Our Amazon Product du Jour pops up among the many Orwell quotes you can gift on stickers, signs, t-shirts, and buttons. It's implicitly complimentary: "You, dear recipient, are a lonely revolutionary truth-teller, probably the target of untold vituperation by people who can't handle your unbridled honesty."
Yeah, it turns out, Orwell never said that. Doesn't make it untrue, of course. But it definitely takes something away if you replace the "George Orwell" attribution with the more accurate "Selwyn Duke".
George is one of the favorite victims of misattribution. There is even (of course) an article: Top 10 fake George Orwell quotations.
What Orwellian thing people could really use is freely available: a link to his essay "Politics and the English Language" (relentlessly recommended here over the years). Its insight:
[Our language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
All that to lead up to this: Jerry Coyne, biology professor at the University of Chicago, takes on the mission statement emitted by his school's latest department and its social-justice obscurantism. It really is a prime example of the sort of thing Orwell talked about:
The Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity (RDI) is dedicated to investigating, interrupting, and challenging the historical and social processes, the cultural and political practices, and the formations of identity and community that are integral to these three concepts. Our project is committed to knowledge-making founded in the dynamism of social life and resistance to bondage, exploitation, and dispossession. The ambition of the department is to foster a breadth of vision, new aesthetic imaginaries, conceptual rigor, innovative pedagogical approaches, and deep engagement within and beyond the university that will enable communities to tackle some of the most challenging issues of the current historical moment in ways that defy intellectual, disciplinary, and geographic orders.
Coyne's commentary is pointed and correct:
Now the first thing you notice is that this statement is laden with the jargon of Critical Social Justice ideology. The second thing you notice is how poorly written it is—perhaps a reflection of postmodern obscurantism. While I initially hoped that the department would allow a free discussion of the issues for which it was named, if you go through the website you (or at least I) get the impression that the department is devoted not to free and open discussion about race, disasporas and indigeneity, but to purveying the current progressive version of Social Justice. That is, it may possibly propagandize its students and squelch those whose views are inimical to the “mission” of the department. That shouldn’t happen at the free-speechy University of Chicago, but a number of our faculty worry that this is a Department with a Mission. Yes, other departments are full of woke people who want to fill their students with their own take on political and ideological issues, but this is an entire department that may be dedicated to that business. I have made a few comments in bold on the statement, which I reproduce below.
The Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity (RDI) is dedicated to investigating, interrupting, and challenging the historical and social processes [HOW DOES ONE INTERRUPT AND CHALLENGE A PROCESS? FURTHER, INTERRUPTING ALREADY GIVES THE DEPARTMENT A SPECIFIC MISSION.], the cultural and political practices, and the formations of identity and community that are integral to these three concepts. Our project is committed to knowledge-making founded in the dynamism of social life and resistance to bondage, exploitation, and dispossession. [HERE WE HAVE THE MISSION STATED EXPLICITLY: TO FIGHT AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT’S IDEA OF OPPRESSION.] The ambition of the department is to foster a breadth of vision, new aesthetic imaginaries, conceptual rigor, innovative pedagogical approaches, and deep engagement within and beyond the university that will enable communities to tackle some of the most challenging issues of the current historical moment in ways that defy intellectual, disciplinary, and geographic orders. [AGAIN, ONE GETS A HINT HERE THAT THE DEPARTMENT WAS CREATED NOT TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK, THOUGH THEY DO SAY THAT, BUT TO ENGAGE IN SOCIAL ENGINEERING.]
Perfectly good words turned into obscure jargon; never using one word when three or five or more can be strung together; garnishing with vague adjectives. It's as if the writers read Orwell's essay, realized their "thoughts were foolish", and proceeded to make their language as slovenly as possible.
Also of note:
Or maybe just go with Dave's suggestions. Dave Barry is today's Orwell, and performs his yearly duty of curating Dave Barry’s 2023 gift guide. Pictured at right is gift idea number one.
As parents, we of course want our children to have fun. But we also want to educate them, so that they can be aware of the problems they will have to confront when they go out into the real world, such as cows being abducted by aliens.
This is a toy that can accomplish both of these objectives. It consists of a flying saucer, representing the aliens; a green circular thing, representing the Earth; and a cow, representing a cow. Think of the hours of enjoyment some lucky youngster on your gift list will derive from playing with these items! Yet at the same time, he or she will be learning the important lesson that lurking in the sky are mysterious hostile forces that could at any moment snatch up innocent creatures such as cows or children. It’s a lesson the youngster is sure to remember for the rest of his or her life, even with therapy.
Click through for more ideas: "Titanic Door Pool Float"; "Suture Practice Kit"; "Beer Puppeteer"; …
Don't be put off by the headline. Or the recommendation. Peter Suderman has an excellent essay, just out from behind the Reason paywall: Why Frozen Pizza Is the Best Pizza.
The best pizza in America doesn't come from an oven in Brooklyn or some other cult foodie mecca, where it was fastidiously handmade by some aging artisan. It comes from the freezer case at your local grocery store, where it arrived on a semitruck after being constructed on an assembly line at a nondescript factory in the middle of the country.
The best pizza in America is made by Red Baron, a catchall mass-market brand owned by the frozen-food megacorporation Schwan's. Red Baron makes frozen pizza with a variety of toppings and in an array of styles, from Thin & Crispy to Classic Crust to Deep Dish, because big corporations don't judge if you prefer Chicago-style. Personally, I'm fond of Brick Oven Pepperoni, but the particulars are largely irrelevant. Whereas a Di Fara slice tastes indifferently excellent, Red Baron tastes merely indifferent. The sauce is a little too spicy and a little too sweet, without the lively burst of tomato flavor. The cheese and pepperoni have a salty, fatty, processed edge to them. The crust is a little too crispy and a little too brittle. After you pull a Red Baron pizza out of the oven and take your first, slightly-too-hot bite, you are likely to react with a shrug and the thought: Sure, not bad! Judged strictly on its culinary merits—taste, texture, smell, visual appeal—Red Baron is vaguely competent at best. If you cook it properly, it can be reasonably enjoyable, especially in times of stress or exhaustion, but it is never memorable.
Do you like pizza? I do too. I haven't had Red Baron in years, but Suderman makes me want to give it a try.
I think we missed the top spot because I'm such a gloomy gus. Our local TV station has the news: Report: New Hampshire ranked 2nd happiest state in the nation.
According to a new report from HubScore, the Granite State was ranked the 2nd happiest state in the country.
The report ranked all 50 states for community, environment, and work-life balance.
The number one state was North Dakota and Wyoming was ranked 3rd behind New Hampshire.
All six New England states, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut, along with New Hampshire, were ranked in the top 20 of the "Happiest States Index."
Pun Salad value-added facts, obtained by clicking the link provided: The least happy states are the four states that border Texas: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Are people there sad because they aren't Texans? Possibly!