May 14, 2012 - May 7, 2012
The Top Gear files...
. His Wiki biography says he's 5' 7." Rubbish. He's as tall
as a minute and probably a few seconds under that. But he's the best
an American could have for reviving the Special Relationship that once
existed between the U.K. and the U.S. before, well, all the recent
We've had an up and down relationship with the Brit show Top Gear over the years (1, 2, 3). In many ways, the show has been a poster-child for imperial Brit arrogance. They go places far and wide, and all they manage to convey is their contempt for locals, from Romania and Bolivia to the U.S. of A., without ever actually interacting with the wogs (i.e., non-Brits) they meet.
Thing is, Top Gear has always been dominated by Jeremy Clarkson, whose anti-Americanism is belied by his Brit libertarianism. He really should like America, except that he's a pure asshole Brit. Nothing to be done about that. Nothing. But his two sidekicks are, however quietly, not anti-American. James May did a lovely multi-episode BBC season of touring the California wine country, with no trace of the chauvinist bile Clarkson routinely expresses.
And then there's the matter of Richard Hammond. Who actually seems to be, uh, an American. He's never made any secret of his love for American muscle cars. He leaped at the chance to drive the new Dodge Challenger in the only pro-American Top Gear episode ever, in which Clarkson was moaning in ambiguous angst about his love for the newest Corvette. Or was it a Cadillac? Or was that James May? No matter. the Corvette and the Cadillac both got raves. And Hammond made excuses for the Challenger.
Regardless. Hammond. What you need to know. He is incredibly brave. He nearly died driving 300 mph for Top Gear. He raced the other two from London to Edinburgh on a Vincent Black Shadow, the single most holy motorcycle icon ever, while they competed by train and automobile. And his new show, Crash Course, puts every reality show I've ever heard of to shame.
It's like Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs but infinitely more interesting. Mighty Mite Hammond tours America to get qualified on the heaviest of heavy equipment -- logging machines, landfill machines, firefighting machines, military machines, etc. He gives himself three days to become competent and insists on a pass-fail test at the end, which he doesn't always pass. The result?
Completely charming. Must watch stuff. What he's doing is clearly dangerous. Yet he's obviously enjoying himself under extreme self-imposed pressure, and he makes a point of interacting with the American operators, who wind up liking him even as we do. Because he's, well, a brave, sweet, humble, incredibly talented guy who mostly does learn how to operate multi-ton specialized equipment with complicated controls in less than three days.
I'll stop soon, I promise. Why I think you should look this series up. First, there's a contrast between this show and the American reality shows about logging, etc. The people Hammond is talking to have teeth and they're articulate. When you call to mind the fact that this is a BBC show aimed at Brits, it's truly amazing that he's determined to show the best not the worst of Blue Collar America. In the logging episode, for example, he had his trainers playing darts with the heaviest of all heavy equipment, and they executed a minivan for Hammond's game. They also understood the irony. Hmmm.
Second, it's definitely an American show. Hammond could easily have played with heavy equipment in the U.K. He didn't. He came here. The show about him qualifying to drive and fire the guns of an M-1 Abrams tank was actually moving.
At the end he passed his test, not an easy one, and he was awarded with
one of the shells he had fired and a stained glass representation of
the unit's seal. He said (and I'm paraphrasing) "I usually say, 'Can I
take the vehicle home with me now that I've qualified on it?' Not
The M-1 tank is a very serious vehicle and the people who operate it
are special. All I want to do is thank you for what you do for all of
The landfill guys weren't so kind. He failed their test.
But he destroys minivans in every single episode. Watch for that if for no other reason. Unless you also cotton to the idea that the people who work the hard jobs might be as talented as the people who work the showy jobs. Which, strangely enough, Hammond seems to understand.
across a blog
post featured at Hotair.com a couple of days ago. Here's the lede.
The author is Erick
Erickson of RedState, who was also in the news last week because Mitch
McConnell pettishly claimed he'd never heard of a guy who's
apparently been on his case for quite a while. I've heard of RedState
but never read it, have nothing against it except casual talk that the
site's pretty quick on the banning button, and I know nothing whatever
about the cryptic reference to a "rumored gathering of conservative
bloggers, writers, and others last week," because I'm not a member of
Facebook. I know. What a backward fellow am I. So this is no personal
vendetta I'm starting here.
It's just that the post struck me oddly. Simultaneously defensive, almost gulltily so, and yet condescending in the extreme. By way of introducing himself he says:
It's a fairly clear mission statement (more about this later), but he
also seems to be feeling some heat from somewhere. His response is to
go on the offensive:
Then he passes final judgment:
It got me to thinking. Partly because Hotair featured it, which must
mean they know something about the post's mysterious rationale, and
also partly because I've been blogging as long as Erick Erickson.
Needless to say, I'm not "one of the uncommon few who has moved on
to both television and radio." Then he stoops to acknowledge those "who
have refused to
make the transition, or been unable to despite their hopes, and they
may look at me and others like me and think we’ve sold out or decided
to go along to get along. But I look at them and think what a waste of
talent and energy."
My intent here is not to trash Erick Erickson. I wish him well in his media career. I understand that there's some bad blood roiling I have no clue about, and it would be idiotic of me to leap in with guns ablazing over a fancied sleight from a guy who's never even heard of me.
It's just that his post seems an opportune time to talk about some of the verities. Which is what I will now proceed to do, with particular reference to his damning-with-faint-praise characterization of those who "don’t want to transition, but have grown up and matured in their style and interpersonal relationships."
Politics is obviously an enormously important part of what the Internet can do. It's a good thing -- a very good thing -- that amateur bloggers can grow in reach and power and influence to become part of the mainstream media that works so diligently to shape our responses to political events. Erickson is admirably up-front about describing himself as a "conservative activist." Where I think he errs is in believing that that's the principal or best reason for being a conservative blogger in the first place.
We don't all have to be, or even want to be, aspiring politicians. Let me define my use of the term. Politicians are those people who make money from participating in the political process as elected officials, paid government employees, campaign professionals, and opinionmakers, be they columnists, TV pundits, talk radio hosts, big-time bloggers, or Twitter-meisters.
Erikson is obviously aware of the problems inherent in being a politician. Why he's fearful that "they may look at me and others like me and think we’ve sold out or decided to go along to get along." It's also clear that he has trouble comprehending the possibility that anyone would invest so much time without wanting a political career of some kind. Those who don't aspire to that are merely dabbling in ways that might improve their "interpersonal relationships."
All of which suggests to me that he is missing the greatest possible boon of the Internet and the "blogosphere," which is the role of amateur citizens who watch and listen and comment from the perspective of those outside the political circus. We don't all want to be performers in the circus. Actually, we're the most important participants in the show -- American citizens. So easy to forget...
I don't claim to speak for anyone but me, but I can assure you -- despite having blogged as long and prolifically as Erick Erickson -- that I have never once considered attending a conference or convention of like-minded bloggers (if there were any), and I can't think of anything worse than being a designated conservative in a CNN segment. Wild horses couldn't drag me there. I don't want people whose political philosophies I despise to regard me as reasonable or affable. Why? Because I despise them. I'm not an activist, conservative or otherwise. I'm an outspoken citizen, and my amateur status is the solid gold credential that underlies everything I write in my blog.
But being an amateur doesn't make me a dabbler or a dilettante. It means that I can always say exactly what I think, even if it pisses off the up-and-comers in the very cause I seek to support. To my knowledge, for example, there are no conservative politicians (MY definition, remember) who make any attempt to hold conservative websites accountable to basic copy-editing standards (spelling, grammar, usage, syntax), even though the liberal elite consistently succeeds in portraying the flyover right as semi-literate yokels from cow colleges. Which most of their Internet (and Fox News) record confirms.
Just one example of what I would call an anti-conservative bias in a lot of the New Media stars. There's the idea that joining the political establishment is more important than being the equivalent of a country store or a small-town newspaper: bigger is necessarily better. It isn't. There's the idea that big traffic justifies big-headed treatment of commenters: we'll moderate and ignore and ban your ass as we see fit. There's the set of Venn diagrams we all automatically construct about who is being nice or at least civil to whom based on the prospect of future interviews and other kinds of access. Hannity bantering amicably with Al Sharpton is an image you shouldn't explain away but learn from. There's a corresponding turn toward self and celebrity: see who's appearing on my podcast and where I'll be next week. Which is to say the rest of us can see your personal career a-blooming. Which is fine in capitalist terms but given that we're out here in the citizenship business of making government and political celebrity shrink, well, why wouldn't the folks be suspicious?
The bloggers left behind -- the one-timers and part-timers and apparent also-rans who seem to be long-timers -- aren't the losers in this picture, even if they sometimes seem bitter (or is it betrayed?). Above all others, conservatives should celebrate the underground voices, the ones who keep saying what they think without fear or favor. And the ones who "have been blessed" with celebrity should keep reading what they have to say, lest they lose themselves in the lights and makeup.
For the record, I'm not one of the bitter. I've been on TV, on the radio, and in organizations united by a mission that bore little or no relation to reality. Politics is always an issue when you stop being just you and your keyboard and become part of a marketing team. Why I raised these issues back in the original Romney campaign with Dean Barnett, whom I respected but who had ceased to be a private voice and become a Romney advocate instead. He never answered my questions about the inherent conflicts of interest associated with blogger success and progression to campaign responsibility.
Why I've been a bear on conservative "activists" and New Media "stars" ever since. All I know for sure is that they hate it when I tell them their writing is lacking.
Unfortunately, it is. The good thing is that I get to write what I want and I know how to do it. Which means that MY site is what I always most wanted it to be: What I envisioned long before the slender Internet experience of Mr. Erickson, an honest testament of MY life and thought. Which might not be a waste of talent and energy. It might just be a Nice Thing of its own.
Will we survive? Who knows? How many stars are ascending? How many
Eeyores are sulking?
But we are still here, writing. Maybe it's true that "bloggers must" grow up. But punks never do.
. On Friday, Verloc somehow missed the fact
that the Friday
Follies is a lighthearted post. Since no one corrected him, I feel
obliged to point out that this is too. Given the current doleful mood
commenters, I'm not asking you to laugh. I know that's probably
impossible. So I'll make it a game instead. See how many of my
designations you can turn into the absolute downers you prefer. The
prize for the most successful at this task is a boxed set of the brand
new Doomsday Bunkers series, spin-off from the popular Doomsday
Preppers "reality" series. Are we good so far?
I thought not. Oh well. But guess what? The game goes on. Try to focus
Obama kicked off his reelection campaign at Ohio State. There were empty seats. That's fun. Unless you're The One, that is.
Being in the know as I am, I also got an email, excuse me a FireWire,
informing me that the president apparently forgot his wife was still on
board Air Force One when he disembarked in Columbus. There's video if
you want it. Worth a chuckle at least.
NBC's Saint Thomas of Brokaw allowed as how the White House Correspondence Dinner might not be such a good idea anymore. Maybe it makes the common folk believe the press is more 1 percent than 99 percent. Whatever could have given him that idea? What he actually said was:
"Hi think Horge Hlooney is a hreat guy. Hi don't think the big press hevent in Washington should be the kind of hwittering hevent hwhere all the tahk is about Hrystal Champagne, taking over the Hitahlian embassy, and who had the best party..."
Hood for hhim.
There's a corresponding Downer to this one below, but those of you who -- like my wife -- seek to tune out Dick Morris because he was porn pals with Bill Clinton might want to listen to him on the subject of polls and pollsters. He's getting more and more adamant that Obama is in deep trouble. Maybe because he's a politician not a pollster. All the results showing dead heats or Obama marginally leading are just flat wrong, he says. Whenever Obama is under 50 percent in any poll, he's losing, because the Undecided always break strongly against the incumbent. He compares it to asking if you think you'll still be married to your spouse a year from now. If you're Undecided, that would be, well, very bad news for the marriage. Wouldn't Morris know about that?
[Verloc: Turn your head and cough. Or otherwise don't listen to this one.] Anderson Cooper of all people trashed a Moveon.org representative on CNN over the War on Women rhetoric. What's the world coming to? Humor? No, Verloc. Don't succumb to the darkness of a snicker...
Almost forgot this one. The Delaware Don, er, Joe Biden screwed the pooch on gay marriage at Meet the Press. Very bad news for his boss. Joe maundered on about the lyrics of "Who Do You Love," forgetting that Democrats in swing states don't want to say they're for or against gay marriage, while (or because) black people are 64 percent against it. I probably wouldn't have mentioned this, because who cares about imbecilic Joe, but how often do we get a chance to remember George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers?
Now that we've descended to the level of unacceptable gay jokes, we can
close on an entertainment pick. The movie "Goon" is gross, gross, gross
(shortened in redneck math to Gross3), and it's also a
bizarre collage of humor about hockey, Canada, and Jews, in some order,
that is also falling down funny and weirdly accurate and affectionate
about its satirical targets. I prescribe it as an antidote to the tiny
population of people like me who may have thought they were becoming
prigs because all so-called comedies and and sitcoms seem to offensive
The great news: the outrageously gross offfensiveness of Goon is not offensive because it has no political or politically correct agenda. The satire is merciless but it's about capturing human realities, not promoting topical causes. Amazingly enough, the few hockey movies in existence are good, and I won't claim this one's the best. But it succeeds wonderfully in portraying one of the most enigmatic features of the sport -- the public sweetness and blandness of so many of the players in contrast to the on-ice savagery they consistently display. (Jews and Canadians are simply ancillary targets handled as roughly as the Jewish Canadian scriptwriter wanted to.) If you've got the stomach for incredibly raunchy jokes about everything BUT Sara Palin's cunt, take a look.
Eli ain't Peyton. His SNL performance was painful. But we knew that going in, didn't we? I know the Mannings are mostly about football. But why is Peyton the best QB ever and the best, most enigmatic, most sardonic football celebrity ever? He was the anti-Tebow before there was ever a Tebow. How mystical is that? New Yorkers would just love it if the Manhattan version were more enlightened than the Indy version, but sometimes a Twain is savvier about the waters than a Seacrest.
Speaking of football, here's an altogether too realistic description of how, and how quickly, American football could cease to exist.
Speaking of politics, the Fox News blondes, plus Chris Wallace, are just as dismissive of Dick Morris as you are. I watch Fox News Sunday only when my wife sleeps in and doesn't nudge me in the direction of "Say Yes to the Dress" instead. I don't watch FNS as a rule because it makes me angrier than anything I see in the MSM. They dutifully repeat exactly the same skewed, demographically rigged MSM polls, the same government numbers about the improving state of the economy, and the supposedly conservative panel bleats dutifully about what an edge Obama has going into the election. So it's either conservative political spin designed to make conservatives afraid and fired up, or it's MSM Lite. The latter of which is my suspicion.
SholomTV. Discovered this channel On Demand. Saw a half-hour documentary about "Intifada on American College Campuses." All right, I thought. The counterattack!. Only not so. The facts were factual, the footage was effective, the crisis was made real enough. American college students are being systematically taught to hate Jews. But for me the bottom fell out when I realized the audience for the piece was American Jewish students. Who needed to be taught that it's not okay to remain silent. That they cannot remain silent. No shit,Serlock. The last five minutes was devastating. Biblical, Jewish, and Israeli history -- including Israel's military record, superlative humanitarian response to natural catastrophes, and unparalleled winning of Nobel prizes -- demonstrating that Jews are no longer taking for granted their own kids' knowledge of the history of their people. Not to mention no mention of the cussedness and philosophical/existential challenge represented by the fact that highighted anti-Jews in the videos cited included people who were obviously Jews. They're losing their own kids and they're in a state of cataclysmic denial. I couldn't have been more bummed.
Breitbart is making a big deal out of the fact that SNL chose to begin its Eli show by spiking a planned skit about Obama spiking the Osama football and trashing Fox & Friends instead. The skit was unfair. But F&F is still a huge embarrassment to literate conservatives. And then, this morning, Brian Kilmeade repeated the joke ascribed to him. What else could he do? But it sounded like a joke he would make because he's a joker, not a racist. Reminded me of how overmatched we are by smonks who have more wit than intelligence. For sure, drive F&F off the air. But don't confuse THEM with the rest of us. Except that's their whole intent.
The French are still French. Europe will keep on being Europe, a problem child to the end. Sarkozy gone. Some new Frog in charge to fuck the whole continent for another decade. Cool? Or not cool?
The second most popular app for the iPhone. Something called FUGLY. Your phone takes a picture of YOU and tells YOU whether YOU are beautiful or ugly. Magic mushroom time. You buy this? It's a scale of one to ten (1 Galadriel, 10 Hunchback of Notre Dame) and the app makes glib remarks about the results. The bad news? Angelina Jolie gets a two. The good news? Brad Pitt gets a nine. And this young & seethingly desired celebrity scores worse than Brad Pitt:
The Bizzarro World News. You still get to decide who you are and what
Why this week is like every other. Unless you're hiding in your fucking bunker.
I have more to say about sitting in the corner like Eeyore. And if I
look like Piglet to you, so be it.