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Captain Obvious, Reporting Live

“It turns out that being good-looking really does pay off,” begins the abstract for Is Beauty More than Skin Deep? Attractiveness, Power, and Nonverbal Presence in Evaluations of Hirability. “Decades of research have shown that attractive individuals are more likely to get ahead in their careers.”

You don’t say.

But wait—there’s more: “There is also evidence that these [attractive] individuals may be socialized to behave and perceive themselves differently from others in ways that contribute to their success.” How, you ask? A “greater sense of power than their less attractive counterparts.”

Decades of research? Hell, I learned all this the hard way after one week in high school. But since I read Shakespeare, I also knew the hotties would eventually get their comeuppance:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tattered weed, of small worth held.

Small comfort, I suppose, but still.

Summer Listening, Courtesy of AB

Is it me, or has it been a while since I’ve posted anything related to music? Let’s get to it, then. Herewith some new(ish) albums I’ve been digging lately, listed alphabetically by artist:

• CAN, Live in Stuttgart 1975
• Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Carnage
• Dave Holland, Another Land
• Vijay Iyer, Uneasy
• Langham Research Centre, Tape Works, Vol. 2
• Pat Metheny, Road to the Sun
• Sedibus, The Heavens
• Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions)
• Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass, Vol. 2 (The Cowboy Arms Sessions)
• various artists, Tone Science Module No. 5 Integers and Quotients

There now. That should keep y’all busy for a while.

Hot Enough for Ya?

About the only thing I didn’t check before the missus and I left for a short road trip last week was the weather forecast. So no, I wasn’t expecting triple-digit temps at Ohanapecosh Campground. Nor did I think I’d see six feet of snow two days later at Paradise. And when the mercury dropped to the low fifties on the California coast at Fort Bragg (no relation), I figured Mother Nature was done messing with me.

But it turns out the 112° near Mount Shasta on Saturday was just preparation for the simmering hellscape that greeted us on our return to Spokane last night. Who knew this place could be so unforgiving?

All is not lost, however—provided you’re well-stocked with the necessary supplies. Just as emergency candles and wool blankets can be deployed during the cold winter months, the best defense against this stupid “heat dome” is plenty of Campari, San Pellegrino, and ice.

After all, we’re supposed to stay hydrated.

Looks Like I’m About to Be Replaced

OpenAI’s GPT-3 is an artificial neural network that uses “probability, machine learning, and a huge body of training texts to master language prediction skills and provide increasingly human-like responses to text-based prompts.”

Which means that—theoretically, anyway—it could write a novel.

Color me dubious. I mean, who would want to read AI-generated text? It sounds awful. (Though, to be fair, someone’s buying this, so anything’s possible, I reckon.) And these days, human writers are just targets for the perpetually outraged, so it’s probably safer to leave such work to the machines.

So why not? Let’s go ahead and fire up the Great Automatic Grammatizator. I’m not sure anyone would notice the difference anyway.

Writing Is Hard, part 8,493

“I am deeply resentful that others write my headlines,” says Peggy Noonan, “and deeply relieved I don’t have to.”

It’s rare for journalists to write their own headlines for at least a couple of reasons: (1) “Reporters are naturally promoters of their own work; if they could write the headlines, they would be likely to exaggerate the story’s appeal or importance,” and (2) “Bad headlines cost the paper credibility, or appeal, or clarity. The top editors have to be responsible for them.”

I’d add a third reason: Writing headlines sucks.

Give me an assignment to write 500 words on the genius of Jerry Garcia and I’ll have it on your desk in 30 minutes. Tell me to write the headline, though, and you won’t hear from me for a week.


It turns out that it takes a special kind of talent to be able to “entice, intrigue, or provoke”—and to do it in a minimum of character spaces. It also turns out that I do not possess this talent.

But hey, I’m devilishly handsome and a witty raconteur, so I’ve got that going for me at least.

Odds & Ends

“No crystal hunters are as daring as Chamonix’s cristalliers, who complete technical alpine climbs to extremely hard-to-get places so they can reach cracks and clefts where they pull out the crystals and bring them down using only human power.…In 2005, Péray watched his longtime collaborator Laurent Chatel plunge nearly 2,000 feet on Les Courtes to his death.”

“Whenever there’s an economic incentive to get people to believe something, you’re going to find organizations doing their best to get out the evidence that supports their case.”

“After his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic towards the end of Lent. His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large. This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature.”

“Prison reform had long been a cause for [Johnny] Cash, who believed a man could be redeemed; all he needed was a chance. Cash was in the process of saving himself. Now, with the help of God and Nashville, he was determined to save Glen Sherley.”

“What you have quite often in these museum thefts is a high degree of planning in terms of the theft itself but very little planning, if any, as to what they will do with the object after they’ve stolen it.”

Rant of the Day

The answer to the question posed by the title of this piece is No. Full stop. You don’t have a duty to read anything. So feel free to ignore anyone who tries to guilt you into reading whichever “marginalized” group they pretend to speak for.

Read because you enjoy it. Or don’t. Whatever.

But honestly, if you’re sitting around keeping score on the gender or sexual orientation or melanin content of authors on someone else’s reading list, you might want to consider picking up a hobby or two—and leaving the rest of us the hell alone.

Freshman year in college, Christmas break…

I loved, loved, loved this movie when I first saw it at the old Orchard Tri Cinemas in Lewiston, Idaho.

I mean, take a look at this sweet trailer. Could you get any more 80s?

It’s a real shame you can’t stream one of the American Film Institute’s 400 movies nominated for the top “100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.” (Here’s a pretty good explainer as to why.)

Let this be a lesson to you, kids: Even in a world dominated by Netflix, Prime, Hulu, et al., you still need to own physical media if you want the good stuff.

Breaking News

Following up on Tuesday’s post, which included some tasty cicada recipes for the whole family, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration offers a word of caution.

Which raises some important questions: Are cicadas sky lobsters? Or are shrimp just…seabugs?

Summer’s Here

An interactive timeline of the history of ice, courtesy of the International Packaged Ice Association? Don’t mind if I do.

Of particular note is the entry from 1945:

Some in the industry recount a long-standing rumor that during World War I, while many husbands were off at war, wives became perhaps too friendly with the accommodating ice man. They say the tremendous success of the home refrigerator was spurred by returning service men anxious to replace the icebox, and thus the ice man who delivered it.

Now I understand the title of the Eugene O’Neill play—and the (blessedly brief) fascination with this dude:


Does an orchestra conductor matter? Consider the New York Philharmonic. After Bernstein left in 1973, writes Norman Lebrecht, “Pierre Boulez brought six years of modernist chic, followed by decades of torpor with Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Alan Gilbert and the incumbent Dutchman Jaap van Zweden (yes, who?). None of these baton wagglers grabbed the city by the love-handles the way Bernstein did, or tuned into its rhythms. Yet the Philharmonic plays on. It sounds more or less the same….”

+ + +

So this is a cool story. I’ve been in and around that area countless times—hiking, fishing, swimming—and had no idea. While we’re at it, National Geographic on our very own Channeled Scablands and the high school teacher who “dared to question the scientific dogma of his day.”

+ + +

Thomas Nagel on moral epistomology: “not the kind of epistemological question posed when we consider how to respond to a general scepticism about morality, or about value, but an epistemological question internal to moral thought.”

+ + +

Speaking of epistemic frameworks, here’s Tim Hsiao to remind you that your lived experiences aren’t special: “One cannot prove or disprove generalizations simply based on personal experiences. This is a pretty basic rule of statistical reasoning that seems to have been lost on many people who should know better.”

+ + +

Writing advice from the great Raymond Carver.

+ + +

Good to know: “The ‘humane’ way to kill cicadas is to place them in the freezer for a few hours. You then want to blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes, cooking their insides solid and making sure any nasty bacteria they may be carrying are killed off.” But first, of course, “you want to make sure you get a cicada when it’s good and ripe.”

Stop! Grammar Time!

From today’s edition of the Spokesman-Review:

You’ll catch Drew Marquis on Saturday mornings at the Hood River farmers market patiently slicing brisket as a line snakes beyond his table. The Texas-style barbecue menu of Grasslands Barbecue—which also includes smoked turkey breast, sausages oozing with cheese and pulled pork—has been wowing locals since Marquis and his wife, Nicki, moved to the Columbia River Gorge area in February.

Now, a civilized style guide—like, say, Chicago, Garner’s, or Strunk & White—would call for the serial comma: “which also includes smoked turkey breast, sausages oozing with cheese, and pulled pork.” But because AP style rejects common sense, readers are led to believe that Drew Marquis, through some sort of culinary dark arts, has managed to create sausages oozing with both cheese and pulled pork.

That would indeed be amazing. And if it were true, I’d be on my way right now. But something tells me it’s not.

This, folks, is why I insist on the serial comma. There’s simply no reason not to use it. With it you have clarity; without it, confusion and—in this case, anyway—cruelly dashed hopes.

Pretty Sure This Is How Zombie Outbreaks Begin

I’m…I’m just gonna reproduce this paragraph in its entirety:

When Einstein died, in 1955, his brain was removed during an unsanctioned autopsy at a hospital in Princeton. Later, at the University of Pennsylvania, a pathologist named Thomas Stoltz Harvey sliced it up for research purposes but kept some of the slivers for himself. In 1988, Harvey—who’d since been stripped of his medical license—moved to Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, where he presented one of the slivers to local author William S. Burroughs, after whose death in 1997 it passed into the possession of…I’m going to stop now, because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Let’s just say that when I was in Lawrence, teaching at KU, this was a thing that still happened, a hazing that was also an homage: You scooped the bit of Einstein’s brain out of the jar and shook off the excess formaldehyde; then, you put some salt in the crook of your thumb and licked it, after which you took down a shot of cheap room-temperature tequila and sucked on the brain-bit until your mouth went numb—until the formaldehyde paralyzed your lips and tongue and you couldn’t be understood, you couldn’t even feel yourself trying to make language.

Here’s the article from which it was taken.

Quote of the Day

I dont think we can separate the art from the artist,” writes the inimitable Nick Cave, “nor should we need to.” More wisdom from “The Prince of Darkness”:

That bad people make good art is a cause for hope. To be human is to transgress, of that we can be sure, yet we all have the opportunity for redemption, to rise above the more lamentable parts of our nature, to do good in spite of ourselves, to make beauty from the unbeautiful, and to have the courage to present our better selves to the world.

While we’re at it, Cave’s latest album, Carnage, is crazy good.

Shots Fired

“Something is terribly wrong with architecture,” writes Nathan J. Robinson in Current Affairs. “Nearly everything being built is boring, joyless, and/or ugly, even though there is no reason it has to be.” Worse, he adds, is that architects themselves seem unable to see the problem. Indeed, they perpetuate it by continuing to hand out awards for “pretentious and bland” work.

Robinson’s take isn’t a popular one—amongst some people, anyway:

There are so many incredible possibilities for architecture, but the minimalist consensus has got it stuck in a rut, spinning its wheels, producing weird new shape after weird new shape, because people are afraid they’ll be called backward if they admit they like mosaics and gargoyles and friezes and stained glass and other cool stuff. I like pretty colors or I like old things makes you a child, an idiot, someone to be laughed at.

That’s no exaggeration. I’ve published many controversial opinions, but the most vitriol I get is…from architecture snobs who think it is wrong and bad to have a negative reaction to things they have deemed correct. It’s truly vicious. If you’re going to join those who publicly admit they don’t like contemporary architecture, you’re going to be called stupid and reactionary and completely missing the point.

Like everything else, it seems, architecture has been politicized.

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