If I hear or read one more American hack mentioning the word “democracy” regarding Egypt and the Middle East, I swear on Joe Biden’s hair-implanted head that I shall go in front of the Capitol and commit ritual seppuku, the Japanese warrior’s way of leaving this life. (Just kidding; I shall wait for the Almighty to decide my fate. Biden’s head is not worth a Taki, plus it would please too many ugly neocons.)

What in God’s name is wrong with these pompous and ignorant fools? Does it take a poor little Greek boy to point out the facts to them? “€œDemocracy”€ is an alien word in the Middle East, a chimera that foreigners use when the camel drivers fail to hold up their side of the bargain. It means we sell arms to you, buy your oil, let you use our hot spots as your playgrounds, and allow you to embrace a medieval form of government as long as you lay off Israel. All the rest is dross.

“€œWhat the 380 million Arabs need are property rights, not the right to cast a useless ballot every four or so years.”€

It took the editor of the London Spectator writing in the Daily Telegraph to get it exactly right. What the Arab world needs is capitalism, not democracy, Fraser Nelson wrote. The so-called Arab Spring began when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest the fact that he had to bribe Tunisian cops to sell his goods from a cart. It was as simple as that. A poor cart salesman immolated himself for capitalism, not democracy. Police had confiscated his fruit and a pair of scales once he refused to pay a bribe. That is all he had. He was not allowed to trade any longer, hence his suicide. Getting a license to trade, opening a shop, and even selling goods on the street need governmental approval. Bribes and bureaucracy go hand in hand. As Nelson wrote, “traders do not really break the law”€”the law breaks them.” Sixty similar cases were overlooked by the geniuses of the press clamoring for democracy in the Middle East.

But before I go on, a word about democracy, a most overrated and misunderstood institution that brain-dead reporters and so-called commentators use ad nauseam while reaching for the moral high ground. In what sense do you really have a hand in ruling the country through your vote? The sad answer is none whatsoever. Special interests and major corporations, yes; little John Doe, not at all. The demos, as the ancient Greeks called the people, practiced selective democracy, like we do in America with special interests. Mind you, the fairest way to ensure that everyone has an equal voice and chance to rule would be a lottery, but such a lottery would be rigged just as the game already is, so let’s drop that one. Plato thought democracy was a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder. The wiser Aristotle said that when democracy is strained it grows weak and is supplanted by an oligarchy. Edmund Burke said that a perfect democracy is the most shameless thing in the world. The great ancient Greek philosopher Taki favors a selective democracy, which in today’s context means that a drug dealer or a deadbeat does not have a vote, whereas a useful member of society does. Who decides who is useful? The useful ones. End of story.

Trayvon. Bernanke. The Colonel. America is buffeted by blustery winds of change these days, yet who among us would have thought even they could disquiet the solemnity of the buffet table?

Recently it was announced that the venerable gentleman in the white suit and string tie would be phased out of our collective consciousness. KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, is erasing the Colonel from its advertising and some establishments. Has there ever been a greater corporate betrayal? (Well, yes; but probably nothing similar where chicken breasts are concerned.)

Harland Sanders has always been something of a hero of mine. Not because he managed to hit on just the right blend of essential herbs and spices, but because as far as sheer tenacity and the grit of making it through life goes, he is a model for us all.

The Colonel was born not in 1790, as producers of Little House on the Prairie would have you believe, but in 1890 to a dirt-poor family in rural Indiana. During his infancy his father was severely injured, ending their farming life. The patriarch became a butcher for a few years but soon caught fever and died. Eldest child Harland became man of the house (at age 5) until his mother married a stepfather who beat him. By 12 he left school and subsequently left home.

“€œHarland Sanders has always been something of a hero of mine.”€

At 15 he did what many patriotic boys have done”€”he lied about his age to join the military. Sanders became a mule-handler in Cuba until he completed his commitment. Incidentally, he was never a military colonel but received the meritorious distinction from the state of Kentucky, as has one of my own close relations (though mine has not yet grown a goatee).

Next came a series of odd jobs à la O. Henry that saw Harland as steamboat pilot, insurance agent, and railroad fireman. Getting married at 20 seemed to settle him down, but his wife cut out when Sanders was fired for insubordination while on a business trip.

His spouse was so serious about abandoning him she did it the old-fashioned way by discarding all his belongings and running off with the children. Her brother diplomatically wrote Harland that he was “€œno-good”€ and a “€œfailure”€ because he couldn”€™t hold a job. The couple reconciled for a time but ultimately divorced.

By his mid-30s Sanders was a man with little formal education, an unhappy home life, and whose résumé could boast only a string of short-term employment. He became a traveling salesman for Michelin Tires but had an accident in which his head was split open and he lost his new car with entire stock of wares during a torrential downpour.

My day is ruined after a flat tire. Putting my automobile in a river? Watching it float away? With almost everything I own inside? I”€™d prefer to sit down and choke on a chicken bone, but not Harland. After watching this tragi-comedy unfold he had a good laugh, got back on his feet, and walked into town to borrow some clothes to wear while making his comeback.

It was once said that “€œIf you want to see America, buy a gas station,”€ and this is what Sanders did next. In 1930 his service station in small-town Kentucky was providing car care, refreshments, and most importantly for posterity, chicken dinners. But it didn”€™t quite begin as well as it sounds. When he opened Sanders had no actual restaurant, so he served the dinners in his personal rooms.

Over the next decade the chicken recipe was perfected and business grew. However in 1956 when the interstate system reached him it completely bypassed the Sanders Café. He was forced to sell out and received barely enough to cover his debts and taxes. Everything was gone and Sanders was 65 years old.

Instead of surrendering, Harland franchised his recipe for chicken to a man in Salt Lake City. When this first effort proved profitable Sanders went on the road, putting a wealth of experience to use selling chicken (and himself) to franchisees across the country. By 1963 he had 600 of them.

You more or less know how things ended from there. But then, everyone always knows the ending. It’s the beginning that counts most since that’s the part of these stories so often untold because they”€™re depressing beyond mere words. It is also the most instructive for those of us who think we have seen difficult times ourselves yet who have really seen very little by comparison.

Yes, there really is a Burbank.

As a kid, I assumed that the smallish California city with the “beautiful downtown” was just a cheesy Tonight Show punch line, not a real place.

Today, all is not well in the “Media Capital of the World.” Its legendary aviation industry almost extinct, Burbank relies on its equally famous TV studios to stay solvent.

That’s why city fathers panicked when NBC announced The Tonight Show‘s move back to New York City when Jimmy Fallon takes over from Jay Leno next February. That means the loss of about 170 jobs in a city of just 100,000, plus the revenue from all the tourists who’ve trekked to Burbank since 1972 to be part of the show’s live audience.

The mayor jokingly threatened a hunger strike. Petitions were signed.

But those grassroots efforts couldn’t trump the so-called “Jimmy Fallon tax credit,” a line item in New York State’s latest budget that was clearly designed to lure The Tonight Show back to its original Rockefeller Center home.

So strange. Despite the trappings of 21st-century technology”€”you can practically hear the cell phones buzzing and keyboards clicking”€”this high-stakes bicoastal maneuvering seems absurdly quaint, like Civil War reenactments but with lawyers.

“€œThe Tonight Show‘s importance in the entertainment economy and in popular culture has steeply declined since its iconic host Johnny Carson retired over twenty years ago.”€

After all, The Tonight Show‘s importance in the entertainment economy and in popular culture has steeply declined since its iconic host Johnny Carson retired over twenty years ago.

His tremendous appeal famously escaped the British, but for lots of kids in those days of a three-channel universe, Johnny Carson was the chuckling white-haired guy you snuck downstairs to peek at when you got too old for Santa. Maybe we didn’t get all the jokes, but his show threw off toxic doses of glowing, grown-up glamor we longed to absorb.

These days, as Gavin McInnes pointed out last week, narrowcasting is the new broadcasting. Media is multifaceted and on demand. We swallowed the concept of “two Americas””€”one “red,” the other “blue””€”with shocking aplomb. So the idea seems as archaic as the divine right of kings: one man reigning for generations as the nation’s tastemaker.

(Especially someone as cold and enigmatic as Carson, who ruthlessly banished “disloyal” favorites in a heartbeat. Prickly and private, the story goes that when Madonna and Sean Penn got married next door, “Carson was so annoyed by paparazzi helicopters, he went out and spelled FUCK OFF on his front lawn with rocks.”)

The Tonight Show’s fading post-Carson influence is especially notable in the comedy realm. Time was, getting “called to the couch” after a stupendous set could turn a freshman stand-up into an overnight sensation, sometimes literally: Tom Dreesen signed a development deal the next morning.

Drew Carey still tears up at the memory of Carson waving him over to sit at his right-hand side:

People talk about the feeling of the Holy Spirit going through you and your body changing, and you feel like something’s changed in your life forever and ever”€”that’s what I felt like going over there, and I felt like I was in a dream the whole time. It was like being saved by Jesus, honestly.

In his second term, Richard Nixon had Watergate, but also the rescue of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

In his second term, Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra, but also a treaty eliminating U.S. and Soviet missiles in Europe, his “tear-down-this-wall” moment in Berlin and his lead role in ending the Cold War.

In his second term, Bill Clinton had Monica, but also came close to a peace treaty between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat.

Obama’s second-term scandals—IRS, Benghazi, wiretapping The Associated Press and Fox—are in the low-kiloton range compared to the resignation of Nixon or the impeachment of Clinton.

And as Obama is going to get nada from a Republican House on guns, amnesty, cap-and-trade or a second stimulus, he should look for his legacy—as Nixon, Reagan and Clinton did—to foreign policy.

“And Obama lacks the clout in Congress or this capital city to force Bibi to do anything he does not wish to do.”

Two opportunities beckon. First, the mirage—a Middle East peace. Essential to any treaty, however, is a withdrawal of Israeli “settlers” from the West Bank, a sharing of Jerusalem, Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a “Jewish state” and Arab repudiation of the “right of return.”

Good luck. Bibi Netanyahu, who calls Jerusalem our “eternal capital” and Judea and Samaria our ancient lands, is not going to divide Jerusalem or uproot Jewish settlers from the West Bank—not when he opposed their removal from Gaza by Ariel Sharon.

Bibi will not do it, cannot, if he wants his Likudnik coalition to survive. And Obama lacks the clout in Congress or this capital city to force Bibi to do anything he does not wish to do.

Hence Obama’s legacy hopes lie not in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington this week, but in what is happening in Iran—the inauguration of the president who replaces Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hasan Rouhani was elected with 51 percent of the vote by the constituency that voted against Ahmadinejad in 2009. His triumph was due to his endorsement by former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Both had been kept off the ballot by Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rouhani is a founding father of the Islamic Republic and was a close ally of Ayatollah Khomeini. But he was elected on a pledge to revive the economy, get sanctions lifted, and re-engage with the West.

He won on a promise of better times for the Iranian people and an end to Iran’s isolation.

Yet the only way he can achieve these goals is to come to terms with Obama on Iran’s nuclear program. And as he was once Iran’s lead negotiator on that program, Rouhani knows exactly what is required.

Despite the decades of acrimony between us, the basic elements of a Washington-Tehran deal are there.

Iran wants its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—to peaceful nuclear research and nuclear power—recognized by the United States. And it wants U.S.-UN sanctions lifted.

Only in America can white people organize an event intended to mock poor Southern whites, have black people crying that it’s racist against blacks, and then have white people apologizing to blacks about it.

That’s what happened in the small Arizona town of Queen Creek, whose black population is a hearty and robust one third of one percent. Back in May, as part of Queen Creek High School’s “€œSpirit Week,”€ the school sponsored “€œRedneck Day,”€ which principal Tom Lindsey claims was intended not to honor, but to satirize, po”€™-white Southern culture as exemplified in the frighteningly popular A&E reality show Duck Dynasty.

Duck Dynasty is part of a recent wave of TV shows that depict what used to be known as normal Americans as exotic and endangered creatures on a wild-game preserve, almost always for comic effect to amuse presumably sophisticated and non-prejudiced urbanites and coastal dwellers. Other shows in this genre include Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Swamp People, Buckwild, and Redneck Island.

Seriously, someone should write a book about how poor white trash are the only group it isn”€™t considered culturally insensitive to mock. Not only aren”€™t such stereotypes discouraged”€”Hollywood’s masters of reality eagerly applaud and lavishly finance sweepingly negative cultural oversimplifications that in any other ethnic context would be labeled as hate speech.

On “€œRedneck Day”€ in Queen Creek, one student”€”apparently a Southern transplant”€”draped himself in a rebel flag, which nitpickers will remind you is often incorrectly referred to as a “€œConfederate flag.”€ He was asked to remove it, which he promptly did.

“€œOnly in America can white people organize an event intended to mock poor Southern whites, have black people crying that it’s racist against blacks, and then have white people apologizing to blacks about it.”€

And then came the backlash. Local black race hustlers were the first to pile on. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which should at least be honest and change its name to The Anti-Southern Rich People’s Law Center, stuck its hate-sniffing beak into the situation. And now the Department of Justice is investigating the school for possible civil-rights violations.

“€œWe apologize to any people who, because of the word (redneck), were offended,”€ groveled the school principal. Mind you, he wasn”€™t apologizing to American whites of meager means”€”the untold millions whose forefathers came as indentured servants, whose ancestors died in the hundreds of thousands in the Civil War, and who have historically been pitted in economic and cultural competition against blacks ever since the original indentured servants were driven off the plantations and into the backwoods and hills”€”he was apologizing to black people.

Didn”€™t matter. The perpetually offended were out for a lynching, and they smelled blood.

Perhaps smelling money as well, civil-rights attorney Steve Montoya of Phoenix said, “€œThe Confederacy represents the horrible institution of slavery, and that is a direct attack on African-Americans.”€

“€œI”€™m sitting here crying and praying,”€ wailed Ozetta Kirby, vice president of a local NAACP chapter, whose grandson Marcus is a student at Queen Creek. “€œThis thing really got to Marcus,”€ Kirby said. “€œNo kid should have to go through that. We all know the connotation of “€˜redneck.”€™”€

Do you?

Do you know that the overwhelming majority of white Southerners”€”well over 90% of them”€”never owned slaves even at the peak of slavery? Do you know that the term “€œredneck”€ dates all the way back to Scotland in the 1640s, when it was used to describe peasants who rebelled against the ruling class? Do you know that its most plausible American derivation is from the 1800s when it was used to describe those impoverished whites who didn”€™t own slaves nor hire black sharecroppers and instead toiled in the fields and burned their pale necks red under the hot sun?

SPLC spokesmouth Maureen Costello, who heads a program called Teaching Tolerance, chided school officials: “€œDo no harm to a student’s sense of identity. Everyone should feel welcome.”€

The Week’s Most Lascivious, Invidious, and Ridiculous Headlines

Pterodactyl-faced ex-Congressman and Big Apple mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner has been caught sexting again, this time under the undeniably seductive pseudonym of “Carlos Danger.” Weiner, who had a habit of screaming at Congress with the unhinged fervor of a premature ejaculator, held a press conference on Tuesday pleading for absolution and redemption and further access to naked political power. His incomprehensibly loyal”€”or understandably careerist, take your pick”€”Muslim wife Huma Abedin stood by his side and said she forgave him yet again, possibly relieved that none of the assembled reporters were asking pointed questions about her rumored lesbian affair with Hillary Clinton. A New York Times article about the scandal included the phrase “Mr. Weiner rarely shrinks.”

In San Diego, Mayor Bob “Filthy” Filner held a press conference on Friday to announce that he “will be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy” in the wake of allegations from multiple women that include inappropriate buttocks-patting, cheek-stroking, and holding a woman in a headlock while slobbering down her chin.

French authorities have brought “aggravated pimping” charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who should have known that pimps should always act with smooth composure rather than aggravation.

“€œThe United Nations, that globalist monkey wrench which seeks to turn the entire world into one big happy cooperative commode under its eternal thrall, has declared that November 19 will be “€˜World Toilet Day.”€™”€

Lithuanian demonstrators threw eggs at gay-pride marchers in Vilnius, while Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill declared that the push for same-sex marriage represents “a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse” and “Those who are true to their conscience in fighting these minority-imposed laws are subject to repression.”

Unnamed “industry sources” in Silicon Valley are claiming that the feds have requested various Internet giants to provide them with users’ stored passwords.

By a 217-205 vote, Congress shot down an amendment to curtail the NSA’s authority to snoop on American citizens’ telephone records.

Rhino-shaped and RINO-spirited New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bemoaned a “very dangerous…strain of libertarianism” as exemplified by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Christie weighed heavily”€”yes, pun intended”€”on the side of security in the eternal debate of freedom versus security in protecting Americans from “terrorism,” perhaps not pausing in between bites of his calzone to ponder that such massive government surveillance could have the effect of terrorizing citizens into silence. In a measured response, the much more svelte Senator Paul refrained from calling Christie a big fat fattie.

The Atlantic ran a piece wondering whether MRI technology would one day advance to the point where it could record a person’s thoughts and if so, whether the government could “get a search warrant” and use such evidence against individuals without violating the Fifth Amendment.

In perhaps the most chilling and Orwellian news story so far this year, MIT neuroscientists have announced that they are now able to “plant false memories” into mouse brains, opening the possibility that they will be eventually able to “tinker with the memory by directly controlling the brain cells.”

Dear Gato,

This time last week I fell asleep and woke up in an MRI machine asking myself, “€œWhere am I? And how did I get here?”€

I was lying inside the industrial-size white doughnut that is an MRI scanner, the machine emitting its hideous churning noise, a noise I can only describe as an intense, encrypted din which reminds me somehow of a choir of the damned, the faraway yet still audible screeches of those condemned to an afterlife in hell. It is a wretched, collective groaning from the deep. The electricity produced by the heat of those wretched souls burning below is converted by the manufacturer General Electric, via some awful space-age technology, into a super-high-tech magnetic resonance field against which we are able to scan for our own imaging.

It’s never a good sign if you wake up inside an MRI, and last weekend was no exception. The mild concussion I had suffered at the hands of the guard dogs of hell”€”it started to return to me then”€”had briefly made me oblivious to a turn for the worse my trip to São Paulo had taken. As the cyclopean monster that is the MRI changed gears, cranking then churning in another direction, only then did my memory take me back to the situation’s origin”€”a happy Friday night in Brazil’s capital city São Paulo where I joined my colleagues in raising our caipirinhas and toasting the end of a week in which we had, for once, done our duty. Let me set the scene.

I”€™d arrived in Brazil the previous Monday morning for the Americas Screenwriting festival, a biennial event celebrating the talents who reside in Latin America. It was a Who’s Who in South American creative talent, which included a handful of A-list Brazilian and Argentinian filmmakers, some long-time Mexican writer-directors”€”old friends of mine”€”and an intriguing mix of just-discovered talents from north of the Amazon. Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela were all represented.

“€œIt’s never a good sign if you wake up inside an MRI, and last weekend was no exception.”€

After dinner, having quickly wearied of the Argentines”€™ hauteur, I went wandering down a thoroughfare of São Paulo and walked into a trap. I left my buddies in a club and somehow navigated”€”by way of an evil taxi driver”€”to the worst part of town. I would discover the next day that it’s where “€œno one who lives here goes.”€ I hoped I was stumbling upon a bar of lore, a Treasure Island wreck of an establishment, perhaps the city’s best-kept secret. I was motioned down some stairs and into the grimmest of low-end strip clubs.

Empty at this hour. Ugly and overweight girls. A miserable bartender. Bizarrely, dry ice and the smell of coconut tanning lotion everywhere. Simply horrible. There was the inevitable cajoling and chirping of “€œWhy don”€™t you buy us a drink?”€ I realized this was no place for me and I had unwittingly been parked there, alone in a place where I didn”€™t want to be and where I had no friends. Nor, I had quickly concluded, would any of my friends be coming to meet me here. This would remain a secret, an accident, an easy enough mistake to make.

Yeah. The place was called Emmanuelle’s; at least technically, I”€™d discover. That evening it looked like the place was called “€œmanuel”€ because the lights in the surrounding letters had failed.

I proceeded to leave, at which point I was told my “€œbill”€ totaled 500 bucks for sitting in a bar for 20 minutes. I argued. I asked what one drink cost. I paid it: 175″€”and I continued to leave, a distinct feeling that I”€™d been suckered descending upon me. 175. A lot for a shot of vodka.

I emerged and hesitated before turning left or right when it appeared the management was not satisfied. The madam, an evil-looking seductress who had probably once been coquettish and had now grown tougher than all the men from whom she made her living”€”set her two henchmen on me, surrounding me at the top of the stairs outside the bar. There they cornered me and quickly told me to pay up what I “€œowed”€ them. Thinking that I had some principle to back up my desire to keep hold of the cash I was carrying, I refused.

We argued. The tempo grew quicker, the tone harsher. I called my friend Luis, who has the respect of many in the law-enforcement community. Unfortunately for me, he was busy. We argued some more. People formed a circle and started to watch. Sensing I better come up with a plan quickly and feeling how little sympathy local people have for gringos outside strip joints, I quickly snapped a couple of photos using my iPhone”€”photos of the madam and her henchmen. Insurance, I hoped. Final evidence of where I had been if I was to be killed or to vanish. Perhaps DropBox would make one final grab for my personal photos and upload them without permission again.

Then all hell broke loose. They picked me up, kicking and yelling”€”bystanders gawping”€”and carried me across the threshold. Two guys held me up by my arms while two other guerillas laid into me, hitting me in the side with kidney jabs. Gut punches and face slaps rained down until I gave up kicking and resisting.

Campaign cash is cool stuff “”€ Huma, all too Huma “”€ What brought down
Detroit? “”€ Towards the custodial state “”€ IRS scandal goes to the top “”€
Britain’s new imperial mission “”€ Australia slams the door, maybe

“Progressivism leads inevitably to utter irrationality and eventually political, as well as moral, chaos.”

So writes editor R.V. Young in the summer issue of Modern Age, the journal of which Russell Kirk was founding editor.

The magazine arrived with the latest post from our cultural capital, where the front-runner in the mayoral race, Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, has been caught again “sexting” photos of his privates, this time to a 22-year-old woman.

That broke it for The New York Times:

“The serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”

And Weiner’s conduct does seem weird, creepy, crazy.

“One suspects the Times does not really have any moral objection to what Weiner is up to on his cellphone.”

But it was not illegal. And as it was between consenting adults, was it immoral—by the standards of modern liberalism?

In 1973, the “Humanist Manifesto II,” a moral foundation for much of American law, declared: “The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered ‘evil.’ … Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire.”

Is this not what Anthony was up to? Why then the indignation?

Consider how far we are along the path that liberalism equates with social and moral progress. Ronald Reagan was the first and is the only divorced and remarried man elected president.

But the front-runner in the New York mayor’s race today quit Congress as a serial texter of lewd photos to anonymous women. The front-runner in the city comptroller’s race was “Client No. 9” in the prostitution ring of the convicted madam who is running against him.

Weiner’s strongest challenger for mayor is a lesbian about to marry another lesbian. The sitting mayor and governor are divorced and living with women not their wives. The former mayor’s second wife had to go to court to stop his girlfriend from showing up at Gracie Mansion.

Weiner looks like a mainstream liberal.

On cable channels we hear cries that Weiner is “mentally sick.” Ex-colleague Rep. Jerrold Nadler says Weiner needs “psychiatric help.”

Whoa, Jerry. Up to 1973, the American Psychiatric Association said homosexuality was a mental disorder. The APA now regrets that. And why is Weiner’s private sexting a sign of mental illness, when kids all over America are engaged in the same thing every day?

Are we, possibly, a mentally and morally sick society?

Thirty years ago, homosexual acts were crimes. The Supreme Court has since discovered sodomy to be a constitutional right. State courts are discovering another new right—of homosexuals to marry.

When I was a kid, being a rebel was hard work. You didn”€™t have the Internet spoon-feeding you the latest trends. You had to dig under rocks to find out what was happening. If you didn”€™t find a “€œscene,”€ you had to make your own.

Back in the 1980s, minimum wage was still under $5. You”€™d be lucky to save $20 by the weekend, and the only stores that had punk records were an hour’s bus ride away. Imports cost about $15. We didn”€™t have listening stations back then so we”€™d have to judge a book by its cover and hope the skull and crossbones artwork didn”€™t mean the music inside was Goth or industrial. If you screwed up, you”€™d have to wait seven days before you could try again. I blew countless weekends accidentally buying industrial garbage such as Skinny Puppy, Meat Beat Manifesto, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, and Alien Sex Fiend.

Going to shows also meant trekking downtown and because nobody had a car, you were left with no choice but to take the brutally slow public transportation system. On Sunday nights it wasn”€™t unusual to spend a couple of hours trying to get back home from a show. If you missed the last bus, you”€™d have to walk. Thanks to government incompetence, walking wasn”€™t much worse than public transportation.

“€œThe only good thing about the good old days was that we had to work.”€

Stores didn”€™t sell punk gear back then. You might be able to find sunglasses or jeans you could rip, but real things such as blue hair dye and Dr. Martens boots had to be imported via Shelly’s catalog. The English have weird foot sizes so you”€™d inevitably get a size too small, which meant waiting another month for a return or turning your feet into a Steve Martin routine.

I had the advantage of taking regular trips back to Scotland to visit relatives where I could buy “€œDocs”€ that fit, but the skinhead movement was so big back then, they “€œrolled me”€ for them as soon as I got back home. I still can”€™t believe that a brand of footwear led to so much violence in the sleepy government town of Ottawa, Canada.

I”€™d also bring back Manic Panic hair dye where we”€™d make our mohawks purple or green after stripping them white with L”€™Oreal Blondissima procured from the local drug store. No matter your subculture, being different back then took at least a year of trial and error.

Getting a tattoo meant finding a biker in a basement who was willing to waste his time on some adolescent fag who kept almost puking. While I was getting my first tattoo in 1988, a guy named Blue kept yelling at his wife for allowing us in his shop and telling me, “€œI love the new breed of man that’s getting a tattoo these days”€ when I told him I felt like throwing up. Charlie Corwin, the producer of reality tattoo shows such as Miami Ink recently told me, “€œTattoos used to mean, “€˜get away from me.”€™ Now they mean, “€˜Ask me about my tattoo.”€™”€ In New York, tattoos were illegal until 1997 and if you wanted one done you”€™d have to take the train for over an hour to some weird rural suburb in the middle of nowhere. A guy who goes by the name of “€œCiv”€ and works at Lotus Tattoo in Sayville, NY says the good thing about this is you end up being pretty sure you have the right idea when you finally make it out there.

When we had an idea we wanted to convey to our peers, we”€™d go to the local photocopy shop and put together a fanzine. You had to get your hands on an extra-long stapler so the arm could make it all the way to the binding and you had to hammer the staples into a pizza box because they”€™d get bent on a hard surface. If someone objected to what you put in your zine, they”€™d put a letter in the mail, which you would receive in your PO box a week later. Then you”€™d respond in your next zine a month after that. It took years to have an argument and all points were well thought-out, though you couldn”€™t provide links to back up your point.