Whatcha reading?

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Silent Majority
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority »

68) Norwood by Charles Portis. Audiobook. 1966. From the writer of True Grit. A low stakes shaggy dog road movie of a book. Nicely written and laugh out loud funny at times. Glen Campbell played the title character in the adaptation and while I haven't seen it, he was badly miscast. It should have been a young Rip Torn or at least Paul Newman in a more dangerous mode. Real fun.
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Dr. Medulla
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Re: Whatcha reading?

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Finished listening to Frank this morning. What a frustratingly inconsistent book. To the good, he's mostly dead on in his indictment of modern liberalism for its contempt of the average person and populism as concept. Defer to your betters—morally, intellectually, economically. Modern liberalism is, in fact, suspicious of democracy because it gives to much say to the unwashed. I don't have any issue with that save for Frank's rhetoric at times sounds like he actually opposes expertise altogether. One can critique the use of expertise as some kind of trump card, but expertise in some cases is absolutely crucial (e.g., dealing with a pandemic or environmental collapse). Sometimes dedicated learning is better than personal experience.

That said, his treatment of actual populism is frustratingly limited, focusing only on the good (basically, the more leftist elements) and ignoring examples on the right, or to suggest that populism on the right doesn't count. For example, when discussing FDR, he does mention other populists, including Huey Long, but only in passing. Huey Long was a populist and he led a populist revolt in Louisiana. Huey Long was also a fascist. Frank mocks the anti-populist talk of the respectable types who say it leads to authoritarianism. Well, sometimes it does! Soviet Russia, Communist China, Nazi Germany—those all started as populist efforts and turned into nightmares. It doesn't have to end that way, but ignoring that it has undercuts the persuasiveness of Frank's argument for populism. In assessing Trump's win in 2016, he rightly attacks the liberals who ignored that there may have been economic motives behind some of his voters—people who'd been screwed over by decades of consensus neoliberalism. Right. But a lot of those voters were also racists, homophobes, and anti-science conspiracy loons. Populism as an ideal is wonderful, yet populism in practice has shown itself to have a lot of internal problems and we don't do the idea any favours by just speaking of the ideals. And that's where the book ultimately falls apart for me. Some of the things anti-populists say actually have validity, but he works on a Manichean terrain here.

Still, I think it'd be a good book for liberals (and even some leftists) who are quick to engage in scolding and dismissal of non-elites for their behaviours and attitudes as a way of considering the larger implications of their attitudes.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Wolter »

I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

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Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 11:13am
I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
When I revisited some Asterix books—I loved them as a kid, constantly signing them out of the library—it really was uncomfortable. But illustrative (no pun intended) of how racism is communicated and normalized. Just these casual, light-hearted caricatures of Africans as dim-witted animals.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

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Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 11:13am
I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
Europeans are weird as hell about race. As you know, blackface was A-ok in British comedy until quite recently.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Wolter »

Dr. Medulla wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 12:20pm
Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 11:13am
I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
When I revisited some Asterix books—I loved them as a kid, constantly signing them out of the library—it really was uncomfortable. But illustrative (no pun intended) of how racism is communicated and normalized. Just these casual, light-hearted caricatures of Africans as dim-witted animals.
The weird thing is I don’t think they’re generally portrayed as any more dim-witted than anyone else. But because they’re drawn like animals, it hits so much harder that they are dim-witted.

Which really sucks, because otherwise I think the books hold up well. But I could never share them with my kids until they were old enough to have a Talk I’m not ready for.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Marky Dread »

Kory wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 12:33pm
Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 11:13am
I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
Europeans are weird as hell about race. As you know, blackface was A-ok in British comedy until quite recently.
I guess you never saw "Tropic Thunder".

Either way it's a terrible stereotype.
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Dr. Medulla
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla »

Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 1:17pm
Dr. Medulla wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 12:20pm
Wolter wrote:
16 Sep 2020, 11:13am
I’ve been reading a bunch of old Asterix the Gaul comics and while mostly a delight, there are a few uncomfortable caricatures of Africans. Not quite as bad as Tintin in the Congo, but apparently those mid-20th century European cartoonists are about as good on race as you might expect.
When I revisited some Asterix books—I loved them as a kid, constantly signing them out of the library—it really was uncomfortable. But illustrative (no pun intended) of how racism is communicated and normalized. Just these casual, light-hearted caricatures of Africans as dim-witted animals.
The weird thing is I don’t think they’re generally portrayed as any more dim-witted than anyone else. But because they’re drawn like animals, it hits so much harder that they are dim-witted.
Part of the problem is that unlike the main characters, the Africans aren't given diverse personalities. So most of the Gauls are allowed to be dim and selfish but also heroic and funny and all that. But as foils and background characters, all you get is this kind of uniform dumb caricature.
Which really sucks, because otherwise I think the books hold up well. But I could never share them with my kids until they were old enough to have a Talk I’m not ready for.
I don't envy you that. Much easier to be a bigot when raising kids.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

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69) Chocky - John Wyndham. Kindle. 1963. From the author of Day of the Triffids and the Midwich Cuckoos (filmed brilliantly as Village of the Damned, a book I look forward to getting to soon). This was a brilliantly realised bit of science fiction about a young man who has an imaginary friend who may not be all that imaginary. The comfortable small town vibe really worked for me, with characters saying things like "Here's a whisky, old man. Do tell me about your day." I must be getting more tolerant as I get older. But it's Wyndham's skill to make everyone seem real and plausible.
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