Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A small note to some other bloggers we like

Just a little clarification for the folks at Instaputz and Sadly, No!: Megan McArdle and Glenn Reynolds are two very cheap internet parodies of people like this guy (whose blog and programming language - Io - I actually like).

What he says..

Friday, August 24, 2007

This argument I've kept having with people since 1999

Daniel Nexon expresses exactly what I've thought of Tom Friedman since 1999. Ever since the awful book The Lexus and the Olive Tree - which was not a useful book for anyone but Tom Friedman - was published (initial reaction: "This is the book that describes our time? ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME???"), I've had this same argument with otherwise intelligent people. In that book Friedman demonstrated (and continues to demonstrate in subsequent books and columns) that he doesn't know anything about technology, economics, or international relations except that the topics sure excite him and inspire him to talk, endlessly...While it's nice that big ideas are exciting to him, it would help if he had any insight into his chosen topics. But he didn't then and he doesn't now and he won't ever. A writer who brings nothing to his chosen subject other than breathless enthusiasm is not a writer you should pay any attention to and one certainly shouldn't take their advice on policy; one would think this is obvious. When I would make those points, the otherwise intelligent people would look at me oddly and say "But he understands what's happening right now! What's the matter with you?" And I'd reply "How can you say that? He's NOT SAYING ANYTHING!" And so on and on...So to all you OIP's out there who I argued with: I was right. You were wrong, and I hope we all have learned from this experience.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mencken on Journalism

Couldn't resist transcribing this gem verbatim, which I've only found in bits and pieces on the Internet, of which I can only imagine Mencken's pronouncements had he lived to see it. From Newspaper Days (1942):

At a time when the respectable bourgeois youngsters of my generation were college freshmen, oppressed by simian sophomores and affronted with balderdash daily and hourly by chalky pedagogues, I was at large in a wicked seaport of half a million people, with a front seat at every public show, as free of the night as of the day, and getting earfuls and eyefuls of instruction in a hundred giddy arcana, none of them taught in schools. On my twenty-first birthday, by all orthodox cultural standards, I probably reached my all-time low, for the heavy reading of my teens had been abandoned in favor of life itself, and I did not return seriously to the lamp until a time near the end of this record. But it would be an exaggeration to say that I was ignorant, for if I neglected the humanities I was meanwhile laying in all the worldly wisdom of a police lieutenant, a bartender, a shyster lawyer, or a midwife. And it would certainly be idiotic to say that I was not happy. The illusion that swathes and bedizens journalism, bringing in its endless squads of recruits, was still full upon me, and I had yet to taste the sharp teeth of responsibility. Life was arduous, but it was gay and carefree. The days chased one another like kittens chasing their tails.

Whether or not the young journalists today live so spaciously is a question that I am not competent to answer, for my contacts with them, of late years, have been rather scanty. They undoubtedly get a great deal more money than we did in 1900, but their freedom is much less than ours was, and they somehow give me the impression, seen at a distance, of complacency rather than intrepidity. In my day a reporter who took an assignment was fully on his own until he got back to the office, and even then he was little molested until his copy was turned in at the desk; today he tends to become only a homunculus at the end of a telephone wire, and the reduction of his observations to prose is commonly farmed out to literary castrati who never leave the office, and hence never feel the wind of the world in their faces or see anything with their own eyes. I well recall my horror when I heard, for the first time, of a journalist who had laid in a pair of what were then called bicycle pants and taken to golf: it was as if I had encountered a studhorse with his hair done up in frizzes, and pink bowknots peeking out of them. It seemed, in some vague way, ignominious, and even a bit indelicate.