Friday, May 27, 2005

Caesar's bath

Making this blog a sudden meme transmission nexus, Dennis passes me the Caesar's Bath meme, under which I am assigned to list five things that people in my circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but which I can't really understand the fuss over.

1. Lakoff. How did so many people get behind this strict father / nurturant parent thing as an account of what's at the root of the differences between the parties? Lakoff doesn't marshal nearly enough evidence from actual political debate, which is his area of analysis. Mostly in Moral Politics he's got the Dobson parenting book, which is about... parenting. Sure, it's interesting, but it's not a data set from which you're allowed to infer the conclusion that family-related frames constrain political discourse. If either of his books were abundant with good frames, that'd be cool, but they're not. Well, at least he's getting Democrats to think more about more effective rhetoric, which is one of the 20 or so things we need to do to win more elections. And I do like "right to marry" over "gay marriage." (Dennis, your Elephant will be returned to you at Tom's house.)

2. Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Under the direction of the Wittgenstein mystery cult at Harvard, I tried so hard to love this book. But now I've come to think that the quasi-mystical style does much more to obfuscate than to clarify. My dark suspicion is that when Wittgenstein "makes philosophical problems go away" he really just gets people so wrapped up in his mysticism that they want to think he dissolved the problems, and they become more interested in being Wittgensteinians than in solving problems. I have no idea how a sound private language argument can be brought out of the text. The stuff on family-resemblance terms was genuinely useful. though.

3. Jazz. It doesn't hold my attention. Don't know what more to say.

4. James Wolcott. Wampum voters and lots of people on Kos love him, but I don't think either his writing or his political observations are especially brilliant. Mostly I see him angrily saying obvious things. His occasional obscene metaphors are more likely to induce annoyance than amusement in me. Not that I have any objections to dirty talk -- I could read Wonkette or Amanda Marcotte's anal sex references all day, and not just because they're pretty girls. Wolcott just seems more bitter, which makes it less fun.

5. The White Stripes. It's not that I dislike them, and I enjoy a few of their songs -- "Little Room" in particular amuses me. But the basic guitar-and-drums thing is something I just don't have much of an appreciation for. Maybe I started listening to electric-guitar-driven rock too late to really develop an appreciation.

I repay baton-debt to Ezra (though if he can't get to it for a while, I'll understand), seek the cultural insights of Brandon Butler, and give dadahead his chance to say whatever disembodied wooden heads say.


Anonymous said...

Why is it called "Caesar's Bath"?

Neil Sinhababu said...

An explanation can be found at the beginning of this post. Usually, however, the things cited are below the "not thrilling, but nice" level. More like, "supposedly thrilling, but actually kinda crappy."

Anonymous said...

Ross Douthat makes the distinctionbetween Wolcott as blogger and Wolcott as critic, which I think is a fair one, so might you.

Neil Sinhababu said...

That sounds right, Nick. Also the best thing I've ever seen out of Douthat.