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September 23, 2023


Instantly put me in mind of the story by James Schmitz:

Gone Fishing

Did you see this: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=h0gim6Do&id=4FFBA83264E9478D90B5B05BD28BD9BC6F6FF89B&thid=OIP.h0gim6Dof6zPl7LEVKueZgHaEK&mediaurl=https://www.usatoday.com/gcdn/presto/2023/04/12/POEN/a2ebb845-a81f-4b10-bfb5-e26647055369-Powell_Mailbox_1_2.JPG?crop=4031,2268,x0,y151&width=3200&height=1801&format=pjpg&auto=webp&exph=266&expw=474&q=someone%20put%20figureines%20in%20a%20mailbox&ck=EFF09145650A34881A0B52E9B066CF2B&idpp=rc&idpview=singleimage&form=rc2idp&ajaxhist=0&ajaxserp=0">https://www.usatoday.com/gcdn/presto/2023/04/12/POEN/a2ebb845-a81f-4b10-bfb5-e26647055369-Powell_Mailbox_1_2.JPG?crop=4031,2268,x0,y151&width=3200&height=1801&format=pjpg&auto=webp&exph=266&expw=474&q=someone%20put%20figureines%20in%20a%20mailbox&ck=EFF09145650A34881A0B52E9B066CF2B&idpp=rc&idpview=singleimage&form=rc2idp&ajaxhist=0&ajaxserp=0">https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=h0gim6Do&id=4FFBA83264E9478D90B5B05BD28BD9BC6F6FF89B&thid=OIP.h0gim6Dof6zPl7LEVKueZgHaEK&mediaurl=https://www.usatoday.com/gcdn/presto/2023/04/12/POEN/a2ebb845-a81f-4b10-bfb5-e26647055369-Powell_Mailbox_1_2.JPG?crop=4031,2268,x0,y151&width=3200&height=1801&format=pjpg&auto=webp&exph=266&expw=474&q=someone%20put%20figureines%20in%20a%20mailbox&ck=EFF09145650A34881A0B52E9B066CF2B&idpp=rc&idpview=singleimage&form=rc2idp&ajaxhist=0&ajaxserp=0

This is better: https://www.usatoday.com/gcdn/presto/2023/04/12/POEN/a2ebb845-a81f-4b10-bfb5-e26647055369-Powell_Mailbox_1_2.JPG?crop=4031,2268,x0,y151

Sweet story about a family of dolls that live in a mailbox--to the bemusement of the owner.

I posted about Murdoch on the other open thread as a kind of continuation, but here is an interesting piece on cultural appropriation by Jascha Mounk in today's Observer. I have felt for ages that the whole issue of cultural appropriation is very tangled and problematic, and he untangles certain aspects in a way I find useful, and drills down a bit on what causes the harm, and what does not:


The whole concern about borrowing from other cultures (or "cultural appropriation", depending on you politics) strikes me as remarkably silly. First, as the article notes, borrowing has been happening literally forever. If any behavior is quintessentially human, it is borrowing useful ideas from others.

But more importantly, borrowing from other cultures is a hallmark of American culture. This "nation of immigrants" has taken borrowing to a whole new level. It's not just a white kid (think Elvis) getting famous singing like blacks do. It's a Japanese American mayor, dressed in green, leading a St Patrick's Day parade. It's a Native American casually dropping a Yiddish word in conversation, not even realizing where the word came from.

Borrowing: it's what we do. Anyone who doesn't know that is just massively ignorant about America!

Yes, and the *rest* of the world borrows/steals from American culture as well.

2006 global recession, in large part made worse by Europe "borrowing" American hyper-capitalist ideas (frex credit default swaps)

Arabic language rap music.

EVERY culture has some practices that are worth considering for wider sharing.

(my fave example, France: the "cheese course")

America is exceptional for marketing its worst ideas/practices, and getting other cultures to go along with it. Hyper-capitalism, GWOT, Twitface.

Since "Twitface" happens to be (and to have been for very many years) one of my most often used affectionate insults, it took me a few moments to realise I had to look it up, like GWOT. I am very annoyed, and can only hope that this usage (could it actually be cultural appropriation?) does not catch on. My hopes are not high, however, and I am consequently bitter.

Twitter is no more and being a Facebook regular is a sure sign of being on the AARP mailing list, so Twitface is already past its sell-by date.

As an academic, I really need to be clear and careful when it comes to issues of cultural representation on two very different levels with three very different audiences. On the most philosophical level, I need to be paying attention to the various ways in which my colleagues are trying to untangle the knots of prejudice and injustice to find a way to creating a more just society. But these sorts of discussions and formulations require a lot of understanding of historical context and often turn on some fairly subtle distinctions that are easily misunderstood if one has not done the extensive back reading. As an adjunct, I need to have my class readings and syllabi constructed in a way that shows my understanding of these issues to be taken seriously as a colleague.

But in the classroom I need to avoid large parts of the more subtle arguments because they are so prone to being misunderstood if the context is not understood, and young people are quick to burn with anger over injustice. They grab hold of the language of, say, "decolonization" and start swinging it around with more energy than effect, and campus kerfuffles spring up in the wake of this.

Which is when the Media Grievance Complex comes in and starts to spread a disinformation version of the students' misapprehension as if it were what the Anti-Colonialist scholars were actually arguing - which it never is.

So I have to operate on two levels (colleague and student) with partitions between them, but with bridges built in to take students across into colleague territory as they get more and more reading under their belts, and in the mean time I need to keep the conversation on a student level where we can have conversations about the ethics of cross-cultural exchange without getting into the theory of it - just introducing the main concepts and frameworks and letting those marinade a bit.

For the purpose of the discussion here, all I will say is that this sort of cultural justice debate is way more nuanced than the public understanding of what is being argued. What the public knows is like the badly translated English dub of a Studio Ghibli film where the translators didn't know anything about either World War II Japan or Shinto.

And have never heard of Studio Ghibli, either. ;-)

Thanks as always, nous, for the nuance.

Just google "Where was pizza invented" and you'll get a delicious dose of "Who the heck knows?" (Or cares?)

Yes, it clearly is a subtle and nuanced subject, a full understanding of which requires a great deal of background knowledge and familiarity. How to operate between those various levels, not just like nous's, between e.g. colleagues and students, but also between academics and "the public", or interested amateurs and "the public", is hard to negotiate. Always bearing in mind, for example, that it is "the public" who vote, and can be whipped up into a froth by cynical parties whose only interest is driving convenient wedges. Which is one reason why I think it valuable when considering this question to bear in mind not only who benefits, but as e.g. Mounk implies, who suffers damage.

GftNC, I can't believe you've never heard "Twitface" before, particularly since I used it all the time.

Archaic Neologism? Sure. But not only is it a combination of denigrating Twitter as "Twit", but also applying the general rule that adding -face to something makes it an insult. Plus Facebook.

I really don't care if you're a member of AARP or AAUP, but Twitface is a threat to civilization and should die by fire.

Snarki, I (and some others) called favoured people Twitface (by one definition of favoured, the sort that Edward Lear meant when he said that e.g. relations could be treated with "affection mingled with contempt") long before the existence of Twitter or Facebook. Fuckface was reserved for the same people, when one wanted to express a slightly increased level of impatience or annoyance, but still with overwhelming affection. Never used on people one actually disliked or wanted to offend.

And now your prior comment makes sense.

Learnt something new today, thanks!

Which is one reason why I think it valuable when considering this question to bear in mind not only who benefits, but as e.g. Mounk implies, who suffers damage.

As with all things, though, nothing prevents the cynical parties from sidestepping the entire kerfuffle phase and jumping straight to the "have you seen what academics are trying to do?" culture war misrepresentation phase. There's a whole brigade of conservative, religious, academic faux-whistleblowers posing as "former leftists, reformed" whose bread and butter is doing this in an effort to cow and marginalize academics and whip up the faithful.

All you can do is try to do a better job communicating, and a better job of outreach, and not waste time trying to figure out how to avoid inflaming those who were always already outraged by your very presence.

So, absolutely yes, focus on real harms - economic, political - to improve access to social and material goods, and reduce the conditions that enable exploitation of marginalized groups.


"Where was pizza invented"

Well, according to Vergil it was the fugitive Trojans that had just landed at the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy and got innovative with what little food was left. It was also a pure veggie pizza (no cheese) and distcinctly lacking in processed tomato products.
Given how utterly incompetent these guys were at navigation (10 years from Troy to Italy with only a single storm in-between that could serve as an exuse and only after their navigator fell asleep at the helm and drowned) they could have easily discoverd the Americas during their cheap imitation odyssey and gotten the proper ingredients.

Not long ago, in a family zoom, a member of the generation that follows mine made a snarky comment about how there was going to be no (or less) social security for their generation. And it was allegedly our fault.

I beg to differ, unless we're talking about our failure to reign in the ever-intensifying worship of greed in this era. (I'll cop to the failure, but I'll figure out how to reign in the worship of greed just after I figure out how to direct hurricanes back out to sea.)

Shown before around here, probably more than once, but worth a glance again periodically: Wealth shown to scale.

Intertwining with the subject of abortion, which is so much in some people's minds, it's interesting to realize that it's the very same people, for the most part, who:

1) Believe every fertilized egg as a right to be born, regardless of the cost to the woman bearing it, or her own choices about what goes on in (and comes out of) her body...

2) And also believe that once born and now an actual human being, that former fertilized egg has no right whatsoever to the basic components of a decent life if the billionaire and wanna-be-a-billionaire or I-have-a-right-to-try-to-be-one classe decides not to leave enough resources left over for the rest of us.

Not long ago, in a family zoom, a member of the generation that follows mine made a snarky comment about how there was going to be no (or less) social security for their generation. And it was allegedly our fault.

I recall reaching a similar conclusion, back when I was in my early 20s. (Although I mostly blamed the AARP.) I was wrong, obviously. But I can't say I'm sorry that I conducted my personal finances on that bases.

I realize that not everyone has the luxury to do that. But I also observed a fair number of my peers spending pretty much everything they earned. (Nobody needs a new car every year.)

And also believe that once born and now an actual human being, that former fertilized egg has no right whatsoever to the basic components of a decent life

Perhaps we need to invent a new term to label leaving children (anyone under 18) with less that 3 full meals a day, climate-appropriate clothing and shelter (and perhaps other necessities). I suggest "post-birth abortion". Maybe they could relate to that better.

how to reign in the worship of greed

Janie, I always assumed it was "rein" in, like you would a horse? I could be wrong, but would welcome an opinion.

I blame the so-called "autocorrect"


I blame being half asleep when I wrote it, plus the aging, frayed relationship between my brain and my fingers at the best of times.

Sorry, wj, I don't get off the hook that easily. I turn off autocorrect on any device or app that tries to use it. (With one exception, never mind about that.) Anyhow, the ObWi comment box doesn't have autocorrect, and I usually draft short comments right in the box.

I'm okay with billionaire entrepreneurs keeping about two percent of the wealth they create.

Given that you are not only the grammar police, Janie, but also possibly the only person on here who has what's necessary to police proper usage (and you're sensitive enough to do it very rarely!), you get off the hook by virtue of, as it were, past virtue! I know what you mean about being half asleep, and my current Duolingo sessions reflect my version perfectly, with frequent mistakes which I would never make if properly rested (I make plenty of mistakes without any excuse, but being tired makes it noticeably worse.)

Sorry, wj, I don't get off the hook that easily. I turn off autocorrect on any device or app that tries to use it.

There you go again! Injecting facts and reality into the conversation. Sigh

Since this is the current open thread, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California has passed at age 90. Gov. Newsom will appointment someone to fill the seat until the election in 2024. He has previously indicated that he would appoint (a) a black woman and (b) someone who is a caretaker only, not running for the seat in 2024.

Lots of interesting speculation about how the Senate Republicans will maneuver on filling her seat on the Judiciary Committee. It's the Senate -- you know there must be all sorts of arcane rules about filling that slot.

Iirc the senate GOP had announced that it would not allow a filling of the seat, if it got emptied by resigning mid-term and that the holder of the seat would have to die instead. I hope they will be forced to eat their words now.

I'm glad that we will finally have a functioning Senator again. Feinstein, whatever the many merits of her service, should have followed Boxer out the door years ago.

Newsom is making the smart move, politically, but appointing a placeholder Senator is pretty much going to reduce the appointee to a vote with no voice or influence, which further limits the political voice of 12% of the US population. As things stand, we are also going to lose two of Schiff, Porter, Lee as Representatives and only get one of them as a Senator. I'd pick Porter over any of her likely replacements as a rep. She'd be a great Senator, but I think she's also the hardest to replace as a rep, and Schiff has a lot of money rolling in from the PACs and big donors...

Crap situation. I hate it. We should never have been put in this situation in the first place.

Newsom already said he really, really hoped not to have to make a pick. Now, he's stuck. I hope he and his staff have at least made a contingency plan. We definitely don't need weeks of delay while they sort thru possible appointees.

The staff working on the Biden impeachemnt has been declared 'essential workers', so the congressional circus* can keep performing with its program during the shutdown without impediment. Priorities!!!!

* 'clown show' has been a term used in this context.

Sidebar: The link to Unqualified Offerings now leads to a Forex trading site.

Hartmut: like a "clown show" but with less intellectual content and ethical integrity.

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