Links: Competent elites, romantic expectations, what we didn’t get, and more!

* “Competent elites,” a view not heard frequently.

* “We Expect Too Much From Our Romantic Partners.” Seems accurate and underrated to me. Also: “Does the mate-switching hypothesis explain female infidelity?

* Read Houellebecq To Free Your Mind.

* “What we didn’t get:” on science fiction, history, and other matters.

* “ “Peer review” is younger than you think. Does that mean it can go away?” One hopes that it is at least heavily modified, although given the present ossification of academia I am not optimistic.

* “‘I Hate Everyone in the White House!’: Trump Seethes as Advisers Fear the President Is ‘Unraveling.'” I have no idea whether this is true, but it seems plausible.

* “Some thoughts on how we might get from where we’re at now to a Second Civil War.” Probability is still extremely low but higher than I’d have estimated it one year ago. Note the authorial bonafides as well; this does not seem to be written by a crank.

* “How the University of New Hampshire spun blowing a frugal librarian’s donation on a stupid football scoreboard.” It does seem too nicely symbolic of modern universities.

* “The Minimalists Want You to Be Happy With Less.”

* “What Allan Bloom Got Right.”

* “Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?” I can’t tell if this is me simply getting old and grumpy (or simply retaining lifelong grumpiness), but I do notice that students don’t like to be told to think for themselves or use their discretion. Some of that is probably from bad training in schools, but is all of it?

Jung’s Red Book, Liber Novus, is like listening to drunk friends ramble

Jung’s Red Book, Liber Novus, is like listening to your drunk friends ramble; there are endless non-narrative, disconnected passages, and this one is representative:

I find myself again on the desert path. It was a desert vision, a vision of the solitary who has wandered down long roads. There lurk invisible robbers and assassins and shooters of poison darts. Suppose the murderous arrow is sticking in my heart?

The whole thing reads like that. Another, much later passage:

Just as the disciples of Christ recognized that God had become flesh and lived among them as a man, we now recognize that the anointed of this time is a God who does not appear in the flesh; he is no man and yet is a son of man, but in spirit and not in flesh; hence he can be born only through the spirit of men as the conceiving womb of the God.

Word salad or profundity? You be the judge. Jung didn’t intend to publish this book and I’m guessing he knew what he was about when he made that choice. I started it due to the reference in “Jung and the Trumpian Shadow.” Don’t repeat my error.

Jung is an interesting writer and figure, especially for narrative artists, but the Red Book is a poor introduction to him and his work. I don’t know what the best introduction is, but it isn’t this. Suggestions welcome.

The Red Book has 100 pages of introductory material and translators notes as well, which is rarely a good sign.

It is very hard and maybe impossible to predict what the future will value

In one of Tolkien’s letters he writes, after The Lord of the Rings has been an unexpected success:

the appearance of the L.R. has landed me in the pincers. Most of my philological colleagues are shocked (cert. behind my back, sometimes to my face) at the fall of a philological into ‘Trivial literature’; and anyway the cry is: ‘now we know how you have been wasting your time for 20 years’. (238)

But of course those philological colleagues are long dead and forgotten; philology itself has been mostly pushed out of most academic language departments, which are now focused on literature and literary criticism. Still, the larger and more important point is that it’s very hard to and maybe impossible to predict what the future will value; all a person and especially an artist can do is try to follow their instincts and interests. Tolkien’s led him in a direction contrary to what his peers thought valuable, and in this case he turned out to be right. Our peers’ judge of value, especially in public settings, is a pernicious guide to action.

What people really want and really are interested often differs from what people say they want and what they want others to think they are interested in.


Links: Vegas, Paglia, Jung, Dan Brown, and more!

* “Nothing Will Change After the Las Vegas Shooting.” Depressing and likely true.

* “Camille Paglia on Hugh Hefner’s Legacy, Trump’s Masculinity and Feminism’s Sex Phobia,” which may be read as the opposite view of Ross Douthat in “Speaking ill of Hugh Hefner.” She also has an interview with Jordan Peterson. Sorry to post a YouTube link but I could not find an audio-only link. You can use Video Lan Client to strip the audio for easier listening.

* “Jung and the Trumpian Shadow.”

* Related to the two preceding links, “Why Christian conservatives supported Trump — and why they might regret it.” My reading is pretty standard-issue and uncharitable (“hypocrisy”), but you may find more depth here.

* In the last links post I mentioned Dan Brown, but this may be the best thing ever written about him:

The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was mired in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

* “Does literary studies have a future?” Probably! But de-politicizing it some would help.

* “Why Gun Control Loses, and Why Las Vegas Might Change That.” One hopes, yet the first link argues the opposite.

* “Feminism and the problem of supertoxic masculinity.” Ignore some of the stupider stuff about feminism and capitalism and pay attention where the essay begins, “The hypothesis I would like to advance is that this social domestication of masculine tendencies has made our society more vulnerable to the rare cases of men who escape the filter of social opprobrium.”

* Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle: Science, Commerce, Freedom, and the Origins of Modernity.

Links: John McPhee, carbon levels, housing, statistical artifacts, and more!

* “The Mind of John McPhee.” His new book Draft No. 4 is excellent in part because it is so idiosyncratic. I also don’t write like him.

* “Speaking ill of Hugh Hefner,” not my views but interesting throughout.

* “Alarm as study reveals world’s tropical forests are huge carbon emission source.” Note: The most vital things happening right now likely don’t involve the NFL.

* “How sky-high housing costs make California the poorest state.” Isaac and I have been writing about this elsewhere, too, in ways that will thrill policy wonks.

* “Sex, Lies, and Videotape: What’s the celebrity sex tape worth today?” Note that it’s from The Baffler, so it may not be what you first assume. Likely SFW as well.

* “Why electric airplanes within 10 years are more than a fantasy: Startups plan to make hybrid airplanes, and eventually purely electric ones.”

* “Don’t buy the idea teens are having less sex until you take a closer look at the data.” Does “sex” include “oral sex?” The answer changes the way the data are interpreted. If you read Jean Twenge’s book iGen, remember this.

* “‘Nobody’s in Control:’ Republican strategists have come to the unnerving conclusion that no one in their party. . . has absolute influence over the unruly populist movement.” This at least makes sense; like many of you I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s been going on and mostly failing.

* “The World According to Dan Brown,” and this helps explain why his novels are so badly written: “This is the kind of fiction I would read if I read fiction.”

On Las Vegas, briefly

In 2012 James Fallows wrote, “The Certainty of More Shootings.” As of October 2, this mass-shooting database lists 273 mass shootings in 2017. The policy response to mass-shootings has been indistinguishable from zero. After the Sandy Hook shooting, pundits observed that if we’re willing to tolerate the massacre of small children, we’re basically willing to tolerate anything. They seem to have been right. Now at least 50 are dead in Las Vegas.

It’s easy to blame “politicians” but politicians respond to voters. I fear that “The Certainty of More Shootings” is going to remain distressingly relevant for years, maybe decades, to come. I bet Fallows wishes that it could be relegated to a historical curiosity.

Even The Onion has a perennial for gun massacres: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Links: Dug decriminalization, what’s wrong with higher ed, HGTV’s uncanny valley, life and context, and more!

* “Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further.” It seems the current approach is ineffective at best and is more likely to be actively harmful, so a new method is in order. Or, rather, a new-old method, because drug laws didn’t come into being until the late 19th Century.

* “How Harvard helps its richest and most arrogant students get ahead,” more probably, some of what’s amiss in education today. It’s the administration response that seems most outrageous; still, I do think about my own writing, in “Ninety-five percent of people are fine — but it’s that last five percent.”

* “The body’s own fat-metabolism protects against the harmful effects of sugar,” or so it seems.

* “Is your state road system broke? Then hit up. . . the Prius drivers!” An example of misguided policy and failing to think about the bigger picture.

* “Facebook’s Harm Is Taking Life Out of Context.” Seems plausible to me.

* “Is there a Rawlsian argument for redistribution as a form of social insurance?” A brilliant post, do read the whole thing, and note that I have thought this before, albeit phrased differently: “In fact what I observe is people taking the status quo, and its current political debates, as a benchmark of sorts, and choosing sides, yet without outlining the “stopping principles” for their own recommendations.” And I have succumbed to this as well!

* “A 400-year story of progress: How America became the world’s biggest economy.”

* “The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump.” Better than the headlines.

* In Alabama, “Democrats ought to invest in Doug Jones’ campaign against Roy Moore: He’s a longshot, but it’s time to take a stand.” Absolutely. Seemingly no one is attending to this.

* HGTV is a never-ending fantasy loop. Look deeper, and it gets pretty ugly. A weird, fascinating article. I imagine the people on these shows finishing their “perfect” houses, and after the wine is drunk and the camera crew has left, they’re looking at each other, realizing that they don’t even know the person sitting across from them, thinking, “Now what?” What happens when you discover that a house or remodel cannot fill the void in your soul?

* “On Echopraxia by Peter Watts.”

%d bloggers like this: