URLs du Jour

2011-12-27

[International Electrical
Exhibition Poster]
  • Well, not really du jour, as this post by Jacob Sullum is slightly moldy, just over a week old. But the subject is timeless, a response to (1) a New York Times article shamelessly advocating for the phase-out of the incandescent light bulb and (b) a Politico article noting that companies "like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania" are "fuming" over GOP efforts to remove funding for enforcement of the ban.

    It's very puzzling for liberals, who see the consumer compulsion as yet another "it's for your own good" issue. And the businesses were looking forward to people being forced to buy the much more expensive, and much more profitable, non-incandescents. Sullum:

    Aren't Republicans supposed to be pro-business? Sometimes they are actually pro-market instead, and this is one of those cases. A spokesman for Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claims "the only people we are aware of who have opposed the bulb standards are some politicians and some conservative commentators." If legislators, regulators, environmentalists, and even the industry all agree this mandate is a good idea, why would consumers object? Maybe because the whole premise of the policy is that their choices do not matter because they are too stupid to know their own interests.

    It's a small but real victory, and here's hoping we see more of the same.

  • Back in 2005, in a column that's since disappeared from the Internets, James Taranto examined the issue of hostility toward atheists. A lot of it, he explained, was pretty simple: atheists act like jerks all the time.

    OK, maybe that was an overstatement. Not all the time. But enough:

    In Santa Monica, California, there is apparently one particular stretch of road alongside a park which has traditionally been set aside for Christmas displays. The nativity scenes on display have been popular with residents and tourists. But in order to be fair to everyone, the city used a lottery to allocate space to groups wishing to put up Creche displays and related scenes. Now, a group of atheists are accused of swamping the lottery and taking over the lots.

    The linked article notes that the atheists grabbed 18 of the 21 available spaces and put—nothing at all in nine of them. Perhaps that's more symbolic than they would have liked.

  • A pretty good combination: Kevin D. Williamson reviews The Thomas Sowell Reader.

    If a mad scientist were to repair to his laboratory to design a machine that would make white liberals uncomfortable, that machine would be Thomas Sowell, whose input is data and whose output is socioeconomic criticism in several grades, ranging from bemused observation to thorough debunking to high-test scorn[.]

    If you have an Amazon gift card burning a hole in your pocket, anything by Sowell would make a good choice.

  • Dennis Leary does an R-rated Peanuts Christmas Special parody where Charlie Brown becomes a devotee of Islamic jihad, progressives object. What's not to like?


Last Modified 2012-09-24 11:43 AM EST

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

[Amazon Link]

Back in 2008, shortly after David Foster Wallace hanged himself, Shawn Macomber, frustrated by all the eulogies, urged his readers to "read something by Wallace rather than about him. It'll be a much more gratifying experience." I'm (slowly) taking that advice.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a collection of seven of Wallace's articles and essays from the 90s. In order, they are: (1) a memoir of DFW's life as a very good high school tennis player in Illinois; (2) an exploration of the effects of US television on young American fiction writers; (3) a visit to the Illinois State Fair; (4) a (blessedly short) review of a work of literary criticism; (5) a visit to the set of Lost Highway and a discussion of the career of David Lynch, its director; (6) a trip to Montreal for the Canadian Open, a professional tennis event; and (7) a seven-night cruse aboard the Zenith—which DFW dubs the Nadir throughout—then owned by the Celebrity Cruises line. Most articles originally appeared in popular magazines: Esquire, Harper's, Premiere, as the front matter tells us "(in somewhat different [and sometimes way shorter] forms)".

Wallace was full of sharp observations and (sometimes brutal) honesty. His prose here was, as usual, pyrotechnic and personal; not for him was the invisible author mode. (Some essayists try to be a clear pane of glass between the reader and the subject under discussion. Not DFW.) The results, in any case, are (mostly) a lot of fun to read.

Unless, of course, you were seated at DFW's Table 64 in the Zenith's "Five-Star Caravelle Restaurant". DFW's brutal honesty extended to his eating companions as well, and… well, I hope they didn't read it.

Wallace is (for me) at his best when he was doing "straight reporting". The sections where he lapses into Criticism (articles 2, 4, and parts of 5) are opaque and kind of a slog. (Right on page 201, just after one of those slogs, he writes: "I have no idea whether any of this makes sense." This made me feel better about myself, since I had no idea either.)

I got Wallace's final, unfinished novel, The Pale King, for Christmas. Given the height of my virtual ToBeRead pile, it might take awhile, but I hope to get to it.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 11:16 AM EST