Saturday, January 6, 2018

Remember When Only About 30% Were Smart Enough for College?

The current (January-February 2018) issue of the Atlantic includes an article titled "The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone" by Bryan Caplan -- link here.

It reminded me that back when I was college age (late 1950s) I sometimes heard or read the somewhat casual observation that to graduate from a decent (or better) college or university, one had to have an IQ of about 110 or better. That works out to around 25 or 30 percent of the population being that capable.

Elementary and secondary schools generally did a better job of basic skills preparation in those days. And on the job-hiring end, there was probably a lot less credentialism than now. The result was that not having a college degree wasn't a career crippler.

I think that system was better balanced than the current one whereby vocational education is often downplayed and in some cases eliminated from the high school curriculum for some reason related to "esteem-building."

In recent times I've heard calls for everyone getting a college education.  The fantasy behind this notion was that professional-level jobs would suddenly appear to absorb the universal attainment of higher education.  But if higher education is actually or even potentially universal, then the term "higher" no longer applies: college simply becomes added years of high school.  Which might be happening anyway, given all those college majors with two-word names, the second word being "Studies."

Friday, January 5, 2018

Censoring "Fake News"

When I was a lot younger appeals for bringing in experts to resolve or manage problems seemed entirely reasonable.  Some readers might even recall advertisements featuring an actor dressed up as a physician urging us to use some product or another.  Nowadays, appeals to authority seem to lack the punch they used to have: folks are getting a lot more skeptical.

Today's political climate finds major news media engaged in a nonstop effort to destroy the President.  All too often a negative story is presented, only to be sheepishly retracted when proven false.  This is "fake news."

There has been discussion of restricting dissemination of fake news -- try Googling on "censoring fake news" to see some examples.

Related to that are other efforts afoot to to have media providers ban Internet items that various "victim" groups claim to be offensive.  And over in Europe, governments might be beginning to take steps to ban political speech by certain parties that established parties consider unworthy.

Who would be brought in to judge what tweets, blog posts, etc. are worthy of being banned?  Why, some supposed experts ... who themselves surely have biases.

What we would have is a form of thought control, no matter what part of the political spectrum is in charge of the operation.  Open, unfettered speech, no matter how politically offensive it might be to certain people, is the best way to avoid dictatorship.

None of the above is original thinking on my part.  Nevertheless, the ideas are worth repeating in these confused, troubled times.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Staying in Fancy Hotels

That's a photo of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu taken after it opened in 1927.  Not shown is its famous pink color.

I've visited it many times, walking its public areas, poking around its shops and having a drink and bar food on its grounds.  But I never stayed there.

Truth is, I've stayed in very few famous hotels.  That's mostly because I can't afford to or cannot justify the added expense compared to more affordable nearby lodging.   And when I was on sales trips for my little consulting business I stayed at Motel 6s plenty of times.  (Tip: the better ones were more distant from those in central city sites.)

Nevertheless, I have overnighted in a few iconic hotels, usually when traveling with my late wife.  In most cases it was because we were able to get good rates.

Our best deal was at the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco where we got upgraded to a suite a floor or two down the the famous Top of the Mark bar.  I also stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, once while on a consulting project and in the fall of 2016 because we were in town and wanted to do it because it would soon close for a major renovation.  Later that trip we stayed a couple nights at the Chateau Frontenac in Qu├ębec in part due to my wife's failing health.

And that was it so far as iconic hotels are concerned.  Well, until I learned of a sweet deal for staying at the original part of the Royal Hawaiian.  Will be there early in 2018.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas in Philadelphia, 1966

Philadelphia had a big Christmas Eve snowfall in 1966 and I was unfortunate enough to be there.

I entered grad school at Penn in the fall of 1966.  That was before airline deregulation, so air fares were somewhat expensive.  I was on what they called a teaching fellowship, with tuition paid and a salary sufficient for basic needs, but not for extras such as flying home to Seattle for Christmas break.  Moreover, I hadn't put down roots in Philly and no one knew me well enough yet to think about inviting me for the holidays.

So on Christmas Eve day I took the streetcar to nearby downtown Philadelphia and poked around to help fill the day.  Went window shopping on Walnut Street, gazed across Rittenhouse Square, visited Wanamaker's department store near City Hall.  City Hall had a huge statue of "Billy" Penn atop it, and Wanamaker's had a large eagle statue inside.  During these wanderings, it started to snow -- lightly at first, then building up.  Sensing that matters were getting worse, I retreated to my little apartment on the top floor of a converted row house on Pine Street, between 39th and 40th.

Next morning was Christmas.  The snow had stopped, and there was about a foot of snow all over everything including the streets.  Besides being Christmas Day, it also was a Sunday so almost nothing was being done to clear streets and sidewalks.  I opened the few presents my parents had sent me and decided that I really wanted a copy of the Sunday New York Times.

The only place that might have newspapers was the 30th Street railroad station, about a mile away.  I trudged through the deep snow and silent streets because the streetcars weren't running and eventually got there.  Sure enough, there was a news stand with copies of the Times sent down by train.  Getting home was easier because I discovered that the Market Street subway line was working, so I rode a train to 40th Street, about half a mile from my place.  Spent the afternoon reading the paper and looking ahead to Monday when the city would begin to come alive again.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Trend Near Its End

Here is a snippet from a post that will appear on my Art Contrarian blog sooner or later.

I've been noticing for quite a while a number of young women wearing tattered jeans.  But now the weather was getting quite cool, and I was still seeing a lot of bare leg peeking out behind all those tatters.  This post was triggered in early December when I walked past the display window of my local American Eagle Outfitters store and saw some seriously "distressed" women's jeans on display. How much more distressing is possible?, I wondered.  Not much, I concluded.

Some background.  Half a century ago, young men bought blue jeans from Levi's, Wrangler's and other brands.  They were stiff and uniformly dyed.  After a year or so of steady wear, the fabric would soften and the color faded, often in areas such as the knees and thighs.   Eventually cuffs might become frayed and fabric might begin to wear through at the knees.  This kind of wear-and-tear became something of a status thing.  Some wearers of well-used jeans began to look down on folks wearing those stiff, new jeans.   Clothing companies eventually caught on to this and marketed factory-faded garments.  In recent years outfits such as Ralph Lauren were selling men's jeans that were not only pre-faded, but had factory-made fraying here and there.  This trend led to mass-produced worn-through knee areas on pant legs.  And beyond, though mostly for women's jeans

Two examples from American Eagle's website are shown below.


Here is more or less the initial case of manufactured frayed-through jeans knees.

And this is how extreme it has become.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Educated, But Not Credentialed

There is a phrase I've been increasingly encountering on the internet that goes "credentialed but not educated."  I twisted the title of this post from that.

Credentialed-not-educated refers to the increasingly sorry state of college and university graduates in this country, people holding diplomas who have about the same level of intellectuals skills and background they had when entering.  Not true for all graduates by any means, but frequent enough to be worrisome.

I won't rant on that here.  Instead, I'll deal with a man whose formal education ended with high school: John Cullen Murphy (1919-2004), Wikipedia entry here.  He is best known for his comic strip Big Ben Bolt and for continuing for decades the Prince Valiant strip created by Hal Foster.  Murphy is the subject of a fascinating recent book by his son.

It turns out that John Cullen Murphy was an impressive man. He was good at portraiture even in his mid-20s, could have made a good career in commercial illustration had he not been diverted into the comic strip trade, and was knowledgeable and sophisticated even though his academic education ended with high school. As for the latter point, it's further proof that real education can happen once one has left school -- provided one has the will and wits to learn on one's own.

Murphy was raised in New Rochelle, New York, in the county immediately north of New York City. Nearby lived famous illustrators J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell. Rockwell even used teen-aged Murphy as the subject of a Saturday Evening Post cover (shown in the book). During World War 2 he was attached to Douglas MacArthur's staff and remained friends with Mrs. MacArthur (whose portrait he painted) for many years thereafter.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Moving Time (Magazine)

It seems that Time magazine and others in its stable have been sold to Meredith.

I'm not sure what Meredith's business plan might be, especially for Time magazine itself.  Back around the year 2000 there were three American weekly news magazines -- Time, Newsweek, and U.S. New & World Report.  The Economist from England also could be found on many news stands.  Nowadays, U.S. News is an on-line operation and Newsweek is the same, but from time to time appears in hardcopy format.

Henry Luce's plan in Time's early days was to summarize the week's news so that people lacking The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune could better keep up with events, and this strategy was exceedingly successful.  When I was young I eagerly awaited the postman to stuff it into our mailbox every Thursday (it took a couple days to get from the Chicago printer to Seattle).  That was when there was reason for its existence.  Out in the provinces/sticks/backwaters, our daily newspapers were adequate, yet lacking depth on foreign affairs and -- especially -- big-time New York City based culture.  And those were gaps that Time filled.

Television by the 1950s and 24-hour radio news stations in larger cities by the late 1960s cut into Time's turf a little.  But it was the rise of the internet starting in the mid-1990s that largely wiped out the reasons for the existence of weekly news magazines.  That is, there was no reason to wait a week or so to stay informed.

Allow me to confess that for years I haven't read a copy of Time, so I don't know much about its current content.  A little Googling suggests that Time now features background-type articles and opinion pieces.

That makes sense.  But how large is the market for this?  Opinion and background information sources are all over the Web.  This suggests that Time needs to provide this in a unique, distinctive way.

I'm not sure that is possible.  If I were Meredith, I'd kill Time magazine and focus on the other titles it bought.