The Bluestocking, vol 246
why can’t you be like the German generals?
Last week I ventured out of my book cave to talk to Katie Herzog, on the Blocked and Reported podcast, about the closure of the Tavistock, the Allison Bailey case, and teenage girls with tics—plus my 2018 interview with Jordan Peterson and my new documentary on activism as religion.
The episode free to listen here, and you should subscribe to BAR because it’s like methadone for Twitter beef addicts.
But hang on. What’s that, Helen? A new documentary? Yes, it’s going out on Tuesday 16 August at 8pm on Radio 4, and then online at BBC Sounds straight after. In The Church of Social Justice I take seriously that glib statement you often hear online that “wokeness is a religion.”
I talk to a Catholic priest, a URC minister, and a reform rabbi, plus activists (Victoria Turner, editor of Young, Woke and Christian; and Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu) and commentators including John McWhorter, Tomiwa Owolade and Elizabeth Oldfield of the Sacred podcast.
Oh, and my mum and dad.
The Smartest Man in America (Esquire, 2007)
Ronald K. Hoeflin is a mild man with graying hair who wears his watch on a string around his neck. Fifty-five years old and legally blind, he lives in Manhattan, renting a $106-a-month apartment in Hell's Kitchen. He has three cats--Big Boy, Princess, and Wild Thing--and a collection of faux art deco lamps, curvaceous female forms holding colorful globes, that lend a bit of a bawdy air to his tiny, ultraneat bachelor pad, decorated entirely with furniture found abandoned on the streets. Framed on his wall are three mandalas, photocopied from a series of twenty-four drawn by a patient of Carl Jung. The colorful works are symbolic of the patient’s creative struggle and development. Though Ron can't make out the detail without his magnifying glass, the mandalas give him comfort in his solitary labors, he says, as does the crystal statue above his desk--Atlas hefting the world.
One of the rabbit holes I’ve fallen down in researching my genius book is the history of high IQ societies, which always seem to end in a viciously petty turf war.
Here’s an old Esquire piece on some of the smartest people in America—Ronald here founded four high-IQ societies, including one called Mega (IQs of 176 and upwards only, please). It ended up in court in 2003 after a dispute with a fellow member called Christopher Langan, who you might remember as a case study in Outliers. (Incidentally, the female genius Gina, mentioned in this article as flirting with Langan by post, is now Mrs Langan.)
PS. Here is an old listing of the various high IQ societies. I haven’t been able to verify it yet, but you’ll notice that certain . . . themes emerge. “Cincinnatus was founded by Grady Ward in 1987 at the 99.9 percentile during a bitter dispute in the Triple Nine Society. Grady Ward declared himself Dictator, which some found preferable to the chaos in TNS.”
Tweet of the week:
“The ‘golden-haired, pink-and-white’ Pauline, the ‘dark, sallow’ Petrova and the ‘decidedly ginger’ Posy suffer the intense growing pains of social sorting that will be familiar to anyone who has been a little girl: in-groups and out-groups, envy and spite, comparisons and jealousies, whispering in corners and getting found out.” I just discovered a new Substack, by Gen X for Gen X. Here is Rowan Davies on a book I loved as a kid, Ballet Shoes (The Metropolitan).
“I can remember thinking I knew all about the world in the 1990s. But we were so much older then. I can’t help thinking we should be younger than that now.” Talking of Gen X, here’s Rafael Behr on the problem with Liz Truss’s age (Guardian).
“Helen Lewis is a fantastic writer about politics. There was a period at the New Statesman when she was also given space to write profiles and she wrote the best theatre profiles since [Kenneth] Tynan.” Just leaving this here in case my boss reads the newsletter. Hi! One of my post-book-delivery aspirations is to write more profiles, but it’s a tricky artform now everyone has their own TikTok account and 50,000 PRs (Guardian).
I know the righteous are not supposed to agree with The Beastly Tories that some academics aren’t producing anything of value BUT it’s unclear why the University of Manchester is funding a researcher who is publishing papers about masturbating over anime drawings of boys. And it was very embarrassing when people rushed to defend the paper without reading it, because anything the Beastly Tories are attack must of course be good.
A viral video from CPAC showed a rightwing activist called Alex Stein harassing a Vice reporter, following her around and taunting her for wearing a mask. I thought he looked like a standard-issue jerk, then I read this profile of him. His grandmother shot a school kid in the arm, his dad ran a bail bond business, and his mother died of Covid. He is a former reality TV show contestant. (Insider reported on him losing $80,000 inn fantasy football in 2014.) Lotta people out there who needed therapy and instead got Twitter.
“You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” Trump demanded. “Which generals?” John Kelly asked. “The German generals in World War II,” Trump said. (The New Yorker)
“But the manual transmission’s chief appeal derives from the feeling it imparts to the driver: a sense, whether real or imagined, that he or she is in control.” The end of manual cars should be mourned (The Atlantic).
“That passive income, which is the real American dream, is no longer something that the actual artists—not just actors but writers and directors and everyone else who ever made a dime off of residuals—involved in the entertainment business get to enjoy. The same situation is happening in media, too. Writers are paid less now than they were 50 years ago, for the same work. Ernest Hemingway was paid $1 a word in 1936. That’s more than $21.00 per word in today’s dollars.” (Defector)
“The IAI’s representative claimed that it ‘does not believe it has ever sought to invite Assad to events but would have no objection to doing so’ because it ‘believes in open discussion even between those who hold views with which we might fundamentally disagree.’” Some background on the company which produces How The Light Gets In (The Fence).
Here is where I would do embroidery while you received gentleman callers:
And here is where I would pay no compliments to your mother, because she deserves no such attention:
See you next time!