I’ve seen altogether too much of Jason Segel. Not just because the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, CONSOOMED by your humble author last night for the first time just thirteen years after its 2008 premiere, both begins and ends with full-frontal scenes of Segel’s personal equipment, but also because he has appeared in seemingly fifty percent of the random media serving as background noise in this house. He was part of How I Met Your Mother and is a reliable bet to appear in any of the “Apatowverse” movies.
About those films, which have woven themselves into the fabric of American psuedo-culture the same way Seinfeld and Friends did two decades before: Some of them are very funny (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), some are uncannily perceptive (Superbad) and one of them verges on being genuinely artistic (Get Him To The Greek, the only Apatow film that would have piqued the interest of Joseph Campbell or Robert Bly).
There’s always been something about the entire oeuvre that has annoyed me, however, and after seeing Forgetting I believe I can now articulate it in reasonable fashion.
Over the years, we’ve been reluctant to take any money from you, our readers, despite your many generous requests to offer it. This website has never been anything but a vanity project. It doesn’t serve as a portfolio, nor does it help us curry any favor with OEMs—quite the opposite, as the virtual army of people who comb every word of this blog for ammo to use against us with our employers, family, and friends continually demonstrates.
We tried Google ads for a while. They didn’t even cover our hosting costs, and they were distasteful. So no more of that.
Some of you have suggested Patreon. That feels even dirtier than Google Ads to me. Transparently, both Jack and I earn well above the national median income, and there’s no reason why anybody should pay us money directly in these times when so many people are unemployed and in greater need than we are.
However, I was recently offered the opportunity to help promote one of the brands that both Jack and I have written about at length, and a brand that I have personally spent more money supporting than any other (with the exception of Ford and Genesis) in the last 8 years. That brand is Shinola.
We’ve talked about Shinola here, here, and here. I bought my first Shinola watch, a blue 41mm Runwell, in January of 2016 and I bought my most recent one a few weeks ago. In between those purchases, I have bought 14 other watches, multiple wallets, business card holders, belts, and even hats. I constantly scan eBay for deals. I have my own personal contact at the Grand Rapids store who shoots me off any photos of interesting models. When Shinola launched their first automatic version of the Runwell watch, I immediately ordered serial number 5, in honor of my father’s number at Notre Dame, my number in high school sports, and my son’s number on his club soccer team, and it has become my everyday watch. I have everything from that top of the line $1100 automatic Runwell to a $395 resin body Detrola, as well as a Guardian, a Bedrock, a Canfield, 2 Canfield Bolts, a Black Blizzard, 2 Brakeman, and 6 Runwells. You can see much of my personal collection in the very poor photo at the top of the page.
So, yeah, I believe in the brand. Which is why I am completely comfortable offering my endorsement of it to you, our readers.
Perhaps it’s because they debuted right around the time I started noticing specific model years of cars. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with Volvo 240s and these cars seemed exotic and so different. Hidden headlights! Sleek lines! American made! Or maybe because I have a soft spot for cars that stumbled in the marketplace. I love Studebakers too.
When I bought my brand-new, shiny, bluer-than-blue 2016 Ford Focus RS in October of that same year, I had never owned any car for longer than three and a half years. Fiesta ST? Returned after a 24 month lease. Boss 302? Barely made a third birthday. The record holder was actually a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX, which lasted 42 months and 91,000 miles before I chopped it in on a 2004 Mazda RX-8 in May of 2005.
So even I would have been surprised to learn that I would end up keeping the sparkly jelly bean for a total of 54 months and 47,500 miles. Did I keep it around because I was enthralled by its burbly exhaust, enraptured by its spartan interior, or captivated by the stiff suspension?
In a word: No.
The truth is that I really didn’t like the Focus RS very much at all. And despite what you may have read on the internet, you probably wouldn’t like one, either.
I don’t know if now was the right time for Netflix to show The Serpent, a BBC miniseries about a fellow who preyed on Western tourists following the Indo-Asian “hippie trail” during the Seventies. Surely there are plenty of people in the States who are watching this and thinking, “Gosh, would I be willing to risk being drugged, tortured, and murdered just to get on an international flight right now? Yes, I would!” There’s also something profoundly depressing about seeing all these young people who were so eager to flee America and Europe during the Seventies. In retrospect it seems obvious that the era that started with Nixon and ended with George H.W. Bush was the last gasp of the economically and culturally significant West. I had the actual privilege of growing up in a society that valued children, (largely) despised pornography, and at least offered the pretense of a moral compass. We were mercifully free from: smartphones, the HTTP protocol, political street violence, electric cars, woke capital, Amazon, an additional 110 million “Americans” who don’t seem to have improved the country, and omnipresent jumbo mortgages. Our most serious national problem at the time was Ford’s Variable Venturi Carburetor; with the help of Ronald Reagan, the risen Christ, and the Lockheed Skunkworks, that was resolved in 1986 when the 302 went fuel-injected, causing the Soviet Union to inevitably collapse.
I’ve been to Thailand a few times but have always avoided Bangkok, not wanting to enjoy the company of, or suffer the perception of being, a farang — a Western man who is in Southeast Asia for the purpose of pursuing sex. While I’ve heard all the arguments for abandoning American women, in my heart of hearts I think that going overseas to meet girls is what they call “gamma behavior”. (As always, there’s an exception to the rule IMO, and the exception is a rough ellipse drawn around Scandinavia, Holland, and northern France.) The feminist argument against overseas dating and/or “mail order marriage” is that it often amounts to economic exploitation, and it is a compelling one. Should the same lens be applied to the overwhelming support expressed by Western women for a “refugee” stream composed mostly of young adult men? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Not all “farangs” are contemptible, however. Let me tell you the story of the greatest farang I ever met: a man who deceived, cheated, manipulated, and just plain out-played the American corporate Moloch to live his life on his own terms and retire in the States at an age when most men are still facing thirty years of misery to come. This is the legend of Bangkok Joe, and it’s all true. I know, because I was there.
Like the woman who was never President, it is necessary for the proprietor of this website to have a public and a private position on many issues. There are three primary reasons for this. The first, of course, is that there is a little gang out there with a (not-quite-as-)secret(-as-they-think-it-is) Facebook group trying mightily to parse every single thing I write into reasonable grounds for termination. This task, while daunting, is at least possible in the right conditions, whereas the alternative path, which would involve being better at my job than I am and therefore rendering me superflous, is impossible for people of their pathetic capabilities.
The second reason is that I have no wish to oppress my readers with too much blatant opinion-giving on political topics. My liberal readers wouldn’t like my opinion on social issues; my conservative readers wouldn’t like how I feel on issues like tariffs, unionization, and economic justice. No matter who you are, I guarantee you we disagree on something. Heck, I can think of a half-dozen issues on which Brother Bark and I are probably on opposite sides of the bench.
Last and not in any way least, there’s what I call my privilege of isolation. I’ve chosen to live in a place where protests/riots/whatever simply don’t happen and likely never will happen, largely because most of my neighbors would see such an occasion as a fine opportunity for a turkey shoot. (Here at Riverside Green, of course, we own nothing more frightening than a solid array of airsoft pistols, one Crossman BB gun, and the King James Bible.) Those of you who follow the news will be very aware of a recent incident in which a Columbus, Ohio police officer shot a young woman who was yelling “I’m going to stab the fuck out of you bitch,” as she attempted to, uh, stab the fuck out of another young woman. Although I live twenty miles from the event, there has been zero impact here. No marches, no looting, no fiery but peaceful protesting. Therefore, I like to defer commentary on this stuff to people who have skin in the game, so to speak.
One of those people with skin in the game is the writer of the “Up In The Valley” blog. I had dinner with him in Van Nuys on Tuesday the 13th, before the Floyd verdict and the Ma’Khia Bryant stabbing/shooting. We discussed the future of America; I view it from a distance, but he has a seat in the front row.
Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a nearly absolute conviction regarding the avoidance of Chinese products and the desirability of supporting “Made In USA”. Where possible, I buy American, then I follow a preference ladder based on my own personal genetics and/or belief in our country’s interests: German, then English, then Russian, then Japanese, then other European countries, then Canada/Mexico, then the so-called Asian Tigers, then Taiwan, then China.
Usually this is easy but expensive, as with clothes, tools, and stereo equipment. Sometimes it is absolutely impossible, as with laptop computers or random fasteners. In between you have a grey area where it takes nontrivial research and effort to make a choice.
Then we have “Roka”.
Today I spotted this front wheel drive ’80s Cadillac on Baltimore Craigslist. Painted in most excellent Sapphire Blue Firemist with matching coach roof and blue velour interior, it cuts a formal look only improved by the new for ’88 4.5 liter V8, which ended the HT4100’s reign of slowness.
It was a much more robust engine, too, with none of the reliability shenanigans the early 4.1s liked to pull. With 155 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque and weighing in at around 3,450 lbs at the curb, it was good power for the time, too.
Given the broad variety of my acquaintance, it came as little surprise to me to find out that one of my friends is a member of Antifa — more specifically, a member of the Portland Antifa meta-group, the folks who are causing either all of the trouble or none of it depending on how the Facebook algorithm perceives your desire for news. We had a meal together last week in California while the fires raged yet again back in his hometown. I asked him if it was true that Antifa had no leaders; he laughed at me as if I’d inquired regarding the actuality of the Easter Bunny. Of course there are leaders, organizers, treasurers. How else could we get all of this done? Then he made a joke about checks from Soros. He’s never seen any money personally, but he’s heard stories.
He says that you can hear his voice on a video where Portland mayor Ted Wheeler is being abused by Antifa while attempting to march with them. Talked about the six plainclothes cops Wheeler had — “the biggest human beings I’ve ever seen in real life.” The whole thing was oddly kayfabe. But that’s okay, because he says the protests are thinly disguised parties most of the time. You get out there for a while and shine lasers into the pigs’ eyes or whatever then you retreat to someone’s house and the hardcore shit comes out — MDMA, LSD, the “dab” marijuana with its eye-watering concentrations of pure THC — and then it is time to get it in. Polyamory, orgies, you name it.
And thus it has long been, ever since the Woodstock hippies: the girls do this stuff because they’re naive and the guys do it to have sex with the girls (and, increasingly, with each other). I’ve seen the girls involved, so I’m not going to burn an Apple Store just to make their acquaintance, yet I can see how some of them would have some appeal for people who would otherwise be “incels”. That’s how the foot soldiers of the revolution are recruited.
Above the foot soldiers, however, you have the people who are running the show. Presumably these folks are motivated by more than the chance to hook up with a meth addict while listening to Rage Against The Machine. What is that, exactly? Who are these people? More importantly, what do they want?
Yep, another land yacht that sucks gas and has approximately 32 lbs. of chrome, not including the bumpers. I spotted this one today, and immediately latched onto the listing.