Friday, December 9, 2016

Why John Brascia is the secret hero of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

Just finished the annual family viewing of "White Christmas." So good. And the movie's secret weapon? John Brascia.

Who's that? This guy dancing with Vera-Ellen:


Here's my theory: John Brascia's role in this movie makes no sense at all. Danny Kaye is Vera-Ellen's love interest in the movie. He should be, by the usual logic of Hollywood storytelling, her duet partner in all her big dances. Indeed, Kaye and Vera-Ellen have a lovely dance early in the movie:


After that, though, it's Brascia — who utters no lines in the movie — who is the main dance partner. It's aided by the show-within-a-show conceit of the movie: They're practicing for an upcoming musical, you see. But again, this doesn't make a whole lotta sense...

...unless you consider this possibility: Brascia, and not Kaye, was the only dancer on set who could keep up with Vera-Ellen.

Yes, Kaye was enormously gifted as a dancer. But he was already in his early 40s when "White Christmas" was made. Brascia is a good 21 years younger. And Vera-Ellen is a hell of a dancer.

Watch this. Watch Brascia's feet, especially.


Love me some Danny Kaye. But he's not keeping up with Vera-Ellen there. John Brascia is.

It's OK! That's not a knock on Kaye. Vera-Ellen's vocals were dubbed by Rosemary Clooney. This movie knew what it's performers strengths and weaknesses were and adjusted accordingly. More than 60 years later, it's still a hell of a watch. And John Brascia, whose name I bet you didn't know, is one big reason why.

More evidence that Trump's support didn't come from the "white working class."

National Review detects something interesting in the exit polls:

The 2016 CNN Exit Poll found, for instance, that Trump won among married voters, winning 52 percent, but lost decisively among the unmarried (see table below). The 26-point marriage gap in the 2016 electorate is large. (The marriage gap is calculated by taking the difference between the two candidates for the married and adding it to the difference between the two candidates for the unmarried.) In fact, it surpasses the 24-point gender gap also found in the CNN Exit Poll of the 2016 electorate.
Who is married? It isn't the white working class — at least, not as much as it used to be.

WaPo:
Over the last few decades, members of the white working class have also become less likely to be married. As this chart from economists Shelly Lundberg and Robert A. Pollak shows, marriage rates have fallen for whites without a college degree. About 55 percent of white men and 60 percent of women with no more than a high school diploma are married, compared to about 70 percent of men and women with four-year college degrees.
More about the "marriage gap" here. What's interesting is that divorce rates for college graduates has fallen back to about where they were in the 1960s, before the rise of no-fault divorce. It's the working class that's increasingly full of broken and never-been marriages.

And the point here is not to sneer at that. But given the overlap between elites and marriage, National Review's discovery suggests maybe that "white working class" narrative about Trump's victory has some holes in it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Remember when Republicans complained Obama's policies created uncertainty?

WaPo:

That style, including his opaque personal financial dealings and his sudden shots at certain companies, has helped unnerve a corporate America that traditionally craves stability. Some business leaders and economists have worried whether executives can speak their minds about the president-elect or his policies without fear of facing Trump’s rage.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why does Barack Obama think he's black?

An article at Carolina Journal suggests Barack Obama could've offered more racial healing to the U.S. if he'd identified as bi-racial instead of black:
Much of the Left imposes racial conformity — especially on those it considers its own. You need solid attachment to a demographic group, and not consider yourself different, an individual or, perhaps even worse, part of America’s old-fashioned melting pot. To lead that group there are expectations about what you should think, the language you should use, and how you should characterize others. It’s hardly the stuff of national unity.

Oh how I hate this piece. For a very simple reason.

It decries "the left's" tendency to force people to attach themselves to an ethnic group, rather than America,without mentioning or grappling with the historic reality and cultural (nevermind legal) power of the "one-drop rule."

Obama's decision to present himself as anything but a black man probably wasn't, for much and I'd say most of his life, a decision that really was his to make. Many Americans would've seen him as "black" no matter how complicated the reality of his genetics and upbringing.

Is this still salient? Yes:
The centuries-old “one-drop rule” assigning minority status to mixed-race individuals appears to live on in our modern-day perception and categorization of people like Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, and Halle Berry. 
So say Harvard University psychologists, who’ve found that we still tend to see biracials not as equal members of both parent groups, but as belonging more to their minority parent group. The research appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

People forget how recent the worst of our history was. Obama was born before the Civil Rights Act was passed. He was born before the Voting Rights Act was passed. He was born well before Loving v. Virginia was decided. And as the Harvard piece mentions, it was as recently as 1985 "when a Louisiana court ruled that a woman with a black great-great-great-great-grandmother could not identify herself as “white” on her passport."

And, not to throw anybody under the bus: I was told growing up — by people who encouraged me to see Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero — that marrying a black woman would be wrong. Because to make biracial babies would be a disservice to those children.

The past is never dead. It's not even the past.

Our societal effort to celebrate biracial children — to acknowledge the fullness of their histories instead of stamping them with the "minority" label — is both welcome and a relatively new thing. It still gets pushback. I don't know how widespread it really is.

Given that, and given all the history, it's not really remarkable that Obama thinks of himself as black. It's also true that he's never, ever hidden his white ancestry — in fact, has spoken of it prominently and proudly but also sometimes too honestly for white critics to forgive. 

So Obama thinks of himself as black? Sure. Most Americans would've thought of him that way, too, even if he'd self-conciously tried to identify otherwise. To pin any blame for America's racial problems on a decision that was compelled by America's racial culture is ... silly.