Proceedings of the Rabble

culture notes by Ted Scheinman

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"The Problem With William Deresiewicz: Caveats to the new manifesto" (Pacific Standard, 8/18/2014)

A skeptical review of William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

In Excellent Sheep, Deresiewicz refers to “hundreds of young people who have written to me” and whom he has met on a series of barnstorming, rabble-rousing national tours, during which he was daringly invited by elite universities to tell students what a bum deal they were getting. The author perceives zero irony in his position as the guy universities bring on stage when they want to prove something. He is the academy’s own firebrand, successfully defanged, molded into the sort of middlebrow public thinker he so generously quotes. He proposes an ostensibly radical revolution in education. And he is in essence the establishment left’s anointed apostate.

"The Problem With William Deresiewicz: Caveats to the new manifesto": Pacific Standard (8/18/2014)

Filed under william deresiewicz excellent sheep pacific standard books essays yale education late capitalism plumbers

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"A Moral Inventory of Rodents" (Full Stop, 7/31/14)

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered that “rats feel regret.” Our correspondent imagines similarly outré experiments:

Can ferrets feel envy?

Three ferrets are placed in a large glass terrarium. The tallest ferret is given a book deal. By morning, the tall ferret has been decapitated and the other two have drafted the manuscript of a country-house mystery called The Ferret Trap. The theatrical version runs for over half a century in London’s West End.

A Moral Inventory of Rodents”: Full Stop (7/31/14)

Filed under satire rats ferrets rodents science envy

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Update: Itinerant scribbling, summer 2014

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This summer our correspondent tripped lightly across the North American continent and published a few pieces as he went. Selected essays, &c., below:

Arizona’s Double-Talk on Execution & Torture”: Pacific Standard (25 July 2014)

Outing the Death-Drug Distributors: Time to go Assange on capital punishment”: Pacific Standard (23 July 2014)

Psmith’s Art of Cool: War and Zen in P.G. Wodehouse:” MarginaliaLA Review of Books (22 July 2014)

Bastille Day in Beverley Hills”: Marginalia / LA Review of Books (22 July 2014)

Hand-Wringing Over Handwriting”: Pacific Standard (14 July 2014)

Block Quotes: Advice from great writers about kicking writer’s block”: Pacific Standard (9 July 2014)

Filed under marginalia review of books LA Review of Books bastille day capital punishment pg wodehouse ernest and celestine beverley hills arizona handwriting books essays prison jan brewer writer's block editorial interjections

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"George Will and the Latest in Rape-Denialism" (Pacific Standard, 6/10/14)

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There is a world, my friends, where collegiate rape does not exist and sexual assault is no more than a political fever-dream. This world is the 11 cubic inches of real estate in George Will’s skull, where synapses continue to fire with signal irregularity.

George Will and the Latest in Rape-Denialism”: Pacific Standard (6/10/14)

Filed under george will sexual assault rape the washington post politics invective higher education survivorprivilege Pacific Standard sex

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"P.J. O’Rourke Does Not Like You or Your University" (Pacific Standard, 5/22/14)

In decades past, O’Rourke wrote actual humor, quite often in fact, not only in magazines and books but also (before/during his post-college pendulum swing from left to right) alongside the pinko wags of National Lampoon. Yet as his libertarianism has ripened into establishment conservatism, his wit has gone soft. Too often his latter-day pieces read like items from the Daily Caller, except with a few extra tetrasyllables. O’Rourke also holds the H.L. Mencken research fellowship at the Cato Institute—an undeserved blot on the Mencken family name; conservative humorists represent a rare species, and O’Rourke has achieved success largely on the strength of this exoticism. He has enjoyed the affirmative action that boosts so many writers of the American right, and as an alleged trafficker in irony he should by rights be very amused with this arrangement. (O’Rourke, a self-described caucasian, does not believe in affirmative action.) Elsewhere, you can find the writer as token conservative on the public radio weekly yuk-fest Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! O’Rourke assimilates with ease among that backslapping bunch, well known among discerning listeners as comedy’s crematorium.

P.J. O’Rourke Does Not Like You or Your University”: Pacific Standard (5/22/14)

Filed under politics pacific standard pj o'rourke higher education college catullus jonathan swift invective humor

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"Being Mookie Wilson: A Conversation With the Soul of the 1986 New York Mets" (Pacific Standard, 5/20/14)

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"Stolen bases — it wasn’t about the number; just about outsmarting the pitcher and the catcher because they knew I’d be running. I used to love toying with ‘em, actually. Tony Peña and I had this thing going on for years, and we still talk like kids about it."

Our correspondent interviews his boyhood idol: Mookie Wilson.

Being Mookie Wilson: A Conversation With the Soul of the 1986 New York Mets”: Pacific Standard (5/20/14)

Filed under pacific standard interviews mookie wilson new york mets 1986 world series bill buckner keith hernandez doc gooden darryl strawberry books

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"Scenes From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Testimonials from two decades of D.C.’s weirdest night" (Pacific Standard, 5/2/14)

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In Pacific Standard this week, Mr. Scheinman collects a “joyously incomplete oral history” of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Some teasers, below.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL

Congressional Reporter, Time; Formerly Bloomberg News

One year, I think it was 2003, I was at a table with Jesse Palmer, a football player who was the forthcoming Bachelor, and Anne Kruger, the longtime No. 2 at the International Monetary Fund. Kruger clearly didn’t watch much television and had never heard of the show. It was beyond entertaining to watch Palmer try and explain the premise of the show to a woman old enough to be his mother. Kruger clearly felt that Palmer must be desperate if he was resorting to appearing on a TV show to find true love. She offered to introduce him to her two nieces.

JACK SHAFER

Reuters Media Correspondent; Former Columnist and Editor, Washington City Paper

What I recall is spending most of my time with my friends and enemies from the Washington Times, a publication whose owner, convicted felon Reverend Sun Myung Moon, I tortured frequently in my press column. I introduced myself to the paper’s editor, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and his wife, and attempted a few pleasantries. Arnaud, sounding like Jeremy Irons, looked up to me—he’s an adorable 5’3″ or something—and waved slowly with the back of his hand and said, “Yes, Alexandra, do meet Jack Shafer, he fills his publication with lies,” drawing out the last word like a Bond villain.

I was never prouder of City Paper.

MAURA JUDKIS

Reporter, Washington Post’s Weekend Section

The WHCD pre-parties often feel like a celebrity petting zoo, but that’s never been more apparent than when an animal upstaged all of the other guests. It will be hard to top the 2012 appearance of Uggie, the dog from The Artist, who walked the red carpet in a teeny little tuxedo and turned everyone’s Twitter feeds into mush.

FOSTER KAMER

Senior Editor, Complex

My favorite moment was when Eleanor Clift got an entire plate of room temperature butter spilled on her in the Hay Adams penthouse during some brunch we ended up at the next day. We’re not talking, like, a single pad of butter, but the Hindenberg disaster of butter. She was just staring at it in horror until someone from the catering staff came to help wipe her down. I made no attempt to hide the fact that I found this funny and told Kat [Stoeffel] if it didn’t make our piece none of this was worth it (aside from the emails she got from Bill Keller and Dean Baquet, which remain priceless). When we found out Osama bin Laden was killed that night my first thought was, “I really hope this doesn’t mean the Eleanor Clift butter thing will never be read.” Alas, the forces of good won out.

ANONYMOUS

White House Correspondent

In 2004, Ben Affleck was the star guest everyone was trying to cozy up to. At the Bloomberg after party, he was holding court with a bunch of political journalists. The hour was late and much alcohol had been imbibed by all. Affleck was appalled that a couple of the journalists were not planning to vote in the 2004 election. He offered to drive them to the polls himself. The journalists declined, saying they did vote in municipal and state elections, just not on a federal level given that these were the politicians they covered every day. Affleck scoffed at the notion of impartiality: It’s easy, he said, to keep your personal and professional lives separate. Really? Replied one of the journalists, so that movie with did with Jennifer Lopez,Gigli, you managed to keep that strictly professional, huh? Affleck started to defend himself when suddenly a female voice interceded: “Mr. Affleck will no longer be answering questions tonight.” It was his publicist, who’d been standing behind him the whole time. She ushered him out of the party and that was that.

Scenes From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Testimonials from two decades of D.C.’s weirdest night”: Pacific Standard (5/2/14)

Filed under jack shafer white house correspondents dinner whcd obama interviews Pacific Standard foster kamer jenny rogers ben affleck

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"A Touch of Guantánamo Off I-95: Indefinite Detention in North Carolina" (Pacific Standard, 4/29/14)

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Say you’re poor, you live in North Carolina, you have a little bit of a record, and you get popped for a smallish felony—perhaps low-end drug-peddling. Bond is set at $5,000. This particular month, you don’t have the 10 percent principal to spare. Now you’re in jail for two months, now three, now four. So now you’re being offered a plea, and it doesn’t sound much like a plea but you take it anyway because you know how they do in Carolina prisons and, more important, you know the prosecutor owns your nuts.

Our correspondent reports on the open secret that North Carolina is the last state in the union where an individual can be arrested and detained indefinitely. Truth.

A Touch of Guantánamo Off I-95: Indefinite Detention in North Carolina”: Pacific Standard (4/29/14)

Filed under Pacific Standard indefinite detention civil rights interviews prison north carolina raleigh durham Richard Myers

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"16 Months in the Hole: Lessons From Solitary Confinement" (Pacific Standard, 4/7/14)

What follows is an interview with a 24-year-old black man, Mr. W., who spent around 16 months, on and off, in solitary confinement at various prisons in eastern North Carolina. His longest stretch in the hole lasted eight months. The interview has been abridged, mildly sanitized, and edited to clarify chronology, but each paragraph comes verbatim from Mr. W.’s testimony.

16 Months in the Hole: Lessons From Solitary Confinement”: Pacific Standard (4/7/14)

Filed under kenneth lassiter pacific standard interviews Gerald J. Branker nc central prison mr. w solitary confinement

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lareviewofbooks:

Illustration: Johnny Harris

It may seem odd to readers of the tomic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men — and especially to the editors at Fortune — that a writer known for prose-poetry managed to wring such musical effects out of 12-character gimmicks. To Agee, of course, they were never mere gimmicks, but rather an opportunity for catechismic brevity, for evoking a limitless truth in 140 characters or less. Certainly no practitioner of the art of Twitter has matched him on this score. Unlike so many young men whose vocabulary exceeded their powers of moral apprehension, Agee maintained a rigid discipline in his hashtags. Many an e-correspondent would doze off at her laptop and wake to find a near-Byzantine mosaic of tweets based around such lapidary offerings as #CocteauParty, #LuceChange, #JungAtHeart, #FertilizerIHardlyKnowHer, or #HipsterFlaubert.

The Selected Tweets of James Agee, with a new foreword by Walker Evans. (Actually by Ted Scheinman.)

lareviewofbooks:

Illustration: Johnny Harris

It may seem odd to readers of the tomic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men — and especially to the editors at Fortune — that a writer known for prose-poetry managed to wring such musical effects out of 12-character gimmicks. To Agee, of course, they were never mere gimmicks, but rather an opportunity for catechismic brevity, for evoking a limitless truth in 140 characters or less. Certainly no practitioner of the art of Twitter has matched him on this score. Unlike so many young men whose vocabulary exceeded their powers of moral apprehension, Agee maintained a rigid discipline in his hashtags. Many an e-correspondent would doze off at her laptop and wake to find a near-Byzantine mosaic of tweets based around such lapidary offerings as #CocteauParty, #LuceChange, #JungAtHeart, #FertilizerIHardlyKnowHer, or #HipsterFlaubert.

The Selected Tweets of James Agee, with a new foreword by Walker Evans. (Actually by Ted Scheinman.)

Filed under LA Review of Books james agee walker evans Sigmund Freud twitter satire humor marilyn monroe king lear

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"Kicking Methadone With Johnny Winter" (Pacific Standard, 3/24/14)

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It shouldn’t have been this way. Winter entered rehab over three decades ago to kick 10 plus-years of heroin addiction. But he kept drinking. And drinking. And smoking like a Texas brisket-house. Most important, he refused to give up methadone, which helped him establish an illusory sense of control over the keening demands of his body and brain.

Our correspondent sits with Johnny Winter in Austin.

Kicking Methadone With Johnny Winter: How sleight-of-hand—and obsessive-compulsive disorder—helped the guitarist shake 30 years of addiction”: Pacific Standard (3/24/14)

Filed under interviews johnny winter methadone heroin addiction jimmy kimmel croissants Pacific Standard sxsw Interviews