Published on 2 Jan 2016
Indy is answering your questions about the First World War again and this time we are talking about the neutrality of Greece, the accuracy of Blackadder Goes Forth and the contribution of Asia and Africa.
January 10, 2016
December 23, 2015
Gregg Easterbrook receives the perfect, perfect holiday letter:
Don’t you hate boastful holidays letters about other people’s fascinating lives and perfect children? Below is one Nan and I received last week.
What a lucky break the CEO sent his personal jet to pick me up from Istanbul; there’s plenty of room, since I have the entire aircraft to myself, to take out the laptop and write our annual holiday letter. Just let me ask the attendant for a better vintage of champagne, and I’ll begin.
It’s been another utterly hectic year for Chad and I and our remarkable children, yet nurturing and horizon-expanding. It’s hard to know where the time goes. Well, a lot of it is spent in the car.
Rachel is in her senior year at Pinnacle-Upon-Hilltop Academy, and it seems just yesterday she was being pushed around in the stroller by our British nanny. Rachel placed first this fall in the state operatic arias competition. Chad was skeptical when I proposed hiring a live-in voice tutor on leave from the Lyric Opera, but it sure paid off! Rachel’s girls’ volleyball team lost in the semifinals owing to totally unfair officiating, but as I have told her, she must learn to overcome incredible hardship in life.
Now the Big Decision looms — whether to take the early admission offer from Harvard or spend a year at Julliard. Plus the whole back of her Mercedes is full of dance-company brochures as she tries to decide about the summer.
Nicholas is his same old self, juggling the karate lessons plus basketball, soccer, French horn, debate club, archeology field trips, poetry-writing classes and his volunteer work. He just got the Yondan belt, which usually requires nine years of training after the Shodan belt, but prodigies can do it faster, especially if (not that I really believe this!) they are reincarnated deities.
Modeling for Gap cuts into Nick’s schoolwork, but how could I deprive others of the chance to see him? His summer with Outward Bound in the Andes was a big thrill, especially when all the expert guides became disoriented and he had to lead the party out. But you probably read about that in the newspapers.
What can I say regarding our Emily? She’s just been reclassified as EVVSUG&T — “Extremely Very Very Super Ultra Gifted and Talented.” The preschool retained a full-time teacher solely for her, to keep her challenged. Educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against the gifted anymore, not like when I was young.
Yesterday Rachel sold her first still-life. It was shown at one of the leading galleries without the age of the artist disclosed. The buyers were thrilled when they learned!
Then there was the arrival of our purebred owczarek nizinny puppy. He’s the little furry guy in the enclosed family holiday portrait by Annie Leibovitz. Because our family mission statement lists cultural diversity as a core value, we named him Mandela.
Chad continues to prosper and blossom. He works a few hours a day and spends the rest of the time supervising restoration of the house — National Trust for Historic Preservation rules are quite strict. Corporate denial consulting is a perfect career niche for Chad. Fortune 500 companies call him all the time. There’s a lot to deny, and Chad is good at it.
Me? Oh, I do this and that. I feel myself growing and flowering as a change agent. I yearn to empower the stakeholders. This year I was promoted to COO and invited to the White House twice, but honestly, beading in the evening means just as much to me. I was sorry I had to let Carmen go on the same day I brought home my $14.6 million bonus, but she had broken a Flora Danica platter and I caught her making a personal call.
Chad and I got away for a week for a celebration of my promotion. We rented this quaint five-star villa on the Corsican coast. Just to ourselves — we bought out all 40 rooms so it would be quiet and contemplative and we could ponder rising above materialism.
Our family looks to the New Year for rejuvenation and enrichment. Chad and I will be taking the children to Steamboat Springs over spring break, then in June I take the girls to Paris, Rome and Seville while Chad and Nicholas accompany Richard Gere to Tibet.
Then the kids are off to camps in Maine, and before we know it, we will be packing two cars to drive Rachel’s things to college. And of course I don’t count Davos or Sundance or all the routine excursions.
I hope your year has been as interesting as ours.
Jennifer, Chad, Rachel, Nicholas & Emily
(The above is inspired by a satirical Christmas letter I did for The New Republic a decade ago. I figure it’s OK to recycle a joke once every 10 years.)
December 19, 2015
Published on 16 Dec 2015
Vader keeps texting Leia, while Ben continues his quest for the Pickaxe of Cortez. Jack Black, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader guest.
December 12, 2015
Duffelblog usually comes up with wild and wacky variations on real military topics that are so way-out-there that even Second Lieutenants (and a few Captains) can often tell that they’re satire. This, on the other hand, is one where it’s hard to determine if there’s any satirical content at all:
“His mistake was announcing facts,” Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper (Ret.) said. “When faced with facts contrary to what the military and Congress wants, the facts must be changed. It’s standard procedure.”
Van Riper was speaking from experience. In 2002 he was the opposing general in the 2002 Millennium Challenge, where he led an inferior foe to victory against American forces. The exercise was started over with rule changes to ensure Van Riper could not win again.
“Politicians want wars to be won with progressive politics and technology made by contractors who donate to their campaigns,” Van Riper said. “Contractors were pitching technology to stop IEDs but war games showed more recon flights searching for people planting IEDs were a better solution. We destroyed those results so we might get some cool laser cannons or something.”
Not all negative results are suppressed. A study found that despite an Army Optimism Program, 52 percent of soldiers had low morale. The Army took quick action to solve this problem by lowering the threshold of what it considered an unhappy soldier. Now only 9 percent of soldiers have low morale.
Pretending a problem doesn’t exist has become the DoD standard, according to senior defense officials. In fact, according to data released by the Secretary of Defense’s office, dozens of commendations have been awarded to commanders in recent years for redefining success. The award, called the “Silver Lining Star” is generally given to leaders who have “made lemonade when life gives you lemons.”
December 9, 2015
Published on 4 Dec 2015
Just in time for the holidays, The Star Wars Libertarian Special features Senate filibusters, border patrol stops, eminent domain, a guest appearance by Edward Snowden, and rarely seen footage from Chewbacca’s galaxy-trotting documentary series about free-market economics.
About 3 minutes.
Written by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton. Featuring Andrew Heaton and Austin Bragg. Produced by Austin Bragg and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Austin Bragg.
This parody is not affiliated with the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), though you should watch it if you haven’t already.
November 1, 2015
Published on 26 Oct 2015
Whether your team wins or loses, this is what the press conference sounds like after the game. Every time.
October 31, 2015
Uploaded on 8 Oct 2006
This recut of the Disney classic Mary Poppins was made by myself, Christopher Rule
This contains the musical piece “A Violent Attack” composed by Caine Davidson for the film An American Haunting, “Stay Awake” written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman for Disney’s Mary Poppins, and stock sounds from iMovie. Clips filmed with a Panasonic MiniDV camera and edited on iMovie.
***** Please do not support the low-quality versions other people have uploaded to their channels against YouTube’s policy. Thanks to all! *****
October 30, 2015
After the fiancée-punching scandal the NFL suffered this fall, the league is working on an anti-domestic-violence campaign; a new public-service announcement featuring about two dozen pro footballers debuted this Thursday during the Chargers–Broncos game. But the question persists: How can the NFL paint itself as progressive while it permits one of its franchises to use a patently offensive team name? Calling a team “the Vikings” is grotesquely insensitive to everyone concerned about domestic abuse. Minnesota might as well call its team “the Pillagers” or “the Rapists.”
Of course, the public’s attitude toward Vikings has changed over the years. According to a piece in The Spectator by Melanie McDonagh, “the Vikings-as-peaceful-traders approach has now been academic orthodoxy for two generations.” But according to an Aberdeen University historian named David Dumville, whom the piece quotes, “We’re being invited to forget vast amounts.” Dumville “puts the fashion for cuddly Vikings squarely down to ‘Swedish war guilt about not participating in the [second world] war and American political correctness.’” In fact, McDonagh writes, “the Vikings’ cruelty and joy in battle put them in a class of their own.” Per the article’s title, “the Vikings really were that bad.” And according to the Huffington Post, new research done at the University of Oslo suggests that Vikings’ slaves and sex slaves would be beheaded and buried with their deceased masters. Is the NFL promoting rape culture?
Josh Gelernter, “Cleaning up the NFL”, National Review, 2014-10-25.
September 13, 2015
In The New Yorker, Joe Keohane gives us an updated, modernized version of William Golding’s 1954 book:
By the time Ralph finished blowing the conch, a large crowd had formed.
“Well, then,” he said, clearing his throat. “First rule: we can’t have everyone talking at once.”
Jack was on his feet. “We’ll have rules!” he yelled excitedly. “Lots of rules!”
Ralph explained, “We need to have ‘hands up,’ like at school. Then I’ll pass the conch.”
“Conch?” someone asked.
“That’s what this shell’s called,” Ralph said. “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it while he’s speaking. And he won’t be interrupted, except by me.”
“Just because we’re stranded doesn’t give you the right to use non-inclusive language,” Jack said.
The littluns muttered in assent.
“Uh, O.K.,” Ralph said. “So he or she can hold this conch when he or she is …”
“He or she,” a littlun cried, “imposes a binary view of sexuality that excludes the gender-non-conforming.”
“I feel unsafe!” Percival whimpered.
“O.K.,” Ralph said. “During assembly, any person who holds the conch—”
“Excuse me,” Roger began, “remind us again why you get to interrupt us even if you don’t have the conch?”
“Because I’m the chief,” Ralph said. “I was chosen.”
“I didn’t vote for you,” Roger said, with a frown.
“We had a vote. The majority rules.”
“Oh, that’s brilliant — the majority,” Jack scoffed. The littluns tittered. “If anything, that means you have even less of a right to interrupt than we do!” Jack faced the others. “If you agree with me, wiggle your fingers.”
They wiggled their fingers.
“Look, I’m trying to get us rescued by the grownups,” Ralph said, gesturing toward a plane that had been circling the island for some time, and now seemed to be flying away.
“You are speaking from a position of privilege,” Jack said, “so you have no right to criticize us or tell us what to do.”
September 12, 2015
“Well if you want to be greener perhaps we could look at carbon offsets.”
“Carbon Offsets,” I say, working up a head of steam, “are dumb. I could word it better than that but it’s so dumb that the people that support it wouldn’t understand those words.”
“What’s wrong with carbon offsets?”
“Analogy-wise, paying someone in South America to grow trees so that I can burn trees is a bit like me paying someone in Uganda 10 quid to be good to someone else so that the PFY can punch you and the Boss here in the face.”
“I think that’s being rather simplistic — carbon offsets will negate the harm you do in the shorter term while you look for better alternatives,” says the Architect.
“Yes, but it doesn’t cancel it out geographically. If that were the case I could pay someone in Africa to filter water while I pee in your bathtub!”
“They could pay me to do their carbon offsets,” the PFY suggests.
“You don’t have sustainable forestry plantations,” the Architect blurts.
“Yes I do, I have acres of them in Scotland,” the PFY lies.
“Are they CDM approved?”
“So I could actually go and see them?”
“Absolutely. In fact I would insist upon it. You, me, possibly the Boss, a shovel, some lime — it would make a great day out!”
It appears stupidity does know some bounds as our greenie takes on a little of the colour after doing some mental arithmetic.
“I think we’ll just stick to the original plan.”
“Well, have at it, maestro!” I say, gesturing for the PFY that it’s time to be moving on.
“Nutters!” the PFY says as we exit the meeting room.
“No,” the Boss says. “It’s very important to the board. They want to be carbon-neutral by 2040.”
“You mean after they’re all dead — with some token greenification stuff to happen in the next 20 years and all the major changes left till the last few years?” I suggest. “I’m surprised they even stumped up the cash for the consultation.”
“Oh, they didn’t,” the Boss says. “Our director put up 70k of our equipment budget, given that IT is one of the highest power consumers.”
“70k — of OUR budget you mean.”
“It’s not really your money, it’s the company’s!”
. . .
Ten minutes later I’m sending 100 quid to Uganda and the PFY to the Director’s office…
Simon Travaglia, “BOFH: On the PFY’s Scottish estate, no one can hear you scream…”, The Register, 2014-03-21.
September 8, 2015
The Rambling Redhead offers wine pairing advice for parents:
1. Riesling pairs perfectly with an explosive poopy diaper.
If your newborn baby had an explosive bowel movement, leaving your hands literally shit-stained from the yellow substance we call “poop”, we suggest chugging a glass of Riesling immediately. Riesling is refreshing, tends to be sweet and has a low acidity level. You’ve handled enough liquid that smelled of pure acid today, so kick back and enjoy this smooth, light wine that usually possesses the smell of apples. How lovely.
2. Chardonnay goes great with a middle schooler’s attitude adjustment.
If your middle-school child, let’s call her Megan, gave you non-stop attitude today and yelled the words, “You’re the worst parent ever!” or “Why can’t you be cool, like Addison’s mom?!” then you would most likely benefit from a good buzz. We recommend Chardonnay for your drinking pleasure this evening. Chardonnay has been described as tasting sweet like various melons and has a subtle creaminess. Subtle creaminess sounds divine. Megan’s insults sound annoying.
5. Pinot Noir goes well with dented or scratched vehicles.
If your teenager was involved in a minor “fender-bender” today (aka – she backed her new car into your car that was parked in the driveway) then we recommend a Pinot Noir. This wine is very delicate and fresh, unlike your daughter, whose sole purpose in life seems to be attempting to destroy all of the cars you own. The tannins in this wine are very soft, making it the opposite of bitter. Nobody needs a dry wine when their daughter is constantly participating in a real-life game of bumper cars…. you’re already bitter enough, thanks to her.
September 4, 2015
I must admit, I have read neither Biden’s memoir nor Dole’s preamble to full erectile function. But I think that the vice president may have a great book in him — not Grant’s memoirs great, but pretty great. I dream of Joe Biden’s writing a postmodern surrealist political manifesto titled Literally Delaware: This Book Has No Subtitle, which I suspect would be colorful reading inasmuch as in his role as under-cretin to the World’s Most Powerful Man™ he has access to the 152-color “Ultimate” Crayola set, though presumably he is allowed to use the included sharpener only under adult supervision. The book would be available only at stores in Amtrak stations and should be read only on the train, a piece of locative literature.
Kevin D. Williamson, “A Plague of Memoirs: A courageously awesome American story of awesomely American courage”, National Review, 2014-10-06.
August 21, 2015
It’s a tough life as a modern day satire writer, as what seems outrageously funny one day becomes news one short news cycle later. Here’s Duffelblog doing their best to get out ahead of the breaking news about Donald Trump’s GOP campaign:
Opinion: Everyone In The Military Is A Coward
The following is an op-ed written by Donald Trump, a candidate for President of the United States.
That’s right, I said it. All of you in the military and your veteran brothers and sisters are a bunch of cowards. More than that, you’re a bunch of damn pussies. I’m not telling you something we don’t all know — I just have the balls to say it. Pure titanium. Made in America. Patent pending.
Let’s look at your track record. You’ve been in Afghanistan over twice as long as that loser McCain spent being a bitch in Hanoi, and you still haven’t won the war.
Iraq is more fucked up than it was before we invaded. You burned children in Vietnam, and you still couldn’t win that war. At least there were whores in Vietnam, but you wouldn’t catch me dead there. The only whores I bang are grade-A Phillies.
In fact, when has America ever won a war? Don’t try and tell me World War II. Russia won that shit, and we had to drop an A-bomb because your pansy asses couldn’t finish the job. “The Greatest Generation?” Please. Those assholes got half a million Americans killed. I like drones that win.
And then Tamara K. linked to this in her Twitter feed:
August 19, 2015
… usually these books are simply campaign documents or, in the case of Wendy Davis’s Forgetting to Be Afraid: A Memoir, résumés for candidates who have suffered a crushing defeat or expect to suffer a crushing defeat, offering a rationale for keeping themselves in the game.
I have heard more than one thoughtful political observer lament the fact that Bill Clinton is constitutionally incapable of writing an honest book — given the man’s intelligence, his charm, and his genuinely dramatic life’s story, he might very well have written a real work of literature. But politics suffers from the same tendency toward dishonesty that U. S. Grant attributed to war: Political careers “produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.” How many Americans still to this day believe that John Ashcroft draped a statue of Justice because he was scandalized by her bare, aluminum breast, or that he fears that calico cats are emissaries of Satan?
But, as Neil deGrasse Tyson demonstrates, in politics the truth rarely gets in the way of a good story. If ever I run for office — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — I will title my memoir Awesome American Courage: My Courageously Awesome American Story of Awesomely American Courage. Never mind that I’ve never done anything particularly awesome or courageous; Wendy Davis never really had much to forget to be afraid of, either, except, possibly, the voters.
Kevin D. Williamson, “A Plague of Memoirs: A courageously awesome American story of awesomely American courage”, National Review, 2014-10-06.
August 11, 2015
John Seed forces some great artists of the past to describe their work as if they were modern artists:
“If the great European artists of the past were alive today, what kinds of statements would they need to write to explain and justify their work?”
This summer I asked myself that question over two dozen times for a small, humor book that I have been developing. I hope you will find the sampling of seven statements below funny and even a bit poetic. Five of them were written specifically for Hyperallergic and two are from my new book.
H/T to Never Yet Melted for the link.