Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous...

What he said… “he” being Victor Davis Hanson… in his essay “Ten Random, Politically Incorrect Thoughts.” A couple of excerpts:

6. Something has happened to the generic American male accent. Maybe it is urbanization; perhaps it is now an affectation to sound precise and caring with a patina of intellectual authority; perhaps it is the fashion culture of the metrosexual; maybe it is the influence of the gay community in arts and popular culture. Maybe the ubiquitous new intonation comes from the scarcity of salty old jobs in construction, farming, or fishing. But increasingly to meet a young American male about 25 is to hear a particular nasal stress, a much higher tone than one heard 40 years ago, and, to be frank, to listen to a precious voice often nearly indistinguishable from the female. How indeed could one make Westerns these days, when there simply is not anyone left who sounds like John Wayne, Richard Boone, Robert Duvall, or Gary Cooper much less a Struther Martin, Jack Palance, L.Q. Jones, or Ben Johnson? I watched the movie Twelve O’clock High the other day, and Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger sounded liked they were from another planet. I confess over the last year, I have been interviewed a half-dozen times on the phone, and had no idea at first whether a male or female was asking the questions. All this sounds absurd, but I think upon reflection readers my age (55) will attest they have had the same experience. In the old days, I remember only that I first heard a variant of this accent with the old Paul Lynde character actor in one of the Flubber movies; now young men sound closer to his camp than to a Jack Palance or Alan Ladd.

10. The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy. This upcoming generation knows instead not to judge anyone by absolute standards (but not why so); to remember to say that its own Western culture is no different from, or indeed far worse than, the alternatives; that race, class, and gender are, well, important in some vague sense; that global warming is manmade and very soon will kill us all; that we must have hope and change of some undefined sort; that AIDs is no more a homosexual- than a heterosexual-prone disease; and that the following things and people for some reason must be bad, or at least must in public company be said to be bad (in no particular order): Wal-Mart, cowboys, the Vietnam War, oil companies, coal plants, nuclear power, George Bush, chemicals, leather, guns, states like Utah and Kansas, Sarah Palin, vans and SUVs.

I found myself nodding this ol’ gray head north-south as I read the ten things that tick Mr. Hanson off. There’s an assumption in that last sentence, but I feel pretty safe in saying VDH doesn’t look upon any of the things he mentions as a “good,” with the sole exception of his proposal that we (re)introduce Latin as a compulsory subject in public school. Yes… Latin. I can see the wisdom in Mr. Hanson’s proposal, even though I never took Day One of Latin. I did, however, take seven years of French… and that’s reasonably close. I really, truly feel my love for the English language (and my competency, too… such as it is) is directly related to the fact I was once fluent in French. That and the fact I had competent teachers back in the day (see VDH Item Ten, above).

As far as VDH Item Six goes… yes, I have had similar experiences. But NOT since I moved to New Mexico, not locally, at least. I personally think the feminizing of the Young American Male’s accent and manner of speech is mostly a metropolitan phenomenon, which VDH admits is a possibility. I encountered it all too frequently while living in the San Francisco Bay Area Soviet Socialist Republic, and that was six years ago. OTOH, the guys with the suspect accents I ran into just might have been gay. I’ve heard there are a lot of gay guys there, but have no personal experience in that space. (Added, later: the foregoing was said in jest. Of course there are lotsa gays in SFO, we all know that. The point I was trying to make... and badly, at that... was my GAYDAR sucks, for the most part. I can recognize blatant gay-ness nine out of ten times, like the stuff one sees in the Castro district. Otherwise? Hard for me to tell, if I even thought about it. Which I usually didn't.)

Nonetheless… I agree with VDH, especially when it comes to really old movies. But here’s yet another thought: all the guys in those really old movies, particularly war movies, smoked. And we all know what smoking cigarettes does to your voice… or at least we should. Think on that for a moment, Gentle Reader (whilst shedding a metaphorical tear [if you’re male] for those smoky female voices of yesteryear… like Suzanne Pleshette or Tallulah Bankhead. If you’re female you have lotsa male voices to choose from — see above).

Mr. Hanson closes his essay with a simple statement: “Well, with that done—I feel much better.” I’m sure you will, too… if’n ya read the whole thing.


Signs o’ The Impending Apocalypse… (part of an on-going series)

Obama collectibles:” Results 1 - 10 of about 2,210,000 for obama collectibles. (0.22 seconds)

Obama commemorative:” Results 1 - 10 of about 659,000 for obama commemorative. (0.14 seconds)

Obama collectors items:” Results 1 - 10 of about 364,000 for obama collectors items. (0.26 seconds)

Obama collectors items” (images): Results 1 - 21 of about 256,000 for obama collectors items. (0.10 seconds

Obama collectible magazines:” Results 1 - 10 of about 59,200 for obama collectible magazines. (0.17 seconds)

Obama collectible coins:” Results 1 - 10 of about 24,100 for obama collectible coins. (0.21 seconds)

God Save Us.


  1. How I first came to be aware of Gerard. This is the piece Rush Limbaugh red on the air. Mister Hanson must have been listening, as well, or else it's a case of great minds thinking a like.

    American Castrati. Learn it...but don't necessarily live it. Or love it.

    Also, where I live it's a fine place for taking your four-year-old to the park. I was noticing something further about what Gerard had noticed, about dads (about 30) taking their kids (about 4) to the parks, and addressing them. My son and I went to these parks when he was 1, we still go now that he's 11...and this has been an unfortunate plague during that decade. The pressure seems to be on these dads-of-small-kids to be particularly vocally, nasally non-threatening.

    This, too, shall pass. We'll remember Obamamania as a blessing, for the fatigue it caused. If the fatigue isn't both intense, and widespread, this would not change. Chosen One makes it an inevitability. YMMV, but that's how I see it.

  2. red == read

    Hey, at least I misspell non-threateningly.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Buck! I was tempted to invite you up to share some traditional foods but the weather man said not to take a chance. And the house will remain a little embarrassing for a while as well. ... 2009, mark it on your calendar!

    You would love the voice of Wayne, the previous owner of this place. He should be recording talking books about the old West, I swear.

  4. I had read the the Hanson link on someone else's blog - maybe on Lt. Nixon's Blog. He does make some good points.

    Hey Lin, Have a good Thanksgiving - you are in my thoughts.

  5. Have a Happy Thanksgiving Buck ;-)

  6. Wow. I pretty much agree with everything he said.

    And I went to a German school, had, of course, German and English, four years of French and five years of Latin. Do I remember anything? Well, "Gallia est omnes divisa in partes tres." That's about it. My French is iffy from lack of use.
    Latin helped me tremendously with my German grammar. Things I had learned by ear but never understood suddenly were crystal clear, thanks to having to learn the Latin grammar rules. Thanks, Frau Glodde!

  7. Oh, and the abomination! I was doing my elliptical thing, listening to my iPod, when I was sucked into the horror of a TV commercial, mercifully running without sound, touting those hideous commemorative Obama plates. I felt physically ill, thought that might have been from the exercise...;)

  8. Morgan: I recall that piece of Gerard's, as well. I may have even linked it, but I'm too lazy to chase it up in the dead of night. At any rate, the subject of the feminization of the American male has been getting a LOT of air-time of late.

    Lin and Dawn: Thank ya, Ladies, and the same back atcha. It was good to see ya posting, Lin.

    Lou sez: I had read the the Hanson link on someone else's blog...

    Yeah, Hanson's post was over a week old when I put it up, but I hadn't seen it anywhere in my usual reads. Which sorta surprised me.

    Christina: Latin IS helpful, innit? And although I haven't a lick of Latin, I immediately recognized your quote from ol' Julius-Baby. I also didn't realize you're multi-lingual... thanks for sharing that!

    You made me laugh with the Obama-plate tale... ;-)


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