Weekly Roundup: Be A Lot Cooler If Your Language Stacked Edition

No politics this week — at least no explicit politics. The zeitgeist is moving faster than I can target it. Instead let’s talk about something academic, in the traditional sense. Over the past year, I’ve been occasionally spending ten minutes at a time with Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas, usually during lunch or when someone is wasting my time on the phone. Unlike Godel, Escher, Bach or I Am A Strange Loop, the Themas book is suitable for “snacking” because most of it is in the form of short essays.

In parts, it’s pure Cringetopia; there’s a pair of chapters on “sexist language” where Hofstadter is painfully and obviously trying to impress some feminist fellow professor with the prehistoric wokeness of his ideas from 1985 or thereabouts. Yet even when Douglas is a contemptible, pandering geek he’s still dangerously insightful: one of his essays replaces all instances of “man” or “men” with “white” or “whites”, effortlessly predicting a future where lower-and-middle-class white men would be the Universal Enemy for American culture. (What? You thought it was rich white men, or all white men? Pay more attention.)

What has my attention today, however, is a rather innocent question Hofstadter asks in an essay on the Lisp programming language, which I’ll rephrase like so: Why doesn’t English “stack”, or contain unpackable sequences? If that question makes no sense, have no fear. I will, as they say on Reddit, Explain Like We’re Five Years Old.

For a fairly long time now, computers have been largely programmed with “functions” or “objects”. A function is a series of tasks that are performed about the same way every time. Imagine, for example, the programming that is necessary to draw the letter “A” on a computer screen. This function is used by everything from Microsoft Word to Call Of Duty:Warzone, so most computers have a “function” to draw the letter “A” in varying shapes and sizes. Most programmers never give it a moment’s thought.

It’s possible to create functions by stacking other functions. Every time you do that, you take all of those stacked functions more or less for granted. Something that seems simple, like running across open ground in Fortnite, has hundreds of functions stacked beneath it, from animating the character’s feet to shifting the landscape perspective to keeping tabs on what else the player should be shown based on what’s happening elsewhere in the game. When you want to introduce a new character in Fortnite, you keep 99% of that stuff and just change what the body looks like.

Now you know what functions are. (Given the crowd I have here, chances are you already knew.) An “object” is a… collection of functions. We create a player object in Fortnite every time we play a new game. All sorts of things can be done by the player, and all sorts of things can happen to the player. All of those occurrences are functions that are “called” on the player. I’ll show you in a programming language I’m just making up for this.

$player = player::new

#This creates our new player.


# This causes our player to flinch like he’s been shot, and to lose health


# This has the player reload his gun

dance($player, “Shake It Out West”)

# This causes the player to dance while the song “Out West” plays

Each one of these simple commands contains literally thousands of lines of programming language that are “unpacked” by the computer and executed. Some functions change the object

decreaseHealth($player, “50%”)

while others don’t change the object but cause the object to do something


You get the idea. Let’s return to that getShot function. It probably contains at least the following separate functions:

  • Calculate the damage of getting shot and subtract it from health
  • Show an animation of the player getting shot
  • Reduce control sensitivity for a pre-determined time
  • Flash the screen red, while possibly drawing a graphic showing the direction from which the shot was launched
  • Play a sound
  • Cause the player to appear on the maps of all nearby players
  • Stop any other animations or actions in process (like reloading)
  • And so on, and so forth

That’s a lot to unpack! Yet the processor does it in a space of time that feels immediate to us, which is all the more amazing because there are thousands of things that have to be done inside the computer for each task on the above list. Luckily the processor can handle a couple million operations every second, or we’d be in real trouble.

This function-based, unpackable method of programming computers isn’t the way it’s always worked. Anybody who has programmed the Atari 2600 knows that the system has to be told how to do almost everything. There are two “objects” that can be “called”, the Player And the Missile. Everything else has to be drawn every single time by the programmer. So, as an example, the original Atari 2600/VCS Pac-Man draws the Pac-Man 24 times a second but only draws each individual ghost 6 times per second, because it can only handle two objects at once. So at any given time you get one Pac-Man and one ghost. Your eyes retain the shadow of the last three ghosts, causing the flickering illusion of four total: Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde (I think). But that’s all you get for objects, so every time a “pellet” is eaten, the whole playing field is redrawn, just without that pellet.

The past thirty years has seen an explosion in the “stacking” of functions, largely because people expect ever more complex programs and there’s no time or effort available to do everything from scratch every single time. The idea of “stacking” or recursion turns out to be a relatively easy thing for people to understand. We’re kind of built for it.

So why isn’t there more of it in language, particularly in English?

Virtually every English word is a single idea, action, or object class.

I drove my car to work. There’s some stacking going on here: to “drive” is to perform a multitude of operations, from using the turn signal to reading street signs. “Work”, as well, is a relatively complex idea indicating that you are compelled to perform certain tasks for which you are then compensated in a currency acceptable to you. Go find a hunter-gatherer from ten thousand years ago and see how long it takes you to explain either. Still. These are now simple ideas. Isn’t there a way to combine them, like we combine the reloading animation with the ammunition restock in Call Of Duty?

As fate would have it, there’s a “stack” that we can “unpack” available to us:

My commute today

This contains several ideas, most of which sum up as “transit to work”. If you tell me you have a “commute”, I can unpack it into several assumptions, from regularity to duration. When I have to go to Laguna Seca for work, that’s not a “commute”. When I had to go to Honda’s Marysville plant, it absolutely was. In 2001, when I worked for National Bank of Detroit but still lived in Columbus, driving Monday morning to a Super8 hotel which I’d occupy until Friday morning, it was hard to say whether or not I was “commuting”.

Now ponder this: We have a word for the drive to work, and we can use the same word for the return. Is there a word that unpacks to: commuting to work, working all day, then coming back? We ask our spouses How was your day? but “day” is a poor choice for this because what we are really asking is, “How was your morning commute, your day at the office, your meal eaten during that day, and your return from the office?” If you asked your spouse “How was your day?” and she responded with, “I just realized the carpet in the living room is dirty,” then you’d feel subtly wrong about that interaction. You’re not really asking about the whole day including the ten minutes in the house between the time she came home and the time you stated the question. We kinda need a word that includes the out-of-home time but not the in-home time.

We could come up with a hundred more “missing words” like this without any difficulty. Each of these words, were they to pop into existence, would make our language faster, more precise, and less subject to misinterpretation. We can often make some educated guesses about society based on what gets a word and what doesn’t. Sexual relations outside a marriage are “adultery”, and we still use that word to some degree, but premarital sex is… what? Oh, it’s fornication, one of those words that is going the way of the dodo. Along with many other “stacked” concepts.

If you had an infinite ability to remember words — which you essentially do, humans are very good at it — and you wanted to communicate quickly with people of similar intelligence, you’d invent new words all the time. This was the case during pretty much the whole transition from Chaucer-era English to the English of Queen Victoria. It’s how we get the lovely distinction between “horrible” and “terrible”. Or “envy” and “jealousy”, two other words that are rapidly becoming the same word in 2021.

German is infamous for its stacking and recursion… except it’s really just usually a case of word mash-ups. Backpfeifengesicht, the delightful term for “face in need of a fist”, is really just a combination of “slapping” and “face”. Same with schadenfreude, which is literally “harm joy”. Still. Why don’t we have “harmjoy” in English? It would still convey more than the simple meanings of the root words — in other words, it’s unpackable.

Our descent as a society into the cellar of Western culture, together with our conscious and oft-facilitated decision to rejigger English as a Newspeak to facilitate commerce at the expense of meaning, means that we are actually heading in the opposite direction to what Hofstadter suggests. We are using more and more simple words to convey complex meaning, rather than relying on the words that once served to sum up that complexity. We have also become heavily, repugnantly, reliant on context.

Not that there isn’t beauty in context-based language running on degraded hardware. The Story Of Mel is a wonderful tale of someone who could use the limitations of a computer as easily as he used its abilities. In 2012 the rapper “100s” wrote a rap entitled “My Activator” containing the following:

How to make a motherfucker hate yo shit, then how to make a motherfucker play yo shit, and how to make a motherfucker take yo shit, date yo shit, pay yo shit

This has 32 words total, but only 16 unique words! If I unpack the meaning, it goes something like

How to make someone for whom you have disdain despise you in return, then be compelled to listen to your music anyway thanks to its quality, also how to make him accept your abuse then pay you for the privilege of dating a woman who is one of the prostitutes in your pimping stable

My version has 54 words, 40 of which are unique, but it doesn’t tell the typical listener of a 100s track anything that he doesn’t get from the original text. (Apropos of nothing, GNU ‘zip’ can boil my phrase down to 203 bits, but the 100s version can be dropped to… 100 bits. I didn’t expect that coincidence.)

I had at least one linguistics professor in school who would have had unironically argued that the 100s version is superior, because you can understand it with a lighter, simpler vocabulary. Of course, if you wanted to be certain that posterity could understand what you were trying to say, you’d want to use my version, as the 100s version is highly reliant on you being immersed in street culture circa 2012. Alternately, you could create new words, using German as an inspiration, and make sure they entered the dictionary:

mutuspitetarg: someone you despise and/or believe to be weak, knowing he feels the same about you
playhatetrack: to be compelled to enjoy music even though you despise the musician
lovepimptrick: when a customer falls in love with, and eagerly pays for, the sexual services of your unvalued prostitute

With these neologisms, we get

How to make a mutuspitetarg playhatetrack, then lovepimptrick

Eight words, all unique. GNU ‘zip’ takes it down to 90 bytes, hardly any better than the original lyric.

The more pattern-sensitive among my readers have perhaps considered that all three version of the lyrics require context, but that the 100s lyric requires kind of an ephemeral, mostly unwritten cultural street context, while the other two require the services of a regular dictionary and an imaginary enhanced one, respectively. So what’s the difference? How is one any better than the other?

To answer this question, and close out the column, I’m going back to the rap well one more time, this time looking at an Ice Cube verse:

Back in the day I did my share of dirt
Sometimes I got away clean, sometimes people got hurt
But if you know me, you know that I’m liable
To bust a cap ’cause it’s all about survival of the fittest
I’m a menace crook
I did so much dirt, I need to be in the Guinness Book
From the shit I took from people

I repo your Vette, then jet
Back to the criminal set

Additional emphasis mine. When this record came out, I was mildly confused. Ice Cube should be in the Guiness Book of World Records for taking shit from people? That doesn’t seem like a braggable quality. In my generally non-theft-oriented mind, “taking shit from people” meant to take abuse, as in the quote from Layer Cake:

You’re born, you take shit. Get out in the world, you take more shit. Climb a little higher, take less shit. ‘Till one day you’re in the rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.

The person who says this is also a gangster, same as Ice Cube’s character in his rap album, but he’s a British gangster. So he’s not talking about stealing things, like Cube is. He’s talking about accepting abuse.

What’s interesting is that the two meanings are almost directly opposed: to successfully steal from someone is not at all like being abused by them. What we need here are two unpackable new words:

shitgrab: to steal from someone, without repercussions
shiteat: to accept abuse from someone, without complaint

These are almost simple enough to make it into the language, I think. It seems safe to assume that most future additions to English will either be captured words from American immigrants or simpler words to take the place of more complex ones. If you listen to public discourse nowadays, we are clearly headed towards a pidgin, which has always been the logical result of using English as a common language in places where the majority of speakers are not born or comprehensively educated in it. The BBC, for example, has a daily pidgin edition that will blow your mind. The funny thing is that it’s readable, to some extent! Wikipedia says that

The most important difference compared to other types of English is the limited repertoire of consonants, vowels and diphthongs used. This produces a lot of homophones, like thin, thing and tin which are all three pronounced like /tin/. This circumstance gives a high importance to the context, the tone, the body language, and any other ways of communication for the distinction of the homophones.

I hate to break it to the fellow whose question opens this column, but the future doesn’t contain any more stacking or recursion in English language. Maybe in an alternate timeline, one where English had less global usage, America didn’t have 14 percent of its population speaking English as a second language, or universities had chosen an educational mission over a cultural one. The future is context-based. It’s verbal, it’s video, it’s gestures, it’s 1000 words instead of 170,000.

This degradation of English is a joy to everyone who hates Western and European culture. Yet the language as I and others have known it will always have a unique and singular (thankfully, these words don’t mean the same thing!) beauty and purpose to my mind. To quote a Pidgin proverb I have just learned:

“Goat tink say e dey spoil ein master house by rubbing its smelly body on the house. E no know say na ein own skin e dey spoil.”

Feel free to use that as context for our fast-forward zeitgeist, Professor Hofstadter.

* * *

For Hagerty this week, I wrote about different kind of Lexus. Since February has been created Black History Month, I asked my old pal Douglas, aka “Rodney”, to write about the African-American side of the street-racing lifestyle. I hope you enjoy his story.

34 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Be A Lot Cooler If Your Language Stacked Edition”

  1. Avatarsightline

    I’ve read this essay four times now and while I had a hearty chuckle at Hofstadter’s recursion joke at the top, I don’t understand the equivalence of stacking (i.e. decomposition and reuse) and recursion (a function calling itself with modified inputs until some goal is achieved) being used here. What subtlety am I missing?

    And having taught recursion to top-5-CS-school undergrads, I will take vociferous issue with the statement that it is relatively easy to understand; at least in a programming-theory sort of way.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      You’re not missing anything; I’m trying to be very simple for a non-CS audience. Hofstadter himself combines the topics in his LISP essay.

  2. AvatarChris

    I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and have done pretty well for myself in the grand scheme of things. Jack has made this or a similar distinction in the past and I didn’t care enough to look it up then or now, but I have no idea what the difference between horrible and terrible is. And I’ve never felt like I was missing out on anything by not knowing. Maybe one day I’ll learn the difference and have a Naven Johnson-like “if this is out there, what else is out there?” epiphany, but for now, I’m content to plod forth in my unbridled ignorance. If I enjoy your writing but think you sometimes come off as a condescending douche, is that a form of playhatetrack?

  3. AvatarJohn C.

    On the 1973 Lexus LS400, remember when the experts told Toyota that the early 90s T100 pickup needed a V8 but instead Toyota added a four to the line. The critics shook their head but the hardcore Toyota fans swooned. When the Tundra then bowed to convention Toyota fans lost all interest. What they loved about cars like the Crown is that it could function like an American compact without the stigma of involving yourself with the big three. Those buyers would have responded better to adding a four to the Crown. A V8 would just have been standardizing a domestic convention that the buyer resented.

  4. Avatarhank chinaski

    I’m reminded of Blade Runner’s ‘Cityspeak’, which after a quick trip to a fandom wiki and a shameless copypaste, was created by Olmos using elements of Japanese, Spanish, German, Hungarian, Chinese, French, and Korean.
    There’s a hierarchy buried in there somewhere.

  5. AvatarCraig Dotson

    The trend toward more simple words and context is likely symptomatic of general cognitive decline in society. Increasing exposure to environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors, diets of highly processed foods, and importation of a new citizenry from intellectually inferior stock has kneecapped our societal average IQ over the past 65 years.

    It is a shame, as I have always surmised that the English language itself was uniquely responsible for Western Civilization reaching the heights it had reached by the mid-20th century. Its unique ability to expand to include concepts or entire words from other languages (Cultural Appropriation!!!11) lent our culture a unique specificity that is essential to technological development. As an engineer I’ve always been amazed at how often I can listen to engineers discuss a technical subject in a foreign language and still pick up and understand 25%+ from the English technical jargon they utilize.

    • Avatarstingray65

      English is also more efficient than any other language. Look at multilingual instructions for anything and the non-English versions are always longer in length, probably because English has a larger vocabulary than any other language from all the cultural appropriation, but not the gender stuff that makes so many other European languages a pain to learn.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        There are more concise languages than English though I agree that its polyglot origins give it great power and nuance between word meanings. English translations of the Hebrew bible typically have about twice the number of words that are in the original. Hebrew handles a lot of things like propositions, articles, and so forth with prefixes, suffixes and the way verbs are conjugated. “Halachti l’bayti” = “I went to my home”, two words vs five.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            That’s transliterated. In Hebrew characters it’s just 10 letters, הלכתי לביתי. I’ll concede that the English, in this case, has one fewer syllables.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            One could argue that the Hebrew alphabet really have consonants and vowels. Like Arabic, the vocalization is indicated by diacritical marks, called nikkudot in Hebrew, placed below and above the letters. All the letters can be considered consonental, but they can also all take on vowel articulations, and there are a number of letters that are effectively silent except for the vowel sound attached to them. Since vowel usage is pretty standard, once you learn how to read Hebrew you don’t really need the vowels any more. Torah scrolls, for example, have no nikkudot, neither do Israeli newspapers.

            While the letter Yud, of which there are three in that phrase, can sometimes take a Y phoneme, in this case all three are silent so one could say there are also just 7 consonants.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            One could argue that the Hebrew alphabet really have consonants and vowels. Like Arabic, the vocalization is indicated by diacritical marks, called nikkudot in Hebrew, placed below and above the letters. All the letters can be considered consonental, but they can also all take on vowel articulations, and there are a number of letters that are effectively silent except for the vowel sound attached to them. Since vowel usage is pretty standard, once you learn how to read Hebrew you don’t really need the vowels any more. Torah scrolls, for example, have no nikkudot, neither do Israeli newspapers.

            While the letter Yud, of which there are three in that phrase, can sometimes take a Y phoneme, in this case all three are silent so one could say there are also just 7 consonants.

    • AvatarChris FOM

      You realize that your claim about a drop in IQ is actually factually, verifiably, provably wrong? IQ scores have actually risen by about 3 point per decade since at least the 1950s, so over the last 65 years they’ve not only not been kneecapped they’ve CLIMBED by about 20 points.

      Just a cursory 10 second Google search was more than enough to demonstrate this, but here’s a fairly recent link to a meta-analysis done on this exact subject.


      • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

        If you think of human achievement or even just history or literature, in terms of man-hours much more happened in the past century than the previous several. Unless something in the food turned them into blithering idiots there is no way that they could not be smarter than previous generations.

      • AvatarCraig Dotson

        I’m not making it up, and a less than 10 second DuckduckGo search of “avg iq by decade us” turned up this newer study documenting the apparent end of the Flynn effect in first-world nations:


        Again there may be many potential causes for this, most of the posited causes I mentioned previously. I think the Flynn effect is very much like Moore’s law; something which was observably true within living memory and remained true past the time it was observed may well have screeched to a halt rather than go parabolic.

    • AvatarDaniel J

      I love the Expanse. I always thought the belter dialect was a little weird. Same way with the Vikings and their weird norse dialect they are attempting.

  6. Avataryossarian

    i remember being intimidated as a suburban kid by urban street talk. after growing up and spending a some time in the city, i noticed that people who actually use such language in their daily life are constantly repeating themselves because no one around them understands them well. the same people will understand my relatively standard english with ease.

    i used to work with a successful black entrepreneur who would talk to his rap artist clients (bone, thugs & harmony, fat joe, etc.) in an indecipherable street dialect on the phone while relaying technical and creative instructions in perfect english to me. his yiddish was also better than mine.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        This isn’t like Jimmy Cagney speaking Mamaloshen, which he picked up in vaudeville. There haven’t been any Yiddish speakers in the music business in two generations, except maybe some small Chassidic labels. Threats from black activists who accused him of exploting black artists convinced Leonard Chess to sell Chess Records to MCA in the late 1960s and many Jews in the business similarly found other lines of work. Some, like Jerry Wexler at Atlantic (whose partner Ahmet Ertegun was from a Turkish Muslim background – I think he was related to the current dictator in Turkey) stuck it out.

        If there are a lot of Jews in the recording industry today, it’s because Jews were involved in the recording industry from its earliest days. The flat phonograph record was invented by Emile Berliner. I’m writing from memory, but if I recall correctly, Berliner’s American subsidiary was Victor (maker of the Victrola phonograph and originator of the His Master’s Sound trademark), which was eventually acquired by David Sarnoff’s RCA. The Columbia record label was acquired in the 1930s by the Columbia Broadcast System, founded by Wm Paley, also a Jew.

        • AvatarJohn C.

          I assume you are making the understandable distinction between religious and secular Jews in the music industry. Even talented Jewish performers like Billy Joel, have tales of being victimized and exploited by Jewish, in his case also BIL, management. Among low IQ black performers, imagine how bad it gets. For example, Traci Chapman finding out the Jewish man pulling the strings of her career was her real father. A man who had been involved with everyone from The Loving Spoonful to Al B Sure. Notice also this half Jewish half Ivory Coast rapper with all the hundreds being foisted on the American ghetto as if he was of them. The hollowing out even reaching the black rapper. Even I wouldn’t have thought they would try that.

          The thing is even secular Jews revert to Yiddish. Remember the hippy era trial of the Chicago 7, six of which were secular Jews as were their attorney and the judge. What are the chances? Anyway when Abby Hoffman insulted the Jewish judge for being a tool of the nazis, he did so in Yiddish and was understood.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            The thing is even secular Jews revert to Yiddish.

            Saying “oy vey” does not make one a Yiddish speaker.

            You don’t know what you’re talking about. About 40% of Jews are Sephardic and don’t even come from Yiddish speaking backgrounds.

            The Chicago 7 trial was more than 60 years ago and the phrase that Abbie Hoffman used did not call Judge Hoffman a tool of the Nazis (that was Jerry Rubin, who said it in English) but rather that he was shaming the Jewish people in front of Gentiles. It’s a fairly common phrase that then was known by many American Jews, whether or not they were actually Yiddish speakers, similar to how you probably know what Ce la vie means even if you don’t know French. Again, that was two generations ago. Most American Yiddish speakers alive then have literally died out. Judge Hoffman died of natural causes and Abbie offed himself decades ago.

            The vast majority of secular Jews in America might know about as many Yiddish words as you do. The only American Jews who speak Yiddish today are either in their 90s or in the orthodox community, where Yiddish is used as a language of instruction in yeshivas. A relative tiny number of Chassidic Jews in America also learn Yiddish as their first language and an even smaller number of secular Yiddish scholars teach it in colleges. I’m fluent in Hebrew but my son, who attended a yeshiva for high school, knows way more Yiddish than I do.

            You will note that the rapper in question made a career move to identify as black, not as Jewish, which possibly speaks to the relative value of those identities in the entertainment industry and the culture at large.

            When Leonard Chess negotiated contracts with musicians, his secretary told the musicians they should wait for him in his office, where they could help themselves to an open bar. Chess was typically an hour or so late for those meetings, to be sure the artists were in an alcohol enhanced amiable mood when the negotiations started. Is that exploitative? Nobody told the musicians to drink.

            When Marshall Chess was asked if his father exploited the artists on his label, he said, “The thing those musicians wanted most was a song on the radio because having a song on the radio meant they were making $250 a night on weekends and had a Cadillac convertible with a fine bitch at their side. My father got them that song on the radio.”

            The fact is that when he came to this country, Leonard Chess was poor as any of the musicians he recorded were when they started their careers. While some of the artists on his label were established before they signed with him, like Howlin’ Wolf (who couldn’t be swayed by Chess with stuff like free cars or an open bar), in many cases it’s because of Leonard Chess that we know about musicians. Would Muddy Waters (and his sidemen like Walter Jacobs and Hubert Sumlin) have become famous if his only recordings were the archival stuff Allan Lomax recorded for the Smithsonian down on the Stovall plantation, before Muddy came up north?

          • AvatarJohn C.

            What a great comment Ronnie. I keep rereading it to learn more.

            Point of inquiry. Are the Sephardics 40% of American, domiciled, Jews? Is the rapper with all the 100s, Jewish half from those folks from Emperor Mellinik. If not, how is that not shape shifting to control?

            I am glad you told the story of Leonard Chess. It so much mirrored the story of Jacques Minkus, a Polish/ briefly French/ Jewish postage stamp dealer that was personally successful but brought down the stamp collecting hobby by redirecting it from worthies to stupid children. Admittedly as far as I know he wasn’t plying the kids with alcohol, Does anyone really think transferring music appreciation from worthies who liked Wagner to those of us who pretend not to notice how often that fool from the Ivory Coast uses the term MF improved music?

            Obviously the problem is not entirely Jewish. When Gentiles who spend there time talking up these nothings in between telling us how smart they are, what is the real message? It must be there are no more smart people.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            I’m no musicologist, or fan of rap, so I won’t defend musically and linguistically illiterate “musicians”, but I’d be willing to bet that Beethoven and Bach would have enjoyed Muddy Waters’ music.

            Popular culture used to include elements of high culture. They marketed record albums of “favorite classical music” and popular arias. The major networks would put on specials with Rudolf Nureyev dancing. The Ed Sullivan show was as likely to have Segovia as it was Elvis or the Beatles, perhaps even more likely. Hell, even the Beatles covered Till There Was You, a Broadway standard from The Music Man.

            Unfortunately in this country and in England, much of that midbrow high culture influence on pop culture has disappeared, replaced by low culture, much of it informed by prison culture, hence the tats and pants hanging halfway down their asses.

            As for demographics, most American Jews are Ashkenazim, but there are large Sephardi communities in California and NY. Culinary tip: Sephardi restaurants are great. The food is flavorful and the portions and included side dishes are usually generous. Because of the diaspora, Jews have very rich culinary and musical traditions, having absorbed influences from many cultures. One of my favorite melodies is Cuando el Rey Nimrod, a Ladino song which has both Spanish and Arabic influences.

  7. Avatarshitead

    furthermore, I predict we will eventually be distilled into two social classes:


    who am I kidding? we’re already there

  8. Avatardejal

    Kossisko is 100s. That’s some tough love there. Not sure I’d have much love in return for the ‘rents. I guess he didn’t have the grades for Devil’s Island.

    Kossisko was born to a Jewish mother and African father.[4][5] He was raised in Berkeley, California. At age 16, due to disciplinary issues, he was sent by his father to a remote boarding school in Abidjan, inside the Ivory Coast. Kossisko was told that the Africa trip was a vacation, but he was left at the school indefinitely. At the boarding school, he lived in a three-bedroom house with 15 people. He contracted malaria five times. At one point, Kossisko ran away from the boarding school and fled to the local American embassy. Despite his pleas, his parents refused to allow him to return to the U.S., and because he was under the age of 18, he had to remain in Africa. After his attempt at escape, he was sent to the small town of Bouaflé where he lived with his uncle. Not long after, he and his uncle’s family moved to . While in Africa, he learned to speak French.[5] Kossisko returned to the United States in late 2010

    • AvatarJohn C.

      Imagine the grinding of teeth in that Ivory Coast when this fellow left his paternal birth right and took advantage of his Hebrew privilege to come to America to restore our dilapidated stocks of foul mouth pimps and gangsters. How sad that the USA was so Red, White, and Cruel to him. No matter how much he is celebrated by fools he will never be a reliable citizen

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Are you sure it was Hebrew privilege and not his status as a native-born American citizen that got him back in America?


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