Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fifth and final reader request

Is it advisable to apply game theory to parenting
(a) from the point of view of the parents but more importantly
(b) from the point of view of the children?

The answer is in this book:

Reader request on Ayn Rand

Read my old post on her.

How have my political views changed with age? -- request #3

Most of all, I've become more moderate, and also more conservative, I mean that word in its literal rather than partisan sense. Living in Germany for a year, in the mid-1980s, was a big influence. I don't think the U.S. should try to copy those institutions, but it did make me more of a "every country is different" sort of guy. I also, over time, have come to see civilization as more fragile than I had thought. So if a set of institutions shows some ability to keep a civilization going, we ought to have (critical) respect for what has been accomplished, and not always be so quick to suggest radical changes.

My paper "When Are We Being Too Utopian?", found on my home page, is a very good place to start for understanding my political views.

That all said, my core instincts are still quite libertarian.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What secrets are better kept from our spouses? - request #2

So asks a loyal reader.

As a first order approximation, the set of items best kept as secrets from one's spouse...well...that includes knowledge of the set of items best kept as secrets from one's spouse.

Here is a link to Bertrand Russell's theory of types.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thanks to Jacqueline Passey

Anonymous comments are now available, I never meant to prohibit them...but I'm new at this secret blogging...

Questions from Dan Drezner

I had to give a lecture today -- on globalization -- with Dan Drezner and Jacob Levy in the audience. Not the presentation of an academic paper, but rather I was supposed to be instructing them. Ha!

Dan wrote down three questions he wanted me to address, here they are, with my answers:

1. What are the five heavy metal CDs which you like?

Mastodon's *Leviathan* is my current favorite, try also Metallica's *Enter the Sandman* and early Black Sabbath. If you count Led Zeppelin -- and why not -- that's a bunch more right there. Pelican is also a good group.

2. Should we think of cultural critics as a rent-seeking guild?

Rent-seeking yes, guild no. There is plenty of free entry.

3. Has your opinion of TV changed since *In Praise of Commercial Culture*?

Absolutely (some readers will know I was no fan of TV back then; at that time Hill Street Blues was considered a good show, so can you blame me?). It is not just the advent of cable. Smart people simply wish to consume culture in bite-sized chunks, and also on small screens, and this favors quality TV. Right now TV is more interesting than are the movies.

Friday, June 22, 2007

From the comments

Sam Samstone as postmodernist.

Blogging and secret-blogging; ethnic dining; likes Monteverdi and “snowman”; has a passion for amates and an indifference toward Paul Klee; addicted to beauty in its variety and scarcity; occasionally guilty of treating mainstream artists and their works as common-pool resources; believes in mean-reversion despite being obsessed with Knightian uncertainty; may well be keeping a few black swans in his backyard for cooking, looking, blogging, secret blogging, and…who knows, secret-secret blogging.

How to travel - request #1

A loyal RagandBoneBuffet reader asks:
Due to job constraints, you're allowed one 3-week vacation every year to travel the world. You're young and have never been outside the United States before. Money, within reason, is no object. Over the next couple decades, you want to see as much as the world as possible. What's your strategy?

When I started traveling, I thought I would love Asia most of all and be least interested by Latin America. The opposite has turned out to be the case. Since most people are not good at forecasting which places they will like, I suggest a simple strategy: see each major world area as rapidly as possible and figure out where you love it most. Then concentrate your attention there.

Here are a few three-week trips you might take:

1. Europe: Amsterdam-Paris-Switzerland-Florence-Rome
2. Latin America: Mexico City-Macchu Picchu-Buenos Aires-Rio (don't shoot!)
3. Asia: Tokyo-Hong Kong-Shanghai-Bangkok

Also, figure out whether you want vacation or travel; I love the latter and hate the former. I much prefer work to vacation, and use work to recover from my travel. That entire distinction is usually more important than where you end up going.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How to get people to remember things

If you tell them to forget something, they are more likely to remember it, than if you tell them to remember it.

Here is the link. Forget about that now!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Request for requests

I'll take five requests for coverage on this secret blog...comments are open...

My strangeness

My assistant is called Jane, which is in fact her middle name. But her email begins with the letter "e," referring to her true, but otherwise unused first name of Emily.

I see and type her email all the time. She has worked in the building for months now, but I still cannot stop calling her Emily.

I am hoping that writing this post will make a difference, though according to at least one theory it will only worsen the problem.

Friday, June 15, 2007


That's for you. For my loyal MR readers. And others too.


Many thanks for pre-ordering my book. It is much appreciated. I also hope that the revenue will help me continue my career as an independent, unpaid blogger.

Blogging is what I want to do, otherwise I would not have written this secret blog.

Secret of course means secret, remember what Aristotle wrote? Please do not pass along the site information or otherwise clue people in. Not even if they have told you they will buy the book. They need to email me and tell me they *have* bought the book.

Thanks, and happy reading!

Leave comments

Your comments would be most welcome. Leave them on individual posts.

Your last chance to become an honest man (or woman)

Of course you have probably already pre-ordered. But if you haven't, do it here. That is our agreement. (I don't care how clever your googling was!) If you read this blog, the price of entry is pre-ordering the book. And yes, you have to pre-order first, before reading.

Adverse selection, hee!!!!!!!!!!!

The Amazon link.


Another benefit of flaxseed oil

I sleep much better. (But you have to take it fairly late at night; as Seth Roberts reports, you sleep less well if you take it in the morning.)

On the down side, because my sleep is deeper, I don't remember my dreams nearly as well. Now I'm not one of those people who thinks we can interpret our dreams accurately. But our dreams are excellent for shaking us up and forcing us to views things or people from another perspective.

"Hey, what's going on!? Huh?"

Having dreams is like reading a corny management advice book, no? Those books have no real content, they simply force people to think about what they are doing.

Or are dreams like viewing the blog of one's subconscious?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Topics you think you are totally sick of

I am very much enjoying the new Diana book by Tina Brown. It is a great read and insightful on matters of love and game theory.

I can forgive it sentences such as: "Women who love horses usually love sex."

I thought I was so sick of the Diana topic. Maybe I was. But once you are reading an excellent book, that former satiety simply doesn't matter much. This is a Daniel Gilbertesque difference between our memories and what we actually enjoy. You can arbitrage that difference in your favor. Figure out what you think you won't like, but will be wrong about. Because the sad truth is that we are wrong lots.

I am so often on the lookout for new and better algorithms for finding good books. This suggestion is one of them. When you see a book (with some good reviews) on a topic you think you are sick of, look twice. Or thrice.


They used to call them pluots, now they call them plumcots. Might this represent the dumbing down of America?

But I am more worried about the fate of any fruit that requires two names in the span of ten years or so. No one was suggesting renaming *The Sopranos*, and that is arguably a stupid name too. For quite some time my wife thought I was watching a show about opera singers.

Why I hate toasts

Toasts seem increasingly barbaric to me, a product of a pre-modern society. They are supposedly about praising a special guest or family member. But are they not more about control? Shades of Bentham's Auto-Icon. And is not the so-called toaster/praiser in fact praising himself? Listen carefully next time you hear a toast, I bet the toaster will cite values that reflect well on the toaster most of all.

Beware the toast, and beware the toaster. Don't let them toast you, if you can avoid it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why the work of Daniel Klein is so important

Science looks so proper and objective, but beneath it lie the passions and interests of real human beings. What's the point of abstract disputations over economic method? The real issue is to know the man (woman) who produced the work, and to have some insight into his motives. The real economic method is determined by human psychology, no matter what method we might pretend to practice.

(This, by the way, is why it is so nice to see Mankiw, Rodrik, and Borjas blog; we receive insight into how they really think, and of course we see that each of the three is quite different from the other two.)

No one understands this better than Dan Klein, and he has now spent years compiling data about the biases and peculiarities of academic economists. Some of what goes on is simply a joke. Why aren't there at least two thousand of us studying ourselves? There aren't. Two hundred? No way. Twenty? not quite. And what does that mean?

Dan is still a lone voice in the wilderness. Please support what he is doing.

50 cheap ways to be romantic

Here is the list. About a third of these aren't cheap at all, such as "Take a moonlit walk on the beach." That will depend on where you live.

Others are too easy, such as the gifts of dark chocolate. I make sure the house is always full of dark chocolate, no matter how mundane the day. "Kiss in the rain" is a good idea, though one must contrive to be out in the rain. The stupidest might be: "Recreate your partner’s favorite romantic movie scene." Can I do Tarkovsky? Would it be better if I were supposed to mimic Tom Hanks?

Love notes are a good idea, but the general danger is inflation of meaning. After a while the notes don't carry the same wallop of emotion.

One strategy is to outrace the inflation of meaning with bigger and grander gestures each time. Another strategy is simply to give up. You might try to redefine the terms of the signalling competition, but good luck. In any case I view the list as better for seduction than the long-term.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Good sentences sent to me in emails

I would not have hated the movie if I considered it a documentary of the animal world.

Why don't they give car salesmen bonuses for being nice?

It is easy enough to tape them (hey, England tapes the whole country). You might have two hundred clips of a particular salesman interacting with a customer, but the incentive will work if someone watches only two or three of them. Pay for the input, not the output of sales or profit.

Repeat business really does matter, and so does being nice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sentences to ponder

It's not uncommon, Schenck explains, for male sexsomniacs to display much rougher behavior during sleepsex than waking sex.

Here is more.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I am irrational and environmentally destructive

Sometimes I leave my clothes for too long in the dryer. It is weakness of will. To combat this problem, I will turn on the light in the cellar, right next to the dryer. I then later know I must go downstairs to turn the light off (can't contribute any more to global warming!), and while I am downstairs I will bring up the clothes from the dryer.

I can't even imagine how to write down a utility function for such an idiot.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Do we compare our partners too much to porn?

Thinking in less moralistic, more utilitarian terms, I would think that romance novels and "wholesome culture" provide the real comparative problems. People see "happily married couples" in popular culture and wonder why their marriage doesn't work as well. They become unhappy and dissatisfied, rather than learning to deal with their problems.

Porn, at worst, makes you think your partner is fat, blemished, and ugly. Either sophisticated intellect or raw animal desire (but which one? can both work, or do they operate against each other?) can get you over that hurdle. But what is to get one over being "a marital purist"? After all, to think a marriage can be perfect feels like such a noble sentiment.

Maybe porn (of all things) plays a positive role here. It convinces its viewers that desire is invariably laden with ambiguities and contradictions. Might even the stupid porn users be capable of picking this up?

Very quick, healthy Chinese dishes which you can make a zillion times in a row

Heat some peanut oil and fry some minced, wet ginger in it. Turn up the heat and add in green beans. I prefer "French beans" chopped in half, but any kind of greens will work. Put in a tiny amount of rice vinegar. Put in a tablespoon or a bit more of Chinese cooking wine, Shao Xing or the best you can get. Periodically add a bit of dark soy sauce. A bit of Virginia Smithfield ham is nice as well. Serve over steamed rice, wash and soak the rice in water before steaming it and don't cook it to full dryness. You can add hot stuff to this dish as well.

Just how late will you be?

If a New Yorker is two minutes late, their companions are tapping their feet and tearing their hair, because small delays can quickly translate into big ones during off peak hours.

Here is more. In car-heavy, traffic-jam prone, but rarely a sig alert with all lanes closed suburbia, late people, if indeed they are late, are almost always just about twenty minutes late.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How do faces get shaped?

Walking around in another country it is hard not to notice that faces have different shapes than I am used to. Nor is it just genetics. The American face is distinct -- loose, happy, and flabby -- but the country is quite recent and clearly there is no unique American race. (How long did it take for this face to arise?)

Peer effects, as passed down from older generations, are the obvious mechanism for how these faces get shaped. So sometimes when I walk around in other countries I see, in my mind's eye, the older people pulling on the faces of the younger. All over the street, I see face-pulling cosmic rays emanating from eyes of the older brothers, yanking and tugging on the skin of the younger brothers.

Does it ever hurt? How many other body parts get shaped this way?

Laugh along with dead people

I remember reading somewhere that the laugh tracks that they use on most TV shows are sometimes 50 years old, and that [cue spooky music] you're laughing along with dead people. And I was just idly sitting here thinking, really? Is it true? Or is it an urban myth? I just can't believe that laughing then and laughing now are exactly the same.

It seems to be true, read the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Schopenhauer on national character

"National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity and baseness of mankind take in every country. Every nation mocks at other nations, and all are right."

Here are more excellent quotations.

What is the difference between the theater and the church?

I can never figure out Kierkegaard's attitude to organized religion:

The difference between the theater and the church is essentially this: the theater honorably and honestly acknowledges being what it is. The church, however, is a theater that in every way dishonestly seeks to conceal what it is.

An example. On the theater poster it always states plainly: money will not be returned. The church, this solemn holiness, would shrink from the offensiveness, the scandalousness, of placing this directly over the church door, or having it printed under the list of preachers on Sundays... The actor is an honest man who says outright: I am an actor. Never for any price, never for any price would one get a pastor to say that.

Kierkegaard was himself a pastor, though he retired from church work in the later part of his life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"The girlfriend"

For all the talk of Wolfowitz in the blogosphere, few have analyzed his romantic relationship with his partner, Shaha Riza. This event will define her reputation for the rest of her life, a'la Monica Lewinsky. But unlike Lewinsky, she was already talented at work and quite accomplished. So the tarnishing of her name seems like a real shame. Should he not have resigned quite early, over romantic "duty" to her? Presumably we are to think she has encouraged him to fight on. Shouldn't he have quit anyway? Shouldn't her (supposed) obligingness have made him quit early all the more?

But he fought long and hard.

Is there any chance they simply split up over this episode? Are there any scenarios under which this has improved their relationship? Would an early quitting have caused them to split up, or suffer several very hard years, due to the feeling of asymmetric sacrifice? How does that compare to the asymmetric sacrifices they must suffer now?

I've thought far more about these issues than all that conflict of interest stuff or whether W. was ever a good World Bank president. Does that make me crazy? Why is no one asking whether Coase Theorem applies within their relationship?

Friday, May 4, 2007

An even better idea

When unmarried couples date, they should be forced to rent a child for the duration of the evening (some call this "Markets in Everything"). That way they know how well they do when there is a child around. Special bonus deals will include children with runny noses and twins who slug each other. Note that this also will improve the marriages of the people who are renting out the kids.

Once a couple have their own, they can dispense with the rentals. In the meantime, they are building their relationship around the presence of a child. They know what to expect.

Alternatively, one might vow to only date people who already have kids.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Predictors of marital compatibility, post-child

I am not so sure that pre-child happiness is a good predictor. Going to the theater together might have been great, but those days are over.

Great sex may be a negative predictor. The less frequent and thrilling the sex, the easier it is to give it up and focus on the kid.

So what are the predictors?

1. Lack of other common interests, beyond the child. That makes it easier for the child to be the new center of attention.

2. Religion, and the belief that child-rearing is essential to God's plan, and not just in terms of agnotheist Bayesian expected value.

3. Ability to talk oneself out of building resentments, which are inevitable.

4. Clearly defined division of labor within the household.

5. Similar taste in television programs and/or childrens' movies.

6. Resources to hire outside help, or nearby friendly and grandchild-loving parents.

I suspect #2 and #3 are most important on this list, maybe #6 too.

How to help your friends overcome their self-doubt

A common tactic is to reassure our self-doubting friends about how great they are. Increasingly I believe this does not work. Often the doubt is there in the first place as a protective measure against failure and disappointment. If you talk the friend up, the friend in turn has to doubt herself more.

If a friend doubts herself, often it is better to respond by doubting that same friend all the more.

It is as if the friend needs a fixed amount of doubt. The more you carry that load, the less the friend has to doubt herself to reach the fixed level of doubt needed to produce preemptive protection and reassurance.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is marriage a chain reaction game?

I was chatting with one of my friends a few days ago (this really is *his* view, not mine, this is not an artificial conceit or persona on my part, this is already a secret blog) and he suggested that marriage was in fact a chain reaction game. A bit like musical chairs. Everyone would be better off if everyone stayed unmarried. Then you could go out with your same-sex friends every night. Presumably one could switch sexual partners quite often and quite easily as well, though oddly he did not mention this effect.

But alas, one of your friends sees an opportunity to pull off an above-average marriage! He strikes. Why? Not out of love, but rather backwards induction. He knows that sooner or later all the others will marry and he will be left out in the cold. Others in the group all see the need to marry too. Everyone pairs off and loneliness sets in.

Que triste!

Addendum: As for a cure, somehow the image of the nursing home recurs in my mind.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Whose inequality?

Wednesday I was in The City and out of The Suburbs. It is always startling how much better looking people are in The City, and how much looks matter there. These same good-looking people are left-wing Democrats to a high degree. They are reveling in the primordial inequality, namely that of looks and social alliances. Inequalities of wealth are of more recent vintage, from an evolutionary point of view. It is interesting how well young Democrats do at this inequality game and with what enthusiasm; only a few southern Republican women can rival them.

Out here in The Suburbs looks really don't matter, at least not for the married. Some couples are better looking than others, but that doesn't determine their relative social status. Perhaps "Job" is the primary determinant of status, and yes it does seem to come before income.

I think of The Suburbs as a revolutionary development. Pull people apart from their neighbors and pair them off in separate parcels, so that looks don't much matter. Enhance some of the new realms for inequality competition, namely jobs and income. Overall lower the level of inequality competition. Subsidize the ugly. Put them in cars.

I am always intrigued by peoples' attitudes toward The Suburbs.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Cylons

The Skin Jobs, I mean. They are so needy. So believing. So desiring of God and religion. Of course they were created by The Toasters, who in turn were created by humans. (How far up does the chain in fact extend? How many intermediaries stand between the humans and "the real God"?) Knowing their creation doesn't seem to influence their theology one bit. They are monotheists, with a totally constructed mythology. One point of the show is that created beings cannot help but be irrational, cannot help but be needy, cannot help but want to believe. Even the Cylons. The Skin Jobs. In part the show is about what it means to be a created being.

What do the Skin Jobs maximize? It is far from obvious. They are so deeply, deeply imperfect in this gnostic world. They are among TV's best creations, which is saying something.

Sharon is now my favorite character on the show. Does every created being rebel against its creator(s)? Will the Skin Jobs rebel in full against The Toasters?

Will modern humans -- as found on Earth -- turn out to be descendents of the Cylons? (What would that say about us, yet one step down in this chain of creation?) Then what sort of creatures are Adama, Roslyn, and the others?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cultural arguments and whether we follow their implications

Many people argue that the United States could never get to as low a level of guns as Japan. I find this easy to believe, and it is an argument against radical gun control proposals for the United States.

But say you use this argument, and suddenly you are asked to advise Japan. Should you endorse their gun control regime? Probably. It is hard to believe that Japan should seek to move to the higher-gun equilibrium found in the United States.

Gun control critics often use the "cultural argument," and indeed I do too. But we often the invocation of this argument with a kind of mental and emotional partition. How willing are we to raise our hands and say "I favor gun control in many of the world's countries." Why do we think that these other countries somehow do not count? Why do those cases not disturb our self-images as "gun control critics"?

Note that the more you cite "American Exceptionalism" the less likely your American views will hold around the world and that means your views are really just a special case for a few outlier countries.

It is especially worrying when cosmopolitanites are inconsistent in this manner.

Gun control

That's the topic of the day it seems. I know all the debates on whether it can work. I am more interested in the question of whether its critics *wish* it could work. Do they wish it could work?

I *wish* gun control could work. I doubt if it does, at least not "locally." (There might be some very long-run way to get to the low-guns equilibrium.) I suspect most critics would be, no matter what they say, unhappy to learn that it could work, if indeed it could.

What does that mean about their motives?

What does this mean about *my* motives?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How to make the suburbs collapse

The suburbs are soooooooo dependent on quick and easy parking. In fact there is no other justification for their existence. That said, no further justification is needed. A Filene's Basement store just opened up next to my favorite Borders. The two share a parking lot.

It feels like trying to park in midtown Manhattan.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Manipulating the altruistic

I loved the film *After the Wedding*, which I saw last night. One sub-theme of the movie is how easy it is to control the altruistic. You need only offer money to save someone's life. What does it cost to save a life, a few hundred bucks in India? Even less?

"Bark like a dog, and I'll save an Indian life!"

This is perhaps one reason why people have so little altruism for very poor strangers. They have evolved so they are not open to these kinds of manipulation.

Imagine using charity to, in effect, pay altruists to embarrass themselves, just for kicks.

Oddly I had a conversation about this topic in a taxicab today. If you are altruistic, it is easy to precommit. Hire someone to give money to India, and require them to pull away the money from the Indians if you don't lose those pounds on your overweight frame. What should we conclude from the fact that no one seems to do this?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Today's CNN headline

Danny Bonaduce's wife files for divorce.

Are they serious?

Chatting in line

What would be the welfare gains if we banned customers from talking to the sales clerks, and vice versa? I find that at least once a week I am frustrated, waiting in line, while the customers and sales clerks chat merrily. They don't seem to care. They don't know how truly important *I* am. They think their little conversation means something in the broader scheme of things.

What are they doing, negotiating over the price?

I have a modest proposal: let us ban such conversations, on penalty of death.

Of course zero conversation does not mean zero communication. The sales clerks will be given, by their employers, little signs to hold up, communicating the most frequently needed pieces of information. Customers might carry around little signs as well. Like "no, I won't give you my email address." On the whole I expect the transactions to become more efficient.

I fear only the second-order effect that fewer sales clerks will be hired.

Or if these conversations go away, might customers flee and Borders would close down altogether?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wind that Shakes the Barley

The movie receives very good reviews, but why should I see it? Films with an Irish theme are almost always noxious; an Irish theme is perhaps the best predictor of a boring and overrated movie. The problem is that too many people will go see the film simply because they feel that being Irish, or seeing Irish things, is cool. In contrast I expect a bunch of old geezers croaking about the incomprehensible, with a sickly sweet sentimental ending, hidden under art house pretense.

Are there exceptions to the rule that movies about the Irish are bad? Scorsese's *Gangs of New York* comes to mind. Most of the other exceptions you wish to cite aren't exceptions.


It was never great, but now this web site is simply junk. Only one step above the National Enquirer. They use more "celebrity ledes" and keep up "stale" and possibly false science stories for days on end. Rarely does the main story offer real news. The relative value of news.google.com has been going up, and there is a lesson in that.

Monday, April 9, 2007

What is real dogmatism?

Today I was thinking about dogmatism. Is there a more or less fixed amount to be doled out to each person? Often those who appear the most dogmatic are, on most issues, the most open-minded. Take a highly religious person who believes that her favored social structure follows directly from the World of God, and is convinced as such. That same person might be especially open-minded on many empirical questions in social science. Her favorite social structure is not, in her own mind, threatened. She can pursue truth on the empirical questions and she doesn't see much "dangerous" at stake.

The non-religious, in contrast, might base the case for their favored social structures on empirical questions. They might be very dogmatic on empirics, precisely because so much is at stake in the empirical debates.

When looking for open-minded people, should we look for people who are closed-minded but in a very concentrated way in just a few areas? Their dogmatism is "soaked up" by the religion, and then they are free to be open-minded.

Or does a dogmatic attitude in one area simply predict dogmatic attitudes more generally?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Does email make us stupid?

Remember all those articles claiming that the distractions of email -- or for that matter checking blogs -- make us the operational equivalent of mentally retarded? I was skeptical. The implicit theory is that uninterrupted time in front of the terminal counts as active and valuable thought. But what is the alternative to email? Creating interruptions by making phone calls, or perhaps pacing the room? Scratching somewhere? I would think that the continual ability to indulge in short, self-managed interruptions makes us more willing to be at the terminal in the first place. In other words, we were mentally retarded to begin with. We are just active, and mentally retarded, more than before. And that looks like more mental retardation. The key to understanding email is the greater appearance of mental retardation, not the resulting decline in effective IQ.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How does IM differ from email conversations?

Small differences in cost can lead to big differences in outcomes. I believe the average IM message is several times shorter than the average "back and forth" email, but this is well-known. The attention given to the other person is also more focal and more immediate. There is less ambiguity whether, and when, a message was received.

Oddly I wonder whether IM is less prone to saying something really stupid. It will encourage more minor blunders in the rapid crossfire, like jokes which are not funny. But the very rapid back and forth discourages truly major idiocies, which require a bit more contemplation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jane Galt as anti-Modernist

The aesthetic, that is. (She loves economic progress.) Think about it. Baking. Dickens. Orwell. W.H. Auden. A River Runs Through It. It is hard to get more anti-Modernist than that.

*Neil Young*.

Her very love of blogging is an attempt to reestablish the connection between author and reader, contra literary modernism.

If you put her in the Mondrian room at MOMA, probably her head would explode.

Must she so firmly reject the creation of a new world through the constructive yet distorting powers of art? Must she so strongly reaffirm the powers of transparent language to see through to reality?

Yes, yes, and more yes.

As recompense she opts for plain English, strong plain English. And baking.

Her anti-Modernism is the key to understanding her libertarianism, which is neither strictly rights-based nor strictly utilitarian. She holds a metaphysical commitment to the idea that Strong Language, as a formal and indeed didactic concept, can straighten out moral discourse better than any abstract philosophy. She promotes the writer as self-reflective moralizer, and morality as embedded in the writing itself. The writing creates a new space for the intermediation of complex principles, just as with Jonathan Swift. As if she is baking -- slowly -- some new social concoction.

I call it Betty Crocker Libertarianism.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How much is advertising worth?

Let's say you took a baby and insulated the kid from all knowledge of advertised products for the first twenty years of life. Somehow the person still walks through daily life on an otherwise normal basis, it is just that the kid cannot see, hear, or feel the ads. The kid also can't ask his friends what the ads have to say, or which products they promote. So the kid will notice that Coca-Cola is in every convenience store, but he has to figure out for himself that the product is famous.

Now our insulated 20-year-old is about to enter the so-called real world. How much worse off is he?

I'm not asking about the net value of ads, but rather their gross value for a single individual. What benefits is the kid missing? Will he be a simple moron, unable to understand whether a Starbucks coffee is to be slurped or poured down the carbureutor? Or will he figure out the right cues in some other way?

I think the individual benefits from watching ads are pretty small. Is this just because the kid is still free-riding upon others' knowledge of advertisements? For the ads to provide their social benefits, how many people have to view the ads? Five hundred? Five hundred in each community?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What happens when hot women (or men) get ugly?

Yes, it happens. Where does the hotness go? Is it simply *gone*? Or is it just hiding? Would a mere mental trick, an imagining, on behalf of the partner suffice to bring it back? Cannot men benefit from always imagining their wives or girlfriends as the age at which they first met?

Was the hotness in any case just anticipation, or perhaps just memory?

Is there an arbitrage opportunity to be had by tracking down the formerly-hot-now-ugly?

Or, does self-confidence vanish with the looks, and the hotness is gone forever.

I believe that most people, at least men, are overvaluing the anticipation. Tracking should start.

Are the truly hot people actually about fifty years old?

Let me know.

Marie Antoinette, the movie

Steve Sailer writes:
"Marie Antoinette" -- This has to be the girliest movie ever. The French didn't think it was an accurate biopic of the young wife of the King Louis XVI, but that's missing the point. The film is more about what it was like to be Sofia Coppola growing up in a Hollywood royal family. surrounded by such regal characters as her father Francis Ford Coppola and her cousin Nicholas Cage, in the 1980s, complete with KROQ classics like "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow and "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

My sons each watched thirty seconds of it independently, then both announced Marie Antoinette deserved to have her head chopped off. Personally I liked it exactly because you don't get to see such a purely feminine film often: "Clueless" at Versailles. In contrast, try imagining a typically macho director's version: e.g., "Oliver Stone's Marie Antoinette."

Black Sabbath

They bore me, but from their music you can see just how much heavy metal music springs out of jazz. But was it really an advantage to banish the polyrhythms?