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Wednesday, 07 March 2018


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re: The Great Crime Decline. The drop in airborne lead resulting from the phaseout of leaded gasoline may explain the Great Crime Decline. It certainly explains it better than abortions or incarceration.

A possible link to the decrease in crime and lead exposure is explored in - Lead: America’s Real Criminal Element, by Kevin Drum. The political slant and the author’s extrapolations aside, more study is needed and the link seems very plausible. The link in Drum’s article to the 2000 paper by HUD consultant Rick Nevin doesn’t work, but the paper is available on Rick’s website.

"The popularity of these books is inexplicable to everyone…"

It's inexplicable to hardly anyone. It's easily explicable — it's a great story well-told.

TKAM is one of the great wonders of the last millenium, but it's 22nd because it's on the high school reading list. It's assigned reading, which seems to render its magic powerless to those to whom it is assigned.

I just had a conversation about this book with a teenager a couple of weeks ago — he was halfway into it, and didn't really like it. The next week he had finished it, and said it had "redeemed itself". Personally I don't know how anyone's not in love with the book after five pages.

But then I loved Harry Potter, too. :)

[Hey! I didn't say the popularity of TKAM was inexplicable! And the popularity of TKAM can't be explained by reading lists, because it outsells other reading list stalwarts by great margins. --Mike]

First of all, I live on Roscoe Blvd. down here in Florida, so little Tom can always come here if the name is strange where he lives. Secondly, I believe that violent crime has been ebbing for far longer than that. Now is actually the safest time to live, in the First world.....ever. And yet all the newsies can tell us is how unsafe it is.

I picked up all the family .com first and second names about 15 years ago :)

Any mention of unusual names brings to (my) mind Moon Unit Zappa. www.moonunit.com is taken but GoDaddy will work to secure it for $69.99 plus the cost of the actual URL.

Everything I know about Harry Potter I learned today at The Online Photographer. Never read any of the books and somehow missed the movies -- there are movies aren't there?

I was going to mention that the reduction in crime was due to a signifcant decrease in the exposure of children to lead, but others have already chimed in on that. Not just leaded gasoline, but exposure to lead-based paints in furniture, etc.

My my neighbor’s dog is named Roscoe. He’s a good boy! Maybe they can visit.

Recorded music revenue: I'm not entirely clear about how much artists can earn from streaming, or indeed how much they could earn from CD/LP sales. I don't mean artists at the level of the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits or Elton Johns of the recording industry - I mean the journeyman bands (or artists) who get to release a few records, have no real hits, and mainly earn from live performances. Obviously very little of the actual purchase price of a CD went to the artist - there was tax, retailer's margin, transportation costs, wholesaler's margin, production costs, record company's margin - very little would be left for the band or artist, and in the case of a band, it had to be split as many ways as the band had members. (Plus the manager's cut, of course.) Wasn't it possible - frequent, even - for a band to exit a contract owing the record company money?

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a regional theater with a big reputation these days, mounted a stage adaptation of TKAM in 2011. The show was fully sold out for its four-month run well BEFORE opening night.

This was in large part caused by the significant (assigned) school-kid audience the festival enjoys and an accident of the rest of the festival's calendar. The 2011 OSF season lacked any broadly popular major Shakespeare show (such as 'Hamlet,' say, or 'King Lear'), and the schools that bus their kids to Ashland for OSF needed something to sign up for. They all seized on TKAM.

Critics, myself included, wrote that the show was very OK but not especially exciting. Every seat was taken for four months anyway.

"Oh, and if your last name happens to be Pimple: just do your best not to make things any worse."
Yeah, like don't squeeze it or pick at it.....

Turner Classic Movies was showing in theaters on my birthday last year MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME. I posted to Facebook that when I described it as such, I was including the future.


When my wife and I talked about potential first names for our kids - now 9 and 13 - a non-negotiable point from my side was that they shouldn’t have any of the Danish/Scandinavian letters æ, ø, or å in their names. It’s just a pain to use them online. My first name is Søren, and that is written either as Soeren (my personal choice) or Soren (which my employer chose to do) in mail addresses, etc. We ended up with Anton (Anton Corbijn is one of my favourites) and Asta. I believe the least you can do is give your children un-problematic names :-)

The Lear's might have found a different name for their daughter Shanda. In Yiddish, the word means shame, disgrace, scandal, humiliation. Of course few really good Yiddish words can be translated directly into English.

SHANDA: A shame, a scandal. The expression "a shanda fur die goy" means to do something embarrassing to Jews where non-Jews can observe it.

"Shanda Lear, daughter of Bill and Moya Lear of Lear Jet fame"

Bill Lear named his son King.

Kevin Drum is pretty convincing about lead and crime:


It's odd that Adam Gopnik doesn't seem to mention this (I only searched his piece for "lead," I didn't read it).

Fighting crime can be a convenient excuse for a lot of misguided policy and funding. I'm sure many "crime fighters" don't want to hear that an environmental policy might have been more effective than they.

Do you still define an electronic file sale as a *book* sale, Mike?

Are those figures you were quoting (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird) more correctly *story* sales, not actual books as I define them?

The other possibility about TKAM sales volumes is that it might be required reading in schools....

Just last night our son called to say they had probably finalized the name for their soon-to-be-born son. His first name will be my wife's maiden name (now her middle name) and his middle name will match that of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Neither name is uncommon—but not top 100 either—so the combination could be reasonably unique.

People who follow Formula 1 will never name their baby 'Roscoe.' Lewis Hamilton, incumbent world champion, has a Bulldog named Roscoe. (Which, it must be said, is a brilliant name for that kind of dog.)

A name like Roscoe Thomas M——— is also great for testing the Unicode compatibility of websites, PDF forms, and the like. :-) 😂

FWIW, the claim that the legalization of abortion was the primary cause of the decline in crime has been heavily criticized. I am not qualified to judge the arguments, but I think it is one of those claims that gets repeated enough that it is at least worth mentioning that it disputed.


P.S. I wrote this not because of any ideological reasons, but just as a caution regarding the reliability of the claim.

re the correlation between ice cream and polio mentioned by another commenter. Polio is a virus commonly spread by flies. Ice cream attracts flies. Therefore, ice cream causes polio. Makes perfectly good sense to me.

re, "the best," etc.

We had a saying in the Twin Cities, "World Famous in Minneapolis." It may also apply in other cities.

Names, Beatcha toit: 1st daughter, 1990, Margaret Renn McKibbon Andrews; 2nd daughter, 1993, Martha Phoebe Mathilde Andrews. All family names.

Thank you for posting that beautifully lit still photograph from To Kill a Mockingbird.

A great way to learn about lighting, natural or artificial, is to pay close attention to movies, especially older black and white movies. Cinematographers and their lighting colleagues have a masterly command of lighting, and almost every scene in a commercial studio movie is perfectly lit in the context of the scene and the mood that is called for by the script.

That level of professionalism is essential—movies are very, very expensive undertakings, and movie-makers cannot afford to have flaws in a visual product that is shown to millions of pairs of eyes which then examine it closely for a couple of hours in a darkened room.

That being said, the shot above was almost certainly created on the set, separate from the filming, in a session devoted to producing publicity stills. Older commenters (i.e. old fogies like me) will remember a time when lobbies of movie theaters had publicity 8x10 glossies of scenes from the movie that the audience was about to watch.

Names. My rule is that parents give their kid one name, and whatever their agreed family name is. The kid chooses their own name at the age when they are old enough to comprehend the complications of beaurecratic paperworks.

The cheese / death-by-sheet correlation could actually be a thing.

Interesting reading all. Re music royalties: You, like many others, have drawn the comparison between streaming & CD sales, which I've never seen as like-for-like. Surely the streaming model is more akin to radio play, and from that point of view would seem to benefit small acts rather more than current air-play models. I think it's the big acts who have to most to lose from streaming services where the marketing machine seems less likely to get them on to playlists. But I'm no expert...

Interesting fact: until the JK Rowling steamroller got underway, Sir Terry Pratchett was the best-selling fantasy author in the UK. I've always for Sir Terry's book to be more 'human,' if that makes any sense.

As far as unique names go, I think I have that covered! There are another nine letters after the 'Van' plus I have two middle names. I also tend to use variations of my first name for online sites - such as Pablo - to further confuse people who may know I am of Belgian descent. And my email is a mashup of my first name and part of my last name!

Perhaps I may have taken things too far! lol

Re: the mucisian issue. Very e and very bad. See generally: https://thetrichordist.com/about-2/the-101/

And another one in the list of hyperbole that I can't stand is The World Series. Really, when only two countries are involved? How about this other 193? I wonder if Melilla could get a team together to compete. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melilla

[I think that's different because in 1903 when the first one was played, nations were much more parochial and the world was much larger--to get to Europe you had to sit on a boat for five days. Colonialism was still in flower and racism was alive and well. "World" could be interpreted as the world of baseball rather than the globe. But maybe I'm just blowing smoke. If you choose not to agree I won't argue too hard. --Mike]

Another possible cause for changing violent crime rates is the rise and subsequent drop in the ratio of 15-34 year old males to the whole population, as that is the period of highest likelihood of violent behavior.

I kind of like the use of "known universe", with its implication that there's more we don't know. Probably influenced there with the Known Space stories of Larry Niven and friends.

Speaking of anything and everything, the impact of Harry Potter is so huge that it's changed the English language, British-izing it for a generation of America's youth. For evidence, just listen to any NPR show. They've been aggressively eliminating any personnel over 40, making them a pure window into the vocalizations of youth. About every five minutes, I seem to hear someone pronounce multisyllabic words with syllable breaks that sound unfamiliar to my US-born, non-Potterized ears. Words like "mount-ains," "connect-ed" and "import-ant" show the British habit of separating root word and suffix at the consonant, rather than the American practice of saying the last consonant of the first syllable with the final syllable, to create a smoother flow: "moun-tains, connec-ted, impor-tant."

How important this really is is open for discussion. It will be interesting to see if this linguistic quirk is permanent. But once you start hearing this, you can't stop hearing it.

Please be careful in using correlations. The graph at the top of this page, https://io9.gizmodo.com/on-correlation-causation-and-the-real-cause-of-auti-1494972271 is something no one takes seriously as a cause-effect proof. Yet it shows that the rise in autism correlates very strongly with the rise in organic food sales. Lead may well be different. There are known neurological effects from lead. But I'd be very hesitant to take even a strong mathematical correlation as any kind of proof, without more evidence.

My late grandfather was a tailor from Poland, who with a very thick accent used to walk around and say "shanda for degoyim"...."it's a shanda for degoyim". For years I wondered who this Shanda person was and why did my grandfather always say her name.
It was not until I was a teenager did I understand.

For those not literate in Yiddish, you need to use your google machine to understand.

"A successful musician is one who can buy groceries."

I think it was Billy Joel who said that, but I can't confirm it.

"The known universe" shouldn't be interpreted as "we know the universe." Instead, it means to limit the accompanying statement to be true only for the minute portion of the universe that we know. By analogy, I might say that gorillas are not a factor in any of the known plays of Sophocles. That says nothing about the unknown plays (only 7 of an estimated 120 plays of Sophocles have survived).

One important reason for the decline in the murder rate is much better life-saving technology used by emergency medical people — especially what ambulances have on board. When every minute counts, technology like trauma pants can and do make the difference between life and death. When people got shot, more of them used to bleed to death. Now more people are saved from hypovolemic shock — resulting in a lower murder rate. I heard about it from an NYC emergency room nurse.

Rosco P. Coltrane was going around my head all throughout reading all the comments. Just for fun you should google Pablo Picasso's full name.
When my wife was pregnant we struck a deal, if a boy I would choose the name, and if a girl, she would . So my son was born and being half russian and half mexican, I chose 2 names, a traditional and popular russian name and the name of one of the aztec emperors.
Funny thing, even in Mexico, people thought his aztec name was russian.

I think the correlation of the time of phase-out of lead and the drop in crime some 20 years later was shown consistently across many jurisdictions, in different US states that eliminated lead in gasoline at different times, and in other nations too, usually with regulation at the national level.
Lead paint is still causing serious harm, though, as discussed in this recent Economist article: <http://econ.st/2D9fjy1>.

Just an addition Paulo Bizarro's comment on the character in Catch 22: The character's name was actually Major Major Major Major. His father named him Major Major Major as a joke, and M3 was given the rank of Major by an IBM machine with a sense of humor, according to Wikipedia. Bob Newhart played the character in the movie, which seems fitting.

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