Quotulatiousness

October 14, 2017

Brexit hangover – a proposed deal for the “Remoaners”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Brendan O’Neill offers an olive branch to the Remoaners:

I propose a deal with Remoaners: Leavers will stop calling you enemies of democracy when you stop behaving like enemies of democracy. Sound good?

By Remoaners, I don’t mean the 16.1million who voted Remain, the vast majority of whom are not part of any elite, and a huge chunk of whom now accept Brexit must happen. I don’t even mean those sad people who traipse through the streets shouting ‘Brex-shit!’ and who agitate, or at least tweet, for Britain to stay in the EU: the rights to protest and speak are essential to democracy and these people must be free to fulminate for as long as they like against the democratic will. No, I mean those sections of the elite who have sworn their financial, political and institutional clout to the cause of preventing or diluting Brexit. You guys: we’ll stop calling you destroyers of democracy when you stop trying to destroy democracy, cool?

The war on Brexit – which is a war on the largest democratic mandate in British history, on the very right of the masses to decide the fate of their nation – is getting serious. For too long Leavers have had a tendency to chortle at the myriad spittle-producing haters of Brexit in business, politics, the law. But it’s not funny anymore, because they’re in the ascendancy. Not courtesy of democracy; the people have rejected their preference for oligarchy over democracy, for technocracy over debate, for expertise over the public’s opinions and beliefs. No, their rise, their influence, is built on their economic supremacy and behind-closed-doors influence, on the fact that they are wealthier, better connected and – let’s be frank – more ruthless than us, the demos.

The seriousness of this bloodless coup d’etat against Brexit has been perfectly and brutally summed up this week in the elitists’ suggestion that we revoke Article 50. Not content with seeking to wound Brexit – by, for example, suggesting we stay under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, or institute a second referendum even before Brexit has become a reality – now they’re openly calling for the whole thing to be reversed. The Observer revealed on Sunday that, contrary to what some ministers have intimated, Article 50 is revocable. This is all the proof we needed, said a QC in the Guardian, that it is ‘not too late to step back from the Brexit brink’. Translation: the plebs, the unwashed throng, took us to a political cliff edge with their strange, prejudiced passions, and now it falls to the clever, the legally minded, the rational, to put Britain back on course.

October 13, 2017

LITERATURE – George Orwell

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The School of Life
Published on 25 Nov 2016

George Orwell is the most famous English language writer of the 20th century, the author of Animal Farm and 1984. What was he trying to tell us and what is his genius?

October 12, 2017

Britain’s Old Boy Network – from “the Establishment” to “the Embarrassment”

Filed under: Britain, Government, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the media rounds supporting his new book, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power, Niall Ferguson discusses the decline and fall of the oldest power network in Britain:

It used to be that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was the United Cronydom of Great Poshhouse and Northern Grousemoor. The only network that mattered was the Old Boy Network. The OBN was formed by men who were the old boys of a tiny elite of boarding schools known as “public schools” because they were closed to the public. Most boys at those schools were scions of the aristocracy or the landed gentry: future barons and baronets.

Even if thick to the point of educational sub-normality, these young gentlemen would attend either Oxford or Cambridge. They would then be given one of the following jobs:

1. Estate manager and courtier (eldest son).

2. Foreign Office or Treasury mandarin (brightest son).

3. Cabinet minister (most extrovert son).

4. Governor of [insert Caribbean island] (youngest son).

5. BBC director-general (Left-wing son).

This is of course a caricature. In reality, there were all kinds of sub-networks — clusters — within the elite network that ran Britain. Sometimes, a brilliant group of talented young men would come together to achieve great things. There was the “Kindergarten” formed by Alfred Milner, which tried (and failed) to transform South Africa into a second Canada or Australia. There were the Apostles — the Cambridge Conversazione, the most exclusive intellectual club of all time — to which the economist John Maynard Keynes belonged.

However, with increasing frequency after 1945, the OBN’s achievements were less than brilliant. Suez. Wilson. Heath. Double-digit inflation. The three-day week. From being the winners of glittering prizes, the OBN degenerated in the eyes of a previously deferential public into the upper-class twits of the year.

In the Sixties the journalists Henry Fairlie and Anthony Sampson popularised the disdainful name that the historian A.J.P. Taylor had given the British elite: “The Establishment”. By the Seventies the Establishment were more like The Embarrassment — objects of sitcom ridicule. By the Eighties they had been almost entirely driven from the corridors of power. Nothing better illustrated this than the Thatcher governments: not only was the prime minister a woman from provincial Lincolnshire (albeit one with an Oxford degree); there were enough ministers in her Cabinet with Jewish backgrounds to inspire off-colour jokes about “Old Estonians”.

August 6, 2017

The allure of fine wines

Filed under: France, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dan Rosenheck recounts his first encounter with one of those mysterious Premier Cru wines:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So say those who have never had a whiff of 1998 Château Lafite Rothschild. In late 2011 I had been an aspiring wine connoisseur for about a year, long enough to have learned the names of the world’s most exalted beverages, but not to have tried more than a handful. Like many novices, I started out on Bordeaux, memorising the 1855 classification of the region’s reds into price tiers – called crus, or “growths” – and developing a childlike reverence for the premiers crus (“first growths”) at the top. Although there were no sub-rankings within each class, Lafite was listed first because it was the most expensive tipple in the France of Napoleon III, and my drinking buddies told me it was still considered the premier premier cru today. Chinese drinkers certainly thought so: they had bid it up at auctions to stratospheric heights after deciding, for still-obscure reasons, that Lafite and only Lafite made for an impressive gift – perhaps because its name was easy to pronounce in Mandarin, or because the estate had stuck the character for the lucky number eight on the label of its 2008 vintage.

So when a friend in the wine trade snuck me into Wine Spectator magazine’s “Grand Tasting” in New York that November, I made a beeline for the Lafite table. They were pouring the 1998: a middling harvest overall for Cabernet Sauvignon, which Messieurs Primi Inter Pares had nonetheless turned into a masterpiece. As a Frenchwoman doing her best to smile sprinkled her elixir among the parched mob, I made off with a couple of thimblefuls, and scurried to the corner of the room to stand watch over my booty.

The perfume wafted into my nostrils before I had time to lift my glass. “zomfg,” began my tasting note. (The “o”, “m” and “g” stand for “oh my God”, you can guess what the “f” is, and the “z” comes out when exuberance makes you miss the shift key.) The scents were so intense, so focused, so easy to distinguish: ripe blackcurrants quivering on the branch; cedar that conjured up a Lebanese hillside; tobacco or thyme leaves floating on the wind. How could a wine be this powerful and yet this elegant? At the tender age of 13, the 1998 Lafite did not yet offer much complexity, and its firm, astringent tannins left me puckering after every sip – the punishment a fine young Bordeaux inflicts on impatient drinkers who disturb its slumber prematurely. But oh…that smell. “I smelled this across the room,” I wrote. “I smelled this at the bar afterwards. I smelled this even when I was shoving pizza down my throat at 3am. And then I smelled it in my dream.”

My first experience of a premier cru was at an LCBO tasting in downtown Toronto. I had developed an interest in wine a few years before, so I was very excited to try some of the well-known wines for the first time. Here’s what I wrote on the old blog (no longer online) in 2008: “That’s not wine … it’s an ostentatious status symbol”

At some point, an expensive bottle of wine stops being just wine and starts being primarily a status symbol. Case in point:

    Staff were delighted at the sale and the three customers were eager to taste the £18,000 magnum of Pétrus 1961 — one of the greatest vintages of one of the greatest wines in the world — which they had reserved from the cellars several weeks before.

    Unfortunately, the guests at Zafferano in Knightsbridge proved to be a little too discerning.

    As the magnum was uncorked, they declared it to be a fake, refused to touch the bottle and sent it back.

I enjoy wine, and I’m usually able to appreciate the extra quality that goes with a higher price tag … up to a limit. The most expensive wine I’ve tasted was a $400 Chateau Margaux, which was excellent, but (to my taste anyway) not as good as a $95 bottle I sampled on the same evening (a Gevry-Chambertin). Wine is certainly subjective, so my experiences can’t be easily generalized, but I think it would be safe to say that the vast majority of wine drinkers would find that their actual appreciation of the wine tapers off beyond a certain price point.

If you normally drink $15-20 bottles of wine, you’ll certainly find that the $30-40 range will taste better and have more depth and complexity of flavour. Jumping up to the $150-200 range will probably have the same relative effect, but you’ve gone to 10 times the price for perhaps 2-4 times the perceived quality. Perhaps I’m wrong, and the $1,000+ wines have transcendental qualities that peasants like me can’t even imagine, but I strongly doubt it. Any wine over $500 has passed the “quality” level and is from that point onwards really a “prestige” thing.

Update: A commenter at Fark.com offered this link as counter-evidence:

    “Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating non-intrinsic attributes of goods. For example, knowledge of a beer’s ingredients and brand can affect reported taste quality, and the reported enjoyment of a film is influenced by expectations about its quality,” the researchers said. “Even more intriguingly, changing the price at which an energy drink is purchased can influence the ability to solve puzzles.”

This is why wines are generally tasted blind for comparative purposes (that is, with no indication of the wine’s identity provided). It’s a well-known phenomena that people expect to enjoy more expensive things than cheaper equivalents.

You can try this one for yourself: next time you’re pouring a beer or a wine for a guest, hide the container and tell them that what you’re pouring is much more rare/expensive/unusual than what it really is. Most people, either from politeness (they don’t want to be rude) or fear of being thought ignorant (that they can’t actually perceive this wonderful quality) or genuine belief in what you’ve said, will go along with the host’s deception and praise the drink as being so much better than whatever they normally drink.

Human beings are wonderful at rationalizing … and self-deception.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the original link.

August 5, 2017

QotD: Harley-Davidson bikes

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One thing I resent about motorcycles, especially Harleys, is that they make the heavens tremble as if before the approach of a God. But the “god” in question sometimes turns out to be a greasy, 50 year old, biker with a prison record, a meth problem and a history of wife abuse. Unless of course he is one of those boomer executives who have taken to riding Harleys, in which case you can scratch the meth problem.

Grant at This Blog Sits…

Originally posted to the old blog, 2004-09-14.

July 11, 2017

The 905’ers – “the bridge-and-tunnel barbarians at the city’s gate”

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sniffy Torontonians have apparently adopted the NYC snobs’ favourite term for out-of-towners:

Not satisfied by the socioeconomic barriers to fine dining, downtown gourmands imagine any behaviour not matching their arbitrary standards of etiquette to be uncouth, going so far as to label outsiders to their tribe with a distinct pejorative: “the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.”

Originally a derisive description for commuters to Manhattan (the earliest known instance of its use is found in the December 13th, 1977 edition of the New York Times), the term has been adopted by the inhabitants of urban centres across North America to further alienate outsiders. In Toronto, it is used interchangeably with “905er,” a reference to the common area code for the suburbs surrounding the city.

To fully grasp the classism and snobbishness inherent in the term’s use, one is best advised to revisit an episode of the second season of The Sopranos, in which an annoying bar patron in Manhattan refers to the well-meaning, but simple-minded Christopher as a “bridge-and-tunnel boy.”

There is much sense, but little grace, to the formulation of such a descriptor. The self-absorbed downtown-dweller, you see, requires constant justification for their choice of domicile. The idea that one could escape the claustrophobic propinquity of the city and its higher cost of living while still enjoying its cultural amenities and nightlife on occasion is an affront – a threat that undermines not only the urbanite’s domestic decision-making, but to some extent, their very identity.

[…]

That an expectation of sustenance from ordering food at a restaurant would be scoffed at represents, at least on some level, a misappropriation of values. Oh, yes: It’s definitely the suburbanite who balks at the $35 plate of deconstructed spaghetti who is the fool. Believe it or not, you can live in a home with a dual car garage and still watch Chef’s Table on Netflix – and even understand why one might travel to Chicago to experience a meal at Alinea. However, if a chef is offering a Saturday night prix fixe, they’re probably not Grant Achatz.

Furthermore, it seems that if only one side of the urban versus suburban divide must be labelled ill-mannered, it should be the allotment who greets the other for an economic infusion in their service sector with disdainful mockery. The summer is littered with festivals and three- to five-course restaurant specials purposely constructed as an invitation for out-of-towners to come and open their wallets, and yet, the derisiveness projected toward them suggests a suffix should be attached to the Field of Dreams axiom: if you build it, they will come … for you to disparage them.

June 27, 2017

QotD: The mistakes of the wealthy versus the mistakes of the poor

Filed under: History, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

What have been the effects of progressive, centralized control of education, healthcare, and social services? It is true that the backwards practices of a few local school boards have been reformed, but the loss of a rich layer of church and private charity social services has impoverished local social capital. While today’s mass communication and the Internet removed one of the impulses to community (“I’m bored. Let’s go into town and hang out!”), a lot of the loss is due to the crowding out by a monopoly government, which had deep pockets and would use them to continue failed policies, as Microsoft in the 80s used the profits from its near-monopoly OS business to keep creating mediocre applications software until the innovators in applications were destroyed.

Very wealthy people have always been freer than others from the stifling social controls and judgments of bourgeois community standards. The elite of Paris and London in the 1800s often kept mistresses and dabbled in drug use without having their lives destroyed. The lower classes did not have the wealth to recover from errors, and those who did not hew to bourgeois social norms were isolated and damaged.

As the upper middle classes in the US grew as wealthy as the elite had been in the previous century after WWII, the sexual revolution and War on Poverty bestowed more social freedom on everyone — the middle and upper classes got birth control, sexual freedom, and women in the workplace, while the poor got programs to “uplift” them from poverty (a term which exposes the condescension involved). Social workers in vast numbers were hired to distribute assistance, free of any obligation — except for unmarried mothers, who were told their assistance would be cut if they married a working man.

Over the course of several generations, the well-off used their freedoms and came out relatively unscathed — families were still largely intact, children were still trained in the arts of civilization and followed the path of university and marriage into professional careers. But the artificial assistance to the poor, with its lack of community obligations and support and its immediate withdrawal in the event of marriage and better work, removed the social incentives that keep healthy communities healthy. Intact families grew less common. Crime and social pathologies became the norm in poor inner-city communities. As conditions worsened, the motivated and organized left for more civilized neighborhoods with better schools. The segregation of cities and even whole regions by income increased. Whole generations of children were poorly raised, poorly schooled, and left to drift without purpose or guidance from now-absent fathers, who were in prison or adrift themselves.

Jeb Kinnison, “Real-life ‘Hunger Games'”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-25.

June 8, 2017

QotD: The Cloud People look out upon the land of the Dirt People

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In the French Revolution, after the White Terror, the Constitution of 1795 established The Directory. This was the start of a new phase in which the lower classes were mostly ignored, as the new ruling class consolidated its power. That may be what we are seeing with our managerial class as they largely ignore the results of recent elections and enforce discipline in their own ranks. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it may be useful in analyzing what we are seeing.

There is another angle, one you can see in this Scott Alexander post a few weeks ago, that was popular with the cognoscenti. Star Slate Codex is popular with people who not only think they are smart, but see themselves as steely-eyed reason machines. It’s also popular with people who like to believe stuff like this:

    Yes, CNN leans liberal, but it’s not as liberal as FOX is conservative, and it’s not as open about it – it has a pretense of neutrality that FOX doesn’t, and although we can disagree about how realistic that pretense is I think few people would disagree that the pretense is there. Nor is there a liberal version of FOX that lacks that pretense of neutrality.

That’s a very believable argument if you have no familiarity with cable news or you look out at the world from deep inside the Progressive fever swamps. It is the sort of thing people write when they want to seem like the people who write things like this. It’s the worldview of someone confusing a mirror with a telescope. To Alexander, Fox is way out on the fringe and they are brazen about it. CNN, on the other hand, is maybe a little biased, but they are good people, my people, so they mean well.

Of course, there is the omnipresent hive mindedness. The world for Scott Alexander, and most of his readers, is a world of black hats and white hats. There are those inside the walls, the people of light, and the people outside the walls, in the outer darkness. The people outside are an undifferentiated collection of eyes peering out of the darkness, which is why they routinely misuse works like “conservative” when describing the people outside the walls. Words like “conservative” and “right-wing” just mean the outsiders.

The Z Man, “Ruminations On The Way Down The Mountain”, The Z Blog, 2017-05-24.

June 7, 2017

QotD: Blame America

Filed under: Cancon, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Canadians love to compare themselves to Americans, for all kinds of reasons — to congratulate themselves, to flagellate themselves, to comfort themselves when they’re somewhat embarrassed. The “meanwhile in Canada” genre of tweets is a bit of all three: in the midst of chaos in Washington, someone will oh-so-cleverly take note of a comparatively minor Canadian scandal. There is no charitable interpretation to be made of it: it’s either bragging, or it’s suggesting that we worry too much about Canada’s ostensibly piddling scandals — like, say, the prime minister’s chief of staff cutting a $90,000 cheque to a sitting Senator. That’s not Watergate, but it’s bonkers nonetheless.

The effect is both to confuse the conversation about any given issue and to absolve Canadians of any responsibility for it. The ultimate example was CBC Marketplace’s moronic attempt to sell racist t-shirts on Canadian streets and chalk up any interest to “the Trump effect.” But again, that was just an extreme manifestation of this unhealthy blame-America instinct — one we would do well to eradicate.

Chris Selley, “‘Canada’s Donald Trump’ was never on offer in the Conservative leadership race”, National Post, 2017-05-26.

May 13, 2017

QotD: Sneering at the “farmers” in fly-over country

Filed under: Education, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If Star Wars was written by today’s establishment, Luke would have to be a girl who suffered oppression by the bigoted farm boys, then escaped to the Empire (which was, of course, politically correct and ruled by wise, learned Socialist oligarchs) to wield its military might against the hicks and unlearned morons of Planet Redneck.

Such disdain is everywhere, now. It’s not hard to find in the media, in entertainment, or social media. Some time ago, I remember watching a Youtube video where a man with a strong Southern accent went to great lengths to demonstrate his education and intelligence, discussing complex matters of science, history, and philosophy in an effort to disprove the notion that a Southern accent somehow implies stupidity. I remember wondering why this was even necessary. I’ve met many intelligent, educated individuals in the South, and I’ve encountered no more idiots here than in the other places I’ve been to. Why would this even have to be disproved?

Then it hit me. The new American myth, carefully constructed by the SJWs and their ilk, is that farmers are stupid. Mechanics are dumb. Plumbers only ply their trade because they are too stupid to take gender studies courses. And since they are all idiots, of course their children must be idiots too. Indeed, they are all far too stupid to be permitted a say in how their own lives are run. As Tom Nichols once explained to me: Americans are too stupid to read maps, so why bother informing them about terrorist incidents? Being something of a Centrist, Tom is more charitable than most of the Leftists, whose disdain is much more direct. To those folks, America (and by extension, Americans themselves) is nothing more than a backward nation full of bigots, greedy thieves, murderers, and utter morons in desperate need of extinction.

[…]

But now, a two and a half centuries later, we’re back to where we started. The anointed, ivory tower aristocrats telling us what’s good for us — when we all know it’s a steaming pile of horse manure constructed solely to fool enough good people to keep the nobles planted atop their wobbly thrones. Their underestimation of the regular folks in the world, the farm boys and plumbers, may be what saves us, in the end. After all, it’s worked for America before, time and time again. It’s why, despite all the agitprop to the contrary, today America still remains the most powerful nation on Earth.

Dystopic, “From Farm to Space: A Lost Cultural Myth”, The Declination, 2017-05-01.

May 3, 2017

“Poverty, to be scenic, should be rural”

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Daniel Hannan on the contrast between rural and urban poverty, and the attitudes of Westerners:

When I was growing up in Lima in the 1970s, Western visitors were astonished by the shantytowns, the barriadas, as they were known, that ringed that grimy city. Why, they asked, did people leave the countryside to live in these squalid slums? Why swap the pure air of the Andes for traffic fumes and sewage?

It was a very First World question. No Peruvian ever asked why people were quitting villages that lacked electricity and clean water. The barriadas may have been ugly, but they were humming with enterprise. They offered work, access to schools and clinics, a power supply. They were, for most of their denizens, transitional, a staging post between mountain squalor and something better.

In time, I came to realize that Western nose-wrinkling at developed countries was more esthetic than sympathetic. As the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope put it, “Poverty, to be scenic, should be rural.”

Western attitudes haven’t advanced much since then. My kids’ geography homework is full of stories about evil Western corporations exploiting poor women in Vietnam or wherever. Now, you and I would not want to work in a Vietnamese sweatshop. But we have not spent our lives bending our backs in rice paddies.

Employees of foreign-owned companies in Vietnam earn 210 percent of the average wage. The readiness of that country to open itself to trade and investment has brought huge benefits to the Vietnamese, including those on the lowest incomes. Over 19 years, the West struggled to defeat totalitarian socialism in Vietnam, and failed. Three decades of trade have achieved what 60,000 American lives and over a trillion dollars in today’s prices in military spending failed to achieve: the end of Communism.

Developing countries which open their markets eliminate poverty more quickly than those which don’t. Compare Vietnam to Myanmar, or Colombia to Venezuela, or Bangladesh to Pakistan. A study of developing states since 1980 showed that those which had joined the global trading system enjoyed annual growth at an average of 5 percent, as against 1.5 percent for those which hadn’t.

April 26, 2017

QotD: The modern vice is “ostentatious class disdain”

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Yet Another Example… of our current practice of making important policy decisions based upon little except the learned habit of ostentatious class disdain.

You notice that at this late date, with a major policy campaign against the dreaded Semi. Automatic. Weapon., that most of these guys still haven’t bothered to discover what a semi-automatic is?

That’s a learned habit. They are signalling to other members of their class (or the class they aspire to) that they consider such knowledge base, the sort of thing known by the dirty callous-handed illiterates of the rabble and certainly not by the Lords of Intellect.

I mean, it’s like a recipe for ‘Possum Stew. To even know the thing would reduce you in status. Knowledge about guns is something the lower classes have; the criminal class, the agrarian workers (the peasantry), the lesser Servitor Classes of policemen and armed guards and military betas.

What could possibly explain such ignorance at this point, except a calculated, learned ignorance of the habits of one’s putative lessers?

Ace, “The Unburstable Bubble of Willful Ignorance of the International Self-Purported Elites”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2013-01-09.

April 25, 2017

Cultural appropriation of “poverty culture” in the Tiny House Movement

Filed under: Media, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ann Althouse linked to this older article by July Westhale on “Poverty Appropriation”:

How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”

And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle — and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice.

The Tiny House Movement began in the ’90s, but has only been rising in popularity since the recession. And to be fair, it’s rooted in a very real problem: more and more people being displaced as a result of soaring housing costs, especially in tech-boom areas like the Bay Area.

[…]

It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with.

Such appropriation isn’t limited to the Tiny House trend, or even to the idea of simplicity. In major cities, people who come from high-income backgrounds flock to bars and restaurants that both appropriate, and mock, low-income communities. Perhaps the most egregious example is San Francisco’s Butter Bar, a trendy outpost that prides itself on being a true-blue, trailer park-themed bar, serving up the best in “trashy” cuisine and cocktails. With tater tots, microwaved food, and deep-fried Twinkies on the menu, the bar also serves cocktails that contain cheap ingredients, such as Welch’s grape soda. The bar has an actual trailer inside, and serves cans in paper bags, so that bar flies can have a paid-for experience of being what the owners of this bar think of when they think of trailer trash.

Butter Bar in San Francisco (Credit: Facebook)

It’s but one example of an entire hipster movement — can it be called a movement when it’s a subculture rooted not in political consciousness, but in capitalism? — that has brought with it an ethos of poor-culture appropriation and the “re-invention” of things that have largely been tools of survival for poor, disabled, working class, and/or communities of color for decades.

April 11, 2017

QotD: The great American humourists

Filed under: History, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The great American humorists have something in common: hatred.

H. L. Mencken and Mark Twain both could be uproariously funny and charming — and Twain could be tender from time to time, though Mencken could not or would not — but at the bottom of each man’s deep well of humor was a brackish and sour reserve of hatred, for this country, for its institutions, and for its people. Neither man could forgive Americans for being provincial, backward, bigoted, anti-intellectual, floridly religious, or for any of the other real or imagined defects located in the American character.

Historical context matters, of course. As Edmund Burke said, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Twain was born in 1835, and there was much that was detestable in the America of Tom Sawyer. Mencken, at the age of nine, read Huckleberry Finn and experienced a literary and intellectual awakening — “the most stupendous event in my life,” he called it — and followed a similar path. Both men were cranks: Twain with his premonitions and parapsychology, Mencken with his “Prejudices” and his evangelical atheism. He might have been referring to himself when he wrote: “There are men so philosophical that they can see humor in their own toothaches. But there has never lived a man so philosophical that he could see the toothache in his own humor.”

The debunking mentality is prevalent in both men’s writing, a genuine fervor to knock the United States and its people down a peg or two. For Twain, America was slavery and the oppression of African Americans. For Mencken, the representative American experience was the Scopes trial, with its greasy Christian fundamentalists and arguments designed to appeal to the “prehensile moron,” his description of the typical American farmer. The debunking mind is typical of the American Left, which feels itself compelled to rewrite every episode in history in such a way as to put black hats on the heads of any and all American heroes: Jefferson? Slave-owning rapist. Lincoln? Not really all that enlightened on race. Saving the world from the Nazis? Sure, but what about the internment of the Japanese? Etc. “It was wonderful to find America,” Twain wrote. “But it would have been more wonderful to miss it.”

Kevin D. Williamson, “Bitter Laughter: Humor and the politics of hate”, National Review, 2016-08-11.

April 5, 2017

What your wine choice says about you

Filed under: Humour, Wine — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Posted on the Facebook Four Sisters Wine page, H/T to Jessica Brisbane for the link.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress