Skip to content
 

Henry David Thoreau (3) vs. Charles Manson

I’m sorry to announce that the winner from yesterday is Miguel de Cervantes. I was really really rooting for Joan Crawford on this one. For one thing, we’d have a packed house. I just think she’d be the best. Sure, Cervantes was a genius yah yah yah, and if the question were who to invite over for dinner, I’d pick the Quixoteman, no question. But if we’re inviting someone to perform in front of an audience, I don’t think anyone can out-emote Joan.

But . . . it’s not up to me, is it? It’s up to you. And the best argument in the comments came from Jonathan, who effortlessly shot down Crawford with the line: “I’ve known plenty of people like Joan Crawford already.” Also the affirmative case from Jameson: “Book 1 of Don Quixote was good, but it’s book 2 that’s the true classic. In other words, Cervantes is the kind of presenter who only gets better when he has a bigger audience to react to.”

But let it be known, for the record, that I’m disappointed.

OK, now for today’s matchup: the civil disobedient vs. the violent criminal. And, remember, this is not a judgment on who’s the better person, it’s about who’d be a better seminar speaker. We’ll assume that security won’t be a problem and that either speaker would be safely returned to prison at the end of the talk, following the question-and-answer period.

Quiet desperation, or bloody murder? It’s your choice.

You tell me who will be a better seminar speaker, and why.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.

24 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    With Manson I reckon we would just get a load of bad Beatles covers and the world does not need more people trying to sound like them – dull, dull, dull.

  2. Dan Simpson says:

    Really? Anyone can get better with an audience that’s willing them to succeed, Crawford got better with an audience that was willing her to fail. Also, her career works as an excellent analogy for spatial statistics (or really any field that has a “golden age” and then has to grow by working out how to be less like it was while still being itself). Also Joan Crawford invented homosexuality, which is better than the novel.

    (Yes – I’m far behind on this, but I’ve been away for the week)

    The current two: one inspired terrible music, the other inspired terrible pseudo-intelectuals. I like Nine Inch Nails so obviously Manson.

  3. jrc says:

    This one breaks down to to whose narrative on loneliness and solitude is more interesting: the guy who removed himself from society, or the guy forcibly removed from it.

    Lifetime probability of incarceration and homelessness seems in the same ballpark, so we can’t just judge by “most useful discussion to most number of people”

    Prison: http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/Llgsfp.pdf

    Homeless: http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/Llgsfp.pdf

    So we have to decide based on comedy. And what would be funnier than pressing HDT on the use of surveying people about homeless based on “Random-digit dialing…households with telephones.” Also, there’s nothing quite like disappointing an important thinker in history by pointing out that, despite the fact you ended an institution they hate, you still put 30% of black men in chains.

  4. Jonathan (another one) says:

    So it’s “The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail” vs. the 40-something years Manson has.
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1946&dat=19801106&id=JlE0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=b7kFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1208,3455088 “Throughout the two hour hearing, [Manson] smoked, twisted his beard, and stomped, clapped whistled and shouted.” This just doesn’t sound like a guy ready to perform for an audience at a high enough level. He apparently now thinks he’s immortal http://nypost.com/2015/02/08/charles-mansons-fiancee-wanted-to-marry-him-for-his-corpse-source/ Boring. One problem with this contest is that for living people, I assume they’ll be their current selves, while Thoreau, for example, gets to be his best self. I’d like to meet the 1969 Manson, but the 2015 Manson, not so much.

  5. Shecky R says:

    I think you’ve made some of these pairings merely to annoy us! Just move Henry D. ahead to the final 3 or 4 slots so he doesn’t have to be insulted competing against pipsqueaks(or mass murderers). And while you sit at home counting the votes I’m going to go suck some marrow out of life…

  6. Mark says:

    Thoreau conducted a social experiment, and admitted to errors in his experiment (e.g., planted too many beans, bought too much lime, and lists many food storage “experiments that failed”, including flour, sugar ,lard apples, etc.). I don’t recall Manson admitting to many errors. Plus, Thoreau wrote important things like “simplify, simplify”, “shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous”, and “uptown funk gonna give it to you.”

    So, clearly, Thoreau.

  7. The Other says:

    1960s Manson. Since he charmed the biker leader into his circle by persuading him that the girls in the Family were only sticking around because of the quality of his (the biker leader’s) methodology and the impressive scale of his apparatus, I want to see what his approach is to charming a roomful of academics.

  8. jonathan says:

    Ned Wynn in his delicious memoir We Will Always Live in Beverly Hills describes Manson, who he’d meet at pool parties, particularly around Dennis Wilson. Have to vote for Thoreau because Ned makes pretty clear the appeal was for the damaged, not the inquisitive.

    BTW, Ned is Keenan’s son, Ed’s grandson and his step-father was Van Johnson. If you want a hilarious Hollywood upbringing story, this is it.

    And Maxine Marx, Chico’s daughter, describes both meeting Joan Crawford as as child and she wasn’t nice. I think it was her book, Growing Up with Chico, that describes going to a birthday party for Christina, one that she wasn’t actually allowed to attend but had to watch from upstairs.

  9. Eric says:

    There is no reason to give Manson another audience. He should never have been given an audience in the first place, and every time he has been given an audience has been a mistake. Do not make another mistake.

  10. Matt Beaven says:

    Bad & worse. Can we fail them both?

    I’ll toss my vote to Thoreau but he will lose in the next round.

  11. Jameson says:

    Manson. Thoreau may have earned his place in the canon, but he’s a misanthrope; not the kind of guy to own a room. Manson had followers.

    But neither has a chance against Cervantes. Cervantes has both presence and sanity.

  12. James G says:

    Manson. Not even close.

  13. Martha says:

    Thoreau. Reasons:

    1. Mark’s argument: “Thoreau conducted a social experiment, and admitted to errors in his experiment … I don’t recall Manson admitting to many errors. Plus, Thoreau wrote important things like “simplify, simplify”, “shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous” …

    2. Jonathan (another one)’s argument: “ “Throughout the two hour hearing, [Manson] smoked, twisted his beard, and stomped, clapped whistled and shouted.” This just doesn’t sound like a guy ready to perform for an audience at a high enough level. He apparently now thinks he’s immortal … Boring” (In fact, it makes him sound like the worst of a two-year old, but without the compensatory cuteness.)

    3. Jonathan’s argument: “Have to vote for Thoreau because Ned makes pretty clear the appeal [of Manson] was for the damaged, not the inquisitive.” I hope Andrew is inquisitive, but not damaged!

    4. Even though (as I said in the last round) I think Joan Crawford is not very interesting, I think she’d still be a lot more interesting than Manson.

  14. Ethan Bolker says:

    Thoreau, just to add my vote (I know you’re not counting). Would a pun on “thorough” add more weight?

  15. Jay says:

    Thoreau because without the murders, Manson’s book wouldn’t ever make it to a second printing.

Leave a Reply