A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
Looking In The Right Place
The Economist reports that Roger Griffith, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, has delivered some ‘tantalising’ results from a search of 100,000 galaxies for possible indications of alien life. Fifty galaxies had unusually “infrared-rich and visible-light-poor spectrum” that could maybe almost theoretically indicate a technologically advanced civilisation capturing a high proportion of solar energy.
The paper acknowledges that “The odds are that Dr Griffith’s discovery will have a humdrum explanation.”
A Demagogue in London
Nick Cohen of the Guardian reflects on a judge’s ruling last week disqualifying Lutfur Rahman from being the mayor of Tower Hamlets, a London suburb. Mr Rahman was found guilty of making false statements against another candidate, of corruptly using council grants to influence voters, and of using “undue spiritual influence” by promoting the message that ‘if you are a good Muslim, you will vote for Rahman’.
In London’s East End, where so many battles against real fascism were fought in the 20th century, “anti-racism” has become little more than a swindle. Far from being just or noble, it was a pretext to bribe journalists, pay off accomplices and frighten poor immigrants into supporting a crooked demagogue, who despised his “own” people so much he would not even grant them the right to participate in an honest election.
Adam Sandler Is Store-Brand Cornflakes
Walt Hickey at FiveThirtyEight has produced a useful typology of Adam Sandler movies: ‘The Pineapples’, ‘The Paydays’ and ‘He’s Trying’.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but Adam Sandler does not make very good movies. Sandler is taking heat this week after several Native American actors walked off the set of “The Ridiculous Six” because of racist and misogynistic jokes in the film.
But see, nobody’s really going, “I’m shocked an Adam Sandler movie was full of cheap, unoriginal jokes that punched down and play into antiquated stereotypes.” And that’s because Sandler, for the past two decades, has been one of the most consistent producers of that kind of content.
To ram the point home Mr Hickey finishes with a flourish.
Putting the credit “Adam Sandler” on a poster with a picture of Adam Sandler on it is using the same marketing strategy as putting “Corn Flakes” on the box of store-brand cereal that has a picture of corn flakes on it. Neither the store brand cereal nor the Sandler picture are improving the overall quality of American consumption. They’re each providing a baseline, predictable product that will perform consistently and make money for its producer.
Emptor, you have been caveated.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week
Not so much ignoring as rolling my eyes at.
When are we going to dump the “-gate” suffix to indicate a possible political scandal? Watergate was nearly 50 years ago. Forty-two and a half years to be precise. Which, apart from making me feel my age, makes it seem that nothing has happened in between.
Perhaps a new rule: if it doesn’t involve weird ex-CIA operatives, the deputy head of the FBI meeting journalists in underground carparks, and the President’s personal secretary ‘accidentally’ erasing the key passage of the key conversation, it doesn’t qualify for a ‘-gate’ tag.
That might also allow us to focus on the real experiences of the people involved, rather than assign them normative roles based on convenient meta-narrative structures.