[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's Netflix picks. I did not fall asleep while watching it, which these days counts as moderate praise.

Bryan Cranston plays Howard Wakefield, a New York lawyer. He's married to Jennifer Garner (woo!), has two nice twin daughters, a big house in some unspecified suburb, and is kind of a shithead. One day a power failure makes his commute home a nightmare. This (for some reason) tips his vague feelings of dissatisfaction into action. He refuses his wife's incoming calls, and when he finally gets home, he clambers up into the storage space over his garage and spies on his house through a grimy window.

Stupid joke, or something more? Something more. Flashbacks, fantasized scenes, and voice-overs give us a more complete picture. (But that more complete picture just fleshes out the fact that Howard is a demented shithead.) The logistics of living undetected 30 feet away from your family are hinted at; Mrs. Salad pointed out every violation of food safety guidelines. (Readers, do not, under any circumstances, eat a foil-wrapped baked potato that's been allowed to cool off.)

Not bad, but kind of pretentious. Based on a New Yorker story by E. L. Doctorow, which (in turn) was based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story. Which you can read here if desired.

Hey, Idiot!

Chronicles of Human Stupidity

[Amazon Link]

This is a stupid book about stupidity. I can't remember why I have it. Did I buy it? That would have been stupid. Maybe a Christmas gift from long ago? That would make more sense; it has the air of something strategically re-gifted.

But I wouldn't—couldn't—shuffle this awful book off to someone else. Pun Salad Manor is where re-gifting chains finally end.

It's 249 pages. Allegedly a "humor" book, but I can honestly say I didn't laugh once. The author, Leland Gregory, has a Facebook page, in which he describes himself as "The Official Chronicler of Human Stupidity".

Which means: he scours the media for oddball stories, cuts and pastes, adds occasional snarky comments, and when he gets to a certain number, Voila, another book crapped out.

I suppose it's a living. At least he's not a politician.

Example, an item titled "Tic-Tac-Don't":

A nine-year-old student from Weems Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia, was suspended under the schools zero-tolerance policy on drugs. The boy had been caught giving his friends a Certs breath mint. The school policy not only bans real drugs but also "look-alikes" that a reasonable person would believe is a controlled substance. Defending his son's reputation, the boy's father said, "He's not a breath-mint addict or anything like that." Not yet, but who knows where something like this might lead?

Thigh-slapper? No. (But here, if you're interested, is the Washington Post story on which the item is apparently based.)

249 pages of this sort of thing is the very definition of tedious reading.

Anyway: I own it, I put it on the to-be-read pile, and eventually it came up. And now I'm using it to inflate my book-reading numbers. Does that make me stupid? Probably.

Last Modified 2018-02-19 6:33 AM EST

URLs du Jour


Focault pendulum

Proverbs 15:8 is another compare-and-contrast between the good people and the bad people:

8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

I'm wondering: why do the wicked even bother with the sacrifice? You're just irking the Big Guy even more than He would be otherwise.

National Review has redone its website, and they're very excited about that. For our purposes, however, they may be relaxing the distinction between print and web content. Anyway, Kevin D. Williamson's new dead-trees article is available, his view on The Intellectual Emptiness of ‘White Supremacy’.

Yes, white supremacists, if you can find them, are definitely intellectually empty. But so are the folks who see "white supremacy" as an Explanation For Everything.

‘White supremacy” serves a broader rhetorical purpose for the Left, which is forever in search of a master theory attached to a master villain. For a century or so, the master theory was Marxism and the master villain was capitalism. For the countercultural radicals of 1968, the master villain was the Establishment, bourgeois society, the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; for the feminists, it was patriarchy (recently supplanted by misogyny); for 1980s postmodernists of a Foucauldian bent, it was “power,” nebulously defined. (The contemporary Right has its own answers to that: globalists, elitists, etc.)

Those master villains need to have two attributes: One, they must be rooted in sin, either the sin of greed (capitalism) or the sin of hatred, which is why “misogyny” gained currency over “patriarchy” and why some on the left have settled on “white supremacy” as an explanation for what ails black America rather than such traditional factors as poverty, which according to the rhetoric of the moment must be understood as yet another facet of white supremacy. Two, the villains must be impersonal. If culpable racism is being perpetrated by culpable racists who, e.g., victimize African Americans by subjecting them to police abuses, then people of good will start to ask the obvious questions: Which police? Where? Doing what, exactly? That creates problems for the professional activist class — which is what “white supremacy” is all about as a rhetorical matter. E.g.: Between 2007 and 2013, Philadelphia police shot 394 suspects, leading to claims of excessive force and, inevitably, excessive force used in a racially discriminatory manner. But the mayor of Philadelphia was black, and the police commissioner was black, and the police department was 33 percent black (the city is 42 percent black), and many of the shootings that activists questioned involved black officers. “White supremacy” gives you a rhetorical out: “Black cops are subject to the same training, culture and systemic pressures as their white counterparts,” Lauren Fleer of Socialist Worker wrote about the Philadelphia situation.

Yes, he said "Foucauldian". He went there.

Not that it matters, but the world's largest Foucauldian Pendulum can be found in Portland, Oregon, and is today's Pic du Jour.

■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie shares the ideas of Greg Gutfeld: How To Stop Mass Shootings Without Gutting the 2nd Amendment. Example:

  1. If you see something, say something, should be followed with do something. "The punk had a zillion red flags. The FBI were tipped off and blew it." Gutfeld suggests a new motto: See something, say something, do something. Gutfeld explains that part of the problem is that neither of the two main sides in the gun debate trusts the other. "Common-sense gun control" is mostly a euphemism for taking away or harshly limiting gun rights, he suggests, while also implying that gun-rights maximalists are willing to let deranged "creeps" to get weapons as the cost of maintaining their own freedoms. "We need a database" to keep people such as Florida school shooter Nikolaus Cruz from getting guns, says Gutfeld. But as important, he says we need to "tag" people such as Cruz the minute they start acting off. Violation of the database would result in a felony conviction.

Mr. Gillespie notes that he disagrees with a number of Mr. Gutfeld's ideas (as do I), but admires the willingness to come up with something that doesn't involve infringing the rights of the law-abiding.

[Amazon Link] ■ I've previously encouraged the reading of The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles. If you followed that advice, you would not be surprised by this article in the Economist: Occupational licensing blunts competition and boosts inequality.

Occupational licensing—the practice of regulating who can do what jobs—has been on the rise for decades. In 1950 one in 20 employed Americans required a licence to work. By 2017 that had risen to more than one in five. The trend partly reflects an economic shift towards service industries, in which licences are more common. But it has also been driven by a growing number of professions successfully lobbying state governments to make it harder to enter their industries. Most studies find that licensing requirements raise wages in a profession by around 10%, probably by making it harder for competitors to set up shop.

Lobbyists justify licences by claiming consumers need protection from unqualified providers. In many cases this is obviously a charade. Forty-one states license makeup artists, as if wielding concealer requires government oversight. Thirteen license bartending; in nine, those who wish to pull pints must first pass an exam. Such examples are popular among critics of licensing, because the threat from unlicensed staff in low-skilled jobs seems paltry. Yet they are not representative of the broader harm done by licensing, which affects crowds of more highly educated workers like Ms Varnam. Among those with only a high-school education, 13% are licensed. The figure for those with postgraduate degrees is 45%.

New Hampshire's current list of "Licensed, Certified, and Registered Occupations" takes up a 245-page PDF. Our state protects us not only from the menace of unlicensed Embalmers, but also Wildlife Control Operators. Thanks be to the legislature, we can finally sleep at night, perhaps after seeing a (licensed) Pastoral Psychotherapist.

■ Google Chrome now (allegedly) does some ad-blocking by default, so I've gingerly turned off AdBlock Plus. (What's more obnoxious than sites with ads? Sites that nag you about having an ad-blocker enabled.)

Anyway, James Lileks discusses the ads that make the internet horrible. (It's at the Star-Tribune site, which—ahem—may make you sit on an ad page before proceeding to the article.) For example, there's…

Smarm: There's a picture of a female golfer, or a javelin thrower, or a competitive swimmer, and one of the following phrases: "The cameraman just kept shooting" (implication: because her clothes came off). Or, "She didn't know why the crowd was cheering (because her clothes came off). Or, "The cast gasped but the actress kept going" (which was odd because she didn't know her clothes had come off).

Confession: I sometimes get trapped by clickbait. Even once is too often.

■ Pre-retirement, I had to pay attention to Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. I'm kind of glad the pressure's off, because this year's list (provided by xkcd) looks challenging:

[xkcd on the 2018 CVE List]

Mouseover: "CVE-2018-?????: It turns out Bruce Schneier is just two mischevious kids in a trenchcoat."