As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I learned how to be a real man from Rocky — voiced by the beautiful and talented June Foray. And Bullwinkle is the prototype of all my close friends. (Oh, I’m kidding!) But most of all, I learned my philosophy of life, and I am very serious about this: it is much better to be lucky than smart. Most people throughout the world understand this philosophy, but Americans are strangely ignorant about it. They foolishly believe (despite all evidence including that from their own lives) that the world rewards talent and hard work. (Of course it does — as long as you are lucky.)
But all the time growing up, there was one thing that bothered me: animation inconsistencies. The show was produced in the United States. But all the animation was done in Mexico — an early example of outsourcing. And as is often the case in such situations, communication was not great. And it resulted in sequences that were clearly done at different times with little knowledge of each other. As a kid, the part that really bugged me was Rocky’s jump into the tub of water.
It starts with an image of a pool of water and the camera tilts up the ladder to a diving board where we see our plucky hero. But you can see it is very large pool — much wider than it is deep. We watch Rocky as he flies through the air. Then the image cuts to Bullwinkle, who is leaning against what is clearly a different water container — a tub now, not a pool. And this is very important because Bullwinkle could never have moved that pool around. See what I mean:
But there is another one that has bothered me a lot more as an adult. In the opening of “Aesop and Son” the titular characters are brunets. But once the story starts, they are blonds. As a brunet, I find it vaguely offensive. I’m sure the title sequence was created first. You can just imagine some executive saying, “Can’t we make those characters look more American?!” And by “American” he meant, “Someone who would fit right in at a a meeting of the Aryan Brotherhood.”
This is all due to the fact that The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was made on a shoestring. And that is part of its charm. The animation is clunky. The writing is idiosyncratic. And they go together. Some of the visuals are inconsistent and some of the puns are unforgivable. “Parole out the barrel”?!
I’ve been having a bit of a problem about G K Chesterton.
He was a great English writer around the turn of the 20th century. He is probably best known for his Father Brown mysteries. But he was more of what we think of as a public intellectual. He wrote about a great many things. And he influenced generations of writers. As diverse a collection as C S Lewis, Marshall McLuhan, and Neil Gaiman were all profoundly influenced by him.
I tend to think of him as a conservative thinker. But at this point, that phrase — “conservative thinker” — seems mostly a contradiction. But there was a time when this was not necessarily the case. It is, after all, possible to respect tradition and yet be open to change. I don’t think he was incorrect when he wrote, “He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative” — although I’m aware that a lot of conservatives think this without cause. Chesterton, however, was a close friend of George Bernard Shaw. The two of them apparently had wide ranging discussions during which they rarely agreed. I’m sure they disagreed about religion (Shaw was an atheist of my variety and Chesterton was a Christian) and politics (Shaw was a socialist and Chesterton wasn’t even keen on democracy).
But my problem has nothing to do with Chesterton’s beliefs. He is a highly quotable guy. In fact, in my copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Chesterton appears on three pages with 30 different quotations. But the following one attributed to him in the pilot episode of Ripping Yarns is not there:
It is hard to nail down the quote, because even the director in this skit (Terry Jones) isn’t consistent. But I assume that this is the quote, “The follies of men’s youth are in retrospect glorious compared to the follies of old age.” It’s a great quote. I want to use it. But I think that it wasn’t Chesterton. And even in the skit, Michael Palin says, “I think it was…” So maybe they just figured that Chesterton had the kind of intellectual oomph they were looking for.
But I can’t seem to find the quotation anywhere except by people who got it from Ripping Yarns. Is it possible that Palin and Jones wrote it? The sentiment sounds eternal — like it is found somewhere in the Old Testament. At the same time, the sentence structure is lovely. But I don’t like feeling ignorant on this point. So if anyone knows anything, please let me know.
I was really depressed when I saw John Cochrane’s OpEd in The Wall Street Journal Monday, An Autopsy for the Keynesians. It wasn’t because it was totally wrong. But it is that. Ask Paul Krugman, Commies Like Me. Or Dean Baker, John Cochrane Versus the Keynesians, #23,127. Or Brad DeLong, If You Had Told Me Twenty Years Ago That the People The Wall Street Journal Put on Its Op-Ed Page Would Only Get Less Hinged as Time Passed… Or Noah Smith, Commie Commie Commie Commie Commie K-Keynesian. Or Frances Coppola, The Gullible Economist. Or Barkley Rosser, More Piling On Cochrane. I’m used to Cochrane writing absolutely stupid things.
What depressed me was that his article was so entirely typical of what we get from conservative economists who have done good work in the past. Or at least I think they’ve done good work in the past. People who know about such things certainly seem to think so. I don’t much pay attention to Cochrane. I’m much more focused on Greg Mankiw — probably because I better understand his economic work. But none of it matters because when they start talking policy, all their knowledge goes out the window. Earlier this year, Mankiw was arguing that of course the rich deserve everything they can because Robert Downey Jr starred in Iron Man 3. More recently, Cochrane was making the argument that inequality doesn’t matter because… single motherhood or something. When these jokers make policy arguments, they aren’t doing economics. They are simply pushing extremely tired arguments in favor the aristocracy that have been made for hundreds of years.
What bothers me is that none of these people ever pays a professional price for being out pushing the interests of the power elite. People will still look back on work they did in their 20s or 30s and note how professional it was. Sure, the economics blogs will attack them if they are pushing their vile apologetics in a venue that has a high enough profile. But there won’t be any good dinner parties they will miss because of this behavior. In fact, it will likely be the opposite. And no one will snub them at a conference and no one will fire them and no one will refuse to publish their books.
Of even greater concern is that these people will be eagerly sought in the next Republican administration. We know that of Mankiw. And we also know that his policy beliefs are entirely dependent upon who is in the White House. So if President Cruz calls him for economic advice, I’m know that Mankiw will be a Keynesian. And I’m sure that Cochrane will do the same thing. Because regardless of what he may rant around in The Wall Street Journal, he will do what they all do when it comes to practical matters: he will turn to Keynes.
So we are left with a situation where writing total blather in major newspapers makes these guys much more likely to go into government. And once there, they will be forced to grapple with actual practical economics. They will, of course, push the usual supply side nonsense loved by conservatives everywhere. But they will also have to admit that, yes, Keynes was right — not that they will say so in public. Because when it comes to the conservative audience — most especially including the politicians — Keynes isn’t an economist to be argued about; he’s the boogeyman.
Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and treated as one. The same is true of the force which drives them on to expansion and world dominion. There is a certain uniformity in all types of dedication, of faith, of pursuit of power, of unity and of self-sacrifice. There are vast differences in the contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity in the factors which make them effective. He who, like Pascal, finds precise reasons for the effectiveness of Christian doctrine has also found the reasons for the effectiveness of Communist, Nazi and nationalist doctrine. However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.
The True Believer
On this day in 1903, the great character actor Elisha Cook was born. Actually, he’s a junior, but given that his father wasn’t in the entertainment business, I see no reason why we need to make note of that. I don’t think anyone would ever say, “Elisha Cook? You mean the San Francisco pharmacist?!” Still, it is a nice act of honor for the son to have performed.
Cook is best known for his knowledge of drug side effects. His son was best known for the part of the young thug Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon. But I liked him in roles where he played nice guys. There was always something fundamentally decent in what he displayed on screen. That’s even true of Wilmer, who ultimately comes off as a lost soul — more a victim than a victimizer.
Cook was also known for his courteous service and quick prescription fulfillment. His son was known for his roles in The Big Sleep, Shane, The Killing, House on Haunted Hill, and Rosemary’s Baby. This is a typical part in the film Born to Kill. Here he tries to kill an old woman and has a very bad time of it. “You can depend on me, glamour girl!”
Happy birthday Elisha Cook, whenever his birthday was. And happy birthday to his son, who was born on this day!