the definitive reckoning of the man-hour


Dr Thurgood: Larry! 
Larry David: Hi. I know I don’t have an appointment, but I got a bill in the mail today… am I to understand that you charge me for talking to me on line in a baseball card show? Is that possible? 
Dr Thurgood: Well yes, it is. 
Larry David: Dr Thurgood, we spoke for all of three minutes! 
Dr Thurgood: Let me just point out, Larry, that sometimes when people suffer with what I might call the more dramatic forms of narcissism, they have a hard time gauging how long they have been talking about their problems for themselves. 
Larry David: You’re saying I’m a narcissist? 
Dr Thurgood: Larry, maybe I can help you understand this way. I had a client, he was quite an illustrious, well-known director. I don’t want to reveal who he was, but he did direct Star Wars… And he enjoyed, in his repertoire of things that he liked, to see prostitutes. Now, in that particular situation, if he were to hire a prostitute, let’s say for an hour, which was normal for him… 
Larry David: You might as well call him George Lucas, I mean that’s who directed Star Wars
Dr Thurgood: Oh, well, I would never say that. I would never say that. 
Larry David: Well, you just told me who it was. 
Dr Thurgood: I merely alluded to the fact that he was a well-known director. Now, one of the things he needed to complete his work, it was important for him… 
Larry David: Everybody knows who directed Star Wars
Mr. Thurgood: Well, not everyone is in show business, Larry.  
Larry David: Okay, good… all right, go ahead. 
Dr Thurgood: My point is… 
Larry David: God only knows what you’re saying about me! 
Dr Thurgood: No one asks about you. 
Larry David: I didn’t ask about George Lucas, but you just brought him up! 
Dr Thurgood: I merely said “a well-known director”. And here’s my point: he used to frequent prostitutes. And very often he would hire them for an hour, which was their minimum, but it only took him three or four, maybe five minutes to complete the shot, if you understand what I’m saying. However! they considered it fair and he considered it fair to pay them for the full hour—that was the way they did business. 
Larry David: First off, I am appalled by what you just said to me… 
Dr Thurgood: He has a right to do what he wants. He is an adult. 
Larry David: It’s supposed to be confidential! 
Dr Thurgood: And it is. 
Larry David: You’re not supposed to be telling people! 
Dr Thurgood: It’s merely my way of illustration. My point is that people need various things to help them function, and my hope is that I was doing that for you. Well, it was good to see you. 
Larry David: And congratulations, doctor, I think you’ve stumbled upon the perfect analogy for exactly what you do. 
Dr Thurgood: Well, it’s somewhere between a hobby and a profession for me, just as it is for them.  
Larry David: Uh huh. 
Dr Thurgood: Good seeing you. 
Larry David: Okay. 

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 8, Episode 9

bobos in numberland

In the course of promoting his pop psychology treatise, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (Random House, 2011), David Brooks has been disseminating the claim that 94 or 95 percent of professors in America say that they are above average in teaching skills. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.) The browsing functionality of Amazon.com permits all interested parties to find and read the relevant pages 218 and 397 in his book, which credit page 73 of another specimen of the same genre, penned by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth, The Free Press, 2006. In its turn, endnote 8 on p. 286 in that book credits the statistics of professorial overconfidence to an article by Janet Metcalfe, “Cognitive optimism: self-deception or memory-based processing heuristics?”, published in Personality and Social Psychological Review, 2 (1988), pp. 100-110. The referenced article is available in its entirety from several online sources. (1, 2, 3.) Needless to say, it says nothing that remotely resembles the foregoing claim.

Update: Tracing the notion of Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average” yields a reference to P. Cross, “Not can but will college teachers be improved?”, New Directions for Higher Education, 17, 1977, pp. 1–15, said to describe a study at the three branches of the University of Nebraska, where in responding to questionnaires that asked professors to rate their teaching abilities, 94% of the faculty considered themselves above average in teaching ability and 68% placed their teaching abilities in the top 25%. This likely source of Brooks’ statistic is not nearly as expansive as the countrywide claim that he erroneously credited to Metcalfe. It would be preposterous to claim that a certain percentage of professors in three branches of a single university in Nebraska, a state whose economy depends on delusional overconfidence, can stand proxy for the same proportion of their profession throughout America.

on the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love

Sigmund Freud’s Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens, or Contributions To The Psychology Of Love comprise three articles:

  1. “Über einen besonderen Typus der Objektwahl beim Manne”, Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, Vol. 2, 1910, pp. 389-97; Gesammelte Werke, VIII, pp. 66-77; “A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men”, Standard Edition, Vol. 11, pp. 165-175
  2. “Über die allgemeinste Erniedrigung des Liebeslebens” (Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens II), Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, Vol. 4, 1912, pp. 40-50; Gesammelte Werke, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-91; “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love”, Standard Edition, Vol. 11, pp. 179-190;
  3. “Das Tabu der Virginität” (Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens III). Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Leipzig-Vienna, Vierte Folge, 1917, pp. 229-251; Gesammelte Werke, Vol. XII: 159-180; “The Taboo of Virginity”, Standard Edition, Vol.11, pp. 193-208.

In the second of these articles reproduced below, Freud discusses male impotence that arises from an incestuous fixation on mother or sister. In the broadest strokes that fall short of caricature, his approach derives from the hypothesis that human sexual desires are based on childhood developments that adults ordinarily no longer consciously access. In regard of these developments, Freud identifies two currents in erotic life. The older affectionate current, originally directed towards the infant’s earliest caretakers, typically the mother, eventually becomes complemented by the sensual current that attains its acme during puberty. The oedipal prohibition turns the sensual current elsewhere. But it often remains fixated to its original incestuous objects, whereby the whole of a young man’s sensuality becomes tied to incestuous phantasies in the unconscious. Impotence ensues. Short of this extreme development, pleasure departs from sexual relations. Men seldom combine the two erotic currents, taking complete satisfaction in the same woman instead of directing each current to different women. But perhaps the erotic instinct is bound to remain perpetually unsatisfied in the choice of object. In later work, Freud would develop the argument locating the gain in the processes of sublimation responsible for the development of civilization. Continue reading on the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love