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Ed Driscoll

The Substance of Style

In Soviet America, Bourgeois Shocks You!

October 27th, 2014 - 3:48 pm

Having just come back from a routine Kaiser visit in the Bay Area, in which I was greeted by a chubby distaff receptionist with more tattoos on her arms than Brian Setzer and multiple facial piercings, this recent post by David Thompson on the rapidly growing demand for surgical procedures to remove such disastrous life choices as large visible tattoos and enormous “flesh tunnel” stretched ear lobes certainly hits home:

And this chap here, he’s upset too:

Until you know that person, you have no right to criticise, judge or alter the life chances for them. Those who make decisions about the future of others based only on appearance, are themselves the shallowest of people, and do not deserve to have such a position of influence.

You see, he should be free to deform his anatomy into eye-catchingly unattractive shapes, thereby announcing his heroic radicalism and disdain for bourgeois norms, entirely without consequence. But you mustn’t be free to run your business without him, regardless of whatever message he’s chosen to send via the medium of disfigured earlobes. No bad decision that he makes must ever “alter his life chances” because… well, obviously, it’s all your fault.

But it works both ways: if you’re going to visibly mutilate yourself for the purpose of what the French dubbed épater le bourgeois almost a century and a half ago, you’ve explicitly removed yourself from societal norms by thumbing — and/or piercing — your nose at them. Phrases such as “not judging a book by its cover,” courtesy, and tolerance towards diversity are also all commonly held bourgeois values, which you’ve renounced with a bullhorn. Why shouldn’t you expect society to return the favor?

In “The Media Bubble, Redskins Edition,” Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon squares the circle:

And, as I’ve noted here, there is a growing annoyance with the entertainment press—sports, film, video game writers—for being not only out of step with their readership but also frequently ignoring their subjects altogether in favor of opining on topics that are either implicitly or explicitly political in nature. I remain convinced that roughly 80 percent of the angst over #GamerGate relates to a similar notion: issues of ethics aside, gamers were tired of being told how horribly sexist and racist they were for playing games and engaging with gamer culture. As a result, they finally snapped. Similarly, I get the sense that sports fans are pretty sick and tired of being lectured on issues that are either entirely unrelated to sports (say, gun control) or, at best, marginally related to sports (the level of political correctness of a team name). You can see some of that frustration in the following data points, which track the answer to the question “Should the Redskins change their name, or not”:

Sonny links to a chart that notes:

              Should        Should Not

1992         7%                 89%

2013        11%                79%

2014       14%                83%

As he concludes:

What’s fascinating to me is the fact that, despite a near-unanimous chorus from the sports media over the last 18 months or so on the evils of the Redskins brand, “should not [change the name]” is +4 from 2013 to 2014 while “should [change the name]” is only +3. Considering that “should not” already had the support of almost four in five respondents, any uptick would have been surprising. But “should not” out-gaining “should” is downright shocking, and suggests to me that Americans, by nature a reactionary lot, are just about tired of all this silliness, thanks.

I wouldn’t name a new sports team the Redskins in 2014, just as I doubt anyone would start organizations named the United Negro College Fund or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as all three names have been dated by time and changing linguistic attitudes. But all three names connote often proud traditions and have hugely loyal bases of support. Not to mention — aren’t there far bigger issues in the world to fixate on than the name of an organization? (Back in July, responding to the MSM’s collective Alinsky-style panty-twist over the Redskins, Dennis Prager wrote, “Those who do not confront the greatest evils will confront much lesser evils or simply manufacture alleged evils that they then confront.”) Or as John Nolte notes at Big Journalism:

1. The common sense of the American people who understand that team names are meant to be compliments, not insults. As an example, no one has named their football team “The MSNBC Jerk-Offs.”

2. The American people understand that this obsession isn’t based on principal but rather a mainstream media that is looking for a — if you’ll pardon the expression — scalp. This is a power play, a game among insufferable elites to prove to themselves they still have power with a senseless notch in the “win” column.

Which also ties this post back to Sonny Bunch’s Beacon column, which concluded with Bunch asking, “I guess the only question is this: How long until there’s a #GamerGate for sports?”

Faster, please.

Of course, another question arises at the intersection of #GamerGate and the Redskins. Both high tech and the NFL take the support of conservatives and non-leftist fans for granted, rarely if ever paying positive lip service to them, for fear of stirring up the often fatal PC hornest’s nest. (See also: firing of Firefox’s Brendan Eich for supporting traditional marriage, the NFL rejecting Rush Limbaugh from team ownership thanks in part to a falsified Wikipedia quote, and numerous other PC scalps). When will that begin to change?

Related:

Lionel Hutz Lives!

October 20th, 2014 - 3:22 pm

“Is Tito ’s Handmade Vodka really handmade? Would it taste any less good if it weren’t anymore?”

But in the summer of 2013, Forbes published “The Troubling Success Of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.” As its author Meghan Casserly explains, “Tito’s has exploded from a 16-gallon pot still in 1997 to a 26-acre operation that produced 850,000 cases last year, up 46 percent from 2011, pulling in an estimated $85 million in revenue.” She also describes “massive buildings containing ten floor-to-ceiling stills and bottling 500 cases an hour.”

So it was inevitable: On Sept. 15, lawyers representing Gary Hofmann in California filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that Tito’s “manufactured, marketed, and/or sold . . . ‘Tito’s Handmade’ Vodka to the California general public with the false representation that the Vodka was ‘handmade’ when, in actuality, the Vodka is made via a highly-mechanized process that is devoid of human hands.”

This is why Americans can’t have nice things. Or as Lionel Hutz told Homer when the notorious cartoon trencherman was kicked out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant for taking them at their word, “Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!”

Backward Ran the Progress, Until Reeled the Mind

October 20th, 2014 - 10:52 am

High art, circa 1622:

High art, circa 2014:


As someone joked in response on Twitter, “You misspelled that last word.”

Heh. Naturally, if you’re offended, the artist says it’s your fault:

“At first, I found the anal plug had a similar form to Brancusi’s sculptures,” he explained. “Afterwards, I realized it resembled a Christmas tree, but it is an abstract work. People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.”

How retrogressive and reactionary.

And in the process of running a 1000-word article titled “Brunch Is for Jerks,” demonstrates that everyone at the Gray Lady has far too much time on their hands:

For me, having a child — and perhaps the introspection that comes with turning 40 — made me realize what most vexes me about brunch: Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.

In neighborhoods like mine, where everyone seems to be from somewhere else, people are increasingly alienated from their extended and nuclear families.

Families? Oh, you mean those people whom prominent Timesman David Carr would dub “The Dance of the Low-Sloping Foreheads,” and whom Times columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates would consider racist. I bet they consume far too much air conditioning, refrigeration and toilet paper, to boot.

“Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming,” Friedrich Nietzsche warned in 1885′s Also sprach Zarathustra, “he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.”

His source was the New York Times. 

Related: “An old friend with little use for it describes the Hive as, ‘Hell with good restaurants.’”

—Former PJM editor Gerard Van der Leun on why he left New York, found via Maggie’s Farm.

gm-logo-3

I’ve looked at corporatism from both sides now.

Corporatism is the socialist fusion of Big Government and Big Business, working strong-arm and arm, one mode clearing a path for the other, and neither side losing much sleep over what the customer wants, until the preference cascade kicks in and begins to snowball, and everyone eventually wakes up to reality with a raging hangover. In its pre-breakup day, think of Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine the Bell Telephone operator smugly blustering, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.” Or today, the handlers of Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack and Michelle Obama screwing journalists. Or the disastrous late period products of General Motors, even before they became for several years under the Obama administration, Government Motors.

The Pontiac Aztek, in production at GM from 2001 and 2005, was sort of the equivalent of East Germany’s Trabant — both cars were designed by committee and were so bad they became goofy pop culture icons (the Trabant via the rock group U2, the Aztek via Breaking Bad). In a series of vignettes at Car & Driver, Bob Lutz, the chairman of GM during the period when it hit all the icebergs and sank into the abyss of Government Motors explains how the disastrous Aztek came to be:

I kind of got hired [as GM's vice chairman of product development] because of the Aztek. I was getting an award, and [then-GM chairman] Rick Wagoner introduced me and took a couple of funny digs. When I gave my speech, I said, “It’s curious that the man who oversaw the Aztek would comment on my failures.” It brought the house down. When I apologized later, he said, “Ah, I was expecting it. We’re disappointed in the Aztek. I’d enjoy hearing what you think we’re doing wrong.” After three conversations, he offered me a job.

* * * * * * *

A bad car happens in stages. The Aztek concept car was a much leaner vehicle. Decent proportions. It got everybody excited. At the time, GM was criticized for never doing anything new, never taking a chance. So Wagoner and the automotive strategy board decreed that henceforth, 40 percent of all new GM products would be “innovative.” That started a trend toward setting internal goals that meant nothing to the customer. Everything that looked reasonably radical got green-lit.

* * * * * * *

These things require a culture of complete acquiescence and intimidation, led by a strong dictatorial individual who wants it that way.

* * * * * * *

The guy in charge of product development was Don Hackworth, an old-school guy from the tradition of shouts, browbeating, and by-God-I-want-it-done. He said, “Look. We’ve all made up our minds that the Aztek is gonna be a winner. It’s gonna astound the world. I don’t want any negative comments about this vehicle. None. Anybody who has bad opinions about it, I want them off the team.” As if the public is gonna give a sh** about team spirit. Obviously, the industry is trying to get away from that approach.

That last paragraph is highly indicative of the other side of corporatism, isn’t it? As Megan McArdle wrote last November (ironically at Bloomberg.com, the “unexpectedly!” Website that often serves as a corporatism cheerleader for the Obama administration) during the rollout of Obamacare, the Pontiac Aztek of health insurance:

When the tech geeks raised concerns about their ability to deliver the website on time, they are reported to have been told “Failure is not an option.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when you say “failure is not an option”: You don’t develop backup plans, which means that your failure may turn into a disaster.

In the years before it became Government Motors, while its unions were busy devouring their host, GM was dubbed “a health-care provider that makes cars as an industrial by-product.” No wonder it and the equally feckless Obama administration were made for each other.

Making Sense of #GamerGate

October 2nd, 2014 - 1:00 pm

“I’m a political writer and I don’t pretend to be more than a casual gamer,” Ashten Whited writes at Pocket Full of Liberty, which puts her one up on me. As I’ve said before, I largely retired from videogames when I unplugged my ColecoVision — there are only so many hours in the day. (Though I do have a product review up at the PJ Lifestyle blog this week that hints at the hobby that I also use my computer for.)

“However, I find GamerGate remarkable. I know people express antipathy to bringing politics into GamerGate, and I don’t seek to hijack it, but hear me out: GamerGate is already about politics,” Whited notes. Which is true — the left views everything through a political lens; after all, it’s been their stated opinion for decades that “the personal is political” (is personal, to complete the Mobius loop):

’Gamers’ are over,” social justice charioteer Leigh Alexander pronounced smugly.

Mainstream videogames do not cater to feminists’ tastes. That does not mean that women are being “marginalized,” it means they are not the target consumer demographic, as they freely admit when they declare male-oriented games unappealing. Despite this, gamers placate feminists like Anita Sarkeesian who hold gaming culture in disdain and view escapism that is male in nature, such as Call of Duty or rescuing Princess Peach, as a problem that must be eliminated under their magnanimous direction. Feminists especially hold male sexuality in contempt, and are fussily ruffled by voluptuous, pixelated vixens that titillate the “male gaze.”

Radical (read: contemporary) feminists define the problem as men. Thus fantasies of male heroism are slated to be wiped from public consumption. Male chivalry is dead; women are the new white knights. Today’s third wave feminists (or “Third Wave Frustrationists,” as cleverly coined by Milo Yiannopoulos) kvetch the tired refrain, “Feminism is about equality!” It is a transparent Trojan Horse. These feminists are intolerant of masculinity, and their movement is about having power over men. They do not recognize healthy interdependence between the sexes, instead seeing a power struggle. They seek to feminize men and in doing so, masculinize themselves— and they are succeeding, through targeting boys. In public schools, boys are falling increasingly behind in performance, according to scholar Christina Hoff Sommers. In psychiatrists’ offices, young boys are overdiagnosed with ADHD and autism and are “medicated” for being “rambunctious” (i.e. behaviorally modified to fit the prevailing PC norm for how little boys should behave). This ideology is about subjugation, through wheedling, subtle manipulation and emotionally blackmailing rhetoric like “if you’re not a feminist, you’re a misogynist.”

In short, feminism in the West has assumed the features of an authoritarian movement.

But then authoritarianism was in the bloodstream of feminism long before Nolan Bushnell ever set paddle to Pong.

However, according to Jasyn Jones, who blogs at the tastefully named Website “Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery” (I love it), the “’Gamers’ are over” manifesto has had some very interesting pushback:

You can read a bit of it there on the image, and the rest of it here, but it said (in essence) “Gamers are dead, and good riddance!” After all, gamers are “obtuse shitslingers” whose “only main [sic] cultural signposts” are “Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun.” In short, abuse. And pretty vitriolic and one-sided abuse.

And that same day, in a coincidence so outrageous it staggers the imagination, this happened:

Click over to Jones’ post to see a fascinating example of what appears to be Journolist-style collusion behind the scenes to advance the “gamers are over” narrative, which dovetails into Milo Yiannopoulos’ series of posts at Breitbart London on the videogame journalism industry’s own Journolist scandal. Followed by the aforementioned Leigh Alexander personally insulting her readers on Twitter. As Jones writes, “This isn’t just insulting your customers wholesale, it’s insulting them retail. Personally. One by one. In alphabetical order, for all I know:”

The odd thing is, most gaming media figures have joined her. But there’s a problem, and it’s one I can’t solve: what’s their end game? What do they think they’re accomplishing by insulting the people who provide them with paychecks?

As I see it:

Attack customers -> they leave. No customers, no clicks. No clicks, no ads. No ads, no money. No money, no site.

Is it really all that complicated? You don’t punch your customers in the face repeatedly, and expect them to remain your customers. Doing so anyway is a recipe for bankruptcy. (And is sheer lunacy.)

See also: implosion of MSM organizations that go full-on into social justice warrior mode and insult their customers. By the time the Washington Post was sold to Jeff Bezos last year, as John Nolte noted at Big Journalism, it had lost 87 percent of its value from the prior decade. (Along similar lines, Mark Steyn compared Bezos $250 million acquisition fee last year of one of the most legendary newspapers in the world to the much less influential Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts being sold in 1999 for $295 million.) Prior to Bezos’ acquisition, the Post famously unloaded Newsweek for a dollar after its foray into hard left politics caused it to shed most of its readership.

Similarly, the New York Times has been hemorrhaging money since the Howell Raines era; arguably, only Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s financial backing has allowed the Sulzberger family to maintain ownership, but only at the cost of cutting 7.5 percent of its staff (on top of other employee cuts in recent years). And as we noted last night, MSNBC is getting their clocks cleaned in the ratings department; “MSNBC: Best Demo Night In Two Weeks Is ‘Lockup’ Marathon,” Big Journalism reported on Monday.

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News You Can Use

October 1st, 2014 - 6:37 pm


“Do you drink a glass of wine with dinner every night? That puts you in the top 30 percent of American adults in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption. If you drink two glasses, that would put you in the top 20 percent,” according to the Washington Post, which sounds like it might be headed into JuiceVox territory, despite Jeff Bezos’ best efforts:

But in order to break into the top 10 percent of American drinkers, you would need to drink more than two bottles of wine with every dinner. And you’d still be below-average among those top 10 percenters.

The top 10 percent of American drinkers — 24 million adults over age 18 — consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week. That works out to a little more than four-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of Jack Daniels, 18 bottles of wine, or three 24-can cases of beer. In one week.

Or, if you prefer, 10 drinks per day.

Steve Green and his titanium-coated liver really need to up their game.

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

September 26th, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Believe it or not, I watched this commercial while wearing a pair of Sennheiser earphones – the HD 280 Pro model which I’ve owned for years and use for recording, not the swinging Teutonic reprobate “Urbanite” pictured above.

Even so, I think I need a shower.

(Via AoS.)

Asking the Important Questions

September 16th, 2014 - 11:55 am

Are video games sexist? Christina Hoff Sommers takes on the social[ist] justice warriors who, as she says, “wants the male video game culture to die.” It’s also a good introduction to #Gamergate, if you’re still trying to make sense of it all.

Of course, as we’ve noted in our previous post on the topic of #Gamergate, what’s going on the video game journalism industry is the same thing that’s going on in every facet of journalism, where objectivity is discarded and replaced with open leftwing advocacy and “concernocrats,” aka “hipsters with degrees in cultural studies.”

Related: “It didn’t used to be this way. ESPN used to be a sports network that covered sports and wasn’t a delivery system for the social and political message of the day. But, that’s what it’s become.”

Because  the left sees the need to begin “reprogramming the way we raise men.”

Oh swell, time for the left to create their latest model of “The New Man.” What could go wrong?

Tin Soldiers and Urban Outfitters’ Coming

September 15th, 2014 - 8:00 pm

Shot:

 

Chaser:

altamont_small

Not surprisingly, when it comes to epatering les bourgeois — and not issuing a mealy-mouthed apology afterwards — Kathy Shaidle did it better and first, five years ago.

But then, the collective pop culture history of both events is very, very wrong:

“Of Kent State’s Brick-Throwing Pacifists.”

“Altamont: When the Hippies Were Expelled From the Garden”

Exit tweet:

Exit question: Still think the early 1970s were fun, kids?

Update (9/16/14): “Alas, I can’t take credit for that brilliant ‘ALTAMONT’ t-shirt,” Kathy writes today; noting that it was created by the artists at the Hollywood Loser T-shirt Website. I think she certainly helped to popularize it, though.

‘Gearing Up for the Post-Radio Shack World’

September 10th, 2014 - 2:00 pm

It’s “Mourning in America” for Scott Ott, as he watches the slow and painful death of a once ubiquitous American institution:

Then, most Wednesdays, if we didn’t need a haircut at the barbershop — a Princeton: tight on the sides, longer on top, looped over with a generous handful of Vitalis — it was off to one of three destinations in the Doylestown Shopping Center:

1) W.T. Grant: a five-and-dime, if we needed school clothes or supplies, or to look at the tropical fish, chameleons and pet rodents.

2) Sears: where my brothers and I played Pong, or fished through the discount 45′s bin while Pop shopped for tools.

3) Radio Shack: AKA Heaven for Boys

While the first two had their charms, it was Radio Shack that cast a spell on us, drawing us in at a dead run.

Gadgets and kits, lights and switches, buzzing and whirring and crackling — things that were cool before “cool” became “bad” or “sick” or “ridiculous” or whatever “cool” is now.

There was nothing like Radio Shack.

Today, I read that Radio Shack is sick — actually sick, perhaps dying — almost certainly headed for bankruptcy.

Troubled electronics retailer RadioShack Corp’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value since brokerage Wedbush Securities said on Tuesday the company could file for bankruptcy soon, making the stock worthless by the end of this year.

The stock fell as much as 20 percent to 76 cents on Wednesday, adding to a 23 percent plunge on Tuesday.

“Our price target reflects our expectation that creditors will force a reorganization and wipe out RadioShack’s equity,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.

I too grew up spending many hours as a kid pouring over Radio Shack catalogs, wiring together 150-in-one Electronics Projects kits, where I was sure I would ultimately craft the device that saves planet earth from an all-out interstellar alien attack. A few years later, the first personal computer I ever owned was a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I, which I eventually tricked out with a blazing 300 baud Hayes modem and connected to CompuServe and various BBSs in the early 1980s. Good times.

But in a way, having played a major role in birthing the personal computer revolution a generation ago, Radio Shack in the 21st century is an unwitting victim to that industry’s staggering success. At the start of the year, Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute spotted a 1991 Radio Shack ad featuring “13 electronic products for $5k (and 290 hrs. work) can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone (10 hrs.):

Buffalo (NY) journalist and historian Steve Cichon has an article on the Trending Buffalo website (“Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone“) featuring a full-page Radio Shack ad from the Buffalo News on February 16, 1991 (see graphic above). Of the 15 electronics products featured in the Radio Shack ad, 13 of them can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone according to Steve’s analysis. The 13 Radio Shack items in the ad (all-weather personal stereo, AM/FM clock radio, headphones, calculator, computer, camcorder, cell phone, regular phone, CD player, CB radio, scanner, phone answering machine, and cassette recorder) would have cost a total of $3,055 in 1991, which is equivalent in today’s dollars to $5,225. Versus only $200 for an iPhone 5S.

In hours worked at the average wage, the 13 electronics items in 1991 would have had a “time cost” of 290.4 hours of work at the average hourly wage then of $10.52 (or 7.25 weeks or 36.3 days). Today, the $200 iPhone would have a “time cost” of fewer than 10 hours (9.82) of work at the average hourly wage today of $20.35, and just one day of work, plus a few extra hours.

MP: When you consider that an iPhone can fit in your pocket and has many apps and features that were either not available in 1991 (GPS, text messaging, Internet access, mobile access to movies, more than 900,000 apps, iCloud access, etc.) or not listed in the 1991 Radio Shack ad (camera, photo-editing), it’s amazing how much progress we’ve made in just several decades, and how affordable electronic productions have become.

Which dovetails nicely with an observation by David Harsanyi in the Federalist today that “Global Warming was Worth It:”

In a piece in the Atlantic, adapted from his new book, “Sustainability: A History” (which I haven’t read), historian Jeremy Caradonna challenges prevailing notions regarding the Industrial Revolution. Was the explosion of industry and subsequent rise in productivity and technology good for humanity? Not if you believe there are too many people living way too long and emitting way too much carbon into the atmosphere. And this “ecological crisis” – the greatest threat to ever challenge mankind – has its roots in the Industrial Revolution.

So if, for some reason, you embrace a “narrative” that says the rise of laissez faire economics – and the resulting efficiency and technological advancements – were moral because they freed millions from poverty and made modern life possible, you’re not thinking clearly. If you cling to the narrative that prosperity creates economic stability which in turn creates an environment that makes political stability possible, you’re just being didactic.

As Steve Green writes in response, “For 50 years now at least, progressivism has been about casting one’s self-loathing with a wide enough net to cover all of humanity. That’s self-evident of any ideology wanting far fewer (if any) people in the world, most in suffering under state-mandated shivering destitution.”

And don’t forget the notion that James Delingpole of Ricochet and Breitbart UK, dubs “The Drawbridge Effect.” Leftwing wealthy elitists have theirs; they want to dramatically reduce the odds that anyone else will succeed on a similar level:

You’ve made your money. Now the very last thing you want is for all those trashy middle class people below you to have a fair shot at getting as rich as you are. That’s why you want to make energy more expensive by opposing Keystone XL; why you’re all for environmental land sequestration (because you already own your exclusive country property); and Agenda 21 — which will make all Americans poorer, but you not so much, because you’ve enough cash to cushion you from the higher taxes and regulation with which the greenies want to hamstring the economy.

Finally, to return to the nostalgic opening of Scott’s post, while I love the Internet, tablets, the PC, the Web, and the ubiquitous 21st century technology we take for granted, I will miss the shopping mall — shopping for CDs at Sam Goody’s and Tower Records, DVDs and books at Borders, and gadgets at Radio Shack. I realize it’s all available at Amazon (which I also love), but the afternoon walking through the mall is often a pleasurable activity as well. Will we miss it when it’s gone?

this_is_progress_2-28-14

Say what you will about the man, but at least until today, the one thing Obama could do reasonably well was look sharp in a suit — hence all of the “clothes have no emperor” gags, dating back to 2008 when conservative blogs attempted to warn voters, Cassandra-like in retrospect, to think twice about the national purgatory they were about to inflict upon America. (And it’s actually not a bad suit; but it is such a dreadful choice when you’re trying to project power on the world stage that you have to wonder if he chose it deliberately for that purpose. But to paraphrase Hanlon’s Razor, never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by incompetence.)

Of course, today’s tweet was only a matter of time from Esquire — after all, this is the far left magazine which declared “John Kerry: Political Badass” on its cover in June of 2004, and was so in the tank to the Democrat party, it was publishing throne-sniffing “Summer of Obama” pieces around this time in 2011:

Before the fall brings us down, before the election season begins in earnest with all its nastiness and vulgarity, before the next batch of stupid scandals and gaffes, before Sarah Palin tries to convert her movie into reality and Joe Biden resumes his imitation of an embarrassing uncle and Newt and Callista Gingrich creep us all out, can we just enjoy Obama for a moment? Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement? Because twenty years from now, we’re going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph. Whatever happens this fall or next, the summer of 2011 is the summer of Obama.

No really, Esquire honestly allowed that to be printed, and I don’t even think they meant it at all ironically. Twenty years from now, we’re going to look back at this time in which a nation’s pundit class went absolutely insane — and no matter how badly they disclaim knowledge of their past writings, it’s up to the rest of us to preserve their glorious nonsense as a warning to future generations.

Of course, in his defense, Obama could just claim that hey, at least I wasn’t stupid enough to trust Esquire’s latest fashion advice

(That last link via Kathy Shaidle. I for one, prefer to remember a much more elegant Esquire, from a relatively more civilized time.)

Update: Also in the president’s defense, he can claim that he wasn’t stupid enough to take Vox’s sartorial advice:

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds goes all contrarian on his readers.

By the way, Esquire speaks about being the president of Sears as if it was a bad thing.

You Stay Classy, Zara Clothing

August 27th, 2014 - 11:49 am

And by “classy,” read: grotesquely anti-Semitic:

I missed the memo — who set the world’s clock back to 1939?

Quote of the Day

August 23rd, 2014 - 5:42 pm

Graphic design can be powerful stuff — but as any advertising man will tell you, it’s all for naught if the finished product doesn’t live up to the slick packaging. Back in 2009, Bill Whittle explored “The Power & Danger of Iconography” in an early edition of Afterburner at PJTV:

Related: “If liberals felt compelled to protect a peanut farmer from Georgia, what must they feel for an Ivy League-trained exotic from Hyde Park,” Noemie Emery asks at the Weekly Standard. Especially when he’s “a man of the world and messiah, a speaker and writer, but never a doer; themselves, in short, to the ultimate power; themselves as they dreamed they could be? And that is the problem: If he fails, then they fail, and that cannot happen. So the fault is in the stars, in the cards, in unfair expectations—anywhere but where it should be.”

“‘Dead broke’ no more: Bill Clinton fancies $1,000 cigars, world’s most expensive stogie maker says,” the London Daily Mail reports:

Bill Clinton is among the clientele of the most expensive cigar make in the world, it was revealed on Thursday.

The once ‘dead broke’ former president is a connoisseur of His Majesty’s Reserve cigars, which cost $1,000 a piece, Gurkha Cigars owner and CEO Kaizad Hansotia told Bloomberg during an interview about the company.

‘Bill Clinton loves the beauties. He loves the Gurkhas,’ Hansotia said. [It's when the beauties and the Gurkhas intersect that problems for Bill can really occur -- Ed]

The Dominican Republic-made cigar is the ‘Rolls Royce of the cigar industry,’ Hansotia said, and boxes cost $25,000 a piece.

That price is set to rise to $30,000 next year. Only 20 boxes of the cognac-infused cigars are produced a year, the cigar boss said, and there’s a three-year waiting list.

The perfect cigar to light up inside your “presidential suite” hotel room, as your wife pockets up to $300,000 per speeches that position her as a formerly “dead broke” champion of income inequality. (Pun definitely intended.)

Which brings us to…“Elizabeth Warren on Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for 2016: No comment.”

Pass the popcorn. (And the Gurka.)

From Quest for Fire to the Four Seasons

August 2nd, 2014 - 11:04 am

“Home Cooking and Civilization” was explored by Jonah Goldberg yesterday in his latest G-File, a summer rerun alas, but a worthy topic nonetheless:

It is hard to fathom all of the trial-and-error that has gone into any great cuisine. Imagine how long it must have taken to come up with the idea that food should be cooked in the first place. How many deaths or vomiting sessions stemming from eating spoiled raw meat led to that discovery? How many mistakes were made – and learned from – in the process of aging and curing meats and fish? How many corpses are long since buried and decomposed thanks to someone working out the technical details of food storage? And then there’s the whole wonderful universe of flavor and technique that defines any truly distinctive cuisine. This much salt, that much paprika. Age the cheese this long for this taste, this much longer for that taste. Cuisines are the manifest product of wars, invasions, famines, revolution, religious awakenings, boom times, and scientific breakthroughs. The culinary lessons learned from these momentous times are humbly recorded, without much commentary, in cookbooks. Put it all together and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not merely akin to a time capsule, it’s a memory back-up, an auto-save of a document still being written. At least 99 percent of the things we know are things other people figured out first. Our manners, morals, technology, language, culture come to us on an assembly line that stretches off into prehistory with laborers in animal skins at the front and lab coats at the end.

Even rugged-individualist survivalists living completely alone in the woods somewhere are plugged into a support network of millions of human beings who came before him. Nearly every single thing he does alone in the woods was figured out for him by someone else. He didn’t discover how to start a fire. He probably didn’t forge his own gun or knife, and even if he did, he didn’t learn the techniques for doing so all by himself.

One of the ways we plug into all of this knowledge, how we transfer the data banks of civilization onto the empty barbarian hard drive of humanity, is at the dinner table. We teach our children not to be savages by eating with them and including them in the process of cooking. Food is primal, and by diluting and harnessing the primal urge to eat we start turning barbarians into less-than-barbarians.

Thursday while having lunch alone (my wife was with a client at a deposition), I poked around the YouTube channel on the Roku box, and came across a 2002 speech from Tom Wolfe on urban renewal that I had never seen before, which dovetails perfectly with Jonah’s take on the power of food. Wolfe argues, slightly tongue in cheek, but actually pretty convincingly, that Manhattan’s restaurants are the only thing keeping a number of corporations from leaving the massively over-regulated and over-taxed city. (Scroll to 14:30 if TubeChop doesn’t take you there automatically):


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Keeping civilization and America’s greatest city functioning. Food: Is there nothing it can’t do?

(To subscribe to Jonah’s emailed G-File, click here.)

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?