If you trust in yourself … and believe in your dreams … and follow your star … you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.
Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men, 2003.
September 28, 2016
September 21, 2016
… I am conceding that by the standards of today, my parents’ behavior would be considered irresponsible. Actually, “irresponsible” is not a strong enough word. By the standards of today, my parents and their friends were crazy. A great many activities they considered to be perfectly OK — hitchhiking; or driving without seat belts; or letting a child go trick-or-treating without a watchful parent hovering within 8 feet, ready to pounce if the child is given a potentially lethal item such as an apple; or engaging in any form of recreation more strenuous than belching without wearing a helmet — are now considered to be insanely dangerous. By the standards of today, the main purpose of human life is to eliminate all risk so that human life will last as long as humanly possible, no matter how tedious it gets.
And the list of things we’re not supposed to do anymore gets longer all the time. I recently encountered an article headlined:
IS YOUR HANDSHAKE AS DANGEROUS AS SMOKING?
The answer, in case you are a complete idiot, is: Of course your handshake is as dangerous as smoking. The article explains that handshakes transmit germs, which cause diseases such as MERS. MERS stands for “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome,” a fatal disease that may have originated in camels. This is yet another argument, as if we needed one, against shaking hands with camels. But the article suggests that we should consider not shaking hands with anybody.
If you could travel back in time to one of my parents’ parties and interrupt the singing to announce to the guests that shaking hands could transmit germs and therefore they should stop doing it, they would laugh so hard they’d drop their cigarettes into their drinks. They were just not as into worrying as we are today.
And it wasn’t just cigarettes and alcohol they didn’t worry about. They also didn’t worry that there might be harmful chemicals in the water that they drank right from the tap. They didn’t worry that if they threw their trash into the wrong receptacle, they were killing baby polar bears and hastening the extinction of the human race. They didn’t worry about consuming trans fats, gluten, fructose, and all the other food components now considered so dangerous they could be used to rob a bank (“Give him the money! He’s got gluten!”).
Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.
September 19, 2016
Look at Mad Men, the widely acclaimed TV series about Madison Avenue in the ’60s. (It starts back up April 5.) One of the things the show is acclaimed for is its authenticity, which is significant because, if the show really is authentic, then people in the advertising industry back then spent roughly 90% of their time smoking, drinking or having extramarital sex.
If Mad Men really is authentic, it explains much about the TV commercials of my childhood, which, in terms of intellectual content, make the commercials of today look like Citizen Kane. Back then many commercials featured a Male Authority Figure in the form of an actor pretending to be a doctor or scientist. Sometimes, to indicate how authoritative he was, he wore a white lab coat. The Male Authority Figure usually spoke directly to the camera, sometimes using charts or diagrams to explain important scientific facts, such as that certain brands of cigarettes could actually soothe your throat, or that Anacin could stop all three known medical causes of headaches:
1. Electrical bolts inside your head.
2. A big coiled spring inside your head.
3. A hammer pounding inside your head.
Another standard character in those old commercials was the Desperately Insecure Housewife, who was portrayed by an actress in a dress. The Desperately Insecure Housewife always had some hideous inadequacy as a homemaker — her coffee was bitter, her laundry detergent was ineffective against stains, etc. She couldn’t even escape to the bathroom without being lectured on commode sanitation by a tiny man rowing a rowboat around inside her toilet tank.
Even back then, everybody thought these commercials were stupid. But it wasn’t until years later, when I started watching Mad Men, that I realized why they were so stupid: The people making them were so drunk they had the brain functionality of road salt.
Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.
September 16, 2016
A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.
H.L. Mencken, quoted in LIFE magazine, Vol. 21, No. 6, 1946-08-05.
September 13, 2016
Most leaders let their people do their thing, watch them, critique them, and then train them some more so when the time comes, you feel confident in knowing you can do your job. The second lieutenant you’re following might get your whole fucking platoon killed, but you know your job, and because of that you’ll know what to do when the L-T walks out of the tent to take a piss and ends up in a minefield.*
* I actually had a lieutenant get lost at night walking out of the tent to go piss and walked in to a simulated minefield at JRTC (big Army playground, essentially) once during a field exercise. Never leave lieutenants unsupervised, kids. Ever.
Because lieutenants, man.
Ted Glover, “Your Moment Of Zim Tzu: Startless In Seattle”, Daily Norseman, 2016-08-19.
September 10, 2016
Published on 7 Sep 2016
Their mission: to seek out new life and new civilizations, and leave them alone. Trade with them if they want, but mostly leave them the hell alone.
In honor of Star Trek‘s 50th Anniversary, Reason presents the Libertarian parody of the final frontier, with appearances by Gary Johnson and Remy.
Written and produced by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton. Shot and edited by Bragg and Bragg.
September 3, 2016
Tamara Keel says that if you carry a gun, you should get into the habit of carrying it all the time:
[…] It’s a safety thing, too. If you just put the gun on in the morning and leave it there all day, it eliminates a lot of unnecessary administrative gun-handling, and as anybody who’s ever looked around the walls of the sally ports, locker rooms, and restrooms of the local cop shop can tell you, unnecessary administrative gun handling is when most of the unnecessary loud noises happen.
Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner.
I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every 24 hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home – and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed – breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert……. Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next 24 hours, and at least one source of good music….… All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.
Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’76: Third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous — hanging with Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and a bottle of Wild Turkey”, Rolling Stone, 1976-06-03.
September 1, 2016
I recently heard someone describe themselves as “post-Zionist”, then go on to give what sounded like pretty standard criticism of Zionism. I don’t want to get too heavily into this particular example, because I understand post-Zionism is complex and every time I write something about Israel I get Israeli commenters saying I’ve gotten it wrong and other Israeli commenters saying no they’ve gotten it wrong and still other Israeli commenters saying we’ve all got it wrong. What was that saying about “two Jews, three opinions” again?
But what bothers me about post-Zionism is that it seems to carry this kind of smug “Oh, you guys are still Zionist? Don’t you know Zionism is, like, totally five years ago? Nowadays all the cool people have moved on to more exciting things,” which I don’t think really adds to the argument. Zionism versus anti-Zionism suggests a picture of two sides with two different opinions – which seems to match the reality pretty well. Zionism versus post-Zionism suggests one side just hasn’t gotten the message yet.
I feel the same way about post-rationalism. Yes, maybe you’ve seen through rationalism in some profound way and transcended it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. This is exactly the point under debate, and naming yourselves “post-rationalists” seems like an attempt to short-circuit it, not to mention leaving everyone else confused. And maybe you could give yourself a name that actually reflected your beliefs (“Kind Of New-Age-y People Who Are Better At Math Than Usual For That Demographic And Will Angrily Deny Being New-Age-y If Asked Directly”?) and we wouldn’t have to have a new “but what is post-rationalism?!?!” conversation every month.
Post-modernism can stay, though. At this point it’s less of a name than a warning label.
Scott Alexander, “These Are A Few (More) Of My (Least) Favourite Things”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-01-21.
August 31, 2016
Published on 29 Aug 2016
Remy is back to highlight what CNN considers news.
Written and performed by Remy. Music Mastered by Ben Karlstrom. Shot and Edited by Austin Bragg.
About 2 minutes.
Subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material go live.
Finally, what has gotten into Russia’s top Olympian?
More on that later as we yield for Breaking News.
Ed? Thank You.
Breaking news that’s horribly tragic
and if your children are watching, we warn you, it’s graphic
our lead story tonight atop the report
was Donald Trump eating chicken with a knife and a fork?
Plus, this Trump supporter is 11 years old
so what are his thoughts on the — are you reading the scroll?
who he thinks is best fit to lead us
and would he have voted for Obamacare he was a fetus?
Look, I really don’t mean to step on your staging
but it seems like there’s war and some battles are raging
reporting the news — is that not our vow?
You know what, you’re right. I’ll cover it now
Well the war continues (yes!) on Twitter as planned (no…)
between Donald Trump and a Littleton man
The fighting is fierce, no sight of the end
follow it all on our app — you’re watching CNN
What I mean’s while we’re reading these trivial mysteries
people are dying, we’re losing our liberties
They’re inside our…wow…isn’t that banned?
Inside our hardware. I understand.
They could be in your phone at this very moment
Pokemons! This town is Pokemon Go-ing
Plus, this expensive beer — how hoppy’s the taste?
Fareed Zakaria is here to copy and paste.
Look, I really just think that there’s stuff that we missed
Like, holy crap, is that true? Does that list exist?
Cover the news. Shake up the ranks.
Yes! Do that. I’d lost my way. Thanks.
Well it’s a hidden document upon which fates swing
Fortune cookie fortunes — who’s writing those things!?
Plus, a man with no parachute just took a dive
in today’s most newsworthy instance of one flung from the sky
I know this is tough so forgive the belittling
Rome is engulfed and we’re sitting here fiddling
executive orders, economy stuttering
these are the stories we’re sitting here covering?
War in Afghanistan, hurt in Iraq
you’d need $5 foot-longs for Turkey this bad
Can we cut his mic?
Well, the war on whistleblowers continued today
we’ll update the condition of that Little League referee
Plus, it took the Olympics by storm, but what is it like to cup someone?
Josh Duggar is in the studio…
August 30, 2016
Local boosters frequently argue that the Olympics will produce a wave — a veritable tsunami — of economic benefits. The reality, as the Economist says, is that “prudent city governments should avoid the contests at all costs.” This does not really capture it. Prudent city governments should run screaming from any proposals to host the Olympics, and napalm the spot where the proposals were found, just to be safe.
Megan McArdle, “The Olympics Don’t Have to Be a Disaster”, Bloomberg News, 2016-08-10.
August 28, 2016
The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effects must be plain enough to everyone. All it accomplishes is (a) to throw a veil of sanctity about ideas that violate every intellectual decency, and (b) to make every theologian a sort of chartered libertine. No doubt it is mainly to blame for the appalling slowness with which really sound notions make their way in the world. The minute a new one is launched, in whatever field, some imbecile of a theologian is certain to fall upon it, seeking to put it down. The most effective way to defend it, of course, would be to fall upon the theologian, for the only really workable defense, in polemics as in war, is a vigorous offensive. But the convention that I have mentioned frowns upon that device as indecent, and so theologians continue their assault upon sense without much resistance, and the enlightenment is unpleasantly delayed.
There is, in fact, nothing about religious opinions that entitles them to any more respect than other opinions get. On the contrary, they tend to be noticeably silly. If you doubt it, then ask any pious fellow of your acquaintance to put what he believes into the form of an affidavit, and see how it reads … “I, John Doe, being duly sworn, do say that I believe that, at death, I shall turn into a vertebrate without substance, having neither weight, extent nor mass, but with all the intellectual powers and bodily sensations of an ordinary mammal; … and that, for the high crime and misdemeanor of having kissed my sister-in-law behind the door, with evil intent, I shall be boiled in molten sulphur for one billion calendar years.” Or, “I, Mary Roe, having the fear of Hell before me, do solemnly affirm and declare that I believe it was right, just, lawful and decent for the Lord God Jehovah, seeing certain little children of Beth-el laugh at Elisha’s bald head, to send a she-bear from the wood, and to instruct, incite, induce and command it to tear forty-two of them to pieces.” Or, “I, the Right Rev._____ _________, Bishop of _________,D.D., LL.D., do honestly, faithfully and on my honor as a man and a priest, declare that I believe that Jonah swallowed the whale,” or vice versa, as the case may be. No, there is nothing notably dignified about religious ideas. They run, rather, to a peculiarly puerile and tedious kind of nonsense. At their best, they are borrowed from metaphysicians, which is to say, from men who devote their lives to proving that twice two is not always or necessarily four. At their worst, they smell of spiritualism and fortune telling. Nor is there any visible virtue in the men who merchant them professionally. Few theologians know anything that is worth knowing, even about theology, and not many of them are honest. One may forgive a Communist or a Single Taxer on the ground that there is something the matter with his ductless glands, and that a Winter in the south of France would relieve him. But the average theologian is a hearty, red-faced, well-fed fellow with no discernible excuse in pathology. He disseminates his blather, not innocently, like a philosopher, but maliciously, like a politician. In a well-organized world he would be on the stone-pile. But in the world as it exists we are asked to listen to him, not only politely, but even reverently, and with our mouths open.
H.L. Mencken, The American Mercury, 1930-03; first printed, in part, in the Baltimore Evening Sun, 1929-12-09.
August 24, 2016
Looking back, I think my parents had more fun than I did.
That’s not how it was supposed to be. My parents belonged to the Greatest Generation; they grew up in hard times. My mom was born in Colorado in an actual sod hut, which is the kind of structure you see in old black-and-white photographs featuring poor, gaunt, prairie-dwelling people standing in front of what is either a small house or a large cow pie, staring grimly at the camera with the look of people who are thinking that their only hope of survival might be to eat the photographer. A sod hut is basically a house made out of compressed dirt. If you were to thoroughly vacuum one, it would cease to exist.
My mom, like my dad, and millions of other members of the Greatest Generation, had to contend with real adversity: the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, hunger, poverty, disease, World War II, extremely low-fi 78 r.p.m. records and telephones that — incredible as it sounds today — could not even shoot video.
They managed to overcome those hardships and take America to unprecedented levels of productivity and power, which is why they truly are a great generation. But they aren’t generally considered to be a fun generation. That was supposed to be their children — my generation, the baby boomers.
We grew up in a far easier time, a time when sod was strictly for lawns. We came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, the era of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. We were cool, we were hip, we were groovy, man. We mocked the suit-wearing Establishment squares grubbing for money in their 9-to-5 jobs. We lived in communes. We went to Woodstock. We wore bell-bottom trousers, and we did not wear them ironically.
Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.
August 22, 2016
Sarah Boesveld interviews interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose:
And how’s your beer-pong game?
Are you kidding me? My beer pong game is AMAZING. We had a huge beer-pong tournament at Stornoway [in May] for the university campus clubs, and they were all in their little suits and stuff. We were like, “Take off your ties! Relax!” We set up this huge beer-pong table in the kitchen and there must have been 60 people shoved in there. I kicked BUTT. I crushed them, those poor kids. They were like, “How are you so good at beer pong?”
How are you so good at beer pong?
I said to them, “Here’s the big secret: Don’t drink the beer.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link.
August 19, 2016
No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
H.L. Mencken, “Notes On Journalism”, Chicago Tribune, 1926-09-19.