November 29, 2008

Weekend special: the canine film critic comes out of retirement

As the holiday season approaches, we are pleased to announce the return of a favorite Goat Rope contributor. Mr. Sandor Sege (pronounced Shandor SHEGG-ay), a boxer who is the official film critic of Goat Rope Farm, has agreed after lengthy negotiations to once again favor us with his contributions.

(We must remind the reader that Mr. Sege suffered a head injury when he crashed into a wall whist chasing a squeaky toy and as a result has been known to transpose the plots of the films he discusses. Nonetheless, we believe that his unique insights into the world of cinema more than compensate for this regrettable shortcoming.)

This weekend Mr. Sege will review a perennial holiday favorite, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It is our hope that (bio)diverse features such as this will elevate the level of cultural discourse.


OK, so this is an awesome movie. Charlie Brown is like this cartoon guy who plays baseball and football but not too well. He's got all these cartoon people around him and a cartoon dog named Rambo.

Anyway, he gets all bummed out because Christmas is so commercialized. So he decides to become the liberator of Scotland. He finds this sad looking Christmas tree but when they decorate it it looks good until he gets caught by the English who really start to mess him up.

Just when it looks really bad, he/she teaches all the other nuns to sing rock and roll songs. Everybody loves it, even the English, so they let him go. That's how come he got to be a pet detective.

The movie is really symbolic or something. The guy with the blanket is really a cop and his sister is the giant monkey who got shot of the Empire State Building. That's what Christmas is really all about.


November 28, 2008

Atlas begged

Image courtesy of wikipedia.

BB&T, a large multi-state bank, has given away millions of dollars through its "charitable" fund to promote the ideology of Ayn Rand. You know, unfettered capitalism, keep the government out of everything, and all that.

This was the subject of an earlier op-ed of mine in the Charleston Gazette and this story by NPR.

Well, the latest:

BB&T, the largest bank in West Virginia, announced on Oct. 27 it would receive $3.1 billion in federal rescue plan money. you think they'll issue a clarifying statement to the effect that government intervention is OK if it goes to big corporations but not to anybody else?

WHILE WE'RE AT IT, here's a glimpse into the worldview of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

FOR THE RECORD, I didn't make any of this stuff up.


November 27, 2008

Annual Thanksgiving Possum Recipe

Entertain no doubt, Gentle Reader, that the staff of Goat Rope strive ceaselessly to make this a full service blog. And no full service blog worthy of the name would be complete without a possum recipe on the occasion of this great national holiday.

(Note: no self respecting hillbilly would use the term "opossum.")

((Note: no self respecting hillbillies of my acquaintance actually eat them--not that there's anything wrong with that.))

First, of course, you must find a possum. Once that objective has been achieved, here is an interesting recipe for possum and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy and have a great Thanksgiving!


November 26, 2008


This rooster has an acute sense of honor and is displaying it.

Over the last two weeks, Goat Rope has been looking at cultural factors that influence attitudes towards violence. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

In their 1996 book Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, researchers Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen argue that cultures of honor evolve in places where central authority is weak and goods are easily stolen. In such conditions, violence is often viewed as a legitimate response not only to direct attack but also to personal insults and slights.

They further argue that this kind of culture, which tends to develop among herding people, was influential in shaping the culture of places like Appalachia, the south, and the American West.

Again, the book is 12 years old and many regions of the country have changed in lots of ways since then, but I find their argument interesting and it may at least shed light on some history.

The authors suggested that the legacy of slavery exerted a lasting influence on states where it was prevalent by supporting the use of violence for social control to a much greater extent that societies in which slavery was not a major factor. This might explain some major differences between Appalachia and the deep south:

...if we look within the South, those states that had a higher proportion of slaves in 1860 are today more in favor of disciplinary violence than states that had a lower proportion of slaves. Thus, states of the slave South were between two and four times more likely to administer corporal punishment than states of the nonslave South, according to the 1990 data. And when it comes to capital punishment, states of the slave South were three times more likely to have executed someone than states of the nonslave South, during the period 1977 to 1991. Results were particularly striking when we looked at the chance that a prisoner on death row would eventually be executed. The chance of a death row prisoner being executed were up to fifty times greater in the slave South than the nonslave South. As we would predict, the differences between the slave and nonslave South were restricted to coercive, disciplinary violence; the two regions of the south did not differ when it came to defensive violence.


TOWARDS A NEW NEW DEAL. Here's a call for smart spending on infrastructure investments and job creation.

PATTERN OR NOISE? It's hard to tell them apart sometimes.


November 25, 2008

"Experimental ethnography"

An insult to his honor is something up with which this rooster will not put.

Lately, Goat Rope has been exploring cultural factors that may influence attitudes on the use of violence. As noted previously, societies in which the good things of life are easily stolen tend to develop cultures of honor which view violence as permissible in the face of insults as well as theft and self defense.

Researcher Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen in their 1996 book Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, argue that much of the American south and Appalachia were settled by people from herding cultures, which tend to develop cultures of honor. As noted in yesterday's post, they found regional differences between white males both in homicide rates and in attitudes regarding the use of violence in defense of honor.

Again, I don't want to overgeneralize about any region, especially one that has changed as rapidly in as many ways as the American south, and the data from the book in question is seriously dated, but I think the ideas posed by the authors is at least interesting enough to kill a week's worth of blogging.

Full disclosure: El Cabrero is himself the product of polite but occasionally belligerent Scotch Irish hillbilly ancestry.

To test their hypothesis, Nisbett, Cohen and other researchers designed an experiment that exposed northern and southern students to a situation in which they where deliberately pushed and insulted by a--pardon the expression--confederate in the study.

They found that southerners responded differently to the insult than northerners in their emotional and physiological response and in how they interpreted the events. They were more likely to be angered than amused by the insult, showed higher levels of the hormones cortisol and testosterone after the event, and interpreted it as a direct attack on their manhood.

Nisbett and Cohen found support for three points based on the results of the experiment:

...(1) the insult is a much more serious matter to the southerner than the northerner. (2) It is more serious because an insult makes the affronted southerner feel diminished. (3) Consequently the affronted southern may use aggressive or domineering behavior to reestablish his masculine status.

All I know is the experimenters are lucky they didn't get their clock cleaned.

PRIORITIES. Governments in the US and Western Europe are spending 40 times more on bailing out the financial system than on climate change or fighting poverty in the developing world.

ROBOSOLDIERS may have a role in the future of warfare.

CHILDREN OF KATRINA are suffering from serious health problems, particularly those who lived in FEMA-provided trailers.

RANDY RANDITES. From New York magazine, here are some personal ads by followers of Ayn Rand who are looking for love.

IX-NAY ON THE OGA-YAY. Malaysian clerics have issued a fatwa against the practice of yoga. They have plenty of company in the US, where the "Christian" religious right has raised similar objections. So like does that mean no stretching exercises?


November 24, 2008

Going south

This rooster had a keen sense of honor, which may have led to his untimely demise.

For the last week, Goat Rope has been looking at cultural factors that may influence attitudes towards the use of violence. Please click on last week's posts if you find this interesting.

To recap briefly, in societies where the good things of life are scarce and easily stolen, people tend to develop a "culture of honor" which encourages people to engage in or at least credibly threaten violence in response to insults or threats. Such cultures often develop among herding peoples where central authority is weak or nonexistent, but once established they can continue long after a society's economic base has changed.

El Cabrero's beloved region of Appalachia may be a case in point...

In a 1996 book, Culture of Honor: the Psychology of Violence in the South, researchers Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen argue that many parts of the American south and Appalachia (the two are not identical in my view) were settled by herding people such as my own Scotch-Irish.

They also identify different attitudes towards violence between those areas and northern states.

Let me be the first to say that it's dangerous to overgeneralize about a region and that the American south has undergone many changes, demographic, political and otherwise. I'm not going to give this book the coveted Blanket Goat Rope Endorsement, but it is interesting in at least identifying historical trends.

Nisbett and Cohen found (using data from the early 1990s) that homicide rates for white southerners were higher than that of white non-southerners in fights that developed as a result of arguments which generally involve some kind of insult. They controlled for other factors, such as urbanization, poverty, etc.

In terms of attitudes, they found that

southerners were not more in favor of violence in general, that they were not more in favor of violence in many specified contexts unrelated to culture-of-honor concerns, but that they were more likely to endorse violence when it was used for self-protection and for social control. also showed that southerners were no more likely to endorse violence than northerners in a wide variety of specific situations. It was only for situations involving an affront, the protection of self, home, or family, and the socialization of children that southerners were more likely to endorse violence. Thus, southern ideology does not make all violence acceptable but, rather, allows violence as a tool for special purposes.

On the other hand, this attitude that violence may be permissible under some circumstances may have also contributed to southern traditions of courtesy, politeness and hospitality:

Perhaps that is also why southerns have a reputation for being so polite. The best way to keep a conflict from spiraling out of hand is to avoid the conflict in the first place. So southern hospitality, politeness, and friendliness are what keep social interactions going smoothly.

Y'all have a nice day!

PARTING SHOTS. President Bush is spending his last weeks in office rewriting rules and deregulating industries.

WHAT PRICE REFORM? This review of coal mine safety from the Charleston Gazette is a reminder that improvements were paid for by the deaths of miners.

MY PICK DIDN'T MAKE THE LIST. Here's one estimate of the 10 worst corporations of 2008.

DON'T JUST DO SOMETHING--SIT THERE. Here's more evidence that mindfulness meditation can be good for your brain.