(Double) Weekly Roundup: A Sign Of The Times Edition

Rent will not be “cancelled”. It will be paid by the federal government printing money like a khat-gobbling Zimbabwean warlord and giving it to those landlords willing to accept 80 cents on the dollar after extensive paperwork. We are doing this while jobs go unfilled everywhere. Like at Firestone, where after two hours no one could be found to crank a wrench for $60 labor cost per tire.

That’s the situation in Van Nuys, but who cares if you don’t live there? Ah, you might care because all of California is simply a TV show about what will be common/popular/mandatory in flyover country someday. Maybe. Meanwhile in sunny Traverse City, Michigan, there is this: A sign begging people to treat Burger King workers with decency.

We should be doing that anyway. One of my co-workers, a woman who grew up dirt-poor in China and is fourteen years younger than I am but who now exceeds my career luminosity by the sort of calculable-but-incomprehensible amount that separates the mass of our local Sun from that of VV Cephei, says that I am overpolite to waitresses, fast-food counterpeople, supermarket checkers. “They probably think you’re making fun of them or something, you’re so formal about it.” Had to explain to her that the ghost of my father could appear at any moment to keelhaul me for being a mumbling, floor-staring eleven-year-old, and that therefore it’s necessary to have the precise correctness of Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham, while patiently repeating for the ninth time, to someone who could not possibly care less about the quality of their work: Ah, it is possible I neglected to mention the fact that I wanted this cheeseburger plain, would you be willing to shoulder the burden of correcting this situation which I am certain is my fault, having made my previous eight requests on the subject in a manner that simply wasn’t a good “culture fit” for you, or was simply too quiet to penetrate the Future-und-Weeknd audio curtain laid in by the $299 iPods you wear at work?

Can’t help it. I’ve worked too many dishwater-dull, dishwasher-poor jobs myself to have any natural high-handedness when it comes to service-industry workers. In this, I am apparently rare. And the mechanism by which Burger King rage is engendered should teach us a bit about the way we live now.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: Total Eclipse Of The Sprezzatura Edition

Let’s start this week with a brief clarification, for those of you who came in late. I never thought it needed saying, but given the content of an e-mail that just got sent to my employer, I suppose it does. The name of this site is Riverside Green, after the drab Columbus, Ohio neighborhood in which my brother and I spent some of our formative years. Most of you get to it via jackbaruth.com, but some of you use jackandbark.com as well. This site significantly predates my association with Hagerty, my marriage, and most of my freelance writing relationships. I launched it as a WordPress blog in March of 2013, almost exactly eight and a half year ago. Since then we have served 4.7 million articles to approximately 1500-2000 readers a day. We served ads for a while, but now we keep the (very dim) lights on thanks to a partnership with Shinola. Thank you for visiting and reading.

I don’t write everything you read here; about two-thirds of the posts are mine. The rest are done by guest and recurring contributors like my brother, Tom Klockau, Ronnie Schreiber, and others. It is fairly common for Tom, in particular, to publish the contributions of other automotive enthusiasts under his byline; when that happens, he identifies that person in the opening paragraph.

All of this has to be said because apparently it’s not obvious from a perusal of the site. For what it’s worth, I assure you that my brother, Tom, Ronnie, and other people who contribute here are absolutely real and not figments of my imagination, nor are they pseudonyms I use so I can write more often.

Good talk. Let’s continue on another topic.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Gilded Seat For The Unraveling Edition

It was very popular in midwit circles, for a while, to talk about “the end of history”. A remarkably stupid man wrote a remarkably stupid book about it. There was an even more stupid song on the topic. “Right here, right now… watching the world wake up from history.” Perhaps you’ve heard the song used to sell you Pepsi or Truvada or Dogecoin.

The idea behind “the end of history” was based on some remarkable naivete regarding human nature. It stated, more or less, that the arc of history bent inevitably toward liberal democracy, and that therefore all societies would move inexorably in that direction until they reached the blessed state of liberal democracy, at which point there would be no more broad change in that area, and therefore no more “history”. Like “climate science”, this was ex post facto theorizing based on the relative stability of the United States and the Western democracies between 1960 and 1990, coupled with the seemingly-inevitable-in-retrospect collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

Let’s consider 2021 to be a massive comeback for the idea of plain old history, and I’m talking George Foreman, or possibly Michael Jordan, levels of comeback here. It is happening on the periphery of the civilized world, where a puppet Afghani “democracy” simply vanished like fog in the face of a few thousand men with worn-out AK-74s and the will to use them. It is happening in the very center of today’s civilized world, as China uses technological methods to tighten the grasp of its Uniparty on internal dissent even as it prepares to do whatever it wants internationally.

As for America, the place where history was the first to end? Why, it’s simply… unraveling. This past week, I’ve had a front row seat from which to watch the process.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: Delta Farce Edition

Admit it, if only to yourself: When Joe Biden, ah, obviously and ethically won the safest and most secure election in human history, you might not have liked the outcome — but weren’t you at least tempted to breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of an end to America’s full-court-press Kulturkampf? I know I was. Too many of the people in my social circles had spent the past four years suffering from an unstoppable compulsion to display their hatred for President Trump in each and every aspect of their life, a political Tourette’s if you will. When they weren’t actively complaining about Trump, they complained about Trump’s supporters, those rural Morlocks who clung to guns, religion, and the Cummins 5.9-liter diesel.

I’d hoped that we would return to some civility in the American discourse — but that was remarkably naive of me. Instead, we are hearing demands for “truth and reconciliation” commissions, watching the current legislature fiddle an insane vendetta against both Trump and his supporters while the economy burns, and observing as the violent rhetoric of last summer’s “protests” is used to dehumanize everyone to the right of Snowball/Trotsky/Goldstein.

The truth is that you cannot easily re-bottle the lightning of political violence, at least not when it is so deeply satisfying and thoroughly consequence-free to wield it indiscriminately. The latest target of said viciousness, of course, is that group of people known collectively as “the unvaccinated”. They’re already being set up as the scapegoat for everything from rampant stagflation to the proliferation of COVID variants. Every op-ed page in the country is mulling over the various manners in which the un-vaxed might be compelled to accept a “jab”. There’s plenty of soft selling going on, some of it disturbing: Reddit is running ads in which a blonde woman tells viewers that “it is your right to vaccinate your twelve-year-old children”. There’s some carrot/sticking happening, particularly in New York City. And then there is the chorus that is openly demanding forcible vaccination of the entire population.

How fair and reasonable is any of this, particularly in light of the increasing body of COVID knowledge?

Continue Reading →

(Double) Weekly Roundup: BMX Gold Edition

Congratulations to Niek Kimman, the Dutch pro BMX rider who came back from an unpleasant and unnecessary injury caused by a careless track official earlier this week to win the gold medal at the Olympics. Although he’d been a favorite to win the gold beforehand, the crash put him on the back foot and then some. I’m sharing the story of his resilience and courage with my son, and encourage you to share it with your children.

Continue Reading →

(Double) Weekly Roundup: Yellin’ For Yellen Edition

Hello again, readers. Haven’t seen you for fifteen days. What can I say? Sometimes I’m awfully busy. To reward you for your patience, let’s find the hot-water tap in this joint and twist it until some scalding crimethink pours out. You know, the kind that makes you pull your hands out from under the faucet and rub them on your arms in panic.

Let us, for just ten long seconds, examine the idea that the Presidential election was, in fact, stolen, and that Joe Biden will join “Rutherfraud” B. Hayes in the list of Presidents whose ascension is tainted in retrospect. Now, to even consider this notion is to flirt with danger — and it cannot possibly be true, can it? The recent election, according to a hastily formed coalition of the (presumably) willing, was the most secure in history! Exactly how this could be so is difficult to understand; wasn’t it just like the last Presidential election, only with millions of additional and entirely unverified mail-in ballots? And why were all those people so eager to form a coalition and reassure us before a single audit or examination had even begun? Did they receive their marching orders from the same Star Chamber that, ahem, saved the election in the first place? It’s best not to look too closely at that, lest you be forcibly unpersoned for even having a public thought about it.

Anyway, let’s wave our hands at all of this and say, for a moment, that the election was in fact stolen. Why? Cui bono? If you take a dispassionate look at what President Trump actually did, rather than what Rachel Maddow said he was gonna do, he wasn’t exactly Benito Mussolini or anything like that. He didn’t actually do much to stop illegal immigration or restrain corporate profiteering. His programs to return manufacturing jobs to America, admirable though they were, didn’t do much besides slow the rate at which factories are leaving the country. There’s no evidence that the Uniparty agenda of lower labor costs and higher asset prices suffered any significant damage during his Presidency. Oh, and America is about to go perma-Democrat anyway, thanks to a thorough and irreversible series of demographic changes. Why bother to steal the election at all? Why take the risk?

As of July 2021, it appears we at least have the answer to that question.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Must I Surrender With Grace Edition

Joni Mitchell is very much on the public mind at this moment, with her career-defining album Blue celebrating its 50th birthday and giving the music/art critics yet another chance to toil at the cliff face of permanently defining just what it means in the most putrid and pseudo-perceptive phrasing possible. Right now, however, I’m thinking about her entirely un-cherished 1991 effort, Night Ride Home, and one track from that record in particular.

“Nothing Can Be Done”, with lyrics by Joni but music by her husband of the time, bassist/producer Larry Klein, features the 46-year-old Mitchell spiraling into depression over her partner’s faithlessness, the increasingly powerful and malicious pull of nostalgia, and her defiant but doomed determination to maintain a connection with her own youthful desires. It’s the only song worth considering in a frankly awful album that ranges from bland (the title track) to Boomer-entitled (“The Windfall (Everything For Nothing)”) and outright cringeworthy (“The Only Joy In Town”, which features a chorus screeching “Botticelli Black Boy!” over Prophet-style synth strings about some African flower salesman Mitchell wishes she could have sex with).

Even this single decent song is undersold on the record by Joni’s who-gives-a-shit vocal performance and a drum track that probably isn’t synthesized but gives an unerring impression of being so. Happily, it was resurrected and properly done by Los Lobos and the Latina singer “La Marisoul” at a concert celebrating Mitchell’s 75th birthday. La Marisoul could making a living covering Joni tunes if she wanted to; Judy Collins showed it could be very profitable to bring a technically better voice to the music, and I imagine there is a whole generation of listeners ready to hear the tunes again, particularly from an, ahem, “PoC”.

Anyway, this version of “Nothing Can Be Done” is on repeat lately for me, in large part due to the confluence of two personally upsetting events. The first was a remarkably humbling experience I just had on Snowshoe Mountain last week; the second, a subtly terrifying series of interactions I’ve had with a couple of older men who are busy rushing headlong towards their own destruction.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Pain-Free Potlatch And The Permanently Reclined Seat Edition

It’s a problem as old as the idea of ownership itself: In any stable society without external pressure, the majority of wealth will become concentrated over time in the hands of a few people. “Them what has, gets.” Rich people have options and choices, which typically lead to further accumulation of wealth, while poor people are forced to make harder decisions with greater consequences. Admittedly, this process happened a little slower in historical societies that didn’t have mechanisms like payday loans and COVID-19 to accelerate the forcible transfer of wealth from the lower to the upper class, but it happened nonetheless.

The ancient answer to this is a potlatch, in which the wealthiest members of a community make substantial gifts to the poorer members of the tribe — or, in some cases, simply destroy items of value. The potlatch benefits everyone; it confers social prestige on the people who are giving their stuff away, while enriching the poorer members of the tribe. In the case of “destruction” potlatches, it reduces wealth disparity, envy, and resentment.

The history of the 21st Century so far has largely been a tale of immensely wealthy people and institutions taking ruthless steps to ensure their permanent position on the top of the food chain, coupled with an increasing conviction on the part of those same people and institutions that they thoroughly deserve their position by virtue of an unassailable moral superiority. Ah, but how does the fabled one percent demonstrate that moral superiority? The obvious answer is to throw a society-wide potlatch — but the problem with a potlatch is that it tends to level the playing field, however mildly, in the favor of the 99%. Could there be a way to obtain the social and moral benefits of a potlatch while retaining all your stuff? Better yet, could there be a way to have a potlatch that actively harms your closest competitors, while at the same time conferring the desired social benefits on you and yours?

I’m pleased, by which I mean horrified, to announce that such a thing is indeed possible. It’s happening right now, in fact.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Why The Maverick Is Cheap, And Why That’s A Good Idea Edition

I can’t lie; I’m excited about the new Ford Maverick, largely because I could save $1500 by spending $26,000. Let me explain. When I bought my Lincoln MKT, I didn’t really understand how heavily my son would end up focusing on riding dual-suspension mountain bikes, which don’t fit well on the traditional (and made-in-USA) Hollywood four-bike race I got for said Lincoln. So in the past year we’ve left the MKT at home and used my Silverado to haul the bikes.

This is using an A-10 to kill a housefly; all we really need is a vehicle that has enough open space in a bed to carry four MTBs with their front wheels over the tailgate, plus enough indoors space for (what will eventually be) two six-foot-plus riders and their gear. That’s what the Maverick is. It will get twice the fuel mileage of the Silverado. It won’t need nine quarts of synthetic oil for every change (thank you, GM L86!) or require massive 20″ tires. It will need a little bit of ground clearance to get up some trails.

The alternative would be to buy one of the heavy-duty USA-made DH bike racks for the MKT, probably Alta’s $1200 six-bike carrier, and that’s probably what I’ll do, at least for 2022. But I like the idea of adding a Maverick to the fleet. And why not? The price is right.

The reasons the price is right might surprise you; this isn’t information you’ll get anywhere else, at least right now.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Last Act Of The Locusts Edition

Brood X is buzzing in my backyard. Their thousandfold screeching can be heard over everything short of a cranked guitar amp, they pitter-patter my office window like horizontal, substantial rain. Already their bodies litter my driveway, their mysteriously separated wings on the hood and roof of cars that haven’t moved in weeks. I confront them alive outdoors, the size of my thumb and yellow-eyed.

Thankfully, cicadas are not locusts, despite what some people think. There are no more locusts swarming in America. They were bad for commerce, while cicadas are little more than a hassle. Some people are actually excited about these fat flying bugs, you know. How To Snack On Brood X! Lot of discussion in the media about the pleasures of eating a cicada, their nutty, chicken-like taste. The notion that “they want us to eat bugs”, like the notion that COVID-19 escaped from a lab or the agitation regarding secret pedophile islands, is one of those right-wing tropes that perpetually embarrass our society by being more or less true. Could you eat locusts, if they returned? I’m sure you could. I’m sure I wouldn’t.

Ah, but who needs the Biblical insects when we have the modern equivalent of the locust swarm, namely the aging investor class?

Continue Reading →