I can’t decide if Douthat is dishonest or just stupid in this column. But one thing is certain: whether intentionally or unintentionally, he is misconstruing the purpose of Affirmative Action in order to attempt to destroy it:
As this generation rises, race-based discrimination needs to go. The explicit scale-tipping in college admissions should give way to class-based affirmative action; the de facto racial preferences required of employers by anti-discrimination law should disappear.
A system designed to ensure the advancement of minorities will tend toward corruption if it persists for generations, even after the minorities have become a majority.
Douthat arrives at his conclusion by implying–but never stating directly–that Affirmative Action isn’t needed in a place where there are more People of Color than whites. But of course Affirmative Action has never been meant to correct numerical discrepancies in population–rather it is meant to account for and help correct the pervasive systematic discrimination that sees the highest rungs in society dominated by those who have most benefited from the systematic oppression of minorities: white men, and in particular, rich white men.
There is probably some merit in more focus on class in college admissions, as Douthat notes, but he seems to suggest that merely to gloss over a reality he would as soon not admit: that even with Obama as President and a second woman and Latina about to sit on the Supreme Court, the most powerful positions in society are still overwhelming held by white men, who benefit from their own sorts of Affirmative Action, including Legacy Admissions, family wealth and connections.
Douthat is either a fool or a liar to think the problems faced in overcoming discrimination by People of Color* will be erased as their percentage of the population increases.
And if he doubts that, maybe he can spend some time poking at post-civil war southern society, and see how much good having a majority did Black southerners then. The idea that majority status and a few high-placed People of Color can wipe out very real oppression is ridiculous on its face, which is likely why Douthat conceals it.
*And seriously, what the fuck? “if current demographic trends continue, nonwhites — black, Hispanic and Asian — will constitute a majority of Americans under 18. By 2042, they’ll constitute a national majority,” Douthat writes. As though somehow the moment white people are outnumbered they are suddenly doomed? And as though all People of Color can be conveniently lumped together when it suits him, facts be damned?
Over at Atrios’ pad, echidne notes that Republicans don’t seem to mind screwing over ordinary people, but slight tax increases on the rich are right out. We all knew that. We also knew this:
Senator John Kyl, the Republican Whip, also flatly rejected any such tax increase.
“We’re in a recession,” he told CNN. “It would be a job killer. It would be exactly the wrong thing to do any time, but especially when we’re in the middle of a recession.
Recession? Cut taxes! Boom? Cut taxes! Inflation? Cut taxes! Deflation? Cut taxes!
Seriously, if it’s “exactly” the wrong thing to do at any time, how can that be more true during a recession? These assholes aren’t even trying any more.
The Invisible Library: so cool July 8, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in language and lit.
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Such a library already existed, of course, but only in dreams. Having it exist online and (briefly) in the physical world is cool beyond belief. Perhaps the Tenderpixel Library is one of the remaining soft places?
Are summer blockbusters too long? July 4, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in arts and culture, Film.
I went to see Public Enemies last night…the movie just seems way too long.
This is, it seems to me, a surprisingly common problem with would-be summer blockbusters. And it’s a problem I have a lot of trouble understanding. After all, movie studios would seem to have a strong incentive to make movies shorter. With a shorter movie, you should be able to pack more showings into a given day and sell more tickets and popcorn and such. And yet I feel like it’s way more common to walk out of a theater feeling that a movie was too long than to walk out feeling like I wished there’d been 15 more minutes. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. So what’s going on?
I don’t think the problem is actually the length of movies is the problem, but rather the choices of what to include. I didn’t walk out of the 150-minute Dark Knight wishing it had been over sooner, but Year One, felt agonizingly long at 100 minutes.* Public Enemies did drag, despite excellent performances, because too much of the film seems unnecessary: there are several scenes in the film that just aren’t that compelling.
It’s easy to name an excellent long film and contrast it to a terrible short film to make this point, but I think there’s something larger at work: part of what makes a movie excellent is that you don’t feel like there is lots of unnecessary filler. If you’re consistently entertained, then the film will seem well timed at 90 minutes or 160. If you’re bored (which happens either because the film is terrible or because at least some sections of it aren’t compelling) then the film will feel too long.
So my interpretation is that a film only becomes “too long” when it no longer holds its audience’s attention. Comedies which fall in the third act, “thrillers” which drag in the middle, and action films whose plot dawdles are all examples of “too long” films, while length matters almost not at all to a film that’s working. Watching the flop Grindhouse in the theater I had one of the best movie-going experiences of my life despite (or perhaps because of) its double-feature length, and the few others in the 11:45 PM showing seemed to agree. Most others didn’t, and the film bombed.
Personal experience isn’t the only datum to suggest this interpretation. A glance at the top-grossing films of all time suggests that audiences will happily sit through long movies when they’re entertained, and that making a film that clocks in at the now-standard 115 minutes isn’t necessarily a better choice.
The last two films I’ve seen, Public Enemies and the odious Transformers 2: Racism and Robot Balls, both stretch a little story into a long film. In Public Enemies, we tolerate some of that due to some quality film making, but eventually the movie drags. In Transformers, the entire first act is a complete waste, and so even the (pretty cool) robot fights in the last half-hour seem like agony, because I was too bored and offended by that point to really appreciate them. If Bay was a smarter film-maker, he would have brought us to the action much more quickly. If the film was 90 minutes, it would have at least been tolerable.
If Hollywood wants to avoid lengthy films that unnecessarily drain the box-office, they should encourage their directors to be better editors of their own films.
As a side note, this theory also explains, I think, why the best films’ deleted scenes aren’t generally compelling. Watch the deleted scenes in Reservoir Dogs, if you haven’t done so, and it’s clear why they were cut. The film feels perfect at its length, and the deleted scenes don’t add anything important. Some deleted scenes are interesting on their own merits, and some directors over-cut their films, leaving key information out of the narrative and making the film incoherent. But the more deleted scenes seem to add to a film, or the more that scenes in the film should have been deleted, the more likely it is the film is going to feel the wrong length, and that it won’t work.
*I saw Year One for free, and still felt I’d overpaid.
…which is to say, revisionist nonsense.
Pat Buchanan, last seen suggesting that WWII was the fault of Churchill, and already infamous as a holocaust denier, has decided to turn his Goldberg-esque eye on Evolution. As an exercise in demonstrating just how odious Buchanan is, and as yet another reminder that MSNBC continues to give the bigot a voice, this post will point out just a few of Buchanan’s lies and distortions. Readers are encouraged to fill any gaps with their own observations: there is literally too much here for me to track down every error.