Category Archives: Social Commentary

They Say That Like It’s A Bad Thing

The number of PhDs being granted to Americans is apparently declining. I found this interesting, though unsurprising:

…many doctoral programs have low completion rates. Only about 40 percent of Ph.D. candidates in the humanities finish, compared with a 75 percent completion rate for doctoral candidates in the biological sciences.

Now, I am concerned about the lack of native borns (and hence people more likely to stay here after graduation) getting graduate science and technical degrees. But who thinks that fewer English, Women’s or Ethnic or Gay Studies, Communication, Journalism, Education, Psychology, or Anthropology doctorates will bring down the curtain on American civilization?

Along that note, I found this last part depressing:

The U.S. Department of Education reported that there were 6,967 degrees awarded for education in 2002, the most for any academic field…

An academic field that, in my opinion, shouldn’t even exist.

Weird Bleg

For any Catholics out there (and I don’t mean cafeteria Catholics), is gambling a sin? If you went to the Vatican, and asked the Pope if it’s OK to lay some money down on the horses, would he say, “go for it”?

Who Woulda Thought?

You’ll all be shocked to learn, as I was, that men aren’t totally averse to seeing women naked:

Women were more frequently bothered by nude sunbathing than men. Just over 40 percent of women said they did not like seeing other naked females on the beach, while just 5 percent of men shared their opinion about nude women.

What would we do without opinion polls?

They Still Don’t Get It

Speaking of going out to the movies, the summer slump in Hollywood output apparently continues:

Fans complain that high ticket prices and concessions make going to theaters too costly. But industry players hear that gripe often, and note the average ticket price is up 3 percent this year, roughly equal to the increase in 2004 when the box office hit a high of $9.54 billion.

The only reason everyone seems to agree on for 2005’s box office slump is that this year’s films of familiar remakes, sequels, comic book capers and science-fiction adventures simply failed to connect with broad audiences.

“Audiences have gotten more sophisticated, and movies do have to catch up,” Dergarabedian said.

I’ve certainly done my bit to suppress sales. The movie I saw yesterday was the first one I’ve seen in a theatre in well over a year, and the above reasons are why. Thirteen dollars for a tub of popcorn and two soft drinks seems ridiculous when one can pop it oneself in the house, and not have to put up with noisy kids, sticky floors, etc.

And they do seem in a rut thematically. Of all of the previews that I saw before Star Wars yesterday, only one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) wasn’t either SF or fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia), which also made me realize how mainstream the genre has become compared to when I was a youth, though I suspect that it doesn’t dominate the book-reading public to anywhere near the same degree. In fact, I imagine that few people even realize that these are SF movies at all, so common have they become. Of course, they may have chosen those previews precisely because the movie we were seeing was SF (well, as SF as Star Wars ever was). But that does seem to be the trend this summer, judging from the paper and the buzz.

But Reuters (unsurprisingly) misses another reason that people may be staying away–the fact that so many in Tinseltown can’t keep their idiot yaps shut about politics, and other subjects. I’ll almost certainly skip (without missing) Oliver Stone’s upcoming movie about 911, for no other reason than that it’s by Oliver Stone. I’d like to see War of the Worlds, but a reason not to is the foolish things that Stephen Spielberg does and says (including his apparent worship of Fidel Castro). Why line his pockets and reward him?

And then there’s Tom Cruise.

Now, I’ve never been a person to go see a movie just because some “star” is in it (including Jennifer Connolly, though I’m often sorely tempted to see a movie in which I’d otherwise have no interest, if she graces the screen), and that goes double for Cruise, of whom the appeal is a mystery to me. I suppose that it would probably help if I were a heterosexual female. But even the latter audience may have been turned off by his latest antics. I talked to a twenty-something of my acquaintance yesterday, who said that she was going to boycott the movie simply because he was in it, and if she ever saw him in person, she’d be tempted to slug him over the things that he’s said recently about mental health (a subject with which he perhaps needs to become more familiar) and his induction of Katie Holmes into his weird cult.

If she’s in any way typical of her generation, instead of a box-office draw, he may becoming box-office poison, and cratering his career. And I don’t think it will be very easy for me to dredge up any sympathy if he does.

They Still Don’t Get It

Speaking of going out to the movies, the summer slump in Hollywood output apparently continues:

Fans complain that high ticket prices and concessions make going to theaters too costly. But industry players hear that gripe often, and note the average ticket price is up 3 percent this year, roughly equal to the increase in 2004 when the box office hit a high of $9.54 billion.

The only reason everyone seems to agree on for 2005’s box office slump is that this year’s films of familiar remakes, sequels, comic book capers and science-fiction adventures simply failed to connect with broad audiences.

“Audiences have gotten more sophisticated, and movies do have to catch up,” Dergarabedian said.

I’ve certainly done my bit to suppress sales. The movie I saw yesterday was the first one I’ve seen in a theatre in well over a year, and the above reasons are why. Thirteen dollars for a tub of popcorn and two soft drinks seems ridiculous when one can pop it oneself in the house, and not have to put up with noisy kids, sticky floors, etc.

And they do seem in a rut thematically. Of all of the previews that I saw before Star Wars yesterday, only one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) wasn’t either SF or fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia), which also made me realize how mainstream the genre has become compared to when I was a youth, though I suspect that it doesn’t dominate the book-reading public to anywhere near the same degree. In fact, I imagine that few people even realize that these are SF movies at all, so common have they become. Of course, they may have chosen those previews precisely because the movie we were seeing was SF (well, as SF as Star Wars ever was). But that does seem to be the trend this summer, judging from the paper and the buzz.

But Reuters (unsurprisingly) misses another reason that people may be staying away–the fact that so many in Tinseltown can’t keep their idiot yaps shut about politics, and other subjects. I’ll almost certainly skip (without missing) Oliver Stone’s upcoming movie about 911, for no other reason than that it’s by Oliver Stone. I’d like to see War of the Worlds, but a reason not to is the foolish things that Stephen Spielberg does and says (including his apparent worship of Fidel Castro). Why line his pockets and reward him?

And then there’s Tom Cruise.

Now, I’ve never been a person to go see a movie just because some “star” is in it (including Jennifer Connolly, though I’m often sorely tempted to see a movie in which I’d otherwise have no interest, if she graces the screen), and that goes double for Cruise, of whom the appeal is a mystery to me. I suppose that it would probably help if I were a heterosexual female. But even the latter audience may have been turned off by his latest antics. I talked to a twenty-something of my acquaintance yesterday, who said that she was going to boycott the movie simply because he was in it, and if she ever saw him in person, she’d be tempted to slug him over the things that he’s said recently about mental health (a subject with which he perhaps needs to become more familiar) and his induction of Katie Holmes into his weird cult.

If she’s in any way typical of her generation, instead of a box-office draw, he may becoming box-office poison, and cratering his career. And I don’t think it will be very easy for me to dredge up any sympathy if he does.

They Still Don’t Get It

Speaking of going out to the movies, the summer slump in Hollywood output apparently continues:

Fans complain that high ticket prices and concessions make going to theaters too costly. But industry players hear that gripe often, and note the average ticket price is up 3 percent this year, roughly equal to the increase in 2004 when the box office hit a high of $9.54 billion.

The only reason everyone seems to agree on for 2005’s box office slump is that this year’s films of familiar remakes, sequels, comic book capers and science-fiction adventures simply failed to connect with broad audiences.

“Audiences have gotten more sophisticated, and movies do have to catch up,” Dergarabedian said.

I’ve certainly done my bit to suppress sales. The movie I saw yesterday was the first one I’ve seen in a theatre in well over a year, and the above reasons are why. Thirteen dollars for a tub of popcorn and two soft drinks seems ridiculous when one can pop it oneself in the house, and not have to put up with noisy kids, sticky floors, etc.

And they do seem in a rut thematically. Of all of the previews that I saw before Star Wars yesterday, only one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) wasn’t either SF or fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia), which also made me realize how mainstream the genre has become compared to when I was a youth, though I suspect that it doesn’t dominate the book-reading public to anywhere near the same degree. In fact, I imagine that few people even realize that these are SF movies at all, so common have they become. Of course, they may have chosen those previews precisely because the movie we were seeing was SF (well, as SF as Star Wars ever was). But that does seem to be the trend this summer, judging from the paper and the buzz.

But Reuters (unsurprisingly) misses another reason that people may be staying away–the fact that so many in Tinseltown can’t keep their idiot yaps shut about politics, and other subjects. I’ll almost certainly skip (without missing) Oliver Stone’s upcoming movie about 911, for no other reason than that it’s by Oliver Stone. I’d like to see War of the Worlds, but a reason not to is the foolish things that Stephen Spielberg does and says (including his apparent worship of Fidel Castro). Why line his pockets and reward him?

And then there’s Tom Cruise.

Now, I’ve never been a person to go see a movie just because some “star” is in it (including Jennifer Connolly, though I’m often sorely tempted to see a movie in which I’d otherwise have no interest, if she graces the screen), and that goes double for Cruise, of whom the appeal is a mystery to me. I suppose that it would probably help if I were a heterosexual female. But even the latter audience may have been turned off by his latest antics. I talked to a twenty-something of my acquaintance yesterday, who said that she was going to boycott the movie simply because he was in it, and if she ever saw him in person, she’d be tempted to slug him over the things that he’s said recently about mental health (a subject with which he perhaps needs to become more familiar) and his induction of Katie Holmes into his weird cult.

If she’s in any way typical of her generation, instead of a box-office draw, he may becoming box-office poison, and cratering his career. And I don’t think it will be very easy for me to dredge up any sympathy if he does.

Eh

So I decided to go see Star Wars, Episode 3, before it left the theatres. I’d seen every one up till now on its first run in the theatres, and it’s apparently part of the zeitgeist of my generation that the ticket get punched for each one. I saw the first one at a less impressionable age than some, and so wasn’t as impressed with it as that generation–my lodestone for SF movies remains 2001, having grown up on a steady diet of Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov, and that was the first SF movie that really tried to get it right (unlike Star Wars, which simply tried to get the effects spectacular, physics notwithstanding).

I know I’m a little late to the party, in terms of reviewing this film, but it’s tough, given today’s technology, for a movie to ride on special effects any more, just as it was easy to do so in 1977, because so much of the field laid unplowed. So the effects were simply what was expected, and had lost their capability to amaze.

How did I like the movie?

As I’ve already said, not being a Star Wars fanatic, I had no expectations. Or rather, given the previous two pathetic Lucas efforts, my expectations were that it would be bad. It lived down to them, but managed to barely maintain my interest for a couple hours, if only to see if it could manage to not be as bad as its predecessors. In that, it succeeded. Barely. I do think that, that had I been Lucas, and wanted to goose the box office draw, I would have at least put out a rumor that Jar-Jar Binks would be killed in some drawn-out and gruesome manner, if not actually doing it in the movie. I’d have paid double the price to see that.

I’m putting together case studies for system failures as part of my day job, and I think I may do this as one for a failure of management. The Jedi screwed the puppy big time, though the Anakin character seemed too weak and pussilanimous to begin with to be the appropriate subject of a proper Greek tragedy.

But mainly, it increased my admiration for Natalie Portman as an actress. She was given a role so pedestrian and devoid of character (unlike her putative daughter, Leia, in the pre-sequels) that it seemed a travesty of her talent. I’d always thought her a good actress, but the first two movies of this series were disappointing. But in this one, George Lucas’ wooden dialogue skills brought her talents fully to the fore. Any intelligent woman who can mouth the words “Hold me, Anakin, hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo,” and keep a straight face deserves the Oscar.

Europeans Drop Suit

Reporting to you from Tenerife, Spain. It is a Canary Island in the Atlantic on London time with a decidedly Mediterranean culture. Tenerife claims to have the highest point in Spain, which I am told is the top of Mt. Teide the volcano, but the high point for me is the beach. This is my first trip ever to a European beach. I was in Denmark in the summer ten years ago, but it was not a “beach year” that year.

There are many people from the UK and the nordic countries that spend every waking minute in the sun. You can see hundreds of people sunning themself with or without (cloud) cover. Nothing tops (seeing) them.

The difference in the suit laws and custom explains many of the other cultural differences between Europe and the States. Topless bars are probably more lucrative in the States. US titillation in the movies plays ho hum in Europe. Foreign ho hum scenes titillate in the states. I prefer the pure tan to the Puritan.

Sundae toppings are also missing. One restaurant had 30 desserts including banana splits and a dozen ice cream sundaes and no chocolate sauce. I think that chocholate sauce has been devalued because Nutello (chocolate hazel nut butter) is what substitutes for peanut butter here.

Still Uptight

(Democrat) Victor Davis Hanson reviews the book “South Park Republicans,” and notes that the new puritans are on the left:

Dour, humorless, self-righteous, eager to use the coercive power of the state to impose ideological orthodoxy, so-called “liberals” and “progressives” had become enemies of freedom. These days the humorless, repressed enforcers of rigid standards of behavior are the politically correct professors and media pundits, the dour feminists (“That’s not funny!”), the race-tribunes, and the identity-politics hacks that monitor the media and popular culture for any deviations from the party line of liberal dogma, multiculturalism, and victim-politics.

He’s correct, in my opinion. It’s not just coincidence that Massachusetts is one of the bluest of the blue states. Modern (il)liberal nannyism is a direct descendant of the Puritan strain in American history, brought there by the East Anglians who settled that region, as described by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed. It continues to echo down the generations.

[Update on Saturday morning]

Someone notes that I didn’t read carefully–it’s on VDH’s web site, but the review is actually by Bruce Thornton.