Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sometimes You Need A Fighter

... and nothing else will do.

I'm a huge Jonah Goldberg fan. I read all of his books and almost all of his columns. I usually listen to whatever podcasts he's on. I find him informed, witty, well-considered as well as consistent, both intellectually and morally. He didn't support Trump, pointing out his many flaws and currently points out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of Trump supporters. If lying was bad for Hillary, then it's bad for Trump. If executive power grabs were wrong for Obama, they're wrong for Trump. And so on.

Having said that, I differ with him about the value of the pugnacious-cons like Milo, Steve Bannon and others. Like a promising football team that has slow wide receivers, there's only so far you can go without adding talent at those positions. Fans get tired of watching the team lose because they lack deep threats.

I'm an even bigger Andrew Klavan fan. His podcast is the only one I don't miss and his Klavan on the Culture videos are still treats to me, no matter how many times I watch them. He frequently talks about how conservatives need to get involved in the culture wars beyond simply tut-tutting about political speeches at the Oscars, degenerate lyrics in music and lockstep groupthink in the universities. I differ with him as well about the importance of Milo and other outrageous performers.

Here's what they're both missing. I'm tired of sitting quietly while progressive institutions like the press, academia and the entertainment industry label me. I'm tired of the racism, sexism, homophobia and islamophobia accusations. I'm absolutely over the goon tactics, the thuggery, the sneering and the moral posing on the left. It's all well and good to write essays proving the accusations are scurrilous, but sometimes you need to, as Obama said, punch back twice as hard. Like a football team that's down by 17, you've got to have those deep threats who can take post patterns to the house. I want someone who's going to flip them the bird, loudly and in public. I want a George Carlin or a Lenny Bruce.

Milo has been unique in this. On the left, there's Colbert, Stewart, the View and on and on. Vapid, ignorant, one-sided bigots, all of them. Until Breitbart and then Milo, we had nothing. Sure, we've got Ben Shapiro who is a once-in-a-generation talent at shredding people in debates with cold, cruel logic, but he's not charming. Andrew and Jonah are funny, but they're not brutal, they're not going to make you pump your fist. Milo is that missing piece.

People make purchasing decisions based on emotions, not logic. If you can't engage their hearts, you're not going to be a good salesman. Yes, you have to have a good product with clear benefits, but if that's all you've got, your sales will remain modest. Combine a great product with an engaging sales campaign and you're in business. Brilliant essays in the National Review are great product, but they don't capture the heart.

Andrew is right, you've got to engage in the culture war. National Review and Ben Shapiro in debates aren't part of the culture the way Jon Stewart was. Milo took that spot. Yes, he's a provocateur and a nut, yes he's damaged goods and has serious issues, yes to all of that and more. So what? He finally punched back in a way that made you laugh. He was absolutely brutal on stage in a way that was flamboyant, stylish and crazy. He was entertaining. You wanted to see more. You dialed in to his YouTube videos because you wanted to see what nutty things he was going to say today.

Now that Milo's on the injured reserve, so to speak, who's going to play that role?

Milo, taking it to the house.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Prayer And Abstinence Are Easy

... with the right motivation.

Life is a series of linked stories with you as the hero. Some episodes are plodding and some are filled with action and adventure. No adventure story takes place in the middle of a patch of mundane life. "Harry ate his corn flakes and read the newspaper before leaving for work that day," followed by seven chapters of similar prose isn't found in any Tom Clancy novels.

Of all the demands of Christian life, I've always found prayer and abstinence the hardest. I hate the repetitive and daily prayer is just that. If one beer is good, two must be better is my life's motto. There's more beside that, but you can see where it's going. I've vowed to change and struggled with these things, but never successfully for long, despite research and plans and many, many different approaches. My motivations have always been too inchoate to drive the plot very far.

I blogged a while back about a recovered alcoholic friend of mine who told me that you give up addictions (or, in this case, sloth and vice), when faced with a choice between the vice and something you love more. That's where the adventure story really gets going.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday on the phone, his wife, speaking to mine, broke down and begged us to pray for him. I didn't know it was all that serious until then. Life was going on as normal and John just needed some surgery and maybe a bit of radiation. I was back from Paso with a case of excellent micro-brews, looking forward to more sloth and self-indulgence. So much for that.

I don't see prayer and abstinence as a negotiating tool, a lever to be used with God to force Him to do something for me. Instead, it's an acknowledgement of need. He knows what kinds of creatures we are; He formed us. I don't know where prayer and sacrifice for my friend going to lead, only that it must be done. Perhaps it ends with a cure, perhaps with growing closer to Christ. It's the turn in the adventure story where the hero has to make a choice and take action to achieve some kind of a good ending out of a bad situation.

Sometimes, we sneer at people who take up religious activities only when crises hit, but isn't that the nature of an adventure story? Would we criticize Han Solo for reading a book in bed instead of prowling around the Millenium Falcon with his gun drawn when there's absolutely nothing happening? We'd think it was silly and way over-wrought. Well, this isn't over-wrought, it's serious. It's a call to action in a way my vague desires to pray and abstain weren't.

Doctors, nurses and Big Pharma will take corporeal action to help my friend. Their adventure stories will be filled with deeds. Mine will be the spiritual quest of purification for John's sake. Life has taken a turn and an adventure story has begun.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some Travel Advice

We just got back from a fun, long weekend in Paso Robles / Cambria. We drank wine in Paso, but stayed at a house in Cambria. Here are two recommendations.

First, bring a big, cast-iron skillet with you. I brought my largest, a 15" monster. You can never trust the homeowners who rent through VRBO to have decent cookware and since food is so critical to a good time, it pays to bring your own. A single one will do, no need to bring a bunch of them. We ended up using mine for every breakfast and dinner. Since we drove, packing it was no big deal.

Sadly, the house had an electric stove instead of gas and even the big cast iron couldn't distribute the heat just right. Still, it did the job better than just about anything else could. One of those dreadful, thin, metal skillets would have just burned everything.

Sauteeing shrooms in the big, cast-iron brute. Note the horrid electric stove.
Second, on your first morning, make a bunch of bacon and store the grease in a small bowl in the fridge for later use. There's nothing like cooking with bacon grease, but it's silly to bring it with you or buy it. We did this and then I used it to make a wonderful sausage, shrimp and crab gumbo the last night. Spectacular!

There. That's it for now. A pair of tips for your next trip. Bon apetit!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Little Bit About Milo

So Milo Yiannopoulis, the gay, conservative, comic troll, was invited to speak at CPAC. When it was revealed he seemed to have endorsed pedophilia, the invitation was rescinded. His meteoric career flamed out in a matter of 48 hours.

I've always liked Milo because he poked fun at stuck-up prigs, something comics used to do. Now many of the comics are the stuck-up prigs. I've always been leery of Milo because you felt he was walking on the edge of a volcano. He would dramatically hint at the details of his personal life, but it didn't make you want to see more, it made you wince and wonder if this was the time the volcano was going to erupt.

Well, this time it did.

Milo is such a well-known figure in political circles by now that his last name is almost superfluous, like Cher's. His antics have drawn out violent, stuck-up prigs at universities across the country, revealing them for the humorless, sour, ugly, dull-witted thugs that they are. He drew them out into the open and we all opened fire with gales of derisive laughter. It was glorious.

Despite my affection for him, I think it's a mistake to rush to draw parallels and accuse the left of hypocrisy for the piling on they're doing over this self-destruction. Milo deserves it and that fact stands alone. Instead, I'd suggest there's another lesson that not many people are learning.

By fetishizing "disadvantaged" groups, we seem to be whitewashing their sins away at the same time. Black lives matter until the black lives are ones wrecked by other blacks, as they are in ghastly numbers. See also: black family, destruction of. It's a pathology that dare not speak its name.

Similarly, we've turned our eyes from the troubles of the gay community. Promiscuity, violence and more, we don't just deny that they exist, to even raise them as issues is to put a target on your chest for cries of "Homophobia!" (Just what is fearful about concern for others is beyond me.) Wasn't Milo destroyed by one of the things we fear is going on behind the scenes in the gay community? In the interview that wrecked his career, he suggested that it's somewhat common. Is it real? Is it not? Who knows, we're not allowed to even discuss it.

Yes, the left has been totally hypocritical about this. The right is, too, when the shoe's on the other foot. That's what political groups do. Milo, however, isn't just a political weapon. He's a person.

The whole thing reminds me of the times when an NFL player turns out to have been beating his wife or sleeping around and leaving bastard children in his wake. We always deal with the individual as if he's asymptomatic when he might not be.

Oh well. At least we can get back to the real conversation that we all want to have. Pointing political fingers and yelling.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Donald Trump Caused The Swedish Riots

... that much is certain. But how? That's the question on my mind. What was the mechanism for it?

You wake up in the morning with a bunch of things to do for the day. You need to clean out the rain gutters and Aysha has asked you to go to the store and pick up a new hijab, size 52. Since the woman's body is completely covered, there's no real point in her watching her diet and not putting on the tonnage. Mohammed, why didn't you think of that, you wonder, semi-blasphemously.

After school, little Achmed has soccer practice and Fatima has a piano recital next week and she's been struggling with the bridge part of the composition. If you don't sit with her while she plays, she has a tendency to daydream and nothing gets done. And then, of course, is the meeting of the Library Guild. Since translating books into Arabic is pointless (those infidels know nothing of value), it's more of an honorary post than a practical one, but still, the meeting must be attended.

Sitting with your morning coffee, you read that Donald Trump, president of the United States of America, said there was some kind of disturbance in Sweden, thanks to Muslim immigrants like yourself.

At this point, things become a bit hazy. All you know is that you come back to your senses a few hours later and find yourself standing near a Volvo that's engulfed in flames, you've got dirt and scratches on your hands, a mask over your face and your eyes are watering from tear gas.

It's a mystery alright. Something for science to solve.

Maybe the same folks who are studying Global Cooling Global Warming Climate Change can take a break from their work and look into it. It sounds like it would be right up their alley.

Paso Robles Vineyard

This might be my favorite shot from our trip. I tried cropping out the road, but didn't like the results nearly as much. I feel like the asphalt gives a foundation for the scene. In any case, I left it really large, so it might be worth a click. Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Easiest Way To Put An End To The Crazy Student Loan Problem

... would be to teach kids about debt in school.

I learned to avoid debt from my father. We taught it to our kids. None of them have a cent of student loan debt. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has gone debt-mad for degrees, many of which will never pay off. Why weren't these kids taught to weigh costs and benefits in high school?

Possibly because the student loan racket is a ginormous gravy train for the education industry.

Here's an excellent, related essay.