An Object of Beauty

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Steve Martin fan for … um … a real long time. "Just slightly before he became huge", as I put it in the past. I was first impressed by his work as a comedian. And two of his movies, Roxanne and L. A. Story, are solidly in my all-time favorites. Since he walked away from stand-up comedy, I was aware that he's gotten very good notices for banjo playing. I read his memoirs. I read (at some point) his short novel Shopgirl, which was OK. And I was dimly aware of his interest in collecting art. So this is not much of a surprise, a novel based in the world of high-end art dealing.

I got it off a remainder table at a very attractive price. Mr. Martin, if you're reading, I'm sorry about that.

The book is narrated by an art critic, Daniel Chester French Franks. But the subject is Lacey Underall Yeager, who Daniel meets in college. (They "had sex together exactly once", Daniel admits.) The book is reminds me a little of The Great Gatsby in having a bystander recount the life of an incandescent, but flawed, personality. (This comparison is made facile by the fact that I've never read The Great Gatsby. But I've seen both Redford and Dicaprio movie versions!)

Mr. Martin tells Lacey's story with sharp and insightful observation. Which occasionally veers into wit. (I was going to say the book is funny in spots, but that seems disrespectful.) As a nice touch, when actual artworks are mentioned, illustrations are provided. Classy!

The tale is interweaved with a lot of actual events: the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum heist, 9/11, the onset of the Great Recession. Lacey's quest for personal/professional success (some combination of money, art, and social position) is combined with her questionable ethics, to an extent which is only made clear near the end. Daniel, unfortunately, gets most of the eventual blowback from one of Lacey's schemes..

URLs du Jour

2017-09-07

Proverbs 21:21 is reassuring:

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.

One can always hope, I suppose.


■ It's rough out there at California's College of the Canyons, as described by the College Fix: Prof hands out white privilege checklist, then warns students who stereotype will be punished.

An anthropology professor at a community college in California has instructed her students that stereotyping someone in class is a punishable offense — on the same day that she handed out a four-page white privilege checklist listing common generalizations about white people.

The instructor is Amanda Zunner-Keating. A quote from her syllabus:

Any student who disrespects their instructor, disrespects their classmates, or purports identity-based stereotypes will be considered an interruption and will be a) be barred from participating in class, b) lose all participation points for the day, and c) referred to the Dean of Students.

I have no words. Oh, wait, I do: don't take anthropology from Amanda Zunner-Keating. She is in the business of indoctrination, not education.


■ At Reason, Robby Soave (re)discovers that "advocates" are extremely willing to jettison due process if it gives them the results they want. Lawyer: In Campus Rape Disputes, the Accused Should Not Be Presumed Innocent.

The mask slips once again. Laura Dunn, a lawyer and prominent advocate for sexual assault victims, admitted that Title IX—the federal statute behind the Education Department's efforts to compel universities to adjudicate sexual assault—does not require investigators to presume that accused students are innocent.

Yes, Soave notes, Dunn finds that to be a feature, not a bug.


■ Also at Reason, Ed Krayewski has some fun with Hillary's frustration with Bernie, as revealed in her election memoir. Hillary: I Lost Because Bernie Promised Everyone a Pony.

In her forthcoming book about the 2016 election, What Happened, Hillary Clinton complains that her chief opponent in the primaries, Bernie Sanders, consistently undercut her by one-upping her "bold" and "ambitious" proposals without explaining how his policies would work.

In other words, Sanders did to Clinton what Democrats have done to their critics for years: Frame any worry about the costs and unintended consequences of a program as a lack of concern for the problem the program is supposed to address. After years of cultivating economic illiteracy, the party reaped the results.

As Krayewski points out, we're at the point where both parties promote "economic illiteracy", because promoting cost-free "solutions" for what ails the nation gets more votes than sobering reality.

Bonus, from Josh Barro at (ad-block hostile) Business Insider: Hillary Clinton complained about Bernie Sanders by relating him to 'There's Something About Mary,' a film she did not understand.


■ Patterico is impressed by recent journalism: THE UNDRAINED SWAMP: Lobbyists Line Donald Trump’s Pockets by Buying Memberships at His Clubs.

USA Today has the results of a remarkable investigation out today, showing how lobbyists buy pricey memberships to Trump’s golf clubs — an arrangement that puts money in his pocket. Not his campaign’s coffers. His own pocket.

Patterico invokes a reverse-whataboutism here, and he's absolutely right to do so: "Anyone who complained about Hillary Clinton’s corruption should be beside themselves over this."


■ The Google LFOD Alert rang for an LTE in our local paper from Portsmouth's Dick Rozek: My brother, Joe, had the right ideas. That's his dead brother Joe. But before he died:

In a text discussion a few days before his passing (yes, he was very much into computers, cell phones, apps, and more) Joe noted, “tragic to see what is going on in dad’s birthplace (Syria)...maybe someday I’ll read or hear a rational explanation of the evil impulses that seem to overwhelm the inherent goodness with which Man is created. Still waiting.” That begged the issue of what’s happening in America and especially in southern New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state.

What's happening is: immigration officials suddenly enforcing the law against people who would prefer to continue to ignore it. Dick uses LFOD to imply "don't deport illegal immigrants".


■ Another LFOD appearance, this time at Cato, from Ilya Shapiro and David MacDonald: Stop Forcing Wedding Vendors—or Anyone Else—to Create Expressive Art for You. It's an argument we've seen before, citing an LFOD-related Supreme Court decision, and it's worth repeating:

Although making cakes may not initially appear to be speech to some, it is a form of artistic expression and therefore constitutionally protected. There are numerous culinary schools throughout the world that teach students how to express themselves through their work; couples routinely spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the perfect cake designed specifically for them. Indeed, the Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment protects artistic as well as verbal expression, and that protection should likewise extend to this sort of baking—even if it’s not ideological and even if done to make money. The Court declared nearly 75 years ago that “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” W.Va. Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). And the Court ruled in Wooley v. Maynard—the 1977 “Live Free or Die” license-plate case out of New Hampshire—that forcing people to speak is just as unconstitutional as preventing or censoring speech. The First Amendment “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all” and the Supreme Court has never held that the compelled-speech doctrine is only applicable when an individual is forced to serve as a courier for the message of another (as in Wooley). Instead, the justices have said repeatedly that what the First Amendment protects is a “freedom of the individual mind,” which the government violates whenever it tells a person what she must or must not say. Forcing a baker to create a unique piece of art violates that freedom of mind.

I understand that it will puzzle Progressives to consider that the First Amendment might be used to defend behavior that will make them unhappy.


■ Writing at "Manchester Ink Link", Nancy West finds New Hampshire to be A state of contradictions, especially if you are mentally ill.

New Hampshire fights like mad to hold onto its first-in-the-nation presidential primary and the right to ride a motorcycle helmet-free.

Only children are required to wear seatbelts in the Live Free or Die state. New Hampshire values individual rights, and the 424 lawmakers who are paid only $100 a year in the fourth-largest legislature in the world guarantee them time and time again.

Yeah, so?

But it’s a very different story when it comes to the rights of mentally ill people, especially those in crisis.

Ah. Well, not simply those "in crisis". Nancy finally gets to her gripe:

Unlike all other states, mentally ill people in New Hampshire who have been civilly committed to the state psychiatric hospital can be transferred to the State Prison for Men’s Secure Psychiatric Unit just a few miles away in Concord, even if they haven’t been charged with or convicted of a crime. They need only be deemed a danger to themselves or others to be transferred.

Nancy makes an arguable case that New Hampshire is a poor place to be violently crazy.


■ On a lighter note, Mental Floss has a short video with irritating music, but the title is: Things You Didn't Know Came From New Hampshire. And I didn't know some of them! Check it out.


Last Modified 2017-09-07 8:02 AM EDT