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April 04, 2005

Razib on Wine-and-Cheesers

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I have more reservations about the legacy of the Englightenment (well, OK, the French Enlightenment) than he does. But Razib's recent burst of eloquence -- inspired as much by annoyance with wine-and-cheese liberals as by admiration for Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- may still be a posting for the blog-ages.



posted by Michael at April 4, 2005


Razib should be encouraged to publish this in print.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 5, 2005 12:30 AM

Razib is a seriously smart guy. Don't know why he let so many other people into gnxp though - starting from him, the average quality was only going to go down. And it has. I don't generally read it any more. (Seriously smart proprietors of other group blogs, even if they think they don't have the time/energy to keep the momentum up themselves, could also take note of this)

Posted by: Alan Little on April 5, 2005 8:04 AM

Nice article from Razib, but the use of the term "wine-and-cheesers" to describe urban liberal elites sounds *so* 1980's-ish. We need a more modern food-related term to describe that set. "Sushis?" No, that can apply to adventurous eaters regardless of political orientation. "Granolas?" Nope, already been used. "Organics?" Hmmm, now we might be onto something :)

Posted by: Peter on April 5, 2005 9:55 AM

Razib now lives in Eugene, Oregon, where even the Sixties never ended, much less the Eighties.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 5, 2005 10:33 AM

I see I'm in a doghouse: went yesterday to an Art Deco Society for a lecture on transatlantic steamers - and attended wine-and-cheese reception afterwards!
Well, cheesesticks, to be precise. And grapes. And wonderful petite ageless ladies in cascades of sparkles, accompanied by crooked over gents in identical tweed jackets, who nodded approvingly when lecturer described the trips on Lausitania

Which doesn't make them less "wine-and-cheesers", of course.
(One of the lecturer's passages: German and British ship companies made money by transporting immigrants, so of course one of the disadvantages to the first-class passenger was the view from his tennis court to the lower deck, with its swarm of stateroom-less immigrants below. So, naturally, when French entered the picture with their in-crrrre-dble liners, the greatest benefit they offered to sensible traveler - particularly, American traveler, was their firm refusal to provide steerage.)

I had a swell time, regardless.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2005 10:53 AM

Peter -- what you're probably looking for is some of those designer vegetables, like the gourmet Peruvian potatoes featured on Brad DeLong just now. Or quinoa.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 5, 2005 11:35 AM

"The quinoa crowd" -- that works for me. Well, it does if "quinoa" is pronounced the way I think it is: kee-nwah. Am I right on that?

John E. -- Why should Razib publish his posting "in print"? I mean, why not, of course. But it's probably being read by more people online than it ever would be in print, unless he places it at something like the New Republic or the Atlantic. Judging from my own reading habits, I'm not sure about that, come to think of it. I'm reading less and less "real print" and more and more electronically-published writing. Anyway, I'd make a small argument that we're mistaken to think of a hierarchy of writing in which "published in real print" is at the top. But I wouldn't persist for long, and I may be mistaking your point anyway ... Anyway, I've wrestled with this a bit: shouldn't some of our own meatier postings here get "really" published? And then I thought, "what's not real about blog postings?" Most books, after all, get badly published, sell in tiny volumes, and then sit gathering dust and unread. Blog postings at least might turn up in Google searches.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2005 1:34 PM

I actually suggested the Atlantic to Razib. I think he's ready for the big time. There'd be money in it, and doors would open for him.

Philosophically, I'm with you 110% on electronic publication. But I'm finding it hard the people who I want to read my stuff to do so. And I'd like to see some money sometime too. I don't absolutely need it, but I sure could use it.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 5, 2005 2:21 PM

I concur that this needs to get published off-line. I was thinking the (British) Spectator magazine, or perhaps one of the London newspapers.

Posted by: Nick on April 5, 2005 3:05 PM

"Kee-nwah" indeed is the correct pronunciation.
Quinoa consumption probably wouldn't have been a distinguishing feature of limousine-liberal types as recently as a year or two ago. At that time it was sufficiently exotic as to appeal to adventurous eaters, a/k/a food snobs, of all political stripes.* Today, however, quinoa is just common enough that it's lost most of its exoticness and is capable of acquiring political connotations. Note, in this context, that its South American Indian origins may contribute to its appeal among sophisticated urban liberals.

* = It may well be that food snobbery is a fundamentally liberal characteristic - have any Hillary supporters ever ordered the largest breakfast platter at Waffle House? - but that's another topic for another time.

Posted by: Peter on April 5, 2005 4:04 PM

You know, I responded to Razib's piece on such a visceral level: in some ways it's about authenticity and who gets to decide what is authentic. That's how it seems to me - Indian-American 'desi', Midwest-American raised me! You spend so much trying to decide who you are (well, we all do. It will be the life-work of most of us, yes?) How American am I? How Indian am I? Your parents and the immigrant culture you grow up in tell you one thing, the culture you interact in at school, at work, tell you another. So it's really, really annoying to have someone tell you what you should be based on a caricature of what they think, er, you should be. Oh dear. I'm muddling it.

So, here's a story. I went (very eagerly) to a politically-liberal liberal arts college that prided itself on its progressiveness. I couldn't wait. "Now someone will really understand me, unlike my mean parents who want me to be Indian. But I grew up here. I am an American." Oh, woe is the misunderstood undergraduate....

I had an anthropology class where we were discussing some principle or other. Something to do with reciprocity? I have no idea why I offered the following as an example, but I did. I said maybe immigrant communities are so tightly knit (especially my Indian one) because they want to have available a population of marriageable 'immigrant children' at a later date, when their own kids are grown up. I didn't mean arranged marriages, but somehow it came out that way (well, maybe I wanted to shock and goad a little, just a little.)

Silence in the classroom. They did not know what to say. The class seemed shocked, or appalled, that they would have to deal with something less than 'desirable' in a culture that was so lovely and Eastern. More authentic than Western culture you know? The whole incident embarrassed and bugged the crap out of me at the same time. I was (sadly) embarrassed to really tell it like it was: my parents liked America and things about America the class probably thought was 'low' American culture. So, as long as I talked about things like my Hindu, Indian traditions I was ok. But, God forbid, I should mention that my parents liked those new, bland McMansion housing developments ("We had old stuff in India") or took a less than appreciative view of going on political protests ("You are in school to learn"). I wanted Berkenstocks so bad but was afraid to ask for the money for something my parents would think was silly. 70 bucks for chappals? 50 bucks for ripped jeans? Ah, American teenagers. When we were in India, we dressed so sharply and tried to look neat for the teachers!

It's like opening up an issue of India Abroad and seeing letter after letter scolding the desi Bush voters for voting 'out of type'.

The wine-and-cheese ones are just the last straw, know what I mean? :)

Posted by: MD on April 5, 2005 5:43 PM

Yikes, that turned out much longer than I meant. Sorry for posting such a long comment!

Posted by: MD on April 5, 2005 5:45 PM

Just a sort of aside, but one reason why Razib's piece is important is that the US is highly dependent of South and East Asians for the technical skills we need to keep going. So Razib isn't just one guy..... but wait a minute, I just sterotyped him again.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 5, 2005 6:45 PM

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