Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Office waves the white flag by bringing in Will Ferrell

Perhaps proving that I am well on my way to stuffy ol' adulthood, I was more perplexed than pleased by the news of Will Ferrell's four-episode guest spot on The Office. Ferrell will appear during the story arc that sees off Michael Scott, adding some seemingly redundant hoopla to what was already going to be the highly publicized event of Steve Carell's exit from the show.

Ferrell will appear not only in Carell's final episode but in one more after that. It's hard to see this as anything other than a panic move. Stunt casting of this magnitude can't help but create the impression that the producers don't have much faith in the show's ability to hold an audience once Michael Scott isn't at its center. That may or may not be true, but it's absolutely the message they (or NBC) are sending. Unfortunately it's one I happen to agree with.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Public Polling and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (A nerd two-fer!)

On Twitter, Steve Silberman links to a new report showing that only 52% of Americans know that vaccines don't cause autism. As another Twitterer points out, the veracity of online surveys is always tough to measure, since they tend to be self-selecting. But it raises another question for me, one I haven't seen addressed very much: Does the very nature of polling people about empirical facts make them more likely to think that the topic is more subjective than it really is? That is, is there a Heisenberg effect in polling, whereby one cannot effectively measure public opinion without also shaping it?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bridges to Nowhere

I suppose I don't have anything against bipartisanship per se. Nor do I consider it a positive good in and of itself. It's a helpful tool sometimes and a harmful one at others, mostly depending on who's wielding it, like the Bible or Wikipedia. What I can't understand or abide is the cult of Bipartisanship Uber Alles, and the notion of compromise as an end rather than a means, which is as empty as Evan Bayh's suit.

The latest exercise in empty symbolism is a proposal that members of Congress should sit in one unified mass during the upcoming State of the Union address, rather than following the usual practice of Democrats on one side of the aisle and Republicans on the other. You can practically hear David Brooks's heart fluttering like a 12-year old girl who's just been given a pony wearing a Justin Bieber backstage pass around its neck.

So this is what the world looks like through beige-colored glasses. Guys, there's still time to organize a pre-address singing of "Row Row Row Your Boat" in 535-part rounds. Okay, now just the junior senators!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Violent rhetoric and free speech

Many threads of debate have been winding through my Twitter feed today in the aftermath of yesterday's tragedy in Arizona.  One that I've been particularly tangling with concerns the role played by the media and political climate, specifically the venomous hostility that's de rigueur on much of the right. George Packer sums up the argument against "the ugliness to which our politics has sunk" in the New Yorker.  Over in Slate, Jack Shafer dismisses the notion that political speech might motivate violent behavior, specifically calling out Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, whose remarks have been much pored over in today's coverage.

Friday, January 7, 2011


This is a short story I wrote last year. Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Daglas. Reprinted here by permission of me.
Even after three months, the view from the 38th floor is dizzying.  The horizon stretching into the next state, the tops of neighboring skyscrapers hovering at eye level, the columns of headlights marching down the expressway like pixels in an arcade game – it all can still leave me wondering how I got up here.  Not that long ago, my view was from a garden level office, where I pushed papers for a nine- person insurance outfit while banging out my MBA.  One job fair, three grueling interviews and who knows how many lucky breaks later, here I am.  Top of the world, ma, like the old movie said.