Tag Archives: Slate

Who’s not the boss?

bruce_bowl2

Pax Arcana

On occasion, I like to poke fun at Slate for being an endlessly flowing fountain of sweaty contrarianism and pathetic weenieism. But I also like to give credit where it is due.

But mostly I like to shit on Slate for retardery like this overflowing crock pot of unicorn AIDS.

To sum it up, Bruce Springsteen “fan” Stephen Metcalf laments last night’s Super Bowl halftime show because the Boss decided against bringing the entire fucking country back to the reality that a bunch of Wall Street fuckfaces blew our 401(k)’s on houses in Sun Valley and $87,000 rugs:

The national mood is sober bordering on a galloping panic. Lively as he was, I wouldn’t say the Boss did much to either banish or capture it.

DAMN YOU BRUCE FOR NOT VANQUISHING OUR NATIONAL DEBT AND STIMULATING THE ECONOMY THROUGH THE MAGIC OF YOUR CREAM TELECASTER!!!

There is a lot to be shat upon in this article, but at its core Metcalf’s entire argument boils down to the same irritating trope that insecure music assholes of every genre and generation employ — that the music was better before all you losers found out about it. Then he goes into postmodernism and just BEGS you to punch him in the face:

Springsteen concerts, when I first attended, were Atlantic Coast joy fests for a small community of like-minded fans. To discover that many other people share a taste for something oddball is a source of true shelter from the agglomerating powers of the mass. A Postmodernist would scoff and say nothing has changed, that Springsteen was always only merchandise. True, but in every possible way, Springsteen holds himself out as a force against such Postmodernist sophistication—on behalf of meaning, sincerity, and authenticity! As media outlets reported, the field seats for the halftime show were filled with paid extras, a crowd of “excited fans,” as the cattle call put it, to be seen dancing and clapping by the real audience, the 90 million sitting at home. I’m glad that my oddball favorite from middle school has become a zillionaire and a living legend. But watching him play the Super Bowl, I couldn’t help saying back to my flat screen, “Is there anyone alive in there?”

I don’t know exactly how old Stephen Metcalf is, but I wonder if he was in middle school sewing his “oddball” oats when this Time Magazine cover (1975) dubbed Bruce Springsteen “Rock’s New Sensation.” Because man, nothing says “small community of like-minded fans” like finding your new favorite on the cover of America’s best-known news weekly.

bruce_time

We should also note that the short bio of Metcalf at the bottom of the Slate article says Metcalf “is working on a book about the 1980s.” He’s used the same bio at least since 2001, as evidenced by this piece about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Hurry up and finish that book already, Stephen! I bet it’s going to be fucking awesome!

He Should Have Played “The Wrestler” [Slate]

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Eliot Spitzer has a different stimulus package in mind (as usual)

Pax Arcana

eliotNot content to be the premier online destination for sweaty, off-putting contrarianism and weenie, ill-informed contrarianism, Slate is also the Internet leader in stunt casting.

First they hired disgraced stock analyst/Internet bubble inflater Henry Blodget to write about Wall Street stuff. Then they hired disgraced skank banger/governor Eliot Spitzer to write about whatever he wants.

But I’m all in favor of giving people the benefit of the doubt. So let’s see what Spitzer — widely regarded as a brilliant man troubled by personal demons — has to say in his latest installment, in which he argues against the details of President-elect Obama’s economic stimulus package:

The incoming Obama administration and Congress are planning a huge fiscal stimulus package. They hope that such a stimulus will catalyze an economic turnaround and be a cornerstone of a “New New Deal.” If the early reports are reliable, the stimulus will include a huge tax cut and will fund projects like road-building and bridge repair, laying the infrastructure foundation for the economy of the future.

Yet two huge problems with this approach must be confronted. First, the capacity of even the U.S. government to affect the overall global economy is limited. Suppose the package is $800 billion over two years: $400 billion is less than 1 percent of the global economy and a mere 3 percent of the U.S. economy. In relative terms, $400 billion isn’t all that much more than the $152 billion spent on the 2008 stimulus, which had nary an impact on the economy.

Hmmm. Interesting premise, and assuming those numbers bear out I’m guessing there will be other ramifications, including… OH WHO ARE WE KIDDING? REMEMBER THAT TIME YOU BANGED THAT WHORE AND GOT CAUGHT BY EVERYONE? HERE, LET’S REFRESH THAT MEMORY OF YOURS:

Spitzer Call Girl

YOU REMEMBER HER, RIGHT?

Wow. So much for benefit of the doubt, I guess.

Robots, Not Roads [Slate]

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The answer is no

Pax Arcana

William Saletan at Slate is wrestling with an issue of deep seriousness — a conundrum tightly enmeshed in a web of moral complexity and ethical ambiguity.

He is pondering. He is mulling. He is ruminating. He is contemplating.

How would you feel about rewinding human evolution to a species that’s almost like us, but not quite?

You mean like Joey Porter?

joey_porter
“IF I FIND OUT THAT WAS AN INSULT TO ME I WILL KICK SEVERAL SMALL ANIMALS WITH MY FEET”

In fact, Saletan is talking about the possibility of resurrecting Neanderthals — mankind’s closest neighbor on the evolutionary tree.

OK, so kind of like Joey Porter only a bit hairier.

Some scientists say it may be possible to clone a Neanderthal using some of the same techniques scientists are trying to use to bring woolly mammoths back to life. And if you thought this idea was crazy already, just you wait. It’s about to get downright batshit loony:

George Church, a leading geneticist, suggests (in Wade’s paraphrase) that scientists could “modify not a human genome but that of the chimpanzee,” bringing it “close enough to that of Neanderthals, [with] the embryo brought to term in a chimpanzee.” No human clones or products involved. At least, no “modern” humans. This leaves the question of whether we’re entitled to mess around in the lab with “another human species.”

The answer is no. Not for ethical reasons, but because a chimpanzee-Neanderthal hybrid would have not only the strength and climbing ability of a chimp, but the raw sex appeal and primitive language abilities of a Neanderthal. If we’re not careful, something like that could be elected Governor of Alaska.

Return of the Neanderthals [Slate]

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Emily Dickinson got some and liked it

Pax Arcana

If you’re like me, you know that famous dead poet Emily Dickinson was a shut-in who lived a cloistered life in the attic of her father’s mansion, penning sad sack verses about a life she was too sheltered to lead.

Turns out we were both wrong. I blame it on you.

In reality, Emily Dickinson was hornier than a Rays fan at a livestock auction, according to this article in Slate:

For example, when Mabel Loomis Todd, the vivacious and talented wife of Amherst College astronomer David Todd, was invited to play the piano for Dickinson and her younger sister, Lavinia, in September of 1882, she received a startling warning from their sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, next door. The Dickinson spinster sisters, Sue informed her, “have not, either of them, any idea of morality.” Sue added darkly, “I went in there one day, and in the drawing room I found Emily reclining in the arms of a man.”

OH SNAP YOU SLUT!

OK, so even by Victorian-era standards, “reclining in the arms of a man” was pretty tame. But the point is that Dickinson apparently led a very normal — which is to say disappointing — love life. In fact she was almost married a few different times. Her first love, according to some new research on the subject, was a student named George Gould. One primary source from the time suggests that Gould and Dickinson were engaged, but that her father disapproved because Gould was too poor.

Nevertheless, even scholars seem to prefer the idea of Emily Dickinson as some sort of sexually repressed recluse:

Once again, it was the popular image of shade-seeking Dickinson holed up in her father’s house that prevailed. As Andrews argues, there was a concerted effort to suppress Taggard’s findings, led by Susan Dickinson’s daughter, Martha, and Amherst College professor and biographer George F. Whicher, who announced that he intended “to terminate the persistent search for Emily’s unknown love.” Whicher attacked Taggard’s book as “untrustworthy” and suggested that its plotline was derived from the “stale formula of Hollywood romance and Greenwich Village psychology”—a sly dig at Taggard’s bohemian and socialist convictions.

Personally, I don’t find it hard to believe that the poet was more normal than originally thought. That’s why she signed so many of her poems “Emily Dickinson (that’s what she said).”

Emily Dickinson’s Secret Lover! [Slate]

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Baseball is flush with August babies

Pax Arcana

According to this article by Greg Spira in Slate, one thing many American ballplayers have in common is that their parents liked knockin’ da boots in December — which by simple addition means they were born in August.

In fact, far more American-born Major League Baseball players were born in August than any other month. The month with the fewest players? July.

The statistical distribution indicates that the traditional July 31 cutoff for Little League ages played a large role in launching the careers of budding baseball stars. Kids born August 1 are typically the oldest — and therefore biggest — kids on their teams. Kids born in late July are the puny lickspittles that have trouble lifting their bats:

Twelve full months of development makes a huge difference for an 11- or 12-year-old. The player who is 12 months older will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than his younger counterpart, not to mention more experienced. And those bigger, better players are the ones given opportunities for further advancement. Other players, who are just as skilled for their age, are less likely to be given those same opportunities simply because of when they were born. Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a star no matter his birth month, but a player like Juan Pierre, who has less natural aptitude for the sport, might have gotten a small leg up over similarly skilled players because he’s an August baby. It’s clear from the chart above that this small advantage can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

I love the gratuitous slap at Juan Pierre. He sucks.


One of these players will likely dominate this game

If you’re wondering if the distribution is coincidence or tracks with national birth statistics, Spira says the relative uniformity of birth month distribution in the NBA and NFL indicates that the variable is more important in baseball:

The relative age effect might not be prevalent in the NFL and the NBA because size is a bigger factor in those two sports than in baseball and hockey. Since an athlete’s ultimate height and weight aren’t clear until fairly late in his youth, league cutoff dates aren’t as important in determining one’s athletic destiny. Another possibility is that (men’s) basketball and football are much more popular high-school sports than baseball is. Since the cutoff date for high-school sports is more variable than that for organized youth sports, the influence of birth month in youth basketball and football leagues is relatively minor.

It should be noted that most youth baseball leagues have changed the cutoff date to April 1 or May 1, in order to square the age of the player more consistently with the baseball season. Which means the optimal time for Pax Arcana and the fleet-footed and fast-thinking Mrs. Pax Arcana to conceive the six-tool player of the future (Name: Cadillac — Sixth tool: Intimidation) would be August. So, um, don’t expect a lot of blogging in August.

The Boys of Late Summer [Slate]

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Zombies in rear view mirror are faster than they appear

Slate writer Josh Levin, when not cowering in fear of preternaturally developed 12-year-olds, also cowers in fear of zombies.

In a 2004 Slate article, reprinted this week to commemorate the success of Will Smith’s I Am Legend zombie flick, Levin asked a simple question: Why do today’s movie zombies move much faster than the undead of yore?

From the article:

The oft-repeated image of a slow, walking line of zombies is the best representation of the zombie’s place in the scary-movie food chain. In horror, zombies behave more like a creeping plague or a disease than singularly terrifying monsters like Dracula or the Wolfman. Zombies have no individual identity, but rather get their power from membership in a group: It’s easy to kill one, but 1,000 indomitable flesh eaters may just overwhelm you.

zombies.jpg
Hey, that’s littering!

Today’s zombies, he says, are free to trot, gallop, and even sprint after their human prey, as in films like 28 Days Later, House of the Dead, Resident Evil, and the 2003 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

The reasons for this are twofold, he argues. For one thing, slow-moving reanimated corpses ate up a lot of screen time for low-budget filmmakers who couldn’t afford to shoot a lot of extraneous scenes. Digital cameras and editing equipment make this less important.

And the advent of realistic CGI means filmmakers can incorporate elements of video-game level speed in their violent thrashings:

The effect of corpse-heavy video games is all over the nascent fast-zombie genre. In first-person shooter games, the undead’s usual pack mentality is necessarily replaced by zombie exceptionalism: Each creature that jumps out from around the corner has to be an individual—fast, strong, and threatening. Even more so than Resident Evil, the movie version of House of the Dead follows this model, as filmed sequences of running, jumping, and swimming zombies are actually intercut with parallel scenes from the corpse shoot-‘em-up video game.

One of the early themes of this blog was that Pax Arcana was painfully afraid of zombies. That was good for a few laughs, but it’s hard to sustain that kind of humor over time, especially since we’ve found it awfully hard to maintain the illusion that zombies could actually exist. We’re science-oriented people at Pax Arcana. We don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or zombies. In fact, Father Scott once said thaggggggrrwwwworr asdf afdskfAFHELP!HELP! awwwaf lka;s;l;;lkj;fadva6541414654esa-d0f98-ioh

The Running Dead [Slate]

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