Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, August 04, 2021

We’ve all been exposed to William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” in one form or another. If it wasn’t via the original book and/or the movie versions, then it was indirectly through countless takeoffs and parodies on the theme that our kinder socio-cultural mores are easily broken down once the civilized environment is removed.

But would it take something as dramatic as a desert-island scenario to instill base cruelty into formative psyches? Kenzaburo Oe’s novella “Prize Stock”, included in his “Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness” collection, presents a desensitizing process in rural wartime Japan that’s every bit as chilling, all the moreso because it takes place firmly within societal structures.

But I think that if you look back on the childhood Frog has described, it was already steeped in power and ugliness. Certainly the young girls whom Harelip terrorizes at the bathing pond wouldn’t call their circumstances innocent. Frog treats his younger brother with a degree of detachment, and even cruelty, that mirrors his father’s treatment of Frog. And let’s not even mention the women of the village, who are faceless and certainly powerless, which like everything else in this story seems completely intentional on Oe’s part. I guess I felt that Oe was illustrating, with that racial slur, Frog’s movement into adulthood, but that the story as a whole had done quite a good job of patiently puncturing any sentimental picture of childhood. For instance, Oe makes it clear that the kids’ view of the black airman is naive and even innocent, but he doesn’t temper their ugliness (”He’s like a person!”) or absolve them of its taint.

Sounds like a more nuanced treatment of Golding’s dynamic, and more unsettling because you don’t have to imagine as outlandish a set of circumstances. Fact is, the process occurs every single day, with different permutations, around the world.

I’m kicking myself now, because I just completed an order on Amazon, and I was looking for an extra ten-dollar item to throw in to qualify for the free Super Saver shipping (for which I’m an unabashed sucker). I really wish I had found Oe’s “Madness”, because it’s just the right price. I guess I can always place another order; or else, just try to find it in a library or bookstore around here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/04/2021 06:07:44 PM
Category: Creative, Publishing, Society
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Thousands of people take the Metro-North Railroad into New York City every workday, and most of them ride it back north every night.

Not as many experience that roundtrip trainride in reverse, but a conspicuous segment of commuters — hedge fund employees — are doing just that, with their en masse shuttling from Manhattan to southwestern Connecticut.

The center of power in finance has shifted in recent years, and in one sense that shift is geographical. Some of the most powerful traders in the market can be found miles away from Wall Street, in Greenwich, Stamford, and Westport, Conn. …

The president of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, Mary Ann Morrison, said she also began to notice the number of commuters from Manhattan starting to grow about five years ago.

“These hedge funds, the staff they need are young ones who still have stamina and still want to be part of the city, so they do the reverse commute and get off here in Greenwich,”’ she said. “If they live in Midtown it’s no different than commuting from the Upper East Side to Wall Street.”

A brain/talent drain from Wall Street to the Nutmeg State? Something tells me it’s not going to last. True, there’s silly money in hedge funds, and wherever they want to plant themselves, they’ll recruit talent to come along with them. But these funds’ super-secret MO is a ticking timebomb; eventually, their financial manipulations are going to burn the wrong people, and Congress will come down hard on them. Even limited collateral damage would reduce them to little more than glorified investment-consultant boutiques, and that kind of setup doesn’t need much in staffing. I think everyone involved senses this, and are just playing out the string until the hammer falls.

Beyond that, the reverse commute is an intriguing development. The idea that you leave the quietude of the office setting and go back to unwind in the hustle-and-bustle of city life fits well with youth-culture sensibilties. When you’re in your twenties, it ain’t nothing but a thing. Ten years later…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/04/2021 03:32:22 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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Interesting assessment of the state of poli-blogging in an article looking at the influence of bloggers in the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont Democratic primary in Connecticut:

“Too much of what passes for political commentary in the blogosphere is pretty juvenile and petulant, and that’s not the way you persuade people,” [Joe Lieberman campaign aide Dan Gerstein] said. “If the blogging community is going to have a real impact, they’re going to have to have a reckoning soon about their place in the real political world, because in that world there’s a caricature of them as being dominated by crazies.”

As opposed to, say, the sane voices on talk radio and television shoutfest shows?

Not that I’m disputing Gerstein’s statement, nor am I coming to the defense of the blogs. It’s true: They’re often nothing but glorified message boards, with the subject of individual posts scarcely mattering to the trolls that populate their commenting sections.

But that’s the case with all media. The shrillest voices will always attract a disproportionate amount of attention. This is especially acute in the polarizing arena of politics. No one flips on the radio or visits a website looking for sober, reasoned exposition — that’s boring, and takes too long to absorb. People look for entertainment in their civic discourse, and the soundbite/infobite electronic media is tailor-made for that. (I think when/if people want to take a serious look at issues, they sit down and read a newspaper or magazine, online or off.)

Which, depending on your outlook, casts poli-blogging in a rather revealing light: An outlet no more guilty of immaturity than any other, but at the same time, not particularly groundbreaking.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/04/2021 01:25:39 PM
Category: Bloggin', Media, Politics
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