30 July, 2009

The End of Western Civilization

This is a continuing effort to document the mile-posts along the way from civilization to utter dissolution:

January 2008: Sales of "lite" beer surpass those of actual beer.

March 2008: Over-the-counter "prozac treats" for dogs become available.

The unique Poyz Proprietary Blend is made up of all-natural herbs & ingredients to help calm and soothe your hyperactive dog safe [sic] and effectively. These herbs have traditionally been used to help reduce:
• Irritability
• Depression
• Nervous Exhaustion,
As well as help obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as:
• Acral Lick Dermatitis
• Aggression
• Owner Separation

April 2008: Emergency vehicles now must be fitted out with special bariatric stretchers to accommodate the growing numbers of the morbidly obese.

September 2008: National Recovery Month is created to promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment, laud the contributions of treatment providers and promote the message that recovery from alcohol and drug disorders in all its forms is possible.

November 2008: Wal-Mart Employee Killed in Shopper Stampede

January 2009: When a 5-foot, 275-pound woman found out she had a tumor on her spine, she was told by her local hospital to go the Kansas City Zoo to have a MRI because a regular MRI machine could not hold her weight.

February 2009: Obese Americans, commonly defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher, now out-number over-weight Americans, those a BMI of 25-29.

4 March 2009: Mattel Introduces Totally Stylin Tattoo Barbie.
This is the second try for Mattel and the ‘Tattoo Barbie’ . They released “Butterfly Art Barbie” back in 1999. She also came with tattoos for children and had a large butterfly tattoo covering her belly area. She was pulled from shelves after four months of being on the market do to a large amount of complaints by parents.

30 July 2009 Spotted hanging from the back of a van on Franklin Street.

3 February 2010 Our technical expertise and innovation are applied to the ever-daunting problem of how to keep a beer between your titties.

14 July, 2009

A Mentor of Sorts

Friday night, my son and I were hanging out at the monthly open house they have at the Fine Arts Building. After viewing all the galleries and studios, we ended up at Selected Works, a used bookstore, where there was something of a reunion going on. Ron, the proprietor of what had been the largest used bookstore on the Northside in the 70’s and 80’s, was there with one of his former employees, and they were reminiscing about the old days in the book trade with Keith, the owner of Selected Works. For a year or so, I had been in the book trade, working for Roe and Sons, and I also had friends who worked for Chandler, Bookman’s Alley, and Bookseller’s Row, so I immediately joined the discussion. Mostly it was gossip about who was working where these days, how the internet was a real opportunity for increased sales, but how it also drove down prices and made keeping a store-front ever more difficult. We each knew of three stores that had shut down in the last year, though all three proprietors were still selling on-line.

Though the others there were about ten years older than me, it turned out that, having grown up in Chicago, I had the longest memory of the book trade in this town.

None of us remember the the name of it, but we all remembered the first used book store on North Lincoln Avenue. I had been a patron in the early 1970’s, and the fellow that ran it (I never knew his name) was a real curiosity. He was working class, self-educated, very widely read, full of unpopular opinions and unorthodox views. My father used to say that he “epitomizes the genius and ignorance of the self-educated.” He was unlike anyone else I had ever met and most Saturday afternoons would find me hanging out at his bookstore. The fellow was always recommending things for me to read and, for about two years, he pretty much determined the books that shaped my world-view. He was full of advice, and these are the things I learned from him.

1] Read original sources. Studying the Second World War? Start with a good general history and then, once you have the lay of it in your head, go right to memoirs, journalism, and books by the participants. At the time I was interested in WW2, and the fellow steered me to memoirs by Speer, von Melenthin, and Saburō Sakai, a Japanese Zero pilot, he threw Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front” at me but advised that I avoid “Crusade in Europe.” He got me a copy of the Army Officer’s Manual from 1941 and a re-print of the last pre-war edition of Jane’s All the World's Fighting Ships. I didn’t just learn a lot about it, I learned how to research a subject.

2] Read the other guy’s stuff. You’re a communist? Go read Mein Kampf. Read National Review and Worker’s Vanguard. Read Marx and Hayek. Read Mill and Burke. Sure, some of it will turn out to be a lot of long-winded nonsense (e.g. Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind”) but some of it has insights that you will never get from the fellows on your own side (e.g. Burnham’s "Suicide of the West”). Read it all.

3] If you want to know what a fellow thinks, read his essays, if you want to know how he thinks, read his memoirs. Bill Buckley and Whitaker Chambers sound a lot alike in the pages of National Review, but “God & Man at Yale” shows Buckley to be a first class jerk, while “Witness” is actually rather touching.

4] Read books. Reading periodicals is like watching the second hand of a clock. Journalism is ephemeral, just has to make a single impression, but a book has to be though out, consistent, complete. You might pick up an idea or two from magazines or newspapers, but you really learn things from books.

5] Old men know a thing or two. Most things have been tried before and have failed, and old men have been around long enough to know what doesn’t work. The New Left was such an unmitigated catastrophe because everything the old men of the Left knew was lost and forgotten.

6] Don’t fall for false linkages. Everybody has an agenda and the best way of putting their agenda across is by linking something they want to something everybody wants, or linking something bad to the agenda of their opponents. Saying that only an anti-Semite would oppose the State of Israel is a false linkage. Saying that only a racist would oppose Affirmative Action is a false linkage. Calling gay marriage “marriage equality” is a false linkage.

I learned a lot from that guy but, as I say, I never knew his name. Imagine my surprise Friday when I found out that he was known in the book trade as “Bigot John.”

03 July, 2009

Patriot, Communist, Catholic

In October, 1942, film star Cesar Romero voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theatre. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier (APA-37) in November, 1943 and saw action at Tinian and Saipan. He preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rank of chief Boatswain's Mate.

More Spengler

Liberalism, in its German form, has always stood for mental sterility, for the ignorance and incomprehension of historical necessities. It has meant the inability to cooperate with others or to make sacrifices for others. Its position has always been one of entirely negative criticism, though not as an expression of an indomitable will to change society—as manifested by Bebel’s Socialists—but simply out of the desire to "be different." While our liberals have never been at a loss for "standpoints" to adopt, they have lacked the inner vitality and discipline, the confidence and purposeful vigor that are so characteristic of the English form of liberalism.

The meaning of socialism is that life is dominated not by the contrast of rich and poor but by rank as determined by achievement and ability. That is our kind of freedom: freedom from the economic capriciousness of the individual. My fervent hope is that no one will remain hidden who was born with the ability to command, and that no one is given the responsibility for commanding who lacks the inborn talent for doing so. Socialism means ability, not desire. Not the quality of intentions but the quality of accomplishments is decisive. I turn to our youth. I call upon all who have marrow in their bones and blood in their veins. Train yourselves! Become men! We need no more ideologists, no more chatter about Bildung and cosmopolitanism and Germany’s intellectual mission. We need hardness, we need a courageous skepticism, we need a class of socialistic mastertypes. Once again: Socialism means power, power, and more power. Thoughts and schemes are nothing without power. The path to power has already been mapped: the valuable elements of German labor in union with the best representatives of the Old Prussian state idea, both groups determined to build a strictly socialist state to democratize our nation in the Prussian manner; both forged into a unit by the same sense of duty, by the awareness of a great obligation, by the will to obey in order to rule, to die in order to win, by the strength to make immense sacrifices in order to accomplish what we were born for, what we are, what could not be without us. We are socialists. Let us hope that it will not have been in vain.