(Last) Weekly Roundup: Under The Guys Of Equality Edition

Sherryl Kleinman, a former professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill… reserved a special disapproval for “you guys,” which she considered the “most insidious” of these phrases, and with the help of former students made a small card that anyone could print out and, for instance, leave behind at a restaurant to communicate their dislike of the term to an employee who had used it.

If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine professors and students haranguing service-industry employees via passive-aggressive cards left behind at a restaurant table, forever.

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1977 Oldsmobile Toronado XS: Excess is Good

I always liked Toronados. My favorite is probably the inaugural 1966 fastback, but I love them all, right up to the final 1992 models.

But as those of you fine folks following my random scribblings over the past three years know, I also have a MAJOR soft spot for the more formal, glitzy and Broughamtastic 1971-78 Toros.

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Weekly Roundup: Matt Runs The Voodoo Down Edition

If you want to know why so many young people call today’s American society Clown World, start with this: In a moment where race relations have forcibly erased all other possible subjects of conversation everywhere from the kitchen table to television news, the best-selling book in America is an oddly racist treatise on “whiteness” written by a white “corporate diversity trainer”. Every single person who spends time reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility would be better off reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: that’s a brilliant work of art that any English-speaking human would be better off for having read, written by a thoughtful and perceptive African-American, rather than a dime-store novelization of those bizarre corporate meetings where someone screams at you for thoughtcrime while you mentally calculate how many times you can look at your iPhone in any given ten-minute period before it gets taken away.

In addition to being a litmus test for limousine liberalism, White Fragility further exposes a genuine division in the American Left. A secret (and, sometimes, not so secret) battle was waged over the past two decades as to who would guide the Democratic party. You had the class-and-economy people, represented by Bernie Sanders at one extreme and William Jefferson “It’s the economy, stupid!” Clinton at the other. Then you had the all-about-race-and-gender people, who started off way behind in this race but eventually overtook and then purged their opposition. No doubt they would attribute this overnight success to the essential justness of their cause; a cynical person might point out that Bank Of America is perfectly willing to donate one billion dollars to people who frame the American discussion in terms of race but will not give a single penny to anyone who wants to overturn the existing economic order.

Seriously. Take a look at the OpenSecrets pages for Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Warren’s top donor was the hard-left EMILY’s List, which gave her under $150k. Biden’s top donor was a hedge fund manager, who gave him EIGHT MILLION DOLLAR. Hell, Biden has gotten $1.9 from… wait for it… Bain Capital. That’s right. The 2012 “Republican” candidate for President just gave nearly two million bucks to the 2020 “Democratic” candidate. After hearing that, do you still think there is any genuine difference between the “mainstream” politicians in this country?

Matt Taibbi is firmly on the “class war” side of the Democratic divide, so it’s no surprise that he would be slightly cynical about the idea of white women earning millions of dollars as experts on race relations. What is surprising, for me at least, is the complete and pitiless broadside he launches against DiAngelo’s rather feckless and aimless book. You’ll want to read it.

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Those Who Can Make You Hate Karens, Can Make You Believe Absurdities

The Karen I knew didn’t want to speak to a manager — unless it was the manager of getting high. We shared a school bus stop in 1984. I was a twelve-year-old high-school freshman (excuse me, first-year student) and she was a fifteen-year-old high-school junior… who didn’t even go to high school. It was more than a little disconcerting for me to consider, but Karen rode the bus with me to Dublin High School (now Dublin Coffman, 10/10 GreatSchools for “College Prep” but 4/10 for “Equity”) and then took another bus to the Tolles Technical Center in Plain City, Ohio. Tolles was the vocational-tech school run by the neighboring school district; since only about fifteen of Dublin’s 1200 students were on the “vo-tech” path, they double-bused over there every day.

Information on Karen was hard to get, particularly for a twelve-year-old. She would be there at the bus stop every morning when I arrived, despite the fact that the bus stop was literally in front of her house. She was bleach blonde, five foot six, just a little bit too much Appalachia in her face to be classically beautiful, with what looked like a perfect body covered by JC Penney clothing from ten years ago. She always had a cigarette in hand right up to the moment the bus arrived, at which point she would flick it onto the driveway behind her in a motion that was both careless and completely rehearsed. The rumor in our neighborhood was that she was going to Tolles so she could be a hairdresser. The idea that someone could pick a career at seventeen, and that the career in question could be cutting hair, frightened me in a way I couldn’t articulate.

I don’t recall ever speaking directly to her, nor she to me. The next year they added a bus stop closer to my house, which put paid to our daily coexistence, but in the years to come I would occasionally see Karen on a neighborhood street, behind the wheel of her old Datsun or in the passenger seat with some older, scary-looking dude, never the same one twice. An friend of mine who’d been in a few classes with her during freshman and sophomore years, before she left for Tolles, said she was an easy lay. I nodded knowingly, but we both understood that there was no definition of easy lay in the world that included the possibility of lanky, flat-broke kids on $169 BMX bikes.

What happened to Karen? Turns out she is still in Columbus, Ohio. Not cutting hair, but working an entry-level gig in pharma tech. Her LinkedIn profile photo leaves no doubt it’s the same person. Two marriages, two divorces, a couple of wage garnishments when she failed to pay her state taxes or various bills, a lawsuit from king-of-the-in-store-credit-card Synchrony Financial to which she offered no convincing defense. Still a bleach blonde, still looks a little dangerous to my sedate suburban eyes. Fifty-one years old. Hard to imagine.

It’s become popular lately to use “Karen” in a derogatory fashion. It’s the successor to “Becky”, which was the media’s first shot at creating a slur for white women along the lines of other slur names for women of other races. Why did “Karen” stick when “Becky” didn’t? And why is everyone using it? I doubt you will be surprised by the answer.

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The NYT Puts On Its Bullyin’ Shoes

This is a bad time to be the Times. The Antifa-otaku crowd cancelled their subscriptions en masse when the newspaper published an editorial by Tom Cotton that rather meekly suggested the non-advisability of burning the entire country down on a whim. When the Times apologized for publishing the op-ed on the grounds that it had hurt peoples’ feelings, another round of subscribers canceled out of disgust. To look at the NYT’s front page is to be transported to an alternate universe where every headline must have “Trump”, “Black”, or “Gender” in it so that our bloody and seemingly perpetual convulsion as a nation may continue without interruption or slacking. Only thirty-nine percent of Americans see the paper as trustworthy, which is astounding given that more than half of the country votes Democrat and the Times is basically the house organ of that particular political organization — when it’s not serving as the blog of a Mexican billionaire, that is.

In the admittedly unlikely event of a Biden presidency, the Times will likely have to file for bankruptcy protection, because it generates the vast bulk of its clicks nowadays with sensationalized headlines regarding President Donald Trump. The National Enquirer spends less time talking about aliens or the Loch Ness Monster, comparatively speaking, than the Times does complaining about Trump. The paper has basically two franchises: equating Trump to Hitler, and the “Modern Love” series which, taken in part or in whole, will utterly destroy your faith in humanity.

This does not mean that the Times cannot be dangerous, because it can. Not to “fascists”, “Nazis”, and “the KKK”; if you put all of the people who legitimately qualify for those descriptions in a college basketball arena, you’d still have room for a “brony” convention, and none of them read the Times anyway. Not to Donald Trump, who is approximately as worried about the NYT as he is about an early return of Halley’s Comet. No, I’m afraid the Times is mostly capable of attacking private individuals — something it’s just proven yet again.

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Made In The USA, Affordably: Genusee

If you’re wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses right now, do you know where they were made? Unless you made specific efforts to ensure otherwise, chances are the answer is “China”. And it’s not just the $5.99 Oakley ripoffs sold at every gas station; the vast majority of high-end glasses are also made in China, largely by the EssilorLuxxotica conglomerate. Even when they’re labeled “Made In Italy”, it often just means “assembled in Italy”, which is why Ray-Ban Wayfarers are “Made In China” when you buy bare frames for prescription lenses and “Made In Italy” when you buy a complete set of sunglasses using the same frames.

Finding non-Chinese glasses is an exhausting task. For more than a decade I wore about a dozen versions of the same basic frame, all made by ProDesign in Japan. That frame shape is out of production so now I have Silhouettes (Austria), Safilo (Italy), and Dillon Optics (Italy with USA lenses) depending on the day and the task. I also have a very good set of ROKA cycling glasses which to my sorrow are Chinese. If ROKAs were made in the USA I’d have ten pairs of them.

If you want a completely USA-made set of glasses, you have very few choices. Shuron makes a variety of vintage-looking frames here at a very competitive price, and… uh, I think that’s it. Until recently. Now there’s Genusee.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: In The Twilight Of Human Precision Edition

The real revolution, it turns out, was in 1774. According to Simon Winchester’s absolutely outstanding book The Perfectionists, that’s when John Wilkinson (briefly) patented a method for boring holes in iron cannon. This, in turn, led to the accurate boring of cylinders for steam engines. In the two hundred years to follow, we became ever more precise as a civilization; Winchester’s book uses LIGO, the facility built to detect gravitational waves, as the apex example. Wikipedia says it can “These can detect a change in the 4 km mirror spacing of less than a ten-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.” Which is quite precise indeed.

This week, inspired by a section of Winchester’s book, I bought my son an old set of Japanese calibration blocks as a gift for my son. (With one American block in there to make up the set, it turns out; buying cheap on eBay always leads to adventure of one sort or another. In this case, it means having seven Mitsuyos and one Starrett). Think of them as “go/no-go” gauges for measuring devices; if you want to know if your caliper is really reading precisely one inch, you’d have it measure the one-inch block and see what you get. When they were new, the blocks were calibrated to .15 micrometers. That is 1/100th the width of a human hair. I am hoping that these blocks remind my son that precision is a true and valuable thing. Without precision, bridges collapse and airplanes fall out of the sky.

Voluntary, habitual, culture-scale precision is the signature achievement of the Western world, although the Japanese also took to it with extraordinary fervor once they realized its benefits. It is an achievement of engineering rather than of science; that’s hard for many people to understand. And it’s going away, sooner rather than later. What will replace it? You don’t wanna know.

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1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Bill Blass Designer Edition – Maximum Broughamage

I have written up several Lincoln Continental Mark IVs here over the years. So another one won’t hurt. Ha ha! I’ve always loved the Mark series, due in no small part to my grandfather owning a Mark III, Mark IV and Mark V over the years. But I have an extra fondness for the Designer Series Marks of 1976. It was a brilliant marketing idea by Ford Motor Company, and various designer Lincolns appeared way, way, wayyyy to the final one, the 2003 Town Car Cartier. In 2004, Ford decided they didn’t want to pay to use the upper-crust name on their top of the line Town Car, and the ’04 model was unceremoniously dubbed the Ultimate instead.

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