Dec
29

I Am Still Alive

Over the past year I’ve been blogging at Pocket Full of Liberty, and more recently at The Federalist where I write booze reviews.

If I have anything particularly awful to say I’ll still come here to say it.

Mar
29

Dignity, Please

Katie Pavlich, author

Katie Pavlich, author?

Does the word “dignity” get much consideration in our politics, anymore? I wonder sometimes. My latest cause to wonder is the sorry episode from CPAC involving former conservative (now politically…whatever) mouthpiece/child Jonathan Krohn being cornered by a group of nominally conservative attendees from disparate corners of the Internet – notably Katie Pavlich, CPAC Blogger of the Year, whose primary contribution to conservatism is a book about the fact that plausible deniability still appears to work fairly well. If I’m in error about that perception, you may correct me in the comments below!

While nobody – repeat, nobody – in that video covered themselves in glory, I was particularly distressed at the hostile, immature tone coming from these representatives of the Right. Miss Pavlich interrupts the two gentlemen to demand Mr. Krohn confirm his identity. There’s not really a debate about whether this is rude, is there? But when admonished by the other party to the conversation, she hastily explains that she is a “reporter,” by way of excusing her altogether hostile tone of voice. She seems to take offense at the notion that she is being “confrontational,” (“Thank you for that”) after barging into a conversation and confronting Krohn about the views he held at the age of 13.

Watch the video. It’s a pointless confrontation, where an outnumbered young man is poked and prodded by a pack of over-excited, barely-post-adolescents for no discernible reason other than to get under his skin. Is that how “conservatives” play? We burn the heretics?

Listening to the tone of voice used by the young women in the video, I was unpleasantly reminded of petty high school dramatics. Take the moment in the video where, agitated, Krohn stands up and is promptly requested to sit back down. As if he is the threatening one. One presumes his interlocutors were standing at the time. This is not an example of a reasoned, considered ideological exchange. This is the tone of an arrogant up-and-comer and a sycophantic entourage attempting to intimidate someone because they can.

We don’t do that sort of thing, do we?

My favorite part is detailed in the Moody account, as Brandon Darby (apparently the Gorilla-in-Chief at Breitbart) takes the opportunity to let the shrimpy, nerdy Krohn know that if he had raised his voice outside the conference they “would have an issue.” That’s the way, Mr. Darby. One almost laments that there is no video of the simian chest-thumping. Really alpha’d that one.

In my rather slim online dealings I’ve often kept my distaste for this endlessly combative approach under wraps, for no better reason than a.) hardly anyone cares who the hell I am, and b.) complaining about someone on the internet rarely functions as a corrective. But a pattern of histrionics only serves to hand liberals a convenient, amateurish target to obscure our message. Such dramatics get traffic, I guess, but do they win people over?

Rather than lambasting Krohn, who at 18 is following the predictable adolescent path of searching for a distinct identity (with the important caveat that not many teenagers are afforded his opportunity to be an international journalist), why not put forward a conservatism that would be worth coming home to?

That’s not what happened here. And the aftermath of this unforced error only yielded further embarrassment, as detailed at the links.

We can all do better. We can and should treat our ideological opposites with respect, even if they don’t respect us in turn. We can treat them with the dignity that is due to all people, regardless of their misguided views. We can do this even as we fight “The Narrative,” unceasingly. That’s what makes our way better. That’s what makes our way attractive to political searchers.

Dignity. It’s one thing that can help us win.

Feb
25

On Lent, and the Importance of Social Media

I shall have to apologize in advance for any formatting difficulties in this post. There. I apologized.

***

We happen to be making our way through another Lent, and this year I decided to give up something
that has become perhaps a bit too dear to me: social media.

How sad that I consider it a sacrifice to not share my every thought with a horde of admiring strangers.
What does that say about the state of my soul (to say nothing of my mental health)? It was obvious to
me that a reevaluation of my priorities was in order.

 

Not Tweeting and...loving it? No, that isn't quite right.

Not Tweeting and…loving it? No, that isn’t quite right.

So, no Twitter and no Facebook (excepting Sundays – Lent is off on Sundays and no man can ever tell
me different). Of the two, Twitter’s absence is the more keenly felt. It has become an essential tool for
me to keep abreast of the latest developments in the political world…that’s the official line, the addict’s
justification. But if I’m being honest 90% of the time is spent dicking around trying to snark about the
day’s events.

Several weeks ago, Matt K. Lewis wrote a widely-panned article about Twitter’s declining appeal. The
obvious retort to his piece was to tell him to “go someplace else why dontcha,” but I agreed with him
entirely. In political circles Twitter has indeed become noxious and hostile, as people are emboldened
by anonymity and unregulated brain chemistry (or so I recklessly theorize). The damnable thing is that
there is no place else you can tell Matt K. Lewis just how wrong he is and have a chance that you’ll
spark a conversation for all the net to see. Until something better comes along, Twitter seems to be the
happening place.

All that said, I’m astounded by the number of people who seem to genuinely enjoy my presence there.
I don’t recall contributing much in the way of substance, though I suppose it’s possible. Despite this, I
have met (face to face) some fascinating people through the medium. Here again, though, it has lately
seemed an exercise not so much in socializing or learning, but in vanity. Is the effort I expend trying to
drum up a few Retweets for a half-clever comment worth it?

How is that even a question?

No, much better to use that energy, during Lent and after, to reflect on my moral shortcomings and on
the peculiar mercy of my God. That mercy’s greatest expression is found in the sacrifice on the Cross, of
which our meager sacrifices are meant to remind us.

No matter how much your fellow man might think you deserve it (and if you spend any time on Twitter
you know that some of your fellow men think you deserve it), God will never unfollow you.

Was that hokey? Yeah, it was, you don’t have to tell me. Perfect love is hokey when you attempt to
explain it through a vapid social media analogy. Such are all our feeble attempts to understand God’s
love for us. The takeaway is that the love is offered whether we grasp it or not.

Have a happy Easter!

Aug
11

Romney-Ryan 2012!

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the rally in Norfolk, VA at which Mitt Romney introduced his running mate for the 2012 election. Speculation had flown around the Internet for days, as pundits made their case for or against this or that candidate. There were many attractive prospects this year, including my governor Bob McDonnell.

And…Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his Vice President. Word hit early this morning, from what I can tell. I woke up at 7:49 to Twitter all abuzz, and the news that Romney was making this announcement at 9:00 a.m, a quarter mile from my doorstep (as the crow flies). You’ve never seen a man go from pajamas to a comfortable and stylish linen suit in less time. (It’s quite humid here, today, so if linen was not appropriate I do apologize)

I raced to Norfolk and queued up to get into the event. The news said that people had been waiting since 5:30. I believed it.

The event was at that wavy gray building on the right. Way back there. Yeah.

As I stood in line I was suddenly struck by the realization (more like informed by some kindly Twitter souls – I am sorta dumb) that this event required a ticket. Here allow me to pause and thank the good people at Eventbrite, who handled tickets for the event and whose mobile app works beautifully. I registered and showed my iPhone to the greeter, and got in. It’s the 21st century.

The rally took place at Nauticus, where lies berthed the battleship USS Wisconsin. Quite an imposing backdrop.

She was well-appointed in bunting of the most patriotic sort.

I hate standing in crowds. Milling about. Sweating. But I like taking pictures of myself.

It quickly became apparent that there would be very few decent vantages directly in front of the stage. I moved off to the right, which was less suffocating.

Just as I took my spot, on came my favorite governor, His Excellency the Right Honorable Bob McDonnell. True Story: I was at the guv’s inaugural ball when he won the very close race for Attorney General. It was held at the Chrysler Museum. I stood next to Pat Robertson all night. Very impressive until you realize I was working the event as a security guard. Ah, college.

Gov. McDonnell warms up the crowd, gives a shout-out to the troops. His daughter is a veteran.

As McDonnell’s introduction of Romney built to the candidate’s entrance, the crowd became more energetic. There was a perceptible energy, and despite a few boos for President Obama’s economic record (which is, if I’m being charitable, distinctly uneven) it was positive. People were whooping, clapping, cheering as Mitt Romney disembarked from the Wisconsin to take the stage.

“Today is a good day for America, and there are better days ahead.”

Romney began by complimenting Virginia, which was only right since Virginia far outstrips all other states in dignity and honor, in my personal estimation. When he announced Paul Ryan would be his running mate, the crowd erupted. He moved on to outline his vision for America, being sure to mention the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and energy independence for North America. (Transcript here: Romney)

And with a small verbal mistake (charmingly acknowledged and corrected a moment later) Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan to the nation.

“Wow! Hey. And right in front of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, huh? Man!”

Ryan, who has been depicted in commercials as someone who wants to literally toss old ladies in wheelchairs off of cliffs, immediately made it clear he is not scary. He introduced himself, his family, and talked about his life (transcript here).

One crucial (though not explicit) distinction I think Ryan made in his speech is that there is a moral dimension to the failed economic policies of the last few years. It’s more than just numbers and graphs.

Over the years I have seen and heard from a lot of families, from a lot of those who are running small businesses and from people who are in need.

But what I’ve heard lately, that’s what troubles me the most. There’s something different in their voice, in their words.What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures. I hear some people say that this is just the new normal.

Higher unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal.

YES. This resonated with me and I think it’s a message that will resonate with many. Whether you are young or old, you have most likely run headfirst into the realities of life under this economy. You can’t really expect that job after college. You can’t make business plans with much confidence because you never know whether there will be a crushing tax or a regulation coming down the pike. Perhaps the Labor Department will attempt to outlaw farm chores for children, or the EPA will regulate dust. Across all walks of life, “diminished dreams”have become a part of life.

“If you have a small business, you DID build that.”

We don’t often hear the moral arguments for free enterprise. I think Paul Ryan is equipped to make those arguments, to make the case that big business and big government go hand in hand. To raise those questions in a non-threatening way and invite people to think.

As Ryan was closing the speech, he said the following:

The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this:

We won’t duck the tough issues … we will lead!

We won’t blame others … we will take responsibility!

We won’t replace our founding principles … we will reapply them!

We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice:

What kind of country do we want to have?

What kind of people do we want to be?

To this, the crowd responded with a resounding, “FREE.” It was good to be a part of that moment.

The speech concluded, and the candidates began to make the rounds shaking hands. I began to make my way outside rather than join the throng hoping for an instant of meaningless physical contact.

Outside, a group of Obama supporters had been stationed – God only knows how long. These folks are no less enthused about their man than I am mine. I like to think they have no less love for the America that is, and the America that can be.

“Four More Years!” No thanks, guys.

One of them called a passerby an “asshole,” for some reason, but for the most part they were entirely civil.

Their presence is a reminder that Virginia is going to be a tough fight for Romney. Likewise, the general election will be no cakewalk. This was a good day, but it’s a long road ahead.

We’ll get there.

Jul
22

Vacation Dispatches

Saturday, July 21, Kitty Hawk, NC. 10:00 a.m. - Left home at 8:15 or so to avoid traffic. Mission successful, but we can’t check into our cottage until 4 pm. I’ve made a huge mistake.

11:00 – We stroll on the beach. The sky is overcast, and threatens rain. This might not work out.

12:30 p.m. -In-laws arrive. Now there are 6 of us wandering around with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

12:45 - We decide to go to get tacos.

2:30 -Lunch concludes with still no word from the agency about our cottage. The sky continues to darken. The women, with no regard for my flagging enthusiasm, decide to drive to the outlet mall in search of infant apparel. Anticipation of the arrival of the adorable and pleasant nephew Isaac has whipped them into a fury of shopping. My mood darkens along with the sky.

3:30 - The call comes in – the cottage is ready. We also learn that D’awwwwBABY has arrived. Am I wrong to want nothing to do with humanity for the rest of the evening? Yes, my wife tells me - I am wrong.

4:05 -We arrive at the cottage. For one brief moment my mood lightens. I love my little nephew. He’s adorable. I can’t wait to see him. His mother brings him around the corner and we say hello. He beams his one-year old smile at all and sundry. He has learned how to hug, apparently. He hugs his Nana and Papa D. He hugs my wife, his aunt Rachel. I go in for a hug too because hey, cute. Denied. He turns away in what I assume is pants-wetting fear of my full and luxurious beard. When you grow a beard like mine, you accept a few things:

Don’t look directly at it.

  1. You will constantly break the hearts of women
  2. Men will look on it and hold their manhoods cheap
  3. Children are not emotionally equipped to deal with your great and terrible countenance

Still…bummer. I wanted a hug.

If I can pry myself away from my booze, cigars, and light reading, I will write again to discuss the day’s events at awful, interminable length.

Jun
15

More Drinking

Here’s another post on drinking, since I’m probably going to be doing some later this evening.

How to Make an Old-Fashioned if You Aren’t Trying to Impress Anyone

What you’ll need:

  • an old-fashioned glass (short tumbler)
  • sugar (one cube, or equivalent loose)
  • bitters
  • bourbon (or scotch, or rye – I use bourbon)
  • ice
  • water (not soda water)
  • fruit, if you feel like it. Maraschino cherries and an orange slice, generally. Lemon works
  • a muddler, if you want the fruit

You will begin by adding the sugar in the bottom of your glass, then saturating it with a dash or two or three of bitters. If you use a sugar cube you’ll need to crush it up. Add some water to the bottom to mix and dissolve the sugar somewhat. Not a big deal if it doesn’t all dissolve. Stir it up a bit.

This is when you’d add fruit if you needed some. Take one cherry and an orange slice, and muddle them.

Add ice. If you have big ice cubes you probably need 3 or 4. If you have crushed ice, fill the glass about 1/2 full.

Pour 2 oz. bourbon over the ice. I usually just eyeball this until it looks like the amount I want to drink. You can put in less if you want. Give it a stir.

Add flat water to your taste. Top it off, just a splash, whatever. This is where I most often run into problems at bars, since they seem to always want to use soda water. Regardless of where I am or what sort of establishment it is, they will use soda water. Use the branch water.

Stir, sip, and if you don’t enjoy it that’s not for me to care. It’s not like anybody paid me for this.

It was put to me this way, and in certain circumstances it is absolutely true: Bubbles Bruise Bourbon. If you don’t care about the bourbon you’re ingesting, then by all means throw it in some Coke and chug away. If you have a bit more respect for it, I think the old-fashioned represents the maximum amount of dilution and meddling that should be permissible. It is an easy, easy drink.

And there you have it. Is that not good enough? Who do you have to impress anyway?

Jun
08

On Drinking the Way I Do

One of the things about me that is routinely commented upon is my drinking. This is not to say that I drink too much, or too often – it is to say that I drink well. My style attracts notice. That, and I perhaps indulge from time to time in drunken tweeting, which is like drunk texting in many regards with the important exception that it is on the Internet, forever. It is a high-stakes game, but I get off on the adrenaline.

Personally, I don’t see what makes people in my circle look to me as some sort of drinking authority (or authority on drinks, whatever). My actual repertoire of cocktails is slim. I don’t buy expensive liquor. I believe in cheap, easy wine. Regarding beer I could wax neither philosophical nor sophistical.

My best guess is that I seem to hold my own, despite the situation. Raucous party, elegant mixer, lounge or bar, I seem to comport myself well. It wasn’t always that way, and I admit that I have my lapses. Yet still I seem to garner a sort of…hmm, admiration is too strong…approval for my habits of consumption.

If I’m to be counted among the ranks of discerning drinkers, I suppose I had better start sharing my wisdom. This is not going to be an etiquette lesson. I can’t really teach you self-control or improve your palate. What I can do is throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see if any of it sticks. Shall we begin?

****

Your Body - As with most things, biology will place limits upon your abilities – in this case, your ability to drink with authority. If you weigh 150 pounds, you will have a different drinking equation than the man who weighs 200. Women and men differ in many key areas: taste, alcohol absorption rate, and relative worth at the workplace. The key point is this: Your body type affects the length, strength, and frequency of your drinking.

You  must experiment to determine your limits. A good pace, learning to maintain a constant level of inebriation – these are within reach for anyone. For men, this is more than a little important. There is no greater object of scorn than a man who does not know his limits, especially when exceeding those limits brings on the debilitating effects of over-consumption. Have you ever held a buddy’s hand while he cried and puked at the same time? You hated him and that awful hurk-hurk-sob just a little, didn’t you? Yes, yes you did. Don’t make people hate you.

Your Selection - This is a thorny area, because we are out of the realm of science and into a completely subjective topic. Because it invites disagreement and irresolvable debate, I shall punt. There are liquors, beers, and wines I do not like; I will not tell you that you can’t drink them. One of the greatest pieces of drinking guidance I ever received was from a John Cleese special on wine. After explaining wine a bit and giving you a good basic understanding of the various grapes, the message was essentially to drink what you like.

A man may genuinely enjoy the taste of Mad Dog 20/20 and despise the taste of a well-aged scotch. No amount of training will overcome it. But if he derives genuine enjoyment, who am I to judge? (Nota Bene: I will still judge you. Always. Silently.)

Your Reason - Drinking is something we do to add to our lives. It heightens joy. It bonds you with others. It can be a comforting balm in times of pain. But drinking is not meant to take the place of genuine interaction, or to deaden the soul, to blot out memories. It adds to – but should never comprise – the better part of an experience.

Your “reason” is not only the specific purpose of your drinking. Reason also means that you must preserve your judgment and good sense. This doesn’t mean you don’t get merry. It means that you don’t get so roaring drunk that you can’t even hail a cab, and lapse into the aforementioned puke-sob-puke spiral. You can still decide not to hit on the woman who is not your wife; you can still decide not to accept the ride from the nice stranger in the van; you can decide to be a human being instead of giving yourself over to being a chemically-controlled ape.

****

I trust you aren’t too disappointed. This is not all I have to say on the subject, but with the way I blog it is most likely all I will say.

May
07

News of the World (and Then an Overlong Meditation on The Avengers)

France has just elected a Socialist with a capital S to be their President. Goodbye, Sarkozy. Goodbye, Carla Bruni. The French may have really cocked things up with this one. I mean, you expect a certain level of Gallic incompetence and arrogant short-sightedness, but this is just too much. I should add I love the French for their cuisine and the whole helping us win our Revolution thing. Must face the facts, though: I have heart disease in the family and that was King Louis, anyway.

Greece rejected austerity measures and may have sent Neo-Nazis to their parliament. What does all this mean? Well, for me it means I will not be vacationing in the Birthplace of Democracy anytime soon. I’m sure the food is great, but if the percent chance of a civil disturbance is any greater than 0%, I have a strict policy of refusing to vacation there.

Mitt Romney was arrested for disorderly conduct in 1981, which is hilarious by itself. It gets funnier when you learn that it was for launching his boat in front of a park ranger, who promptly handcuffed him. Presumably there is a mug shot, though the charges were dropped and records sealed. But hey, Obama did cocaine and is driving the country into insolvency, so I’m willing to overlook this stain on Romney’s record.

Whatever.

The Avengers took in $200 million at the box office this weekend, making it a very good time to be Joss Whedon. Let’s not debate the relative merits of the film, which I haven’t seen but hear is excellent. Let’s think ahead to what the inevitable sequel will be like.

Just spitballin’, here, but I’d like to see some Skrulls. Possible problems with a Skrulls storyline are that it might require more than one movie to conclude. Additionally, I’m not even really sure how the Skrulls storyline played out. They change shape – got it. They impersonate superheroes – got it. They want to take over the world – I guess. The have really weird faces, but it’s ok because most of the time they’d be impersonating humans. Also, I’m pretty sure Nick Fury is a robot at some point, maybe. You can see how it might require some time to lay out this story.

Forget Skrulls; how about a standard “Hulk goes Hulk” storyline? Banner loses control, starts biting people in half, Avengers have to stop him. Only they can’t. So you draw from everywhere – get some X-Men, toss in Spider-Man (or not, screw you, Sony), maybe even Dr. Strange. Throw in a cameo with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who is even an Avenger sometimes (!). Long story short, the Hulk levels some crappy city, and a bunch of guys fight him (Hulk kills Ant-Man and/or Wasp, because who really cares), and at the end after he is subdued they send him on a space ship and (fan service alert) imply the Planet Hulk thing. Then your next movie saves a boatload of money because you don’t have to do a CGI Hulk.

Just throwing that out there. Whedon, if you read this, you don’t have to pay me. You don’t even have bring back Firefly (which would suck, let’s face it – 10 years on that crew is dead, scattered, or will have given in to pathos. Or they will be all healed up, self-actualized and well-rounded, which is boring).

So…that’s what I got for ya, Internet.

 

Apr
10

Botherdamn

I want to attempt to articulate the things that bother me. This is not as easy a task as it seems. Very often I am driven to distraction by competing sources of annoyance. It’s like listening to two television programs at the same time and trying to make sense of them both.

In situations like this, I find it much easier to make a list and take things point by point. So, here is everything that is bothering me today:

  • Babies. Babies are, on the whole, an untrustworthy and needy cohort of chubby cretins. The constant presence of babies and their chilling effect on social engagements is bothersome
  • Allergies. The trees have decided that not only will they pollinate early this year, they will pollinate often and heavily. Every morning for the last month has been an agony of sinus pressure, drainage, itchy eyes and throat, and lethargy brought on by antihistamine use. I have now developed a cough, and it is irritating
  • Work. Work has become interesting, which is problematic. Or should that be the other way ’round? Whichever. My boss is now my former boss, and the departure was quite sudden. Change annoys me
  • Politics. My politics are sensible and detached; yours are overly personal and involve far too many exclamation points. My politics allow for the possibility I am wrong about some things; yours seem to rely on the assumption that the world must conform to your vision. This is how it is to debate politics on the Internet. I don’t even try anymore
  • Wife. My wife is usually right about most things and has become rather insufferable about it. The times I have been indisputably in the right, I have understandably pursued vindication. This has always ended poorly
  • John Derbyshire. I have enjoyed reading Derbyshire in National Review and elsewhere, but he has gone down the wrong path when it comes to questions of race. This is especially irritating, because I like Derb’s style very much and consider myself a decent judge of whether somebody is “worth reading.” I have half a mind to continue reading him regardless of where he pops up. But if I am honest…I always liked his more general topics better. If he becomes a “one trick pony” his appeal would diminish further. His lack of a rationale for the offending article is frustrating. He has made me question my own judgment, which I DO NOT LIKE TO DO
  • Blogging. There is little incentive beyond vanity for me to blog. Up until recently this was actually more than enough motivation to get me to sharpen my digital quill and toss off a few hundred words on something topical and timely. Now, vanity alone does not serve. I’ve been making this complaint for a year, at least. Requiring a higher purpose to perform this trifling nonsense for a silent and unfeeling world is damnably annoying
  • Lottery. I didn’t win. I would have settled for the $10,000 option

Anyway, that’s all I can think of just now.

Mar
27

Clerihews: It’s Come to This

I’m too lazy to try to make a limerick today, so I’m going to attempt to write a poem called a Clerihew. Apparently they are stupid little biographical poems about a famous person. Rhyme and meter are irregular, which is a plus for me as I never learned exactly what meter is. This seems a perfect poem for me to try, simple and undemanding as it is. Even so, you ought to tell me if I have been successful.

Ahem.

Barack Obama
Is a national trauma.
For a man so profound
His mistakes do abound.

Well that wasn’t so bad. I’m not saying it was good, just that it wasn’t so bad as I thought. Let’s try another.

Famously famous Kim Kardashian
Is known for her particular fash-i-an.
Among other things
I’ve heard that she sings.

It’s sort of weird to intentionally mess up the meter and all those other parts of the poem. Generally I can do that without trying. Onward.

Mitt Romney hasn’t yet clinched
Though his wallet’s assuredly pinched.
He’d be doing better
But there’s that Irish Setter.

I don’t even know what breed that dog was. Was it a setter? Poor thing. We’ll hear all about it before November. I bet there will even be a Taiwanese animation.

Andrew Breitbart
Was called to depart.
It was proper to eulogize
Now for WHAT should we apologize?

There we go, my official contribution to the Breitbart hagiography. I had a chance to meet him at CPAC. Someone offered to introduce me, and indeed I was about 5 feet from him most of that night. But I demurred, thinking there would probably be another opportunity. There was not.

Post your own dippy little clerihew in the comments! No matter how stupid and ignorant you think it is, someone, somewhere will think it marginally better.

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