There is audio, video, and transcript at the link. I introduced Cass like this:
The Force is strong with this one. Cass is by far the most widely cited legal scholar of his generation. His older book, Nudge, and his new book on Star Wars are both best sellers, and he was head of OIRA [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs] under President Obama from 2009 to 2013. Powerful, you have become.
So tonight I’d like to start with a survey of Cass’s thought. We’re going to look at legal theory and then go to Nudge and then consider Star Wars, how it all ties together, and then we’re going to talk about everything.
On every point Cass responded clearly and without evasion. We talked about judicial minimalism, Bob Dylan’s best album, the metaphysics of nudging, Possession, the ideal size of the Supreme Court, the wisdom of Yoda, Hayek, why people should choose their own path, the merits of a banned products store, James Joyce, why the prequels are underrated, and which of the first six movies is the worst of the lot. Here is one bit:
COWEN: Let’s take a concrete example from real life: Jedi mind tricks. Obi-Wan comes along and says, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” And what does the stormtroooper do? He goes away. Now, is that a nudge?
SUNSTEIN: No, it’s a form of manipulation. So — .
COWEN: OK, but how do you draw the metaphysical categories? It seems like a nudge that just happens to work all the time.
SUNSTEIN: OK. I’ll give you a quick and dirty way of getting at that…
Here is another:
COWEN: If you were to pick one character from Star Wars who would nudge you — you get to elect them; you’re the only vote. Even Samantha doesn’t get a vote, just Cass — not your children — which character would you pick? Whom would you trust with that nudge? It’s a universe full of Jedi here, right?
SUNSTEIN: I trust that guy.
COWEN: But I worry about Yoda.
SUNSTEIN: I trust him.
SUNSTEIN: Thank God for libertarian paternalism, that Luke has a choice. The Sith, by the way, like the Jedi, respect freedom of choice. In the crucial scene in Episode III where the question is whether Anakin is going to save the person who would be emperor, he says, “You must choose.” And so there’s full respect for freedom of choice. Nudgers have that. Good for them.
COWEN: Bad guys always tell you the deal, and then they say, “Choose evil.” It seems the good guys always mislead you.
There’s this funny tension. Star Wars makes me more nervous about nudge. I’m not like this huge anti-nudge guy, but when I look at Obi-Wan and Yoda lying to Luke — “Ben, Ben, Ben, why didn’t you tell me?” How many times have I heard that in these movies?
…SUNSTEIN: It’s fair to ask whether Obi-Wan and Yoda had it right.
There is much, more more…self-recommending!
Poking big holes in long-held assertions, Goldberg and his colleagues at Stanford and Yale universities analyzed millions of Yelp and Netflix reviews to reveal that people considered the most culturally adventurous are actually the most resistant to experiences perceived as “crossing the line.”
That is, those dubbed “cultural omnivores” — because they eat Thai for lunch, play bocce ball after work, and stream a French film that night — are the very ones opposed to mixing it up. No hummus on their hot dogs, forget about spaghetti Westerns, and do not mention Switched-On Bach. Those offerings are not considered culturally authentic. They are a hodgepodge to which these folks would likely wrinkle their collective noses — as they did in 1968 when Wendy (nee’ Walter) Carlos electrified J.S. Bach. Today’s cultural elites approve only if the experience is authentic, which means eating pigs’ feet at a Texas barbecue passes the test and slathering a taco with tahini does not.
“We find these people hate the most atypical offerings,” says Goldberg, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “They can pretend to be the most open, but it turns out they are not. By being multicultural, they are the most conservative and the most resistant to changes to the status quo.”
Or should we just call it good taste?
Looking for something to do this weekend in New York? Story, a concept shop that completely changes theme every few months, has relaunched this week as a Mr. Robot-themed space. In addition to being a retail shop selling an assortment of gadgets, accessories, and Mr. Robot-themed wares, there’s an “Evil Corp” ATM at the front of the store that will dispense real money (up to $50) if you figure out the four-digit code. The clues are hidden around the store, and we’re told they’ll probably change often.
Here is the full story, with many photos and an address. To think that they closed Tower Records and Borders for this…sigh.
The simultaneous advent of streaming music and the vinyl renaissance has led to some very interesting recording industry statistics over the past few months. Last month, the RIAA reported that vinyl revenues outpaced sales from streaming services, despite actual streams vastly outnumbering physical vinyl sold. Now, Nielsen has released data revealing that, for the first time ever, old music (the “catalog,” defined as music more than 18 months old) outsold new releases in 2015.
It’s important to note that Nielsen’s numbers here don’t include streaming numbers, but that in itself is telling of current trends: an easy-to-draw hypothesis from these stats is that new music exists primarily in the streaming realm, rather than in album downloads or physical copies. And as 2016 has progressed and seen such things as Kanye’s The Life of Pablo shenanigans, exclusive streaming rights, like Rihanna and Beyoncé with Tidal and Drake with Apple Music, and the fact that the Beatles dominated Spotify in their first 100 days on the service, streaming music’s hold on the future seems to be growing tighter.
And note this:
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was the third-best-selling vinyl record of 2015.
I suspect you are not surprised to hear that Prince is dominating the Billboard 200 right now.
The pointer is from Ted Gioia.
For those of you who just returned from a trip to Mt. Everest, Lemonade is Beyoncé’s latest album, and the lyrics are all about the pain she felt when her husband, music mogul Jay-Z, cheated on her. Or so it’s universally assumed..
..as many people have pointed out, Lemonade is available for streaming only on Tidal, which is Jay-Z’s company. So that means Beyoncé is helping Jay make a lot of money off his alleged infidelity—and shoring up his faltering streaming service at the same time.
That is from Kevin Drum. What would Ronald Coase say?
Here is the transcript, the video, and the podcast. We covered a good deal of ground, here is one bit:
COWEN: You once wrote, I quote, “My substitute for LSD was Indian food,” and by that, you meant lamb vindaloo.
COWEN: You stand by this.
PAGLIA: Yes, I’ve been in a rut on lamb vindaloo.
COWEN: A rut, tell us.
PAGLIA: It’s a horrible rut.
COWEN: It’s not a horrible rut, it may be a rut.
PAGLIA: No, it’s a horrible rut. It’s a 40-year rut. Every time I go to an Indian restaurant, I say “Now, I’m going to try something new.” But, no, I must go back to the lamb vindaloo.
All I know is it’s like an ecstasy for me, the lamb vindaloo.
COWEN: Like De Quincey, tell us, what are the effects of lamb vindaloo?
PAGLIA: What can I say? I attain nirvana.
COWEN: This is Sexual Personae, your best known book, which I recommend to everyone, if you haven’t already read it.
PAGLIA: It took 20 years.
COWEN: Read all of it. My favorite chapter is the Edmund Spenser chapter, by the way.
PAGLIA: Really? Why? How strange.
COWEN: That brought Spenser to life for me.
PAGLIA: Oh, my goodness.
COWEN: I realized it was a wonderful book.
PAGLIA: Oh, my God.
COWEN: I had no idea. I thought of it as old and fusty and stuffy.
PAGLIA: Oh, yes.
COWEN: And 100 percent because of you.
PAGLIA: We should tell them that The Faerie Queene is quite forgotten now, but it had enormous impact, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, on Shakespeare, and on the Romantic poets, and so on, and so forth. The Faerie Queene had been taught in this very moralistic way. But in my chapter, I showed that it was entirely a work of pornography, equal to the Marquis de Sade.
PAGLIA: How interesting that you would be drawn to that.
COWEN: Very interesting.
You also can read or hear Camille on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Byrds, Foucault, Suzanne Pleshette vs. Tippi Hendren, dating, Brazil, Silicon Valley, Harold Bloom, LSD, her teaching career, and much, much more.
Typically a Conversation with Tyler is about ten thousand words, this one is closer to fifteen thousand.
As all or most of you know by now, Prince has passed away. I don’t listen to him nearly as much as I did in the eighties, but songs such as “When Doves Cry,” “Dirty Mind,” “Glam Slam,” “Starfish and Coffee,” and (most of all) the acoustic, CD-single version of “Seven” still stick in my mind, among others. I think his “dirty little secret,” if you will forgive the pun, is that once you get past the first album he wasn’t much of a true Dionysian, but rather a playful polyglot who assumed various poses. Most of all I was impressed by his urge to create, and how strong and how internal that drive seems to have been.
Northern lights, darkness, meatballs and suicide rates are just some of the suggested topics of conversation for a new hotline backed by the Swedish Tourist Association.
Launched this week, call +46 771 SWEDEN from anywhere in the world and you’ll be connected to a random Swede. The service honours the 250th anniversary of the country abolishing censorship and hopes to “connect people in troubled times.”
Long distance charges may apply.
And via Samir Varma, here is one story of someone who called and spoke with a Ugandan.
It has been suggested to me that perhaps North Dakota is the most obscure state in the Union. Maybe so! Let’s take a look:
1. Author: William Gass would be a possible pick, but I do not enjoy his work. Same with Louis L’Amour.
2. Humorist: Chuck Klosterman.
3. Sociologist of religion: Rodney Stark.
4. Painter: Clifford Styll is the obvious pick, except I don’t much like his work. If you were wondering, he dominates so many rooms in American museums because of restrictions placed on grants of his paintings from the artist’s own collection. I suspect some curators have come to resent this, but often the grants were made propitiously near the peak of Styll’s reputation. I suppose I’ll opt for James Rosenquist, although I am not a huge fan of his work either.
5. Evening television bandleader and toastmaster: Lawrence Welk. I can’t even think of a clear runner-up, with or without bubbles; this video will show you why he was a favorite of so many.
6. Movie and TV show, set in: Fargo duh. Otherwise it is Man in the Wilderness, which was the original and in some ways superior source material for The Revenant.
7. Actress: Angie Dickinson comes to mind, Dressed to Kill is a good movie.
8. gdp per capita — That can set many things right, although 2016 may not be as good as was 2014.
The bottom line: Hm..but yet we must consider Delaware and Rhode Island!
Author: A variety of writers have lived in or passed through the state for a few years’ time, including Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs. A few of Hemingway’s short stories I admire very much.
Poet: Ezra Pound, yes I know he left at age three. Still, he was from Idaho.
Native American sage and explorer: Sacagewea. Did you know that her portrait design on the dollar coin is not in the public domain?
Economist: Lant Pritchett was raised in Boise.
Popular music: Built to Spill.
Composer: La Monte Young, The Well-Tuned Piano is one of the better pieces of contemporary classical music, still highly underrated. Here is a two minute sample from what is more or less a five hour work.
Movie, set in: The only one I can think of is…My Private Idaho.
Other notables: Philo T. Farnsworth invented television, more or less, and he also worked on nuclear fusion.
The bottom line: Per capita, this isn’t bad, even if not much of it is associated with Idaho. I’ll have to look harder for the most obscure state. It might be Idaho, but it doesn’t deserve to be Idaho. So perhaps Delaware, Wyoming, and Rhode Island will come under the microscope soon.
I thank Roy LC, Marcus, and kb for essential pointers here.
If it is the most obscure state, I thought it worth a ponder and profile of what they have produced. And the answers are surprisingly strong:
1. Author: I’ll take Willa Cather over Raymond Chandler, but neither puts the state to shame. I don’t care for Nicholas Sparks’s writings, but he makes the list. Malcolm X wrote one of the great memoirs of American history.
2. Actors and actresses: There is Brando, Harold Lloyd, Hilary Swank, Henry Fonda, Montgomery Clift, and James Coburn. What a strong category.
4. Music: I can think only of Elliott Smith, am I missing anything?
5. TV personalities: Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. Did you know that Carson learned Swahili on-line after his retirement and became fluent in the language?
6. Painter: Edward Ruscha.
9. Investor: Duh.
11. Other: I cannot count L. Ron Hubbard as a positive. I believe I have neglected some native Americans born in Nebraska, maybe some cowboys too. I don’t have favorite cowboys.
The bottom line: People, this state should not be so obscure!
Wikimedia and Facebook have given Angolans free access to their websites, but not to the rest of the internet. So, naturally, Angolans have started hiding pirated movies and music in Wikipedia articles and linking to them on closed Facebook groups, creating a totally free and clandestine file sharing network in a country where mobile internet data is extremely expensive.
Here is more, via Kevin Burke.
No, I am not there but think of this as an act of homage from a distance. Here goes:
1. Novelist: There is Simenon, Yourcenar, and Amelie Nothomb. I like them all but do not love them. Can I pick Julio Cortázar, who was born in Belgium even if he did not come of age there and essentially was Argentinian? As for a fictional character, how about Hercule Poirot?
3. Composer: César Franck is the obvious modern pick. There is also Henri Pousseur, and a variety of Renaissance composers, including Heinrich Isaac, Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, and Josquin des Prez. I’ll pick the violin works of Eugène Ysaÿe, as the Renaissance music is arguably more Burgundian or “Franco-Flemish” than culturally Belgian as it relates to the modern nation.
4. Jazz musician: Django Reinhardt, that one is easy, try this cut. Toots Thielmans, the jazz harmonica player, is perhaps runner up.
5. Economist: Jacques H. Drèze and Robert Triffin would be the obvious picks. A dark horse choice would be Jean Drèze, son of Jacques, for his obsessive data work in India. He still awaits a much-deserved major profile. Gustav de Molinari, who first wrote about private protection agencies and arguably was the first modern libertarian anarchist.
6. Painter: This has to be the strong suit. Magritte is an obvious choice, but there is also Gerard David, Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Adriaen Brouwer, Luc Tuymans, Jacob Jordaens, Paul Delvaux, Petrus Christus, Robert Campin, and Pierre Alechinsky, among others. Jan van Eyck is one of the greater painters ever, but for sheer Belgianness I will opt for James Ensor, see the image below.
7. Sculpture: Marcel Broodthaers. Right now there is a nice retrospective of his work on at MOMA.
7. Historian: Henri Pirenne, way ahead of his time.
9. NBA point guard: Tony Parker was born there, to American and Dutch parents, that counts for something.
10. Anthropologist: Claude Levi-Strauss. Tristes Tropiques remains a beautiful book to be read by all.
11. Movie: I cannot think of one I really like, can you help? And I can’t easily digest the works of Chantal Akerman.
11b. Movie, set in: In Bruges, a fun dark comedy.
The bottom line: Once you get into the period where Belgium is a modern nation, it’s all so wonderfully offbeat.
I’ll be doing a Conversations with Tyler with her, Tuesday, April 12. What should I ask her?