Credible Sources

by Kieran Healy on March 9, 2006

This article in the Times is about the dangers to children, real and imagined, of social networking websites. The usual ping-pong back-and-forth about MySpace, etc. I liked the tag-line, though: “Parents fear Web predators. Some Internet experts, and some kids, call that fear overblown.” Other parental fears that “some kids” strenuously call overblown: the fear that the kid will spend some huge amount of money if given the chance, the fear that the kid will take the car and crash it at the first opportunity, the fear that the kid will have a big old party in your house while you’re away, etc, etc. Compare these reassurances to their near-perfect complement, “stern warnings from the AMA”: to 19-year-olds about to head off to Rocky Point for the week: “The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break after conducting a survey in which 83 percent of college women and graduates admit spring break involves heavier-than- usual drinking, and 74 percent saying the break results in increased sexual activity.” You don’t say! Both these messages will be put through the well-developed Bayesian filter located in the brains of their intended audience — parents in the first case, spring-breakers in the second — where the probability of the information being worthwhile is weighted by its source and then immediately disregarded.

Mr. Punch

by Henry Farrell on March 9, 2006

“Pamela” of _Atlas Shrugs_ has a very funny and over the top encomium to Charles Johnson at the “Blogometer”: today.

bq. Who is your favorite political blogger? Favorite non-political blogger?

bq. Little Green Footballs. Hands down. When the history books are written, Charles Johnson will surely go down as a great American that made a critical difference between victory and defeat. His role has been largely ignored but so what? Most of the greats are ignored in their time. Van Gogh was ignored in his time too, although I don’t think Charles can draw… but you get my meaning. The media wants Charles and the blogs for that matter to just go away. But just the opposite is happening, the blogs are dictating the national dialog. What’s on the blogs today, is in the news 3,4 sometimes a week later.

Now, while you could certainly draw an interesting comparison between Charles Johnson and Vincent van Gogh, it wouldn’t be in terms of Johnson’s unrecognized genius. More generally, Pamela’s claim reminds me of this passage on palmistry from John Sladek’s 1974 book, _The New Apocrypha_.

bq. Palmists are of course in no doubt as to who was right. As with all cranks, they feel they haven’t been given a fair hearing and that orthodoxy is ganging up on them. [quoting palmistry author Noel Jaquin] “The reward of the pioneer is so often the ridicule of his fellow-men. We are not very much more just today. Of recent years men of genius have been deprived of their living and literally hounded to death by the ridicule of their more ignorant brethren.” How true, how true. They laughed at Galileo, they laughed at Darwin, they laughed at Edison … and they laughed at Punch and Judy.


by Harry on March 9, 2006

I caught (the excellent) Stuart Maconie talking about Catweazle on the Freak Zone last weekend (about 40 minutes in, and easy to lose during the discussions of H R Pufnstuff: I wasn’t listening carefully but it sounded as if they hadn’t yet heard of Jack Wild’s demise!. They also discuss the Bugaloos which must have been created on some sort of drug, even if HR Pufnstuff wasn’t). I waited a long time to watch Catweazle, which was semi-forbidden when I was a kid (we were allowed to watch the commerical channel, but only if we were willing to put up with the merciless ridicule to which my mother would subject us). When we recently lived in Oxford the public library had a single video cassette with 3 episodes from series 1, and my daughter, then 5, was captivated. I mentioned this to a couple of her friends’ mothers, both of whom sighed and said “that must be lovely to watch”. After numerous delays it finally came out on DVD last year sometime. And series 1 really is lovely; Geoffrey Bayldon is quite believable as a 900 year old magician who is completely nuts, and the gags, although predictable, work every time. The light is just slightly dim, suggesting something sinister which never actually happens; and there’s wonderful chemistry between Bayldon and the young Robin Davies. Series 2 is fine; if you watch 1 you’ll want to watch 2. Before the DVD arrived I asked my daughter if she remembered it; her response was a withering ‘Dad, it doesn’t matter how long it is, you don’t forget TV that’s that good’. Which is about right.


by John Holbo on March 9, 2006

Here’s a lovely little video that, near as I can tell, has not gone nearly so viral as it deserves. "Superman lay broken … La-da-da-da-Daa."

The naive beauty of it – part childcult, part cynicism about fight scenes – is what Daniel Clowes is getting at, I guess, in this interview.

As a kid, I was really attracted to superheroes, but I never read the comics. I’d buy every single comic, and I had some connection to it, but I didn’t like them, really. I remember talking to my other friends who read superhero comics, and they liked them on such a different level than I did. They were like, “Yeah, when Iron Man fights the guy, and punches him in the face, it’s so awesome!” But it had this pop-art iconographic quality to me that was really charming, and I just loved that aspect of it. I always gravitated towards that part of it, and I could never quite get past that, and that’s what I was going for. I wanted to create a story that lived up to the iconography, but also had something else going on.

If you don’t know who Clowes is, you should. (Go read wikipedia or something.)
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