The Worst Job In The Supermarket, The Limits of AI, And That Tablet Essay

About three years ago I wrote about the ethics of stealing from automated supermarkets. In the short space of time since then, theft from the machines is way up, perhaps aided by attitudes like this. Looking back at that little essay, however, I think I missed one of the most important aspects, perhaps the most important aspect, of the changeover to self-checkout, namely:

How to turn four unhappy-ish jobs into a single miserable one.

So let’s talk about that. And we’ll look at that hotter than hot essay on TabletMag, too, because they’re directly related.

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Weekly Roundup: The Men Who Went Their Own Way Edition

Earlier this week, discussing a mountain biking video, commenter stingray65 said:

I can’t quite get my head around the adult performer doing kid’s stunts. There are so many activities that adults continue to do that were things that mostly kids did when I was growing up such as riding bikes (includes jumps, and stunts), playing video games, reading comic books, collecting baseball cards, which tended to fade away as favorite activities once adulthood arrived and bikes were replaced by cars, and video games and comic books were replaced by work, dating, parenthood, and more sedentary adult hobbies (i.e. drinking, smoking, cooking, knitting, car wrenching, woodworking, watching TV). Today it seems that its the kids getting fat because they are more often doing sedentary “adult” activities (i.e. social media) and it is much more common to see middle-aged adults still doing extreme sports (at least the ones featured on YouTube videos), playing video games (with high powered machines and peripheral hardware), and collecting comic books, baseball cards, etc. as “investments”.

I can immediately think of two possible responses here. The first one is that my father was hitting softballs out of the park down in his Hilton Head neighborhood as late as around his sixty-fifth birthday. (Still playing ten years later, just no longer swinging for the fences.) He grew up playing baseball, was a centerfielder for Notre Dame, and played softball much of his adult life. I didn’t play baseball — well, I didn’t play it much, anyway. I rode a bike. So here I am, at forty-nine, still riding a bike. No different from the old man, whom I recall taking his softball very seriously when he was in his forties.

That’s what I like to think of as the “Seen It All, Internet” answer. You know that answer. There’s someone to provide it almost immediately, everywhere from Usenet in 1987 to Reddit in 2021. Nothing’s really changed, you’re making a big deal about nothing, we’ve seen it all before, don’t get excited, I’m so blase and world-weary on this topic and all others… Yet any intelligent reader knows that the “Seen It All” answer almost never applies. There is a tremendous difference between how grown men pass their time nowadays and how they passed their time in 1990 or 1960 or 1650. So let’s take stingray65 seriously and search for an answer to his question.

To begin our discussion, let me tell you about two girls I met in 2013, within a few months of each other. The first one messaged me, before we met, “I just want to confirm that you are actually six foot two, and not lying about it, because I’m every bit of six feet tall and I’m tired of being disappointed.” The second one, who was not six feet tall but also wasn’t that far short of it, told me, somewhere around our second date,

“I’m really only interested in a man who is taller than I am, and who earns more money than I do.” After a brief, self-reflective pause, she asked, “Is that shallow?”

Well, dear readers, is it?

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Review: “A Children’s Bible”, by Lydia Millett

I swear on a stack of copies that it’s a blistering little classic: “Lord of the Flies” for a generation of young people left to fend for themselves on their parents’ rapidly warming planet… “A Children’s Bible” moves like a tornado tearing along an unpredictable path through our complacency. The novel works so effectively because it’s an allegory that constantly resists the predictable messaging of allegory. Millet’s wit and her penchant for strange twists produce the kind of climate fiction we need: a novel that moves beyond the realm of reporting and editorial, a story that explores how alarming and baffling it feels to endure the destruction of one’s world.
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Take this book, eat it up.

You can read the rest of the review, which swerves breathtakingly between garden-variety midwit-ism and rank stupidity, at The Bezos Blog, but I think you get the idea: A Children’s Bible is a book very much of the moment, very much awarded, very much read by The Right People. Last night I took ninety-three minutes away from Call Of Duty: Warzone to read the thing. This was not wasted time; not in the slightest. As a work of fiction, A Children’s Bible is little better than its vampires-and-magic-brooms bookstore contemporaries — but as a lens both into current thinking and my own thought process, it’s pretty good.

(Warning: spoilers for this book after the jump).

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RAD, The Right Way

It’s no secret that I’m not particularly thrilled with the use of the word “RAD” to describe cars. Almost nobody who took the whole “RAD” idea seriously even owned a car back in the Eighties. If they did, it was some kind of ragged-out station wagon with a bike rack welded to the liftgate or a VW Thing kitted out for surf and skate, not a Supra or BMW M6 or what have you. So this is what the kids call “appropriation” nowadays. I like it even less when someone uses the actual logo from the Talia Shire movie, which feels like adding insult to injury.

Oh well. The above short film, starring Bill Allen from the original RAD movie, is far more in the spirit of things. It takes place in and around Bentonville, AR, which has decided to make itself a mountain-bike Mecca. The riding is first rate and then some. It shows how far we’ve come in the past thirty-five years. Just as importantly, it makes the point that you’re only really rad if you’re existing in the moment, not looking to the past.

Another video of note: professional BMX racers (and Red Bull pump track champions) Caroline Buchanan and Barry Nobles remake the original “Helltrack” race here. Sadly, Caroline and Barry’s relationship didn’t last; he left her for a girl who looked just like Caroline but didn’t race BMX. Which suggests that my less-than-RAD insight of 1987 — namely, you’re not going to have a successful relationship if you prioritize your little bike over meeting someone — is more general than I thought!

This Week’s Klockau Lust Object: Mauve Prairie Schooner

As is often the case, I was perusing the FB group Finding Future Classic Cars, which prides itself on showing interesting old cars for sale, rather than the usual Mustangs, Corvettes and Camaros. Anyway, I recently spotted this one and had to share it to the group: A 1977 Lincoln Continental Town Car, in a most unusual color combination.

It’s no secret I love these ’70s mastodons, but the color combo on this one really popped out at me. It appears to be Rose Metallic, a color I see usually on the 1976 Mark IV with the Red/Rose Luxury Group. But before now I couldn’t recall ever seeing a Continental sedan in this hue.

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Weekly Roundup: Axe Body Spray And The Approved Police Brutality Edition

From five feet away, he missed the headshot.

But you can’t say he wasn’t trying.

There were many people he could have shot.

He could have shot no one; in fact, after he fired his shot, the crowd dispersed in a manner that suggests it would have done so just as readily had he fired into the ceiling.

Instead, he made a single incompetent attempted headshot that struck Ashli Babbitt in the neck. You can hear her trying to breathe in the video. She’s alive for minutes. There is a single tear rolling from her left eye as it glazes over.

Ashli Babbitt served her country in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates — but it took an American to kill her, inside the building paid for and maintained with her tax dollars.

Shortly after her death, a blizzard of corporations — Chase, Bank of America, Chevron, Citigroup, American Express, Coca-Cola, Axe Body Spray — released statements condemning her murder in the same passionate terms they’d used to condemn the deaths of Jacob Blake, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin.

Just kidding.

They’re totally cool with it, and they want to make sure you know that.

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1969 Pontiac Grand Prix: All Hood!

Back in maybe second or third grade, circa 1987 at any rate, I was at school going through some old magazines in the classroom. I think it may have been art class and we were doing collages or something, but I honestly don’t remember. Just flipping through it until I spied car ads. Oh boy, car ads! It was a late ’60s Readers’ Digest, and out of all the advertisements contained therein, the best one was for the all new 1969 Grand Prix.

At least, I liked it enough that I carefully cut out the top picture from the magazine and kept it. It was pinned to a corkboard in my room for years. Odds are I still have it, somewhere in a drawer. Anyway, the above ad was the one, and the picture of the green car the one I finagled.

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Weekly Roundup: The Long Shadow Of Mr. Beast Killed 300 Kitchens Edition

If I have to explain Mr. Beast to you, chances are you won’t get it — but I’ll try anyway, just so you understand why my son and I paid fifty bucks to wait an hour and a half for ten bucks’ worth of food, and perhaps so we all understand the occasionally unpleasant aspects of the Internet a bit better.

Or, if you have a male child under the age of fifteen, you can ask him to explain it better. You don’t? Alright, here goes.

Mr. Beast, a 22-year-old college dropout, is to YouTube what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric guitar. He understands it at a fundamental, intrinsic level. Once upon a time, movie studios had something called “high concept”, which was a way of saying you have to be able to explain a movie in a single sentence. (The so-called “elevator pitch” is a corporate-toady version of this.) Mr. Beast takes the high concept and turns it into maximum high concept, a single idea taking the place of plot or story. The video that brought him to the attention of the public was “Counting to 100,000”, and much of his work follows in this semi-autistic vein (“I PUT 100 MILLION ORBEEZ IN MY FRIEND’S YARD”). Other videos feature him giving away money (“I’LL PAY FOR ANYTHING YOU CAN FIT IN THE CIRCLE”, “I BOUGHT EVERYTHING IN THE GROCERY STORE.”) He is hugely popular with young people, particularly young Internet-raised boys, who naturally resonate to the OCD, counting-to-numbers-and-spending-big-numbers aesthetic of his channel. He has given away millions of dollars on YouTube and along the way has earned something like $25 million for himself.

Here in the car business, we think Doug DeMuro is a pretty big deal in the video-clown game because he has 3.5 million subscribers; Mr. Beast has almost fifty million. Last week, they all bought hamburgers, which brings us to the, ahem, meat of this story.

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1978 Dodge Diplomat Wagon: Super Woody!

Now here’s a rare birdie. A loaded ’78 Diplomat wagon. Sure, most of you likely remember Diplomats and Gran Furys from many ’80s movies and TV shows, but the wagon didn’t last long. 1981 was the last year for it (and also the Diplomat coupe); from then on, you could get only a four door sedan.

And of course most of those four door sedans sported various law enforcement regalia or were painted yellow. The Diplomat was introduced in 1977 as a more upmarket model, playing off the ‘small but luxurious’ style brought into being by the ’76 Cadillac Seville.

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