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From the NYT:

The Politics of Awkwardness on ‘Silicon Valley’
By ANNA NORTH APRIL 20, 2015 11:49 AM April

As it enters its second season, it’s clear that the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley” concerns itself not just with the foibles of the American tech industry, but also with the many gradations of human social awkwardness. …

That Laurie’s awkwardness is a problem while Peter’s seemed inextricable from his genius bodes ill for a show that has at times attempted to make fun of tech-industry sexism but has been criticized for merely replicating it. The show pulls some of its set pieces from real tech news, and it would be interesting to see it incorporate a discrimination lawsuit like that filed by Ellen Pao against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

That suit likely went to trial too late to make it into season two, but Ms. Pao filed it in 2012, and she’s only one of many, many women who say they have faced discrimination in the tech industry. Will we see Laurie face such discrimination? Will Laurie be criticized, as Ms. Pao apparently was, for having “sharp elbows”?

Up to now, the show has painted Laurie as less effective than her male predecessor, despite the fact that they behave similarly. It would be far more interesting to see “Silicon Valley” challenge that view, by showing us an awkward woman who’s just as smart as the awkward men around her, but who struggles to be recognized as such.

“Silicon Valley” gets the complexities of nerdishness. Its writers clearly understand the fine line between being socially maladroit and just being a jerk. The show is perfectly capable of exploring the double standard by which American work culture, especially in tech, judges men’s and women’s social behavior. Now let’s see it try.

Much of the predominance of the left in American culture has to do with the chattering class’ adamantine confidence that of course all smart, funny, creative people are on their side. So, no doubt Mike Judge will be grateful to be reminded by the New York Times that he hasn’t yet written a screenplay in which an Ellen Pao character rightfully triumphs over her straight white male oppressors: what could be purer comedy gold than making fun of straight white males? Is there a fresher topic imaginable?

Of course, there’s nothing funny about Pao’s gay black husband, serial litigant and hedge fund looter Buddy Fletcher. Who in the world would find Buddy Fletcher amusing? Mentioning Buddy would be, by definition, unfunny, punching downward at a man who, because his wife lost her discrimination suit in a humiliating fashion might have to sell his three apartments in The Dakota to make up some of the missing firefighters’ pension funds he was entrusted with. But did we mention that Ellen Pao’s husband is gay? And he is black? What gives those firefighters the gall to punch down at poor Buddy just because he seems to have spent their money on personal luxuries for himself and on endowing a chair in his name for Henry Louis Gates at Harvard?

When Mike Judge gets done with the Ellen Pao Lifetime Movie, he can make a Sabrina Rubin Erdely anthology series entitled Broken Glass and a Crystal Mangum biopic.

• Tags: Idiocracy, Television 
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Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butt-head, Office Space, King of the Hill, and Idiocracy, has been interviewed a fair amount over the years, but mostly by media hive workers who haven’t noticed that he’s not a nice liberal like they and everybody they know are. He’s a moderately famous creative artist and social critic, so he has to hold the same views as us, right? (For example, here’s a substantial profile in the New York Times from 2011 that’s completely clueless about his politics.)

The most obviously interesting question about Judge’s career is: what the heck happened to the “release” of Idiocracy in 2006? Since we all know that conspiracies, by definition, don’t exist, the decision by a shadowy group of Fox insiders to deepsix Idiocracy for unexplained reasons is just one of those things that happen. Why do you want to know more? What are you, some kind of conspiracy theorist?

So, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones turns out to be the first interviewer I’ve seen who exhibits much sustained curiosity about Idiocracy.

Judge treads carefully, but he’s a little more forthcoming than normal.

This is not to get expectations up too high if you haven’t seen Idiocracy. It’s kind of choppy and a little short, but comedies don’t have to be exquisitely made to be memorable [Caddyshack, anyone?]. Idiocracy compares quite well to the other interesting comedy that came out that fall of 2006, Sacha Baron-Cohen‘s Borat. In complete contrast to Idiocracy, Borat was marketed brilliantly and appealed to various deep-rooted prejudices of taste-makers, so it made a bundle at the box-office. In the long run, Idiocracy seems like the more profound portrait of the Bush Era (although Ramzan Kadyrov and the vibrant Chechen-American refugee immigrants are doing their best to revive the relevance of Borat — although Kadyrov is more inspired by Baron-Cohen’s underrated The Dictator. The Chechen proxy dictator is currently pranking his Instagram followers with the central plot element of Baron-Cohen’s 2012 film about a dictator and his double.)

I don’t like watching interview videos because they are a slow way to ingest information relative to reading. So, to save you the time, here are highlights from the video “Mike Judge: The Movie They Couldn’t Kill,” Alex Jones’ 36 minute interview with Mike Judge.

Dale Gribble

At about 7:00 in, Judge says that King of the Hill conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble is based in part on Alex Jones.

15:45 Other than The Simpsons, the animated comedies that have really taken off — South Park, Family Guy, Ren & Stimpy — are ones where voices are done by the writer-artists rather than by actors.

17:45 Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” persuaded him to get into the guns — especially Moore’s argument about how there is a lower crime rate in Canada with “the same people.” Judge leaves unstated why he found Moore’s argument about Canada having the “same people” so unconvincing, implying that you ought to be able to figure out Moore’s fallacy yourself, but he returns to emphasizing that he’s thought a lot about the statistics of crime. “I took graduate probability and statistics courses.”

18:40: He got blamed for Beavis & Butt-head causing crime in youth, but, he half-jokes, homicide has been declining since Beavis & Butthead came on the air in 1993.  He then presents his hand-drawn (but non-joking) table of crime rates in 1992 v. 2011 at 20:05.

21:15 Judge imitates Jones’ appearance on Piers Morgan’s show.

22:15 IRS targeting of conservatives “is going to make me listen to some more Alex Jones.”

The last eight minutes from 27:40 onward are devoted to Idiocracy – Judge started thinking about evolution and the disappearance of predators during the making of the Beavis & Butt-head Movie in the 1990s. Then, in 2001, was in line with his daughters at Disney’s Teacups ride, when two women with strollers in the line behind him got into an altercation. Is this what Walt Disney wanted or expected? Then, he got thinking about the movie “2001″ and how 2001 hadn’t turned out to be everything pristine and advanced, but was instead the Jerry Springer Show and Wal-marts. So just take that chart from then to now and see where it would go in the future.

He owed Fox a second movie after Office Space. He didn’t think anyone would make it. Gave the first draft script to Fox. Not much response. Then Luke Wilson wanted to do it, so Judge rewrote it for Wilson. 

Idiocracy’s first corporate joke came after Judge drove past a tanning salon whose sign said “Exotic Tan for Men.” But that’s just low-rent, so it would be funnier if in the future handjob prostitution had spread upscale to Starbucks. He didn’t expect Fox’s legal department to approve it, but they came up with the suggestion that it would be less legally problematic if instead of just picking on Starbucks, the movie picked on a bunch of powerful corporations. 

(Sounds like my kind of legal department!)

The President of America addresses
the House of Representin’

“At some point I’m sure somebody flipped out, but I was shielded from all that.”

This is pretty interesting because one common theory is that Idiocracy’s satire of corporations is what sank it with Fox. Yet, Judge’s comment that Fox’s legal department came up with the idea of skewering numerous famous companies seem to lessen the likelihood of that idea. 

“They didn’t really give it a release. There was a contractual obligation that they had to put it in 12 theaters and that’s all they did.” Judge talks about how Fox did so little to market the release that they didn’t bother communicating the title to MovieFone, so if you called up trying to find when and where it was showing, the recording referred to “Untitled Mike Judge Project.”

The Governor of California addresses
the State Senate

“What they told me was that it didn’t test very well, which a lot of movies don’t. Office Space didn’t. … We got 70% very good or excellent, which is a horrible score.” He says that weird movies often get a polite “That was … good” reaction.

He suggests that maybe Fox’s horrible release turned out to be a brilliant strategy to get attention for the movie.

At 35:20, the screen then shows Reihan Salam’s September 29, 2006 Slate article “The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See.” I would estimate about 97% likelihood that Reihan read my September 3, 2006 iSteve posting “Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy:” The movie the Fox studio doesn’t want you to see.” Also, my review in the October 6, 2006 issue of The American Conservative came out around maybe September 22. And back on March 26, 2006, I had written a profile of Judge’s politics, including a preview of the upcoming Idiocracy for VDARE.

I go into this tedious detail because I like to imagine that my one accomplishment as a movie critic is getting the ball rolling on saving Idiocracy from oblivion by getting the younger Washington pundits talking about it.

35:30 Judge expresses pride that the word “Idiocracy” has become part of the language. Commenting on the movie’s rise in fame and prestige, Judge says, “Maybe since it came out in 2006 everybody’s gotten stupider?”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Idiocracy, Movies 
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In the New York Times, Michael Slackman delivers yet another deeply researched, tremendously well-informed, empirical-minded news article on the complex subjects being currently discussed by one million book buyers in Germany:
The debate started off boring and slow with Thilo Sarrazin trying to bullshit everyone with a bunch of smart talk: ‘Blah blah blah. You gotta believe me!’ That part of the controversy sucked! But then the Chief J. just went off. He said, ‘Man, whatever! The guy’s guilty of being a Nazi! We all know that.’ And he sentenced his ass to one night of rehabilitation

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Obama’s new Cult of Personality Presidential Seal reminded o ne reader of the evolution of design in Idiocracy, where the money looks like this. I suspect, though, that Obama’s “Obey Giant Obama” design instincts lean more toward Totalitarian Ironic Chic than to the trailer park populism of Idiocracy’s logos:

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Idiocracy, Obama 
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Vanishing American pointed me toward this USA Today story:

Here’s a quiz: Get a pencil and paper and jot down the 10 most famous Americans in history. No presidents or first ladies allowed.

Who tops your list?

Ask teenagers, and they overwhelmingly choose African-Americans and women, a study shows. It suggests that the “cultural curriculum” that most kids — and by extension, their parents — experience in school increasingly emphasizes the stories of Americans who are not necessarily dead, white or male.

Researchers gave blank paper and pencils to a diverse group of 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states and told them: “Starting from Columbus to the present day, jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history.”

Topping the list: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Three of the top five — and six of the top 10 — are women.

Sam Wineburg, the Stanford University education and history professor who led the study along with Chauncey Monte-Sano of the University of Maryland, says the prominence of black Americans signals “a profound change” in how we see history.

“Over the course of about 44 years, we’ve had a revolution in the people who we come to think about to represent the American story,” Wineburg says.

“There’s a kind of shift going on, from the narrative of the founders, which is the national mythic narrative, to the narrative of expanding rights,” he says.

Yes, but how does he explain No. 7: Oprah Winfrey?

She has “a kind of symbolic status similar to Benjamin Franklin,” Wineburg says. “These are people who have a kind of popularity and recognition because they’re distinguished in so many venues.”

Indeed. After all, both Ben Franklin and Oprah Winfrey were the world’s leading physicists for a decade or so in the middle of their careers. And while Oprah hasn’t yet carried out the most important diplomatic mission in America’s history, maybe President Obama will appoint her Secretary of State.

Here’s the list chosen by 2000 juniors and seniors, no Presidents allowed:

1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%

2. Rosa Parks: 60%

3. Harriet Tubman: 44%

4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%

5.Benjamin Franklin: 29%

6. Amelia Earhart: 25%

7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%

8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%

9. Thomas Edison: 18%

10. Albert Einstein: 16%

All I have to say is that Sojourner Truth must be feeling pretty ripped off not to make the list.

Seriously, the absence of Jackie Robinson on this list shows how feminized schools have gotten, which explains a lot about the much higher dropout rate among boys.

This list also might explain a bit about why Hispanics and Asians aren’t getting excited over Obama’s candidacy. They must be asking, “Black this and black that. Why aren’t we getting our fair share of our own pseudo-heroes pounded into the brains of children?”

About 20 years ago, E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy survey revealed that more high school students could identify Harriet Tubman than Stalin or Churchill. I recall William F. Buckley wondering who in the world Harriet Tubman could be. If she was more important than Stalin, how could he have gone his whole life without ever hearing of her? And if she wasn’t important, why was she famous?

How naive we all were back then!

I first heard about Harriet Tubman in my elementary school reader around 1969 or 1970. I was fascinated by the concept of her Underground Railroad and couldn’t wait for the part where the slaves tunnel their way from the South to Canada, although, as I recall, the story turned out to be disappointingly lacking in detail about how they built the locomotives and laid the track.

In contrast, here’s The Atlantic Monthly’s recent list of “100 Most Influential Americans,” as chosen by various experts in a survey overseen, I believe, by Ross Douthat. The top Americans who weren’t Presidents on The Atlantic’s list were:

5 Alexander Hamilton
6 Benjamin Franklin
7 John Marshall
8 Martin Luther King Jr.
9 Thomas Edison
11 John D. Rockefeller
14 Henry Ford
16 Mark Twain
19 Thomas Paine
20 Andrew Carnegie

So, three overlaps (Ben, MLK, and Thomas Alva) in the top 10 but only 2 more (Einstein and Susan B. Dollar) of the students’ list showed up anywhere on The Atlantic’s top 100.

On The Atlantic’s list, there were 8 blacks and 10 women, but no black women, in contrast to the 3 in the high school students’ top 10. White males fill 82 of the top 100 slots, and 28 of the top 29.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: Diversity, Idiocracy 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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