When I bought my brand-new, shiny, bluer-than-blue 2016 Ford Focus RS in October of that same year, I had never owned any car for longer than three and a half years. Fiesta ST? Returned after a 24 month lease. Boss 302? Barely made a third birthday. The record holder was actually a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX, which lasted 42 months and 91,000 miles before I chopped it in on a 2004 Mazda RX-8 in May of 2005.
So even I would have been surprised to learn that I would end up keeping the sparkly jelly bean for a total of 54 months and 47,500 miles. Did I keep it around because I was enthralled by its burbly exhaust, enraptured by its spartan interior, or captivated by the stiff suspension?
In a word: No.
The truth is that I really didn’t like the Focus RS very much at all. And despite what you may have read on the internet, you probably wouldn’t like one, either.
I don’t know if now was the right time for Netflix to show The Serpent, a BBC miniseries about a fellow who preyed on Western tourists following the Indo-Asian “hippie trail” during the Seventies. Surely there are plenty of people in the States who are watching this and thinking, “Gosh, would I be willing to risk being drugged, tortured, and murdered just to get on an international flight right now? Yes, I would!” There’s also something profoundly depressing about seeing all these young people who were so eager to flee America and Europe during the Seventies. In retrospect it seems obvious that the era that started with Nixon and ended with George H.W. Bush was the last gasp of the economically and culturally significant West. I had the actual privilege of growing up in a society that valued children, (largely) despised pornography, and at least offered the pretense of a moral compass. We were mercifully free from: smartphones, the HTTP protocol, political street violence, electric cars, woke capital, Amazon, an additional 110 million “Americans” who don’t seem to have improved the country, and omnipresent jumbo mortgages. Our most serious national problem at the time was Ford’s Variable Venturi Carburetor; with the help of Ronald Reagan, the risen Christ, and the Lockheed Skunkworks, that was resolved in 1986 when the 302 went fuel-injected, causing the Soviet Union to inevitably collapse.
I’ve been to Thailand a few times but have always avoided Bangkok, not wanting to enjoy the company of, or suffer the perception of being, a farang — a Western man who is in Southeast Asia for the purpose of pursuing sex. While I’ve heard all the arguments for abandoning American women, in my heart of hearts I think that going overseas to meet girls is what they call “gamma behavior”. (As always, there’s an exception to the rule IMO, and the exception is a rough ellipse drawn around Scandinavia, Holland, and northern France.) The feminist argument against overseas dating and/or “mail order marriage” is that it often amounts to economic exploitation, and it is a compelling one. Should the same lens be applied to the overwhelming support expressed by Western women for a “refugee” stream composed mostly of young adult men? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Not all “farangs” are contemptible, however. Let me tell you the story of the greatest farang I ever met: a man who deceived, cheated, manipulated, and just plain out-played the American corporate Moloch to live his life on his own terms and retire in the States at an age when most men are still facing thirty years of misery to come. This is the legend of Bangkok Joe, and it’s all true. I know, because I was there.
Like the woman who was never President, it is necessary for the proprietor of this website to have a public and a private position on many issues. There are three primary reasons for this. The first, of course, is that there is a little gang out there with a (not-quite-as-)secret(-as-they-think-it-is) Facebook group trying mightily to parse every single thing I write into reasonable grounds for termination. This task, while daunting, is at least possible in the right conditions, whereas the alternative path, which would involve being better at my job than I am and therefore rendering me superflous, is impossible for people of their pathetic capabilities.
The second reason is that I have no wish to oppress my readers with too much blatant opinion-giving on political topics. My liberal readers wouldn’t like my opinion on social issues; my conservative readers wouldn’t like how I feel on issues like tariffs, unionization, and economic justice. No matter who you are, I guarantee you we disagree on something. Heck, I can think of a half-dozen issues on which Brother Bark and I are probably on opposite sides of the bench.
Last and not in any way least, there’s what I call my privilege of isolation. I’ve chosen to live in a place where protests/riots/whatever simply don’t happen and likely never will happen, largely because most of my neighbors would see such an occasion as a fine opportunity for a turkey shoot. (Here at Riverside Green, of course, we own nothing more frightening than a solid array of airsoft pistols, one Crossman BB gun, and the King James Bible.) Those of you who follow the news will be very aware of a recent incident in which a Columbus, Ohio police officer shot a young woman who was yelling “I’m going to stab the fuck out of you bitch,” as she attempted to, uh, stab the fuck out of another young woman. Although I live twenty miles from the event, there has been zero impact here. No marches, no looting, no fiery but peaceful protesting. Therefore, I like to defer commentary on this stuff to people who have skin in the game, so to speak.
One of those people with skin in the game is the writer of the “Up In The Valley” blog. I had dinner with him in Van Nuys on Tuesday the 13th, before the Floyd verdict and the Ma’Khia Bryant stabbing/shooting. We discussed the future of America; I view it from a distance, but he has a seat in the front row.
Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a nearly absolute conviction regarding the avoidance of Chinese products and the desirability of supporting “Made In USA”. Where possible, I buy American, then I follow a preference ladder based on my own personal genetics and/or belief in our country’s interests: German, then English, then Russian, then Japanese, then other European countries, then Canada/Mexico, then the so-called Asian Tigers, then Taiwan, then China.
Usually this is easy but expensive, as with clothes, tools, and stereo equipment. Sometimes it is absolutely impossible, as with laptop computers or random fasteners. In between you have a grey area where it takes nontrivial research and effort to make a choice.
Then we have “Roka”.
Today I spotted this front wheel drive ’80s Cadillac on Baltimore Craigslist. Painted in most excellent Sapphire Blue Firemist with matching coach roof and blue velour interior, it cuts a formal look only improved by the new for ’88 4.5 liter V8, which ended the HT4100’s reign of slowness.
It was a much more robust engine, too, with none of the reliability shenanigans the early 4.1s liked to pull. With 155 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque and weighing in at around 3,450 lbs at the curb, it was good power for the time, too.
Given the broad variety of my acquaintance, it came as little surprise to me to find out that one of my friends is a member of Antifa — more specifically, a member of the Portland Antifa meta-group, the folks who are causing either all of the trouble or none of it depending on how the Facebook algorithm perceives your desire for news. We had a meal together last week in California while the fires raged yet again back in his hometown. I asked him if it was true that Antifa had no leaders; he laughed at me as if I’d inquired regarding the actuality of the Easter Bunny. Of course there are leaders, organizers, treasurers. How else could we get all of this done? Then he made a joke about checks from Soros. He’s never seen any money personally, but he’s heard stories.
He says that you can hear his voice on a video where Portland mayor Ted Wheeler is being abused by Antifa while attempting to march with them. Talked about the six plainclothes cops Wheeler had — “the biggest human beings I’ve ever seen in real life.” The whole thing was oddly kayfabe. But that’s okay, because he says the protests are thinly disguised parties most of the time. You get out there for a while and shine lasers into the pigs’ eyes or whatever then you retreat to someone’s house and the hardcore shit comes out — MDMA, LSD, the “dab” marijuana with its eye-watering concentrations of pure THC — and then it is time to get it in. Polyamory, orgies, you name it.
And thus it has long been, ever since the Woodstock hippies: the girls do this stuff because they’re naive and the guys do it to have sex with the girls (and, increasingly, with each other). I’ve seen the girls involved, so I’m not going to burn an Apple Store just to make their acquaintance, yet I can see how some of them would have some appeal for people who would otherwise be “incels”. That’s how the foot soldiers of the revolution are recruited.
Above the foot soldiers, however, you have the people who are running the show. Presumably these folks are motivated by more than the chance to hook up with a meth addict while listening to Rage Against The Machine. What is that, exactly? Who are these people? More importantly, what do they want?
Yep, another land yacht that sucks gas and has approximately 32 lbs. of chrome, not including the bumpers. I spotted this one today, and immediately latched onto the listing.
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.
I don’t know exactly when I figured out that I was ugly. Certainly I knew it by the time I was twelve or so; kids tend to be mean to each other regardless of looks, but there was an obvious difference in the way adults treated me compared to the way they treated some of my classmates. Thankfully, I wasn’t both ugly and short for very long, which would have been too much.
My particular defects — an alien ratio of massive skull to petite face, a caveman brow but soft cheekbones, barrel chest and monkey arms — were a tremendous source of sorrow to me in my teen and twentysomething years. I would have given anything to be handsome. Scratch that: I would have given anything to just be plain-looking. It frequently occurred to me that the combination of below-average intelligence and above-average looks is a recipe for happiness as surely as the reverse is a prescription for misery.
After lo these many years I’ve come to be grateful for my ugliness. It has stripped me of illusions regarding the world. I never worry that someone is being nice to me just because they like the way I look. If a woman tells me that I’m handsome, I know she is insane and I can plan accordingly. Nobody bothers me on the street. The mere suggestion of unpleasantness on my part is usually enough to get what I want; the only thing worse than having me in your face is having an angry me in your face.
Of course, there are times I’m tempted to blame my appearance for why I haven’t been able to achieve certain goals. This is cowardice and stupidity, made doubly plain by the fellow you see in the video above.
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?