Leftover February Links, 1

Politics, Science, Culture, Religion

GOP, NYT and Biden; Evolution, Aliens and Balloons; Movie Credits, Awards; He Gets Us, Indoctrination Camps, Education


The Atlantic, David Frum, 1 Feb 2023: The GOP Is Just Obnoxious, subtitled “It’s why the party keeps losing elections.”

Examples of Mehmet Oz, Blake Masters, Ron DeSantis, Kevin McCarthy.

This is not a “both sides” story. Democratic candidates don’t try to energize their base by “owning the conservatives”; that’s just not a phrase you hear. The Democratic coalition is bigger and looser than the Republican coalition, and it’s not clear that Democrats even have an obvious “base” the way that Republicans do.


Salon, Kirk Swearingen, 20 Feb 2023: Will the New York Times ever give Joe Biden credit for his accomplishments? Chances dim!, subtitled “The Gray Lady’s reflexive pandering to Republicans gets embarrassing. No, wait — it’s always been embarrassing”

The example is a news story headline — “Chances of Recession Start to Dim” — that seemed oddly negative about a positive development.

The Times might as well have phrased it this way: “GOP hopes of recession start to dim.” That would arguably have been more coherent, and would have made perfect sense to the many of us who think corporate media is greatly underplaying Joe Biden’s accomplishments while placating those right-wing Putin fans — T-shirts that say “I’d Rather Be Russian than a Democrat” are still for sale — who constantly work the refs, constantly complaining that the media is “liberal” while consistently voting against the interests of the vast majority of Americans.

The Times changed the online headline later in the day. The writer here gives several cheeky examples of how to put negative spins on positive events.



Salon, Nicole Karlis, 16 Feb 2023: Why aliens wouldn’t spy on humans with balloons, subtitled “Astronomers weigh in on the latest balloon conspiracy theory”

(This was before that big balloon was established to be Chinese.) Inputs from Seth Shostak and Avi Loeb.


UC Press, Glenn Branch, 1 Feb 2023: Why Are There Still Misconceptions about Evolution?

Beginning with the canard “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” And the answer, to be brief, is “intuitive notions about biological phenomena grounded in the nature of human cognition,” citing Andrew Shtulman’s Scienceblind (reviewed here).

The idea of “intuitive” physics and other science is one I’ve always found fascinating. (It applies to depictions of explosions and of space flight in movies and TV of course.) And however people can overcome these intuitions to understand how the world actually works, because…

There are still misconceptions about evolution, largely because there are constantly new students, who come equipped, by nature and nurture, with such intuitive notions.


Forbes, Bruce Y. Lee, 18 Feb 2023: New Idaho Bill Would Criminalize Anyone Administering Covid-19 mRNA Vaccines



NY Times, Emma Kantor, 21 Feb 2023: Why I Watch the Closing Credits of Every Movie I See, subtitled “One look is enough to challenge the myth of the genius auteur calling all the shots.”

The writer’s point is that no movie the work of a single person, typically considered the director, who has creative control over the supporting work of the hundreds of other people who contribute to the final product. Fair enough, though OTOH there is a similarity among films of certain directors — especially e.g. Hitchcock, Kubrick, Mallick — that doesn’t seem to exist along other creative lines, like writers or even actors.

I’ve always watched the closing credits of movies whenever I can, for a few reasons. Partly it’s out of respect for all those hundreds of people who work on every movie, in the same way that when I read a book, I want to know who wrote it, and when I see a movie, I want to know who directed and wrote it and did the score. (Some, most?, people don’t care, about any of that.)

Also with movies, it’s generally because I want to identify which actors did certain roles, and especially which musical tracks were used, the pop songs or classics tracks I didn’t quite place earlier. Filming locations. And the list of musical tracks is always at the end of the credits. Related to that, when I like the film score (the original music written for the film, as opposed to the pop or classics tracks borrowed from history), I want to sit and hear the final suite version of that score that is played over the end credits, often for several minutes.

So I’m heartened when I notice those moviegoers who, like me, take a few extra minutes to sit through the credits. … An unspoken intimacy and solidarity exists among us, the attentive viewers, and the village of filmmakers we honor. Sometimes I’m tempted to seize on this connection. I could offer a nod or a glance of recognition. Even bolder, I imagine turning to them and asking, “So, what did you think?” Above all, though, I think of my parents — and the other members of the extended moviemaking family — every time I stay behind in my theater seat. I hope I do them credit.

Recently, however, since watching movies almost always at home the past three years, it’s become frustrating to try to watch credits, for movies or even episodes of streaming TV series, because the streaming services want to cut them off and redirect you to another show. Typically you see 10 seconds or so of the final credits before a couple icons appear in the lower right corner, counting down 5 seconds or so to press a button or two on your remote in order to keep the credits rolling. Otherwise the credits whoosh away and some other show comes on — and you can’t go back, short of streaming the movie from the very beginning and fast forward to the end. Which I’ve done a couple times.


Vox, Emily Stewart, 23 Feb 2023: Awards are meaningless, subtitled “From the Oscars to best in business, why do we do awards for adults?”

There are some valid points here…

America’s brand of capitalism is zero-sum, one where there’s a constant desire for winners and losers. It’s grounded in the meritocracy lie, the false narrative that people ascend to the top because they’ve got the most talent and skill, not because of financial and social advantages. Awards put all of this on overdrive: we invent a metric, pretend like it’s objective, and then, we make it scarce. And, of course, plenty of cash changes hands in the process.

…and there are all sorts of reasons to be cynical about the process of awards, especially when one doesn’t agree with the outcomes. Especially awards that one *applies* for, or even pays a fee to be considered. But I’ve run a database of certain kinds of awards for over 20 years, and have thought a lot about such issues. The reason for awards is sort of like the reason for newspapers: they’re the first pass of history. What will be remembered? Which movies or books will still be in circulation 50 years from now? For all their flaws, awards are generally better guides to what people find rewarding and worth remembering than box office receipts or bestseller lists. Just look at any of those latter from 50 years ago, and you’ll see a lot forgotten titles.



New Republic, 13 Feb 2023: The “He Gets Us” Jesus Super Bowl Commercial Is Connected to an Anti-Abortion, Anti-LGBTQ Group, subtitled “The ad urged viewers to look past their differences. Meanwhile, the group behind it is rolling back nondiscrimination protections.”

Joe.My.God, 6 Feb 2023: Nebraska Dem Trolls With Amendment To Anti-Drag Bill That Bars Minors From “Religious Indoctrination Camps”

Joe.My.God, 7 Feb 2023: Hate Group Has Plan To “Eliminate” Dept Of Education

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