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Ed Driscoll

The Substance of Style

Parliamentary Objection

July 28th, 2014 - 7:39 pm

“Why the Left Protests Better: A History of ‘Disobedient Objects,’” is the headline of this Daily Beast article, which posits:

Walking through the show, it’s impossible to miss the trend—virtually all of the innovative, daring pieces of design and art have emerged from left-wing protest groups. The organizers insist this was never the intention, they just couldn’t find any examples from the Right. Grindon told The Daily Beast the realization surprised him, but it seems the Left is more inventive, better at protesting.

“I think, by structure, those movements on the far-right aren’t about creating solidarity, aren’t about creating new worlds. They’re often about preserving at least imagined versions of the world, so they tend [to] not radically experiment with the culture,” he said. “They tend not to have the same level of creativity.”

They tend to have actual jobs:

Not long after [Andrew Ferguson] and I met, we were driving down Pennsylvania Avenue and encountered some or another noisy pinko demonstration. “How come,” I asked Andy, “whenever something upsets the Left, you see immediate marches and parades and rallies with signs already printed and rhyming slogans already composed, whereas whenever something upsets the Right, you see two members of the Young Americans for Freedom waving a six-inch American flag?”

“We have jobs,” said Andy.

—P. J. O`Rourke, from the introduction to Parliament of Whores.

For my interview with P.J. earlier this year on his new book, The Baby Boom, click here.

“My secret lust for right-wing women” is explored by self-described “liberal-lefty-pro-feminist” Cosmo Landesman in the UK Spectator:

I have slept with women who write for the New Statesman and women who write for the Daily Telegraph and I can’t honestly claim that one lot is better than the other. But there are certain post-coital benefits that come with women of the right. They never subject a man to the music of Nick Drake or Nina Simone. As good libertarians, they don’t mind if you smoke in bed or pick up a newspaper or roll over and go to sleep — come to think of it, that’s what they are more likely to do. Nor do you ever have to lie in bed and watch some mawkish film about Nelson Mandela or one made by Michael Moore. (They don’t think you’re demented because you’d rather watch Die Hard.) And right-wing women never think that leaving the toilet seat up is a passive-aggressive act of patriarchy.

Sorry, comrades, but when it comes to the bedroom I’ll have to vote Tory.

Fair enough — but didn’t Landesman’s fellow Brit (well, expatriate Brit) John Derbyshire explore this exact theme for National Review in early 2001?

Though the Derb’s column was much more devoted to aesthetics than Landesman. Derbyshire wrote:

Still, I think I could make an objective case for the general proposition. Just line them up, for goodness’ sake. On the Left: Janet Reno, Donna Shalala, Hillary Clinton (you can take her before or after the style crash, far as I’m concerned), Madeleine Albright, Barbra Streisand, Rosie O’Donnell, Katie Couric, Anna Quindlen, Andrea Dworkin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nina Khrushchev, Mao Tse-tung’s last wife … On the Right: Margaret Thatcher, Condoleeza Rice (pity about that forename — what were her parents thinking of?), Linda Chavez, Katherine Harris, Laura Bush (a cutie, in my book, though I wish she’d get the squint fixed), Suzanna Gratia Hupp, Heather Nauert (oh God), Paula Zahn, Ann Coulter, Peggy Noonan, Grace Coolidge, Elizabeth the First, the last Tsarina, Eva Peron … I rest my case.

There are a few necessary qualifications, but I don’t think they blunt my argument. They may actually strengthen it. Madeleine Albright, for example, is said to have been a babe when younger. Well, water will find its level, physical states return to equilibrium sooner or later, and all lefty women, whatever attributes they may have started out with, revert to type at last. Margaret Thatcher at 60 could still drive men crazy — I would have given my all for one favoring glance. Those Young Conservative girls I used to know, who are now Middle-Aged Conservatives in tweeds, manage to look good in tweeds. (There is, in fact, a great deal to be said for women in tweeds. There will be a future column on this topic.) But Hillary Clinton at 60?

* * * * * * *

When Arthur Koestler was a communist in Weimar Germany, he used to have secret meetings with comrades in open public places where a police “tail” would be easy to spot. Once he met with a female comrade in a Berlin park. While discussing necessary business, the woman lost her attention and began staring at the surrounding trees. “Why is it,” she suddenly blurted out, “that the leaves die wherever we go?”

Perhaps because, as Landesman writes this month:

I recently had sex with a woman who writes for the Guardian and in the heat of the moment I said, ‘I love you — you filthy slut!’ I meant it as a compliment! Honest! She stopped the proceedings and gave me a long lecture about how the ‘verbal demeaning of women’ was totally unacceptable. I had a similar experience with a woman of the right. (I won’t repeat what I said because it’s too embarrassing.) But she just laughed and said, ‘Oh, you do say the sweetest things to a girl!’

Women of the right will not tolerate sexism; but nor do they have that tendency of some left-wing women always to play the victim of sexism. They have a robust, get-on-with-it attitude to life that makes them less prone to the neurotic, whiney, oh-poor-me melodrama that has infected so much thinking of left-leaning feminists.

Is Landesman kidding? In any case, does it matter? I’m sure his column is already receiving the following stern rebuke from the left

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

Related: “A Guardian columnist looks at the subtext of Thomas the Tank Engine,” as spotted by James Lileks. Entirely predictable archleftist Brit-scolding of an venerable and universally beloved kiddie show ensues. As Lileks quips:

Every parent does this: analyzes their kids’ shows to death for fun, because you’re stuck at home watching something inane. Everyone has that “hmm: this is a show about slavery, in a way.” It also lacks class consciousness:

Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a “really useful engine”, because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.

Well, it’s Guardian writer, so yes, she does, but the proper kind.

Heh, indeed.™

Update: Naturally, the smoke from Thomas’s engine is racist — it’s white smoke, get it?!  — but then, isn’t everything?

Life Imitates Night Shift

June 29th, 2014 - 9:15 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

Wanna know why I carry this tape recorder? To tape things. See, I’m an idea man, Chuck. I get ideas coming at me all day. I can’t control ‘em. I can’t even fight ‘em if I want to. You know, ‘AHHH!’ So I say ‘em in here, and that way I never forget ‘em. You see what I’m sayin’?

[speaking into tape recorder]

Stand back, this is Bill. Idea to eliminate garbage. Edible paper. You eat it, it’s gone! You eat it, it’s outta there! No more garbage!

—Michael Keaton as Manhattan morgue attendant turned would-be pimp “Bill Blazejowski” in the 1982 film Night Shift.

I’m a weirdo who eats her cupcakes with a fork, but thanks to these new edible cupcake wrappers, I guess I don’t have to anymore! I can bite right into the side of the thing without having to worry about peeling the paper back without dropping half the cupcake onto the sidewalk (okay, wait, the visual of haphazardly chomping into a delicate baked good doesn’t sound too dignified either).

The wrappers, made by Dr. Oetker, are wafer-like, gluten free*, and can survive being baked. They can even hold up in the oven without a cupcake tray — on what planet is that a reality!? The downside is that they’re pretty pricey. A pack of six is $4, which is a bit too steep to be worth it — unless, of course, they start turning up in Pinterest recipes. Then maybe I’ll consider the splurge.

“We Obviously All Need These Edible Cupcake Wrappers,” The Frisky, yesterday.

Found via Maetenloch at AoSHQ; truly, we live in an age of technological and gustatory miracles.

* What is Gluten?

What Could Go Wrong?

June 15th, 2014 - 1:49 pm

“GM app will let you scan a license plate then text that driver,” Automotive News reports:

Ever look at something and think, “Who the heck thought this was a good idea?” No? Well, you’re about to. General Motors’ Chinese research and development division has come up with a new Android app that will allow people to scan license plates and send messages to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of whether the other driver has downloaded the app.

It’s called DiDi Plate, and aside from the privacy concerns (which, we know, don’t mean a lot in the People’s Republic), the potential for abuse here is huge. Drivers could be easily harassed, whether they deserve to be or not, while we can imagine a cottage advertising industry popping up, with people that simply scan plates and send messages to drivers on behalf of local businesses.

Oh and speaking of China, some interesting factoids here. The nation that once monolithically dressed its Inner Party members in drab gray Mao suits now consumes “more Guccis and Bulgaris and Louis Vuittons than the rest of the world combined:”

(Via Ace of Spades.)

‘Cosmopolitan Does Not Cause Anorexia’

June 14th, 2014 - 2:23 pm

“The Photoshop Cops” are taken on by Kevin D. Williamson at NRO. As he writes:

Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and Lois Capps (D., Calif.) have, at the urging of reformed adman Seth Matlins (D., formerly of Creative Artists Agency, Rock the Vote, etc.), offered up a very silly bill to empower the federal government to censor advertising on the theory that the overuse of photo-editing software causes anorexia and other eating disorders. The world being full of stupid people, there is an emotionally incontinent for-the-children petition demanding that the Federal Trade Commission implement this censorship, on top of Mr. Matlins’s earlier demand that advertising in which images have been altered — which is to say, advertising — be labeled to alert beef-witted Americans to the fact of that alteration.

* * * * * *

It is difficult to know what to make of a culture in which the federal government subsidizes sex-change operations while forbidding the alteration of photographs, but it is remarkable that the political tendency that insists on the depiction of “real women” in fashion advertising also, in other domains, defines “real women” to include people with functional penises and testicles used for sexual intercourse resulting in the occasional pregnancy. “Humankind,” as T. S. Eliot observed, “cannot bear very much reality.”

Read the whole thing, which is written by the author of a recent book titled The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome — and cultures approaching their obsolescence do tend to engage in exponentially increasing numbers of mass delusions. They help to make the time pass more easily, and reduce the need to  wrestle with much more painful truths.

Which brings us to Gavin McInnes on “15 Myths Millennials Accept as Fact,” found via Kathy Shaidle.

Quote of the Day

June 9th, 2014 - 5:01 pm

“Venice is glamorous, until the breeze off the Adriatic brings in the smell of rotting fish and raw sewage, at which point it is like Hoboken with better architecture.”

—Manolo the Shoeblogger, as quoted by Virginia Postrel in her new article, “The Glamour of Getting Away: No matter how unpleasant the real journeys, travel still has a way of seducing us.”

For my interview with Virginia on her recent book, The Power of Glamour, click here.

Marching in Place

June 3rd, 2014 - 11:50 am

“Paleo, vegan, gluten-free – the only certainty about health trends is their reversal,” the L.A. Times reports, thus clearing the way for the healthy sensible red meat, deep fried foods and tobacco diet of the future predicted in Woody Allen’s Sleeper:

With the exception of the long-held mantra to eat a balanced diet, steer clear of processed food and maybe ease up on the doughnuts, most health and diet trends are little more than a grain of science with a heady dose of marketing. The term “superfoods,” bandied about so readily by everyone, including Dr. Oz and Starbucks, is a word so deceptively meaningless that the European Union practically banned its use.

Health food trends continue to grow because they are a cash cow. It’s estimated that the global antioxidant market will generate nearly $100 billion in a few years, even though most of us have no idea what an antioxidant is, and their long-term benefits are far from certain. But that doesn’t stop the California Walnut Board, the pomegranate hucksters at POM and assorted vendors of sugar drinks (from Vitamin Water to 7-Up) from proudly slapping “antioxidant” on their packaging and ads, while subtly pushing the narrative that it might possibly be the cure for cancer.

On my last night in Los Angeles, my wife and I offered to cook dinner for our friend Josh, whom we were staying with. “That would be wonderful,” he said, but the meal could have no meat, dairy, eggs, white grains, sugar or salt. “Fish is great, though,” he added, as though we had another option. There was no dessert.

Reading the piece sounds is a reminder of how little has changed amongst the far left since George Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937:

The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting. This last type is surprisingly common in Socialist parties of every shade; it has perhaps been taken over en bloc from the old Liberal Party. In addition to this there is the horrible —- the really disquieting —- prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got on to it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink, and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long grey hair bobbed in the Lloyd George style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured ‘Socialists’, as who should say, ‘Red Indians’. He was probably right-—the I.L.P. [Independent Labor Party] were holding their summer school at Letchworth. But the point is that to him, as an ordinary man, a crank meant a Socialist and a Socialist meant a crank. Any Socialist, he probably felt, could be counted on to have something eccentric about him. And some such notion seems to exist even among Socialists themselves. For instance, I have here a prospectus from another summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say ‘whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is by itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.

But deeply in touch with his religious yearnings. But then, as Victor Davis Hanson writes in his latest article on the left and their newfound obsession for “Trigger Warnings:”

We should not use the word “progressive” or “liberal,” given that on issues like abortion, affirmative action, the environment, illegal immigration, censorship, and a host of others, the left is reactionary to the core.

In the spirit of changing words to reflect reality, I suggest that we call today’s liberals “regressives” — fundamentalists who are wedded to self-serving deductive doctrines that cannot sustain empirical scrutiny and exist mostly as fossilized theologies of the 1960s.

Trigger Warning: VDH’s pose might inspire you to read the whole thing.

You can get a pretty good sense of the overall mental health of America based on the amount of camouflage being worn — outside of on-duty military personnel and hunters of course — at any given time.

Camouflage as ironic leisurewear for the elite took off in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a protest against the Vietnam War. As Tom Wolfe wrote in his epochal 1976 article “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening,”  the New Left students of the 1960s “lived in communes that were much like the hippies’, except that the costumery tended to be semimilitary: the noncom officers’ shirts, combat boots, commando berets — worn in combination with blue jeans or a turtleneck jersey, however, to show that one was not a uniform freak.”

By the mid-1970s, the post-Watergate left had slashed America’s defense spending in Vietnam, and prohibited President Gerald Ford from retaliating against what would result in the NVA’s final push against South Vietnam. Having snatched American defeat in Vietnam from victory, that long war began to fade from American memory, and camouflage from college campuses.

But around 1978 and 1979, the Southern Californian-based skateboard culture embraced L.A.’s burgeoning punk rock scene. As photos in Skateboarder magazine illustrated, in the space of about six months, professional skaters decided they’d rather wear punk-inspired reactionary crew cuts than the flowing curly locks inspired by mid-‘70s rockers such as Peter Frampton, Roger Daltrey, and Jimmy Page.

In the early 1980s, England’s Clash embraced a paramilitary look and an album titled Combat Rock. Simultaneously in L.A., the Powell-Peralta Skateboarding Company, which for several years had been selling urethane skateboard wheels called “Bones,” branded their pro skaters the “Bones Brigade,” a sort of paramilitary-styled proto-A-Team of skateboarding, and dressed them in camouflage T-shirts. Concurrently, manufacturers of knee and elbow pads and padded nylon skateboarding shorts began selling their protective wares in olive and tan camouflage colors. (These days, Tony Hawk, an early Bones Brigade member, shills Obamacare, removing the irony from the skate team’s early paramilitary look and bringing it full-circle into socialism.)

By the mid-1980s, the last vestiges of Carter-era American malaise had given way to an American rebirth under the popular and confident President Reagan, whose common-sense motto was “Peace Through Strength.” Punk Rock had largely dissipated. Professional skateboarding had collapsed into an underground sport, and camouflage seemed to fade into oblivion, replaced in the fashion world and pop culture inspired by preppy clothes, Wall Street’s navy blue pinstripes, and Miami Vice pastels.

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Can You See The Real Me?

May 2nd, 2014 - 1:43 pm
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Quadrophenia celebrated the 35th anniversary of its debut at the movies today, according to Kathy Shaidle, who links to the film’s trailer, and an hour-long “Making Of” video.

I became a huge fan of The Who in response to The Kids Are Alright, both the 1979 movie and the soundtrack double album (an actual album, long before there were tiny silver CDs), and its accompanying booklet filled with beautifully written hagiography by British rock critic Roy Carr. (I just checked the author’s name; it’s one of the few actual LPs I still own, complete with price tag indicating it was purchased One Million Years Before CD at the Turntable record store in Willingboro, NJ.)

I loved the sturm und drang of the roaring original Quadrophenia album from 1973, and played it endlessly (and still do from time to time). So when the movie version of Quadrophenia followed the Kids Are Alright movie out of the gate, I eagerly anticipated it. When I saw it, though, I had a very difficult time reconciling that the music, sung by Roger Daltrey in all his hard rocking macho glory, was built around Jimmy the Mod, a scrawny little 16-year old shrimp of a kid puttering around on his Vespa scooter. For a guy who grew up among classmates in suburban New Jersey who owned Camaros, Mustangs and Mopars, it was cognitive dissonance in the extreme.

But then, most of the iconography of the early 1960s British Mods initially seemed impenetrable, except for two things: rationing and information ricochet. The mods were a rebellion against the last stages of the postwar rationing maintained by its socialist government, which hadn’t ended until the late 1950s, a rebellion built around what we would now call conspicuous consumption, of American Brooks Brothers Ivy League clothes, Italian scooters and the La Dolce Vita lifestyle depicted in Italian cinema, and American Motown music.

As opposed to their arch rivals, the Rockers, who worshiped American 1950s rock and roll, and the image that Marlon Brando cultivated in The Wild One.

And with their rival obsessions over American culture, both the British mods and rockers were enmeshed in what Tom Wolfe used to describe in the late 1970s and early 1980s as “Information Ricochet,” such as in this 1983 interview (with Ron Reagan, of all people):

The history of punk seems to go as follows: It was picked up by young English people and used in somewhat the same way that Los Angeles teenagers used the word rotten to mean good. Punk had a certain genuine quality at the outset in England as a kind of version of the great gob of spit in the face of the class system. So there was this elaborate glorification of things rotten, as in the name Johnny Rotten. Then it was brought to this country in magazines. It had no roots in this country whatsoever. Young people read about it, and the shops existed before the phenomenon. It just caught on as a fashion. This is what I think of as information ricochet. The Hell’s Angels, for example, didn’t exist until the movie The Wild One. They looked at The Wild One and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done. ” So they took their own name and insignia and stuff, and Roger Corman came by and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done,” and made a movie called The Wild Angels. And the Hell’s Angels came by and said, “That’s a nice idea; we’ll do that.” That’s information ricochet. Punk was developed the same way, and the only genuine thing about it is a general impulse among people in their late teens to thumb their nose at the ongoing attempts to make them act like adults, which begin to seem like an imposition and rather boring. So you glorify wanton, impudent violence.

Of course, the information ricochet surrounding the mods and their story was endless. As Franc Roddam, the director of the film version, notes in the making of documentary that Kathy links to, he originally wanted to cast punk rockers, to help make the film more accessible to young audiences in the late 1970s. Roddam claims that Johnny Rotten had an excellent screen test, but he was unable to get insurance on the musician, based on the Sex Pistols’ destructive reputation. The film makers settled for Sting as supporting character, in one of his first movie roles.

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“Swedish man buys army tank ‘on impulse,’” because hey, a bitchin’ ride is a bitchin’ ride, even in the land of Volvos. And kudos to mom for being pretty laid back about junior’s new purchase:

Jimmy Johansson, a 23-year-old from Borlänge in central Sweden, can now add tank to his list of possessions. But the 76,000 kronor ($11,700) purchase wasn’t something he planned.

“It was just an impulse buy from beginning… I went to look at a motor and my eyes were drawn to this instead,” he told The Local.

The PBV 401, a Soviet-built fully amphibious tank that weighs around 12 tonnes and travels at a top speed of 80 kilometres per hour, is parked out the front of his grandfather’s house while Johansson decides what to do with it.

The purchase was encouraged by Johansson’s mother.

“When I was about to buy it I called my mother and she just started laughing. She said ‘Just get it’ so I did. And because I can’t take it out on the streets we had to take it on the back of a truck to get it home… people couldn’t help but stare.”

Piers Morgan could not be reached for table-banging puritanical indignation.

(Via Maetenloch at Ace of Spades.)

“L.A. Street Artist Behind the Ted Cruz Bad Boy Posters Speaks Out” to PJM’s Paula Bolyard:

After attending art school, Sabo worked in advertising but didn’t find the work to be a good fit. When George W. Bush became president, Sabo says life became difficult for Republicans in Hollywood. He was frustrated by the onslaught of messages from the left. “Where were the voices on my side? I just felt like the left was defining who I was. I didn’t see anyone on the right setting them straight,” Sabo said. “I just said, screw it, man. I’m going to do my part.”

“My aim as an artist is to be as dirty, ground level, and mean as any Liberal artist out there, more so if I can,” he boasts on his website. “Use their tactics, their methods, appeal to their audience, the young, urban, street urchins with a message they never hear in a style they own.”

Sabo’s work is controversial, intended to shock and provoke thought. “Politically incorrect” does not begin to describe it: Nazi flags with the Obama symbol. “Hillary 2016″ on a flying monkey from Wizard of Oz. Beyonce with a Burka. A sign that says, “Fags the New Nig**rs.”

A quick check of Google makes it obvious that that last slogan unnerved the left — which seems rather odd, considering that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were each given a pass decades ago by the left for saying (and singing) virtually the same thing.

Gotta Demonize Something

March 18th, 2014 - 3:25 pm

“White House pastry chef resigns: ‘I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs,’” as spotted by Patrick Howley of the Daily Caller:

White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses is resigning after First Lady Michelle Obama fundamentally changed his job duties to focus on healthier food.

Yosses is leaving the White House in June to work on a new project focusing on “food literacy” and The New York Times says Michelle is “partly to blame.” The openly gay chef was hired by Laura Bush in 2007 to make his trademark cookie plates and sugar sculptures. Mrs. Obama took over in 2009 and ordered Yosses to make healthier plates in smaller portions.

Yosses began replacing butter with fruit puree and sugar with honey and agave. But Yosses was never fully committed to the new policy.

“I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs,” Yosses said, noting that his departure from the White House is a “bittersweet decision.”

Wouldn’t the list of what this administration hasn’t demonized be a much easier to compile at this point? Speaking of our food-obsessed First Lady, “Oh Boy: Big Decline In Childhood Obesity, Lauded By Michelle Obama As Proof of Efficacy of Let’s Move Campaign, May Have Just Been… A Statistical Error.”

Unexpectedly, of course. Fortunately, Michelle is off to China, where she’s poised to do to our relations with the totalitarian state…well, pretty much what the rest of the Obama administration has done to our relations with Russia, the Middle East, and the rest of the world.

The New Tribalism

February 21st, 2014 - 12:45 pm

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In-between countersuing Michael Mann for $20 million,  Mark Steyn writes:

Julie Burchill, my old boss at The Modern Review many years ago, has a bracing column in this week’s Speccie on the difference between the left she grew up with and the left today:

While working-class left-wing political activism was always about fighting the powerful, treating people how you would wish to be treated and believing that we’re all basically the same, modern, non-working-class left-wing politics is about… other stuff. Class guilt, sexual kinks, personal prejudice and repressed lust for power.

That’s why, as Kathy Shaidle observes here, the concept of free speech is no longer widely accepted. If you believe in “treating people how you would wish to be treated”, then it’s natural to accord them the same rights of freedom of expression that you yourself wish to exercise. But, if you believe (as I discussed with Steve Madely on the radio yesterday) that what matters is what identity group you belong to (the New Tribalism), then it’s natural to demand that members of non-approved groups should not be permitted to make their case.

Consider, for example, Brad Johnson – “Climate Brad”, who’s something to do with that group that wanted you to send Valentine cards* and “carbon-offset roses” to Michael Mann. Yesterday, Climate Brad Tweeted:

Today, 110,000 citizens told @washingtonpost to stop publishing climate lies like today’s @krauthammer oped pic.twitter.com/iM2ZO9cRVZ

I’m so bored by people whose only reaction to a difference of opinion is to demand you be banned. Do please click over to Brad Johnson’s accompanying photograph. It shows the fetching young pajama boy clutching what appears to be a giant eco-condom made for First Grade Show-&-Tell using only eight cereal boxes, some Scotch tape and a bright red marker. Look, it’s even got a hashtag! Even though it’s not a Tweet but a prop he made to stand outside his office and be photographed with!

Washington Post: #Don’tPublishLies

Because everyone knows The Washington Post is just another right-wing Koch-funded denialist operation.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to sit down and demolish Krauthammer’s “lies”? An ideology that can only scream “Shut up!” sounds a wee bit insecure, don’t you think? That’s true for firebreathing mullahs whose reaction to a cartoon is to demand your beheading as it is for firebreathing climate mullahs whose reaction to a column is to demand your lifetime publication ban.

And speaking of the New Tribalism, David Thompson spots a doozy from the UK Guardian, basking in the warm embers of what Thompson dubs “Lovely, Lovely Guilt:”

The Guardian’s Natalie Hanman — who edits Comment Is Free, where the party never stops – urges us to cultivate some pretentious guilt. Boldly, she asks:

Should Benedict Cumberbatch say sorry for the slave owners in his family?

Not current family members, you understand. So far as I’m aware, Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t have some weird cousin with strangers chained up in the cellar. No, we have to project our agonising backwards in time, past parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents – past centuries of people who are themselves strangers:

A newly appointed city commissioner in New York, Stacey Cumberbatch, told the New York Times last week that she believed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather owned her ancestors on an 18th-century sugar plantation in Barbados. They “are related,” the newspaper noted, “if not by blood, then by geography and the complicated history of the slave trade.”

Which is to say, actually, not related at all.

The Cumberbatch case involves two high-profile individuals and so has had media attention, but these questions concern us all.

I suspect opinions on that point may differ.

For as long as structural inequalities persist, we cannot overlook how far the tentacles of history might reach into the present. The real challenge is to recognise, and address, how much the privileges of the past continue to benefit some, and wrong others, today.

We “cannot overlook” these things, you see; we must “address” them and weigh our privilege. Some more than others, it seems. So says the woman who gets paid to invent esoteric problems and then fret at length in print. But those “tentacles of history,” through which our “collective responsibility” is supposedly transmitted – and with it, lots of lovely, lovely guilt – reach an awfully long way, across continents, cultures and all manner of events.

I usually reflexively type something like “the far left UK Guardian,” when referencing the venerable British socialist house organ, but that phrase doesn’t quite cut it: with the notion of past guilt, they’ve gone so far left, they’ve bypassed Hillary and Barack and the EU, and driven straight into Pyongyang:

The most striking feature of the gulag system is the philosophy of “guilt by familial association” or “collective responsibility” whereby whole families within three generations are imprisoned. This policy has been practiced since 1972 when Kim Il Sung, the founder of communist North Korea, stated “Factionalists or enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations.”

Actually, three generations sounds rather modest compared to how far back the Guardian wishes to aim its collective guilt, as the new tribalism continues to advance “Progressivism” even further into the past. Tom Wolfe has written about the leftwing revolutionary urge to “Start From Zero” — even without an armed revolution, the left seems determined to get to Year Zero one way or another.

Update: How far back to Year Zero does the left wish to aim for? The Wall Street Journal reminds Al Gore-wannabe John Kerry, ” who as Ed Morrissey notes, “burned 12 tons of carbon to travel to Indonesia and declare global warming as the biggest WMD of all,” that Flat Earthers were the consensus, science-is-settled, the discussion is over position. Speaking of Kerry, as Virginia Postrel once told Brian Lamb of C-Span:

The Khmer Rouge sought to start over at year zero, and to sort of create the kind of society that very civilized, humane greens write about as though it were an ideal. I mean, people who would never consider genocide. But I argue that if you want to know what that would take, look at Cambodia–to empty the cities and turn everyone into peasants again. Even in a less developed country, let alone in someplace like the United States, that these sort of static utopian fantasies are just that.

As long as Kerry can keep his yacht, presumably, that all sounds fine with him.

* Sending Valentine’s Day cards? Don’t let the enviro-obsessed New Republic hear about that.

‘Best Commercial Ever!’

February 13th, 2014 - 4:12 pm

“Cadillac tells lazy French leftists to get stuffed! Love it!” Like Andrew Klavan, I also got a capitalist kick out of message of this Cadillac commercial — if you’re going to sell a hybrid that isn’t a Prius, make its commercial the most pro-American ad you can write. I’m only half surprised that GM didn’t cast Michael Douglas dressed up in one of his Gordon Gekko suits, a power tie, and trademark horizontal-striped shirt. But no need — as left-leaning Jalopnik quips, “This Cadillac ELR Ad Will Make You Hate Electric Car Buyers.”

I only wish General Motors walked the walk as well as their pitchmen talk it. As Jonah Goldberg said in 2009, the period in which General Motors transformed itself — at least for a time — into Government Motors, “the old adage ‘Everyone’s a capitalist on the way up and a socialist on the way down’ is kicking in. The thing is, if you’re a socialist on the way down, you were never really a capitalist on the way up. Capitalism requires putting your own capital at risk.”

But then, this isn’t the first time the message from General Motors diverged from the corporation’s actual practices. Shortly after World War II, GM was at least enough of a capitalist on the way up that it distributed copies of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Only to eventually gun the motor so hard down that very same road to serfdom that by the start of the 21st century, as Jonah wrote in 2008′s Liberal Fascism, “There’s a reason liberal economists joke that General Motors is a health-care provider that makes cars as an industrial by-product,” foreshadowing GM’s bailout by the Obama administration the following year.

On the other hand, this new ad could foreshadow events this fall, as we’ll explore right after the page break.

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‘The Bob Marley Has Begun!’

February 1st, 2014 - 10:34 am

Gavin McInnes explores “10 Reasons Old Punks Make Great Dads:”

8. YOU UNDERSTAND TOTALLY INSANE IDEAS A lot of the punk ethos was about rejecting authority and thinking for yourself, which is very healthy. However, the “anything goes” philosophy often drifts into WTF territory. They passionately sing about how awesome it is to be on welfare, insist Jesus is dead, and tell you that shaved women are collaborators (whatever that means). Being bombarded with such intense levels of ridiculosity your whole life prepares you for the incredibly weird shit kids say. About once a day my son informs me that “The Bob Marley has begun” and he will usually add, “Scientists say, when you read a book to love, you just fall apart.” I totally get both concepts.

And then there’s number five: “You Understand Being Obsessed With Pants.” Read the whole thing.

(Via Kathy Shaidle, who also reminds us that none of us are getting any younger, by noting, “Never Mind The Beatles: America Met The Clash 35 Years Ago This Week.”)

And Thus, the American Experiment Concludes

January 14th, 2014 - 5:05 pm

Change! “Jim Beam Acquired by Japanese Company Along With Maker’s Mark,” Newsmax reports:

Beam Inc., the classic American whiskey distiller that produces Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbon, agreed this week to be acquired by Japanese beverage company Suntory Holdings Ltd. in a massive $13.62 billion deal, The Associated Press reported.

The deal was Beam’s answer to the growing demand of its bourbon — a type of American whisky that is made primarily of corn and typically distilled in Kentucky — and will help Suntory expand globally. The new partnership raised some concerns, however, about Beam remaining an American company, but execs assured customers that they are not likely to even notice the new ownership.

Though most of the country’s major bourbon brands like Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Maker’s Mark are owned by foreign companies, the caramel-colored liquor is made almost exclusively in the Bluegrass state, and some master distillers have family ties going as far back as the state’s pioneer whiskey-making days. Jim Beam’s master distiller, Fred Noe, is a descendant of Jacob Beam, who set up his first Kentucky still in 1795.

In a booming industry that swears by tradition, that history is a valuable commodity, and reassures aficionados that while the mailing address for some corporate headquarters may change, the taste of the bourbon won’t.

“Ultimately, what the consumer should be interested in is the product,” said Chuck Cowdery, an American whiskey writer and author of “Bourbon, Straight.” “There’s absolutely no reason that the product should change. So the consumer really doesn’t have anything to be concerned about.”

Well, that’s what they want to you to think. But there’s something rather unsettling about Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark no longer being American owned. On the plus side, now that Suntory owns these lines, perhaps Americans will be graced by Lost In Translation-style ads for these products. Over to you, Sammy!

It’s 5:00 somewhere — including right here. I need a drink; at least while there’s still some American hooch left.

Are You an iPhone Zombie?

December 26th, 2013 - 1:38 pm


“Apple knows it has turned us into iZombies, and has become defensive about it, releasing its own little movie arguing that there’s some upside to this depressing new reality,” Kyle Smith wrote this past weekend at the New York Post:

Its new 90-second commercial, “Misunderstood,” centers on a teenaged lost soul who refuses to take part in a Yuletide family reunion. As family members build snowmen and exchange hugs, he hangs off to the side by himself, forever sulking into his iPhone.

It turns, though, that he’s not only aware of the festivities around him but he’s been carefully filming and editing the sweetest moments into a home movie that he climactically debuts on the living room TV, to general merriment and wonder. At the end of the home movie, he includes a shot of himself doing something we haven’t seen him do before: He smiles.

Now they get it: The weird loner, the emotionless little gadget monkey who never talks to anyone, is actually a proto-Spielberg who loves his family and is destined to warm hearts by the millions.

Apple’s intended message is that if you get an iPhone, you’ll be more in the moment, more in harmony with your surroundings, more lovingly connected than ever before.

In the history of nice tries, this one has to rank just below the mid-century effort by the tobacco industry to assuage fears about the safety of its products: One ad declared, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” Another: “Tests showed 3 out of every 4 cases of smoker’s cough cleared on changing to Philip Morris.”

As pitches go, “Buy an iPhone in order to get in touch with loved ones sitting on the couch next to you” makes about as much sense as teaching the world to sing by buying it a Coke.

We’re supposed to forgive the “Misunderstood” kid because he’s a talented filmmaker, but he is still missing out on the game by turning himself into a sideline cameraman. Everybody loves the end result because people like to look at images of themselves, but that doesn’t excuse the creepiness of his technologically-aided self-alienation. Picture a teen novelist who does nothing at your family gathering but stand by silently and take notes. Pretty irritating, no?

Moreover, the “Misunderstood” spot is a nonsequitur: Chances are the kid at your family gathering who is fixated on his iPhone is watching a video or texting peers about how lame you are or playing Candy Crush Saga, not making a movie about his vast love for family.

There is no twist in real life: Most iZombies actually are oblivious to their surroundings.

Kyle’s new article dovetails remarkably well with another piece on the perils of ubiquitous smart phone usage, from Eric Gibson at the New Criterion this month on “The Overexposed Museum” — overexposed, Gibson writes, because so many museum patrons are taking “selfies” alongside of great works of art:

The new culture of museum photography banishes the art experience. It transforms the work of art from something to pause before, explore, admire, and reflect upon, into a “sight,” like the Eiffel Tower or the White House. A fascinating, complex, multi-faceted product of the creative imagination becomes just a piece of scenery, one worth lingering in front of just long enough to have one’s picture taken with it, either just standing and smiling or by making a face or playing up to the object in other ways, like those tourists who pose beside the Leaning Tower of Pisa so that in the finished photograph they appear to be propping it up.

Non-photographing visitors aren’t immune from the effects of these new attitudes. Coming upon someone posing in a gallery, your impulse is to turn away; you feel like a voyeur. In front of the Mona Lisa the day I was there, the profusion of smartphones and tablets being held aloft created a strange meta experience. To see the picture, you had to look past a bobbing frieze of digital reproductions competing with the original. I have had similar experiences with works of art in American museums, albeit with smaller numbers of people.

This transformation—one might better say evisceration—of the work of art has wide implications for the museum and its mission. If visitors now regard a museum’s treasures as mere “sights,” they might come to regard the institution itself in a similar vein—not as a place offering a unique, one-of-a-kind experience but just another “stop” on a crowded itinerary, and as such interchangeable with any other. At the very least, it’s hard to see how this new culture of museum photography can fail to undermine the kind of long-term visitor loyalty to museums toward which so many of their public engagement efforts are directed. On the one hand, the visitor who makes an emotional connection with a work of art is likely to return. On the other hand, I can’t imagine there are many tourists who, having once had themselves snapped propping up the Leaning Tower, feel compelled to do so again.

All this is, admittedly, so much speculation. One thing that isn’t is the very real threat these new attitudes pose to the safety of the museum’s collections. A visitor conditioned to regard a painting or sculpture as but a prop in a personal drama isn’t likely to demonstrate due regard for its welfare as an irreplaceable work of art. In one of the galleries on my way to the Mona Lisa, I and others nearby watched in horror as one visitor reached across the low barrier separating the art from the public to grasp the gilt frame of a Renaissance masterpiece, then turn to strike a pose for a companion with a smartphone. This was the propped-up-Leaning-Tower shot moved into the museum. It only ended when a guard came barreling through crowd shouting at her to step away. Even then, the visitor seemed to have no idea what all the fuss had been about.

One of happiest moments during the otherwise grim couple of weeks my wife and I spent cleaning out my mom’s house in South Jersey after she died last year was discovering a huge cache of photos I took in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back then, I was at the peak of my 35mm hobbyist phase with the then-new and cutting edge Minolta Maxxum camera and lenses I purchased around 1985 or so. (The photos and negatives I stumbled upon had been stored in a large Barton & Donaldson custom shirt box, because, well, I’m me.) Suddenly, a lot of happy memories from that period that I had forgotten came flooding back, and I plan to digitize those photos next year to archive them and have them for easy viewing anytime I’m nostalgic. And it was a reminder that I really need to take more photos of current travels, to help avoid memory loss. But I also see plenty of people today who seem to be more absorbed by their iPhones than the current moment. (There seems to be less cell phones ringing in restaurants these days, but a lot more smart phones glowing; will fine restaurants with darkened mood lighting have to start warning their patrons to dial their usage back, if you’ll pardon the pun?)

I’m sympathetic to both sides of the argument. How do you take advantage of today’s ubiquitous camera-equipped smart phones and tablets, without becoming an iPhone Zombie in the process?

Related: Of Course: Photographer Who Took POTUS Selfie Photo Ashamed He Broke News.

Update: Merry Me-mas from President Selfie!

obama_selfie_nativity_12-26-13

Why Christmas = KFC in Japan

December 24th, 2013 - 6:47 pm

Danny Choo.com is answering the important questions:

The Turkey does not breed naturally in Japan and is rarely cultivated. Apparently the taste is not of such a popularity to warrant large amounts of it to be imported into Japan either. Thus, many Japanese have not tried turkey.

Another reason why turkey didn’t catch on as a popular dish during Christmas is the fact that most Japanese folks don’t have ovens – or an oven big enough to roast an entire turkey.

One day at KFC’s Aoyama branch, a foreigner went to buy some chicken at KFC and said “I’m having a party but because there is no turkey, I’ve come to get some fried chicken instead.”

In 1974, KFC then started promoting the catchphrase “Christmas = Kentucky” and poured a load of yen into the marketing effort. The catchphrase soon caught on and together with the commercials on TV, the Japanese then started to consume a load of Chicken during the festive season.

In other fast food news, “McDonald’s website advises staff NOT to eat fast food.”

Which is crazy — why that would be the equivalent of Wal-Mart selling Occupy Wall Street merchandise or Exxon advertising on the Rachel Maddow Show

– Sorry, I just been handed a bulletin by my staff that confirms that those stories are all apparently true.

Allow me to revise and extend my previous remarks. This just in: Robert Conquest’s Third of Law of Politics, which posits that “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies,” is alive and well.

(Via Ace of Spades, which has plenty of additional extra crispy Kentucky Fried Christmas-themed items for your dancing and dining yuletide pleasure.)

NBC Takes One Yet Again for the (Obama) Team

December 23rd, 2013 - 12:20 pm

Informing us that “You are not supposed to like Pajama Boy” (link safe, goes to Hot Air), NBC attempts to nuance the latest Obamacare messaging debacle:

The White House, before the website rollout debacle, stressed that it needed a three-to-one ratio of older-and-sicker versus young-and-healthy people to sign up for the law.

And the underlying message in this tweet — part of a light-hearted campaign that included the same model with his feet up on a coffee table smiling in a Christmas sweater — in many ways, is: “DON’T be like this guy. Get health care.”

“Don’t be this guy sitting around in his pajamas,” a Democratic official told First Read said of the message, who requested anonymity to talk freely. “Have a conversation, and get health care. And it’s poking fun at that” idea of doing nothing.

The official added that this is a way to try and reach a demographic that can be “hard to break through” with.

This is far from the first — or last — time that NBC will take one for the Obama team, but to understand why all of the above is bad spin — even by NBC’s pathetic standards — let’s flash back to 2007, when hopenchange was shiny and new, and all things seemed possible to Mr. Obama and his election campaign team. Beyond their mastery (and/or gamesmanship) of the convoluted Democrat primary system, the Obama campaign bested Hillary and the other Democrat presidential candidate through a handful of very simple messages:

1. Their logo, which merged traditional American red, white, and blue colors into a circle symbolic of the sun rising, which dovetailed into…

2. Their simple and repeated buzz words, hope and change, which dovetailed with…

3. The cool and enigmatic Che-style Shepard Fairey Hope poster the campaign commissioned.

4. Their Apple Macintosh 1984 Super Bowl ad mashup clip, which simultaneously shifted the first viable female presidential candidate into the role of Big Brother, and Obama into the equivalent of a hip new product from Apple, and which they first attempted to pass off as a viral video — something that just happened to emerge from a random supporter — for added cachet.

5. Obama’s cool good looks and mysterious, exotic, multicultural background.

That’s all very simple and easy to understand stuff, and the cool competency of its rollout added to the “hop on the winning team” vibe that Obama built in 2007, and made Hillary and the other candidates seem remarkably clunky by comparison.

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And You Thought Flying Today was a Grim Slog

December 17th, 2013 - 1:18 pm
lileks_northwest_aviation_author_screengrab_12-17-13-1

Click on screen cap to watch video at the Star-Tribune’s Website.

At the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, James Lileks has a 10-minute video interview with author Jack El-Hai regarding his new book, Non-Stop, A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines, which I’m highlighting, if only for the striking image early on in the video, and captured above. You thought taking off your shoes at the TSA line sucks? Well yeah, it does. But how would you like to be a harried businessman, who needed to get somewhere fast enough in the 1930s that you’re willing to eschew the nice, safe, reliable train, and hop onto a DC-3-sized aircraft…and don an oxygen mask for a large portion of the flight? As the grim faces of the men in the above illustrate, that had to be one long, nervous white-knuckle flight, knowing that blackouts and potential death are just a slip of the oxygen mask away.

On the other hand, I hope no modern cost-conscious airline CEO sees the above photo and says at the next board meeting, “Pressurized cabins…do our passengers really need them, gentlemen?”

Watch the whole thing; it’s a fun video for anyone interested in American aviation from the 1920s through the 1970s.