Megan McArdle Orders the Burlwood Dash For Her Tumbrel

Blogger’s Note: Zandar (apologia pro vita sua and all that) and Asiangrrl goaded me into diving once more into the swamp that is Megan McArdle’s prose.  But this is it.  There’s real and much more interesting work to be done out there, good stuff to read and (I hope) write.  And it’s clear that I can’t do what folks like TBogg and DougJ have mastered — the precision strike, 300 words and out, that leave the divine Ms. MM’s latest smoking in the ruins.  There’s no “I can handle just one more toke” self-delusion available to me.

So I’m quitting. Cold turkey.

This is the last McArdle post for at least six months — and I’ve empowered my colleague, Seth Mnookin, to tase me if I slip.

Also:  to steal Cosma Shalizi’s customary phrase, here is an attention conservation notice.  What follows is about 2,700 words vivisecting a 1,000 word or so book review.  It’s John Foster Dulles-scale overkill. It’s just me lancing a boil.  That’s all.  Read it at your own pleasure — but don’t come complaining to me that you’ll never get those minutes back.  We cool?

_______________________

My uncle, the ex RA officer, once told me the grim term-of-art British soldiers coined adapted to describe IRA bomb-makers inept enough to blow themselves up.  They had scored, it was said, an own-goal.

So it is, (without bloodshed, thankfully) that we must read the latest from our favorite Marie Antoinette re-enactor, Megan McArdle, writing in last weekend’s Wall St. Journal.  (And yes, I know DougJ got here first, along with all you would expect from the Balloon Juice commentariat, but what good is snark without oversnark, I say.  Charlie Pierce too.  (Update: and, of course, the invaluable Susan of Texas.) Well, say I, a feast is as good as enough, is it not?

Just to recap:  last Saturday, McArdle wrote what was ostensibly a book review that devolved rapidly into a celebration of McArdle’s own purchasing habits and the particular form of her pursuit of happiness.

There’s a lot that could be said about the miserably parched self-and-world view that informs that defense, but the rest of the column is equally egregious, so, in my usual succinct fashion, I decided to have a whack at it:

McArdle begins by announcing that she has bought herself a $1,500 food processor/cooking robot, a Buck Rodgers gadget called a Thermomix. This machine’s claim to fame is that it combines a chopper/grinder/stirrer function with a precision scale and a heating element.  Toss stuff into its mixer bowl in the right order and in what the machine tells you are the right amounts, press some buttons in the correct sequence, and standardized results accrue.

Now, contrary to the outrage in DougJ’s thread, I’m going to say up front that I have no problem with McArdle lusting after this, buying one — it’s her money to blow, after all — and concluding that this kind of automated cooking satisfies her urges.  I’ve dumped most of my sideways snark on this question to the footnote, for anyone that cares.*

No, what gets me, pretty much as always with this writer’s stuff, is her ferocious disregard for basic craft, and what I think is the essential bargain journalists make with their readers.

So, to begin, here she is, ex cathedra, on the book nominally under review, James Roberts’ Shiny Objects:

It’s a thorough survey of both academic research on consumerism and basic finance advice. Still, I first ran into an argument I hadn’t seen before somewhere around page 200…

We have a familiar McArdle rhetorical cheat here.  “I first ran into an argument I hadn’t seen before around page 200…” as if her familiarity with this literature is itself somehow dispositive.  I’ll give you that she’s not quite saying the arguments are wrong, but it is a purely uncheckable diminuition of her antagonist’s authority.

Next:

And well before then Mr. Roberts had fallen into some of the terrible habits of the genre. Though less openly contemptuous of the spendthrift masses than many of his fellow scolds, he still exudes that particular sanctimonious anti-materialism so often found among modestly remunerated professors and journalists.

Oh, snap!  It’s a measure of McArdle’s particular qualities that she manages to transform whatever publication chooses to admit her to its space into that privileged corner of the school steps where the Mean Girls live.

I mean, seriously:  working at jobs we like for money less than that the 1 % can command so warps the character as to turn us unfortunate journalists and professors into hypocritical scolds.  Damn.  I’m short on my month’s quota of vituperation and visible displays of hair-shirt couture.

Of course, this is (a) simple pre-emption:  “I’m not a culinary snob, wielding cash to distract as I chase the lives of my betters.  You’re the snob!  So there!”

And (b) it’s nonsense.  Professors and journalists are not badly paid by any reasonable standard. Roberts himself is a professor of marketing at Baylor, and as of 2009, the mean salary for such faculty was $138,000.   That’s not Prada and hot and cold running Dom rich, but it’s not bad coin by anyone’s standards, and applied to the cost of living in Robert’s Waco, Texas, that’s a sum that will set you up very nicely indeed.

All this is crushing flies with a jack-hammer, I know, but the point is, I think, pretty damn obvious:  McArdle hasn’t or won’t do the work to test the question on the table: whether or not money buys you happiness.  So she throws monkey faeces at the wall instead.

To continue:

Here are some of the things that upset him and that “document our preoccupation with status consumption”: Lucky Jeans, bling, Hummers, iPhones, 52-inch plasma televisions, purebred lapdogs, McMansions, expensive rims for your tires, couture, Gulfstream jets and Abercrombie & Fitch. This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors used to refer to as “these people,” usually while discussing their voting habits or taste in talk radio. As with most such books, considerably less space is devoted to the extravagant excesses of European travel, arts-enrichment programs or collecting first editions.

I’ve long noted that McArdle has, to put it kindly, some reading comprehension problems; they are manifest again it this paragraph. She writes down a series of items.  Note that she does not quote — somehow she’s culled this set of items from what could be a single passage, or might be half the book, which would affect the interpretation of what Roberts was actually saying.

Now look at the key claim:  “This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors used to refer to as “these people,” usually while discussing their voting habits or taste in talk radio.”

Do you see a pattern of consumption in that catalogue?  Iphones and McMansions — just points on a single cultural and aspirational continuum, right?  a Gulfstream falls uniquely onto the same folks’ bucket lists as Abercrombie and Fitch products?  This is a set of cultural markers that clearly distinguishes Limbaugh dittoheads from those who shop at Murray’s Sturgeon?

What’s actually going on here is McArdle distorting what Roberts is trying to say, even  within her own skewed presentation of his case, in order to transform that serious argument into a spitball fight about class and privilege.  But everybody wants something on that list, and many of us want a lot of it, which is what I understand Roberts to be saying:  the pressure to consume affects us all, no matter what we got or where we live.  Oh — and I’d have to say — it’s pretty bold, to put the nicest spin on it, for a Manhattan-bred, beltway insider like McArdle to lecture a guy living in Waco about what ordinary Americans want.

Really, McArdle’s rush to contemn her neighbors for the class snobbery she imagines she hears (make the lambs stop screaming!) sounds to my suspicious ears to be something that has crossed the writer’s mind.  There’s just a little too much specific desire in that “bling…plasma…rims” catalogue for me to trust her claim as to who spoke such slurs and who listened.  And as for that ” considerably less space is devoted to the extravagant excesses of European travel, arts-enrichment programs or collecting first editions,” I bet Roberts didn’t mention $1,500 food choppers either.

Onward!

Consider the matter of status competition. Mr. Roberts, like so many before him, argues that conspicuous consumption is an unhappy zero-sum game. But this is of course true of most forms of competition: Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles.

Oh yeah?  McArdle must know a particularly miserable set of academics, which, now that I think on it, is not that farfetched.  All I can say is that at the conferences I attend, McArdle’s kind of high school (yes, that again) attention to who among us are the kewl kats is not the defining dynamic of the meetings.

Of course, the real stupidity here, beyond the “trust-me” bullsh*t inherent in the “most academics I know” approach to reporting, is the idea that academic exchange is merely the arena in which status competition plays out.  This is the shorthand response, but academics are members of a professional community.  They go to conferences to communicate results.   There is competition, and you notice the Nobels in the room and so on.  But most academics understand that better work by anyone raises the status of the entire group as well as of the individuals involved.  Success in physics or  geochronology or the study of counterfeiting and late 17th century finance (a plug, here, in case you were wondering (Kindle edition too!) is not  a zero-sum game.  That McArdle thinks it is explains much.

Any competition, from looks to money to academic credentialing, both consumes a lot of resources and makes many of the participants feel bad about themselves.

No.  See above.  For a beautiful account of the meaning of competing, and not just the competition, check out what is in my opinion the single best book about a sporting event ever written in America, John McPhee’s Levels of the Game.

Actually, I have to say that to say that this passage from McArdle actually made me feel a ghost of pity for her.  Such a direct glimpse into the poverty of her soul!  Setting aside all else:  what a drag it would be to be her.  (Apologies, Bobby D.)

There’s more — I’ve only covered the first half of a two-book review.  I just don’t have the strength to go through that latter half, beyond noting that it took me all of a couple of moments to find that in trashing his book she makes one claim that is simply at odds with what Rutgers economic historian James Livingston, actually says. It’s not “rich savers,” as she has it, whom Livingston charges with inflating bubbles.  Rather, he argues, “corporate profits …[are] just restless sums of surplus capital, ready to flood speculative markets at home and abroad.”  I have little doubt that similar problems obtain with the balance of her review, but there comes a point where even I can take no more.

So one last thought, really an explanation about why it is McArdle so gets under my skin.

That would be because she so diminishes the craft I have spent decades learning and now teach:  how to write about matters of fact; how to be a journalist.  I’ve detailed some, (by no means all) of the kinds of errors of argument and interpretation in this one little fish-wrap piece that make a mockery of the notion of a bargain of honesty with one’s readers.  But I’ve left till now the tic that McArdle displays over and over again that tells you that she simply can’t be trusted.  And that would be her near-constant invocation of strangely generic sources.

Journalists often use anonymous sources, and it’s always an issue.  But good journalists provide enough of the context of anonymity to give the reader a chance to gauge how likely it is that Mr. X actually said what he is reported to have done, and that Ms. Y is actually knowledgeable enough to be a sufficient authority for whatever the reporter asserts.  The guy inside Philip Morris who’s identified only as a Big Tobacco insider — that’s someone who’s need for anonymity the reader understands, and if he says that the tobacco companies knew about the smoking-cancer connection since the fifties — and oh, by the way, here are the shopping bags full of documents — then you know what you’re dealing with.

But those “neighbors” whom, presumably, McArdle engaged in friendly conversation, no doubt hiding her overflowing disdain with all the subtlety and grace for which she is so well known…I don’t think so.

Rather, whenever you read the broad cultural pronouncements of our Village betters, remember this:  the local taxi driver, the “concerned Democrat,” any of Megan McArdle’s usefully clueless liberal “friends”…they don’t exist.  Not in any meaningful sense, at any rate, and any actual journalist knows this, as does any competent editor.

And in the end, that’s why I’ve got to quit this beat for a while — a long time I hope.  McArdle has disproportionate influence, or at least, a much bigger megaphone than her own merits could command.  But ultimately, she’s just not that interesting.  There are better things in life to do than to spend precious moment, much less hours, contemplating the train wreck that passes for her body of work.

Oh — and one more thing.  Whilst I’ll defend to the death McArdle’s right to spend her cash on any damn gadget she wants (see the footnote immediately below), that doesn’t mean I won’t snicker at it.  And yup, a $1,500 kitchen robot is pretty much an après moi, le déluge kind of item.

Me, I’d rather Occupy My Kitchen, and dine (as last night) on roast capon with a pasta-and-sausage stuffing, squash and cippoline onions, sides, and an almond and pear tart, home made.  Did I mention that in bamboozling my beloved into marrying me, I gained a former pro chef as a roommate?  I believe I did.

*Go to it, I say.  I don’t even think that McArdle’s appreciation for what the machine can do is as hopelessly misconceived as her examples suggest. While making a béchamel sauce hardly requires such an investment, still I can see the convenience, and in the right context, some real value of such a device.

That would be in a professional kitchen, where the goal of uniform repetition is paramount.  Once you work out the recipe for something you want your restaurant to add to its menu, a machine that automates the process of turning out consistent results every time has an obvious value.  For the home cook?  Well, Nathan Myhrvold has one, and if you are his kind of chef, one fascinated by the application of technology and precision measurement/regulation to cooking (and with the budget to sustain your fancy), then fine.

If you’re McArdle, less compelled by molecular gastronomy than the kind of kitchen olympics that leads one to write a  phrase like “…perfect hollandaise and flawless béchamel can be produced in minutes with virtually no effort,” then clearly, this kind of robot can help mask any flaws in your basic kitchen technique. And, hell, take her word for it that the gizmo is fast and convenient, and that those qualities enable her to make food she likes more often than she previously could.  As McArdle perfectly correctly says — that’s a boon, for her.

There is a price to be paid, it seems to me:  a tedious leveling of one’s cooking.  Once the robot gets going, all you can do is accept the price of automation:  you get consistent results, but you can only experiment by rerunning the whole process — making the same dish again — for each change that might seem desirable.  When you cook by more pedestrian methods, you dip and intervene.  All in all, it’s a perfect device to turn the ambitious-but-not-terribly-talented home cook’s cuisine into an amateur version of the sort of restaurant Calvin Trillin marvelously dubbed the Maison de la Casa House.  But if you’ve got the money and you want the crutch — hell, why not?

Images: Joachim Wtewael, Kitchen Scene, 1605.

Jean Clouet (attr.), Charles IX of France with racket,  1552.

Bartholomeus van Bassen, The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, c. 1620-30.






118 replies
  1. 1
    different-church-lady says:

    Shorter Levenson: serial nitwit writes column defending conspicuous consumerism because conspicuous consumerism makes her happy; bullshit trowel is tool of choice. Hair shirt is removed from closet with great ceremony, but not quite donned.

  2. 2
    RossInDetroit says:

    I’ve said it before and I’m not shutting up now. Fancy kitchen toys are for rookies and they interfere with becoming a good cook. Cooking is about technique and technique comes from practice. Outsourcing the sauce to a machine is counter productive to learning to prepare good food.

  3. 3
    Marc says:

    It’s her relentless dishonesty and sophistry that gets to me. An actual, serious evaluation of an argument contrary to her ideology is inconceivable. A weak opposing viewpoint might get a strong counter; but a strong one will instead invoke some word game or distraction from her. She clearly doesn’t know when she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But it’s the obvious usage of rhetorical tricks when she’s facing something uncomfortable that’s the real indication of her character.

  4. 4
    Xenos says:

    You have earned your MacBargle vacation.

    Now to the next question: who are her editors, and why don’t they care about the quality of her output?

  5. 5
    different-church-lady says:

    This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors

    And with that we pretty much know all we need to before the sentence is even complete.

  6. 6
    Trakker says:

    Tom Levenson can turn coal into a diamond. He could make a piece on sausage-making seem interesting. If he was a perfume, Megan would be a fart. Great way to ease into my Sunday.

  7. 7
    different-church-lady says:

    @Xenos:

    Now to the next question: who are her editors, and why don’t they care about the quality of her output?

    In this instance her editors are employed by the Wall Street Journal. And in this instance it is a question of said editors understanding their audience quite well.

    In the instance of The Atlantic, on the other hand, I have no insight.

  8. 8
    Julia Grey says:

    Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles.

    No, Megan, that is what YOU do. And the fact that you think everyone else does, too, is just deeply, deeply sad. It’s one of the first things your therapist will try to get through to you: life is not a competition, and the more you see it that way, the more you try to make sure you “win” some kind of game you’re playing only in your own head, the unhappier you are going to be.

  9. 9
    Downpuppy says:

    Occupy the Kitchen?!

    Kinky Friedman’s Atrocity – Tompall Glaser cover

    Off to Comicon at the VFW.

  10. 10
    Julia Grey says:

    This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors…

    And with that we pretty much know all we need to before the sentence is even complete.

    Oh, yes, just another status check to her readers. Mentioning the price of the mixothermomasticator wasn’t enough.

  11. 11
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    Read the rest of this post

    No thank you. Had quite enough of the smug incompetent “economist”.

  12. 12
    Jerzy Russian says:

    But most academics understand that better work by anyone raises the status of the entire group as well as of the individuals involved.

    This nails it. You articulate these types of points nicely.

    Where do I send the bill for those lost minutes? My rates are reasonable, although there is a surcharge for evenings and weekends.

  13. 13
    Patrick Phelan says:

    Success in physics or geochronology or the study of counterfeiting and late 17th century finance is not a zero-sum game. That McArdle thinks it is explains much.

    I must admit, I am a bit of a gourmand when it comes to McArdle criticism. I despise her so much that it gives me thrills of schadenfreude to see her dealt with, and I hunt these things out as best I can. And this just reminds me of the time she said that Those People’s attempt at beautifying the world would be to ritually scar attractive people, because that’s exactly the same as sharing money around, right?

    Which leads me to realise that she thinks everything is a zero-sum game. Not just economics, not just academics, not just pulchritude… and it’s not just her admitting that to her, she can’t win unless someone is losing. She seems to think that it is literally impossible to win unless someone is losing.

    And that almost gives me that properly measured, heated, and stirred soupcon of pity you mention above… but then it quickly transfers itself to people who’ve been her friends and acquaintances too long to easily sever ties. Picture what it must be like, to be around a woman for whom every conversation has to have a winner and a loser!

    I’ll actually miss you going after McArdle, Mr. Levenson; you do an excellent job of it and do so with pretty pictures. But you have to prioritise your own sanity.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    MonkeyBoy says:

    I’ve known people who seem like McMegan and their main problems are:They don’t understand a lot of things

    1) They assume that the reason they don’t understand someone is that there is nothing there to understand. The person is just stringing together buzzwords and fancy rhetoric just to give the impression of meaning

    2) The the real game to be played is to fake a grasp of subject matter for the ultimate purpose of using such skills to establish a social dominance hierarchy

    Yes, some of that can go on in real intellectual interchanges but for few it is the goal. It can be really frustrating to interact with such people – you can have a long conversation where they indicate they completely understand what you say and agree with some of it – only to find out the next day that they were good at faking their understanding and have only a tiny bizarre understanding.

    McMegan would be the type of person who would see nothing wrong in using a taxi to compete in a 10-mile run because isn’t the whole point just to go from A to B.

  16. 16
    bjacques says:

    Based on her columns and seeing a few of her TV appearances, she strikes me as someone who, when she loses it, will lose it big. Maybe after a string of Republican losses and banking’s return to the days when it was a boring but respectable trade, catching her husband auditioning future trophy ex-wives–whatever.

    It probably won’t be like Jay Leno in the late Bill Hicks’s classic routine, but we can expect at least a glorious final piece of drunkblogging in the manner of Lord Haw Haw’s last broadcast as the Red Army tanks rolled into Berlin.

    At this point, her editor probably doesn’t even read her copy before hitting “Publish,” so it could happen.

    To speed that glorious day, please keep poking her with a stick.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    TL, I am sad to say that I fully expect that you will need to be tased. McMegan will write something over the holidays that you will feel compelled to eviscerate. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly….

  18. 18
    Warren Terra says:

    any of Megan McArdle’s usefully clueless liberal “friends”

    I really have to wonder about these people, if they exist.

    I mean, I hate McArdle for the terrible damage that she and her cadre of smugly entitled vapid centrist-to-conservative upperclass nitwits (her, Corby Kummer, Joshua Green, etcetera) did to a once-great magazine (still the home of the great James Fallows, but that’s about it). But she is in herself fairly inconsequential, her manifest self-obsession depriving her of the commitment to any external cause that could drive her to serious activism or partisan activity. So, in her own right: massively objectionable, but perhaps not meaningfully evil.

    But she’s married to Koch-funded astroturf specialist Peter Suderman. Anyone who’d be her friend would inevitably have to be polite to that sort of excrescence upon the species; and who knows what friends and colleagues he might bring along, what scum dredged from the depths of the human ethical pool he might introduce to the social environment? What sort of “liberal” could tolerate that?

  19. 19
    Warren Terra says:

    Arrgh. Moderated for using the word “Specia|ist”. Learned not to spell “socia|ist” correctly, but it’s the other offending words that slip by me …

  20. 20
    suzanne says:

    Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles.

    They sound like fun.

    I seriously think McMegan is likely one of the most unpleasant people just to know. that’s saying nothing of her skills as a journalist or as a cook. She just seems like someone I wouldn’t ever want to come into contact with for any reason.

  21. 21
    JPL says:

    Tom, Unless it is for mental health reasons, please do not take a six month hiatus from writing about her. You are the king of McMegan snark and I so enjoy reading your posts about her.

  22. 22
    RossInDetroit says:

    @MonkeyBoy:

    The the real game to be played is to fake a grasp of subject matter for the ultimate purpose of using such skills to establish a social dominance hierarchy

    All true, but the above accounts for 80% of all social interaction. Or is it just me?

  23. 23
    Cliff in NH says:

    @different-church-lady:

    In this instance her editors are employed by the Wall Street Journal. And in this instance it is a question of said editors understanding their audience quite well.
    __
    In the instance of The Atlantic, on the other hand, I have no insight.

    This should give some insight into the owner of the Atlantic

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....01576.html

    Part of what Bradley is selling is a commitment to long-form journalism, at a time when there are few quality outlets for those who believe in the power of nonfiction narrative. But what Goldberg calls “smart-bomb flattery” doesn’t hurt, and neither do salaries for top journalists ranging as high as $350,000.
    __
    “Money is a factor in every situation,” Bradley says. “I don’t want people taking salary cuts to come write for us. But it doesn’t get you across the finish line.” The big salaries have stirred some jealousy among the rank and file, tempered by gratitude that the owner isn’t cutting back during a tough time for the news business.

    The wall st journal is News Corp.

  24. 24
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @RossInDetroit:

    Outsourcing the sauce to a machine is granite counter productive to learning to prepare good food.

    Fixed for delicious McMeganesque verisimilitude.

  25. 25
    techno says:

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” 
    — John Kenneth Galbraith

    Doesn’t need a lot of updating, now does it.

  26. 26
    suzanne says:

    The fact that she just simply cannot enjoy food unless it involves “flawless bechamel” or something equally pretentious is just another indicator of the sheer unpleasantness of her personality. Good. Lord. I feel like I offend her aesthetic sensibilities merely by existing and enjoying pizza.

  27. 27
    bin Lurkin' says:

    @RossInDetroit:

    All true, but the above accounts for 80% of all social interaction. Or is it just me?

    That’s the optimistic appraisal, yes.

  28. 28
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @suzanne: Depends on the kind of pizza, now, doesn’t it?

  29. 29
    JGabriel says:

    Megan McArdle:

    Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles.

    Given the way McArdle talks about academics and academia, I’d be surprised if she know anyone in the field at all. Seriously, would you want to hang out with someone who constantly insults your career and denigrates its milieu?

    I strongly suspect that the only academics McMegan knows are the ones she reads about in the National Review and Ayn Rand’s oeuvre.

    .

  30. 30
    Zandar says:

    Zandar. 2 A’s. *frowny face*

  31. 31
    J says:

    Great piece, but I doubt that the expression ‘scoring an own goal’ was coined as you say. It’s been around for a long time and applied aptly to many other pieces of counterproductive behavior.

  32. 32
    Paris says:

    I remember a fascination with a machine where you could throw all the ingredients into it, press some buttons and voila you get a home made tube of bread. While once all the rage, they can be found for a couple of bucks at a community garage sale (or on a shelf in my basement). Gee whiz toys are always fascinating to the easily distracted.

  33. 33
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Now I’m waiting for jeffreyw to post an “Mmmm, flawless béchamel pizza” photo on his food porn Flickr site.

  34. 34
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Zandar: Arrgh! Fixt. Apologies.

  35. 35
    RSA says:

    McArdle must know a particularly miserable set of academics, which, now that I think on it, is not that farfetched. All I can say is that at the conferences I attend, McArdle’s kind of high school (yes, that again) attention to who among us are the kewl kats is not the defining dynamic of the meetings.

    When I go to a conference, the only rank ordering I apply to people is how much time I’d like to spend in conversation with them. I wonder whether McCardle has actually attended professional (that is, academic) conferences?

  36. 36
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Now I’m waiting for jeffreyw to post an “Mmmm, flawless béchamel pizza!” photo on his food porn Flickr site.

  37. 37
    Tom Levenson says:

    @J: Could be. I should have said — I first learned the phrase from my uncle in that context.

  38. 38
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    It’s the entire “everything is a zero sum game” part that pisses me off the most.

    It dominates our political discourse now. It’s hindering any progress in advancing our society overall…we’re too busy keeping score of who won and who lost to worry about the collective. Which isn’t a dirty word. We won WWII using a collective effort. A trained group of men and women, working in concert, will defeat in detail a bunch of nihilistic individuals, every single time.

    McMegan strikes me as one of those people who cannot enjoy their gourmet meal unless they know, with metaphysical certitude, that others are starving. Yet again, the short term mentality that ignores that you are indeed inviting a highly violent reaction that includes someone knitting and smirking at you at the end of your tumbrel ride.

  39. 39
    Professor says:

    @RossInDetroit: How come I always picture you as Ross Douthat!

  40. 40

    On the academics I think you slightly understate just how wrong McArdle is. The point is that some academics do useful work*. I mean penicillin and all that. McArdle notes that this work is partly motivated by competitiveness which is almost always** frustrate. So ? Work isn’t expected to be fun.

    That consumption, which should be fun, becomes a competition which most must lose, is very sad. It seems un-necessary. Of course, to be realistic, we must recognize that humans are naturally competitive and that we will find some way to make ourselves and each other miserable. But it would be nice if we could have fun when not doing useful work.

    *Now in some decades some academic fields do not produce useful results. I am an economist. Notably, the economic research which is currently useful given our current difficulties dates back to Hicks. The more recent competition in proving that one was a third not a fourth class mathematician actually makes it possible for some economists to not see what is in front of our noses. The effort was worse than wasted. Oh note the “some decades” which don’t include this one — the kids these days do useful research.

    ** OK so a good friend of mine, Andrei Shleifer, is an ultracompetitive economist who is so successful as to be actually satisfied, which I would never have imagined possible. Also he likes to collect first editions and travel in Europe.

  41. 41
    THE says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I don’t know if you have ever posted about the Google Art Project before.

    But for anyone who hasn’t seen it, there’s 17 museums involved in it now, and you can either explore the museums in a StreetView type of interface, or you can examine selections of their art in zoomable detail.

  42. 42
    sukabi says:

    99.9% of everything McArdle writes is a reflection of WHAT SHE BELIEVES, and has NOTHING to do with actual journalism, or even the world around her.

    She’s a waste of time, and is given too much attention.

  43. 43
    Marty says:

    @RossInDetroit: So true. I have seen the $1500 Thermomix in action and was not impressed. It is a gadget for people who don’t particularly like to cook.

    As for MM, she is so pathetic that I don’t think it dignifies the authors of this or any other blog to spend time debunking her.

  44. 44
    JGabriel says:

    @Patrick Phelan:

    Which leads me to realise that she thinks everything is a zero-sum game. … [McArdle] seems to think that it is literally impossible to win unless someone is losing.

    Yes, well. Let’s not forget that McArdle started her writing/blogging career under the self-designated nom de plume: Jane Galt. Spreading the good word of the Zero-Sum Game, along with the myth that any attempt to better the world or one’s own society/community can only be done at one’s loss, is her philosophical raison d’etre. That such a view also comforts the comfortable merely makes it profitable.

    .

  45. 45
    bjacques says:

    If you don’t like to cook, don’t bother with the Thermomix. Hold out for a Food-A-Rac-a-cycle, like the Jetsons have. This is the future; we should be keeping up with the Jetsons, not the Joneses.

  46. 46
    RossInDetroit says:

    @Professor:

    How come I always picture you as Ross Douthat!

    Here’s a replacement for that unfortunate image.

  47. 47
    Judas Escargot says:

    Most academics I know can rank-order everyone in the room at a professional conference with the speed and precision of a courtier at Versailles.

    Considering that the ‘academics’ she knows are most likely from her MBA days, she’s probably not making this up.

  48. 48
    Brachiator says:

    Ah, great. I got it now. McArdle’s little anecdote about her fancy toy is not about cooking at all. It is passive aggressive Mean Girl shit to underscore a point she makes in her book review.

    She is suggesting that it is a conservative virtue to amass wealth so that you can throw money around on the fanciest geegaws. She is trying to slap down what she foolishly believes is a point of the book by offering her own fabulous self as a counter example.

    What a dope.

    As an aside, this reminds me of a little tidbit I saw in the current Vanity Fair about Rita Jenrette, who had been married to a scandal marred congressman in the 70s or 80s, appeared in Playboy, and wrote a salacious tell all about Washington. Jenrette talks about not fitting into the Beltway social scene, and there is a supposedly stinging quote from social queen bee Sally Quinn noting what an insignificant nobody Rita was.

    And yet Rita went on to have a successful career in the high scale real estate market. And the kicker is that she later married an actual Italian prince, and lives very well indeed. And yet she appears happier to have a man who loves her and her happiness, than about her wealth and status. And if she ever got back to DC, people like Quinn would be lining up to kiss her butt.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @jeffreyw: Olives, mushrooms, and peperoni?

  51. 51
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @suzanne:

    The fact that she just simply cannot enjoy food unless it involves “flawless bechamel” or something equally pretentious is just another indicator of the sheer unpleasantness of her personality.

    She probably grew up eating turkey tetrazzini (casserole made from left-over turkey, noodles, and canned cream of mushroom soup) and has recently learned that her beloved plebian cream of mushroom soup is really a bechamel derivative – thus it is ok for social climbers to eat as long as it is given the pretentious name.

  52. 52
    jeffreyw says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: 2 out of 3, no mushrooms on that one. Fresh goat cheese, asiago, and fresh mozzarella, also, too.

  53. 53
    Roy G. says:

    Her secret shame is that the Thermomix is already gathering dust on the shelf. It may make one more appearance, to impress her guests around Christmas, but after that, the frisson of conspicuous consumption will be gone.

  54. 54
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @jeffreyw:

    Honestly, I don’t believe you did that! Okay, I’ll have a slice, and will gladly share with Suzanne and Omnes.

  55. 55
    RossInDetroit says:

    McMegan and others would have you believe that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply in the money/happiness equation. They can justify greed only if they believe – and make you believe – that the gain in standard of living is worth the sacrifices to get the dough.

  56. 56
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Thank you for spelling ‘peperoni’ correctly, hardly ever see the word without the egregious double p. (But my auto spell correct thinks you’re wrong. Sigh.)

  57. 57
    jeffreyw says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: LOL – no actual béchamel was harmed in this production.

  58. 58
    Bruce S says:

    I have a feeling that even people who would claim to take McArdle seriously, don’t take her seriously. This sets her apart from a handful of characters like Brooks and Sullivan who actually do have some cachet among allegedly “thinking” conservatives and self-loathing liberals (or perhaps, more inclusively, liberals desperate for some signs of intelligent life on “Mars.”)

  59. 59
    Jamie says:

    How would McMegan ever know how successful she is if she couldn’t mark it with kitchen gadgets? After all, we all know the proles aren’t really all that poor, what with cheap cell phones and microwaves and air conditioners. They just aren’t miserable enough to really make a distinction.

    Maybe if a few hundred thousand more can be tossed out of their houses, that would help.

  60. 60
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Firefox gets it right. OTOH FF insists that I have misspelled Obama.

  61. 61
    Amir Khalid says:

    You are wise to forswear, for the time being, contending in vain against Megan Mcardle’s stupidity. (I just hope I can last the six months wait until you resume.)

    So I clicked on the link and read the review. Yeesh. she’s like halfway through the piece before she even mentions the book under review. And since she’s mentioned another book or two first, you’ve got a bit of needless work to do, just to remember which book she’s reviewing.

    As McArdle presents it, James Livingstone’s argument doesn’t seem very convincing. But then her counter-argument itself makes so little sense that I can’t even be sure she quite understood him in the first place. If I were the WSJ editor, I’d have chucked the damn review. I could have written a much more coherent one in my sleep.

    To sum up McArdle’s aside on consumption spending: “People like me spend our money on cool things. Spending our money like this gives us the thrill of naughtiness. How dare these low-paid academics mock the things we spend on! People like them — hmph! — spend their money on tacky things. Eww. The academics ought to mock them.” Her soul must be a small and sad thing indeed.

  62. 62
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    It’s from football — round football, that is. An own goal is when you put the ball into the goal your own side is defending. It counts to your opponents’ credit, of course.

  63. 63
    Jennifer says:

    Any competition, from looks to money to academic credentialing, both consumes a lot of resources and makes many of the participants feel bad about themselves.

    I’m going to offend someone with this, I’m sure, but I’m equally sure it’s the correct interpretation.

    Most of McMegan’s barely-concealed insecurity stems from her, let’s fact it, downright homeliness. I mean, good lord is she unattractive, and as they say, it goes all the way to the bone. I think it’s very telling that she refers to “looks” as a competition. That’s the mark of someone who’s never been happy in their own skin, and it’s possibly the root of her horribleness as a human being.

  64. 64
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @jeffreyw:

    Yeah, I figured, but it was still very witty.

  65. 65

    I read a McArdle article once and I became angry at her host publication for the nonsense. Lots of women are intelligent and well spoken. Women come in all kinds of political persuasions. There was no need to hire an idiot.

    At the time, I thought that McArdle filled some kind of affirmative action quotient. It seemed as if her bosses resented her presence but tolerated her only because she was empty-headed because that’s the way women are. Right?

  66. 66
    suzanne says:

    @jeffreyw: Can I have fresh tomatoes instead of the pepperoni? Otherwise, looks glorious.

    Bechamel pizza. WEIRD.

  67. 67
    kdaug says:

    Ain’t no Abercrombie & Fitch in Waco. Sure as shit ain’t no Murray’s Sturgeon.

    Let me tell you about how the Toriads on Sub-Sphalia Prime feel about their societal structures and the fairness of the distribution of chicobal.

    I’m an authority. I can feel it.

  68. 68
    Jennifer says:

    @Linda Featheringill: McMegan has the position she has because she can be counted upon to reliably present the position the owners of the publication want presented – which is, rich people are rich because they’re better and smarter than everyone else. And because she’s clueless enough to think she’s one of them, which guarantees she’ll stick to the party line.

    There’s really nothing more to it.

  69. 69
    JO'N says:

    @Robert Waldmann:

    OK so a good friend of mine, Andrei Shleifer, is an ultracompetitive economist who is so successful as to be actually satisfied, which I would never have imagined possible. Also he likes to collect first editions and travel in Europe.

    …And he also likes to commit investment fraud while consulting in Russia, narrowly escape jail time, and pay multi-million dollar fines. But, heck, he’s a hedge-fund billionaire, so I guess it’s all OK. Also, finally, does “travel in Europe” include everything up to owning a villa in the south of France?

  70. 70

    Tom, I’m working on a post about that Kitchen-with-Rich-Man-and-Lazarus painting you ran recently, and I thought you might know: is there a way to find out what scholarly literature there is for a particular art work? This one, for instance?

    That Wtewael “Kitchen Scene” looks to have Dives & Lazarus in the upper right corner, too.

  71. 71
    MosesZD says:

    If you need a $1,500 machine to make a bechemel sauce… Put a bullet in your head. Here’s a fast, clearer bechemel than the ‘hard’ one. There are others, but I like this because it’s quick and makes a good base.

    Stick of butter (4oz)
    Melt the butter

    Half-cup of flour
    Whisk this in – no lumps

    Cook together (med) in a two-quart pot until the flour smell starts to go away. About 5 minutes. You now have a white roux.

    4 cups of milk
    Heat the milk in a pot until warm.
    One cup at time wisk it into the white roux.

    Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. The gluten in the flour will thicken it if you haven’t been an idiot..

    Nutmeg to taste. Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

    Four ingredients. A sauce so simple that even the worst culinary student can make it.

  72. 72
    MosesZD says:

    If you need a $1,500 machine to make a bechemel sauce… Put a bullet in your head. Here’s a fast, clearer bechemel than the ‘hard’ one. There are others, but I like this because it’s quick and makes a good base.

    Stick of butter (4oz)
    Melt the butter

    Half-cup of flour
    Whisk this in – no lumps

    Cook together (med) in a two-quart pot until the flour smell starts to go away. About 5 minutes. You now have a white roux.

    4 cups of milk
    Heat the milk in a pot until warm.
    One cup at time wisk it into the white roux.

    Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. The gluten in the flour will thicken it if you haven’t been an idiot..

    Nutmeg to taste. Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

    Four ingredients. A sauce so simple that even the worst culinary student can make it.

  73. 73
    Nylund says:

    Tbogg is amazing at summing everything up in a couple of great sentences. here’s my McMegan shorter:

    “All the cool kids are really into cooking these days, so I want to cook too! But I’m really terrible at even the simplest things. Rather than learn, I decided to buy a $1,500 robot that can heat and stir together milk, flour, and butter for me. Now all my friends will think I’m the greatest cook ever and my dinner parties will make me the most popular girl in town. Some lame-O academics think that’s a waste of money, but they’re just jealous that they can’t afford $1,500 robots to impress their freinds. And if you don’t believe me, let me mischaracterize their work to prove them wrong instead.”

  74. 74
    kdaug says:

    @kdaug: Stand corrected. There is apparently an A&F in the Richland (heh) suburb of Waco.

  75. 75
    Yutsano says:

    @MosesZD:

    The gluten in the flour will thicken it if you haven’t been an idiot

    Minor point: it’s not the gluten that will thicken the sauce. It’s the starch. Gluten is a protein that unmeshes in the presence of water, but in order to affect a sauce it would take either severe agitation or hours of time.

  76. 76
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Jennifer:

    I don’t actually think she’s particularly unattractive. In the few photos I’ve seen, she comes across to me like an ordinary decent-looking woman, who is probably kind of homely in sweats and no makeup and probably pretty spectacular in full fig makeup and evening dress. Like 95% of us.*

    But your larger point about “looks as competition” and the likelihood that McM is uncomfortable in her own skin is very plausible. We live in a culture that sends that message to women incessantly, and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to indicate that even the most gorgeous females on the planet often feel ugly and undesirable.

    *Percentage pulled out of my ass, I have no idea how many of us fit that description.

  77. 77
    JR in WV says:

    I live in rural southwest West Virginia, real banjo country, and I can tell you that there is nothing more exciting that using farmyard eggs and whipping hollandaise together by hand. In a culinary way, of course.

    Nothing is more golden yellow than egg yolks from chickens who are well fed AND forage the rest of the day for bugs and bits of greenery, out in the fresh air and sunshine.

    SuprHydrothermoreacto-blenders may be interesting in the abstract, but you can’t adjust flavors with one, decide that the normal 4 grinds of pepper might be to much today. And a tiny bit more citrus juice, just for this meal…

    Zero-sum is Galtian, not my cup of tea.

  78. 78
  79. 79
    Thony C. says:

    Before reading your wonderfully crafted demolition of the lady I created my winter vegetable gratin, a dish of which people beg for second helpings. The béchamel sauce it contains is of a quality that would satisfy the customers of a three star restaurant and was created using a cheap saucepan, a $3 balloon whisk, a $5 flour sieve and almost no effort. Cooking is about feeling and not expensive gadgets.

  80. 80
    Anoniminous says:

    @RossInDetroit:

    Preach it!

    Cooking is an Art and you have to pay your dues if you want to serve cordon blue and, you know, it don’t come easy. Doesn’t come all that hard, either; just have to spend the time learning the ingredients and mastering the techniques. Also, contrary to popular myth, it doesn’t have to be more expensive. One can manage to stagger through life without a daily dose of truffle oil and fifty year aged balsamic vinegar spread on the salad made to accompany pate foie gras rolled inside fillet of lark’s tongue.

    The Megans of this life want the results of High Art without undergoing the process of learning how to achieve High Art. And you can’t do that.

  81. 81
    suzanne says:

    @jeffreyw: THAT’S a pizza. MMMM.

    Is it weird that I’m having flashbacks to FourLoko’s paean to fox hunting?

  82. 82

    It may be selfish of me but I love reading these McArdle posts. They helped teach people to approch authorities critically and gave other authorities permission to criticize McArdle in public. They have been an important contribution.

  83. 83
    Tehanu says:

    @Julia Grey:

    We need a “Like” button as well as a “Reply” one. If we had it, Julia, I’d “like” your comment about 20 times.

  84. 84
    henqiguai says:

    @SiubhanDuinne (#75):

    I don’t actually think she’s particularly unattractive.

    Wrong. She homely. And that’s said from the position of authority of an unreconstructed straight male dawg.

  85. 85
    srv says:

    Well, Myhrvold also writes poetry about his G-V, so she’s going to have to start swallowing more to get one of those.

    I’ve had to give up another site this week – her post about how people like the Netflix guy are really smart and we shouldn’t ever question that unless we are rich too was widely fellated at hacker news, the website for startups.

  86. 86
    CaseyL says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    McMegan strikes me as one of those people who cannot enjoy their gourmet meal unless they know, with metaphysical certitude, that others are starving.

    Back in 2007, a couple of Drexel University students, Jocelyn Kirsch and her boyfriend Edward Anderton, went off on a conspicuous consumption spree financed by identity theft and other scams. They took pictures of themselves on their whirlwind tour – staying at expensive resorts, eating gourmet meals, wearing the most expensive brand-name clothing – and mailed them to their “friends,” precisely to elicit envy. IIRC, they hardly stayed anywhere long enough to savor the experience, only to photograph it. That’s all they wanted, and all they were about: stealing money in order to finance pleasures they only enjoyed because other people couldn’t have those things.

    It’s a peculiar pathology. Such people seem to have no internalized value system at all; they exist chiefly as reflections of other people’s (imagined) envy.

    I don’t pity such people; they seem to me to be a slightly less dangerous form of sociopath.

  87. 87
    Mike in NC says:

    I get a note in the mail every other week reminding me to renew my subscription to The Atlantic. Thanks to the likes of McMegan, that ain’t gonna happen.

  88. 88
    k488 says:

    I’m late to this party, but one thing that strikes me again and again about Megan McArdle’s sort or self-positioning is that she seems both very nervous, and very sad. Not on the surface, obviously, but at heart it seems to me that she’s backed the wrong horse, and knows it. There’s a hole in the center that no kitchen gadget will fix, but having gone down that route, she’s afraid to admit that materialism isn’t bringing the satisfaction it advertised it would. She’s infuriating in her approach, but if you look past the surface, what I see is someone to be pitied. So much better to collect the four ingredients, a simple pan and some heat, and walk off into the forest away from the glitter. That’s how I found this site…

  89. 89
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Jennifer: @henqiguai:

    Your opinions are your own. But calling out someone’s looks is both nasty and counterproductive. I don’t know of a faster way to concede an argument than to call someone ugly.

    There’s plenty to disdain in McArdle’s work without going down this road. I don’t ban or censor, but if I did — these comments would be for the chop.

  90. 90
    Mayur says:

    No comment on MM’s looks; I’ll simply say she’s an ugly-seeming human being.

    The thermomix again? I’ll reprise my comment from the last thread discussing this and note that it IS a useful item… If you’re using hydrocolloids or otherwise dealing with preparations where temperature stability is important. The relevance of such to making a mother sauce… Not so much.

  91. 91
    Jennifer says:

    @Tom Levenson: I wasn’t aware that I was “arguing” with McMegan on the basis of what she had said, so it would be difficult to “concede” anything there; rather I was speculating on the source of her obvious and barely concealed insecurity, and found her statement that “looks” are “competition” to be revealing.

    I knew someone would be offended. Sorry you were. I still think it’s revealing that she considers physical attractiveness to be a “competition.”

  92. 92
    henqiguai says:

    @Tom Levenson (#89):

    Your opinions are your own. But calling out someone’s looks is both nasty and counterproductive. I don’t know of a faster way to concede an argument than to call someone ugly.

    Didn’t call her ugly, said “homely”. Got no issues with comments made about my appearance, especially about my lack of a manly man’s physique and lack of attractiveness to women thereof. I’m also bald, so go crazy. Yes, you would lose that argument, but only because I have other attractive qualities, I think; um, maybe (YMMV). But in a snark-infested comment section on a snarky take-down of someone who celebrates their superiority, I just don’t see your point being a real issue. Though it’s not like this would be the first time I was completely out in never-neverland.

  93. 93
    Sly says:

    It is somewhat notable that an economist advocating for a specific brand of capitalism is embracing the idea that wealth and status are zero-sum when capitalism not only rejects this assertion, but uses that rejection as a cornerstone of its entire intellectual edifice.

    My own take (and I’ve seen this before) is that Free Market Fantasists like McArdle are really just pining for the days of the mercantilist system, when wealth and status truly was zero-sum, and never actually read people like Smith and Ricardo and Say who said how this system worked to undermine natural liberty.

    The only other answer I have available to me is that they’re actually secret Marxists and they don’t even know it, because just as the early capitalist writers criticized mercantilism for its zero-sum approach to wealth and status, so did Marx take that same knife to the Laissez-Faire perversion that rose up after the corpses of those early capitalist writers were put in the ground (but, to be fair to Smith, he wrote fairly extensively about how the division of labor, when taken to the extreme, would destroy civilization as he knew it).

    So, yeah, probably not a Marxist. The more likely answer is she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And someone who lacks even a basic grasp over their own thinking about their chosen field, and the fundamental concepts of the system for which they advocate, is, well… sadly unsurprising. Maybe she should have saved the $1,500 bucks and borrowed a copy of The Wealth of Nations from the library.

  94. 94
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Sly:

    Maybe she should have saved the $1,500 bucks and borrowed a copy of The Wealth of Nations from the library.

    Are you kidding? She’s way too lazy to get past the first page, let alone slog through tables of corn prices for two centuries.

    One of the things I love about Smith is he’s constantly apologizing for all the tedious detail he includes, but then reminds the reader that he’s using that to support his rather harsh criticisms of the usual suspects out to screw over the public.

  95. 95

    Tom, this post is a thing of beauty. I need a ciggie now. If I helped inspire you to write it by poking you with my rusty pitchfork repeatedly until you screamed for mercy tweeting you about it once or thrice, then I can pat myself on the back for a job well done. And, go ahead and take a long break from MM2 – you have earned it. However, don’t expect me to allow you to rest on your laurels for too long; MM2 is like the nine-headed hydra – every time you cut off one head, two spring up in its place.

    P.S. I bet you can’t stay away for too long. She’s your own particular Moby Dick.

  96. 96
    Yutsano says:

    @asiangrrlMN: He makes one helluva Ahab too.

    Hi hon. I think I’m preggers. I’m craving strange foods. I need a Dawg to pin it on.

  97. 97
    Nic says:

    I like the other FP’ers, but I read BJ for Levenson. Excellent post. Thanks!

  98. 98
    Plato Socrates says:

    What is perhaps most annoying about McArdle, putting aside her dreadful writing and complete lack of journalistic skill or practice, is that she’s a terribly ill-mannered braggart. On some level she knows that it’s gauche, lest she make no effort to thinly disguise it (claiming she’s “embarrased” by the price of her gadget, apparently so much so she must mention it twice; her annual “gift guide,” which is utterly useless, filled not with items one might buy for friends and family, but rather an itemization of things she owns). But she can’t stop herself. So greatly does she choose to publicly define herself by the material objects she collects. As others have said, this is just pathetic and not a little bit sad. What an empty, soulless human being.

  99. 99
    AA+ Bonds says:

    This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors used to refer to as “these people,” usually while discussing their voting habits or taste in talk radio.

    ^ first against the wall

    @Sly:

    It is somewhat notable that an economist

    I hope you’re not using that term to describe Megan McArdle :(

  100. 100
    AA+ Bonds says:

    To be clear what she is saying is that you can tell who is low-rent because they want a Gulfstream instead of already owning a Gulfstream. What McArdle is actually doing is listing all of her own insecurities as a non-CEO who worships CEOs and projecting them onto the author of a book that I doubt she bothered to read before writing about

    McArdle has to know that her biggest talent is dumb luck and that experts and laymen alike laugh at her pedestrian undergraduate mistakes in her chosen field. That’s got to eat her up inside.

    Personally I think she might have been quite bright, and then did a bunch of drugs, libertarian style, and we ended up with the dim bulb we have now.

  101. 101
    different-church-lady says:

    @suzanne:

    Good. Lord. I feel like I offend her aesthetic sensibilities merely by existing and enjoying pizza.

    If there was a way in which a $1200 gadget could be involved with the making of pizza, I’m sure McArdle would enjoy it just as much as you do.

  102. 102
    different-church-lady says:

    @JR in WV:

    I live in rural southwest West Virginia, real banjo country, and I can tell you that there is nothing more exciting that using farmyard eggs…

    I live in suburban Boston and I can tell you that there is nothing more exciting than using farmyard eggs for anything at all, in the rare instances when I can procure some.

  103. 103
    different-church-lady says:

    @Plato Socrates:

    On some level she knows that it’s gauche, lest she make no effort to thinly disguise it (claiming she’s “embarrased” by the price of her gadget, apparently so much so she must mention it twice; her annual “gift guide,” which is utterly useless, filled not with items one might buy for friends and family, but rather an itemization of things she owns).

    I get a slightly different vibe: she is as she is for no better reason than everyone around her is the same way.

    As such, she and Brooks are two peas on a pod: they define the world by their personal experiences, to the exclusion of all other things. And I don’t mean their own worlds, I mean the entire world. It never seems to enter their minds that other people have life experiences different than their own. And that’s because they simply never interact with any of those people. And anything they don’t personally experience just does not exist.

  104. 104
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    At the time, I thought that McArdle filled some kind of affirmative action quotient. It seemed as if her bosses resented her presence but tolerated her only because she was empty-headed because that’s the way women are. Right?

    I think it’s more that her bosses are determined to believe that women are incapable of handling numbers, or writing coherent arguments, so they hired McArdle as a “proof” that affirmative action means innocent bosses are “forced” to hire clueless incompetents. Who are also sufficiently grandiose & nasty that the bosses field an unending stream of ARE YOU KIDDING ME letters from outraged readers, further “proving” that wimmen is just trouble, but what can they do about it with the jackboots of the EEOC upon their Randian throats?

    @Jennifer:

    Most of McMegan’s barely-concealed insecurity stems from her, let’s fact it, downright homeliness. I mean, good lord is she unattractive, and as they say, it goes all the way to the bone.

    “Phht, JEELUS much, LOL” quips McArdle. If you go back to her Jane Galt blogging days (which I refuse to) there was much would-be-witty byplay about the large number and sterling Randian credentials of Megan’s many, many male admirers. I think there was even mention of a brief pro-am “modelling” stint, since Megan is happy to let us know that she is not only stunningly attractive for a woman of her educational attainments, but taller than the vast majority of ordinary females.

    There’s a certain type of not-very-conventionally-attractive young woman who hangs around boy geeks not because she’s got any interest in comics / anime / Star Wars / Ayn Rand, but because she’s guaranteed all the male flattery & gift-wooing she craves. McArdle’s successfully monetized this niche into a B-level ranking in the Media Village and marriage to an established professional Kochsucker. And she’s keeping a testicle each from Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias & probably a string of other proto-bloggers from that period as mementos of her salad days as the Prettiest Girl Econoblogger in All of Her Carefully-Deliminated Social Circles. The fact that some of her suitors also use her professional output as evidence that women just can’t handle math, economics, or social networking above the level of ‘look, I have titties, doncha wanna touch ’em?’ cannot damage her steel-belted self-regard, because she’s actually quite proud of having figured out the Titties/Objectivist Scarcity Ratio all by her very own self.

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    opie jeanne says:

    @Tom Levenson: Thanks Tom. I was uncomfortable with some of the comments because when I looked for a photograph of her some of them reminded me of my sister, and she was The Pretty One in our house, (and I think she’s still pretty at age 59).

    Which makes me the less-than-pretty one.

    Not even my mother ever told me I was pretty, but apparently I’m considered attractive enough (maybe it’s my sparkling personality. Hah!) I married a handsome man and had to fight off the boys (and later, the men) until I was into my late 50s. Thankfully, my kids found the “pretty genes” lurking in their father’s family, as well as a couple of latent ones from mine.

  106. 106
    opie jeanne says:

    @AA+ Bonds: I looked at her Wikipedia page because I was curious about her age, and it listed her this way:

    “….She writes mostly about economics, finance and government policy from a moderate libertarian or classical liberal perspective….”

    I had to check the definition of “classical liberal” and it was mostly what I expected. Its proponents include Say, Malthus, and someone named David Ricardo. I’m pretty sure that she does not write from a classical liberal perspective, as Sly in post # 93 points out that she doesn’t seem to have read them.

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    g says:

    McArdle begins by announcing that she has bought herself a $1,500 food processor/cooking robot, a Buck Rodgers gadget called a Thermomix. This machine’s claim to fame is that it combines a chopper/grinder/stirrer function with a precision scale and a heating element. Toss stuff into its mixer bowl in the right order and in what the machine tells you are the right amounts, press some buttons in the correct sequence, and standardized results accrue.

    I’m a little confused by this. What do you make with one of these things? Throw a bunch of ingredients into it and what do you get – a meat loaf? A steam-cooked lump of chopped ingredients? How appetizing is that?

    I loves me some meat loaf, but it takes me about 10 minutes of active work to put one together to pop in the oven – why would you want to spend $1500 so that you could avoid the ten minutes and end up with a product that’s steamed in a machine?

    What else can you make with this $1500 tou?

  108. 108
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @opie jeanne:

    When I was a kid, I once overheard the grownups say something complimentary about my sister’s looks. She was, indeed, very pretty, but the way I immediately interpreted the comment was that I was ugly.

    Years later, when I was maybe in my 40s or 50s, I related this to my sister. She replied that when she was younger, she once overheard the grownups say something nice about my intellect, and immediately concluded that she was stupid.

    The pretty one. The smart one. The ugly one. The stupid one. It’s just amazing what we do to ourselves. My sister and I carried this shit around for decades, although most certainly the adults’ comments weren’t meant to set up feelings of competition or inferiority.

  109. 109
    Anne Laurie says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Ha! Some years after our dad’s death, my sister & I compared notes and discovered he’d told each of us — in greatest secrecy: “Your sister is the pretty one, but you’re the smart one, and smart is better.”

    Yes, he meant well.

  110. 110
    Gretchen says:

    @Linda Featheringill: I thought the same thing. All the bloggers at the Atlantic are men, except for Megan. All the women journalists in the world, and they’re only going to hire one, and it’s Megan?

  111. 111
    Peter says:

    @different-church-lady: I think she and Brooks are lazier and worse than that. They refer to regular folks of one ilk or another to support their generalizations, but they’re usually imagined regular folks. Applebee’s salad bar, etc.

    I’m a huge cooking geek, and given space and budget (and lots of time to cook) I might get a thermomix, as well as a PacoJet and a chamber vacuum and a combi oven and a rotovap. I would use the shit out of them doing all kinds of cool things. Making a flawless béchamel would not be among those things. A freaking monkey could do that. If you can’t make gravy without a machine, like someone up above said, you really don’t belong in the kitchen, let alone being the business and economics editor of anything.

    I’m saving my pennies for a copy of Modernist Cuisine. Tom, I delight in your hobby and hope you don’t stay away too long.

  112. 112
    Peter says:

    @g: It’s mostly used by pros to properly hydrate various additives at specific temperatures to achieve specific results; because it can weigh, blend, and cook all at once, one is able to achieve consistent results with the textural transformations that hydrocolloids and other substances can create. If you have a scale, a blender, and a stove, you can do the same thing without dropping $1500 on an all-in-one.

  113. 113
    opie jeanne says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: That’s us, I’m the smart one, she’s the pretty one, and unfortunately it was all true. We both have redeeming qualities, and I wasn’t actually ugly, I cleaned up pretty good. My parents didn’t comment on it but everyone else did because my sister has bright red hair, the color of copper when she was little. Mine was drab brown and straight as a string but I didn’t care because I didn’t want curly hair and refused the Toni perms my mother and grandmother inflicted on my baby sis.

    She was born 3 months premature in 1952, and spent nearly 3 months in an incubator before she came home. At 1 lb 9 oz she wasn’t supposed to live. I don’t think any of that affected her intellect because she is a lot like our mom was, able to ignore what she doesn’t want to know. My parents were overprotective of her into adulthood and I think that is where they did the harm because it stunted her a bit and I interpreted it as favoritism.

  114. 114
    opie jeanne says:

    @Peter: I was forced to eat at Applebee’s on Friday night. We were travelling and couldn’t find the Italian place that was supposed to be good. The GPS led us on a wild goosechase and we finally gave up and settled.

    Still no salad bar and the food is only ok.

  115. 115
    Peter says:

    @opie jeanne: That happened to me once but it was a Denny’s in nowhere, VA. Good Lord.

    Do you mean to tell me that you did not eat good in the neighborhood? I’m outraged.

  116. 116
    r€nato says:

    @suzanne: with regards to ‘flawless bechamel’ (seriously?):

    I was once colleagues with a guy who was, at the end of the day, a salesman. But he fancied himself a video producer and director like myself. But… he knew next to nothing about the details of editing, lighting, directing, operating a camera. Really. He couldn’t be bothered to read a book or learn. He thought he could just fake and bluster his way through it, and through life in general actually. He was one of those people who thinks that if you get yourself a big desk and office, that makes you an important, successful person.

    This person – I’ll call him ‘Todd’ because that was his name – would really, really obsess over relatively trivial details like the labels we put on the tapes and discs that went out to clients. Of course, they have to look right. They have to be spelled correctly, put on straight, etc. But the time he would spend fussing over a freaking tape label or the address label on the envelope in which the tape or disc went, was fucking unreal. He would closely scrutinize the kerning between the letters or fret over which words should start with an upper-case letter and which should not. And we all knew what was going on – it was over-over-overcompensation for not knowing jack about the profession he thought he belonged to.

    Thus with McArdle. Any so-called ‘cook’ who obsesses over how perfect the bechamel is, is covering up for being a lousy cook.

  117. 117
    opie jeanne says:

    @Peter: Heh.

    It was either that or the Burger King next door. Seriously, there is a fabulous deli in Red Bluff, CA, or at least there used to be. And there is a more than decent restaurant overlooking the Sacramento River called the Riverside Bar and Grill, but it was Friday night around 8 pm and we had reached the point of needing to eat Right Now.

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