The Night and The Music

[Amazon Link]

Consumer note for Kindle users: this is a pretty good deal, $4.99 for the K-version at Amazon.

It is billed as a (more or less) complete version of Lawrence Block's eleven less-than-novel-sized stories featuring Matthew Scudder, going along with the 17 novels. I've been following along with Scudder, the alcoholic ex-cop, very unofficial private eye, pretty much from his beginnings back in the 70's. So it was destined that I eventually check this out.

The Scudder novels are found in the mystery section of your local bookstore, but most of the stories here wander pretty far from the genre: by my count, only one is a straightforward whodunit. The remainder pick on Scudder's often bemused, often guilty, witness to people and their doings in the Big Apple. A couple stories are really just vignettes. But that's OK. As his fans know, Block is an utterly captivating writer, and knows how to make you turn pages. (Or, on the iPad, swipe the screen.)

In an afterword, Block tells his Scudder history, with some details about how the series could have easily stopped with the first three books. And then, after the fifth book, Eight Million Ways to Die, Block was in the position of having nowhere to take Scudder. But fortunately for us, he figured it out.

Higher Ed Follies du Jour - 2015-08-14

Let's open with a quotation from Karl Popper, via Don Boudreaux:

[G]etting educated is getting an inkling of the immensity of our ignorance.

Keeping that in mind, on with the show…

  • Our must-read-the-whole-thing recommendation is "The Coddling of the American Mind", an article from the September issue of The Atlantic magazine by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Opening:

    Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.

    Lukianoff is the current head of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), one of Pun Salad's go-to resources for news about the war on free expression and thought on campus. Haidt is a professor at NYU (a self-described Jewish atheist liberal Democrat); I read and liked a couple of his books (see here and here).

    Their collaboration is synergistic, and I'm not using that word lightly. Lukianoff brings the litany of (what should be) familiar stories of how institutions of higher alleged-education are imposing an a stifling ideology of political correctness on both students and faculty. That's outrageous, but standard. Haidt's part is to show how this movement, while advertising a compassionate protection for students at risk of "microaggressions" actually winds up making those students worse off psychologically.

    And also, probably, dumber going out than coming in.

    So the article deserves to be read and considered by everyone, especially those in higher ed. Again: highly recommended.

  • Deep thinkers at UC Santa Barbara catalogue "Different Types of Sexual Assault". The opening sets the tone:

    Sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual contact, be it verbal, visual, or physical. It is a continuum rather than a single type of behavior with a set definition. When one examines the sexual assault continuum, it can be assumed that every woman will experience some form of sexual assault.

    Emphasis added. Yes, if you inflate your definition of "sexual assault" broadly enough to include every possible less-than-ideal interaction, you betcha that it will happen to every woman.

    And also every man, but the UCSB scribblers don't care too much about pointing that out.

    This is via Robby Soave at Reason who concludes, sensibly enough:

    Pretending that unwelcome whistling is a form of rape is insulting to women who are victims of actual violence, and asserting that all women will become victims at some point in their lives is irresponsible fearmongering.

    These people don't really care that much about actual victims of sexual assault. Their goal is to use fearmongering, intimidation, and divisiveness to gain power.

  • All that scribbling costs money, though, and that's reflected in tuition bills. Not to worry, Hillary Clinton has a plan to make college more "affordable". Philip Greenspun perceptively describes the scheme:

    Hillary Clinton has proposed to change the way Americans pay for college. The money collected by universities will stay the same, the teaching methods will be unaltered, and students will do the same things for the same amount of time. The big difference is that about $350 billion in additional taxes will be paid by Americans and then the government will make sure that (at least most of) the money gets to the colleges. Paying taxes instead of tuition will make college more “affordable” for Americans, according to Clinton and most of the media (e.g., nytimes), just as Obamacare made health care more “affordable” despite the overall cost remaining roughly constant as a percentage of GDP.

    Sure. Adding:

    It occurred to me that a politician could promise to raise the average American’s tax bill by $70,000 and then buy each family a Mercedes or BMW at list price. This would be called “The Mercedes and BMW affordability plan.”

    Phil's just ahead of his time. I believe this will be on the Democrat platform in 2020.