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About 30% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree. That number is rising at a glacial pace.


Worldwide income was about the same in Jesus’ time as it was when Columbus sailed to America. Gradual growth in income usually doesn’t accompany technological and cultural progress. The industrial revolution was a recent and radical thing.


P.S.: Tsk-tsk to the graph makers for pretending that there was a year 0.


Ha! I love the internet. A bunch of my favorite political bloggers (Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Julian Sanchez, among others [I love that they’re all friends, by the way]) are partaking in Infinite Summer and group-bogging about it.

The title of the blog, of course, comes from a collection of Wallace’s essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.


The endnotes are clever, but in the aggregate, they’re hedges. They’re the product of a writer who’s never sure if he’s said enough.

Now here’s a tall claim that falls flat. There’s loads of really, really important stuff in the endnotes that just wouldn’t fit in the main text. J.O.I.’s filmography and drug clarifications are the two big examples that come to mind. More than likely, you’ll get through the book wishing he’d said more, but only because you didn’t know what he was talking about the first time around. This is significant.

Matthew Dylan:


Or is Québecois? As in, something of or relating to Québec? Wikipedia shows Québecois as the secondary option, but it makes more sense to me. I forgot how he spelled it in the book.

Matt Yglesias:

Presumably the point here is to get across not only the text of the notes, but something about the tactile experience of flipping back and forth and constantly losing your place. Except I’m reading the book on a Kindle, so the experience is actually different—you click on a little thingy and jump to the note, then click again and you jump right back. This is, I think, less convenient than a footnote in a conventional book, but more convenient than an endnote. So, internet, am I actually missing something important by having this greater convenience?

I don’t think Wallace was that shallow. It might have amused him to have readers flipping around through time and space and pages. But the endnotes are still there because they matter, so their primary function is to assist in telling the story, and maybe the secondary function is to illustrate how silly a process this is, storytelling. The footnotes to the endnotes are a different matter. They’re are mostly jokes, if I remember correctly. He liked the idea of fitting print in unconventional ways on a page, so I think he’d be fine with the way the kindle renders his book (that’s how the Atlantic piece was written, after all), and more importantly, Mr. Yglesias won’t be missing out on much, besides the obvious signaling of lugging that sucker around on the DC metro.

So while I finished the book a few weeks ago, I’m really happy that so many people are going to be going through it this summer for the first time. I have some thoughts on the themes in the book that are less-than-half-baked that might be ready by September.

Man, the Gregory Brothers cannot and will not stop. Magical.


Now this is kind of offensive, right? First, check out the artist’s statement: “I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.” So in her life, the women around her have had to deal with neglectful husbands, chemo treatments, growing old… and military insurgency? Maybe she’s more worldly than I think she is. All the other images illustrate the absurdity of Disney princesses or some sad truth about the human condition. The Jasmine one just shows that Middle Easterners are violent.

So here’s an obvious issue she could’ve adopted instead: sexual identity/orientation. Think Mulan.

I’m getting close to the end, so I’ll be careful not to reveal any crucial plot twists.

The essay was turgid to the point of being unreadable, besides using reference as a verb and pluralizing conundrum as conundra.

Infinite Jest, Page 947

Cue visit to The Guardian‘s Notes and Queries on the topic:

Conundrums. Contrary to what one might think, it is not a Latin word, and is described in my dictionary as ‘Ety. dub.’ If it was Latin it would be conundra. But it ain’t, so it isn’t.

–R Tanner, St Monans, Scotland

However, the questioner requested the correct plural, rather than the one which has come into common usage (through the evolution of the language, laziness, and the decline of the teaching of classics in schools). I wonder if Mr Harthill also refers to hippopotamuses, octopuses, or referendums…

–Philip Moreland, Durham, England

I hope that Philip Moreland says octopodes not octopi, given that octopus is 3rd declension Greek not 2nd declension Latin. Actually I am sure he does, but for anyone to whom this is news, the word octopodes has four syllables.

–Pelham Barton, Birmingham, UK

Wrong, all of you. The correct plural of ‘conundrum’ is, of course, ‘Notes and Queries’. Now, would anyone care to provide me with the plural of ‘overbearing pedants’…?

–Garrick Alder, London

Would there were more overbearing pedants here in the states.

Crazy stuff is happening. Here’s some correspondence with an Iranian friend I met during study abroad:


basically mousavi’s supporters are saying that he did cheat but I don’t think so. mousavi’s supporters just look around them and see rich iranians in north tehran-this really isn’t iran; they represent a very small section of iran’s population. say what you like about ahmadinejad but in four years he has done quite a lot for the rural population and they love him. frankly, i think no one should’ve degraded themselves to voting in such a ridiculous election. by voting you effectively legitimise the regime. pouring out onto the streets complaining about an election that you CHOSE to participate in being rigged to me seems a ridiculous response. just because the candidate you wanted didn’t win doesnt give you the right to complain, if you knew the elections were going to be rigged WHY THE HELL DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE FIRST PLACE!? besides iran seems to have forgotten what state it was in when mousavi was PM; im not convinced he is any better than ahmadinejad. ok rant over.


I get that Iran is a religious place — the US is, too — and I get that Western reporters are biased because they are more likely to talk to liberals more than traditionalists, both because it fits into their pre-established narrative and because they’re more friendly to bumbling Westerners, but the polling data seems reallllllly fishy. It seems mathematically impossible for the count to wind up that way, especially given that there are most certainly concentrated pockets of Mousavi supporters and broad areas of Ahmadinejad country. And I do think it’s admirable — if sometimes quixotic — for people to try to vote, and then to protest if they believe that their votes weren’t counted. I don’t know how else people can govern themselves.

Believe me, we have plenty of people in the US who believe that just because they didn’t vote for Obama, they don’t have to respect the fact that he won. It’s ridiculous. Democracy is democracy, not because of who wins, but because of how they win.

And is Mousavi under house arrest?


From Infinite Jest, page 869:

Stice automatically tried to shake his head and then gave a small cry of pain. ‘Not that. None of that. Long fucking story. I’m not even sure I’d want anybody to believe it. Forget that part. The point’s I’m up there — I’m lying there real sweaty and hot and jittered. I jump on down and got a chair an brang it out here to set where it’s cool.’

‘And where you don’t have to lie there and contemplate Coyle’s sheet slowly ripening under his bunk,’ I said, shuddering a little.

‘And it’s just starting to snow, then, out. It’s about maybe like 0100. I thought how I’d just set and watch the snow a little and settle on down and then go grab some sack down in the V.R.’ He scratched at the reddening back of his scalp again.

‘And as you watched, you rested your head pensively against the glass for just a second.’

‘And that was all she wrote. Forgot the forehead was sweated up. Whammo. Kertwanged my own self. Just like remember when Rader and them got Ingersoll to touch his tongue on that net-post last New Year’s? Stuck here fucking tight as that tongue, Hal. Hell of a lot more total stuck area, too, than Ingersoll. He only did lose that smidgeon off the tip, Inc. I tried to pull her off about 0230, and there was this fucking… sound. This sound and a feeling like the skin’ll give before the bind will, sure. Frozen stuck. And this here’s more skin than I care to say goodbye to, buddy-ruff.’ He was speaking just above a whisper.

This definitely has to do with watching too much TV.

On Twitter

twirpy tweetin’ twats [british pronunciation], eff that/
you know my thoughts so fresh, so phat/
don’t fit into 160 character boxes/
like gold spillin’ out of fort knoxes/
it rocks, shocks, outfoxes, is obnoxious.

Atul Gawande uses fun analogies and memorable stories to explain why health care in the US is a mess and getting messier:

Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coördination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country’s best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.


Dramatic improvements and savings will take at least a decade. But a choice must be made. Whom do we want in charge of managing the full complexity of medical care? We can turn to insurers (whether public or private), which have proved repeatedly that they can’t do it. Or we can turn to the local medical communities, which have proved that they can. But we have to choose someone—because, in much of the country, no one is in charge. And the result is the most wasteful and the least sustainable health-care system in the world.

One sentence upset me: “Skeptics saw the Mayo model as a local phenomenon that wouldn’t carry beyond the hay fields of northern Minnesota.”


Northern Minnesota doesn’t have hay fields — it has lakes, iron mines, forests, and resort towns. It also doesn’t have a Mayo clinic. Southern Minnesota does. Other than that sentence, the essay is a one-page wonder. Read it.

There were some remarkably bad dancers that episode. Again, Mary lays down some unnecessary sexism on that Hawaiian guy by dissing his dance as “feminine”. I was actually troubled by the way Sex was talking to his mom, but I think CPS wouldn’t interfere if the abused is like 28. The Ukrainian guy cracked me up, if only because of the immediate association I made with my Russophile friend Paulya. I’m surprised that Nigel didn’t fall head-over-arse in love with the cute blonde contemporary dancer from L.A.; maybe it’s a sign of sexual senescence, which might be good for his judicial impartiality.

It was good to see Joshua and Katee again. And Mia Michaels, for that matter. And speaking of…