Weekly Roundup: The Secretive Parent Edition

Christopher Robin hated being Christopher Robin. With considerable reason: his father expected him to respond to fan mail and record “Winnie the Pooh” audiobooks, all before he was ten years old. Later on, he accused his father of “climbing on his infant shoulders”.

With a life that seemed predestined to carom between misery and tragedy, right to the final act where he sold the “Pooh” rights to establish continuing care for his cerebral-palsy-stricken adult daughter, Christopher Milne had one of the least charmed lives one can imagine. Yet there was one saving grace in his life, however minor: social media did not yet exist.

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Weekly Roundup: From Atlanta To Xinjiang Edition

John Lennon never envisioned the kind of strange days we’re having now, that’s for sure. This is particularly true when it comes to that ever-expanding grey area marked “The Intersection Of Corporate And Government Power”. Highlights from the grey area this week:

  • Last year, Swedish fast-fashion trash-goblins H&M made some kind of bland statement about being “deeply concerned” by reports that cotton grown in the Xinjiang region of China was being harvested using slave labor. These statements were brought back to public attention via social media this week, causing the Chinese government to take some, ahem, direct action, at which point H&M basically apologized to China for criticizing their use of slave labor to harvest cotton.
  • The president of Delta Air Lines — you know, the guy who actually made a video showing all his blue-collar employees clapping for him as he walks into a hangar, then caused that video to be shown at the beginning of every Delta flight — criticized Georgia for its new voting-protection law. This caused the Georgia government to take some, ahem, direct action.
  • Facebook announced, after censoring an interview between Lara Trump and President Donald Trump, that it would no longer allow Trump’s voice to be heard on the platform. They meant that literally; everything from the “Home Alone 2” scene to, say, a theoretical recording of Trump reading the Gettysburg Address will be immediately deleted from Facebook.
  • Major League Baseball also announced their decision to punish Georgia for the new voting law by withdrawing the All-Star game from Atlanta, while at the same time affirming their decision to build dozens of “baseball development centers” in partnership with the Chinese government.
  • A spokesperson for the Biden Administration reaffirmed that there would be no government-issued “vaccine passport”, and then hastened to add that the Biden Administration would work with corporations to help develop guidelines for privately issued vaccine passports.

Most peculiar, momma! Is there a common thread on which to pull here? And what does it unravel, exactly?

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Weekly Roundup: My Phone’s In There Edition

Some time ago, I read an excellent article, possibly in Foreign Policy, about how the Chinese government handled criticism at the higher levels. (How do they handle it at the lower levels? With a tank, of course.) Recognizing that China could not improve and progress if it didn’t continually address mistakes made by its leaders, but also understanding that it could be fatal to question or criticize the man in charge at any given time, the Chinese came up with an ingenious solution. Let’s say, for example, that Hu Jintao, the previous Dude Who Runs China, had introduced some ineffective or dangerous policy during his term. Some senior person would notice this problem and would address the leadership like so:

“Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that a dangerous policy introduced by Jiang Zemin is threatening this country.” He would then outline the policy as if it had been created and/or implemented by Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao’s predecessor. Everyone, including Hu Jintao, would listen politely. And if the senior official’s argument and/or facts proved to be persuasive, Hu Jintao would announce that he was addressing errors made by the previous administration, the bad policy would be removed, and everyone would continue to go about their business.

Our natural response as Westerners to this is to recoil from the hypocrisy! of this tactic, but in fact it is the only way to deal with the unfettered power of a uniparty state. By freeing the current powers that be from the admission of fault, you allow them to treat the problem as a problem to be solved rather than as a challenge to be defeated. This tactic is no more “hypocritical” than declining to wrestle a grizzly bear.

In any event, I think it would be irresponsible to suggest any correlation between this highly effective practice from overseas and the recent spate of “AAPI March Against White Supremacy” events that have, entirely correctly of course, placed the blame for the spate of attacks on AAPI individuals by non-whites on the root cause of white supremacy. We do not have a Uniparty in this country and the idea that a group of people who are suffering a remarkable string of violent attacks would use “white supremacy” as a means to have a discussion about countermeasures without upsetting the jealous power of that Uniparty is, of course, the most ridiculous of conspiracy theories.

Let’s move on.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Crash Into Me Edition

If you read the Hagerty website everyday:

0. thank you, thank you, thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings
1. You’ll have already seen that we rolled a vintage Tatra T87 at NCM Motorsports Park.

“We”, in this case, means my Editor-At-Large and boon companion, Sam Smith, who rose with the Nashville dawn and had the Tatra on its side before I made it completely through my habitual morning run to the McDonald’s down the street from the Corvette Museum. Sam’s call to me had the unmistakable tone of someone who expects to be keelhauled for his actions, and perhaps rightly so: isn’t your humble author the fellow who has made a habit out of calling out the industry’s most overprivileged mistakes, from the time Aaron Gold somehow managed to knock the nose off a Camaro ZL1 at about 30mph to the recent incident of buffoonery from some buffoon who, after a year or so of riding an Indian motorcycle provided to him at no charge, promptly managed to crash the same model of Indian motorcycle into a rock at the speed of the brisk run with which he is probably entirely unfamiliar?

The crashing of cars is an apparently unavoidable part of automotive journalism, particularly at the magazines. One of the more prominent rags has destroyed so many cars in recent years, including a $500,000 carbon-fiber specialty Porsche, that they are supposedly no longer allowed to have their writers on any kind of racetrack whatsoever, being forced instead to use a “hired gun” for any closed-course work at above school-zone speeds. I’m not immune from this, having managed to harm two press vehicles. The first incident happened when I drove a kit car out onto a racetrack (GingerMan) that still had ice in its banked first turn; the car basically slid down the bank at about 15mph and shattered the lower part of the fiberglass nose against the “chiclet” curb. The second bashup happened when I used a compact crossover to push an old Chevy van across a parking lot; the collision-warning system, activated, the crossover slowed, the blanket I’d placed between the bumpers slid off, and the nose got scratched when I recontacted the van.

In Sam’s case, however, the Tatra rollover wasn’t due to laziness, lack of talent, bad luck, or even just plain not giving a damn. It was part of a test to see… well… what it would take to make the car roll over. We didn’t actually want to roll the Tatra, but we knew it was a possibility, and so did the car’s owner. I’d argue that there are certain times it’s totally fine to damage a press car — but there’s a certain litmus test that needs to be applied in order to determine whether now is one of those times.

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Weekly Roundup: Fear Of Flying Edition

We’re only in the middle of March and Slim Shady is already droppin’ bodies. Not Slim Shady the middle-aged rapper who keeps trying to get Donald Trump’s attention, but “Slim Shady” the semi-secret downhill jump line in Newark, Ohio. Built by a coalition of junior-pro MTB racers and wealthy farmers with time on their hands, Slim Shady is intended to be the biggest and gnarliest set of jumps between Highland Park in New Hampshire and Trestle Bike Park in Denver. Forget Snowshoe Mountain, Bryce, or even Windrock; this stuff is stouter by far.

Unlike at all of the aforementioned places, you can’t buy a lift pass for Shady. Because there’s no lift. You get there by riding through a series of trails. If you don’t know where it is, then you’re not likely to find it. The total drop of the line is about 250 feet, and you have to walk your bike back up after each run.

When it is dry and complete, Slim Shady will have about twelve jumps. Right now there are nine of them, split almost evenly between gaps and tabletops, the longest being 31 feet across. Yesterday the bottom five jumps were still too wet from a recent rain, but the top four were rideable albeit sticky and slow.

Thirteen riders, including myself, took a shot at the top four while I was there. Nobody was seriously hurt, thankfully, although people have already been testing the patience of the local ambulance staff on this trail before Spring has even officially sprung. Two of the thirteen riders managed to clear all four jumps. One of them was my old pal, Bolivian professional BMX racer Javier Larrea. The other, of course, was my eleven-year-old son.

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Weekly Roundup: eBay Goes Ham Edition

“I absolutely think this is a commitment to a better, more just, and inclusive world of children’s literature,” Ann Neely, professor of children’s literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said. “We have so many outstanding books for children today; there is no need to continue to publish books that are now inappropriate. We must evaluate books for children by today’s values, not on our own nostalgia. Children need to see themselves, and others who may be different from them, in an accurate and positive way.”

I was 49 years and almost 6 months old when I realized that there are professors of children’s literature now. The University Of Arizona is offering internships in children’s and young adult literature. One wonders what a sample thesis might be. Something like “Your Butt Smells Like Poop: An Intersectional Perspective On Images Of Defecation In Shinta Cho’s ‘The Gas We Pass’ and Also Something About Harry Potter.” Surely Julliard is about to offer a doctorate in Kidz Bop, assuming this is not already the case.

Also, do we really have so many outstanding books for children today? It seems to me that we had much better books fifty or a hundred years ago. Maybe the problem is that those earlier efforts have outkicked the coverage of modern literacy, so to speak. This “Rover Boys” book strikes me in retrospect (I read several from the series when I was maybe ten years old) as being at about the college sophomore reading level nowadays. Right away this Rover Boys book hits you with a “laconic” and a “disdainfully” before following up with a “strenuous”… that’s just in the first chapter and a half.

Anyway, the distinguished professor of, uh, Hufflepuffs was quoted in an NBC piece titled “The reckoning with Dr. Seuss’ racist imagery has been years in the making.” The article was written by Char Adams, about which we are told “Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race, gender and class. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Teen Vogue and elsewhere.” I was 49 years and almost 6 months old when I realized

* there was an NBC BLK, although I still don’t know what it is;
* we now consider Teen Vogue to be on part with TNR and the Times, although to be honest if you read me an article at random from Teen Vogue I probably wouldn’t be able to easily identify it as not being from the Times.

Alright, I just found out what NBC BLK is. It contains “Stories, issues and opinions from the African American perspective.” The vast majority of the headlines contain complaints about racism of one sort or another. I’m reminded of Cosmopolitan magazine, which always assumes that:

* all women all have precisely one hobby;
* and that hobby is casual sex.

Oh well. If it makes people happy. One of the headlines from NBC BLK is “How walking my dog made my neighbors and I more comfortable around each other”. You don’t need to have a doctorate in “Twilight:Breaking Dawn” to know why that headline hurts my brain.

Speaking of cranial trauma. Everyone appears to have an opinion regarding the decision by “Dr. Seuss Enterprises” to discontinue the sale of six Dr. Seuss books. Speaking personally, I couldn’t care less about it. Seuss is dead. He handed his legacy over to a group of people who are determined to piss on said legacy until the last dollar is extracted. This has happened to better writers than Seuss in the past. The books themselves have little merit in my opinion; there was never a time in my life, and hardly a time in my son’s life, when we needed to read fake-word claptrap in the pursuit of personal literacy. I can’t imagine even normies really enjoy any of the books for more than a few moments.

Is this “cancel culture” at work? Strictly speaking, not really. There’s no Pastor Niemoller equivalence here. The publishing house isn’t at fault, as the author’s own representatives are pulling the books. Victimless crime. Ah, but this story does have a villain, as of yesterday — and the consequences will reach well beyond any house-trashing, hat-wearing cats.

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Weekly Roundup: Be A Lot Cooler If Your Language Stacked Edition

No politics this week — at least no explicit politics. The zeitgeist is moving faster than I can target it. Instead let’s talk about something academic, in the traditional sense. Over the past year, I’ve been occasionally spending ten minutes at a time with Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas, usually during lunch or when someone is wasting my time on the phone. Unlike Godel, Escher, Bach or I Am A Strange Loop, the Themas book is suitable for “snacking” because most of it is in the form of short essays.

In parts, it’s pure Cringetopia; there’s a pair of chapters on “sexist language” where Hofstadter is painfully and obviously trying to impress some feminist fellow professor with the prehistoric wokeness of his ideas from 1985 or thereabouts. Yet even when Douglas is a contemptible, pandering geek he’s still dangerously insightful: one of his essays replaces all instances of “man” or “men” with “white” or “whites”, effortlessly predicting a future where lower-and-middle-class white men would be the Universal Enemy for American culture. (What? You thought it was rich white men, or all white men? Pay more attention.)

What has my attention today, however, is a rather innocent question Hofstadter asks in an essay on the Lisp programming language, which I’ll rephrase like so: Why doesn’t English “stack”, or contain unpackable sequences? If that question makes no sense, have no fear. I will, as they say on Reddit, Explain Like We’re Five Years Old.

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Weekly Roundup: I’ve Been Trying My Whole Life Edition

I don’t recall where I read this, but I was struck by the simple truth of it: “Any political philosophy that is based on the security and sanctity of individual property isn’t going to resonate with people who don’t expect to ever have any.” Your humble author isn’t much of a homeowner; 2,549 square feet in Nowhere, Ohio with the same tile used by McDonald’s. (It’s true. I picked it because they said it was impervious to abuse.) But I am, in fact, a homeowner and have been since I was 29 years old.

Therefore, I think like a homeowner. I don’t blink at my outrageous property taxes, which would finance a new Corvette, because I believe in having nice schools for the kids. I tend to advocate for, and vote for, policies that will assist me in the secure retention and enjoyment of my property, both in the tract-home sense and in the vintage-Porsche sense. When there was a proposal to put a Wal-Mart in my town, I fought it. (We won, but Wal-Mart bracketed us with the canny eye of a Marine forward observer, placing a pair of stores less than half a mile away from our southern and eastern borders, respectively.) There’s no low-income housing where I live. We let our children play outdoors unsupervised. While I am accepting of universal suffrage on a national basis, I think it’s ridiculous that someone could be allowed to rent an apartment within the township limits and then have a say on issues that would affect the community long after their lease expired. That’s like making your investment decisions by asking the fellow ahead of you in line at Burger King.

There was once a time when the median young American lived like I do, and thought like I do, and voted like I do, and that’s how you get the America of 1960, I suppose. Today’s median young American doesn’t live that way, particularly when you narrow it down to people below forty. He’s living in rental housing, usually owned by a faceless corporation or some distasteful oligarch. (True story: much of the rental housing in Columbus is owned by civil-court judges, many of whom received seller financing and low-fee property management services. Chew on that for a minute.) He has no path to home ownership: zero, zilch, nada. Sure, he could move to Mississippi or downtown Detroit and buy a home for a hundred grand. How far would he be from work? How safe would be be?

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Weekly Roundup: The Day They Dropped A Nuke On Savannah Edition

Today the clone and I visited the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum near Savannah, GA, in the company of said clone’s grandfather. Having been thoroughly spoiled at an early age by the Wright-Patterson AFB Museum in Dayton, OH, which is either the second-best air museum in the world or the very best depending on how you like the Smithsonian’s politics, John was slightly confounded by a facility with a total of four aircraft under its roof. The Mighty Eighth Museum has a lovingly restored B-17 displayed with a decent P-51 and a ratty-looking Bf109, but Wright-Pat has all of that plus pretty much every other significant plane that flew over Europe back then.

To be fair, the Savannah museum isn’t really about the planes; it’s about the people who flew them. A detailed tribute to the Greatest Generation, the place is faithfully manned by expert staff who can tell harrowing tales of collapsed wings and frostbite amputations that verged on the commonplace. Furthermore, there’s a garden outside with a gently decaying example of a plane that was once ubiquitous above this country but is now almost gone from memory: the Boeing B-47 Stratojet.

Which is a shame, because there are plenty of reasons to remember the Stratojet, not the least of which is this: it once dropped a Mark 15 nuclear bomb on Savannah.

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Weekly Roundup: Life With Navegante Edition

I should have known something was wrong the minute the dealer said they’d fixed it immediately.

Over the past month, my 2018 MKT Ecoboost (Reserve Elite Ecoboost, to give it all the credit) has been exhibiting some hard-start and freeway-stuttering behavior, so the Tuesday before last I dropped it off at the dealer. Five hours later they called and said it was fixed. “Fuel pump control module,” they assured me. So I went to get it. Ran fine when I picked it up, and the second time I drove it, as well. The third time, it just flat died on the freeway and I got to push this 4,800-pound wagon out of the right lane onto the shoulder, in about thirty-five-degree weather. Clearly this was not fixed. Likely not the fuel pump control module either. I’m thinking it’s the fuel pump. A quick check of the internet showed that dealers pull this shuffle on the F-150 Ecoboost owners all the time; the module is an easy replacement but the pump itself is not.

Since the MKT is still under warranty, and since it’s a Reserve, I’m entitled to a service loaner. The cashier assured me that they had plenty of loaners available and that if I showed up between ten and noon the next day there would be one washed up and ready to go. Of course that wasn’t true. It took them quite some time to find a set of keys, and then it took me ten minutes of walking the lot to find the vehicle in question. It was filthy inside and out. Reeked of someone’s extremely intense cologne. I remember this being the case with pretty much every car when I was a kid. The American middle class got out of the habit back in the Nineties, the same way people stopped wearing male jewelry, but since then we’ve been busy importing millions of six-figure earners who really like their ouds and their bergamots and whatnot. Touching the steering wheel caused my hand to stink at a distance.

That was the bad news. The good news: It was a $91,045 Navigator, with under three thousand miles on it.

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