Plans

Saturdays are our days for fun and relaxation. So this is what we will do tomorrow.

1. In the morning we will drive to St. Louis for N.’s session with the analyst. When N is in session, I stay at my favorite coffee-shop that has a real big-city feel.

2. After the session, we will go to our favorite store to buy berries. They sell these enormous and very sweet blueberries that we love to eat in bed.

3. Then we are going to an Indian buffet.

4. After that, I will practice uphill and downhill parking. Our state doesn’t require parallel parking for the driving exam, so this is the only kind of parking I will need to master.

5. Then I will work on my new article which is the very first time I’m writing on the subject of my next book.

6. And in the evening we are going to the best restaurant in the area. It is run by a couple of chefs from California who serve Californian food. This already makes them the best place for miles and miles around.

7. And while all this is going on, I will be snatching a moment here and there to read the new book by a great historian Michael Richards. At first, I requested it through interlibrary loans, but then realized that I wouldn’t be able to relinquish it, so it’s better just to buy it. I have started a small personal library of books on the Civil War. Imagine: a book case filled with these books. That will be beautiful.

We Suck

I really respect the Spanish people. They have recorded the names and the stories of practically everybody who died in their war. When there was no institutional support for this effort, private citizens investigated using their own time and resources.

And then look at us in the FSU. We discussed Stalinism for all of two seconds and then pretended that USSR didn’t happen at all. It is decidedly unfashionable to mention our history. Officially and academically, there is nothing but pretense that the past was not that bad.

In short, we suck and the Spanish rock.

Chocolate

I just discovered that See’s is offering free shipping on all big orders for St. Valentine’s. Somebody is totally getting a 3-pound box of the best candy in the world as a Valentine from me. I always create my own selection because I don’t want to get those chewy candies that stick in your teeth for ever.

But See’s is definitely the best chocolate in the world. The person who introduced me to them is probably reading right now and smiling.

“What Drives Success?”, Part II

The authors of the article found a curious formula that explains high levels of success among some immigrants:

It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.

I’m not sure if this formula works, but it’s good to see somebody try to come up with an answer. I have 2 characteristics out of 3. So does N although they are not the same as mine. I have zero impulse control and his belief in his exceptionality is limited to him thinking that he is exceptionally unexceptional.

It is true, as the article claims, that the feeling of nothing ever being enough (to compensate for being damaged, rendered invaluable by immigration) is part of many immigrants’ experience:

Numerous studies, including in-depth field work conducted by the Harvard sociologist Vivian S. Louie, reveal Chinese immigrant parents frequently imposing exorbitant academic expectations on their children (“Why only a 99?”), making them feel that “family honor” depends on their success.

“Why only a 99?” is something I heard a lot from my father but, and this is curious, only after immigration. Before, he’d always insisted that grades were a useless waste of time.

Where the article fails is in its definition of self-esteem. Its authors (and this is where Chua’s severe psychological issues obviously made an impact) don’t understand that high self-esteem is promoted precisely by “Why only a 99?” and not by what they confuse for self-esteem:

By contrast, white American parents have been found to be more focused on building children’s social skills and self-esteem. There’s an ocean of difference between “You’re amazing. Mommy and Daddy never want you to worry about a thing” and “If you don’t do well at school, you’ll let down the family and end up a bum on the streets.”

On no planet does “You’re amazing. Mommy and Daddy never want you to worry about a thing” lead to high self-esteem. Leaving this terminological blunder aside, the following paragraph is very valuable and true:

Moreover, being an outsider in a society — and America’s most successful groups are all outsiders in one way or another — is a source of insecurity in itself. Immigrants worry about whether they can survive in a strange land, often communicating a sense of life’s precariousness to their children. Hence the common credo: They can take away your home or business, but never your education, so study harder. . . In combination with a superiority complex, the feeling of being underestimated or scorned can be a powerful motivator.

The article should have ended on this strong statement. Unfortunately, it rambles on for quite a while, stringing together dozens upon dozens of PC platitudes that are obviously supposed to compensate for one of the greatest sins an immigrant might commit. That sin is confessing that she or he values being an immigrant and is not interested in becoming 100% Americanized.

The authors of the article get so terrified of their own daring that they start groveling and wildly flattering their non-immigrant readers. This is an illustration of one more trait needed to succeed as an immigrant which these writers didn’t mention.

“What Drives Success?”, Part I

I hate Amy Chua, a notorious child abuser, with a fiery passion but it seems like some smart Jew let her add her name to his on a very interesting article*. It is titled “What Drives Success?” and discusses the differences in achievement between various immigrant groups. I’m an immigrant from a traditionally under-performing group, so obviously the subject interests me.

The article shares some very interesting information about the high levels of attainment among different groups. Here are some facts that I found interesting:

For the 2013 school year, Stuyvesant High School offered admission, based solely on a standardized entrance exam, to nine black students, 24 Hispanics, 177 whites and 620 Asians. Among the Asians of Chinese origin, many are the children of restaurant workers and other working-class immigrants.

Good for you, Chinese Asians! This success is of great interest to me because my immigrant community is in many ways similar to the Chinese-American (a closed, very insular community, a history of living in a Communist regime, a harder time inscribing ourselves into our new societies. And we also have a lot of Amy Chua type of child abuse.) Still, we don’t get to Stuyvesant in massive numbers if there is no chance of bribing one’s way in.

And here is more interesting stuff:

Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry; over a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as compared with only about 11 percent of whites.

Yes, this is an immigrant community that consists of scarily brilliant people. But I didn’t know they were doing this well.

The article also discusses the success of Cuban-Americans but that is something very easy to understand. The people who flee a Communist revolution are always the most brilliant, enterprising, self-reliant, non-conformist, and likely to succeed everywhere. Within a couple of generations, a Communist system stomps all of these qualities out and we get the Russian-speaking immigrants who aren’t saved from being passive, sullen, under-achieving, and on the perennial hunt for handouts even by being, for the most part, Jewish.

Of course, it is obvious to everybody that these differences are in no way in-born:

Group success in America often tends to dissipate after two generations. . . The fact that groups rise and fall this way punctures the whole idea of “model minorities” or that groups succeed because of innate, biological differences. Rather, there are cultural forces at work.

*If this comment bothered you, ask yourself why child abuse seems less important than the possibility that somebody is not very nice to an adult. And yes, I know Rubenfeld is her husband, this in no way changes the facts.

[To be continued. . .]

“Nobody Will Ever Read Your Research”

I have finally figured out why some people keep saying that “nobody will ever read your scholarship, it is doomed to remain ignored and unread.”

These people don’t read any scholarship in their own field. They just glance perfunctorily at an article here and there to cull a few quotes. To them, it is impossible to imagine that there are people who follow the work of their favorite scholars and read everything they publish and much of what they quote.

Books We Haven’t Read (But Always Wanted To)

An anti-intellectual, anti-scholarship, “research is useless and literary studies should die already” article has appeared in Chronicle of Higher Education. Well, what else is new? you will ask. That’s all CHE does any longer. The first three sentences of this embarrassingly stupid piece, however, are kind of interesting.

Before I get to the minuscule part of the article that makes sense, I want to say that the article’s author, Michael Farber, should have the courage of his opinions and leave his position to those who are not too lazy or too stupid to have a productive research career. It is offensive to see somebody whine so pathetically and wordily about how hard it is for a scholar to make himself read.

Leaving the idiocy of this unintelligent and dishonest fellow aside, his article contains an interesting question (which he didn’t even come up with on his own, of course):

There are books we all know we should have read but we never actually got around to reading them. Is there a book you don’t want to confess not having read?

I think this could be a fun discussion.

Could End Up

From the mandated crime-reporting training I’m undergoing:

So if you have sex with somebody who does not appear to be conscious or cannot consent, that could end up being rape or could end up being reported as a rape. I mean, if the other person says the next day, “Oh, I didn’t want to have sex,” then that could end up being reported as, you know, a sexual assault.

I think I was better off before the training, to be honest. The “could end up” part is very depressing. And the rest is even worse.

Helen Graham’s The War and Its Shadow

The best new book on the Spanish Civil War I have read recently is Helen Graham’s The War and Its Shadow. It will be of interest both to those who know absolutely nothing about the war and those who know a lot.

Here is a great review of the book by Richard Baxtell.

I’m really afraid people will start picking up the widely reviewed and advertised book by Treglown, and that will be a horrible mistake.

Helen Graham is a great historian. I’d even say, a Great Historian.

And another absolutely phenomenal historian is Michael Richards whose new book on the Spanish Civil war I haven’t read yet. My most recent article’s bibliography reads like a tribute to Richards. Well, it isn’t my fault that everything he says is so insightful.