Morning Ed: Society {2016.03.20.M}

So that’s how John McClane knew Hans was a bad guy.

Full circle: Millennials are learning etiquitte.

I think we’re past the point where introversion, or shyness, is especially countercultural or transgressive or whatever. People are putting it on their college application letters. {More}

Liel Leibovitz calls Billy Joel the Donald Trump of pop music, and Noah Berlatsky contemplates the anti-semitism of Casablanca.

What’s up with all of the violent little girls in cinema? DC Comics did this a while back with one of their batgirls, a mute killing machine gone straight.

The only one of these Disney Afternoon video games I ever played was Darkwing Duck. It was pretty good, though.

Chris Morgan looks at the legacy of HP Lovecraft.

Arrogance is not as off-putting as we think, even for obnoxious people.


Editor-in-Chief
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

67 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2016.03.20.M}

  1. 1) a ‘trend’ piece 2) in New York City 3) about Millennials – time to bring the snake people extension out of retirement

    Report

  2. If that hot take is around and y’all don’t read it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

    Report

  3. “Etiquette and Millennials”: we had a (now-former) admin who was super-micromanagey. This person got offended at graduation one year because “the students don’t know how to shake hands properly” (I don’t know if they were referring to a dead-fish handshake, or wrong-hand-offered, or what).

    The suggestion went out: why not have the faculty carve out a little time in their classes to teach handshaking.

    This led to much consternation on the faculty’s part, seeing as some of us are mildly germophobic (flu season!), some of us came up during the era of “alternative” handshakes, and some of us are just like “that’s not really part of our duties and we also have a career preparation center that could do that.”

    A semester later the idea of having some kind of a meal so we could teach table manners was floated, and it seemed not to be in jest. (I remarked to my colleagues: “You have seen me eat when I am in a hurry. I do not think this person wants me teaching table manners to the students”)

    I tend to feel ALL of this is the parents’ responsibilities. (Cranky Gen-Xer here who had Silent Gen parents who were big on teaching the social niceties….)

    Report

  4. Oh Dear God: “There’s nothing more impressive than somebody that can eat correctly with their knife and fork,” Meier told the class.” Look how far we’ve descended when someone can say this and mean it. Jeebus. Now can you get all of them, and everyone else who uses “like” way to f’n much? But this: “To avoid embarrassment, she said your cutlery should be held so the prongs of the fork always stay down. ” wasn’t how I was raised. Are they using the fork in the left hand too?

    I like this Kinimnok character. Probably an ass in real live, but still.

    Report

    • “There’s nothing more impressive than somebody that can eat correctly with their knife and fork,”

      Wow. Setting the bar low, there. (I’m now wondering what Einstein’s table manners were like)

      (I CAN eat correctly but when I have five minutes between classes to shovel in my yogurt, fruit, and other lunch-foods, I generally drop any pretense of manners)

      Report

      • Indeed. I’m sure I’m not paragon of tables skills as I watch TV while eating with the cat on my lap, but I sure as hell know how to use a knife and fork when I go out.

        Yes, we have indeed got a low bar if that’s a biggie to deal with.

        Report

  5. Y’all are rightly mocking the etiquette piece, but missing the most ridiculous part of it: conflating silverware usage with “social skills.”

    Report

    • I remember reading somewhere that etiquette is knowing what fork to use in a situation, and manners is picking up the “wrong” fork for something if your guest does, because you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable….

      And yes, you’re right. I’ve known some real jerks who had great table manners.

      Report

      • There is a marked difference between manners (P’s & Q’s), and situational etiquette.

        One functions as the social lube that keeps us all from killing each other over social slights, the other is a way to quickly filter out who does & doesn’t belong in a particular slice of society. Or to put it another way, manners are generally applicable, etiquette is specific to a given context.

        Table manners beyond things like ‘use the offered utensils’ and ‘don’t reach across the table’ are probably approaching etiquette.

        Report

    • They made the same mistake during the 19th century. Its an understandable mistake. People who are going to want to learn how to use silverware properly are going to be focused on being social. This close level of attention might tend towards better social skills and etiquette.

      Report

    • Richard,
      You do call that social skills. At least in the formal teaching of it.
      I mean, what else would you call it?
      Of course, if you’re actually teaching silverware usage, you’re doing a bit more of an ethnographic study, rather than just “Here is Proper English.”

      I know someone who failed that course by impaling one of the instructors with a fork.

      Report

  6. An academic goes to the movies to watch Casablanca, and sees a film extolling imperialism, misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism. Next week, reviews Marry Poppins for subtext and fun.

    Report

    • More likely lazy users. The article said that there were more interactions when they tested the new model, ’cause reviewers don’t have to actually, you know, THINK about why they are giving it a number.

      Report

  7. Casablanca – There’s an old line that the word “fascism” has come to mean “something I don’t like”. I’ve never seen that so literally illustrated as in Berlatsky’s piece. His evidences of fascism are scenes that to modern eyes look like racism, sexism, or imperialism. Those things aren’t fascism. They’re not good, and they’re not incompatible with fascism, but they’re not fascism.

    The movie is explicitly anti-fascist. A large number of its cast and crew were escapees from the Nazis. Its main characters were either Resistance leaders or neutrals who came around to the Resistance. As for Peter Lorre’s Signor Ugarte, he was snivelling and greedy, and that have been seen as a Jewish stereotype to the original audience or to Berlatsky, but there’s no evidence of that in the movie.

    Report

    • Yeah, the review seems pretty close to implying that any time Peter Lorre plays a villain, it’s antisemitic. Also he characterizes Sam as a sort of Rhineland Bastard because he has “no romance of his own” and is a “de-sexualized sidekick.” The movie makes it clear that whatever the law in Casablanca, Sam is at risk of being sold into slavery, so his position is obviously tenuous, but safe within the confines of the Cafe.

      Report

      • The two things that get me are 1) calling Rick an MRA fascist, when he was nothing of the kind (and would do a lot more in the end than just punch Nazis)

        2) claim that patrons (as opposed to staff) at the American Cafe would have anti French sympathies on the vector of anti-colonialism. That’s totally not the clientele. (And his history is wrong claiming that the French took over North Africa about the same time thr Nazis first were on the march. France had a presence in North Africa for almost a hundred years, and formally took control of Morocco when the Ottomans finally called it quits)

        Report

          • Morocco was one of the myriad of countries that attempted to modernize during the 19th century but never quite made it in the same way that Japan did. Egypt, Madagascar, and Korea also attempted to modernize and fail. Ethiopia didn’t get modernization down but they were able to fend of European imperialism.

            Report

        • “1) calling Rick an MRA fascist, when he was nothing of the kind (and would do a lot more in the end than just punch Nazis)”

          Reminds me of the article I read today that claims the alt-right is trying to co-opt Jane Austen as some kind of heroine of “White female purity” and it just makes me shake my head and go “Can we not? In whatever direction we are going with this, can we not?”

          It makes me cock my head like a confused dog, and not because I thought I heard a high-pitched whistle, either.

          I know I protest I am a Bear of Very Little Brain but sometimes I just want a gorram STORY without all kinds of modern sociological/political claptrap tied to it.

          Report

        • A quick google suggests pre-war Casablanca was nearly one-half European with the Arabs and Europeans living in separate quarters I wonder if a realistic depiction might have Arabs joining in singing with the NAZIs, and if the reviewers head might explode just thinking about it.

          Report

  8. Violent girls – Everyone knows that silent little girls are terrifying. (See The Ring or The Shining for examples.) The only thing scarier is when they start singing in unison. By that point, horrific carnage is almost a relief.

    Report

  9. Lovecraft: If one is going to pick at a popular author, it would be nice if the review held itself to as high of standards for accuracy and clarity. This is wrong: “both [Nathanael] West’s and Lovecraft’s entire bodies of work—which are, admittedly, not extensive—have been published by the Library of America” Both publications are incomplete, with the LOA Lovecraft comprising a little over a third of his work.

    Also Lovecraft did not agree that horror was a uniquely un-American genre — he wrote a well-known essay on supernatural literature, discussing very favorably various American writers, particularly Poe, Bierce and Chambers. LOA has a two-volume set of American supernatural literature, which I have not read; I did read the LOA volume of Shirely Jackson last year, and its hard to imagine the horror stories therein being written outside the context of post-War America.

    Report

    • I’ll give the article credit for two observations, both in the second-last paragraph. One, that codifying the universe of Lovecraft is exactly the wrong approach to it. It’s supposed to be beyond labels or rationality. That’s exactly what makes it so horrifying. If you can rank the power of the Old Ones, or depict some eldritch beings as good or evil, then they’re comprehensible by sane human minds. Two, that the open-endedness of Lovecraft’s world lends itself to fanfiction and fantasy games.

      Report

  10. Introversion/Shyness: Was it here where we were discussing that the Internet just allows more people to be exposed to narcissistic behavior? One of the more unfortunate aspects of social media/clickbait is that there is a seemingly endless supply of articles that turn potentially negative aspects of personality and being into positives and then people just post these articles and say “This is me. Deal with it.” Not that being introverted is a negative but it seems like it has reached a phase where everyone and their cousin is declaring their introversion/shyness including people I know who are simultaneously posting photos of all the parties they attend. I used to go days without much conversation sometimes and now I see 24 hour party people talk about their introversion.

    Another example is all the articles I see on how being late is a sign of being an optimist or these are the thoughts running through my head which make me procrastinate and be late all the time.

    Silent, violent girls: I remember getting into fierce debates with people about whether silence was a good artistic choice or not. I argued that it was often a lazy way to show depth but a lot of people seem impressed with allowing things to happen in silence. There can be a lot of power in silent interaction (showing not telling) and there are no action writers who made great use of silence (look up Pinter Pause).
    But there is also an aspect of nominally progressive fannish culture that sees the use of violence as some kind of progressive goal of equal power and I find this disturbing and female empowerment and I find this disturbing.

    Report

  11. The arrogance article was interesting to me. Proof that all cultures have assholes. And, in this case, that “Yeah, he’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole,” seems to have been the attitude of the villagers.

    Report

  12. Re: Die Hard – by coincidence, I read the TV Tropes page over the weekend… Lacking that scene, the fan theory is that Hans was holding his cigarette the European way (like a dart). Pretty slender by comparison.
    Although I have memory of a similar scene from SF where the baddy outed himself by eating the things on his plate one at a time before moving on to the next (and that is how it was done at a special forces training academy or something similar).

    Report

    • Crazy you mention that. I watched an old WW2 spy film from 1946 called O.S.S. yesterday. One of the good OSS agents exposes himself by eating with his fork in the wrong hand which leads to him getting caught and killed. He was using his fork as Americans do instead of Europeans. And he had already been trained in proper fork usage.

      Report

  13. I don’t get the hostility to etiquette or to the teacher. That’s what people who teach things do, they exaggerate the importance because it’s important to them. If you’re sitting in the first day of Intro to Music Appreciation and the teacher says something like, “there is no ore sublime experience than hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from the perfect seat seven rows back center stage,” you can off course be the one who raises his hand and says, “what about the day you get married or the birth of your first child?” But why would you want to be that guy.

    I guess it belies my own prejudices that the hyperbole of some woman selling a service doesn’t bother me at all, but I can’t stand the sort of two-bit, status signalling disguised as criticism being peddled by Berlatsky and Liebovitz.

    Report

    • “what about the day you get married or the birth of your first child?” But why would you want to be that guy.

      Are you kidding? being a smartass feels extremely good.

      Report

      • Not necessarily to the person a smartass is being a smartass to.

        There’s a person I try to avoid because it seems everything out of his mouth is some kind of smartass remark or put-down, and I just don’t need someone else feeding my inner self-doubt.

        Report

        • Smartass remarks and put downs are different, I think. Someone who does the latter is genuinely unpleasant to be around (and probably not a very nice person and probably has terrible ego issues). Someone who does the former can be funny and at worst irritating, but not genuinely unpleasant.

          As someone who, given the mood, can go off on making really terrible puns. I know that there are certain lines you must not cross. When something moves from being a smartass comment into being a put down it crosses that line

          Report

          • Well, I teach college, so my tolerance for smartass remarks is probably lower than most people’s, because of years and years of exposure. (There’s always that ONE dude in the class…..)

            If I never had to hear again (on a day when attendance is low) “Hey, do we get extra credit because we’re here?” I could live the rest of my life happily. (Protip to students: something you think is devastatingly clever is probably something the prof has heard EVERY SEMESTER of her teaching career before you.)

            Report

    • I thought Judith Martin, a/k/a “Miss Manners” got it right. She clearly adored the niceties of obsolete formal dinner settings. Her pleasure really came through. At the same time she clearly understood the obsolete nature of the beast.

      Report

Comments are closed.