Weekly Roundup: My Sweetest Victory Edition

The first time I saw the man in the wheelchair blasting across an empty lot behind the first-turn infield grandstands at Daytona, his hands firmly grasping an odd sort of single-wheeled scooter that pulled the wheelchair along behind it, his longish black hair in electric-current agitation, my attention was focused on the machinery involved. By the time he crossed my field of vision a second time, doing every bit of twenty miles per hour and correcting each skittish twitch of the chair over the parking-lot gravel with a practiced countersteering motion, I took a closer look, noticed that his legs were missing rather than simply immobilized, and realized: It’s Zanardi. Sure enough, when the chair came to a halt at the base of the grandstand stairs, I recognized him by both face and manner: impassive, confident, comfortable in the skin he still owned.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Midnight Rider Edition

Long live the terminological buccaneer! You probably didn’t notice at the time, but the middle of the Twentieth Century wasn’t just notable for some real humdinger-style global military conflicts both hot and cold; it was also the site of two pitched battles in the EXCITING WORLD OF LITERARY CRITICISM! I put that part in capital letters so it would seem more dramatic.

The first World War, if you will, was between the “Formalists” and the “New Critics”. The Formalists had ruled the roost for a long time, and they believed that you couldn’t understand a book (or poem, or any other “text”) without understanding the author. If you took a high school English class where you were lectured extensively on Herman Melville’s poverty or Toni Morrison’s infallibility, you were the (unwilling target) of watered-down Formalism. The New Critics, on the other hand, had the CRAY CRAY idea that everything you needed to understand a “text” was inside the text itself. They believed that the purest and most intelligent criticism came from treating the text like a found object, the same way we regard something like the Rosetta Stone or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

As an idea, New Criticism was long overdue — and as a way of wedging humanity out of Formalism, it was absolutely necessary. There was just one problem: no text is truly a “found object”. Imagine Aldous Huxley’s Brave New Word being read by someone who doesn’t know what a “flivver” is, or what the line “Ford’s in his flivver” is meant to reference. Actually, you don’t have to imagine that, because it’s happening right now in colleges across America. Our eighteen-year-olds are very skilled at Fortnite and they know the lyrics of Ariana Grande songs the same way people used to know the King James Bible, but they don’t read Robert Browning and they don’t know enough history to identify a “flivver”.

The New Critics would tell you that you can fully understand Brave New World without any of that information. This position was so obviously absurd that it eventually yielded, in a sort of Second World War, to Post-Structuralism, which is obsessed with context. A proper Post-Structuralist reading of Brave New World would require that you know everything that Huxley knew when he wrote the book. This, as you’d imagine, is not easy. In fact, it’s impossible. As a result, there was a long Cold War between the people who could not abide New Criticism or Post-Structuralism. The Cold War was resolved when a milder, more practical version of the Post-Structuralist philosophy was advanced by the eminent critical scholar Northrop Frye in the Sixties. Mr. Frye, who considered himself a “terminological buccaneer”, borrowed and stole liberally from the best aspects of New Criticism and Post-Structuralism to create a workable framework for literary criticism.

Frye shaped the course of “lit-crit” from 1960 to 2005 or so, at which point gender and race theories became all-powerful, effectively terminating our culture’s chances of obtaining any further understanding of literature on any basis that is not directly related to university-grade progressive dogma. Our schools are busy teaching themselves to forget proper criticism, which is why today’s readers are drowning in a tsunami of young-adult trash and third-tier feeling-junkies like Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman. We simply don’t know any better, and deliberately so.

Happily for Frye, he did not live to see this stupidity become canoncical. He died in 1991 with his position as the first man of literary criticism utterly secured, believing that he would continue to influence the way thoughtful men read books for decades to come. He may have even influenced you — Frye was often tapped to assemble anthologies of literature and/or criticism for undergraduate education. His influence on me was somewhat more direct. One of Frye’s most devoted students was a fellow named Edward Tomarken, who in turn became my faculty mentor and life-long friend some twenty-six years ago. “Eddie” and Frye maintained a personal correspondence until Frye’s death. I, in turn, continue to meet Eddie once a year or so either in Florida or at his home outside London. Which goes a long way toward explaining why I have a hyper-critical attitude towards automotive journalism; once you’ve learned to thoroughly disassemble a brilliant writer like Alexander Pope or William Makepeace Thackeray, reading the dreck in today’s car magazines is like sticking your hands elbow-deep into a construction-site latrine.

It might also explain why one of my son’s Christmas presents led to the two of us having an uncomfortable conversation about prison snitches.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: Masculine Fragility Edition

As cultural headshots go, the idea of “fragile masculinity” is just about perfect. Grown from the Marxist concept of hegemonic masculinity, it adopts Saul Alinsky’s fifth Rule For Radicals (“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”) to associate the legitimately risible — “Is it gay to use scented soap?” — with the traditionally male — “Shouldn’t I, the husband, have the final authority in my house?” Naturally, the media uses it with abandon, creating the hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile to drive the nails into the coffin just that much further in hopes of immanentizing the eschaton before the 2020 election.

You suffer from fragile masculinity if you voted for Trump, at least according to the Post, which published a study on the topic. (Even if you’re a woman.) If you disapprove of relaxing the standards applied to firefighters or SWAT troops or Green Berets so more women can qualify, your masculinity is fragile. If you own a gun… well, I’m literally shaking right now, I can’t even, wow just wow. In fact, if you are any more conventionally “manly” than the nu-male in the Swagger Wagon ad, you have gone right past Fragile Masculinity, all the way to Toxic Masculinity. Even African-American men can suffer from Fragile Masculinity, although in their case it was. apparently, forced upon them by white men.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the idea of fragile masculinity is also, you guessed it, a sign of fragile masculinity. Pay no attention to the non-binary character behind the curtain. If you see something, say nothing.

Ah, but this isn’t the Fragile Masculinity Edition of Weekly Roundup, it’s the Masculine Fragility Edition. Which, as you will see, means something quite different.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Today In Naples Edition

BO KNOWS. If you are a man of, shall we say, a certain age, you most likely recall the Nike ad campaign from 1989 that suggested Bo Jackson wasn’t just a sui generis athlete with professional-level talent in both football and baseball, but that he was brilliant at a variety of other sports, such as road cycling, hockey, and surfing. The irony of the campaign is that the sporting press crucified Jackson for being a two-sport superstar quite a bit more often than they lionized him for it. “Pick one or the other,” they’d screech, with the common opinion being that Jackson should focus on baseball since it paid better and rarely crippled its participants. After a career-ending football injury, Jackson spent four more years playing baseball before retiring at the age of thirty-two.

Jackson was neither the first nor the last casualty of our collective national unwillingness to allow the famous or talented to escape their pigeonholes. Be an NFL player or a major league slugger — but under no circumstances should you be both. We like to freeze people at the moment they enter the national imagination. Any attempt to deviate from that results in opprobrium at best and obscurity at worst. Ask Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell… or Marcus Mumford. On exceptionally rare occasions, we will permit a move from rapping to acting (cf. Ice Cube, Ice-T) but attempts to move in the other direction are treated as comic relief.

Kenny Gorelick, aka Kenny G, made a name for himself as a smooth-jazz superstar, earning a sharp diss track from Pat Metheny in the process. At the age of forty-two, he decided to veer back towards the “real jazz” that he played in his youth. No such luck. So he returned to the smooth jazz, with a roundly ridiculed detour into investment management. Today, he’s back out there playing the music people want to hear, which is the music he recorded a quarter-century ago.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Drive-Through Edition

In the words of the great Detroit-area bard, it seems like yesterday / but it was long ago. On Tuesday, September 23, 2008, I drove over to Midwestern Auto Group in Dublin, Ohio and signed the papers on my vaguely-famous lime-green Audi S5. As excited as I was about the car, it was just one in a long string of deliveries from that store, starting with my four-speed Fox in the spring of 1990 and encompassing about a dozen cars in the eighteen years that followed. Volkswagens, Rovers, Audis, a Saab, a Bimmer. My mentor and business partner of a decade ago was an even more dedicated customer, signing at least one but usually two leases per year there. It wasn’t just his company cars, of which he usually had three at any given moment. Every time he broke up with a woman, this deeply sentimental fellow would lease her a BMW or Volvo convertible as a parting gift, leading to no shortage of jokes on my part about these chicks “upgrading their rides”. My father, too, was a frequent flier at “MAG”. We knew the general manager, the service writers, the top-performing salespeople, and the occasionally fascinating dealership owner. It seemed reasonable to assume that I would continue to be one of the store’s best customers for a long time to come.

Do you remember / the twenty-third day of September, ten years ago? I do now, because that was the end of the party, and I never bought a car from Midwestern Auto Group again.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: A Tale Of Two Cities Edition

It’s the Christmas season in Northern Ohio, but the blessings of the holiday will not fall evenly on all God’s children. In Toledo, they are preparing for the arrival of the Gladiator. Since September, FCA has been preparing a third shift for the plant based on Wrangler volume alone; Gladiator makes it a certainty. More than one thousand new workers will find their lives permanently changed by membership in the UAW and a job assembling one of the most steadily popular nameplates in the auto biz.

A few hours to the east, the workers at the General Motors plant in Lordstown are preparing for a closure on or about the first of March. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, while FCA showed off the Gladiator and Honda announced the discovery of a previously-unknown gap in its tall-wagon lineup that would be immediately and profitably filled by a shrunken Pilot, GM announced the corporate equivalent of a high-school girl cutting off all her hair and putting on Goth lipstick because her boyfriend dumped her for someone thinner. Lordstown is just one of the several plants being closed on short notice. Their products will die with them. The vast scale of the ignorance and wastefulness on display is breathtaking to behold; the brand-new CT6 V-Series, equipped with a massively expensive bespoke engine evocatively yclept “Blackwing”, is dead on arrival. Pause, if you will, to admire the stupidity verging on genius here; it was already a nearly impossible task to sell an S63AMG competitor with a Cadillac badge on the grille, so GM simply went the rest of the way by declaring in advance that the car would be discontinued. Thus the CT6 V-Series ticks every possible box in the disaster checklist: hideously expensive, undersized, impossibly complex, terrifying in the contemplation of future maintenance expenses and resale value, abandoned by its parents at birth.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: That’s Not Very Cash Money Of You Edition

One of our most, ah, energetic commenters accused us here at Riverside Green of “staying silent” on the Jamal Khashoggi “situation”. I am not certain why he thought I should write something on the topic. At least forty-five journalists were killed in 2018, including the four killed by Jarrod Ramos in the United States earlier this year. (As seems to be the usual practice nowadays, Ramos was demoted to white after the fact.) Approximately 150 journalists have been killed since I started this site, and never have I written a word about any of them.

After reading a bit about Mr. Khashoggi and his likely fate, however, I thought that it might be worth a few words to discuss just how oddly, and perfectly, the situation serves as synecdoche for many of the issues currently occupying the national conversation. None of this is meant to be conclusive; please feel free to offer your opinions below, whether you agree or disagree with me.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Oceania Has Always Been At War With Sheryl Sandberg Edition

“Truly,” I wrote last year regarding one of my favorite billionaires, “it would be impossible for Mrs. Sandberg to have a tragedy now. Her money is permanent, immutable, too powerful to wither in her lifetime.” Turns out I was wrong. Because what is money, what is power, what is permanent #Blessed status, if you are declared a nonperson by the Deep State and all its tentacular appendages?

Today was the day that Ms. Sandberg became a nonperson, courtesy of a New York Times hit piece that ran yesterday and was immediately echoed everywhere from Vanity Fair to the Post to the Atlantic. “Sheryl’s Facebook Disaster,” brays one article; “Sheryl, We’re Revoking Your Mensch Card” bleats another. CNBC openly called for her dismissal today, as if she were some sullen Starbucks barista who had been caught spitting in Rachel Maddow’s soy latte. Yet I wasn’t completely certain that Sheryl was about to disappear from history like one of Stalin’s disgraced associates until I read that Jezebel had hit her with what I call the “George Zimmerman”: “Sandberg has built her personal brand on a particularly aggravating strain of capitalist-empowerment feminism, one that is built for rich white women…” Emphasis is mine. As long as she was identified by the press as Jewish, as was almost always the case in the past, I figured she had a chance — but the minute the media demoted her to Wypipo it was Game Over. Those whom the media gods would destroy, they first make white.

After today, Sheryl will still be unimaginably rich. She will not lose her home, her remaining family, her permanent ability to do as she likes and to pass that distorting wealth unto the seventh generation and beyond. But she will no longer be welcome in The American Conversation. What happened?

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: For Me But Not For Thee Edition

As Steve Sailer notes, it’s not “cultural appropriation” if the “good” people are doing it. Take Normal Rockwell paintings, turn them into posed photographs, remove all the white people. Presto, you got some “culturally relevant” art.

I’m not as upset by this as Steve is. In a way, this project promotes cultural literacy, which is sorely lacking in America. Some percentage of the people who look at these photographs will no doubt be inspired to seek out Rockwell’s originals, the same way that Steve Harris launched thousands of stoners in the direction of Coleridge and Wordsworth with Iron Maiden’s take on ancient mariners. Furthermore, the freedom to make reference to existing art and/or to re-imagine it is the very foundation of culture as a whole. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about John Milton “remixing” the Bible to create Paradise Lost or The Notorious B.I.G. sampling Herb Alpert’s “Rise”. The notion that art can exist outside of context has been rightly torpedoed in even the most moronic of universities. Even your humble author stands on the shoulders of giants when he writes, often relying on phrases from Updike, Bellow, Roth, and others to get the point across.

All that aside, I have a particular gripe with the new take on Rockwell’s “Freedom Of Speech” painting. Allow me to explain.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: (Not All Of) The Kids Are Alright Edition

Kids really do have it better nowadays: As two yoofs in the Eighties, brother Bark and I had relatively few options for unconscionably expensive evening entertainment, most of them being some kind of take on the Mechanical Rat And Child Casino known as “Chuck E. Cheese” or “Showtime”. (Columbus, being a primo test market, had both, naturally.) There was a Malibu Grand Prix in the area as well — and I’ll have more to say about that in a future article — but our age difference prevented us from competing directly.

Thankfully, we can now rectify this for our own children by dropping $250 for an evening of “high-speed” go-kart racing at Full Throttle Karting in Cincinnati, Ohio. How did it go? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if everything had gone perfectly, would I?

Continue Reading →