Month: March 2020

Me: Celebrity

Shelter and the Extrovert

This left-tinted article alleges something I long suspected: Ellen DeGeneres is a nasty person. “[C]omedian Kevin T. Porter solicited stories from service workers and Hollywood peons who had experienced run-ins with DeGeneres, whom he called ‘notoriously one of the meanest people alive.'” Although Hollywood stars have always presented a false persona to the public, I suspect the cover-up on this one is related to her lesbian status. No one in the mainstream media, much less the celebrity mainstream media, wants to “out” a lesbian for behaving like a, well, lesbian.

But that’s not why I linked to that article.

I’m linking to that article because it’s funny and highlights the ridiculousness that is celebrity culture. The gist: Celebrities are urging people to shelter-in-place just like they are, assuring everyone that we’re in it together . . . while shooting the videos from their mansions, complete with fitness gyms and swimming pools.

Folks stuck on the eighth floor of their 800-foot apartments are outraged.

Good for those folks, but I can’t understand the outrage. This is nothing new. Are these folks just now catching on that celebrities are moral troglodytes, often with scarcely enough grey matter to count their own money?

“But her breasts are so big. I thought she’d have genuine insight into the human condition.”

Nope, those two don’t equate, People magazine and the Democratic National Conventions notwithstanding.

The whole thing reminds me of something I’ve been reminding me of (yes, that sentence makes sense, even if inartful): Don’t judge. Don’t presume. In these troubling times, you really need to walk that metaphorical mile in another person’s shoes.

Me, I’m digging the shutdown. I don’t have a fancy fitness gym and swimming pool, but I have a pretty big house that sits on over an … Read the rest

Urban Farming

We Don’t Need No Rural Hicks

My aunt sent me this article about a hydroponic gardening company in Arizona. The title is “Changing the Way We Grow Food.”

This change has been coming for a long time, at least a decade. The simplest form of hydroponic gardening, the self-watering container, was a rarity in 2009. Now you can find cheap ones ($4) at Dollar General (I have a dozen of them: they work well, hold a lot of water for a container their size, and have held up over the years . . . recommended product).

The concept of vertical gardening goes back a ways. I successfully grew cucumbers on a trellis system; I failed at growing winter squash but I’ve been assured it can be done.

LED lights are making artificial sunlight cost-effective. I use them every spring to get seedlings ready.

So what does it add up to?

Urban sustainability.

Hydroponics + vertical growing + cheap lighting = less need for rural areas.

I wrote last Wednesday that food production is one reason rural areas are important and, therefore, we need the electoral college to help preserve them. Otherwise, the federal government would simply throw all money and gear all policies to help the urban areas, and the rural areas would suffer immensely (my preferred alternative, btw, is simply to emaciate the federal government so it would be a far lesser issue, but that’s Quixotic).

The ability of urban areas to sustain themselves is something to encourage. Urban agriculture is booming in Detroit and helping that blighted city. Fenway Park has Fenway Farms. Parisians for years grew their own food, in winter using a large army of cloches and horse manure for fertilizer and heat.

I even heard that urban landlords have had to impose restrictions on … Read the rest

Episode 69

New Episode Released

The Dark Ages. Charlemagne and Vikings and Magyars Too

This period is the Dark Ages, and it’s fascinating.

Partly fascinating because of the lack of historical evidence, so much so that there is a cadre of thinkers who assert that a few hundred of these years never existed at all, that we are, today, in the year, say, 1720, not 2020. This is called “The Phantom Time Hypothesis,” It holds that the years 614-911 never occurred. In other words, it holds that much of the stuff we discuss today never happened. Yes, it’s a bizarre and stupid theory, but it does illustrate just how catastrophic these years were: they left very little by way of records, written or archeological, to the extent that a theory like this actually gained a small foothold. It even has a Wikipedia entry.

But this era is also fascinating because of what we do know. These were the Dark Ages, truly. They were the Iron Age. They sucked.

Things had obviously been declining for years prior to 622. When Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople in 430, a lot of stuff went with it. Imagine moving Washington DC to, say, Sacramento. Northern Virginia and large swaths of Maryland would be deserted, devastated. Sacramento would be looking pretty good. Add on top of that a boatload of swords and armies, and you have a good feeling for what western Europe looked like with that vacuum.

Pretty much everyone was still living in the Roman Empire psychologically and in day-to-day living, but things were changing . . . and not for the better. Culture was declining. The economy was declining. Instability was increasing. It was a slow fire burning away society.

And then in the early 600s, kerosene was thrown on the … Read the rest


Drinking in the Age of Social Distancing

LeBron tweeted this week that he needs a wine-drinking partner. Apparently, he’s running out of them.

First, he faced a backlash when he mentioned that he lets his sons (ages 14 and 11) have a small glass of wine at dinner. And then the Kung Flu eliminated his Chinese drinking opportunities, furthering his physical, spiritual, and emotional suffering. And now Los Angeles and Cleveland are subject to shelter-in-place orders.

What’s a guy to do? Maybe he could have a glass of wine with a friend while video-conferencing each other. Russ Roberts at Econtalk recommends this with a cup of coffee. He says it actually helps quite a bit.

I realize it’s not ideal, but everyone needs to improvise during these unusual times. A bar owner in Syracuse is going to start a beer truck, just like the old time ice cream trucks. He expects to start rolling next week.

I’m stunned. It’s a beautiful thing, showing the market adapting to swift and radical changes. I’m just stunned the fascist liquor laws permit it. New York isn’t terrible when it comes to liquor laws, but I don’t think it’s a free-for-all, either. I’m under the impression that New York liquor restrictions are average (Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, incidentally, are supposedly the worst). A rolling bar, reminiscent of GKC’s Flying Inn, would not be permitted in Michigan, whose laws are pretty bad but probably not in the Nazi top ten.

This beer truck highlights the need for fewer laws. Laws are ham-handed. The free market is nimble. Society, culture, nature . . . they’re all nimble: constantly changing. We need an economy that matches it. The top-down economy of legislative control, with one actor at the top making the … Read the rest


Comedy and the F Word

Hats off to the Mormons. They’ve taken comedy to a cleaner level: Dry Bar Comedy. I’ve downloaded the app. I’ll let you know soon how I liked it. If the comedians are half as funny as Ryan Hamilton, it’ll be great.

The problem is, Ryan might not be considered “clean” by all people. He talks about smoking crack (not him, but a bum on the subway), drinking (not him, but everyone around him), and other topics that the censorious often don’t want whispered, much less joked about. The people inclined to censor are too often the people without a robust sense of humor, the people who say “What about the children” every time they hear something they don’t like. I’m guessing the app creators, though, have a robust sense of humor so they’ll allow such things as long as the comedian isn’t endorsing it.

I, regrettably, often find humor in a well-placed obscenity, but our language has been saturated with it to the point of obsolescence.

Back in the 1950s and Lenny Bruce, the “F word” resonated by itself, just for the shock value. As culture “progressed,” it was funny when slipped in to emphasize a point. By about the 1990s, it needed to be used cleverly in order to be funny (as one friend of mine put it, “When I use the F-word, it’s a work of art”). Today, it has lost all resonance in and of itself. It can still invoke laughter when used with other words, but by itself? Rarely, if ever, can it be funny . . . gerund or adjective, whispered or yelled.

Obscenity is the language of the semi-literate. That doesn’t mean the highly literate don’t use it (ten pound dumbbells are used by weaklings, but strong … Read the rest

The Flees

The Corona and the College

One thing is certain: City dwellers are fleeing municipal areas and flocking to the countryside. Link, link, and more links.

And presumably bringing cases of Corona with them.

Yeah, it’s not cool. I’ve always been a little bit annoyed with city dwellers who go to the countryside to “get away from it all” and, by coming, bringing “it all” with them: the crowds, the traffic, the noise. My postage stamp of America gets quite a bit of city traffic during the summers, but it’s not bad. The increase actually adds to the spice of the area. But in more touristy areas, like northern Michigan? It’s awful.

Regardless of your feelings about municipal areas contaminating the countrysides with whatever–cars, cacophony, Corona–you have to admit one thing: It highlights our need for an electoral college instead of a popular vote.

A strong nation needs separate parts and all the parts need to be strong. We need vibrant cities, but we also need vibrant rural areas. We need commercial centers, but we need to feed those centers. We need the creative stimulation of urban living, but we need the relaxing calm of the country.

If the municipal areas can appoint their preferred president every four years, they will reap the benefits of government. Federal dollars will flow almost exclusively to the cities to the detriment of the rural areas, leaving the rural areas weak.

Moreover, it simply wouldn’t be right and would be, I believe, illogical. The rural areas are rural because the nation wants them to be rural in order to grow the food that the cities need, to provide the get-aways urbanites want, to be a safety valve when city life gets dangerous. They simply can’t be urban if we want to … Read the rest

Lockdown Tuesday

1929 Redux?

That’s my new shed. The siding on the front portion is clear, giving it a greenhouse effect. It’s not very big. The “greenhouse” side is about 90 square feet, but that’s big enough to hold ten large self-watering containers and an assortment of smaller pots, plus tools, supplies, and a small gardening book library. It has vents and even a poor man’s temperature control: On a sunny 50-degree day, I can “set” the thermostat to 95,75, 65, or 55, based on the combination of doors I leave open.

It has it all.

Now I’m just waiting for a bum to start sleeping in it. Folks are already talking about this as the next Great Depression, and I’m not sure they’re wrong.

One thing I do know, however: Things will never be the same. Now, that could be a good thing or a bad thing, but the folks with the guns (the government) never let a good crisis go to waste. I gotta believe we’re looking at huge social engineering as a result of this, with the federal government taking over large swaths of the economy and exerting even more control. We’ve seen it before; we’ll see it again. The ruling class always takes what it can, by force if necessary, but when the people are scared, they’ll just give it away.

I highly recommend the work of Amity Shlaes in this regard. She is “the man” (she’ll forgive that metaphor). I’m on a book-buying moratorium for Lent (I gave up Amazon as one of my penances), but I’m practically drooling over her Great Society: A New History. Based on one review, I think it starts with the Marxist Frankfurt School’s efforts to undermine America through the intellectual classes (once Marxism gave up on workers ever joining … Read the rest