest in daily chronicled facts that this one or that will erect a class A building. We are not worrying over the fact that the rehabilitated Palace Hotel will have five or seven gilt angels at it pinnacles. We are occupied in making money in one-storied shacks at present, and will turn our thoughts to putting our surplus into class A buildings later on.

    Wow. And this not five months after the SF earthquake. Something to think about amidst the carping sure to fill the airwaves today and the rest of the week.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:59 AM in Culture

    August 28, 2006
    Vintage turf battles

    To put it mildly, the vintage base ball community has been fairly cold to the idea of the new Vintage Base Ball Federation previously blogged about my Mike. (A taste of the responses I've seen floating around the listservs is pasted below the fold.)

    I have nothing against people making money with vintage base ball. Doing well and doing good are not incompatible. Also, I have nothing against marketing the game aggressively. My first reaction was, "Great, vintage base ball is going to get some attention here."

    But after reading more about it, my thinking was, "Oh no..."

    I have a problem with the idea of using "hyrbid" rules from the 1860s to the 1880s. In the last decade the vintage base ball movement has worked very hard to research and portray different time periods as accurately as possible. To combine some aspects of early 1860s base ball (for example, a ball caught on one bounce is an out) with 1880s base ball (for example, the use of gloves) is simply inaccurate.

    Of secondary concern, I am not thrilled with the general thrust toward more aggressive competitiveness in vintage base ball. Winning is good. But one of the main attractions of vintage base ball for both players and fans is that it eschews the worst aspects of modern life. There are few insults in vintage base ball worse than calling someone a "softballer". I realize that in real life the relatively genteel game of the 1850s gave way to the more aggressive game of the 1880s so it does matter what era you're trying to recreate. But I do hope the game remains a game for people interested at least as much in history and accuracy as in winning.

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:45 AM in Culture

    August 26, 2006
    Musings of the Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the August 26, 1906 NYT:

  • None are so blind as those who have no object in view.
  • Many a man would rather be on the level than climb upward.
  • Home is what we make it, and some fellows never make it until about 4 A.M.
  • When prosperity is with us the pessimist goes ahead announcing that this is positively the fare-well appearance.
  • It's the man who sticks to water that drinks like a fish.
  • Sitting on a young man's knee isn't a positive sign that he can support a girl forever.
  • Even marriage doesn't take the conceit out of some men.
  • The fellow who courts trouble generally ends up marrying it.
  • There wouldn't be so many sinners if people struggled to get into heaven as they do to get into society.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 01:59 PM in Culture

    Eulogy for Maynard Ferguson

    This came to me from my friend, Mike Stroup, and I reprint with permission:

    Some of us follow the careers of fantastic athletes. Others admire movie superstars. “Different” people like me admire incredible jazz musicians. Maynard Ferguson, jazz trumpeter extraordinaire, died this week. He was 78.

    I cannot condone his typical sixties “experimental” lifestyle. Nor can I really relate to his devotion to Far Eastern religious beliefs. However, I can certainly embrace his tremendous talent as a band leader, jazz arranger and amazing trumpet player. Maynard also selflessly supported music education in High Schools, giving many free seminars for disadvantaged student musicians and raising money for supplying musical instruments to poorer public schools.

    Back when I was playing saxophone in High School jazz band, I remember laying on my bed and playing Maynard’s LPs on my stereo. I would stare at the ceiling, enjoying the wonderful artistry of Maynard’s band and marveling over the incredibly high notes that he projected over his entire orchestra. Maynard effortlessly reached these high notes with such force that no other contemporary trumpet player could touch him. To play this instrument so strongly at those lofty heights takes tremendous breathing control techniques that he attributed to his ardent devotion to yoga.

    Have you heard of the Stan Kenton jazz orchestra? This popular band of the late fifties and early sixties toured world-wide to great critical acclaim. Maynard got his start there, playing lead trumpet (Yes, LEAD!) at age 15—a mere teenager! Despite Ferguson’s young age, Stan Kenton called him the best trumpeter in the world. I have to agree.

    In his early 20s, Maynard finally broke out with his own jazz orchestra, putting together some amazing jazz talents that you’ve probably heard of: names like Chuck Mangione, Bob James, and Chick Corea. Just like Kenton gave Maynard his shot, Ferguson’s band also gave these fellow musicians their footholds in the jazz world before they each became jazz greats in their own right. In the sixties, Maynard’s jazz orchestra was a showcase for his superb talent when he was at the peak of his form. From that point on, however, his career would take a gradual, downhill slide from that lofty peak. Yet, he would still remain a great musician throughout his career.

    When jazz became less and less popular in the 70s (remember the rise of disco as a music genre? many of us are trying to forget it…), Maynard felt financial pressure to become more commercial. He sought mainstream recognition in order to retain record contracts with the big name recording studios. The jazz purists howled, but what is a starving musician to do? Do you remember the screaming trumpet on the jazzy version of the song “Gonna Fly Now,” which was the theme song from Sylvester Stallone’s movie “Rocky,”? That was Maynard’s trumpet screaming at you. He earned a Grammy nomination for that song. Soulless and overtly commercial, perhaps, but it still showcased his awesome talents. And the tune was darn catchy, too. Guilty pleasures, I suppose.

    He later returned to the pure jazz scene, touring the world with small combos into the 80s and 90s. He then fell into relative obscurity during this past decade. I saw him in concert once during that twilight time, late in his career. I longed for the tight control and ultra-high notes that once emanated from his horn, but it was just not there. The spirit remained but the chops were too old. Once in a while, a few of his solos briefly warbled into the stratosphere and brought a smile to my face. For at that moment in time I was transported back to my old bedroom, all filled with high school angst and a tremendous admiration for this magnificent trumpet player. He played a large part in instilling in me a love for jazz at an early stage of my life.

    Goodbye, Maynard. The world of jazz will sorely miss you.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:26 AM in Culture

    August 23, 2006
    Drunkest cities

    From Forbes.com a list of the drunkest cities in the country, although dictionary.com has no entry for the word "drunkest."

    I suppose Forbes means the cities with the most drunk populations - can a city be drunk?

    Here's the top five:

    1. Milwaukee
    2. Minneapolis-St. Paul
    3. Columbus, OH
    4. Boston
    5. Austin, TX

    I'm not sure if I am buying the list. New Orleans is ranked 24th and tied with Tampa? Dallas is ranked 27th and Savannah GA isn't ranked at all? Washington, DC is only 20th? Hmmm...

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:28 PM in Culture

    Party Schools c. 1906

    As a follow up on Frank's post concerning party schools, I wanted to mention my pride that my alma mater (UGA) is gaining on the party school dimension even as we gain on the academic and intercollegiate football dimensions. However, I not the considerable inflation in drink specials. In the late 80s and early 90s the drink specials ranged from penny drinks through nickels and quarters.

    A little tidbit from the August 23, 1906 NYT suggests that Princeton might have been near the top of the list of party schools 100 years ago:

    The Woman's Christian Temperance Union has taken a step in the right direction in its decision to attempt the reform of the students of Princeton University...It is well known that smoking, which I believe is the more prevalent of the vices mentioned, retards and stunts the growth, and may very possibly be responsible for the lack of athletic supremacy referred to.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:13 PM in Culture

    The know not what they missed

    It seems every fall there is at least one article that lists the differences between the freshman class of this year and the freshman class of, say, 1987 (mine). As we roll into the new fall semester (we start next Monday), here's another - it includes 75 items. Wow things are changing fast!!

    Here's the top eleven:

    1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
    2. They have known only two presidents.
    3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
    4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
    5. They have grown up getting lost in "big boxes."
    6. There has always been only one Germany.
    7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
    8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
    9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
    10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
    11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
    I included #11 because a) it is true and b) it represents the 85th seal of the Apocalypse.

    The list seems a bit strained at times as I remember getting lost in the old big-box stores such as Treasure Island and K-Mart and I wonder how many freshman (and non-freshman) even know who Manuel Noriega is and why we care(d).

    [Update: Frank Stephenson emails me: "I was going to add a comment that my colleague Gary Roseman brought to my attention—items 1, 2, 4, and 6 (and perhaps others down the list)—are not literally correct. While a child the age of, say, your cutie with the DOL bib doesn’t know or remember much, she would have been alive while GWB is president. The same can be said of the items on the list."]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:52 PM in Culture

    August 18, 2006
    How things change c. 1906

    From the August 18, 1906 NYT:

    Gompers, with his counsel, appeared at Washington to advocate a bill prohibiting the Federal Courts from issuing injunctions in any case between employer and employe, except to prevent irreparable injury to property or to a property right. But its atrocity consisted in the proviso that "for the purposes of this act, no right to carry on business of any particular kind or at any particular place, or at all, shall be considered or treated as property, or as constituting a property right."

    In other words, a mob, according to Gompers, should be permitted without molestation or interruption by the courts, to put out of business any employer who had incurred the displeasure of "organized labor." It is perhaps the most outrageous, un-American, and anarchical project of law ever submitted to an American Congress. After explaining to Gompers, gently but firmly, how infamous the proposal really is, as a denial of essential human rights the claim of which upon the courts for protection is older than the Constitution, and as well established as any other principle in law or equity.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:29 PM in Culture

    August 14, 2006
    Personal privacy concerns c. 1906

    From the August 14, 1906 NYT:

    A force of clerks from the Department of Commerce and Labor at Washington invaded the Surrogates' Court on the ground floor of the County Court House yesterday morning for the purpose of making up records of all divorces granted in this city for the last twenty years...The records, when they are completed, will be used for purposes of information by Congress, when it takes up the question of a uniform divorce law...In each divorce case the clerk is expected to find out and fill in the answers to these questions:

    1 - State or county in which married
    2 - Date of marriage
    3 - Date of separation
    4 - Date of filing petition
    5 - Who was libellant? Husband? Wife?
    6 - How as notice served? Personally? By publication?
    7 - Was case contested? Yes. No.
    8 - Was decree granted? Yes. No.
    9 - Date of decree or judgment
    10 - Number of years married
    11 - Cause for which divorce
    12 - If not direct, was intemperance an indirect cause? Yes. No.
    13 - Kind of divorce. Absolute. Limited.
    14 - Number of children by this union affected by decree.
    15 - Was alimony asked? Yes. No.
    16 - Was alimony granted? Yes. No.
    17 - Occupation of husband. Wife.
    18 - Residence of libellee.

    The coming of the government clerks was entirely unexpected, and caused no little talk in the County Court House, where it was pointed out that their investigations would doubtless create more or less uneasiness in the minds of those divorced persons who have been wise enough and lucky enough to keep the fact that they have figured in divorce litigation out of the papers.

    The article points out that the data are included in the divorce decrees but that these decrees are under seal.

    All of this sounds eerily similar to the DOJ requests for search history from ISPs and search engines. Many privacy advocates suggested that even anonymous data concerning Internet searches could be used to back-track to an individual. This has been proven a couple of times using the AOL data that was "released" to the public and then "un-released."

    In a similar fashion, could government clerks of 1906 be trusted to keep quiet about their knowledge that certain society types had a drinking problem that led to a divorce, or that a certain divorcee receives alimony?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:06 PM in Culture

    August 12, 2006
    Musings of a Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the August 12, 1906 NYT:

  • The fellow who is always grunting about his ailments generally outlives those from whom he expects sympathy.
  • Ajax defied the lightning, but the man who defies his mother-in-law makes Ajax look like a pinhead.
  • When a woman's face is her fortune it is not necessary for her to be continually flashing her roll.
  • Nowadays when a superstitious man sees a red-headed girl he looks around for a white automobile.
  • Some people are so sensitive that they would rather be shot at than laughed at.
  • It takes a pretty big navy nowadays to enable a nation to paddle its own canoe.
  • A man is soon forgotten after he is dead, unless you happen to marry his widow.
  • Wireless telegraphy is comparatively new, but the kick under the table is as old as marriage.
  • Many a right bower is turned down in politics as well as in euchre.
  • It is perhaps better to tell your troubles than to listen to other people's.
  • Every rose has its thorn, and, what is more, the thorn doesn't fade.
  • It is hard to keep up a light heart with a heavy liver.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 05:01 PM in Culture

    August 08, 2006
    Perhaps it was worth it? c. 1906

    From the August 8, 1906 NYT:

    UNION CITY, Tenn - After deliberating for more than three hours the jury in the suit of Miss Lola Walker, who is said to have formerly been a society girl and who was later a chorus girl, returned a verdict this afternoon awarding her $21,000 damages against Col. Richard Edwards, a wealthy young clubman, whose residence is in Union City and who is well known in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis...Miss Walker brought suit for $50,000, alleging breach of promise of marriage. An appeal will be taken to the Supreme Court by Col. Edwards.

    I am not sure what the characterizations such as "society girl", "chorus girl," and "wealthy clubman" specifically indicate as these terms are not used today. However, one gets the feeling that they are not intended as complements.

    Notwithstanding the expected appeal, an interesting question to ponder is whether the $21,000 was a reasonable price to avoid matrimony to Miss. Walker.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:34 PM in Culture

    August 05, 2006
    On cynicism about the media c. 1906

    Current-day cynics about the U.S. media are perhaps less novel and less clever than they think. From the August 5, 1906 NYT:

    [O]n one occasion she [Queen Maud of Norway] was with her sisters at a public gathering in London, and noticed a curious reporter gazing at their every movement. Accordingly, she wrote something on a piece of paper, and, making a pretense of handing it to one of her sisters, dropped it. The reporter, of course, in great glee picked it up, expecting to get a scoop for his paper. Imagine his chagrin when he fond written on it the commonplace remark: 'My new boots pinch me terribly.'"

    That nothing came of this incident simply proves the denseness or the timidity of the London reporter. Had an American knight of the pencil been thus favored, his paper the next morning would have had the note reproduced in fac simile, with a drawing of the boots of the Princess, speculation as to the location of the offending corn or bunion, and a dissertation on the folly of wearing tight boots. Rising to the occasion and jumping to meet an opportunity are essential in up-to-date reporting.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:38 PM in Culture

    August 01, 2006
    Cornerstones c. 1906

    From the Aug. 1, 1906 NYT:

    The cornerstone of the new Senate office building facing the Capitol plaza was laid at noon to-day [July 31]. The exercises were informal. In the stone a sealed box was placed containing a Bible, copies of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Constitution, photographs of President [Theodore] Roosevelt, Vice President Fairbanks, and of several public buildings, and copies of a number of official documents.

    This was the cornerstone for the Russell Senate Office Building.

    Talk about mission creep. The official RSOB webpage states the following:

    Today 36 senators and 5 committees occupy space in the Russell Building, which in 1958 housed 96 senators and 10 committees.

    I wonder what the Bible was for? Perhaps a symbolic gesture that the country is founded on something contained therein? I wonder if the Senators and committees that have offices in the building know or would even care about such symbolism.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:40 PM in Culture

    July 30, 2006
    Palestine c. 1906

    I am slowly wrapping my brain around the Middle East situation and its long history. Most people are familiar with the Biblical history of the Jewish people in the region, but what is less familiar (at least to me) is what has been going on over the past two-hundred years or so.

    A lot of talk show hosts insist that there was nothing called "Palestine" before the 1940s. Perhaps that is true in some sense. However, from the July 30, 1906 NYT comes this interesting one-paragraph story lifted from The British Weekly:

    Some twenty years ago Palestine meant little to the majority of Jews. Now all is changing. Nearly every year fresh colonies have been established till now they number of thirty, and time is adding to their number and extent. One-third of Palestine proper is once again Jewish soil. So anxious are the Jews to again get possession that they endeavor to purchase all that comes into the market.
    The last sentence is so very important. If it were true, it would suggest that the beginnings of the Jewish state had its roots in the free market. If Jewish settlers properly and legally purchased the land on which they were forming their settlements/colonies in the early 1900s, it is entirely possible that the two groups (Palestinians and Jews) could have peacefully co-existed even as the Jewish settlements/colonies grew.

    On the other hand, much like there is concern in this country about foreigners "buying up" too much land, there could have been confrontations over time. One wonders if the first and second world wars hadn't occurred, along with the ever expanding pogroms and massacres of Jews around Europe (and European Russia) during the first half of the twentieth century, whether there would be a completely different situation in the Middle East today.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:10 AM in Culture

    July 27, 2006
    Is that whiplash?

    The BBC reports that Metallica will make their songs available for download on iTunes and other music sites. This is a 180 degree turnaround from the six or more years that the band has refused to do this for fears that the pirates would make it impossible to ever sell a digital song again.

    I suppose 40 million iPods might indicate that the whole music biz is changing - for the better? - and a band like Metallica, which will likely have less new music relative to their old music, might be smart to allow folks to buy their music one song at a time.

    From the BBC story:

    A statement on the band's website said: "Over the last year or so, we have seen an ever-growing number of Metallica fans using online sites like iTunes to get their music.

    "So, in continuing with the tradition of offering our albums for sale online as well as making our live concerts available for download in their entirety we are now offering fans the opportunity to obtain our songs individually."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:29 PM in Culture

    July 23, 2006
    Nigerian email c. 1906?

    Printed on page 6 of the July 23, 1906 NYT:

    Sir: As an old experimentalist I have discovered a way to increase the speed of marine vessels indefinitely, making them the fastest means of transport in the world. I cannot afford to get wide patent rights, nor can I exhibit a model, without divulging my secrets. Do you think that any of your readers would be able to tell me how to get the matter taken up?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:57 PM in Culture

    July 22, 2006
    Potentially interesting history book?

    Occasional tidbits in the paper from 100 years ago are suggestive of what might prove interesting history books (or dissertations? gasp!). How about this one from the July 22, 1906 NYT:

    RICHMOND, Va - Frederick Smith, colored, one of the panel of twenty-four jurors summoned to try Jefferson Davis for high treason against the United States died in the city home here to-day. He was nearly 90 years old.

    I wonder about the stories of the 24 jurors. They would prove more interesting (to me at least) than a book about the O.J. Simpson jury.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:05 PM in Culture

    Musings of the gentle cynic c. 1906

    From the July 22, 1906 NYT:

  • Too many nightcaps are apt to go to a fellow's head.
  • Nothing trains a man's memory like lending money.
  • The people who tell their troubles are never gifted with a sense of humor.
  • In spite of the bookbinders, most books are bound by precedent.
  • Dyspepsia is a handy thing on which to blame a naturally bad disposition.
  • The average man hates to play poker with a bad loser almost as much as with a good winner.
  • There are men who labor under the delusion that if they should hide their light under a bushel the whole world would be dark.
  • Posted by Craig Depken at 05:02 PM in Culture

    July 19, 2006
    Too busy to care? c. 1906

    From the July 19, 1906 NYT:

    The Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island is to be painted. The goddess is to receive a coat within as well as without. In the eighteen years during which she has borne aloft her torch, she as been exposed to the salt winds of the Atlantic, and their action has begun to affect her bronze plates. A coating of verdigris has spread over them, and it is feared that unless something is done quickly they will be seriously weakened and the statue itself endangered....

    Signs of dilapidation are also seen about the island. In many places the walls are crumbling and the electric lighting plant has long been lacking the proper care. Capt. George C. Burnell, who has charge of the statue and the signal station on the island, denies the report that the stairway inside the statue is unsafe. He said it probably would become unsafe if neglected a few years longer. The work of rejuvenating the statue will be begun immediately...

    To a considerable extend the statue has been allowed to remain incomplete since it was erected. The foundations need to be finished off to match the pedestal, and the openings in the latter, which have been simply boarded up, will be supplied with iron doors. We will also put in an iron approach instead of the present wooden stairs, fix up the walls of the fort, which are tumbling down in places, and build a waiting station for visitors at the pier. Last but not least, we will paint the statue inside and out.

    Congress appropriated $62,800 for the project (about $1.3 million in 2005 CPI adjusted dollars).

    I wonder if the lack of concern about the Statue of Liberty was because the U.S. was not yet the superpower it was to become. While Roosevelt is doing his part to extend the influence of the United States, not until WWI and, perhaps especially, WWII will the Statue of Liberty come to mean something different?

    It is interesting to read about the rather blase attitude taken concerning what today would be considered by many one of the best symbols of the United States. However, it should be noted that the statue didn't become a national monument until 1924.

    Interesting tidbits:

  • Liberty Island used as hospital for Confederate Prisoners.
  • Congress authorizes New York Harbor for the Statue of Liberty and appoints Gen. W.T. Sherman to select site. He chooses Bedloe's Island. [Like it or lump it, W.T. Sherman was all over the place - from LSU to Total War to Reconstruction to Liberty Island.]

    Here's information on Bedloe's Island and a picture c. 1905

    Another time-line of Bedloe's Island a.k.a. Liberty Island

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:08 PM in Culture

    July 15, 2006
    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    From the July 15, 1906 NYT:

    • Making a mountain out of a molehill appeals to the real estate speculator.
    • The people who write articles on how to succeed are not always able to sell them.
    • A fellow never knows he is in love till the girl tells him.
    • It is true that a woman promises to love, honor, and obey, but a man promises to endow her with all his earthly goods, so it's an even break.
    • A man never hears the best things that are said about him, because he is dead then.
    • Only a few of us can have our faces on banknotes. Most of us would prefer to have our hands on them anyway.
    • There are no return tickets issues from the frying pan into the fire.
    • The fellow who is looking for trouble frequently overestimates his capacity.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:18 PM in Culture

    July 14, 2006
    The Font Wars

    I know almost nothing about typography, so I found this article from Sunday's International Herald Tribune, "Quirky serifs aside, Georgia fonts win on Web," to be very interesting and informative. From the opening:

    Log on to The New York Times's Web site, and you'll see it there. Just as you'll spot it on the Web sites of London's Frieze Art Fair, the architecture magazine Metropolis, the artist Damien Hirst, and on blog, after blog, after blog.

    All of these Web sites use the same typeface - Georgia. Typefaces slip in and out of fashion like every other area of design, but right now Georgia is the most fashionable one on the Internet. "A few designers have mentioned that there seems to be a 'Georgia revival' going on," says Matthew Carter, the British-born, Boston-based designer who developed Georgia for Microsoft in 1996. "It seems a bit young to have died and been revived already."

    Of course, I immediately logged onto the NYT website and found the font recognizable but pretty so-so IMHO. (I also discovered that Bruce Arena had been fired.)

    Clicking back to the Tribune article, I finished reading it with zest. How often we take for granted all the talent and resources that go into producing things just so we can take them for granted. And how crucial spontaneous capitalist order is to supporting the innovation of things we value without even realizing it. It made me wonder in which font "I, Pencil" was originally published.

    When designing my website I chose, with Kirznerian ignorance, to use Verdana. It just looked the cleanest. So I was pleased to read the story of this font in the Tribune article. The passage is also revealing of the many issues with electronic typography that readers can essentially take for granted.

    By the mid-1990s, as more and more people were using Internet and e-mail, we were spending so long reading information on screen that legibility became a critical issue. Concerned that none of the existing digital fonts were easily readable, Microsoft commissioned a collection of screen-friendly typefaces to be given away free with its Windows software. [Matthew] Carter [who developed Georgia for Microsoft in 1996] was asked to produce two, a serif and sans serif.

    As the most popular digital fonts at the time were sans serifs, he began with that. He started by analyzing why existing typefaces were so hard to read on screen, and worked out how to rectify the problem by focusing on the characters that are most easily confused - i, j, l and the number 1. Stylistically he made each one as clear as possible, by designing them in simple shapes with no superfluous details. He paid particular attention to the spacing between characters, having realized that this often caused confusion in other computer fonts.

    The result was Verdana, which was launched by Microsoft in 1996 and given away free to millions of people with Windows.

    I would shout two cheers for Microsoft except I'm posting this on IE7 Beta 3 and it is terribly buggy. So just one cheer for now.

    Another curiosity. Recently while drumming up some faux letterhead to use in soft copy, I was drawn to Sylfaen. I searched it and found that it is popular in Latin, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and the Cyrillic, among others. Perhaps that's because Slyfaen supports many of these languages' characters.

    I perceive something bigger than style, fashion and legibility in the font wars. Each font is a collection of a particular set of ideas--a claim with which the talented and hard-working Matthew Carter and most typographers would probably agree. How widely a font is used represents a measure of success for the ideas embodied in it. Social critics (especially economists) like to say "ideas have consequences," but too few economists pay attention to how ideas propagate. Often, I think, idea propagation relies heavily on the subtle. I regularly read stuff from the New York Times, but only today did I bother to recognize and appreciate the font. How many dead fonts are there, lying as heaps of rejected, forgotten ideas?

    On a final note, two questions.
    1. Is there intellectual property in font design?
    2. What font does Division of Labour use?
    Comments open for awhile.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:38 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (1)

    July 13, 2006
    Advertising restrictions c. 1906

    From the July 13, 1906 NYT:

    The National Billposters' Association to-day decided to stop advertising Satan. Devils in all forms, whether with hoofs, horns, and tails or the more refined creations in evening dress are to be eliminated from advertising matter distributed by the association.

    The members did not specify their objection to pictorial representations of the evil one, but will not post bills on which he figures.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:50 PM in Culture

    Sad days a century apart

    There are so many similarities between the news of today and the news of a century ago. Perhaps it would be the same if I were reading the paper from 76 years ago or 123 years ago. Consider these two stories of horrible tragedy:

    From July 11, 2006:

    BALLWIN, MO. - Five children -- four of them siblings -- drowned during a church outing when they were caught in a river's current, apparently while trying to help a sixth child who was rescued, authorities and the victims' relatives said Monday....Witnesses said the children -- ages 10 to 17 -- were swept away in the Meramec River on Sunday evening.

    From the July 13, 1906 NYT:

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Seven girls were drowned to-day in Cedar River, only three blocks from home, while wading. The smallest child slipped into a deep hole and in trying to rescue her six others were drowned. Ruth Klersey was the only one of the party to escape. The dead...ranged in age from 7 to 16 years.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:44 PM in Culture

    July 11, 2006
    BBQ List

    Delta's Sky magazine asked readers for a list of the best BBQ joints in their states. Here's the list.

    Looking at the four submissions for Ohio, I can't complain about City Barbecue being on the list. It's become a small chain now but they've maintained high quality and a certain shabbiness that is a necessary part of the BBQ experience. On the other hand Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati is AWESOME, but doesn't really qualify in my book as BBQ. I seriously love the place but it's apples and oranges to compare Montgomery Inn with a real BBQ joint.

    Now if you're ever in Bowling Green, Ohio. (I know. Why would you be?) Go to Ebony's on Wooster Ave. This guy's got the best NC style 'cue outside of well NC.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:28 PM in Culture

    July 07, 2006
    On immigration c. 1906

    From the July 6, 1906 NYT:

    Last year 850,000 [immigrants] landed here, the previous greatest number having been 788,289 in 1905. It was in that year that Hungarians displaced Italians as the greatest contributors to the dilution of the Anglo-Saxon race....The arrival of Austro-Hungarians at the head of the list is unwelcome for several reasons. Their illiteracy and disregard of law are high, and they are among the races which settle in the East, only one-fourth going West. They are not skilled workers, contributing hardly anything but crude muscle to the country of their adoption. And worse yet, they do not assimilate any more than the Chinese. Part of this is due to their alienage being in higher degree than that of the arrivals from Western Europe, but more of it is due to a settled policy encouraged from home...There is but cool welcome here for those who emphasize their differences from us, and hold themselves aloof from our assimilating influences.

    Wow. In general, there was a definite lack of "political correctness" in the writing of 1906, but it is amazing to me how similar the language concerning the Hungarians in 1906 is to contemporaneous language describing immigrants.

    Perhaps the NYT of 1906 reflected the thoughts of its readership, just as the NYT of 2006 likely reflects the thoughts of its readership. Regardless, the article points out that fear of `them furners,' depicted so well in Gangs of New York (set during the 1850s-1860s), is not new.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:46 PM in Culture

    June 29, 2006
    Say it ain't so: Harry's Toast

    Professor Bainbridge makes a good case that Harry Potter is a goner in the 7th and final book.

    Indeed, most great stories end with the world being redeemed by the hero followed by the death or departure of the hero. Moonglum's sacrificial death to allow Elric to blow the Horn of Fate followed, of course, by Elric's own death. Frodo's departure to the Undying Lands. Anakin Skywalker's redemptive death.

    I might add King Arthur to the list.

    I have been saying for some time that Harry's undoing is going to come at the hands of his best friend, Ron. (Think Lancelot.) Ron's increasing jealousy of Harry's fame and especially his money is going to get the best of him. It may even be unintentional but something Ron does (probably for money) is going to be Harry's ultimate undoing. In the end Ron will be a hero as he realizes the error of his ways. Or I could be wrong. :-)

    I know I'll cry when (ok, if) Harry dies.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:39 AM in Culture

    June 26, 2006
    NYT editorial page c. 1906

    At one time the NYT was a champion of individual liberty. Try this editorial from the June 26, 1906:

    When those employed in any profession, trade, or calling through their accredited representatives make the rules and regulations under which they are willing to work no other authority should be recognized.

    This Great Truth seems to be the leading plank in the political platform of the Abraham Lincoln Democratic League. It might be more tersely put, thus: "It takes one to make a bargain."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:50 AM in Culture

    June 24, 2006
    "Serious Study: Immaturity Levels Rising"

    That's the headline of this story, which I found irresistible. Money excerpt:

    Specifically, it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth.

    As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry.

    Among scientists, the phenomenon is called psychological neoteny.


    While the human mind responds to new information over the course of any individual’s lifetime, Charlton [the study's author] argues that past physical environments were more stable and allowed for a state of psychological maturity. In hunter-gatherer societies, that maturity was probably achieved during a person’s late teens or early twenties, he said.

    “By contrast, many modern adults fail to attain this maturity, and such failure is common and indeed characteristic of highly educated and, on the whole, effective and socially valuable people," he said.

    "People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”

    I'd read the study itself, but I'm going out to play now.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:42 PM in Culture

    The Gentle Cynic c. 1906

    The June 24, 1906 NYT reports the "Musings of the Gentle Cynic"

    • Oratory is merely talk with a frock coat on.
    • If at first you don't succeed, do it over; but don't overdo it.
    • What's the good of a cookbook when it doesn't tell how to keep a cook?
    • The choir may sing "Peace on Earth," but that doesn't mean peace in the choir.
    • A girl's first proposal always convinces her that it will be necessary to establish a waiting list.
    • It's a poor fool that can't be worked both ways.
    • The fellow who falls in love at first sight deserves another look.
    • Putting up a sign "Post no bills" won't keep them from coming through the mails.
    • God created the first woman, but the devil was hanging around and stole the pattern.
    • Some men are born great, some shrink, and other never find out how small they really are.
    • A plain duty is naturally the most unattractive.
    • It is a poor shoe that can't keep body and sole together.
    • He who cuts off his nose to spite his face can't very well blow about it.
    • Don't look for trouble unless you know what to do when you find it.
    • The higher education often demonstrates that the more we know the less we believe.
    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:30 PM in Culture

    June 22, 2006
    Best jobs in America

    College professor is #2. Here is the list and lots of other fun stuff, from Money and Salary.com. Now I gotta get back to work. Heh heh. Yeah right!

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:44 PM in Culture

    June 19, 2006
    The Searchable Bard

    Google duplicates the Project Guttenberg with a site dedicated to Shakespeare.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:04 PM in Culture

    On workman's comp c. 1906

    From the June 18, 1906 NYT:

    The [man] had the job of poking his head through a hole at the end of a short target range, and submitting to a bombardment of baseballs by any one who chose to pay 5 cents for three throws. He was supposed to dodge the balls. This feature of the circus proved popular, and few persons visited the circus without taking a try at the dusky animated mark. The [man] had a sort of head protector for the more sensitive parts of his cranium, but on one occasion, when a particularly husky young man threw a ball with great speed, the protector slipped and the [man] received a blow that laid him out and sent him to the hospital tent for treatment. He was so badly hurt that he resigned the job, and that part of the circus was discontinued.

    There were rumors that the man had died of his injuries, but that had not been confirmed. The custodians of the Bayonne Hospital, for which the circus was held, wonder if they will be liable for the man's injuries.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:04 AM in Culture

    June 10, 2006
    Happy Birthday DP

    This weekend marks the the 115th "birthday" of Dr. Pepper soda. Star-Telegram story here and the oldest bottling plant in Dublin, the fastest growing town in Texas [get it?].

    The Dublin plant is unique in that it produces DP with the original cane sugar recipe.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:59 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 07, 2006
    I was too scared to post this yesterday

    As the number of the beast (Rev 13:17-8), 666 holds a special place amongst things scary. Yet June 6, 2006 went by without spooky mention here on DoL. As a logophile, I think that's a missed opportunity because the fear of this number has a name. Folks, the word of the day (for yesterday) is "hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia," which means "I have to rest my tongue now." That's a whopping 14 syllables packed into 29 letters. Wow! And you know what I just realized? When you add 29 to 666, you get 695, which is what I paid for my lunch buffet yesterday! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

    On a calmer note, WikiPedia has some cool mathematics of the number 666. For example, I didn't know that 666 is an "abundant number," or that 666 is a prime reciprocal magic square based on 1/149 in base 10. Most curiously of all, the Roman numeral for 666 contains every Roman numeric symbol for 500 and less in the exact reverse order.

    BTW, hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia does not appear to be an official English word. It has entries on answers.com (here) and urbandictionary.com (here), but not on Merriam-Wesbster Online or dictionary.com. My Webster's unabridged is back in California so no word from that source either...

    Anyway, happy June 7th everyone. Glad you made it.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:06 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 02, 2006
    50 Greatest Libertarian Songs

    As Bob Lawson noted a few days ago, John Miller of National Review has run a piece on the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs. Click the link for the whole list, but here are the top 5:

    1. The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
    2. Beatles - Taxman
    3. Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
    4. Lynard Skynard - Sweet Home Alabama
    5. Beach Boys - Wouldn't it be Nice

    You can read Miller's article for commentary on why he chose the songs he did. Several of them are libertarian in orientation (e.g. the aforementioned Taxman, Rush's The Trees and Red Barchetta), but many are more traditionally conservative. Some of those songs, though, such as the Raiders anti-drug anthem Kicks (#19), dwell heavily on the idea of personal responsibility. But The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (#37), or Wake Up Little Suzie (#40) are more about traditional conservative values.

    Omitted entirely from the list is my favorite libertarian pop hit,

    Read More »

    Posted by Brad Smith at 05:02 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (6)

    May 31, 2006
    Flavors come and flavors go

    A communique from reader Thomas Edwards, posted here with permission:

    The most important issue is the elimination of Diet Vanilla Coke, which I have noticed has also led to a parallel reduction in the distribution of Diet Vanilla Pepsi. DVP is basically only available in large grocery stores now in the Washington, DC, metro area. Before DVC was eliminated, DVP was available in most convenience stores as well.

    Diet Black Cherry & Black Cherry Vanilla Coke tastes pretty bad to me.
    I know there are others in my camp because of the number of online
    petitions for the return of Diet Vanilla Coke.

    Unfortunately, we lovers of the pure diet vanilla colas appear to be
    in the minority, as lots of people do seem to like the Black Cherry

    Here is a BBC story on the discontinuation of Vanilla Coke, Diet Vanilla Coke, and Diet Coke with Lemon. Wikipedia is all over the history of Diet Vanilla Coke here.

    Btw, Co-blogger Craig wondered whether I'd noticed Coca-Cola Blak. Yes, I mentioned it here in December.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:58 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 30, 2006
    Conservative Rock?

    John J. Miller at NRO gives us the 50 greatest conservative rock songs.

    [HT: Dave Reed]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:14 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 29, 2006
    More on soda

    Following up on Larry's post below, living here in the heart of DP country we have had the Berries and Cream DP for a few months.

    My suspicion is that the Berries and Cream Dr. Pepper is likely to be a short-run production. Why? Because it's not good, at least for this Diet Dr. Pepper fan. Of course, there's no accounting for taste, so my prediction may be wrong.

    As for increased competition for shelf space, Larry failed to mention Coca-Cola Black [I think] coffee laced soda, and all the new "low calorie energy drinks" that somehow defy the first law of thermodynamics.

    Here in Arlington, the soda "aisle" is now augmented by pallets of 12 packs of Coke or Pepsi products positioned in the prime real estate at the end of the aisles. One of the two is "on sale" for $2.50 a 12 pack every week, but never both. That is an interesting equilibrium.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:20 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 26, 2006
    The soft drink aisle is running out of shelf space

    Dr. Pepper has recently introduced a Berries and Cream flavor, to go along with its regular and Cherry Vanilla versions. Pepsi has announced that this fall it will bring out Dole Sparklers, “an entirely new line of sparkling juice drinks,” and Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 07:09 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Media induced violence c. 1906

    The link between media violence and youth violence is tenable, yet it is intuitively appealing, and evidently has been for some time.

    From the May 26, NYT:

    No more are German youths to read of the adventures of Jack Harkaway among the Indians; no longer will they be able to spend their pfennings on translations of "Texas Jack" and "Nick Carter." Even if international complications come, the Prussian officials are determine that these pernicious influences shall be removed. A decree has just been issued by which the police forbid the street sale of American dime novels. The declare that the case of Wilhelm Klein was only the latest of a long series of similar cases, and they have made up their minds that the influence of the dime novel is responsible for a deplorable outbreak of juvenile crime.
    An antique example of America exporting its culture to the rest of the world?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:37 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 25, 2006
    On bribery c. 1906

    From the May 25, 1906 NYT:

    Frederick Vrooman, an assistant trainmaster, told the commission that he had received gifts of money in amounts from $5 to $20 from various coal companies, which he named.

    "Why did they give you this money?" questioned Mr. Glasgow.

    "I suppose they expected some favors."

    "Were the favors granted?"

    "Not that I recall."

    "Then why did you take the money?"

    "Well, if there was money to be given out I was there to take it."

    "Is that your position now?"

    "It always has been."

    Perhaps this is what Rep. Jefferson was thinking? If Congress-people were more honest about their corruption, both "legal" and "illegal," perhaps their poll numbers would actually increase.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:01 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    It takes a village c. 1906

    In the May 25, 1906 NYT is a bizarre story:

    OSHKOSH, Wis. - Complaint has been made against a farmer living about five miles southwest of Neenah that he has been hitching four of his seven children to a corn plow or cultivator which he compelled them to drag through a ten-acre truck garden while he guided it....The farmer, it is alleged, was rearing them [the children] in ignorance.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:40 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 21, 2006
    Nicotine Fiends c. 1906

    Alas, this poor bloke didn't think to sue Big Tobacco. From the May 21, 1906 NYT:

    AMSTERDAM, N.Y. - Louis Allis, a young man of this city who has been smoking sixty Turkish cigarettes a day, is to be taken to the Utica Insane Asylum. Last night he became violent and it was necessary to summon two policemen to take him to the station house.

    He continually calls for cigarettes. The doctors say that his nervous system is entirely broken down and he may not recover.

    Wow, Turkish smokes can be strong, and sixty a day would be 5 per hour in a twelve hour day? That's a lot of chain smoking and I imagine one's nervous system might be effected. Nevertheless, the Insane Asylum?

    In the bizarro world that is the current culture surrounding cigarettes, private individuals sue Big Tobacco, governments sue Big Tobacco, and governments depend on said individuals purchasing cigarettes for tax revenue to fund their projects.

    Thus, we find ourselves in the strange predicament that the state and cigarette companies want us to purchase cigarettes - and three packs a day (60 smokes) would do wonders for the tax revenue of a state and profit for a cigarette company - but not smoke them (at least not in the workplace, not in a restaurant, not in a bar, not within 50 feet of an entrance, not in your car, not around kids less than 10, not within 100 feet of a school).

    Just last week, the great leaders in Austin, TX, passed a $1 per pack tax to fund primary and secondary schools here in Texas (bold prediction: actual tax revenue will be less than projected, and promised property-tax reductions will be short-lived if they are not stillborn).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:00 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 19, 2006
    With friends like these

    I occasionally find myself wanting to defend my Christianity and/or Catholicism to other libertarians who seem to believe that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Indeed, one of John Paul 2's later encyclicals is entitled Faith and Reason, where he argues the two are compatible and reinforcing, since both faith and reason are ordered to the truth.

    However, there are always fellow believers who succeed in making the rest of us look like buffoons to the rest of the world. (This is still one of my favorite posts.) There is a group called PrayLive that has decided to pray for world peace...no, wait, for an end to poverty...no, wait again. They are praying "for the lowering of gas prices." Official site here, news report about a DC rally here, news report about a Hollywood rally (big surprise) here. I would blog more about this, but I have to go to the cathedral to pray that God will reduce my mortgage payment to $100 a month.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 11:24 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 11, 2006

    This just in from the monkey research front (selected excerpts):

    Drunk Monkeys Mirror People By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

    May 9, 2006—Monkeys drink more alcohol when housed alone, and some like to end a long day in the lab with a boozy cocktail, according to a new analysis of alcohol consumption among members of a rhesus macaque social group.

    The study, recently published in the journal Methods, also found that booze affects monkeys much the same way it affects people.

    "It was not unusual to see some of the monkeys stumble and fall, sway, and vomit," Chen [one of the study’s authors and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center in Maryland] added. "In a few of our heavy drinkers, they would drink until they fell asleep."

    For the initial experiment, 21 females gained access to an aspartame-sweetened ethanol concoction during a group "happy hour." Neck collars registered the amount of fluid consumed, and each monkey received a blood alcohol level test at the end of the period.

    In a follow-up experiment, 10 monkeys were housed individually during the "happy hour."

    "The singly housed monkeys certainly drank more than the socially housed monkeys- at least two to three-fold more," Chen told Discovery News. "With the socially housed monkeys, there are a number of factors that can potentially compete with access to alcohol, such as social status or dominance ranking."

    Lower-ranked monkeys and males tended to drink more overall, but certain individuals consistently drank more than others, regardless of status or housing conditions.

    "Similar to humans, rhesus macaques have individual differences in taste preference, stress levels, drug tolerance and genetic background that lead to differences in alcohol intake," explained Chen.

    In yet another study, the scientists gave a group of male monkeys 24-hour access to the beverage dispensers. According to the researchers, a spike in consumption immediately followed the facility’s working hours.

    "Like humans, monkeys are more likely to drink after stressful periods, such as soon after the daily 8-5 testing hours and after a long week of testing," said Chen.

    Look for Bush Administration officials to invoke the new evidence as further support for ethanol subsidies. "I'm workin hard to give Americans a comprehensive energy policy, one that's funnier than a drunk monkey."

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:31 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 09, 2006
    Must Love Dogs

    "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session," goes an old saying. But now and then a legislature does something right, even if it is only correcting something the legislature did before.

    The Florida legislature closed out its session last week by passing legislation allowing dogs to join their owners in outdoor seating at restaurants. The law had formerly prohibited their presence, even in these outdoor areas. Yeah! One thing I always liked about living in Ecuador many years ago was the ability to take my dog into restaurants. This is the kind of thing that really has little to do with public health, and that the market is perfectly good at regulating. This small step to increase freedom will make the lives of thousands of Floridians just a little bit more enjoyable.

    And note, too, that the legislature also did away with a per drink tax on alcoholic beverages, and named a state pie - the former being an objectively good thing, the latter a better use of time than many other things they could have done. They provided for voter registration at bait shops and gun shops, which for some reason the St. Pete Times doesn't like - presumably, the paper is all for easier registration, just not of gun toting, fishing yahoos.

    On bigger things, the legislature's record was mixed. But allowing dogs into restaurants - well, I'm thinking of moving south.

    Posted by Brad Smith at 01:44 PM in Culture ~ in Funny Stuff ~ in Law ~ in Misc. ~ in Politics  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 05, 2006
    Cheers! New wine blog from USA Today

    First, happy Cinco de Mayo. When you're done with your Corona (worst beer in Mexico) hangover, check out the new wine blog from USA Today.

    On May 12, we will launch a wine blog on usatoday.com called Cheers.

    Every day, I'll post a recommendation of a bottle that costs $15 or less in stores and that is available in most major markets. Working with wines I encounter in trade tastings, wine-judging competitions, restaurants and bottles I buy on my own, plus samples sent by wineries, I'll sort and select the ones that stand out from the crowd.

    The idea is to test the oft-repeated assertion that more good-quality, low-cost wine is available to consumers now than at any point in history.

    The recommendations will be archived and indexed by type of wine so that you can easily find a favorite entry.

    Story here.

    Very cool, IMHO. My only complaint is, why restrict it to $15? In my humble, limited experience, bottles in this range can be difficult to distinguish and so I usually don't put very much effort into making selections. However, in the $20-$30 range, there is....well....quite a range. I would be a lot more interested to hear an expert's daily take on bottles where careful selection can really make a big difference.

    But this is very cool, nonetheless.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:35 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    A barrier to cultural free trade falls

    Ending a 40-year ban, the government of Pakistan is now allowing Indian movies to be shown on television. Bollywood films have long been popular in Pakistan through under-the-counter distribution of videos and DVDs.

    One private Pakistani channel will be airing a "Festival of Amitabh Bachchan" films this month. Bachchan was the biggest Bollywood hero of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is still a popular star. The curious selection of films to be broadcast includes
    Don, which I recommend as an over-the-top "masala" (action-comedy-romance-musical-melodrama) flick from the ‘70s that has to be seen to be believed;
    Satte Pe Satta, a weak ‘70s remake of Hollywood’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers;
    Ek Ajnabee, a 2005 remake of Hollywood’s Man on Fire (haven’t seen it); and
    Black, a superior 2005 adaptation of Hollywood’s The Miracle Worker that features Bachchan’s most remarkable performance—mostly in English--of recent years. (Too bad his costar Rani Mukherji is so unconvincing as the deaf-blind girl.)

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:55 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 02, 2006
    Marriage reform c. 1906

    From the May 2, 1906 NYT:

    ALBANY - By a vote of 27 to 19 the Senate to-day passed Senator Cobb's bill providing that marriages in this State shall be illegal unless a license has first been secured from the regularly constituted authorities.

    There is no other explanation for why the New York state government felt obligated to interject itself into the marriage business - whether it was for revenue enhancement or moral oversight.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:32 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 01, 2006
    Watch a Pulitzer in the Making

    As the drug war and immigration debates heat up, the Fort Worth Star Telegram gets entrepreneurial.

    Amid protests over illegal immigration and heated debates in Congress, the Star-Telegram decided to get a firsthand look at life along the border that divides us.

    Austin bureau chief Jay Root and battle-tested photographer Tom Pennington are encountering everyone from illegal immigrants and coyotes to border patrol officers as they cross back and forth from the U.S. to Mexico.

    Read their daily dispatches, and view audio and video from their journey only at www.star-telegram.com.

    From Brownsville to Tijuana, you can follow Root and Pennington's journey through a series of cool maps, cogent photos, and diary-style reports of the people and places they encounter. View the report here.

    The journalistic duo's most recent report is from Boquillas, Mexico. Boquillas is culturally and economically part of the greater Big Bend area (which, for some strange and tacit reasons, is one of my favorite places on earth). Boquillas is isolated from Mexico and was connected to the world only through an informal border crossing that supported the local economy (including tourism) that knows no political boundary. I've paid $1 each way to be rowed across the narrow river, notwithstanding a free rocky crossing by foot yards away. You used to be able to pay $1 to ride an ass up the hill and into town from the crossing. Since closing the border after 9-11, Boquillas has virtually disappeared.

    For its grander appeal, this journalistic project has much to offer and deserves due attention, IMHO. Hat tip, my buddy Steve Dieterichs.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:56 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (2)  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 28, 2006
    13mm vs. 1/2 in. plus epsilon c. 1906

    From the April 28, 1906 NYT:

    WASHINGTON - The House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures to-day voted down a motion to report the Littauer bill establishing the metric system of weights and measurement.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:26 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 26, 2006
    Disaster aid fraud c. 1906

    From the April 26, 1906 NYT:

    Wholesale grabbing of supplies by elements of the people, while others are in want, has caused the military authorities to order a new system in the distribution of food. Beginning tomorrow kitchens and mess rooms will be established, where meals will be supplied to all who apply, but no food will be given out to be carried away...

    "The one perplexing problem that we now have to contend with is the prevention of unequal distribution of food," said Chief of Police Dinan today. "Those of the worst element in the city, we find, are living better than they ever did in their lives, while the unfortunates who have never been accustomed to ask for aid are actually suffering. We are doing all in our power to relieve this condition and hope in a few days to get rid of those who are taking everything in sight."

    Hmmm...items of value without well defined property rights tend to be accumulated by the unscrupulous or the "powerful." Sounds about right.

    In the case of disassociated children, similar to what happened in the aftermath of Katrina, there are kids travelling with complete strangers in the aftermath of SF:

    SALEM, Ore - Gov. Chamberlain sent this telegram to Gov. Pardee of California today:

    "Many children and some babies are coming through here unidentified and unaccompanied by any one. Cared for only by strangers. Can they not be gathered together at Oakland and kept together for subsequent identification? As it is they will be forever lost to their parent."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:42 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 25, 2006
    Post-disaster aid c. 1906

    Two other articles from the April 25, NYT offer an interesting comparison between the reaction to the need for aid after the 1906 SF earthquake and the need for aid after the 2005 NO/MS/AL hurricanes. For instance, without a large Federal Aid apparatus, private donations are the primary source of aid for the city. Without the federal government's apparatus, cities and states vie for the "honor" of having contributed the most.

    The first article contains paragraph after paragraph of the amounts of money and in-kind contributions raised in cities across the northeast. This is somewhat similar to what we saw after Katrina - people delivering food, diapers, and clothes to the local Salvation Army post - but I don't recall seeing the same "running tally" for cities.

    Could we expect to see such a statement in 2006?

    Adolphus Busch of St. Louis, who gave $100,000 for the relief of San Francisco, declares that his city must toe the mark in better shape in the matter of financial assistance to the sufferers.

    "St. Louis must contribute at least $1,000,000," he said last night, "or stand disgraced among the cities of the United States. If this amount is not raised, other cities will point the finger of scorn at us and say: `Stingy! Stingy!'"

    Now, we point the finger at the folks in Washington, DC, and yell "Stingy! Stingy!" as the federal government has substituted their largess for what was once primarily privately funded. The political economy of this redirection of scorn is interesting.

    The second article has the following headlines:

    500,000 ADDED TO OUR AID FUND.

    Local Gifts to San Francisco are now $2,500,000.

    Nation's Fund, $14,000,000

    More than $2,000,000 Pledged Yesterday - Chicago Gives $700,000, Boston and Philadelphia $500,000 Each.

    The not so subtle inter-city rivalry displayed in the headline was almost completely absent during the Katrina aftermath. The 14 million is approximately $293 million in 2004 dollars - and this is less than one week after the event!

    The article actually lists the names and amounts of contributions by individuals, companies, and associations. These numbers, if accurate, might provide for an interesting empirical piece. I have my TA coding the data, but here is a small snippet:

    The incentives such reporting provide for those who want to see their name listed in the paper, or who might fear repercussions from those who DO NOT see their name in the paper, is also interesting.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:49 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    One Week Post-disaster c. 1906

    On April 18, 1906 a massive earthquake hit San Francisco. The April 25, 1906 NYT has several articles about the aftermath of the quake and the state of the city and its citizens.

  • A massive exodus of those remaining in the city was underway. Railroads ran free trains for evacuees heading east.
  • It is reported that three days before (April 21) and three days after the quake, 30,000 people were "camped out" at the Presidio reservation. As of April 24, that number was down to 10,000. It is reported that other camps have similar rates of exodus over the same time period.
  • It is estimated that one week after the quake there were 125,000 homeless in San Francisco.
  • It is suspected that looters have infiltrated the city from the East. In response, Chicago lends aid in the form of additional police.
  • Much of the cleanup of the city underway at the time is directed and financially and logistically supported by E. H. Harriman, the president of the Southern Pacific Railway.
  • The Southern Pacific offers to build a temporary railway into the burned district of the city to haul away debris. The spur track is anticipated to reduce the cleanup of the city from months to days.
  • It is estimated there are 50,000 people at work cleaning up the city.
  • It is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 evacuees will pass through Ogden, Utah.
  • The third ship lands in Portland with 400 evacuees.
  • Six hundred evacuees arrive in Denver. Those without resources are fed and given free transportation eastward by local relief committees.
  • There is concern in Washington, D.C., that the mail from San Francisco has not been delivered on time. It is somewhat editorially commented that during "the three days that the fire was raging, San Francisco did not write many letters."
  • The American Fire Insurance Company is in financial straits as its capital is estimated at $800,000 and its outstanding risks in the city exceed $7,000,000.

    There is a decidedly different slant towards the aftermath of the disaster relative to the anticipated/expected response by the state and federal governments after Katrina and (to a lesser extent) Rita. Without the DHS and FEMA and the entire welfare/disaster relief apparatus erected in the United States over the past sixty years, individual citizens, politicians, and local associations were left with the task of cleaning up their city and, more importantly, taking care of those who had been displaced. Moreover, there seems to be a similar diaspora from both SF and NO.

    Katrina's aftermath was clearly a bit different because the flooding of the city made it nearly impossible for trucks/buses to get into the city. However, the question remains whether the expectation of relief from outside ultimately caused a lack of action on the inside.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:34 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 19, 2006
    San Francisco Earthquake c. 1906

    As many now know, on April 18, 1906, a terrific earthquake hit San Francisco and the surrounding area. In terms of destruction, it rivals Katrina and might more resemble Galveston, and in terms of total fatalities it rivals 9/11. The NYT of April 19, 1906 is naturally filled with stories from the stricken city, and all sorts of interesting tidbits that are eerily analogous to the Federal government's response to Katrina.

    In the spirit of fair use, here is a PDF version of the front page of the April 19, 1906 NYT. Here are two stories from the front page: story one and story two.

  • From one article that describes the telegrams of sympathy the President sent the Governor of California and the Mayor of San Francisco.

    To the mayor:

    "I share with all our people the horror felt at the catastrophe that has befallen San Francisco, and the most earnest sympathy with your citizens. IF there is anything that the Federal Government can do to aid you it will be done."

  • Mount Vesuvius had been erupting for almost a week, and of course there were those who hypothesized that the volcano might have been connected to the earthquake. Prof. W. H. Pickering of the Harvard Observatory debunked such theories as did Prof. Charles F. Marvin of the U.S. Weather Bureau

  • The local "first responders" were left to their fate to battle the blaze that threatened to overtake the entire city. Without the 24 hr news cameras and other modern marvels, local officials had to make tough decisions, perhaps a bit different from what we saw last year:
    Although water has been secured to the firemen in many sections, the fire is by no means under control. It is raging around Pine and Montgomery Streets, and the Western Union Building has been abandoned to its fate. At the Oakland ferry house, where the company [WU] has established an office, it is difficult to obtain information concerning current events.

    This entry will likely evolve as I make my way through the numerous articles from this important event.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:57 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 14, 2006

    Let's see. Curvature of heavenly bodies inspires Newton's calculus in 1687. Fast forward 320 years, and curvature of heavenly bodies inspires this:

    A team of British academics has developed a mathematical formula to determine just how perfect your posterior is.

    "The perfect female derriere has firmness to the touch and a resilience that prevents undue wobble or bounce, yet looks soft with flawless skin," said Dr. David Holmes, a psychology lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, who devised the formula for measuring one's moons.

    And the Rosetta Stone of bootyliciousness is: (S+C) x (B+F) / (T-V).

    While it may look complicated, getting to the bottom of the formula is easy, Holmes insists.

    First, a woman assesses her assets on a scale from 1 to 20 (1 being worst and 20 best) in the following categories:

    * S = overall shape (a ripe peach being just about right)

    * C = circularity (rounder is better)

    * B = bounciness (less wobble is preferred)

    * F = firmness (too much push to that cushion loses points)

    * T = skin texture (no cellulite, please)

    Then calculate this:

    * V = the ratio of one's hips to waist. Finally, do the math.

    ...balance is key to achieving the perfect score of approximately 80.

    Full story.

    Two comments. First, hat tip to tenure. Second, does the formula work? Dare I say, this could tantalize even an a priorist to do empirical work...

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 12:05 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 06, 2006
    Seal of approval c. 1906

    From the April 6, 1906 NYT:

    Dewar's Scotch. Proved as to purity. Mellowed by great age. Recommended by doctors - Adv. [emphasis added]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:30 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 30, 2006
    Free entry in journalism, and...?

    Jack Shafer, writing on Slate, about recent high profile plagiarism.

    I'm as delighted as the next press critic or blogger to catch journalists making things up, plagiarizing, taking bribes or giving them, deliberately libeling people, blackmailing people, lying to sources, or forging documents. I approve when newspapers and broadcasters assign internal reports or external investigations to get to the root cause of the perfidy. But I think the profession needlessly exhausts itself trying to figure out why journalists misbehave. You might as well as ask why people cheat and steal.

    Bad journalism, I fear, is a necessary byproduct of good journalism. Unlike the legal and medical professions, no guild or licensing board exists to prevent people from penning opinion columns or articles. This free entry means that nobody need present a credential if they want to spout off or report a piece or pursue a journalism career. The more authoritarian a society, the more likely it is to license journalists.

    So let me see if I got this right. We can't regulate morality, but instead must let people make their own mistakes, while we rely on competition, reputational capital, and consumer discretion to monitor quality of public discourse. Sounds pretty good. So a humble question: is what's good for journalism good for the rest of private society?

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 07:58 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 24, 2006
    Life Imitates Film--A Day Without a Mexican

    News item:

    ATLANTA -- Members of the Latino community plan to protest against new state legislation aimed at illegal immigrants in Georgia.

    Protesters say they will neither spend money nor report to work Friday. An estimated 800,000 Hispanics are expected to take part in Georgia's "Day For Latino Dignity."

    Just by coincidence, my latest dispatch from the awesome folks at Netflix is "A Day Without a Mexican." Bryan Caplan discusses the film here; Tyler Cowen here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:11 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 23, 2006
    Markets in Everything--Porn Star Wine

    A news item:

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - It seemed like the perfect gimmick: a celebrity porn star would launch her own wine, with her alluring picture on the label.

    Savanna Samson did just that, ...

    "I never wanted to just do gimmick. That would just happen with me being a porn star, me having a photographer shoot the label, how risque could I get on the label -- all those things," Samson, the stage name for 31-year-old Natalie Oliveros, said in an interview.

    The seriousness of the idea was lining up a respected wine maker. So she convinced Italy's Robert Cipresso ....

    Samson went to Tuscany and tasted dozens of Cipresso's Italian-grown varieties, then she selected a mix of 70 percent Cesanese, 20 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Montepulciano. She ordered over 400 cases.

    Hints of blackberry and licorice, aftertaste of ... Kidding aside, wine guru Robert Parker gave the wine a score of 90.

    HT to MR for the markets in everything concept.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:11 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 15, 2006
    Profiles in courage: Dr. Wafa Sultan on Islam and modernity

    In an interview on Al Jazeera last month, which has reportedly been downloaded more than a million times, the Syrian-born psychiatrist (now living in California) condemned radical Islam for its barbarism:

    Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them. …

    The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

    Dr. Sultan has since received numerous death threats.

    Hat tip: NKB.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:50 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 13, 2006
    The War of Ideas

    Do you remember the powerful impact the first time you read The Wealth of Nations, or Human Action, or The Law? Now imagine the impact of spreading these to the world's 200 million plus native speakers of Arabic. Jonathan Rauch's March 6 column tells the fascinating tale of the anonymous Shiite translator from southern Iraq who, with the help of Tom Palmer at Cato, is working secretly to produce first-time translations into Arabic of great works in liberty.

    Odd though it may sound, somewhere in Baghdad a man is working in secrecy to edit new Arabic versions of Liberalism, by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, and In Defense of Global Capitalism, by the Swedish economist Johan Norberg. He is doing this at some risk of kidnap, beating, and death, because he hopes that a new Arabic-language Web site, called LampofLiberty.org—MisbahAlHurriyya.org in Arabic—can change the world by publishing liberal classics.

    Odder still, he may be right.


    Now he is collaborating not with foreign agencies but with foreign ideas. He has made Arabic translations of all or parts of more than two dozen articles and nine books and booklets. "None," he says, "were previously translated, to my knowledge, for the simple reason that they are all on liberalism and democracy, which unfortunately have little audience and advocators in the Middle East, where almost all publishing houses and press outlets are governmental—i.e., anti-liberal."


    In January, MisbahAlHurriyya.org made its Internet debut. Today it hosts about 40 texts; Palmer aims for more like 400, including a shelf of books. (It currently offers an abridged edition of Hayek's Road to Serfdom and Bastiat's The Law. The Norberg book is coming soon.) Sponsored by the Cato Institute, it joins a small but growing assortment of Arabic-language blogs and Web sites promulgating liberal ideas.

    Continue reading here for much more on this important, extremely long term project.

    HT and major props to Virginia Postrel, who recently donated a kidney to a friend.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:00 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 11, 2006
    Genius bank robbers

    Tarrant County, Texas (home to Arlington and Ft. Worth, among other cities) has experienced a large increase in bank robberies since October of 2005. Today's Star-Telegram has a front page story that discusses the recent spike in bank robberies and the possible reasons why. Not totally in defiance of setting marginal benefit equal to marginal cost, our local experts claim that a) most bank robberies are spur-of-the-moment deals, b) many folks robbing banks are drug users in need of some quick cash, c) bank robbers know that bank tellers are trained to cooperate and "hand over the cash," but that d) bank robbers think they are going to get away with it.

    Part (d) is where most bank robbers are seriously mistaken as 73% of all bank robberies in Tarrant County are cleared.

    Why such a high clearance rate? The surveillance cameras are very good at taking clear pictures of bank robbers, which are then run, say, on the front page of the Star-Telegram!! The print paper had a collage of twelve bank robbers looking just as pretty as you please. The on-line version of the story provides the pictures but not in the nice collage (check out the pictures from the link within the story).


    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:46 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 09, 2006
    A must see

    John Stossel's "Stupid in America".

    HT: CFG Blog

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:22 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Kite Aerial Photography

    I've heard of kite surfing, but kite aerial photography was new to me.

    Kite aerial photographers, KAPpers for short, are hobbyist/artists who rig kites with suspended cameras that can be remotely operated from the ground. Hovering kites can be guided into spots that a helicopter or plane could never go (at least not legally). Using a variety of lenses, panning devices and other homemade gadgets, good KAPpers take some downright amazing pictures.


    Some of the most famous kite photos in history were taken of San Francisco just after the 1906 quake. George Lawrence, one of the great early kite photographers, used a train of nine kites to raise a 49-pound camera 2,000 feet above the Embarcadero. The 18-by-45-inch negatives produced towering black-and-white views of the flattened city.


    The picturesque California coast is where you’ll find a few of the more prolific American KAPpers. One is Charles Benton, a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, who maintains an elaborate website full of history, tips, and an incredible collection of Bay Area photos, including a few from Burning Man. Another original KAPper is 70-year-old Brooks Leffler of Pacific Grove, California, a former kite distributor who built his first rig in 1989 and publishes the first journal of kite aerial photography, The Aerial Eye.


    Some KAPpers use webcams to monitor the view of the camera, but veterans with a trained sense of aim often work without them, relying on experience and embracing serendipity. As Leffler says, “I can estimate pretty well what the camera is seeing when the shutter clicks, and with video viewing I can get pretty close. It takes skill to anticipate the swing of the camera, and it takes luck when all the factors come together – just like playing golf.”

    Full story including links to great pics here.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 03:06 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 06, 2006
    A possible explanation for why Hollywood revenues are down?

    I watched the majority of last night's award show, although I have not been to a movie for about two years. The only 2005 release I saw all the way through was "40 Year Old Virgin" and I actually picked up a book midway through that DVD.

    I am a fan of hip hop (especially old school), but the song awarded Best Song might provide some insight as to why revenues are down at the box office? Uncensored lyrics here

    Another thing that struck me was how little I had heard about the nominees for best picture. I am out of the market for movies, but I still have two ears and I still read. Perhaps this explains why I hadn't heard anything about these movies:

    The box office totals from Boxofficemojo.com:

    Wedding Crashers $209,255,921 Release date: 7/15/2005 ($29.89m/month)

    Nominees for Best Movie:
    Brokeback Mountain $78,906,000 Release date: 12/9/2005 ($26.3m/month)
    Capote $25,898,000 Release date: 9/30/2005 ($5.17m/month)
    Crash $53,404,817 Release date: 5/6/2005 ($5.9m/month)
    Good Night, and Good Luck. $30,574,542 Release date: 10/7/2005 ($6.1m/month)
    Munich $46,785,000 Releast date: 12/23/2005 ($23.4m/month)

    Total Revenue of Nominees for Best Movie: $235,568,359

    There is no particular reason for the best movies to be the most profitable or most successful at the box office. However, while Munich and Brokeback were comparable in monthly earnings to The Wedding Crashers, I wonder if either of the two nominees has the staying power (in terms of weeks run in theater) as The Wedding Crashers (another movie I turned off in the first five minutes). The other nominees were watched by a little less than one million people per month. Obviously the movies didn't have the draw of Harry Potter or Star Wars, and while revenue isn't a gauge of quality, shouldn't it be correlated in the long run?
    Moreover, because so few people actually watch the movies in question, the rest of us have to rely upon the critics (and others) to form our opinion of the movies. Something like, "I trust my friends more than the a national radio host, but none of my friends have seen the movie."

    I wondered if the ratings for the award show would follow the revenues at the box office. However, Drudge reports early ratings were less than last year (but better than 2004), so perhaps it doesn't matter (for the Oscar ceremonies) how many people have seen the movies nominated. Perhaps people watch the show for different reasons than seeing their favorite movie "win," e.g., what is JLo wearing.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:39 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 03, 2006
    Blogosphere: Revolution or Reinforcment?

    Matt Welch, the outgoing associate editor at Reason magazine, has an insightful (and fun) column in the April print edition (pp.16-7, not yet available online). The set up: in the early days of blogs (post-9/11), Welch expected blogs to democratise public discourse and improve quality. Quoting his own earlier essay, Welch writes:

    "'What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?' I enthused. 'I'd say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s...a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review.'

    Man was I wrong.

    Michelle Malkin, to name one writer revered by warbloggers (her site recently won Best Blog in an annual poll organized by Right-Wing-News.com), is to critical thinking what Ralph Nader is to libertarianism---a very good example of the opposite."

    Laugh out loud, all right.

    Welch goes on to describe how blogs have become powerful tools for the most partisan of opinion dishing and mutual bashing not to be bohthered with standards of logic, fact checking, or grammatical competence. He continues:

    So what's wrong with a bunch of human beings using technology to organize themselves into political groupings? Absolutely nothing. The purpose of enhanced freedom is to enhance people's ability [sic] act freely in the ways of their choosing, and we shouldn't be surprised when they choose to do the same stuff they were doing before, only more efficiently."

    Indeed. I think it's without controversy to say that current events blogs have democratised American (and world) debate, moving it outside the major media outlets, AND reinforced whatever status quo, partisan-based polarization existed (and exists) in American debate, AND much more. Blog on.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 06:04 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 28, 2006

    My older son has not been reading enough lately. He is 16, just started driving, plays quite a bit of video games, and thinks that young women are very quickly becoming worth looking at.

    Idle hands....The devil's workshop, and all that.

    So I bought a copy of Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, gave it to him.

    He read it in an afternoon (which isn't hard; it is ONE LESSON, after all).

    He comes up to me the next day, and that, "That book really seemed simple."

    I was a bit miffed; "Those are complicated ideas...."

    He interrupts: "I didn't say simple-minded. I meant simple like...inarguably true."

    Happy sigh for ol' Dad. I'll die someday. But good ideas, the really good ideas, are immortal.

    Posted by Michael Munger at 08:08 PM in Culture

    February 26, 2006
    Lunacy in New York c. 1906

    In the Feb. 26, 1906 NYT is an article concerning lunacy in the state of New York. Now, I am no expert in the area of mental health and wouldn't claim to be. Nor am I making light of the obviously complicated problems of the human mind. However, the article points out that the State Commission in Lunacy (perhaps what we should be calling most state legislatures these days) had been carefully following the trends in lunacy and had found "there was a constant increase in the ratio of the insane to the general population."

    Unfortunately, the commission data confuse supply and demand side influences. The Commission reported that in 1892 there were 17,275 "insane" people in all of the state institutions and the state population was 6.51 million (for a ratio of 1 in 377). By June of 1905, the Commission reported there were 27,300 "insane" people in state institutions and the state population was 8.06 million (fora ratio of 1 in 299). The commission went on to estimate that there were an additional 6,000 insane persons "being maintained in their own homes."

    Of course, in 1892 there were considerably fewer state institutions in operation, and therefore it is impossible to determine whether the increase in per-capita lunacy is from the supply side (more people were crazy) or the demand side (the state needed more "lunatics" to justify the expenditures). Moreover, as science evolved over the 13 years between studies, it is entirely possible that a deeper understanding of the human mentality would naturally lead to more people being categorized in lunacy.

    Perhaps there was a moral hazard problem in that public institutions, ultimately run by individuals (regardless of their intentions), were funded by the state. There was an average daily population of 25,280 patients in 1905 and total spending was $4.593 million. The article reports that $4.95 million would be requested in the coming year (a 7.7% increase!).

    Yet another excellent quote from the article:

    A similar increase [in lunacy] is reported by the Commissioners in Lunacy of Great Britain
    Beautiful wording...

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:34 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 08, 2006
    Censorship on the Internet

    Censorship on the Internet is a growing concern, so much so that I wrote a paper on it a number of years ago that economists, sociologists, demographers, and political scientists had/have no desire to publish (burried amongst my working papers somewhere).

    J-walk blog had an interesting comparison on the search term "tiananmen" on images.google.com versus images.google.cn.

    In the spirit of his search, I went to both sites and searched the term "Craig Depken" and obtained 4,280 hits on google.cn and 23,800 hits on google.com (although I am shocked that I would have that many mentions on the net!).

    I also tried the term "Division of Labor" and obtained 3,010,000 hits on google.com and 469,000 from google.cn.

    Thus, the two searches yielded an 18% google.cn-to-google.com ratio for Depken and 15.5% google.cn-to-google.com ratio for the term DOL. It would prove interesting to know exactly what is not being included on Google.cn - although the two searches suggest that the "censorship" might be more broadbased than initially reported?

    Nevertheless, the image search is an eye-opener. Here in the States the majority of the censorship efforts have been directed towards bomb-making instructions and dirty pictures, for the moment at least.

    [Update: 2/8/2006 - From today's Chronicle of Higher Education:

    The government of Thailand has blocked access in that country to the Web site of Yale University Press. The move is in response to the site's publicity material for The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej, a book in which the author criticizes the king of Thailand.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:33 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 07, 2006
    Oh Brother

    What is it about modern liberalism (not classical liberalism) that has made its adherents such boors?

    At the Coretta Scott King funeral, with the President in attendance, Joseph Lowry has just gone off on "weapons of mass deception" and an attack on the President's politics. This has nothing to do with the President's policies. What ever happened to basic manners? Respect for dead?


    Posted by Brad Smith at 02:20 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 06, 2006
    Blame it on the courts?

    From the Feb. 6, 1906 NYT:


    The County Medical Society has scored a point of the first importance...in obtaining from a court of record in this State a definition of what constitutes the practice of medicine. The definition was framed by Judge Joseph I. Green of the City Court, who said that he had searched the authorities of the State in vain to find one.

    In defining the practice of medicine, Judge Green said:

    "The practice of medicine is the exercise or performance of any act, by or through the use of any thing or matter, or by things done, given, or applied, whether with or without the use of drugs or medicine, and whether with or without fee therefor, by a person holding himself or herself out as able to cure disease, with a view to relieve, heal, or cure, and having for its object the prevention, healing, remedying, cure, or alleviation of disease."

    Whew! Thank goodness we got that put down on paper.

    Why did the government (specifically the court) have to specify a definition of medicine? It was evidently central to the case of one Madame Mee who advertised in a local paper:

    Acute and chronic diseases cured. Madame Mee, 76 East 104th Street.

    Evidently. Mme. Mee examined some "women agents," diagnosed their trouble as "nervousness" and administered message treatment as a curative measure. She charged $2 for her services, and was subsequently charged with "unlawful practice of medicine."

    On the surface, this seems more like a rent-protection scheme on the part of the "real doctors" rather than a patient-health concern, although I realize there were instances of actual injury/death that came from early medical contraptions/practices. At least one justice dissented with Judge Green, declaring "that diagnosis and the regulation of the diet and finger-tip manipulation did not constitute practicing medicine."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:38 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Summer Camp U

    Arnold Kling compares going to college to going to summer camp. He's onto something. Bascially I think a lot of people go to college because it's a fun thing to do. And unlike summer camp, you can drink and have sex!

    We college professor types like to debate what it is that we're doing here. It's obvious that 99% of our students don't give a damn about what we're teaching so why are they here? (For our own mental health we prefer not to ask ourselves why we're here.) Yes, yes, they want better jobs. There is certainly something to the signalling model that says we're here as an elaborate obstacle course to help employers separate the wheat from the chaf. But...

    Ultimately I've concluded that colleges are all about selling an experience. Football in the fall; basektball in the winter; frats and sororities; bad food in the cafeteria, and even boring professors, are all part the image that people find appealing. Basically, they're buying idea of a college education. It's an identity thing. They want to say "I went to college at _______."

    As an aside, this is one of the reasons why I'm not too concerned about distance education replacing me. Sitting at home staring at a computer screen or listening to a podcast doesn't offer the same kind of college experience.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:35 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 04, 2006
    On church fires c. 1906

    The church fires in Alabama are disturbing. The Feb. 4, 1906 NYT contained an article describing the threatened burning of a Long Island church. The pastor of that church had an interesting response to the threats (of which Dr. Coase might have approved?)

    Threats made against Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Huntington, L.I., by certain persons of that place have drawn from the Rev. Albert Long, its pastor, a statement.

    "The trustees considered with great care the exact terms upon which they are willing to part with our present church property. If there is any committee who would like to purchase it a meeting can be arranged.

    "We know that is the best step for those to take who do not want the...church and its parsonage where they are now. Neither of them need be burned down, nor is it necessary for any night force to be used to move the present...preacher. Simply put your hands in your pockets and give...their price for it. [Note: some off-putting language has been removed from the excerpt]

    Such a transaction would have been odd, to say the least, but would have avoided destruction and dead weight loss. One reason markets are so much better than violence and anarchy - voluntary transfer of property rights ensures that both parties in the transaction are made better off.

    An example of "Markets in Everything" ?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:18 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 02, 2006
    What? We can't hear you

    From the SF Gate.com:

    An owner of Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod music player filed a federal lawsuit against the computer maker, claiming the device causes hearing loss in people who use it.

    Damn. My kick-butt 1GB mp3 player (which runs for 10 hours or so on 1 AAA battery) was made by some "company" in Japan, but I couldn't tell you which one as I purchased it for $120 on e-bay two years ago.

    Alas, in the Age of the Lawyer, strategic purchasing, embodied in the act of paying more for a lower quality product that, after all, is made by a deep-pocket Fortune 500 company, might actually make sense if the ability to sue is deemed necessary.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:55 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    The status of the whipping post c. 1906

    Back in December I pointed out that in 1905 Pennsylvania Representative Adams wanted to institute the lash and whipping post for those found guilty of domestic violence, what the NYT termed "wife beaters." At the time, Pres. Roosevelt evidently gave the idea his full suport.

    The 1905 version of the bill died a quiet death but this evidently did not dissuade the honorable Mr. Adams. The Feb. 2, 1906 NYT reports that Mr. Adams had successfully moved his "whipping post" bill out of committee and to the House for a vote, and the story mentions that the President was still on board. The bill would provide the whipping post as the punishment for "wife beating," but would pertain only to the District of Columbia.

    I suspect that the bill did not pass, however the rhetoric surrounding the vote must have been interesting.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:28 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 31, 2006
    Life imitates art: “Hans Brix! Oh No!” edition

    Fans of Team America: World Police will remember the scene (profanity-laced video clip here) in which the weapons inspector Hans Blix threatens to write a stern letter to him if Kim Jong-Il won’t allow Blix to inspect Kim’s palace for weapons of mass destruction. Apparently the real Hans Blix found it funny too: in the video clip from a news conference linked here, he comments on the scene (even quoting KJI’s use of the f-word).

    Hat tip: Reason Hit & Run

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:52 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Does Anybody Really Care....About Time?

    Do you set your watch ahead, on purpose?

    You are the enemy. Here's why.

    Posted by Michael Munger at 03:15 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 26, 2006
    S.P.C.A. c. 1906

    In the "learn something new every day" category, the Jan. 26, 1906 NYT reports that the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was pressuring companies that contracted to carry the mail to not use lame/older horses.

    A letter to the editor from one W. Franklin Brush states:

    I think it right to state that I have twice during the past month reported to the society the fact that I had seen a lame horse attached to United States mail wagon...I should think from what I have seen during the past few years of the horses which are used in the mail service that an Inspector of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals might very often hold up a mail wagon without undue suspicion of graft.

    First, who knew the SPCA had been around for one hundred years? I figured the SPCA started in Hollywood sometime during the 1970s with the whole "no animals were harmed in the making of this movie" claim. Second, I wonder about the odds of a lame-horse delivery wagon for the U.S. Postal Service (albeit out-sourced to a contract) versus a lame-horse delivery wagon for, say, Sears-Roebuck or Marshall Field.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:44 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 20, 2006
    The Man Who Would Be King

    Alex Tabarrok at MR asks himself, "Would I be a Good Dictator?" (Alex, if you have the humility to ask the question, you probably would make a good dictator.)

    His post reminded me of the classic film, The Man Who Would Be King (1975) based on Kipling's short story, directed by John Huston, and starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

    If you haven't seen it or haven't seen it in a while, I recommend it. Among other things the cinematography is awesome for any era much less 1975.

    In the film Sean Connery's character, an British ex-soldier in India, is made the god-like king of the land of Kafiristan (think Afghanistan). He goes power crazy and in fact doesn't escape with his life.

    There also a great scene in which Connery orders all the villages to give 10 percent of their harvest to him so that he can use it to help villages who have had bad harvests. A welfare state in the making!

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:30 AM in Culture ~ in Economics ~ in Politics

    January 18, 2006
    Religion in the classroom c. 1906

    There are a few interesting stories in the Jan. 18, 1906 NYT. From the "things never change" department, there is the "trial" of a public school principal in Brooklyn. The article calls the hearing a "trial," but it is held by the school district/union(?) so I am not sure if the word is actually appropriate.

    Nevertheless, Mr. Frank Howard had been accused, through a petition signed by sixty residents of the school's neighborhood, that he was engaged in "systematic Christianization." He was accused of commenting on "the Scriptures in school; that the children had been countenanced in singing Christian songs; that the Principal permitted the display in the classrooms of pictures of the Madonna and Child, and that at Christmas exercises on Dec. 19 he had made particular references to Christ."

    The complainants were not secularists - evidently Mr. Howard's school was in a predominantly "Hebrew neighborhood."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:12 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 17, 2006
    A legend passes c. 1906

    The Jan. 17, 1906 NYT reports the death of Marshall Field. There were likely those who felt that Marshall Field's (the company, not necessarily the man) was destroying the small mom-and-pop retailer, that Marshall Field stores eroded true American values such as the living wage, high-cost health care, a responsibility to buy American first and so forth.

    From the NYT story, however, such sentiment was not apparent. Indeed, from the first paragraph one receives a completely different vibe about the paper (and society's?) view of Marshall Field :

    Marshall Field of Chicago, the richest merchant in the world, the largest individual taxpayer in the United States, and, perhaps, the third wealthiest citizen in the country, died at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon...Nearly all of the great merchant's relatives and friends were with him at the end.

    Later on in the story there is a sub-headline "How he rose from farmer's boy to be one of world's greatest merchants." Let's see if these rules are taught in any business schools today:

    Perhaps the best epitome of the rules of his life is furnished in his own words. He wrote:

    He never gives a note.
    He never buys a share of stock on margin.
    He is against speculation.
    He is no borrower.
    He has made it a point not to encumber his business with mortgages.
    He does business on a "cash basis"
    He tries to sell on shorter time than competitors
    He tries to sell the same grade goods for a smaller price.
    He holds his customers to a strict meeting of their obligations.

    The story goes on
    And Mr. Field did more than make himself rich. He made his associates rich. One man after another has stepped out of the house of Marshall Field & Co. and retired with a fortune.

    This sentiment seems all to rare in today's society. Yet, while Bill Gates and Michael Dell are very wealthy individuals, they have enabled thousands of others, directly and indirectly, to become wealthy as well. One can only hope that by the time the giants of our day pass on, society is more ready to praise and honor than denigrate and condemn.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:55 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 14, 2006
    “Sarkar nikamma hai!”

    … is my favorite line from the now-on-dvd Hindi film Apaharan [Kidnapping]. It means roughly “The government doesn’t work!” or “The government is useless!”. The film's official website is here.

    Overall, though, the film is a disappointment. It wastes a great performance by Nana Patekar as a corrupt politician/ kidnap ringleader. Having dispensed with the usual song-and-dance filler, comedy, and romance subplots (while retaining the action and family-melodrama elements of the classic masala formula), the film could have been a taut 100 minutes long instead of a numbing 160. The plot puts the main character through too many implausible changes (e.g. he becomes a kidnapper so that he can afford the bribe required to enter the police force?!), and star Ajay Devgan can’t make them believable – he looks as baffled on the screen as the viewer feels in front of it.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:04 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 13, 2006
    State Branding

    The state of New Jersey has decided that its new advertising slogan will be "New Jersey: Come See for Yourself." The also-rans?

    New Jersey: Expect the Unexpected.
    New Jersey: Love at First Sight.
    New Jersey: The Real Deal.
    New Jersey: The Best Kept Secret.

    Given their recent political scandals and history of corruption, I wonder what other slogans could have been proposed.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:39 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)

    January 11, 2006
    Alternative monopoly rules

    These alternative rules for the game Monopoly seem interesting. In many cases they make the game more like competition than monopoly. Does anyone know if there is a "libertarian" set of rules for Monopoly?

    Perhaps there is a teaching paper here?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:45 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 10, 2006
    NFL to EDS: Adios

    A great line in This is Spinal Tap goes "there's a fine line between stupid and clever." One wonders if this pertains to the agencies that have been making the oh-so-subtle advertisements for EDS drugs - the football through the tires, the bathtubs on the hill in France, and so forth. It seems they might have underestimated the moral fiber of the NFL.

    From Ad Age Daily:

    The national football league plans to cut its ties with erectile-dysfunction drug ads, highlighting growing concerns about increasingly risque creative [sic] in the category and leaving manufacturers with a dearth of major sports marketing platforms for their brands.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:56 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 09, 2006
    I love the '90s, special surf music edition

    Hey kids! This rave review of the Space Cossacks' best-of CD, "Never Mind the Bolsheviks," kindly mentions the liner notes by yours truly ...

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:35 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 04, 2006
    Independent confirmation c. 1906

    There will be a lot of navel gazing after the latest media flub last night. After last year's flubs one would think that the cable media would be less prone to reporting rumor/gossip as real news, much less putting the news in a "ticker" that ran across the Orange Bowl - and actually induced me to change channels to Fox to see what was going on!!

    Perhaps the words "unconfirmed reports" or "rumor has it" would be enough to limit the euphoria and subsequent crash to reality?

    The cable news channels are arguably stuck in a prisoner's dilemma in some sense. If CNN breaks the story first, Fox looks bad, and vice-versa. Hence, everyone wants to be "first" and in attempting to do so sometimes play fast and loose with the facts. However, if there were reputational costs (that ultimately showed up as monetary costs) for being wrong and, perhaps, playing with people's emotions a bit too much, the strategy of "wait and see" might become more valuable, although perhaps not valuable enough to preclude the "be first" strategy.

    The fact that the one or more of the news channels has not decided to take a more somber, wait-and-see, "let's get the independent confirmation we need"-approach suggests one or more of the following:

    1. There is no (or not enough) reputational/monetary cost from being wrong;
    2. There is actually a monetary gain from being wrong as there is a ready made story about how the incorrect information impacted people;
    3. The cable news channels aren't really reporting "news" as old-school journalism would define it but rather "news" as reported through a Surreal Life filter.

    The first two points are not terribly disconcerting. I might personally like to hold members of the media a bit more accountable for being wrong, and perhaps there will be a lawsuit after this episode, but existing laws are likely sufficient to deter most libel/slander. Reporting false information might cause mental anguish or pain, as the reporting last night assuredly did, but I wonder if reporting false information in a general way is as damning as libel/slander. The create-your-own-story-by-being-wrong scenario seems to pertain to Katrina and West Virginia, but I don't think it is a viable long-run strategy for ratings and advertising revenue.

    Number three is the one that gets me. I have no problem with reporting rumor, heck, isn't that what Entertainment Tonight and People Magazine do? My issue is that the news channels purport to be reporting news when it seems more and more of the "action" has to do with the reporter (think Geraldo and Anderson) who is "reporting the story" rather than the story itself. This might be a natural outcome of how the cable news market has evolved - because all of the stations are reporting the same thing, the only differentiation is on who is doing the reporting (how they look, sound, project, etc).

    On the flip side, I likely couldn't pick ANY New York Times reporter out of a lineup, or any other newspaper's reporters for that matter. Perhaps print news reporters do not compete in the same way as on-screen reporters and therefore are less likely to pull a "thousands dead in the Super Dome" type of mistake? Perhaps print reporters are more prone to try to be the next Woodward and Bernstein, which might cause plagiarism, fabricated sources, and leaking of classified information?

    Back to my original point that a little bit of "wait and see" or "unconfirmed reports" might be a good idea at times. The Jan. 4, 1906 NYT has the following ditty that made me chuckle (a little bit):

    It is stated on the highest authority that there is not the slightest authority for Admiral Rojestvensky's aspersion on the neutrality of Great Britain.

    I will do little blogging for the rest of the week as I head to the ASSA's in Boston (bhhhrrrrr).

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:38 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 31, 2005
    New Year's Celebration c. 1905

    New Year's Eve 1905 was, evidently, one of the first to be celebrated in and around Times Square. From the Dec. 31, 1905 NYT:

    On the stroke of 12 to-night the figures "1906" will be flashed from the tower of the Times Building in letters of fire that will be visible several miles away...Election night, with its vast and merry crowds, showed conclusively that the center of up-town activity had moved north to Times Square, and there is no doubt, therefore, that the biggest outpouring in the city's history will see the birth of the new year from the streets and avenues immediately surrounding the Times Building.
    The last bit sounds like a Dick Clark sound bite.

    In another article we learn that they could party hard in 1905:

    The customary New Year's Eve celebration, for which practically all of New York turns out, was pushed more than a day ahead this season, and began practically soon after noon yesterday, when the offices downtown closed for the last time in the old year...The old custom of giving away New Year's wishes in quart bottles was revived with a vengeance. Some years ago the Retail Liquor Dealer's Association, by resolution, put a stop to this form of gifts to patrons, but the saloon keepers objected, insisting that they lost business by adhering to the rule. This year there was no attempt to restrict the gifts.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:11 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    News flash: Dick Clark has finally gotten old

    The once-ageless Clark, now 76, had a stroke last year, but he’s back – at least to some extent. He’ll be co-hosting “New Year's Rockin' Eve” tonight with Ryan Seacrest. Reports the NY Times:

    "I don't think he is 100 percent," Mr. Seacrest told Associated Press radio this week, "but he will not be in a wheelchair on the telecast."

    Well, that’s reassuring.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:00 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 25, 2005
    Bollywood 2005 in review

    Here is a list of the top all-India grossers for 2005. Here is an overview from the Financial Express, noting the predominance of comedies atop the list.

    Where most Bollywood films feature 5 or so songs, two of the top four films for 2005 (Black, Sarkar) had zero songs. An anomaly or a trend? Perhaps a bit of each. Film songs are so deeply embedded in Bollywood film culture and marketing – the soundtrack is typically released about a month in advance to generate publicity for the film opening – that songless films will continue to be rare. But with the successes of Black and Sarkar, perhaps less rare in the future. Sarkar was directed by India’s most stylish director, Ramgopal Varma, who has gone songless before (Bhoot). Black was directed by the very mainstream Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose previous hit Devdas relied heavily on songs.

    It was an okay year for my favorite Bollywood subgenre, the underworld flick, led by Sarkar. Also worth watching: D. I’m looking forward to Apaharan, a movie about the kidnapping racket in Bihar, which recently opened strongly. It stars Nana Patekar, the most consistently compelling actor working in Bollywood today, star of my 2004 favorite Ab Tak Chappan. I haven’t seen Mumbai Godfather; it got bad reviews.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:46 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 21, 2005
    Blogging is...addictive, or seductive?

    A "friend" of mine noticed that I had broken my (never credible) promise to eschew blogging back on M.E. Last week I posted this....

    His diagnosis:
    "Now I know what caused Ariel Sharon's stroke! I never lost hope, and kept you in my bookmarks..."

    Thanks, man. I think.

    Some people claim that blogging is addictive. Maybe I just want to put it more romantically, but I think that blogging is seductive.

    The evidence? Google on "blogging is addictive": more than 800 entries...
    Google on "blogging is seductive": only 8 entries...

    Check this post, and the comments, for some insights....

    Posted by Michael Munger at 03:23 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 20, 2005
    Cause or Effect?

    Google Zeitgeist has posted its 2005 report. The graphs are very interesting and if the raw data were available, there could be some interesting empirical research in combining Google search terms and what's being aired/printed in the mass media.

    For example, here is the graph on Avian Bird Flu. Are the searches the cause of the increased media awareness and alarm or are the searches the effect? The king-maker version of the MSM suggests that the searches are the effect of the media hype, but I wonder.

    How about this one dealing with WMD or Weapons of Mass Destruction? Does this mean the topic wasn't important after the election or that the matter had been settled (which might explain why those who keep arguing "there were not WMDs" don't seem to get a lot of traction)?

    A minor complaint: The vertical axes have no scale (which is likely done on purpose to protect Google's information) so the best we can glean from the graphs are relative changes.

    Little blogging by me over the next week.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:54 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Cultural globalization personified

    Seen recently on AZN-TV’s Showbiz India Extreme: DeLon Jayasingha, an LA-based Sri Lankan – American performer whose music mixes hip-hop, salsa, and reggae, with lyrics in English, Spanish, and Sinhalese …

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 02:12 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 15, 2005
    Moral Authority c. 1905

    File this in the "we've come a long way" category. From the Dec. 15, 1905 NYT is this little story on Page 1:

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 - Representative Adams had a conference with the President to-day at the White House on his bill providing for the erection of the whipping post in the District of Columbia for wife beaters [emphasis added]. He told the President that he desired very much to have his moral support, and believed that Mr. Roosevelt could create a sentiment that would pass the bill this session.

    "The President," said Mr. Adams afterward, "told me he was heartily in favor of the measure. He advised me to go ahead with it and push it all I could."

  • The whipping post?!? I don't remember hearing about this in history class, so I suppose the measure never passed. It's a good thing too - although the original intent would have been to punish domestic violence, it is highly probable that mission creep would have occurred and more behavior would have been deemed worthy of the whipping post. Perhaps smoking, tax evasion, and cruelty to animals (in that order - he he). Eventually there would have been a cabinet level Secretary of Whipping (SecWhip for short) who would have commanded a huge bureaucracy, billions of dollars, and become the de facto Morality Czar of the country (as if we don't have enough of those - perhaps with small 'c' - already).

  • Perhaps TR knew that the whipping post had no chance in Hades in passing and therefore gave it his support as a risk-free way of signalling his displeasure about domestic violence?

  • In today's America, the very idea of the "whipping post" is so fraught with negative images that it is inconceivable that such a measure would ever be seriously considered. I think that indicates "progress."

  • Given what happened this week in California, I wonder if the difference between the whipping post and the death penalty is just a matter of degree? Would death penalty advocates also advocate the whipping post (and vice-versa?). Would death penalty critics support the whipping post as an alternative?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:53 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 12, 2005
    Can you imagine?

    At one time the New York subway system had no maps in the stations? So indicates a letter to the editor of the Dec. 12, 1905 NYT:

    Allow me to suggest that it would be well if the management of the Subway were to place in a conspicuous position at the entrance of each station a map of New York showing the route of the Subway, its branches, and the different stations at which the trains halt.

    New Yorkers doubtless are well aware of this, but it would be safe to estimate that at least one in a thousand of its daily travelers is at a loss in this respect.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:29 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 10, 2005
    A plug: the perfect stocking stuffer

    Ripping surf-instro music CD out now: The Space Cossacks, "Never Mind The Bolsheviks: The Best of". Compiles the most intense and melodic recordings of the celebrated ‘90s band fronted by ace guitarist and Hillsdale College economics professor Ivan Pongracic, Jr. (The only band that compares is his current band, The Madeira.) Added bonus: liner notes by yours truly! Order here.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:20 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Useful quips c. 1905

    From the Dec. 10, 1905 NYT:

    • Lots of men and lots of cigars are not all they are puffed up to be.
    • Few men look well fed who live on their past reputations.
    • Promises don't improve with age.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:30 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 09, 2005
    Jeff Spiccoli, Public Choice Scholar

    Sorry for being a few days behind, but in reply to Bob's What are your favorite missing quotes?, I think the list should have stuck to slapstick. The genre is much more conducive to one liners (think Airplane!, The Three Amigos, Cheech&Chong--although the latter may more appropriately be called smokestick). All this aside, we have to bow to Jeff Spiccoli, public choice scholar.

    "So this Jefferson dude was like, 'Look, the reason we left this England place is 'cause it was so bogus. So if we don't get some primo rules ourselves--pronto--then we're just gonna be bogus, too."


    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:22 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 07, 2005
    Which is more demeaning?

    The Native American mascot, such as The Fighting Sioux or The Fighting Illini, or the Native American-themed amusement park?

    The polling around here, even though the University closed at 1:30 because of the threat of snow (no laughing if you are above the Mason-Dixon!), overwhelmingly supports the Native American-themed amusement park.

    Is this an example of "De Gustibus" or "Cui Bono"?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:28 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 06, 2005
    How about Joan Jett for 24 hours?

    Larry's post (below) reminded me of a rock station in Chattanooga during the 80s (Rock 105), who thought it would be clever to play Joan Jett's I Love Rock And Roll without commercial interruption for its first 24 hours. After about the fourth time in a row the station was turned off.

    Like a bad liquor experience, my Pavolvian response to "I Love Rock and Roll" is to recoil in horror.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:56 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Where is the FCC when we need them?

    I’m being forced to reconsider my view that the FCC shouldn’t restrict broadcast content. Why? Because while I’ve been driving around town Christmas shopping, KEZK-FM in St. Louis has subjected me to Josh Groban’s version of “O Holy Night” three times in 24 hours. There ought to be a rule! (Specifically: Groban no more than once per day; if the station wants to play that song again, play Eric Cartman’s version.)

    Sure, I could always turn the radio off or avoid the channels I don't want to hear -- but as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin asked about offensive cable TV, why should I have to?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:25 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Immigration concerns c. 1905

    In what would have likely shown on C-SPAN 3 or some such channel, in the December 6, 1905 NYT, is a story about the

    first National conference held in this country, beginning today in the Concert Hall of Madison Square Garden. The sessions will continue through to-morrow and Friday. The conference was arranged for by the Civid Federation, and its purpose is to find out whether immigration at the present rate is a benefit or a menace to the prosperity of the country [emphasis added].

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. I think we can safely state that there was a net benefit to the immigration waves of the early 1900s, even if assimilation didn't happen overnight. Today's wave of immigration evokes similar concerns about quick assimilatoin and the future of our prosperity. However, one hundred years it is likely that we will have a similar conclusion as we do today.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:53 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 05, 2005
    More Missing Movie Quotes

    Me, I’m disappointed that the AFI list of 100 movie quotes failed to include any of these memorable lines from Pulp Fiction:

    JULES: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
    VINCENT: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn't know what the $#@! a Quarter Pounder is.
    VINCENT: What a gyp.
    CAPT. KOONS: Hello, little man.
    BUTCH: You okay?
    MARSELLUS: Naw man. I'm pretty $#@!ing far from okay!
    MARSELLUS: I'm gonna get Medieval on your ass.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:15 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    "Who are these guys?"

    AFI's top 100 film quotes are online here. [HT: Newmark.] My favorite quotable movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but none of these made the list:

    "Who are these guys?"

    "Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals."

    "The next time I say, 'Let's go someplace like Bolivia,' let's go someplace like Bolivia."

    "Why you crazy bastard, the fall will probably kill you."

    And my personal favorite:

    "You just keep thinkin' Butch. That's what you're good at."

    What are your favorite missing quotes?

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:28 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 02, 2005
    World’s most popular actor hospitalized

    Amitabh Bachchan, 63, is recovering in Mumbai from surgery Wednesday evening to repair intestinal perforation due to diverticulitis.

    Who? If you’re not a fan of Bollywood you probably haven’t heard of The Big B, but the tall baritone-voiced actor has been far and away the industry’s leading star since 1975. There is no doubt that world-wide his movies have sold more tickets than those of any other actor -- from any country -- over those 30 years. (Revenue product is another question: Bollywood films sell about as many tickets but do about 1/20 the real box office of Hollywood because tickets in India go for the equivalent of 50 cents rather than $10.)

    Bachchan co-starred in the greatest Hindi film of all time, Sholay, in 1975. He has appeared in four hits so far this year: Bunty Aur Babli, Black, Sarkar, and Waqt , respectively 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 8th in adjusted All-Indian net box office for 2005. If you want to sample his recent work, the best of these films overall is Sarkar (an Indianized version of The Godfather from Bollywood's best current director, Ram Gopal Varma), but Bachchan’s acting impressed me even more in Black (an Indianized version of The Miracle Worker), where my ability to appreciate his talents was helped by the fact that his character speaks about 80% in English.

    Although he now plays patriarchs rather than the “angry young man” roles that made him famous, Bachchan continues to work steadily. Two new Bachchan films are due out this month. Reports the Deccan Herald:

    According to industry sources here, Bachchan is starring in at least a dozen films which are scheduled to be completed next year. He has also signed on for various commercials which were to be shot this month and early next year.

    AB also hosts India’s most popular television show, “Kaun Banega Crorepati?,” the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Bachchan was recently in New York to promote the show, and was interviewed about it last week on Showbiz India (a US program on cable's International Channel). Filming for the revamped KBC-2 will now have to be suspended. Bachchan is expected to be out of action for a month while recuperating.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:58 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    With a title like that

    The Dec. 2, 1905 NYT hypes a new book on "Easy Mathematics" by one Sir Oliver Lodge that went by the title:

    Easy Mathematics, Chiefly Arithmetic. Being a Collection of Hints to Teachers, Parents, Self-Taught Students, and Adults, and Containing a Summary or Indication of Most Things in Elementary Mathematics Useful to be Known

    Now that's a title to titillate the mathematically curious.

    More on Oliver Lodge:
    Biography #1

    Biography #2

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:28 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 29, 2005
    Negative externality?

    Forget smoking and loud stereos, how about 12 satellite dishes on your neighbor's front porch?

    Evidently he can dial in 5,000 channels, which puts channel surfing in a new perspective. On the other hand, he probably got to watch the Georgia-Georgia Tech game last Saturday - we got stuck with ND-Stanford (even though the ND-Stanford game was exciting, and the GA-GT game wasn't).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:31 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Happy birthday pong

    How far we have come since November 29, 1971. Ah, the good old days of Pong. The simple game didn't elicit Congressional investigations and parental ratings. Did pong cause a lot of sleepless nights? Were there bleary-eyed sophomores stumbling into class the next day? .

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:32 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 28, 2005
    Umm Ali or O'Malley?

    On my recent trip to Oman, I had a middle eastern dessert called Umm Ali which means "Ali's Mother". It's a sort of middle eastern bread pudding, sweet with nuts and raisins; it is much tastier than the bland Northern European version.

    Anyway, my host told me the dish originated with an Irish woman named O'Malley who lived in the region in the past. I tried to find some verification of this but couldn't come up with much except what I found on this page.

    Anyway, if true, this would be a great example of Tyler Cowen's basic view of how trade occurs between cultures.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:32 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 23, 2005
    Link Wray, RIP

    Last night on Letterman, the band played guitarist Link Wray’s song “Rumble” as the show went to a commercial break. This morning I discovered the sad reason why (hat tip to Jeff A. Taylor at Reason Hit & Run): Link Wray passed away earlier this month and was buried on Friday. He was 76. Here is the official Link Wray site; here is a fan tribute site; Rolling Stone has an obit here.

    You’ve heard his menacing instrumentals even if you don’t know the songs by name. Among other placements, two of his songs play in the background of the Jack Rabbit Slim’s scene in Pulp Fiction. He was a huge influence on the surf instro music of the 1960s (Dick Dale et al.) through to today’s post-Pulp Fiction bands.

    I saw Link play in Atlanta seven years ago, and in St. Louis in April this year. Both times in small clubs. This April's was an unpolished show, since it was early in a tour with a pick-up drummer and bass player who didn’t know the material yet. But the guitar-playing was timeless. I hope I’m as cheerful and energetic at 76 as Link was.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:12 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 22, 2005
    This [blank] for sale

    From Advertising Age:

    The 2005 Time Person of the Year is brought to you by ... Chrysler.

    The automaker has signed a seven-figure deal that latches it to the year-end cover-story franchise, ensuring, at least for the next four weeks, nearly every Person of the Year mention will be accompanied by a Chrysler spot, banner, button or bumper.

    I want to sell sponsorship of my exams (as well as sponsorships for hints), but somehow I think that is not allowed.

    Does Chrysler already know the person of the year? What if it were Osama or some other non-desirable (at least among Chrysler's target consumers)? Oh, the article states that the "finalists" have been determined to be: "Steve Jobs, Bono, the Google Guys, Valerie Plame, Lance Armstrong and rumored front-runner Mother Nature.'" Okay, this time it doesn't look like such a bad bet - and the value of the Time Person of the Year is arguably higher when there are fewer "wildcards" in the list (Plame is not really an issue of such magnitude is it?).

    Likely no future "Adolf Hitler" will be a (sponsored) person of the year...

    Virtual Tiebout model and spam

    The Nigerian emailers received the Ignobel for literature last month. Perhaps the sunshine this provided has made the spammers scurry to other countries. More likely a sufficient number of spam filters have been set to filter out the word "Nigeria" and other African countries where hidden loot can be released upon the signature of a single U.S. citizen.

    As far as markets go, I am not sure where this falls - virtual Tiebout? - but in my email box I just received another promise of instant riches, this time from the U.K. (heads up?)


    Do accept my sincere apologies if my mail does not meet your personal Ethics. I introduce myself as Liam Johnson a staff in the accounts management Section of a well-known bank here in the United Kingdom.

    One of our accounts with holding balance of 15,000,000 pounds (Fifteen Million British Pounds) has been dormant and last operated in the past 3 years. From my investigations and confirmations, the owner of this account is a Foreigner by name Gerald Stone died on the 4th of January 2002 on a plane crash in Birmingham here in UK

    The usual litinany of explanations and assurances follows. There is actually a confidentiality disclaimer at the end, making it look somewhat legit, but now I have to readjust my spam filter.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:51 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 06, 2005
    Deepa Mehta’s Water opens (in Canada) to mixed reviews

    Deepa Mehta’s Earth (1998) is the best movie ever made on the India-Pakistan partition of 1947, so I’ve been looking forward to her long-delayed Water. It’s the third in an "elements trilogy" (the stories are unrelated) that began with Fire (1996). The first attempt at filming Water in India was shut down by Hindu fundamentalists in 2000. The new version, with a new cast, was filmed secretly in Sri Lanka. Water is the story of several widows living in an ashram in 1938, confined by Hindu religious customs that gave them few other options. It stars Lisa Ray, who was surprisingly good (given what I’d seen of her in the Telugu cowboy film Takkari Donga) in Mehta’s comedy Bollywood/Hollywood. Seema Biswas, who played the title role in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen (1994), and Indian-male-model-turned-Bollywood actor John Abraham also star.

    Water has played a few film festivals in Canada (Mehta lives in Toronto) and New York, and opened commercially in Canada on Friday. For some reason it won’t play in the US until April 2006. (How long before bootlegs become available in Indian video stores in the US? I give it two weeks.) Reviews seem to be mixed: some find the film uncompelling or heavy-handed, but one reviewer calls it “an exquisite drama brimming with life and laughter and great tenderness and wrenching tragedy.”

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:36 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 31, 2005
    Population growth in NYC c. 1905

    Some interesting information in the Oct. 31, 1905 NYT concerning population growth in the five NYC boroughs between 1900 and 1905 (and 1890-1900).:

    Over at the U.S. census the population data for the same five boroughs from 2000 through 2003:

    Manhattan: 2000 - 1,537,195      2003 - 1,564,798 (1.8% growth)
    Bronx: 2000 - 1,332,650          2003 - 1,363,198 (2.3% growth)
    Brooklyn: 2000 - 2,465,326        2003 - 2,472,523 (0.3% growth)
    Queens: 2000 - 2,229,379       2003 - 2,225,48 (-0.2% growth)
    Staten Island : 2000 - 443,728    2003 - 459,737 (3.6% growth)

    What a difference 100 years makes. Granted there isn't much room left in the five boroughs (see page 11), but is NYC a less attractive place to live for other reasons? Could a lack of growth be associated with the fact that NYC has the highest cost of living in the United States? Could it be the severe unemployment losses after the terrorist attacks of 2001 (more here)? Could it be that NYC is too cold?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:50 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 27, 2005
    Name Game, and Sowell on Parks

    I'm the first "Tim Shaughnessy" that pops up in Google.
    It seems I've beaten out a state senator for the top spot; better beef up the advertising budget before the next election. He's a Dem from Kentucky. Also a Catholic, born in 1957 whereas I was born in 1975.
    Another Tim Shaughnessy is an English professor, and wrote this paper on "White, Stereotypes of Indians." Not sure what the comma is for. White of Indians?

    Thomas Sowell discusses the passing of Rosa Parks in his most recent column. Why was the bus segregated in the first place?

    It was politics that segregated the races because the incentives of the political process are different from the incentives of the economic process. Both blacks and whites spent money to ride the buses but, after the disenfranchisement of black voters in the late 19th and early 20th century, only whites counted in the political process.

    Were it left private, no business owner in his right mind would alienate a large customer base by segregating. Of course he could, but his profits would suffer.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 06:39 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    On common names

    Following up on Larry's post on name confusion, as far as I know there is only one other Craig Depken. He too has a doctorate, although in mechanical engineering. I have never been accused of being him, but the reverse has happened. This is likely because he has only a handful of mentions on the net whereas Craig Depken Mark II has (perhaps) hundreds.

    Having a relatively uncommon name has the somewhat pleasant outcome that the self-google is much less time consuming, and is perhaps more informative, than with a more common name. On the flip side, I don't have plausible deniability when it comes to certain Google hits. Whether this becomes more important in the future - either in the private sector, government, or in academia - is an interesting question (sounds like a Hal Varian paper topic).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:57 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    History in pictures

    A fascinating archive of WWI pictures (some are somewhat graphic). The comments are also interesting.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:18 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 20, 2005
    Goo Goo Google

    I like Google, but this kind of appreciation seems to be a little bit too much.

    Google KAI is the name of our SON

    Story here: A Baby Named Google

    Posted by at 09:08 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 16, 2005
    Trying to not be repetitive

    My last post was a little hard on a wacky Christian Senator (I still laugh at the second picture). I guess I'm still on the same topic.

    A Catholic high school principal cancelled the prom. The reason? The story, the principal, and the headline all seem to indicate that the drugs, sex, and alcohol were getting out of control. But, the real reason was:

    "It is not primarily the sex/booze/drugs that surround this event, as problematic as they might be; it is rather the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake -- in a word, financial decadence," Hoagland said, fed up with what he called the "bacchanalian aspects."

    So a Catholic Church, reeling from sex abuse scandals, doesn't really see the main problem with prom being drunken orgies amongst its students. No, the real problem is Veblenian. And here I thought liberation theology was passe.

    Seriously, I usually tell people I will refuse to send my kids through public schools, but if these are typical antics of Catholic school principals, I guess I'll have to homeschool. This story grates on both my somewhat orthodox beliefs on Catholic social thought and on my libertarianism.

    BTW, Bob and fellow marathoners, I've sort of gotten into this guy's exercise mentality. He calls that sort of running LSD-long slow distance. Doesn't have much good to say about it.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 11:11 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 14, 2005
    Exercising is the Source of the Obesity?

    Our nation's obesity "problem" - some countries would love to be so cursed - has caused a number of navel-gazers to suggest all sorts of public policies ranging from "fat taxes" to compulsory physical education for the overweight.

    This little nugget came across my desk today:

    73 percent of residential kitchens contain over a million calories of food.

    If true, all you can say is Wow. However, I'm not sure if I am buying into this one.

    The average adult needs about 2000 or so calories a day to comfortably survive. Let's let the average household have three such people in total. If the 73% figure is to be believed, these kitchens have enough food to feed three adults for 166 days!?!

    With so many calories sitting around the kitchen (even if the estimate is off by twenty or thirty percent) it is likely that food spoilage is a common, almost continuous, problem. Food spoilage represents the expiration of an option - the option to ingest the food/calories.

    In our kitchen food options expire continuously - perhaps to the detriment of our bank account but not to our waistline - but there is no reason to assume this would be the case in other kitchens. Obesity may be an unintended aggregated consequence of the wrong exercise?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:20 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 06, 2005
    Finance 'n' Roses, or is it Guns 'n' Finance?

    Duff McKagan, bassist for Guns 'n' Roses and Velvet Revolver, used his down time between bands to pursue a finance degree at Seattle University.

    This just sounds very refreshing:

    So I bought a house in Seattle and got into Seattle University, which was pretty good for someone who didn't graduate high school. I went for almost four years. I was a quarter away from getting my bachelor's degree, but then this band started. But I learned a lot. I have an accounting minor, and I learned the meat and potatoes of what you've got to know to get around in this business, and a lot more about my personal finances. I'm real happy with the knowledge I gained for my own sake.

    I don't think I'll see him one day on "Behind the Music" saying he's flat broke.

    Posted by Joshua Hall at 01:50 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 30, 2005
    Fear and loathing c. 1905

    From the Sept. 30, 1905 NYT:

    The anti-automobile movement that developed a few days ago in the organization of the Anti-Mobile Association of North Branch seems likely to spread throughout New Jersey....The speaker's at last night's meeting declared that the laws concerning the use of the highways of the State must be remodeled, so as to throw as many restrictions around automobile travel as possible. It was decided to oppose every candidate for the State Senate or Assembly who owns or has ever been known to ride in an automobile (emphasis added).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:35 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    It must be fall: pumpkin beer is here

    Big news from St. Louis: Anheuser-Busch launches “a series of seasonal beers available on tap”. This fall’s offering is Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale, whose flavor the AB product manager describes as “a wicked blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and real delicious pumpkins." Seriously.

    The pumpkin beer will also be available in stores as part of the Michelob Special Sampler Collection, “a seasonal package of bottled specialty beers”.

    No word yet on the flavoring of the winter brew that AB will make available in December. Cranberry? Sugar cookie? Peppermint candy cane?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:35 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 28, 2005
    Jerry Springer households c. 1905

    From the Sept. 28, 1905 NYT:

    Alleging that her husband had compelled her to go around their home on roller skates and had done other strange things, Mrs. Emma Kopp appeared before Justice Garretson in Special Term of the Supreme Court, Brooklyn, and opposed his release from the Long Island Home for the Insane in Amityville...Mrs. Kopp in her affidavit said that he had for some time taken fifteen or twenty drinks of whisky each day, and on some days had consumed two quarts.

    He acquired a passion for kite flying and purchased fifteen kites. Later he bought a number of pairs of roller skates and compelled her to use them. He brought ten dogs of various breeds and sizes into the house on one day, and on antoehr he carried fifteen framed pictures to his home. On another occasion Mr. Kopp bought 200 padlocks and tried to fashem them all to his trunk.

    Justice Garretson remanded the man to the sanitarium.

    Poor guy. Today he would have had an all-expenses paid trip to Chicago or some other city to be the object of ridicule or fascination (depending on one's take) on one of the daily shows. Of course, fifteen to twenty snorts of whisky a day will make just about anybody "crazy."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:54 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 26, 2005
    Blockbuster...not, but still

    There is a documentary coming out this fall, an extension of the short film, "Brainwashing 101."

    It is described here.

    The main film should be out in the next few months. And in THAT FILM, you will see (ahem), well....me. Kgrease, speaking truth to flowers. I'm giving it two thumbs up, way up.

    Posted by Michael Munger at 11:46 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 09, 2005
    Cato on TV

    In the summer of 1976 (I think it was), I was commissioned to write a biographical essay on Cato the Younger, also known as Cato the Utican (the adjectives are to distinguish him from Cato the Elder, aka Cato the Censor), as a backgrounder for his then-fledging namesake the Cato Institute. I’m not entirely sure how I got the job; probably via someone who’d heard that I’d had four years of high school Latin.

    With that personal history, forgive me for registering the following complaint about HBO’s new series Rome: the actor who plays Cato is too old. Marcus Porcius Cato was born 95 BC. Gaius Julius Caesar was born 102 or 100 BC; so in real life Cato was 5 or 7 years younger than Caesar. Cato was 46 when Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. In the HBO series, the actor playing Cato (Karl Johnson) looks about 60-65 years old, about 10-15 years older than the actor playing Caesar. (I haven’t been able to find out Karl Johnson’s actual age.)

    Otherwise, I like the series so far. The writers have done their historical homework. (E.g., Cato was in fact known for oddly wearing a toga without a tunic underneath.) I especially like Indira Varma (from Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra) as Niobe.

    HBO’s Rome is like HBO’s Deadwood in its multiple interweaving plot lines and generous helpings of violence and nudity (though without as much cursing), but it places them in exactly the opposite political setting. Deadwood is a cynical take on a stateless society. Rome is a cynical take on a state-dominated society.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:12 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 02, 2005
    Civil War Sites vs. Katrina

    Those interested in the status of Civil War sites, both in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast, can go to The Present Past blog. It has reports and links to pics and video of what Katrina did. It seems to be written by historical preservation folks, so it is on point.

    Here is an overhead pic of the damage at Beauvoir.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:34 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 28, 2005
    Comments on Fox News

    I turn on Fox News to see what's happening and the only news in the world is that a hurricane is heading for New Orleans. Now, NO is one of my favorite cities - what with the Hotel Moteleone (killer hotel bar), Clover Grill, the Napolean House, Cafe du Monde, (for tourist watching), and more kick-butt restaurants and bars than you can visit, how can you go wrong?

    However, Fox News (and I can only assume the other channels, although I don't watch them) reports that NO is "under seige" and runs banner headlines such as "walls and roofs of well-built houses may collapse" and "people and pets exposed to winds may die" and the such. This is not news!! This is hypothetical sky-is-falling rambling which is neither news worthy nor entertaining (at least to me).

    The marginal cost to Fox for being "wrong" about their dire predictions is essentially zero. The marginal benefit for having hyped the hurricane for the entire weekend if the hurricane event is catastrophic must be pretty high - I suppose Fox could then claim in the future that they "were there."

    The anchors have interviewed the requisite weatherman who will ride out the storm, but have also interviewed "experts" on electric power line repairs, cholera and West Nile virus (evidently there is potential for an epidemic), they have discussed the long lines to get into the Superdome (which haven't been clearly explained), the possibility that the entire city will be under twenty feet of water (allusions to the "Lost City of Atlantis" have been made more than once), and that too many people think the storm might miss NO and that is a shame.

    Fox News now anticipates what will happen in the future, and reports such anticipations as news, even while it reports in real time what is happening and then reports on what happened in the past. News used to be past and present tense - primarily past tense. Now, news seems to be past, present, and future tense. The trend of pulling news from the future to the present is wearing on me, which is why I don't often watch cable news.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:06 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 23, 2005
    People are Stupid and Markets Don’t Work

    That’s the attitude of this Republican administration. How else do you explain the new fuel economy standards? You are too stupid to buy a high mileage fuel efficient car and the auto producers are too stupid to respond to any increase in the demand for high mileage cars, so the government comes to our rescue by legislating standards. Without the government telling me what to do, I just might buy a muscle car or a V-8 to pull the boat. Thank god, they saved me from that stupidity. Better I should buy a Smart Car.

    Congress is also thinking of changing daylight savings time. At the western end of the Eastern Time Zone that means we will have to go to work and school in the dark. Can’t Congress just legislate that the sun remain in the sky longer? Surely Congress has the power to do that.

    Any other smart things the government has done lately?

    Posted by at 10:27 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (1)  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 20, 2005
    Annie Get Your Gun

    Archie Bunker's solution to airline hyjackings was to give everyone a gun as they entered the plane. Using a similar approach the N.C. legislature has passed a law requiring that the courts provide battered spouses with information on obtaining a handgun. Good idea? If so, why not provide the same information to all victims of crime.

      "We're not interested in them shooting their abusers," said Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina. "We're interested in delivering a message: When police can't protect these people, they are capable of protecting themselves."

    Posted by at 09:54 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 19, 2005
    We've come a long way

    This one is making the rounds. A board game from the sixties promoting various careers for young girls.

    More evidence of how far we have come in such a short time.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:50 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 18, 2005
    Evidence of what?

    Aug. 18, 1905, Page 7 of the New York Times brings the following story (repeated here in its entirety):

    OSWEGO, N.Y. - Boatmen gathering driftwood in Lake Ontario today discovered the headless body of a three-year-old girl near Four Miles Point. The body was wrapped in an old dress and placed in a sack.
    It remains to be "seen" whether this story will generate more headlines, investigatory reporting, and so forth in the next few days. However limited the information at the time, you would have thought the story would merit more than four lines in the NYT.

    Alternatively, we know what would happen in today's environment - sales tax revenue in Oswego would increase dramatically as the media converged. Stories about how many headless three year olds are found each year, that this year the number is down/up dramatically, the psychological significance of the finding, the agrieved parents, the local minister, etc.

    I wonder if this is evidence that we value life significantly higher in today's U.S., which we obviously do but is it a cause of such media coverage, evidence of fewer pressing issues of national concern (which I don't think is true), or a symptom of our twenty four hour news cycle.

    What is the appropriate balance to a news story such as this - what the NYT did 100 years ago or what we would see today? Something to mull over.

    (Update: In today's Star Telegram is a short story about a decomposing body found near a highschool. On the web, the story is three paragraphs, 74 words)

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:45 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 10, 2005
    When in doubt, please ask?

    Don't know where this is from (perhaps not suitable for work), but it's funny.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:15 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Grumbling in Hollywood

    Here in the States, Hollywood has been grumbling because of the flat or falling year-over-year earnings at the boxoffice. There are plenty of excuses for why people aren't going to the movies as much as they once did, including DVDs, pirating, video games, and alternative uses of scarce time. Such concerns were also voiced about television and radio. From what I have seen, not too many people have admitted that remaking Herbie, the Bad News Bears, and the Longest Yard is not likely to set everybody agog.

    Here's a quick and dirty picture of year-over-year percentage changes in the top 12 grossing movies domestically. Perhaps this is caused by piracy and DVDs but I bet it has much more to do with the quality of the movies relative to the quality of alternative uses of time.

    This story suggests that the movie industry is taking it in the shorts in Asia as well. Some blame piracy, but still others admitted two things. First, the quality of the movies is down. Second, comparing to 2004 is misleading because 2004 was a big year in the movies.

    What is in common between the market for movies in Asia and the U.S.? Piracy and the quality of movies. Which is more likely to be causing the dramatic drops in revenue?

    Stunning statistic of the day?

    So far this year, China's top boxoffice earner is "Sith," which by July 10 had earned 75.23 million yuan ($9.09 million) nationally. However, the current "blackout" of foreign releases through to the end of August could affect overall 2005 results.
    Perhaps government regulation might keep the revenue at an artificially low level, but $9 million? For the entire country?! Can anybody offer the going price in yuan for a movie in Beijing?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:37 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 06, 2005
    Bollywood summer movies

    Best Bollywood movie I’ve seen so far this summer: D.

    Still looking forward to seeing: Sarkar, The Warrior, and The Rising.

    Read More »

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:52 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 27, 2005
    Interesting rejoinder to Sen. Clinton

    Sen. Clinton wants a "study" of Grand Theft Auto and other games and their effects on the children. I have "played" Halo - I played Doom and Quake in grad school, but nothing like the games of today. I didn't have the patience to spend hours understanding what Halo was all about, so I had my buddy put the settings to "kill all and never die" and spent an hour or two blowing the heck out of everything that moved.

    Did I understand how to shoot one weapon or another, sure, but I had no idea of what the game was all about.

    Enter this opinion by Steven Johnson in the LA Times, and I have to agree with a lot of what he says. At the very least, his ideas are observationally equivalent to what Sen. Clinton claims is going on.

    I especially agree with the football story. I played NCAA 2004 on an X-box last year and got roundly trounced. What exactly is a red-dog 44 scat back blue (or whatever the play was called)? American football is a blast to watch (especially my Dawgs!) but it is an extremely complicated game when you are the coach. The intellectual side of games is probably not recognized enough by those who have not played them. Also, when the technology allows us to wage war remotely from six thousand miles away, we will have an Ender's Game generation.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:33 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 26, 2005
    Payola in radio

    Eliot Spitzer, your state attorney general of New York, went after Sony for allegedly paying radio stations, and radio station personnel, for air-time for their music. Sony has now settled. Evidently this was taboo in the radio industry thirty years ago, but it is not surprising to me that money was exchanging hands. Sony wants air time, which is scarce, radio stations have air time, which is scarce, and it is hardly surprising that mutually beneficial trade would take place.

    Evidently, taking such "payola" is against state and federal law. This seems odd, seeing as how Coca Cola pays television and radios for precious advertising time. If listening to the radio is a form of sampling, then paying to have a song played seems no different than advertising. I suppose there is the appearance of impropriety because the payola isn't announced or widely recognized as implicit, as in the case of regular advertising.

    However, the attorney general of New York goes a little further and suggests that consumers interpret a song played on a radio as a signal of quality, rather than listening to a song and deciding on their own if it is a quality piece of music or not. This sounds like the Kaldor argument against advertising: advertising alters tastes and preferences rather than the Becker/Stigler argument presented in "De Gustibus."

    It seems rather simple for most music listeners to decide on their own if they like Cold Play, Jessica Simpson, or Nat King Cole. But Spitzer's office claims that, to some, playing a song on the radio signals that it has some artistic value. This seems to be a rather condescending view of the consuming public (I might excuse the youngsters who might not know better, yet).

    "Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees," Spitzer said.
    So where is the inefficiency? Where is the economic damage? Some claim that the payola keeps a good, local/smaller bands off the radio, but this has never set well with me. The claim is that small labels and smaller bands do not have the resources to buy their way onto the radio. However, why would Sony spend their money on artists that are of lower quality than others? If Sony has the choice of signing a low-quality artist and having to pay to get their music played versus signing a high-quality artist and not having to pay to get their music played, the problem seems trivial. When you add the complications of multi-media crossovers and marketing, such as is the case with Jessica Simpson, then the music might just be a loss-leader. Sony ignores the high-quality, non-sexy, performer for the sexy, low-quality performer.

    I quit listening to FM radio years ago because during my ten minute commute I could never find any music - just ads and dj's yapping. Hence, switch to AM and catch some Joe Q. Public or hit the MP3 disk in the deck. The future of broadcast music radio is probably irrevocably damaged by satellite and MP3 services. Thus, instead of banning what is a natural market, why not just require full information /disclosure?

    If everyone knows that the music they hear on the radio is paid for, they can take it or leave it, just as they do with paid advertising in the rest of the matrix.

    Is the payola illegal? perhaps. Is it immoral? That is less clear.

    Drudge now links to a couple of additional stories: here and here .

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:47 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 25, 2005
    Potter Blogging

    In an act of conspicuous consumption, the Lawson clan bought two copies of the new Harry Potter book so we wouldn't have to compete as much on the first weekend. The wife finished on the first night; I finished on the second; and little bit is almost done now.

    Great book. Perfect. I love Harry.

    Damn that woman for taking so long between books! I want to know what happens to Harry NOW. NOW. NOW. If we had central planning, we could MAKE her write for us. Of course, what she would write would suck if we had central planning, so....

    Oh well, the next movie comes out at Thanksgiving.

    I don't get the purported anti-Americanism. British-centric yes, but anti-American? Nah. The world doesn't actually revolve around the good ole U. S. of A. much as we'd like it to. (Btw, as I recall, there were American wizards witches from Salem, Mass. at the Quidditch World Cup in Book V.)

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:01 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Is it the actor or the director?

    Ewan McGregor stars in The Island, co-produced by DreamWorks and Warner Bros., that opened this weekend to a tune of $12 million dollars in 3,122 theaters. His previous movie, Revenge of the Sith opened with $108m in 3,661 theaters.

    This makes me wonder if it is the actor or the director that causes such dramatic changes in box office totals. Opening totals are often misleading because a movie might only be in two or three theaters in the opening weekend. However, the Island (which I had not heard of until Thursday evening when I saw a brief commercial for it) opened in the number of theaters consistent with a blockbuster.

    I am out of the market for movies, but Box Office Mojo seems to put the failure at the feet of the director.

    McGregor's films have displayed significant variance (although whether more or less than other actors/actresses I haven't gathered the data to say): His average opening is approximately $15m with a standard deviation of $30m. However, this includes only four films that have opened with more than $15m, the three Star Wars movies and Robots.

    McGregor's films average $78.5 million in total gross revenues during their domestic theater run. The average is not too bad. However, The Island cost $122m to make and will probably not earn anywhere close to McGregor's average, much less turn a profit.

    The lack of profit is surprisingly common in Hollywood. Like venture capitalists, oil wildcatters, and other similar industries, it seems that the studios throw money after a lot of projects that end up not panning out - even while it would seem that the "formula" for making a successful movie is fairly well understood at this point.

    I understand the studios taking a shotgun approach to the industry, but what about the actor/actress? It does seem that some stars go through oscillations in their quality of work, such as Keanu Reeves and John Travolta. Perhaps a movie that doesn't generate a lot of revenue satisfies some part of the actor's idiosyncratic artisitic desires - Battlefield Earth comes to mind. On the other hand, perhaps actors agree to the script before knowing how bad the production will be, but with sufficient reputation at stake might purchase insurance against a flop? Finally, in the case of McGregor, I wonder if he really is an actor that can generate Revenge of the Sith type revenues on his own.

    I think Box Office Mojo is right - the lack of excitement for The Island is likely not the fault of McGregor.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:08 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 15, 2005
    The Wrath of Khan

    Bollywood hunk Salman Khan, whose poor acting was previously noticed here, is now at the center of an ugly fracas over off-screen dialog that seems to have all India in a tizzy. The Hindustan Times has released transcripts of a 2001 phone call, reportedly from a police tap on Khan’s phone during an investigation of his underworld ties, in which (allegedly) a nasty drunk Khan curses at his then-girlfriend, actress Ashwariya Rai, and threateningly boasts about his underworld connections. Khan’s lawyer says the tape is “fabricated”.

    Here’s a choice excerpt (and yes, most of the "conversation" is in English):

    SK: Don't you dare f**k with me, Ash. I know Abu Salem, Chhota Shakeel, Dawood Ibrahim, Guru Satam... Underworld people call me up here. I am their main man in Bombay. I do all that s**t.

    Ash: Stop it. Don't talk nonsense. You can get into trouble. Ok, Christ.

    SK: F**k you. F**k you. Don't use that language towards me.

    Ash: Stop it.

    Groups of activists calling Khan a “traitor” have disrupted screenings of Khan’s latest film, which opened today, throughout India. (The film plays tomorrow night here in St. Louis; presumably calm will prevail.)

    According to one report:

    In Mumbai, nearly 100 activists of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha were arrested, when they staged demonstrations in front Salman Khan's residence in suburban Bandra, police said.

    The workers also stormed cinema theatres in some parts of the city and disrupted the shows of Khan's latest film.

    A legislator member of the nationalist Shiv Sena party has called for Khan to be arrested and tried for having underworld ties. Leaders of the BJP have joined in the denunciations.

    Why all the furore? The news accounts don't mention this explicitly, but Khan is Muslim, as are many in Bollywood, and as are some of the gangsters he names on the tape.

    Trinamool Congress Students Union president Baiswanar Chatterjee said the protest was not against the star or his films but against "a man who supported anti-nationals and their activities."

    Meaning: Khan is linked to the Mumbai underworld, which is allegedly linked to enemy Pakistan. Thus it’s a pretext for Hindu nationalists to go on the political offensive.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:50 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 14, 2005
    Trailers of Historically Significant Films

    At the Digital History site you can find trailers for many popular films. The trailer for the original War of the Worlds reminded me that we attempted to stop the aliens with nuclear weapons in the first film. The are no weapons of mass destruction in the Spielberg version. What happened to the weapons of mass destruction? Would it be pollitically incorrect to use nuclear weapons against space aliens?

    Posted by at 12:03 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 05, 2005
    On top of spaghetti

    In a 1994 interview with Charlie Rose available on the Pulp Fiction bonus dvd (an excellent Father’s Day present I was watching the other night), director Quentin Tarantino told Rose (transcript here) that his three favorite movies of all time were Brian De Palma’s Blowout, Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. More recently Tarantino (along with several other directors) gave the Independent (UK) a list of his ten favorite movies. (Hat tip: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.) The top three: 1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966), 2. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959), 3. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976). Blowout isn’t even among the new QT top ten, although De Palma’s Carrie comes in at #8.

    I’m guessing that Tarantino today better appreciates his debt to Leone’s work after making the spaghetti-western-inspired Kill Bill.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:55 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 01, 2005
    Jolly Holly-Bolly

    If (like me) you were disappointed by the attempted fusion of Bollywood and Hollywood in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Predjudice, get ready for Willard Carroll's Marigold, set for a January 2006 US release. B&P paired a leading Bollywood beauty (Ashwariya Rai) with a no-name western actor (Martin Henderson). Marigold pairs a leading Bollywood hunk (Salman Kahn) with a no-name western actress (Ali Larter). I see a problem: Salman Kahn is a star (especially among NRI teenage girls) for his dancing and physique, not for his acting. (He was truly awful in Baghban.) So I’m keeping my expectations low.

    In the meantime, in the Indo-western crossover genre I highly recommend Monsoon Wedding and mildly recommend Bollywood Hollywood.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 02:55 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 30, 2005
    How Stella lost her groove again

    According to the official web site for How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the 1998 film

    is based on Terry McMillan's best-selling novel of the same name - the story was inspired by McMillan's real-life romance with a young Jamaican who indeed was twenty years her junior.

    McMillan, 53, is now divorcing her husband Jonathan Plummer, 30, saying he has admitted being gay and only marrying her to get a green card. Plummer has filed for spousal support and royalties from the book. According to one news report

    Plummer says he didn't know he was gay when he met McMillan in June 1995 when, recuperating from her mother's death, she visited the Negril resort where he worked.

    "I was a 20-year-old kid when I met her and had no idea that she was anybody other than an attractive older woman," he said.

    Let this be an object lesson to women who might otherwise get carried away with “Stella’s Top 10 Reasons to Date a Younger Man”.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 03:07 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (2)

    June 24, 2005
    Old Woodies

    In the '60s, surfers drove woodies. As a post-ironic consumer of ersatz surf culture (surf music especially, but I even once subscribed to the short-lived lifestyle magazine Beach Culture) since my grad-school years in LA, I drive a "woodie" version PT Cruiser (complete with custom-made surfboard-styled wood rear shelf, surf stickers on the rear windows, and a hula girl wiggler doll on the dash). But for the truly obsessive-nostalgic, only a genuine vintage wood-bodied car will do. You can witness their fetish-objects (some with surfboards on top) at the noteworthy fan site www.oldwoodies.com

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 01:17 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (1)

    June 23, 2005
    Calvin and Hobbes

    The complete Calvin and Hobbes comic strip is now available in a nice three volume hardbound set. $89.50.

    UPDATE: This is an example of Ralph's post on "dynamic pricing". The link above is the one I received in my inbox (as a subscriber to the daily comic strip service). The $89.50 price I got is lower than the $94.50 price advertised on the regular web site.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:09 AM in Culture ~ in Economics  ·  TrackBack (1)

    June 22, 2005
    Howl's Moving Castle

    Little bit and I went to see Howl's Moving Castle last night (see also the Disney site). I give it 4.5/5.0 stars. We are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki's work. As usual, this one was visually stunning, beautifully scored, and filled with the fantastic. As we left, we just kept saying "Wow!" to each other.

    The anti-war message was even more obvious than in Castle in the Sky (1986), but was not overpowering. Also, the story line was perhaps not as tight as his other movies and I felt less sympathy for the characters than usual, but these are minor complaints. I think we're going to go back to see the subtitled version (instead of the dubbed version) next.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:03 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (2)

    June 21, 2005
    Liberty Film Festival

    The 2005 Liberty Film Festival, which bills itself as “Hollywood's premier event for conservative and libertarian film,” will be held October 21-23 in West Hollywood, California. It’s a counter-Sundance, you might say. And they do say:

    The Liberty Film Festival showcases films that celebrate the traditional American values of free speech, patriotism, and religious freedom.

    [...]The LFF takes no positions on candidates, legislation or ballot initiatives. Of course, most (not all) of the people who operate the LFF are indeed Republicans or libertarians. And most of the people who run Sundance are Democrats.

    The festival is co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murty, who also have a conservative film blog called LIBERTAS. Murty recently appeared on American Movie Channel’s “Film Club” discussing the (not-to-be-missed) supermarionation comedy Team America -- which by the way is now available on dvd with restored marionette-sex footage.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 06:01 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (3)

    June 20, 2005
    My last five movies

    On a zero-to-four-stars scale:

    Madagascar (2005, dir. Eric Darnell) ** Cute. I didn't find it as funny as Shrek or Toy Story, but the six-year-olds down the row whooped it up.

    Reshma aur Shera (1971, Hindi, dir. Sunil Dutt) *** Basically a Romeo (Sunil Dutt as Shera) and Juliet (Waheeda Rehman as Reshma) story set among the proud and violent desert folk of Rajasthan. Remarkable cinematography. Amitabh Bachchan is excellent in a supporting role.

    Touch of Evil (1958, dir. Orson Welles) **** The film noir classic, with Welles as the corrupt US cop, a tanned Charlton Heston as the honest Mexican cop, and Janet Leigh once again finding trouble in a low-rent motel.

    Shatranj ke Khilari [The Chess Players] (1977, Hindi, dir. Satyajit Ray) ***
    The great Ray's first film not in Bengali, but instead a mixture of Urdu and English. Slow-paced but charming. Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey are marvelous as the title characters.

    Destry Rides Again (1939, dir. George Marshall) ** Light comedy with Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 11:45 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 17, 2005
    What are the last five movies you've seen?

    Here are mine (all recommended):

    Million Dollar Baby (2004) Surprisingly good movie. The ending was disappointing though. If you're on a respiratory and can communicate, can't you just tell the doctors to unhook you?

    Millions (2004) Excellent film about two kids who find a bunch of money. British film.

    It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) A classic. There's a scene in this one that I never noticed before that they basically copied in the movie Airplane!.

    Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (1994) Very good movie made in Taiwan. Chick flick basically (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

    The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) I wish the Cohen's made more PG movies.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:59 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (2)

    June 15, 2005
    What Mira Nair is up to these days

    Her Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon was a bit of a disappointment, but anything by Mira Nair -- the director best known for the marvelous Monsoon Wedding -- is worth watching. The BBC reports that Nair is now making The Namesake based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. The cast includes Tabu and Irrfan Khan, the same pair that starred in Maqbool, in my view the best Bollywood film of 2004. It also includes – incongruously – Kal Penn, the Indo-American comic actor who played Kumar in the stoner comedy Harold and Kumar visit White Castle, not to mention Van Wilder’s sidekick Taj in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.

    For her next project, Nair plans to make Gangsta MD, which (as previously mentioned here) is inspired by the Bollywood comedy Munna Bhai MBBS. The BBC says Nair “plans to cast Chris Tucker in the lead role”. I guess Chris Rock wasn’t available. And I guess she’s disregarding Chris Rock’s own advice at the Oscars, which is to shelve any movie project if you have to settle for a second-stringer in the lead role.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 04:20 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (4)

    June 10, 2005
    Bad News for the Backstreet Boys?

    The Backstreet Boys are offering two lawn/mezzanine tickets for every two reserved seat tickets you purchase for their upcoming tour. The pricing scheme is a multi-corporation collaboration, but I wonder if this is good news or bad news for the band? (Note: I do not listen to the Backstreet Boys, but I don't condone or condemn doing so. My little girl is blissfully unaware of BB and other boy bands.)

    From the band:

    "We're thrilled to be collaborating with Clear Channel Music Group and AOL with this fantastic promotion that's all about giving back to our fans who have always been loyal to us," the band said in a statement.

    Hmmm..."giving back to the fans?" Weren't they doing that already through their "music"? The whole mutually beneficial trade thing seems to get lost in statements like this.

    My immediate reaction was that the Backstreet Boys must be in trouble - or perhaps concerts in general? - and therefore the "four-for-two" pricing is a signal of weakness. On the other hand, the pricing scheme could work out for the band.

    Mom and dad might buy tickets for the kids if they can go sit on the lawn while the daughter(s) go watch the show in the regular seats. Family "togetherness" is ensured but more importantly, perhaps, mom and dad feel a sense of safety - they didn't let their daughter go to a concert "alone." In the end, perhaps the band shifts demand using the "four-for-two" pricing rather than sliding down the demand curve.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:04 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 09, 2005
    South Park Libertarians, Self-image department

    Picture yourself -- create your own likeness -- as a South Park character!

    Now if anybody can tell me how to save the image, I'd be grateful.

    Hat tip: Suitably Flip.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 01:03 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (27)

    June 06, 2005
    If only we paid them more

    Community college professor accused of stealing student IDs to secure store credit cards. The CNN.com article is pretty short (mainly because there isn't much editorial interjection), and I haven't tracked down any follow up stories.

    However, I would be surprised if the salaries paid the community college teachers doesn't become an issue. The idea would be: pay them more and reduce their "need" to steal. As if community college teachers (a) aren't paid a decent wage for their efforts, or (b) could be dissuaded from stupid behavior by simply "paying them more."

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:54 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 27, 2005
    Hate groups in the USA

    In the "for what it's worth" section, the Southern Poverty Law Center has the scoop on who's hatin' in the USA.

    In Texas there are supposedly 40 active hate groups. The count is probably a little low because I don't think they consider that in Texas Aggies hate Longhorns, Hornfrogs hate Ponies, and Owls hate Cougars. I am not trying to belittle the work of the SPLC, I guess it is worthwhile keeping a "private" eye on these groups to make sure they don't act crazy, but I have lived in the Dallas area for nine years and I haven't heard of any of the groups they mention as "active" in the Dallas area. I suppose you can be an active hate group and not do anything newsworthy - perhaps that's the point nowadays?

    Anyway, it is good to know that the SPLC doesn't find any active hate groups in Arlington, although I know some Cowboys' fans who really don't like the Washington Redskins.

    My home state of Georgia has 41 active hate groups, with Black Separatist groups being the largest single category with 14 groups (although combined White Separatist/Supremist groups still outnumber the Black Separatists - 27 to 14).

    Florida, New Mexico and South Dakota are hate group free? Isn't La Raza active in New Mexico?

    The website also has a list of hate incidents here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:57 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Sunil Dutt, RIP

    Veteran Bollywood actor Sunil Dutt, 75, died on Wednesday. He had amazing range: he most famously played an embittered poor young farmer in the classic 1957 melodrama Mother India, and – at the opposite extreme – a clueless rich young urbanite in the classic 1968 comedy-romance Padosan [the title roughly means Girl Next Door].

    His last appearance was a cameo in Munna Bhai MBBS, a popular 2003 comedy starring his son Sanjay. It has been reported, by the way, that -- in a reversal of the usual pattern in which Bollywood borrows plots from Hollywood -- director Mira Nair will be remaking Munna Bhai MBBS as a Hollywood movie entitled Gangsta MD.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:00 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 18, 2005
    Old braodcasters never die, they just fade away

    After being relieved of the Evening News, Dan Rather was supposed to continue on with the Wednesday Edition of 60 Minutes. This allowed both CBS and Dan Rather to save face. With the cancellation of the Wednesday Edition of 60 minutes it is clear that this was a convenient was of easing Dan's departure.

    See: NY Times

      Now that the program has been canceled, Mr. Rather will probably be given a slot on the Sunday edition of "60 Minutes" through 2006, according to two people familiar with his contract.

    Don't hold your breath Dan. This is only wishful thinking by the New York Times.

    How appropriate that this comes on the heels of the Newsweek episode, another case in which the media over relied on anonymous sources. When the media report on anonymous sources, they are implicitly vouching for the reliability of those sources. There was a brief time when the media would not repeat charges that could not be verified. The media was not in the business of spreading rumors. Unfortunately, that time has passed.

    I do believe the media should be able to use anonymous sources. They must recognize, however, that when they use unnamed sources, they are gambling on their credibility. Merely spreading vicious lies, lowers their informative value. With named sources there is no such responsibility. Knowing the source, the reader can independently assess the source’s credibility.

    Posted by at 09:57 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 17, 2005
    Intellectual Diversity, NO; Social Diversity, YES

    Summers announced a $50 million program to promote social diversity at Harvard. Maybe now the Left will let Larry stay at his post. Is it worth the price?

    Story at Baltimore Sun.

    Posted by at 12:46 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (0)  ·  TrackBack (2)

    May 11, 2005
    Podhoretz Pans Star Wars

    The business of the news media is not the news; it is selling eyeballs. The more they hype the news, the more they sell. But what’s the business of movie critics? John Podhoretz at the National Review thinks their self interest lies in good reviews.

      So far all the early reviews -- all of them, from Variety to the Hollywood Reporter to Time magazine -- have been favorable. Why? Because while the movie critics of my long-ago youth were middlebrow snobs suspicious of populist entertainment, today's critics have turned into toadies. They are afraid of being on an audience's bad side, afraid that a movie they will pan might really strike a chord. Since it's a foregone conclusion that the final Star Wars is going to make a jillion dollars, the safe thing for critics to do is say nice things about it.

    This seems about right to me, but his argument is much too elitist. The whole point of movie reviews is to convey information. But it is subjective information, not objective information that the reader wants. The reader wants to know whether he will find the movie enjoyable. Therefore, he wants a movie reviewer whose tastes are either highly positively or negatively correlated with his own. Therefore, the survival of a movie critic depends on reflecting the tastes of his audience.

    If Star Wars is going to make a jillion dollars, then movie critics in a press that appeals to a mass audience should generally have a favorable opinion of the movie. Therefore, the discerning movie viewer needs to find a critic who writes for a niche audience that shares his or her tastes. The Wall Street Journal seems to print reviews that generally reflect my own tastes; although, the relevant correlation coefficient is probably no more than a .8. Joe Morgenstern at the WSJ, like most critics, liked the Lord of the Rings. I thought it was awful gibberish.

    Posted by at 03:37 PM in Culture ~ in Economics  ·  Comments (2)  ·  TrackBack (32)

    May 04, 2005
    Duluth, Georgia - Fashion Center of the World?

    From e-bay is a Jennifer Wilbanks inspired masterpeice for the ladies.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:51 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (22)

    May 03, 2005
    Ugly Child Discrimination

    The New York Times article “Ugly Children May Get Parental Short Shrift,” (free registration required) cites studies indicating that parents take better care of handsome children. Do parents discriminate against ugly children? As one research states in the article,

      "Like lots of animals, we tend to parcel out our resources on the basis of value," he said. "Maybe we can't always articulate that, but in fact we do it. There are a lot of things that make a person more valuable, and physical attractiveness may be one of them."

    Obviously, we need an Office of Equal Opportunity for Ugly Children. Similar to Kurt Vonnegut’s equality masks, good looking children could be forced to wear ugly masks. With every child equally ugly, parents are more likely to provide an equality of attention. Ugly masks, however, will not make up for past neglect. For some temporary period we will need affirmative action for ugly children and a temporary ban on beauty contests.

    We might first, however, take a critically closer look at these studies. Has the ugliness of the parents been held constant? Casual observation leads one to believe there is a high correlation between ugly children and ugly parents. It may be that ugly parents take poor care of their children. Were this the real problem, ugly masks would be an ineffective solution. Ugly masks on all children in the family would have no impact on the allocation of attention. This would be a societal problem rather than the result of an intra-familial allocation of resources. Parenting clinics for ugly parents would be the preferred solution.

    We might also want to know why ugly parents take less care of their children. It may be that ugly people have more children. (Casual observations of large families at theme parks seem to support this hypthesis.) They may opt for quantity over quality. Given the greater number of children, per capita investment and per capita attention are likely to decline. The real problem may be that ugly people are having too many children. The sterilization of the ugly would be a draconian solution we would most likely want to avoid. However, government subsidies for Planned Parenthood to undertake a special outreach program aimed at ugly families might be favored.

    In a world of all ugly children or all handsome children, all will receive an equal share of mother’s love and there will be no ugly ducklings. With efficient social engineering, we may someday all have a Happy Mother’s Day.

    Note: The author has four children, all of whom are quite good looking.

    Posted by at 02:33 PM in Culture  ·  Comments (2)  ·  TrackBack (20)

    May 02, 2005
    Stick shifts and safety belts have all got to go

    Related to my last post, here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Cake.

    There is an audio clip available (scroll down) on Amazon.Com.

    Stick shifts and safety belts
    Bucket seats have all got to go

    When I'm driving in my car
    It makes my baby seem so far

    I need you here with me
    Not way over in a bucket seat

    I need you to be here with me
    not way over in a bucket seat

    But when we driving in my Malibu
    It's easy to get right next to you

    I say "Baby scoot over please"
    And then she's right there next to me

    I need you here with me
    Not way over in a bucket seat

    I need you to be here with me
    Not way over in a bucket seat

    Well a lot of good cars are Japanese
    But when we're driving far

    I need my baby, I need my baby next to me


    Stick shifts and safety belts
    Bucket seats have all got to go

    When I'm driving in my car
    It makes my baby seem so far

    I need you here with me
    Not way over in a bucket seat

    I need you to be here with me
    Not way over in a bucket seat

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:14 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (22)

    April 29, 2005
    Movies about left-wing conspiracies?

    In the new cinematic explosion-fest “XXX: State of the Union,” according to this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    It's not long before Stone [the protagonist, played by Ice Cube] runs afoul of George Deckert (Willem Dafoe), the secretary of defense, who may be involved in a right-wing conspiracy to overthrow the moderate President Sanford (Peter Strauss).

    Ho-hum. Right-wing conspiracies to overthrow the US government are a familiar plot device, e.g. "The Manchurian Candidate". Are there any movies with a left-wing conspiracy to overthrow the US government? (In last year’s second-funniest movie, “Team America”, there is a left-wing conspiracy, but not to overthrow the US government.) I can't think of any. Can anyone help me out with titles of movies on each side, so we can get a sense of which list is longer? I’ve enabled comments.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:57 AM in Culture  ·  Comments (2)  ·  TrackBack (65)

    April 28, 2005
    South Park Libertarians

    A few days ago (April 25) the author of the book South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias visited the MSNBC show “Scarborough Country”. (You can view video of the discussion: go here, then enter “South Park” into the search bar. Hat tip: Ivan.)

    Much as I admire the marketing chutzpah of the book’s title, the tv show South Park is not – culturally or politically -- conservative. It is the opposite of culturally conservative: it goes out of its way to be outrageous. Cultural conservatives are oblivious to popular culture, but South Park is entirely clued in. (Scarborough shows a clip of Barbra Streisand as MechaGodzilla, defeated by Robert Smith of the Cure as Ultraman. Genius.) Would cultural conservatives create a talking piece of feces (“Mr. Hankey”) to represent the spirit of Christmas? Give a fourth-grade teacher (Mr. Garrison) a leatherbound gay lover (Mr. Slave)? Lampoon church doctrine that the mentally handicapped can’t get into heaven? If you’ve watched the show, you know the list goes on and on.

    More than anything else, South Park’s politics is libertarian. In my favorite episode, “Underpants Gnomes” (unauthorized script here) from Season 2, the owner of a local coffee shop (Mr. Tweak) wants to keep a giant coffee chain (“Harbucks”) from opening a shop in South Park to compete with him, so he writes an anti-globalization screed for our gradeschooler heroes to pass off as their own term paper. The lesson, as Kyle and Stan spell it out when they come clean:

    Kyle: Big corporations are good! […] Because without big corporations we wouldn't have things like cars and computers and canned soup. Stan: Even Harbucks Coffee started off as a small, little business. But because it made such great coffee, and because they ran their business so well, they managed to grow and grow until it became the corporate powerhouse it is today. And that is why we should all let Harbucks stay!
    There’s also a subplot, involving gnomes who steal underpants, the lesson of which is: you can’t make a profit without a coherent business plan.

    The key comedic insights of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park and Team America, are that (1) nothing is funnier than deflating the sanctimonious, and (2) the most sanctimonious people these days are mostly liberals.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:09 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (3)

    Pirate radio remixes from the 1980s

    For those who like old school hip-hop.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:30 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (1)

    April 22, 2005
    Sirico on Pope Benedict XVI

    Fr. Robert A. Sirico writes,

    We have already heard a thousand times or more that the new Pope is a conservative. As counterintuitive as this may sound, I believe that insofar as the new papacy has implications for economics and politics, it is in the direction of a humane and unifying liberalism. I speak not of liberalism as we know it now, which is bound up with state management and democratic relativism, but liberalism of an older variety that placed it hopes in society, faith, and freedom.


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:55 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (3)

    April 20, 2005
    Let's make it even easier.

    Timothy Shaughnessy and Ralph R. Frasca have some salient points about the new Pope. Here was my take after seeing/hearing about five minutes of the "experts."

    Theorem: Benedict XVI will be a good Pope.

    Proof: The secularists are insisting he will be a bad Pope.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:04 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (26)

    Transitive Property Abolished

    So let me get this straight: the media and leftists simultaneously claim that
    A) the late John Paul II was a great Pope (like when they said the newly-dead Reagan was great).
    B) Benedict 16 nee Joseph Ratzinger is very similar to John Paul II.
    C) Benedict 16 will be a bad Pope.
    Why the belief in C? Well, because Ratzinger is committed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church (hmm, perhaps because he was part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). Apparently, it would be better if the Church were a democracy and priests handed out condoms with communion; my rejoinder to a blind faith in the will of the majority is that Barrabas was democratically elected.
    Here's hoping that Benedict continues the classical liberal economic views espoused by his predecessor in Centesimus Annus. Heck, JP2 makes more economic sense here than what I've heard of JK Galbraith on NPR.
    My old stomping ground, the Acton Institute, has created a site dedicated to JP2, and Father Sirico defends JP2's stance on the free market.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 12:43 PM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (22)

    Well, it's about time.

    Introducing the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies:

    The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies (IJMS) is dedicated to the study and discussion of motorcycling culture in all its forms?from the experience of riding and racing to the history of the machine, the riders and design to the images of motorcycling and motorcyclists in film, advertising and literature. We welcome submissions on all areas related to the cultural phenomenon of motorcycling. We invite contributions from all members of the motorcycling community.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:42 AM in Culture  ·  TrackBack (24