I'll Be Turning 48 Next Month

(in hexadecimal)

[stroke of genius]

Briefly noted:

  • Let the record show that last year I posted the following in my report after seeing Everything Everywhere All At Once:

    Wow, what a great movie. If Michelle Yeoh doesn't win the Best Actress Oscar next year, I'll never watch the Oscars again. Add a Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis. Best Supporting Actor, Ke Huy Quan or James Hong? Hm, I'm torn there.

    Yes (sigh) I haven't watched the Oscars in years. But if the right people are nominated, I might.

    Well, I didn't watch the Oscars. I read the new C. J. Box novel and watched a couple of season-six Justified episodes instead.

    But Michelle Yeoh did win Best Actress. Ke Huy Quan did win Best Supporting Actor. And Jamie Lee did win Best Supporting Actress.

    And the movie won Best Picture. And picked up three more Oscars, and had four more nominees. (James Hong wasn't nominated. Kind of a rip.)

    But Becket Adams noted an amusing thing about The Collision of Language and Yeoh’s ‘Historic’ Win.

    Enjoy the following headlines and news blurbs. Revel in tortured and exceptionally clumsy attempts to underscore Yeoh’s historic, but caveated, victory (my emphasis added):

    Yeoh is the “first person who identifies as Asian to ever be nominated” for Best Actress, the Hollywood Reporter claimed in January.

    Said Deadline, “Yeoh is also the first openly Asian woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.”

    From InStyle magazine: “Michelle Yeoh Is Officially the First Asian-Presenting Best Actress Oscar Winner.”

    Yeoh is the first “self-identified Asian actress” to win Best Actress, said National Public Radio.

    For a non-weird example of how to cover Yeoh’s nomination, we turn to People magazine: “Michelle Yeoh Is the Second Asian Woman to Be Nominated for Best Actress.”

    There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

    Causing the headline writers' textual acrobatics was 1936 nominee Merle Oberon, of then-unacknowledged part-Asian descent.

  • Holy crow, there's a lot of stuff out there about Silicon Valley Bank. I assume I'd be disgusted, if I wasn't an adherent of Costelloism. Let's check out Philip Greenspun who wonders: Can the working class afford to bail out Silicon Valley Bank customers?.

    Update: Ordinary schmoes are going to bail out the billionaire customers of Silicon Valley Bank, but the bailout is being disguised as a “special assessment” on the peasants’ banks. (NYT) Technically this is “not from taxpayers”… it is a bailout only from those taxpayers who have bank accounts.

    I’m inaugurating a new category for blog posts today: transferism. The working class has already paid for a portion of all of the luxurious electric cars being driven around Silicon Valley. Joe Biden’s loan forgiveness scheme forces the working class to pay for elite families’ kids’ college education. What if there is a bailout of Silicon Valley Bank today with some money from the Federal Reserve or the U.S. Treasury? A friend in the money business says that Silicon Valley Bank wouldn’t take personal accounts unless an individual had at least $7 million in liquid assets (i.e., excluding real estate and private company shares). So a federal bailout would be a transfer from the working class to some of the richest people in the world.

    Again, we turn to the timeless wisdom of whoever it was who first said "Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can’t See the Sucker, You’re It."

    I've also seen this applicable adage attributed to the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett: "A rising tide floats all boats….. only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked."

  • Megan McArdle observes that Medicare needs saving — just not from Republicans. Despite Biden's strident warnings about "MAGA Republicans", there's no GOP appetite for proposing fixes. Sure the "trust fund" will run out pretty soon, but that only means that there will be a quick fix to divert funds from Uncle Stupid's so-called "general fund", something that will happen with "broad bipartisan support."

    The Medicare problem that needs fixing is the program’s cost. The Congressional Budget Office projects that its expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product will grow by almost a third in the next 10 years, while the percentage of GDP collected by the payroll taxes that fund Medicare and Social Security will stay roughly flat. (Social Security, of course, has the same problem.) And this will take place in the context of massive deficits — projected to be nearly 7 percent of GDP in 2033 — that will make it impossible simply to paper over those gaps with transfers from the general fund indefinitely. Some combination of spending cuts and higher taxes will be needed to put the program on a sustainable footing.

    Medicare is wildly popular, and (being of a Certain Age, see above) I can see why. Consumers never see bills; just occasional mail with lots of stuff Somebody Else paid for. Providers get paid for whatever they can credibly claim. The money comes out of various paychecks (and Social Security payments), painlessly. (Usually you don't even see you pay stubs any more.)

    This will go on working, until it doesn't. Or as a wise person once said: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." (It's apparently our day for pithy quotes.)

  • A long essay from Dorian Abbot, originally from 2022, on Science and Politics. Abbot is a University of Chicago professor of geophysics. You may have heard that he was asked to guest-lecture at MIT back in 2021, only to be disinvited when "complaints were made" about his apostasy on DEI and affirmative action. Even though his lecture had nothing to do about DEI and affirmative action.

    I started my journey in this area simply by self-censoring — for no less than five years. I stayed away from campus whenever possible and avoided departmental gatherings. At first I thought that the problem was a few bad apples in my department yelling at everyone who disagreed with them and accusing people of being various types of witches. I only slowly learned that I was observing just a small part of a national movement in favor of censorship and the suppression of alternative viewpoints. It is absolutely essential that we resist this movement and encourage students and faculty to speak freely about whatever they want on campus: we all lose when people self-censor. 

    Again, something all people with responsibility for policy at institutions of higher education should read, but probably won't.

  • Astral Codex Ten unveils a new (to me) word: Give Up Seventy Percent Of The Way Through The Hyperstitious Slur Cascade.

    Someone asks: why is “Jap” a slur? It’s the natural shortening of “Japanese person”, just as “Brit” is the natural shortening of “British person”. Nobody says “Brit” is a slur. Why should “Jap” be?

    My understanding: originally it wasn’t a slur. Like any other word, you would use the long form (“Japanese person”) in dry formal language, and the short form (“Jap”) in informal or emotionally charged language. During World War II, there was a lot of informal emotionally charged language about Japanese people, mostly negative. The symmetry broke. Maybe “Japanese person” was used 60-40 positive vs. negative, and “Jap” was used 40-60. This isn’t enough to make a slur, but it’s enough to make a vague connotation. When people wanted to speak positively about the group, they used the slightly-more-positive-sounding “Japanese people”; when they wanted to speak negatively, they used the slightly-more-negative-sounding “Jap”.

    At some point, someone must have commented on this explicitly: “Consider not using the word ‘Jap’, it makes you sound hostile”. Then anyone who didn’t want to sound hostile to the Japanese avoided it, and anyone who did want to sound hostile to the Japanese used it more. We started with perfect symmetry: both forms were 50-50 positive negative. Some chance events gave it slight asymmetry: maybe one form was 60-40 negative. Once someone said “That’s a slur, don’t use it”, the symmetry collapsed completely and it became 95-5 or something. Wikipedia gives the history of how the last few holdouts were mopped up. There was some road in Texas named “Jap Road” in 1905 after a beloved local Japanese community member: people protested that now the word was a slur, demanded it get changed, Texas resisted for a while, and eventually they gave in. Now it is surely 99-1, or 99.9-0.1, or something similar. Nobody ever uses the word “Jap” unless they are either extremely ignorant, or they are deliberately setting out to offend Japanese people.

    "The J-word is a slur" is AC10's first example of "hyperstition", defined as "a belief which becomes true if people believe it’s true." And once you know that definition, you start seeing examples everywhere; see the essay for more.


Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:19 AM EST