Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: June, 2011

Bloggy Relevance: Thoughts on What This Blog Is and Ought to Be

As long-time readers of this blog probably already know, I have at various times struggled over the identity of this blog, and my identity as a blogger or, really, as an “Internet personality.” I first began blogging in 2004 just to try and promote my first (and so far only) CD, Paul is Making Me Nervous. That didn’t last too long, and it wasn’t terribly interesting.

And you know the old saw: If you want to build an online audience, you need to find your niche and stick to it. I had not found mine yet.

In 2006, I realized I wanted to blog on politics more specifically, so I started a site called FifteenNineteen. By this point in Web history, of course, everyone and their mother already had a political blog, but I intended my blog to distinguish itself as being a kind of educational chronicle: I was about to start graduate school for political management, and I was going to blog on politics from that vantage point: what am I learning, and how does it apply to current events? It will not surprise you to know that I did not follow this tack at all, and simply defaulted to fairly typical punditry, peppered with some Onion-esque fake news articles (some of which I think were pretty damned funny).

I was still nominally maintaining the old self-promotion blog, and I didn’t like the idea of juggling both, so I merged the two into the first incarnation of Near Earth Object. I still focused mainly on politics, with occasional notes on things like my acting career, music, etc. I puttered along.

At the height of the 2008 campaign, a fire was lit under my hindquarters on the subject of atheists’ treatment in American politics, and after a few posts in the old Near Earth on that topic, I realized that I had found a niche I was really quite passionate about. So I more or less left Near Earth Object derelict, save for occasional generally-political posts, and started Bloc Raisonneur, a blog specifically focused on atheists’ place in the culture. I had a lot of fun working on it, learning from it, and I built a tiny following and a modicum of relevance in the atheist online community, which was solidified when I began blogging as a columnist for as the National Secularism Examiner.

Eventually, though, I began to work in the atheist movement itself professionally, and so opining on the topic no longer reflected only on myself — I now also represented a major secularist organization, whether I intended to or not. So both Bloc and my Examiner column atrophied.

But I didn’t feel through with blogging, so I backtracked somewhat, abandoned the idea of a specifically-atheist blog, and resurrected Near Earth Object, the blog you’re reading right now. After my assault in October and the subsequent major changes in my life since, for a while I was very sparse in my blogging.

But as you may have noticed, I’m picking it back up. It means something to me, and I care about making a strong blog product that I can be proud of.

And here’s the thing: my relevance has all but totally dissipated. My posts are read (when they are read) pretty much exclusively by friends on Facebook, and a few from Twitter. One friend only today remarked that due to my refusal to blog within one specific niche, I am not “seriously blogging” anymore.

But the fact is that I think my writing is stronger than it’s ever been. I cover a wide variety of subjects that includes politics, atheism, religion, book reviews, technology, as well as the personal. I write long essays and post brief, Tumblr-like one-off posts or images. I think as an Internet publication, Near Earth Object is strong.

My sense of a job well done is mitigated by the failure of the blog to validate itself through pageviews. My ego wants recognition, for my opinions to resonate beyond the confines of my social network.

I could easily jump back into atheist-only blogging, but why? There are countless other blogs of that nature, and the well-established, well-read among them are fairly entrenched at this point. If I felt that I had something crucially unique to add to the discussion — on a regular basis — that might change things, but it seems to me the grander debate within the atheist blogosphere is on something of a loop: we shouldn’t be aggressive, oh wait yes we should, repeat. (I should note I have an idea for an atheist-centric blog, one that specifically tracks the portrayal and treatment of atheists in the media, a kind of Media Matters for heathens, which I might one day pursue.) Beyond these common discussions, we all essentially agree with each other, and I feel that I can do more good for my blasphemous brethren by highlighting our movement within the context of a publication that is broader in scope.

So this is where we are. I have no plans to change the format of Near Earth Object. My only recourse to relevance, I think, is to write even better posts, as often as I can; to offer unique perspectives (both my own and those of others) on a wide array of subjects that stir readers to think in ways they may not have thought before (or, even, just to provoke a cheap laugh). I’ll make my non-specific blog the best non-specific blog it can be, and that, I suppose, will have to do. I hope more people come by to see it take shape.


Dogma Versus Democracy in Spain and the U.S.

Via the James Badcock of the El País blog Trans-Iberian, we see how grotesque the intertwining of church and state can really be. The post compares the popular movements being attempted in Spain by the Catholic Church and a secular electoral reform movement known as 15-M. One representative of the Church makes a fairly confusing and Orwellian declaration about the relationship between government legislation and Catholic dogma. The subject is a piece of “right to die” legislation:

“When we say that the legalization, directly or indirectly, of euthanasia is intolerable, we are not questioning the democratic organization of public life, nor are we trying to impose a private, moral conception on the society as a whole,” the head of the Spanish synod, Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, said this week. But he added that laws are “not fair merely because they are supported by majorities,” while calling on the faithful to disobey any law which infringed on the “right to life.”

If anyone in, say, the 2012 GOP presidential field were to say this, we’d assume they had a strong Tea Party following, would probably fair well in Iowa, and then be written off when it was really time to pick a viable nominee. We have this kind of talk in our politics, but thankfully it’s not taken all that seriously (yet anyway). What makes this frightening, despite the Bishops’s waning popularity in Spain, is the official status Catholicism enjoys there. Trans-Iberian again, emphasis mine:

. . . the Catholic Church gets six billion euros in state funds a year, half of which goes to maintaining state-subsidized private religious schools. But public money also pays the salaries of bishops and priests, as well as Catholic teachers who work in public schools, military, hospital and prison chaplains, and even goes toward the restoration or maintenance of the enormous patrimony of the Spanish Catholic Church, the second-biggest owner of real estate after the government. All this despite the principle, included in the 1979 agreements between Madrid and the Holy See, that the Church was to advance towards self-financing.

So here, this kind of God-before-democracy talk is mainly rhetorical, and at worst rears its head in grossly unconstitutional or simply wrongheaded legislation, piece by piece. In Spain, however, it’s institutional. Badcock again:

The bishops went even further in their attack on the so-called “dignified death” bill, saying that “such laws call into question the legitimacy of the governments which draft and approve them.”


The bishops want to put a straightjacket on legislators, arguing that a moral  force – that of their professed faith – stands above the will of society in general.

That’s dangerous, and it’s instructive. The thrust of American/Republican hyper-religiousness is Evangelical, but at least in its rhetoric it’s “officially” nondenominational. In other words, were we to find ourselves in a similar situation here, it would be hard to choose one particular form of Christianity that would make any final rulings on policy. Of course, that could be worse, because at least when the Catholic Church throws its weight around, it has a predictable, codified set of tenets to which laws must be adhered. With this quasi-Protestant muddle we have in the U.S., no one seems to know what the “final word” on any given issue is, so it’s left to the whims and ambitions of the charlatans who profess to speak for this vague faith. So Spaniards can look at each issue on its own merits, and decide that Catholic dogma is outdated or immoral or inapplicable to their society. Americans don’t have that clarity when trying to parse mushy Protestantism/Evangelicalism. When one can just “feel” God telling them which decisions, laws, or foreign adventures are right or wrong (as is the wont of folks like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann), there’s no telling how bad things could get.

These People Haven’t Read This Consent Form

My friend Jed, newly-graduated with a fancy advanced degree in something science-y, is having a rough time of finding employment — like many, many other people. Jed has a certain way with storytelling, and he recently recounted on Facebook one of his adventures in job hunting — which involves the frying of his molecules — which I believe is essential reading.

Here’s Jed (with only the tiniest clean-up edits by me). You’re welcome.

So lemme tell ya what it’s come to. In an effort to find a job and pay the bills, I go to a temp agency and the woman asks me if I’m cool with a one day gig that’s a little unusual, but it’s easy and it pays well. I say “Sure, what is it?”

She says, “They need people to test out airport security equipment, so basically you’re just walking through a scanner, sometimes with a secured weapon on you, and that’s it.”

I say, “Ok. I need the money.”

I show up at this place, and as soon as I walk in, the woman at the desk gives me paperwork to fill out, part of which is a pretty hefty consent form. I walk into the back room, and there are several other people participating in this study, and these folks all know each other. These are career motherfuckers. This is their gig. And I’m looking to my right, and my left, and I’m thinkin’, these people haven’t read this consent form.

The guy on my left has massive holes in his ears big enough to fuck and his pants are 18 to 24 inches below his ass, and I’m listening to him talk and I’m thinking, this asshole can’t even read or write; in fact I’m pretty sure he had to get someone, and not an immediate family member, it’s safe to assume, to teach him to sign his name beforehand just to participate in this fucking study.

So I start browsing through this consent form, which is at least 10 pages long, and the first thing I come across is a statement saying that the consent form contains a lot of technical shit, and if you don’t understand portions of it, you’re to ask someone to assist you, (which I’m probably safe in assuming has never taken place in the history of the study) followed by an explanation of the types of scanners, which are not in use at airports yet, the first of which is a microwave scanner, and the potential effects they can have. Now, I don’t know if you know how microwaves work, but basically they cause water molecules to vibrate, so basically they cause the water molecules, in your body, and more importantly, your brain, to vibrate and heat up.

Possible risks, as listed in the consent form: “tissue heating.” Ah. Fantastic. Furthermore, “if you notice any unusual feelings, SMELLS (cooking meat?), etc., please NOTIFY someone immediately.” It goes on to say that these devices have not been found to be unsafe thus far, and that a scan contains microwave radiation within the acceptable limits of whatever organization that jumble of capital letters I didn’t recognize stands for, which, rest assured, has spent thousands of hours microwaving rats until they explode, and knows what the fuck they’re talking about.

I’m cool with going through scanners at the airport. I know they’re safe. Why? Because I don’t have to sign a 10 page consent form. Why? Because the courageous guinea pigs at Manpower [the temp agency in question] have paved the way, and that shit’s out of beta testing.

Back to the consent form. In addition, other scanners utilize gamma and X-rays, but are also within the acceptable limits of exposure, but again, if you smell something similar to that Boston Market smell, speak up. Oh, and we’re gonna do it to you about 300 times today. So now I’m thinking, I’m going to let these people expose my brain to a…MODEST amount of microwaving, and I’m supposed to take comfort in the fact that I’m on slowcook? Lemme tell ya something, I’ve already been up all night smoking and drinking. I think I’ve done enough.

And then there’s the second part of the consent form. They call it “Risk of embarrassment.” They begin by explaining that employees will be taping “secured” weapons and explosives to your body, under your clothes, and also that they will be taping these weapons and explosives to “personal” areas, such as your crotch, breasts, etc., beneath your clothes. Maybe, MAYBE they might need to stuff a small, PETITE muff pistol up your ass, but again, it’s SECURED; there’s absolutely no risk of it going off in your colon.

Now I’m incredibly insecure about my body… I haven’t taken my shirt off in public since….ever, and I’m going to let some mouth breather with no student loan debt and a job that pays more than I’ll make at any job in the next several years strip me down and attach explosives, firearms and sharp objects to shit I use on a regular basis?

So, the consent form can be summarized thusly: “Some asshole you’ve never met, hopefully of your gender, is going to tape a razor blade to your ball sack and then we’re going to microwave your brain for 8 hours, but there’s a cool hundred in it for ya.” When I walked out, handed the consent form back to the woman at the front desk and explained that I’d read it and wasn’t comfortable with it, she looked at me like nobody had ever said that to her before. The point of the story is: I need a real fucking job.

A Natural Worshiper of Serendipity and Whim: Alan Jacobs’ “Pleasures of Reading”

Alan Jacobs, who readers of this blog (all ten of you) may know from previous references to his excellent blog TextPatterns, has recently released a wonderful book about reading that I simply can’t recommend highly enough. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction is just the sort of pithy, sympathetic tract that our times demand — it encourages bibliographic exploration, celebrates chance literary encounters, while offering sincere understanding for the would-be “well-read” among us who fear missing out on an overly massive menu of “great works.”

Those chance literary encounters are the subject of this passage, which I found so delightful and even moving, that I thought I’d share it here.

The cultivation of serendipity is an option for anyone, but for people living in conditions of prosperity and security and informational richness it is something vital. To practice “accidental sagacity” is to recognize that I don’t really know where I am going, even if I like to think I do, or think Google does; that if I know what I am looking for, I do not therefore know what I need; that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate; that it is probably a very good thing that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate. An accidental sagacity may be the form of wisdom I most need, but am least likely to find without eager pursuit. Moreover, serendipity is the near relation of Whim; each stands against the Plan. Plan once appealed to me, but I have grown to be a natural worshiper of Serendipity and Whim; I can try to serve other gods, but my heart is never in it. I truly think I would rather read an indifferent book on a lark than a fine one according to schedule and plan. And why not? After all, once upon a time we chose none of our reading: it all came to us unbidden, unanticipated, unknown, and from the hand of someone who loved us.

As the daddy of a toddler who absolutely loves to be read to, this strikes a chord. Jacobs reminds us that just as we trusted our parents to bring the world of words to us when we could not yet even speak sentences, so we can, as adults, allow the myriad chaotic forces around us to drop texts in our path, and accept them as they come, rather than worry over the time not spent on things we feel we are “supposed to” read.

Jacobs, incidentally, also confirms my feelings about the benefits of dedicated ereaders such as the Kindle. Particularly at this time in our technological lives when so many other gizmos promise to inundate us with all manner of simultaneous stimuli, Jacobs recognizes that this gizmo can help to cleanse the palate and provide oasis.

. . . people who know what it is like to be lost in a book, who value that experience, but who have misplaced it . . . They’re the ones who need help, and want it, and are prepared to receive it. I had become one of those people myself, or was well on my way to it, when I was rescued through the novelty of reading on a Kindle. My hyper-attentive habits were alienating me further and further from the much older and (one would have thought) more firmly established habits of deep attention. I was rapidly becoming a victim of my own mind’s plasticity, until a new technology helped me to remember how to do something that for years had been instinctive, unconscious, natural. I don’t know whether an adult who has never practiced deep attention—who has never seriously read for information or for understanding, or even for delight—can learn how. But I’m confident that anyone who has ever had this facility can recover it: they just have to want that recovery enough to make sacrifices for it, something they will only do if they can vividly recall what that experience was like.

So beyond Jacobs’ excellent prose and insight, perhaps one of the things that recommends this book to me so strongly is validation. I can live with that.

Dull as Pawlenty, Without All That Unsettling Awkwardness

Hopelessness Checked

Andrew Sullivan’s blog has hosted an ongoing discussion of “when we became Rome,” or, when the United States became so decadent in its politics and culture at which point our Rome-like fall would be marked by future historians. (Usual responses are akin to the nomination of Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket in 2008, the invasion of Iraq, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, etc.) One reader dissented to the whole topic, and I thought it worth highlighting, emphasis mine:

This country has endured very difficult and trying times and prevailed. Suddenly, we are in danger of extinction because of the deficit (just the part since Obama was elected) and Medicare and unions. Isn’t anyone acquainted with Hitler, the Great Depression, or the Civil War? The most decadent thing in our culture is our hyperbole and our panic. What happened to fearing nothing but fear itself? If being wimpy is a symptom of decadence and the late Roman era, then I suppose we are in trouble.


Everyone on Earth Quits Gingrich Campaign

This just won’t stop being funny to me. Keep running, Newt. I can’t wait to see what you fuck up next.

Why We ‘Refudiate’ the Brasolaeliocattleya: Thoughts on ”The Lexicographer’s Dilemma”

Jack Lynch’s fascinating book, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, is full of original insights, refreshing perspective, and delightful trivia about our mother tongue. It spans history and academia to lend understanding to what it means for a word to be considered an “official” part of the English language. The gist, as you might surmise, is that there is no such thing as the official version of the language. Dictionaries and pedants have over the centuries set down guidelines about propriety, some more sternly than others, but on the whole, the language is an ever-evolving, gelatinous swarm of words, idioms, and ideas. Lynch would have it no other way, and has little regard for those prescriptivists who attempt to nail it down.

To give an idea of the book’s overall theme, see Lynch’s take on the word/non-word “ain’t,” which he describes as…

. . . the most stigmatized word in the language . . . [which] every five-year-old is taught is not a word. But why not? Just because. It originally entered the language as a contracted form of am not (passing through a phase as an’t before the a sound was lengthened) and first appeared in print in 1778, in Frances Burney’s novel Evelina. We have uncontroversial contractions for is not (isn’t) and are not (aren’t), so what’s wrong with reducing am not to ain’t? The problem is that it was marked as a substandard word in the nineteenth century, people have been repeating the injunction ever since, and no amount of logic can undo it. It’s forbidden simply because it’s been forbidden.

You see where he’s coming from. We can so easily take for granted notions of what words are “real” and which are not (I am more guilty of this kind of parsing than most), forgetting that the real arbiters of these disputes are not thick books of alphabetically arranged terms, nor English text books, but actual human beings using those words. We don’t fault Shakespeare, for example, for inventing new words — whether they were based on existing words, or made from whole cloth — in fact, the earliest lexicographers used great writers such as Shakespeare as the starting point for what was and was not an English word. But any such effort made before Shakespeare would have missed his substantial contributions.

So what other kinds of words tend to get nudged out of “proper” or “official” English? It can be pretty surprising when one considers what gets to stick around. For example. it makes perfect sense that newer words like “blog” or even the latest sense of the word “tweet” should be given general lexicographical approval, but what about words based entirely on error — not on some creative use of language? I’m thinking, of course, of the recent decision of the folks of the Oxford English Dictionary to give “word of the year” credence to Sarah Palin’s “refudiate,” a word muddled entirely from her ignorance of the word’s two roots. If a “wrong” word falls into common use by millions, that’s one thing. When a narcissistic anti-intellectual mob-inciter like Palin screws something up, I have trouble understanding why that should be given any credibility, even if it is half-tongue-in-cheek.

Another example of those terms that are real English words in the sense that Anglophones use them, but don’t get dictionary codification because of their arcaneness in the eyes and ears of the general populace: scientific terms. Lynch again:

. . . if including everything scientific is impossible, so is excluding everything scientific. Everyone recognizes the need to include some scientific words like fruit fly, koala, carbon, and salt. But why should a lexicographer include daffodil and atom but omit brasolaeliocattleya (a kind of orchid) and graviscalar bosons (theoretical subatomic particles)? There’s no difference in the character of the words, only in the familiarity of the things they identify. If some future technological breakthrough makes us all familiar with graviscalar bosons, they’ll eventually show up in the major general dictionaries. Until then, they have to remain in the language’s antechamber.

I’m pulling for graviscalar bosons. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in general use, if for no reason than that it’s a delight to say. Try it.

But, like “ain’t,” some words are beyond the language’s antechamber and instead find themselves in the house’s hidden dungeon. These are of course our “dirty words.” The origin of the concept of utterly-unacceptable words may surprise you, and be especially enlightening to my atheist readership:

The notion that particular words are taboo can probably be traced back to primitive beliefs about sympathetic magic, in which language can be used to injure people at a distance. It’s telling that many of our unseemly words are known as curses, since the conception of offensive language seems to have derived from a belief in the power of a malefactor to place a curse on an enemy.

So not only are “curse words” arbitrary and, on the whole, harmless in and of themselves, but their supposed power derives from notions of the supernatural, as though uttering them could do actual physical or spiritual damage. Makes the case for their enfranchisement even stronger, as no one will be made mysteriously ill or forced to reincarnate as a dung beetle by my typing the word “fuck.”

Of late, there may be no one who better illustrates — through written and verbal usage — the delightfully changeable nature of language than humorist Stephen Fry, who wrote a few years ago in an ever-relevant essay:

Convention exists, of course it does, but convention is no more a register of rightness or wrongness than etiquette is, it’s just another way of saying usage: convention is a privately agreed usage rather than a publicly evolving one. Conventions alter too, like life. . . . Imagine if we all spoke the same language, fabulous as it is, as Dickens? Imagine if the structure, meaning and usage of language was always the same as when Swift and Pope were alive. Superficially appealing as an idea for about five seconds, but horrifying the more you think about it.

If you are the kind of person who insists on this and that ‘correct use’ I hope I can convince you to abandon your pedantry. Dive into the open flowing waters and leave the stagnant canals be.

But above all let there be pleasure. Let there be textural delight, let there be silken words and flinty words and sodden speeches and soaking speeches and crackling utterance and utterance that quivers and wobbles like rennet. Let there be rapid firecracker phrases and language that oozes like a lake of lava. Words are your birthright.

This being so, we should make better use of this birthright. Embrace the changes, relish the experimentation, the creative truncations, the inventions, and at the same time, educate yourself. Learn the words that are unfamiliar. You can’t do Jackson Pollock-type abstract painting
until you learn to reproduce the works of the impressionists. You can’t do improvisational jazz until you have mastered, note for note, the classical works of centuries past. Likewise, don’t presume to change the language until you are sufficiently familiar with it that your creativity means something — be aware of what you and those around you are doing to the language hundreds of millions of us share. And as Fry says, in this, find pleasure.

The Unscrewing Continues

Hasselhoff *is* included in Happy Puppy Sunshine Blog

Brent Rasmussen, with whom I have a bizarre and long relationship on the Internets (and pre-Internet — all hail Prodigy circa 1991) shuttered his blog Unscrewing the Inscrutable a while back. UTI was one of the earliest of its kind, satirical, thoughtful, atheistic, libertarian-esque before any of that was cool, or even had time to be uncool, only to become so uncool, that it became cool again. UTI launched some other prominent bloggers who posted along with Brent, and I even contributed for a short time before my influence dragged its overall quality down a few notches. Brent became weary of it, understandably, and stuck to Facebook and Twitter for his online dalliances.

But I never believed Brent could stay away from bloggery for very long. This month, he and friend Andy (previously of World Wide Rant) are back with a new blog, the Happy Puppies and Sunshine Blog — which comes with the proviso, “In the event of an emergency, Happy puppy will be eaten. Contains no sunshine.”

It’s about time.

Hopelessness Watch: Mommy and Daddy Bought Me My Own Paywall

I know what you’re thinking. “Paul,” you’re thinking, “it feels as though the economic divide between the rich and poor is not quite as gaping as it ought to be, nor is it accelerating at a pace that sufficiently turns the vast majority of Americans into a forgotten underclass.” Well, fret no more! In a jaw-dropping piece in the Washington Post, we learn the following:

For years, statistics have depicted growing income disparity in the United States, and it has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. In 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent.

Let your eyes settle on that figure for a moment. 0.1 percent makes 10 percent of the income. What an astounding waste of economic resources, so much of which is being directed at a tiny, disconnected clutch of uber-elites.

But there have always been super-rich guys, right? Nothing new here. Oh, wait:

Other recent research, moreover, indicates that executive compensation at the nation’s largest firms has roughly quadrupled in real terms since the 1970s, even as pay for 90 percent of America has stalled.

So all those guys who were out-of-touch fat cats with monocles and top hats and twirly mustaches in the days of yore (oh wait, that’s the 187os — still, the image works), imagine those guys now get four times as much wealth, and everyone else gets less.

This bothers me on two levels (right now anyway). The first I alluded to already: that much wealth in such a tiny number of hands is a squandering of economic fuel on those who need it least and will use it least effectively for the betterment of society. Money that could otherwise go to raising wages of workers, providing more revenue for government social services, or investment in our infrastructure is instead being hoarded and spent on multiple country clubs and private jets for a handful of (mostly) men.

The second level is my main focus for this post; the notion that as this gulf widens between the rich and poor — and put aside the outlying 0.1 percent and think about the rich-writ-large — the psychological and empathic connection between the two spheres frays more and more. How can someone to whom everything now comes easy ever understand the plight of those for whom it does not? If one’s day to day life is one of only high-class concerns, and one’s only contact with the lower classes is with those who clean up after you, how can they possibly understand the implications of their own actions?

One might say it doesn’t matter. Who cares whether Rich CEO X is “connecting with the common man.” His job is to make money for his company, and that’s that. But the problem is those who have the money, the resources, the connections, they’re the ones who also wield incredible political power. Policy swings toward those who have the means to fund its marketing, and that being so, it’s no wonder even our best-intentioned lawmakers and officials can’t escape from the gravitational pull of a giant dollar sign. The political needs of the rich are attended to, the needs of the rest of us are pandered to, and then ignored.

Which brings me to an article that’s made me angrier than anything I’ve read in ages (save any article about what Republicans “think”). From the New York Times, we read about a whole new way of getting started in the big, wide world:

For some parents, an engraved pen set just won’t cut it as a graduation present. It seems so insubstantial, so unoriginal. Anyway, the kid will just lose it. So how about a New York apartment?

Real estate brokers say that in the last year, they have seen more parents shopping for apartments for their grown children, hoping to take advantage of low mortgage rates and apartment prices that are still about 20 percent down from the market’s peak.

“I got a digital watch for graduation,” said Barry Silverman, an executive vice president of Halstead Property, “but I’ve worked with families where the children are getting an apartment.”

What follows in another 1887 words about the most airborne of all high-class problems — working through various regulations and arrangements so that parents can literally purchase Manhattan apartments for their spoiled children.

Why even go to college? Why educate oneself if one has already had the good fortune to be born to parents who will roll out the red carpet for you in the form of the most expensive and sought-after real estate on the planet?

But honestly, I’m less concerned with how this prepares then for the real world (for they will need no preparation), but how they will go on to relate to those who are not privileged. How will they treat the ever-impoverished majority?

How will they vote? What distorted priorities will they have?

Political power will already tend toward their interests. What will they decide their interests are if all they know is being the prince or princess of their little fiefdoms, their rented duchies with views overlooking the park?

Yes, in some instances noted in the article, the kids are paying some maintenance costs. But this amounts to a few hundred dollars in an place that would normally fetch thousands, if not tens of thousands per month.

And Christ, just look at the shit-eating grins on these kids faces as they sit happily perched in their palace towers.

Life is hard.

I mean just look at them. And listen as they recount their struggles.

Ms. Santos is easing herself into the cold reality of housing costs by paying the maintenance fee, $650 a month, to her father. Without her parents’ help, she said, “I wouldn’t be able to live in Manhattan, and I would definitely have roommates.

“Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be more established in my career and I’ll be able to get something bigger.”

My god. She’d have to have roommates?!? Thank the sweet lord her parents were willing to sacrifice in order to spare her that horror. And rest easy, folks. Soon enough she’ll have something bigger. In Manhattan.

Yeah, that’s about all I can stand. What’s worse is that the entire article in written without a trace of irony, without a hint that, you know, maybe this is a tad excessive, and perhaps — perhaps! — it points to an overindulgence of already-privileged children who will go on to lead warped, unconnected, and supremely sheltered lives. Nothing. This is just a new trendy-trend for the Gray Lady’s upscale readership.

Which, incidentally, now crouches behind a paywall. Coincidence.