Sleepwalking into war “ The pussy civilization “ Kids say the darnedest things “ Outbreaks of honesty in Britain “ Grammar an spelin be raciss! “ The fractal nature of offense-taking “ Lesbian waitress exposed “ The problem with Pacifism “ How to square the Diversity circle “ Is the Bible fiction, or what? “ The ultimate fixer-upper “ Golliwog chic
In America, people do air travel like they”re going to a sleepover, bring kids to R-rated movies, and let their offspring run around restaurants like we”re all in the same living room. It’s hard to know where to begin when imposing some decorum on Western culture, but I”m an alcoholic so I”m going to start with bars.
1. BRING CASH
As John Carney pointed out on Business Insider, stop pulling out your credit card for one drink. You”re not only wasting the bartender’s time and delaying his tip by at least a week, you”re slowing shit down for the rest of us. Go to an ATM and pay the fee they charge you to not waste everyone else’s money.
2. STOP ORDERING WATER
You know what booze is? It’s water with a tiny bit of booze in it. No more ordering a drink with a water chaser. Try the drink first and see if that quenches your thirst. It’s a fucking DRINK, for crying out loud. The only exception to this rule is a megabender where you”re risking alcohol poisoning by not having a glass of water for every seven pints of beer. It’s rational to do it then, but I still think it’s faggy.
3. KNOW YOUR DRINK
Can we stop asking the female bartender what IPA she recommends? She drinks Pinot Grigio and she doesn”t even like it. Order a Budweiser or a Guinness or a Maker’s on the rocks. The drinks they”re serving are really just rotten vegetables and we”re drinking them because they give us a buzz. As you sit there poring over the menu like any of this matters, we are fantasizing about ripping your head off. You don”t go to a drug den and order strawberry heroin, so stop asking questions about some stupid pumpkin ale.
4. CAREFUL, LADIES
We know women should be legally allowed in bars, but they belong there about as much as I belong in a feminist workshop about rape. Ladies, you are in a man zone, so please try to dial it back a bit and keep it to a dull roar. Your laugh after three wines sounds like a hyena trying to howl over a fire extinguisher.
5. NO MORE BLACKBERRY MARGARITAS
I can”t believe this is a genderless rule but yes, even grown men order these elaborate drinks. If I am at an airport bar and I”m trying to get a bourbon buzz before a six-hour flight, please do not cut my drinking time by ordering something that takes 10 minutes to make. I have criticized men for doing this in the past and they were so oblivious their reaction was, “I know! “Not normal,” right?”
6. BOOTH SEATS ARE NOT SET IN STONE
When someone leaves the booth to go to the loo, they don”t need their exact seat when they get back. When he returns, everyone shuffles down one and he’s now in the aisle seat. Besides, it’s healthy for the conversation to have a musical-chairs scenario, so everyone needs to stop getting up and allowing dude to slide into his spot next to the guy who won”t stop talking about the price of his daughter’s gymnastics lessons.
NEW YORK—Nature is at her best right now, the leaves still holding, Central Park awash in golden browns and reds. I go there every morning, half a block away from my house, and under a giant elm I put the creaky body through its paces. Twenty push-ups, thirty deep knee bends, twenty-five kicks over a knee-high bar for each leg, and I finish with twenty-five punches against a leaf for speed and accuracy. Then a quiet walk and back to the flat for breakfast and the papers. At six in the evening I walk to the dojo and mix it up rather hard with karate sensei Richard Amos and other black belts. Tuesdays I skip the park and go straight to judo training, the judo sessions being much too brutal for wasting energy before hitting the mats. Saturdays and Sundays I stay in bed dreaming of Rebecca Hall, the Spectator’s deputy editor, Claire Danes, and Jessica Raine. That’s the most frustrating part of all. On Monday it starts all over again.
I used to have a pat answer when people asked why I trained as hard as I did: “When the revolution comes, I’ll be able to take a few with me.” I now train a bit less and can’t wait for the revolution—anything to get rid of the horrors that pass as celebrities nowadays. I suppose I’m someone who finds expression for my emotions through martial arts as much as I do through seduction. The physical is inseparably entwined with the spiritual, and at times violence can be a pathway to spiritual grace.
Which brings me to Mike Tyson. His name should have been Mike Braggadocio, and director James Toback got to him first about five years ago. Jimmy loved Tyson, something that is beyond me as I respect only fighters who respect their fallen opponents and do not humiliate them à la Muhammad Ali. But in his new stand-up routine based on Jimmy’s documentary, Tyson makes it all worthwhile with just one joke. He sees his wife talking to Brad Pitt and looks threateningly at the actor. A hero on the screen, Pitt shits in his pants: “Dude, don’t hit me, don’t hit me, for God’s sake.” Looking like someone who is being given the last rites, pretty boy begs. I can’t see Robert Mitchum begging, but then Mitchum was no pretty boy. I loved Pitt’s humiliation because he’s so politically correct—adopting African children, saving the planet, endorsing wind and solar power—you know the type. In his latest film Pitt appears as the only decent white man in 19th-century America, refusing another larger part because “I didn’t want my kids to see me in this role (of a slave owner).” What a phony, and like most phonies, a coward to boot. The worse that could have happened is for Tyson to have applied instant sedation, Pitt taking a short snooze but keeping his dignity, and that ghastly Robin Givens (Tyson’s first wife) receiving some badly needed publicity.
The now contrite, rueful Tyson I sort of believe. He has blown around 100 million big ones, which might make even a ruling Saudi camel driver rueful. And unlike the Saudis, Tyson earned his money as a gladiator, not pushing ignorant Filipino and Bengali workers around. I wish him well, despite having given Pitt a pass. We all decline and fall, and I see shades of mortality cross his tattooed face every second. But on to happier subjects.
Here’s a funny coincidence. Just as Netanyahu is hyperventilating against the interim deal Uncle Sam has struck with Iran in Geneva, a poster campaign by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Berlin intended to identify aging Germans who might have participated in Nazi crimes has produced more than 3,000 posters in cities all over Germany. “Late But Not Too Late” is what the signs say, with a concentration camp in the background. Mind you, the war has been over since 1945, the guilty ones have been punished, and reparations in the hundreds of billions of dollars have been paid to the families and descendants of the victims.”¨
Not enough, according to some. Based on tips, four very old people are being investigated, including a woman. Two hundred and eighty-five calls have been placed to a toll-free number accusing 285 people. Most of the calls were placed in Germany and Israel.
Here’s what methinks:
It’s been 68 years since World War II ended, so the Simon Wiesenthal Center has used up its good offices. It needs money and what better way to get it than to cry wolf? Anyone still living who might have been involved has to be in his or her nineties. Even worse for those accused, they most likely were extremely small cogs in the machine and probably were forced to serve an evil practice and cause. In fact, I think this is just a shakedown at best, a propaganda play by the ruling Likud party in Israel to regenerate pity for the long-suffering Jewish people. The latter, and not of late, incidentally, are no longer suffering but making others suffer, namely the Palestinians. Netanyahu knows only one thing: pressure. He has never tested Palestinian goodwill, has never taken a chance on Palestinian good faith, and has never given a chance to Palestinians to show that they are, like most people, peace-loving and willing to negotiate.”¨
Instead, extremist groups such as Hamas are a godsend to him, and he plays their over-the-top rhetoric to his advantage time and again.”¨”¨As Roger Cohen wrote, diplomacy involves compromise and risk. The hardliners of Israel don”t even know how to spell the “D” word. Now they have stirred up a non-event in Germany and Austria by having any person with a grudge against anyone anywhere to use a toll-free number and accuse anyone of being a concentration-camp guard. So I shall start the ball rolling and accuse a certain Efraim Zuroff of having been involved in those dastardly crimes. He is, by the way, the director of the Israel office of the Wiesenthal Center. But I do it on Taki’s Mag rather than using the toll-free number, which is the coward’s way out. Zuroff is obviously not guilty of the crimes, but neither are most people who will be accused by those informers using the toll-free system. I know a rough hustle when I see one, but this is a new low as far as the Likudists are concerned.
Ceruzzi, Paul E. Computing: A Concise History. Cambridge, MA; The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series, 2012.
This time last year all I was hearing about was MOOCs”Massive Open Online Courses, in which university-level instruction, sometimes by big-name lecturers, is provided free over the Internet to anyone who wants it. Some visionaries were talking about MOOCs eventually bankrupting traditional universities.
Apparently that’s not going to happen. There is a niche for MOOCs, but it’s much smaller than advertised. The big players are still in there, though, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the biggest. MIT has been putting undergraduate courses online since 2002, and last year they partnered with Harvard, Berkeley, and other universities in a full-scale MOOC venture named edX.
The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series of handbooks have a MOOCish look to them, and I’m guessing they’re meant as supplementary reading for MOOCs.
That, I think, is the context for Paul Ceruzzi’s history of computing. The main topic is covered in a brisk 150 pages or so of plain text, illustrated with a scattering of black-and-white photographs and diagrams. Even this book’s cover is all in black, white, and gray, though other volumes in the series are a tad more colorfully bound. The book, which comes in paperback and e-book, is modestly priced.
The problem for anyone writing a history of computing is, as Ceruzzi says, that: “New developments transform the field while one is writing, thus rendering obsolete any attempt to construct a coherent narrative.” Five years ago almost no one had heard of Twitter; now it seems to be a cornerstone of our civilization.
Ceruzzi tackles this problem by organizing his material around four big themes that have dominated the history of computing so far and should, he says, be manifest in future developments.
The first big theme is the digital paradigm. We forget how new this is. Within living memory the boldest new technologies were all analog: radio, movies, vinyl disks, the slide rule, then radar and TV. Digital information”Morse code, the abacus”was old hat. The unexpected triumph of the digital paradigm across the past seven decades is a key part of this story.
Second is the convergence of different technologies for communication, calculation, data storage, and the control of operations. Smart phones, in which have converged the camera, phonograph, computer, radio, and TV, show convergence at its most dramatic, but the principle was present in the earliest computers, which could both store data like a book and manipulate it like a calculator.
Ceruzzi’s third theme is the accelerating sophistication of underlying technologies, encapsulated in Moore’s Law: The storage capacity of computer memory chips doubles every eighteen months.
The first computer I ever worked with was a LEO 326 owned by Britain’s telephone monopoly. LEO was a bungalow-size behemoth with 32 kilobytes of memory. That was in 1969, which is 29 Moore’s Law cycles ago; so applying the law, an equivalent machine today should sport 17 terabytes of memory”not far off for a comparable installation. Other technological indices”processor speed, channel capacity, price”show similar trends (inverse, in the case of price).
When a movie enjoys a $153-million opening weekend, you might think the writer-director would be the toast of the town. Yet even while Gary Ross’s 2012 hit The Hunger Games, a dystopian tale of provincial revolt against the corrupt Capitol, was still doing boffo box office, Lionsgate replaced him with hired gun Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend).
A former Clinton Administration speechwriter, Ross was best known for Seabiscuit, a 1930s horse racing allegory about how FDR gave Hope to the Little People. It garnered seven Oscar nominations and then was quickly forgotten.
In the first Hunger Games, Ross staged coal-mining District 12 to look like Dorothea Lange photos of migrant Okies. As a contrast, everybody in the parasitical Capitol appeared to be wearing leftover Jean Paul Gaultier designs for Chris Tucker’s Prince-style character in The Fifth Element. (Granted, that sounds more entertaining than the first Hunger Games actually was.)
With luck, Ross’s epileptic camerawork on the opener marks the beginning of the end of faux documentary Shakycam, the most tired stylistic tic of the century.
Francis Lawrence makes The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire significantly more watchable simply by rediscovering the Steadicam. Still, the competent new director can’t dig himself out of the morose, blue-grey hole that Ross had dug for him, at least not until the sequel’s last 20 minutes when the new movie does indeed catch fire, raising hopes that the second half of the tetralogy won’t be quite as glum of a viewing experience.
Much of Lawrence’s star appeal to teenagers comes from being a normal-looking pretty American girl, a Homecoming-Queen-second-runner-up type. Her apple-cheeked face is distinctive mostly for her wide, well-padded cheekbones.
Since she’s only 23, everybody predicts a great career for her. But she strikes me as a girl built more for comfort than for speed, one whom Hollywood will hound to keep her weight down, with unpredictable consequences. Already, they seem to be doing something strange with her face. Lighting? Makeup? Digital manipulation in postproduction? Collagen injections? Beats me, but ever since X-Men: First Class she hasn’t looked the same as she did in her early low-budget films Winter’s Bone and The Beaver.
Like the Twilight series, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games young-adult novels are aimed at 12-year-old female readers. This puts the movies squarely in the intellectual wheelhouse of average Americans, a sizable fraction of whom don’t read much at all.
Unlike the phenomenally girly Twilight, however, The Hunger Games concerns itself with traditionally male topics such as sports, violence, politics, and war. The downside of this is that Ms. Collins hasn’t thought much about her main topics (subjects that appealed more to her military historian father), and thus the movies tend to be direly unclever. The lack of effective satire in The Hunger Games series simply wears me down (although many in the audience seemed to find parts of the new movie’s second half amusing).
The upside is that the purity and intensity of Collins’s disapproval of the harm men do to each other is never seduced by any sporting interest in tactics. The Hunger Games is relentless in its condemnation of children slaughtering each other on live TV.
Though she was short, squat, and still learning to read at age forty, none who encountered her handiwork could doubt that Suzy Simmons was numbered among the Lord’s elect. She could cook like an angel.
A latticework of shortbread encrusted her cherry pies, the golden skin of her fried chicken shattered like the walls of Jericho at the blast of a fork, and a stiff southwesterly breeze could carry away her meringues. Old men and small children looked forward to winter’s coming, for only in the depths of January would she unleash the alchemical array of mason jars that swallowed the Jersey peach crop by the bushel the summer before.
As to how she accomplished these miracles in the years after World War II, we have mostly the witness of children, for only a few rare kinescope films have captured illiterate Southern cooks transmitting their lore to their apprentices. Only memory can testify to their heroic service at home in the years Julia Child spent abroad for her nation’s sake. While Mr. McWilliams’s daughter was abroad in Asia and Africa confounding our enemies, or in Paris learning to lard our arteries with duck-fat frites and beurre noir, Suzy Simmons sang angelically in a Baptist choir and mastered the most diabolical substance in the arsenal of infarction.
Her secret weapon was Crisco.
For those who have only encountered corned-beef hash in the middle episodes of Mad Men and been spared scrapple entirely, a bit of nutritional history is in order. There once was a time when New Yorkers and Philadelphians scoured the countryside each fall to stockpile reserves of hog lard and butter fat adequate to see their households through the calorie-intensive rigors of a winter without central heating. The result was a mid-Atlantic Victorian cuisine that made Puritan fare seem sybaritic.
While Boston luxuriated in cod cheeks, corn dodgers, and veal and oyster pie, those west of the Hudson might awake to cornmeal mush fried in lard, or if upwardly mobile, lard-fried cornmeal mush laced with minced hog jowls. Traveling overland in the mid-20th century, you might one morning reach the southerly latitude at which the hog was dispensed with entirely and grits were served up in the state of nature. Wise Northerners spared themselves that risk by taking express trains south to their winter quarters in Florida. All the good Southern cooking they could want awaited them at home, for the truth of the matter is that talented black cooks fled North after the Civil War in numbers that put the Underground Railroad to shame.
Once they passed the Mason-Dixon Line the Virginian forebears of folk like Suzy Simmons took the region’s kitchens by storm. Those who employed them might insist they placate the household gods each morning with ancestral offerings such as scrapple, but by the cocktail hour the Northern matriarchs were routed. Who in their right mind would dine on croquettes while cooks who could put Colonel Sanders to shame stood by? Not content to suborn the South’s kitchen retainers, the damned Yankees armed them with the latest in high-tech tools”not just gas stoves and electric waffle irons, but semi-synthetic trans fats that surpassed lard as a frying and shortening agent by a margin unseen since dynamite took over from gunpowder in the blasting trade.
Like some chemical warfare agent in a Day-Glo warning can, Crisco came in electric-blue cylinders of amazing size. They opened to reveal what looked for all the world like a highly refined plastic explosive, a shining snow-white gel, as tasteless and odorless as it was opaque. Plopped in a massive iron skillet, it melted away instantly into fluid clear as glass, gaining heat until it was hot enough to melt tin. Once at the smoking point, this formidable vegetable shortening could transform flour, corn, shellfish, and fowl into some of America’s crowning culinary achievements.
Charles Manson’s 25-year-old girlfriend Star says they’re getting married, but the aging criminal ringleader scoffs at the idea.
Isn’t that just like a man?
In the Rolling Stone interview that’s got everyone talking, the 79-year-old cult leader calls Star’s marriage claims “a bunch of garbage….We’re just playing that for public consumption.”
The crimes that made him infamous occurred in 1969, but well into a new century, Charles Manson still sells papers and apparently needs little to no introduction. When TIME picked up Rolling Stone‘s semi-scoop, it didn’t even feel obligated to explain why he was in prison.
“Charles Manson” is practically a brand, like Coke or Nike. Everyone knows what he”or, more accurately, his “Family” of flaky young followers”did, right?
Everyone, it seems, except his young love.
At the of age 19, a friend turned Star on to Manson’s jailhouse writings on radical environmentalism. She claims that at the time, she”d never heard of the Tate-LaBianca “Helter Skelter” slayings that had shaken the world long before she was born. Even after Star found out that this “Charlie” fellow put the “gore” in “Al Gore,” she remained besotted.
She now lives in Corcoran, California, all the better to visit her beloved, who resides in the state prison there. With her long, straight, center-parted brown hair and that “x” carved between her eyebrows, Star looks like she’s just stepped out of a Spahn Ranch “Family” snapshot.
No one even passingly familiar with the left’s twisted history can possibly be surprised that Manson presents himself as a typically misanthropic friend of the Earth. His “ATWA” philosophy contends that air, trees, water, and animals are the most sacred things on the planet, and all are being irresponsibly consumed by us greedy humans.
Yes, even air. In his Rolling Stone interview, Manson justifies murder in the cause of “saving” the air from being inhaled by undeserving people. At one interval, he describes the (we hope) imaginary torture and killing of an infant to make his point, in terms so graphic the Stone‘s scribe can’t bring himself to repeat them in print.
To his credit (or something like it), at least Charles Manson has been preaching this anti-human ecology guff for decades. Back in the 1980s when he was still allowed to do television interviews, he railed on The Today Show about the melting polar ice caps.
“Maybe I should have killed four or five hundred people,” he continued, “then I would have felt better, I would have felt like I’d really offered society something. The truth is the planet Earth is dying.”
If you factor out all the murder chatter, Manson sounds like any number of far more wealthy, powerful, and respected “progressives.” Being crazier, he’s also more candid: Manson simply takes leftist “environmentalism” and “social justice” to their logical conclusion”mass genocide.
(Although not quite: Note that neither Manson nor any of these other “population bomb” types we’ve been listening to since the 1970s ever has enough courage of their convictions to kill themselves, unless you count Jim Jones’s “revolutionary suicide.”)
Is there anything better for Christmas than a bit of a laugh? Well, a visit by, say, the blonde CIA agent in Homeland would be preferable, but I think she’s got other things on her mind than yours truly. Great comebacks are my favorites. For example: When the great French actress Arletty was dragged into court and accused of giving comfort the French way to a German Luftwaffe officer, her only defense was, “If you men hadn”t let them in so easily, I wouldn”t have slept with him.” She also added that her heart belongs to France, “but my ass is international.” She was cheered and set free immediately.
The most famous comeback belongs to Voltaire”who else? When asked on his deathbed by a priest if he renounced the Devil, he responded that this was no time to make new enemies. An even bigger ham, the great John Barrymore”also on his deathbed”felt his nurse put her head on his chest trying to hear if his ticker was still ticking. “OK, hop in,” said the actor, then he expired. A pompous English judge who was notorious for cruising for boys late at night asked a colleague what he gave for buggery, meaning what length of prison time. (Homosexuality was until 1967 illegal in a nation composed mostly of homosexuals.) “Oh, fifty pence or so,” answered his colleague.
My own greatest quip came to me while dead drunk. Most good comebacks are never thought out. They just happen. We were at Mortimer’s attending a Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera dinner party for Princess Margaret. I was placed next to Margaret after the main course. (They were switching people around so she would meet them all up close.)
“I think we met in “67,” I said, slurring my words.
“What, you”re a schivil shervant?” slurred the princess right back.
“Do I look like a schivil schervant?”
“My God, he’s a schivil schervant.”
End of conversation, and a quick change of placement followed. On our way out, the nice pianist saw the Princess and hit a few bars of “God Save the Queen.”
“No, no, none of that,” said an agitated Margaret.
“It’s not for you, ma”am, it’s for Jerry Zipkin,” said yours truly, never to be spoken to ever again by Jerry.
A comeback as good as Voltaire’s”who some believe had thought of his comeback beforehand as he knew what the priest would ask him”was from John Wilkes, the brilliant orator and Parliamentarian when he was told by the Earl of Sandwich that he would die either in the gallows or by the pox. Wilkes never missed a beat: “That depends, Sir, whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.”
Robert Benchley, one of our greatest humorists, was also a famous lush. Emerging from a nightclub he saw the resplendent doorman in uniform and said, “My good man, call me a taxi.”
“How dare you,” said a furious gentleman, “I am a United States admiral.”
“Oh, in that case, call me a battleship.”
“What the fuck was that?” This vulgarity was supposedly pronounced by the mayor of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The other one about the Japanese takes place in a New York high-school class for 16-year-olds. “Who said, “We will pay any price, bear any burden” and so on?” asks a teacher. Nobody answers until from the back of the class a tiny hand goes up. It’s a new boy, Takashita.
Why has the American media suddenly snapped out of a self-induced coma to pay attention to the Knockout Game? Gullible journos are acting as if it’s a spanking-new phenomenon that is sweeping the country, but the practice of black wolf packs cold-cocking pedestrians for cheap thrills has been going on for years. The only thing that’s sweeping the country is the media’s sudden willingness to talk about it. And not only are they talking, they’ve also dropped dog whistles such as “youths” and “teens” and are openly noting the assailants’ and victims’ race. What was the tipping point?
Some will quibble whether it’s actually a “game” or a “ritual””they say calling it a “game” trivializes something that has led to several deaths”but it basically involves walking up to an unsuspecting individual and punching them hard enough to knock them unconscious. You’ve won the “game” if you knock out your target. Although typically only one member of a group throws the knockout punch”or they take turns until one of them sends the victim to sleep on a concrete bed”this game is almost always performed by packs of black males apparently seeking to impress one another. Whichever lucky individual delivers the knockout blow wins the crown of “Knockout King.” Robbery is hardly ever a motive. It appears to be done for fun, to establish ingroup status, and to send a clear message about who rules the streets. Throughout history, those who rule the streets have often served as the shock troops and enforcers for those who rule the nation. This isn’t some empty nihilistic ritual”it’s a highly political act of establishing dominance and marking one’s territory.
Mobs who prey upon the weak are nothing new, although the fact that it’s black mobs preying almost exclusively on non-blacks is a fairly recent historical wrinkle. Back in the 1980s the cases of Bernhard Goetz and the Central Park Jogger introduced America to the term “wilding” to describe self-orchestrated black group mayhem. Over the years, the more specific practice of sucker-punching an 80-year-old man to impress your 15-year-old friends has been called “One-Hitter Quitter,” “Catch and Wreck,” and “Point-em-out, Knock-em-out.”
The Midwest appears to be America’s most fertile ground for the Knockout Game. In Columbia, MO, parking-lot surveillance video from 2009 shows a group of black attackers approaching a young white male and one of them creeping up from behind to fell him with one blow. The victim suffered whiplash, internal bleeding, and bruising of the brain.
In St. Louis, the game is more commonly referred to as “Knockout King,” with attacks going back as far as 2006. One judge allegedly claimed that a single individual was responsible for an estimated 300 such attacks. There was an infamous 2011 incident where the city’s mayor pulled up to the scene of a game of Knockout King as it was unfolding.
In April of 2011 a 72-year-old Vietnamese man in St. Louis was sucker-punched by a black male teen and fell to the ground, fatally cracking his head.
Last year it was proved fatal for a 20-year-old white college student in Minnesota and a 62-year-old Hispanic man in Chicago. This year it claimed the lives of a 72-year-old white man in Syracuse, NY and a 46-year-old homeless Hispanic man in New Jersey.