A Little Propaganda For The Proles On The Fourth

If you’re reading it, it’s for you. Sometimes that is particularly true. As a frequent user of Mozilla Firefox, I also receive “Pocket recommendations” when I open a new tab. These recommendations are supposedly based on my browsing behavior. It’s worth noting that Pocket limits its recommendations to very carefully-vetted purveyors of pap propaganda; for instance, I’ve been reading quite a bit about the new generation of Desert Eagle pistols lately, but I have yet to receive any “deagle”-related suggestions. Pocket is never going to tell me about guns, or off-roading, or patriotism. Not even on the Fourth Of July.

Let’s briefly discuss two recommendations which caught my eye today, because both of them are specifically designed to distort reality in such a way as to make me, and others with my approximate browsing history, doubt our ability to understand the world.

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The Censorship Of Fahrenheit 451

Oh, this is awkward.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, once the darling of every small-town activist librarian aghast at the idea of not making Tropic Of Cancer and Fear Of Flying mandatory reading for nine-year-olds, turns out to have had a few, ahem, controversial aspects to it. In particular, the book railed against a society where abortion is encouraged and children are shuttled off to anonymous daycare.

Don’t remember that part? That’s because you probably read the censored version.

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(Double) Weekly Roundup: The Desire Of The Woman Edition

And they say that writing doesn’t pay: Kristen Roupenian received $1.2 million dollars as an advance for her FIRST EVER BOOK, You Know You Want this after her story “Cat Person” went, as they say, viral. The book is, apparently, a bit of a hash and it’s not selling terribly well. You can read a rather savage review by the infamous “Delicious Tacos” here; as with Clive James’ infamous Princess Daisy evisceration, the criticism is significantly more accomplished than the source material. I could attempt a review of my own, but it would be stymied both by the excellence of Tacos’ piece and the minor, but in this case relevant, fact that I have not read the book.

Which won’t stop me from talking about “Cat Person” a bit, because I have read it and because it’s free for all of you to read. The story is trash, little better than the vampires-and-billionaires vomit you see being eagerly scarfed-up by every middle-aged woman beneath every rental umbrella on every beach during every summer, and bearing the scars of a thousand table readings at a dozen writers’ workshops — yet, as Clive James reminds us, “It takes bad art to teach us how good art gets done.” Therefore, let me flap this bug with gilded wings, &c., because there is a fascinating, and important, lesson buried right in the fetid guts of the thing.

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“If she loved us, she would have stayed with us, not copped out. God didn’t do it, Mom did.”

She had to die before I could love her. Eleven years ago, I’d thought of us a little more than — what’s that horrible and oh-so-modern phrase — “friends with benefits”. Or the even-more-modern phrase, “fuck buddies”. She’d been easy to seduce because she was broken inside, although I chose not to see it. I liked her. She was perky and she was quick-witted and most importantly she was twenty-nine years old at a time when I was starting down the barrel of my fortieth birthday. We met where and when we could, from my guest bedroom to the model unit of the rental apartments she managed. On a risky whim, we went to see Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour in 2010, standing near the back and listening to the old man warble his incomprehensibilities, both of us suffering from aching knees and light headaches from the vodka. Her hand sought mine in the unlit crowd and while I did not resist, neither did I squeeze back.

In 2012 her husband found out. They always do, you know, the husbands. He called me. Asked me to lay off. Told me that I was standing between them and happiness. I suggested that his OxyContin addiction was probably also an issue. He said he could get help, and that he would sober up. He said he could, and would, look after her. I knew he was a born loser but I also, in my own way, respected the institution of marriage, so I did, in fact, lay off. She and I would occasionally meet for lunch, at the Pizza Hut down the street from the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio, but we did not touch. “Did you ever love me?” she asked.

“Of course,” I lied.

Five years later, in May of 2017, she and her husband had a big fight. She threatened to kill herself. He’d been sober for a while, and he was filled with the self-righteousness that comes so easily to people who have beaten a percentage, however minor, of their own addictions. “Go ahead and do it, you won’t be missed,” he yelled, and he let the door slam on his way out. She cried for a while — I don’t know how long. Then she took their trio of children across the street to her neighbor’s house. “I need you to look after them until my husband comes home,” she said, and smiled.

Then she opened the faucets on the old plastic tub in the back bathroom of their tired old duplex, and she stripped down just to her underwear, for the sake of decency, and she stepped in. When the water was warm enough, she opened both her wrists, and she died. Shortly afterwards, the neighbor ran into the house, her subconscious having assembled the clues in front of her into their only logical conclusion. The water was still warm, stained with paisley swirls and ethereal tendrils of slowly clotting blood.

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A Thousand-Dollar Fine, Sultan Knish Was Right, And A Movie Made For Two, Based On “The Time Machine”

For reasons beyond my comprehension, an unusually high percentage of my reader base hails from California. All of you, and anyone who travels to the Golden State for business, might do well to review the 2019 crop of California laws. The law making the most noise — pun intended — is a thousand-dollar mandatory fine for exhaust noise over 95dB. It’s being enforced aggressively now, which would lead any sane person to wonder: We are told on a daily basis by the California-based media that it would be “absolutely impossible” to successfully identify and deport illegal immigrants, and that “profiling” would harass and endanger innocent people while providing no uptick in the amount of arrests. Yet the California police appear to have zero difficulty “profiling” certain types of cars in order to hand out these $1,000 tickets. That’s right: according to the drivers who have already been caught up in this new law, the police aren’t just sitting on a sound meter, Laguna-Seca style. They are aggressively, and purposely, seeking out certain vehicles. After all, if the police were simply to ticket based on their machine reading, they might end up ticketing the ratty old Toyota trucks or ’97 Expeditions that carry that sweet, sweet low-priced undocumented labor out to the farms. Would the drivers of those vehicles pay the fine? Of course not — and why should they, when they can have a brand new identity and driver’s license for $29?

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was at that point that I thought of the man who calls himself “Sultan Knish”.

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What If You Held A Women’s March And Only The Jew-Haters Came?

Our own Ronnie Schreiber is somewhat infamous on these pages for using the phrase “Jew-hater” instead of the more neutral-sounding “anti-Semite”. He believes that it’s both honest and descriptive. I have little opinion on it, other than to suggest that we need yet a third term for people who claim to have nothing against Jews in general but who hate Israeli Jews with a passion. Perhaps there’s also a fourth term required for people who hate Israelis and Israeli but are themselves ethnically Jewish. I don’t know.

In any event, I’m using Ronnie’s phrase because I think it applies very well to a remarkably unpleasant situation within the organization that calls itself “The Women’s March”, albeit in the face of objections from fourteen other organizations.

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Your Chance To Get On The Samizdat Enemies List

Bad boys of literature, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Surely we all understand that the endgame intended for today’s aggressive and universal politicizing of everyday existence is the same as it was in 1918 — a firing squad for the worst of the doubleplusungoodthinkers, the gulag for the rest of us. If you’re interested in moving a couple of notches towards firing-squad placement, there’s no better way than to join me in the purchase of Finally, Some Good News by the brilliant social commentator and misery-blogger known as “Delicious Tacos”. (If you don’t know who he is, you can find out here.)

If you buy the book, please feel encouraged to revisit this post and share your opinion. As for me, I’m looking forward to having a physical copy of the thing. A hundred years from now, when sensible humans look back at the “woke” era of American garbage culture with the same terror that was previously reserved for the purge years under Stalin or the eyeglass-shattering madness of the Khmer Rouge, I want my grandson to be able to say that his grandfather walked to the firing line with his chin up. Oh, and that I survived the execution, because nobody there could figure out how to rack the bolt of an AR-15.

Doesn’t It Feel Good To Palessi?

Many years ago, I was business partners with a young man who was the very definition of Asperger’s Syndrome brought to life. I could tell a lot of stories about this fellow — the terrifying disappearances, the cars he killed, the Brazilian FN FAL that he kept in his bed, the chronic masturbation, the card counting, the accidentally picking up a prostitute on the way to work, the time that he crashed his mountain bike and my other friend tried to give him a tracheotomy — but I’ll save those for another time. The story I want to tell is on that he told he: My friend grew up dirt poor in a single-wide trailer with his Air Force dad, his Filipina mother, and his two siblings, way back in “the holler” of Jackson, Ohio. He lived off his brother’s hand-me-downs. The better-off kids would make fun of his family, singing this ditty to the tune of Electric Avenue:

We gonna rock down to
PAYLESS AND BUY SOME SHOES
They only cost a dollar

Alas, in the end the joke was on all those other kids, because my pal and his brother ended up surfing the turn-of-the-century tech wave into the kind of money where you never have to think about trailers, or Payless shoes, ever again. There’s a bit of irony to all of this, however, because nowadays the value of Payless shoes has gone from “a dollar” all the way to $640. In this brilliant prank-o-mercial, a bunch of “social media influencer” dipshits were invited to the grand opening of a store called “Palessi”. Once inside, they were given, and eagerly took, the chance to pay hundreds of bucks for shoes that can be found for $19.99 at Payless. The influencers gushed about the unbeatable style, materials, and prestige associated with being a “Palessi” customer.

The two immediate hot takes found everywhere on the web: Payless is smart, and influencers are stupid. Both of those takes are correct, but I’d like to be a little more perceptive than that, if I can manage it. My thoughts, in no particular order:

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A Modest Proposal: It’s Time To Tax Those Autojourno Freebies

Good artists create, and great artists steal. Right? About ten years ago, I read a few short pieces by Canadian writer Michael Banovsky regarding the incestuous ethical blind spots of the automotive “journalism” business. Those pieces resonated strongly with me because I’d seen similar, albeit much lower-budget, antics during my time racing, and writing about, BMX bicycles.

“Bano” gave up his crusade pretty quickly and went on to crank out years’ worth of fairly standard fare for various north-of-the-border news sites, but he’d inspired me to carry the torch without him. I wrote dozens of articles for TTAC, Jalopnik, and elsewhere about the revolving door between automotive PR and automotive journalism, about the back-slapping buddy culture in the business where the readers are viewed with naked contempt, about how the perks poison the product. It got me blacklisted, uninvited, slandered, and doxxed. Thankfully, the story didn’t end there because there have been a few people courageous enough to hire me and print my work despite the near-universal chorus of caterwauling disdain from the pimps and players in motoring PR. I’m grateful for those people and their courage, while also being aware that it won’t last forever. Which is okay. I’ll leave this game the same way I entered it: on my own merits.

There is, however, something sadly ironic about the fact that Banovsky has decided to return with a vengeance to the field of automotive meta-criticism just as TTAC, a once-fierce proponent of his original ideas, has finally collapsed into a weak-kneed regurgitator of press releases and public-relations drivel. The site that made its name with courageous reviews of everything from rentals to stealth drives at dealers now sends its top people on multiple first-class, five-star freebie trips every month to suckle uncritically at the engorged teat of manufacturer largesse.

Which doesn’t mean Bano’s bomb-throwing is incorrect, just that it’s tardy. And after reading his latest piece, I’m willing to suggest that we take his ideas to their logical conclusion.

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