The Thing Speaks for Whatever

The Birth of a Nation? or, WTF, NYT? (part 1)

In Rooks, Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. on June 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm

If you hadn’t heard that Noah Feldman, Harvard ConLaw professor, recently wrote a completely flabbergasting OpEd for the New York Times, allow me to break the bad news.  Noah Feldman, Harvard ConLaw professor recently wro – you know what?  Screw it.  Remember Roger Ebert’s review of North?  No?  Because that’s a completely ridiculous thing to remember?*  Fair enough.  You should know, then, that it (in)famously contained the lines:

North” is one of the most unpleasant, contrived, artificial, cloying experiences I’ve had at the movies. To call it manipulative would be inaccurate; it has an ambition to manipulate, but fails.


I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

Sub in ‘Noah Feldman’s completely flabbergasting article’ for ‘North’ and you’ve basically got the tenor of how I feel about this piece.  I’m not sure if the NYT site hits were ebbing dangerously low and they needed some controversy.  I’m not sure if someone spiked the watercooler.  Alls I can say is this piece, in conjunction with Camille Paglia’s delightful romp in the world of complete absurdity (blogpost forthcoming) nearly set my head to asploading.

Unfortunately, I was worried that if I did a point by point breakdown of everything that was wrong with this article, I’d have absolutely zero juice left with which to tackle Paglia’s daring monstrosity in the next day or two.  (If anyone else would like to do a point-by-point breakdown of everything wrong with Feldman’s Ode to a WASP, I’d be happy to publish it on this here sparkly new blog, so shoot me an email/comment/whatevs.)  So what to do?  Thankfully, a VerySmartFriend who prefers to remain anonymous was equally incensed, and we got to ranting via gchat.  Read on iffn’ you wanna (it’s nothing earth-shattering, just two angry protoacademics on a tear), but the sarcasm is about neck deep at points, so forewarned is forearmed.

VerySmartFriend: i know, i was completely livid when i read it – not the biggest noah feldman fan in general, but, thank god for WASPs?
me: unbefuckinglievable
i mean, seriously
VerySmartFriend: and they took part in slavery, you know, just a lil bit
how is someone who is jewish who works on arab stuff, who is MARRIED to someone chinese the one who writes this?
me: i’m going to laud your demise with your aggrandizement, cause that makes sense
VerySmartFriend: right, and american history can be told as the story of princeton’s eating clubs
maybe he thought it was funny?
me: well, no jews, no blacks, no women allowed
seems fairly accurate to the history of the US
VerySmartFriend: i think blacks were incorporated in the urban ethnic minorities
which the WASPs generously allowed to join them
very sweet of them
me: like immigrants to this country!
here on somebody’s sufferance, at any rate
VerySmartFriend: lol, i am really confused by it
i love the history of the world thing
that’s my favorite part
that is a bold move, right there
me: the world has been made of wasps since time immemorial
didn’t you know?
VerySmartFriend: you know, i really didn’t, until i read this article
thank you, noah!
me: thousands of years of wasps
VerySmartFriend: and they came up with rights! and they are sooo nice!
me: you were just criminally misinformed, clearly
we really should measure time by the coming of the WASP
VerySmartFriend: ADWASP
me: or just WASP
VerySmartFriend: is the dividing line when the 1st urban ethnic minority joined them for brunch or the first woman?
me: I mean, we’re talking an age, here
VerySmartFriend: ’cause WASPs are men
unless otherwise noted
me: neither
it’s when Protestantism emerged, fully formed, from Martin Luther’s rather door-obsessed brain.
to manifest the coming of the WASP
VerySmartFriend: seriously, do we live in the twilight zone or something?
this is what he thinks of, when he thinks about Kagan being appointed to SCOTUS?
me: i’m becoming more convinced by the day. i mean, really.
i’m pretty sure i read the first part of this article back when Rudyard Kipling wrote it
VerySmartFriend: i don’t think he was the first one
me: we are talking that level of journalism
VerySmartFriend: he came up with the jungle book,** i give him props for that
me: ok, but it’s clearly part of an ongoing series
VerySmartFriend: but homeboy is not even a WASP!!!!!
i also love too, that he’s married to the ONLY non-white hire that kagan made
and she’s a spousal hire
me: the hell is with her husband?
VerySmartFriend: i mean, can you imagine the editing process?
be bolder, noah, BOLDER!
me: No, I can’t. I’m not Wasp enough for the task. Truly.
VerySmartFriend: the values of merit and inclusion
and he has it like these are WASP traits that everyone else then adopted
me: they aren’t?
i feel adopted!
but still!
VerySmartFriend: and they put inalienable rights in the constitution and the separation of church and state
never mind the fact that NEITHER ONE of those things are actually IN the fucking constitution
and only WASPs fought the american revolution
“Yet, after the ideals of meritocratic inclusion gained a foothold, progress was remarkably steady and smooth. “
it must be true
VerySmartFriend: my god
i mean, i look at it – like every sentence in this was out of control
me: maybe site visits were down?
VerySmartFriend: maybe
oh, also, the ideal of fair play?
is that in between the buggery?
and the success based on merit in the constitution?
where is that?
doesn’t this man teach con law?
me: i believe he does, clearly a fact i regret now more than i did last week
VerySmartFriend: and the funny thing too is that sotomayor and kagan don’t have children, so their lines actually end with them
he’s so interested in family lineage, grr
me: it’s all that matters.
it’s how you make a family.
oh hey, i heard there was a little parade in New York this past weekend?
I hope it was a family parade!
VerySmartFriend: yeah, [significant other] stepped out of his apartment and it was guarded by “the twat patrol”
i am so amazed by this
fair play
the american revolution, but not the civil war
cause that would mess things up
me: talking about the reconstruction amendments and their interpretation would make his theory asplode
so I can understand the omission
VerySmartFriend: well, all the bad things just came out of nowhere
it’s not part of this glorious WASP lineage
me: probably because of the inclusion and influx of the inappropriately ungrateful non-WASP (non-dudes)
just UGH
VerySmartFriend: exactly
i didn’t know i could hate princeton**** more than i do now
In the 1960s, however, Princeton made a conscious decision to change
no pressure, or anything – it was just spontaneous!
and it’s not like alito fought the inclusion of women
me: nope! and even if he did, he’s a Catholic.
Not a WASP!
VerySmartFriend: maybe he didn’t learn those lessons of fair play that were developed in the english schools
me: :::sigh:::
VerySmartFriend: yup
thanks for the rant, i needed it
me: ha, totally – i enjoyed it
which is better than how i felt after reading that crap

*Except for the five of you who are totally saying, “Of course I remember Ebert’s review of North; shit is classic.”  Whoever you are, I want you to know that I appreciate you.

**It’s the song from Disney’s The Jungle Book, swing-style.  Hell, even that call towards “civilization” is less upsetting than this article; that’s right, the article is more problematic than a Disney film.  Now there’s something I don’t get to say very often.

***The segment with Pat really gets underway at about 4:40, though given the inspiration and subject of Feldman’s article, the whole segment seems strangely relevant.  Rachel’s numerical rebuttal to Pat’s claims the next day, here (with a bit of commentary at the beginning and end), if you want to relive that day in the blogosphere once more, with feeling.

****This opinion reflects the view of only the VerySmartFriend, who attended another Ivy, not any owners of this blog, who may or may not be trying to convince a delightful Princeton grad (with a sense of humor about her school) to come talk about fashion ‘n’ things here on Res Ipsa Etc.

  1. First and foremost, I love Roger Ebert with all of my heart, and I had never read that review, so that was awesome.

    Also, thank you for this. I was so very, very perplexed by this column on, like, every conceivable level. Probably most about how this was supposed to be somehow about Kagan? Christ on a biscuit….

  2. I am one of the ones you are speaking to in your first footnote. Just for the record, wanted to get that one in there. One down, four to go.

    • Surprisingly, or maybe not since you folks seem to be awesome, there are three people so far, including you, who have mentioned their recollection of the North review since this post went up. So two to go!

Whatever, yo.

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