Here's how the blogging thing works. You get an idea that's going
to be great and all you need is to round up all the links and other
material for your witty observations. So we came across The Onion's very
funny piece about McCain and decided to locate other funny clips about
all the rival presidential candidates. Except that we couldn't. When
do a search for "Obama" and "humor" at YouTube, you get weird results
-- like clips of Obama speeches where Obama supporters think he's
displaying a sense of humor. But that's just plain wrong. The man has no sense of humor. And then you
get other clips from angry conservatives who think they're being funny,
although what they're really being is leadenly satirical. Like this:
The closest we could find to actual humor was this:
Which is cute but basically a derivative commentary on "Obama Girl" and
other YouTube phenomena -- in other words, the media commenting on the
media, not on the candidate in any illuminating way.
It gets worse when you get to the next tier down, the candidates who
don't have any chance of getting elected but are still somehow
We looked hard for Ron Paul humor, and this is the best of a totally
miserable and unfunny lot:
Sad. (It was also the first instance of a YouTube search phenom we'll
tell you about later.) The news is even worse for Ralph Nader. Nobody
thinks he's worth doing a dedicated clip of funny about. Understandable
-- the only more humorless citizen of Planet Earth than Ralph is his
-- but it's kind of pitiful when all you can find is a
stand-up routine that bashes our savior from evil corporatist America
His jokes about Bush and Cheney are funnier. Even his Kerry jokes.
Worst of all, though, is the result of a YouTube search for "humor
Bob Barr." The first page of listings doesn't vary at all from the
results of a search for "Bob
Barr." Is that a comment on YouTube? Or Bob Barr?
Our guess is, both. (Much the same as what we found for Ron Paul, actually, with
the exception of what we cited above and a few seriously lame serious spoofs.)
The experience has given us a new theory, though. Political survivors
in America are likely to be the candidates who inspire the most
original and truly funny humor. GWB has certainly helped himself no end
on that score with his constant verbal gaffes and other miscues. If
we're right, though, McCain has to be favored and Obama may be in
serious trouble come election day. HE JUST ISN'T FUNNY, either
personally or as an object of deliberate joking or satire.
Did we just discover something important? Sorry. That was never our
intention. This is only the Friday Follies.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Europe are teaming up to build a
spaceship which will fly astronauts to the moon, Russia said on
Wednesday, although the European Space Agency struck a more cautious
The first test flight is set for 2015 and the first manned flight is
planned for 2018, Russian space agency Roskosmos said.
"The European Space Agency (ESA) and Roskosmos both have the
technologies and unique experience in designing various space systems
to be able to create jointly a hi-tech vehicle," Roskosmos said on its
"(This would) enable us to carry crews of up to six people to
near-earth and lunar orbits." Roskosmos said the craft would allow
"expeditions to the moon" but did not say whether landings were
Russia's single-use Soyuz, lately prone to risky landings, has borne
the brunt of carrying crews to the International Space Station while
U.S. space shuttles are set to be retired in 2010.
The ESA was more cautious about the plan.
Forget the caution. This is the time for an all-out effort. The Apollo
program expired of boredom. We spent billions (and billions) of dollars
sending astronauts to the moon, and what did they do? They hit golf
balls and took polaroids of each other jumping up and down.
That's not what the Russians or the French would do. If they're going
to jump, they're going to see just how high they can get -- and what
positions they can achieve. It's long past time for wild sex in outer
space, and some serious git-down-and-dirty partying.
It's what earth needs, let's
be honest. Once the degenerate Europeans and the crazed, passionate
Russians discover that there really is a new kick in life, it will
jump-start the whole ennui-sickened western culture into a brand new
Renaissance. Who will care about Global Warming when you can jaunt to a
moon colony for a champagne and vodka weekend with the world's most
amoral sybarites? To hell with Vegas. What happens on the moon stays on the moon, 240,000 miles
from the nearest nagging wife or priggish church. For sure. And screw
recycling. Who cares where you toss your bottles and used condoms? It's
not like some London bobby or Ohio State Trooper is going to show up
and write you a ticket.
Granted, there may be some technology issues. The Russian approach to
space travel has always been "bring a big wrench and whack whatever
doesn't work," while the French and other western Europeans make
everything out of aluminum and tut at you when normal use results in a
multi-thousand-Euro breakdown. They'll work it out. Maybe the Europeans
will finally learn how to make everything mechanical out of pig iron
and concrete, and the Russians will learn not to guzzle a quart of
vodka before they attempt delicate repairs. Something. It's all going to
Better, anyway, and far more realistic than listening to Obama
swapping visions of the Utopia they will deliver in the next four
That's really too awful to contemplate. Bring on the Endless Lunar
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
A Democrat Mystery
The DNC Pharaoh.
WORM THAT TURNED. I'm not trying to be a provocateur here. I don't
much care what the Democrats do to extricate themselves from the
nomination mess they're struggling with. It's probably irrelevant to
the outcome of the general election. My own conclusion is that John
McCain doesn't really want to be president. Otherwise, he wouldn't keep
punching conservatives in the mouth with his brass-knuckled
Hispanic-pandering immigration policies and loony-toon "Global Warming
Tour." He'd rather be maverick than president, and just maybe, age is
more of a factor than even Obama hopes. It's beginning to look as if
the 2008 Republican nominee is merely a less lovable version of Bob
Dole, secretly subverting the race for the nation's highest office into
a kind of shining last moment in the Indian Summer sun. Not
getting elected will be the consummate relief, immediately followed by
a self-satisfied retirement into celebrated semi-private life.
Nobody seems to hold it against Bob Dole that he never tried to win and
thus threw away a very real opportunity to prevent the ignominy of
Clinton's Lewinski term. McCain knows this and probably counts on the
likelihood that his own defeat will be blamed, like everything else
that's happened in the 21st century, on one George W. Bush. Wouldn't
that be the easiest vindication of all for an old man in the grip of a
festering eight-year-long grudge?
Only time will tell if that's an accurate read of the situation, but at
the moment it hardly matters to the Democrats, who fear they might be
flinging away their best opportunity to win the White House since Bill
Clinton rose like a golden mirage from the tumbleweeds of Arkansas. And
given that fear, why all the bile and irrational anger directed at
Hillary rather than where it properly belongs?
I'm referring, of course, to Howard Dean. It was his leadership of the
Democratic National Committee which designed the 2008 nomination
process for the express purpose of ensuring that Democrats would pick
their candidate early. He was
the one who front-loaded the primaries so dramatically that individual
states like Florida and Michigan, afraid of being left out of the big
circus, rebelled against his authoritarian rule and scheduled primary
dates in defiance of Dean's grand Big-Brother dictates.
And like any overweening anti-democratic despot, he punished them for
their disobedience. Michigan. And Florida.
Think about that for a minute.
Florida. The state in which the Democratic Party made its absurd last
stand in 2000, determined to rewrite settled election law on the fly in
order to insure against some phantom but absolutely unacceptable
disenfranchisement of voters who couldn't read a ballot or marshal the
motor skills needed to punch out a chad. Florida. A major state which
has been so close to a dead-even Democrat-Republican split that many of
us in other parts of the country could be forgiven for believing that
the home of Disney World actually decides the outcome of the
presidential race for the rest of us. But Dean in his wisdom chose to
Florida Democrats by disqualifying
The result has been the classic unintended consequences of most overly
ambitious Democrat schemes. You change a process too much, too
suddenly, and what you get is chaos. The Hillary campaign guessed wrong
about all the new variables in the nomination race. What was intended
to secure her early coronation proved to be her undoing. The Obama
campaign guessed right, but not because they were brilliant. Instead,
they were maximally cautious. They knew it would be impossible to stop
Hillary's Panzer divisions in their tracks during the initial
offensive. So they decided instead to survive the first wave and mount
a massive, careful, and comprehensive infantry assault that could win,
eventually, by attrition. Organize in every state, contend in every
caucus, put troops in every foxhole. No genius involved. Just
ground-pounder determination. Which, by virtue of its ubiquity, is
almost always everywhere that luck strikes when it does. And so it came to pass. Hence, Obamessiah, the cold and remote new divinity of the party of the common man.
Now, though, the great strategy of Howard Dean has landed the Democrats
in a quagmire that may not kill them but will still cause them many
sleepless nights and the necessity of accepting wholly unnecessary
risks. That's why the current profusion of articles demanding Hillary's
withdrawal and indicting her hubris is so perverse, so bizarre, so
laughable. It's not her fault
the Democrats are about to nominate a candidate as weak as Michael
Dukakis and as doomed to failure if elected as Jimmy Carter. It's
Howard Dean's fault. Hillary is
the stronger candidate. You can see it in the new tone of grudging
respect and even affection (gasp!) being expressed for her by
conservatives who have despised her since she first appeared at Bill's
side in the '92 campaign. It's unthinkable. And yet it's a function of
the fact that campaigning across America has made her warmer, more
human, more attractive and sympathetic than she ever was as First Lady
or carpetbagger senator. Even diehard Clinton enemies are contemplating
the possibility that a Hillary presidency might be survivable.
To be fair, it was also Howard Dean's bungling that forced Hillary to
dig deeper into herself to find an authentic connection to her fellow
Americans. But in the same stroke, he has made it impossible for his
hungry hungry party to nominate a candidate who has genuine appeal
beyond the ivory tower millionaires, the left-wing crazies, and the
always monolithic black vote.
Why isn't the Democrat party establishment furious as hell about this
state of affairs? Why aren't there as many choleric columns about
Howard Dean as about Hillary
Clinton? Is it that the real problem of
Democrats is that they're just too stupid to understand anything?
. One of my younger email correspondents -- with
whom I've had a bruising ongoing debate about the meaning of
conservatism -- recently threw me an unexpected bouquet but asked me a
troubling question: "I think you're amazing, although not old. What is
up with this new old
fart/curmudgeon pose? I'm being taught parliamentary procedure and
political organizing by a team of people that were Goldwater and Reagan
national delegates. They're oldddd. Maybe you're just wiser than you
thought you'd be at your age, although the McCain thing makes one
Well, he's winning on the McCain front. (Does that make me youthfully
flexible?) But it doesn't answer the real question. Why do I feel so old in the current
political environment? And I do. Even though I'm not racing to find a
wheelchair in which I can ride out the rest of my years and still feel
quite perky and vital most days, I also feel like a yellowing chapter of
yesterday that will never be read by anyone but historians as atavistic
as I am.
The answer is actually pretty simple. I was raised in an environment
where facts actually mattered. Then I went to college during the period
when facts ceased to matter and became grist for the political mill
which ground them into whatever consistency was convenient for the
cause of the moment. Stripped of its pretensions, that's all
post-modernism is: the deliberate perversion of facts into solipsistic
bumper stickers. I'm older than most of the elder statesmen (and women)
of the mass media, and so I'm aware that for the most part they don't
even know what they're doing as they slant their coverage, undermine
objectivity in the name of hidden agendas they believe in passionately,
and treat facts as the malleable clay of a truth they honestly believe
they can reveal through clever videotape editing and politically
I'm old because I can look at Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Brian
Williams, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Katie Couric, Jonathan Chait, Glenn Reynolds, Markos Moulitsas, Ace of Spades,
etc, etc, and perceive the limits of their experience, the incredible
dimness of their relation to the continuum of American life. They claim
authority, swell with that authority like cornered toads, and then
prove that their self-professed wisdom, altruism, and lofty perspective
are nothing but adolescent braggadoccio. In a word, they're kids. Ambitious, obnoxious,
ill-educated, attention-hungry, opinionated but not terribly perceptive
Sooner or later, the tyranny of even aging kids results in disaster.
That's the deal with today's government determination that polar bears
are an endangered species. They're nothing
of the kind. The
classification, though, is one of those silent catastrophes that truly
wise folk fear the most -- the kind of invisible turning point that
almost no one sees at the time but proves in retrospect to have been
the first irrevocable step toward ruin. To find an equally dire
precedent, one would have to go all the way back to the banning of DDT
precipitated by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," which has killed
upwards of 30 million people and is still racking up malaria
casualties at this very minute.
That's the difference between smart and wise. Smart sees the short-term
advantage of seizing on a popular cause-celebre to drive home the
a danger they think they perceive based on bumper-sticker scripture.
Wise sees the danger of holding entire nations hostage to an invented
crisis that has the potential to deprive the only free societies on
earth of fundamental liberties, even life itself -- in a fraudulent,
conspiracy to manipulate good intentions into a surrender of political
and economic freedom. To more, bigger, and hungrier government. You
won't believe what we'll be asked, and told, to do to save the polar
bears. Until it's too late.
I feel old because I can't believe such naked machinations succeed.
Without even a whimper.
I'm not worried about the polar bears. They can take care of
themselves. I'm worried about us.
The ignorant fools who can't be bothered to learn the facts and happily
consent to halfwit Byzantine plots against our way of life.
Today was a turning point. If you don't know that, you're a child. A
remarkably backward and not terribly worthwhile child.
And I am older than Methuselah.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
It's Sweeps Week!
shudder like that. We got this from Newsweek. It's interactive.
. Yes, the magical week is here, the third one in May, when all
the media drop every other story and immerse us in a raging river of
sex, sex, and, well, sex. If you don't ordinarily watch your local news
shows, make an exception. You'll learn more than you ever thought
possible about orgasms, female anatomy, naughty women, and naughtier
experts. Why? Because it's the week when the most important ratings
measurements are taken. The network entertainment shows are also
guaranteed to chip in with their most salacious plots, boldest cleavage
displays, and dirtiest double-entendres.
What's interesting is that the same phenomenon also appears to infect
the Internet, which has no similar ratings pressure. But there seems to
be some principle of contagion at work. Suddenly, in this week of all
weeks of the year, sex is on everybody's mind as if by magic, for good
Unfortunately, though, this year it's tending more toward the 'ill'
side. The gossip site tmz.com, for
example, is obsessing about individual female body parts to a degree
reminiscent of dismembering serial killers. Today's HOT photo feature
is about famous women who have "Man Hands." Ugh.
Although, to be fair, they're also not overlooking the sturdy appeal of
and, of course, breasts.
Breast fever has also reached the gnome who compiles HotAir.com. (Why should he give a rat's ass about Neilsen
ratings?) But this week he's linked to a sad story he calls "The
Scourge of Buxomness," a Fox News piece about men's nipples
(yuck), and a Newsweek investigative piece about the quest for the 'Perfect Bra.' The pic at
the top of the post comes from the online edition of Newsweek, which if
you click on the main graphic allows you to virtually 'try on' the
perfect bra and adjust its straps to your own comfort preference and
fashion sense. I guess that's a bonus for the ladies, perhaps to make
up for the bonus they toss to the men, a definitely NSFW video feature
called the "Bounce-O-Meter,"
which is nominally educational for women but also one of the more
dangerously hypnotic and addictive visual drugs for men we've ever
seen. But HotAir still hasn't
had his fill of sex. He also links to a story about a recent tabloid
survey which disclosed that Brit sex is kinky and getting
kinkier.(Yawn). And to yet another piece about designers creating sexy burkhas,
including a punk rock 'abaya,' whatever that is.
Well, you get the idea. We're not going to do a site by site analysis
of the Internet to prove the main point. It's Sweeps Week, that's all.
If you're one of those continental Euro types who don't have any interest in sex anymore, turn
off the TV, the radio, the computer, and avoid every periodical
publication until next week.
You know it's bad when even RealClearPolitics.com
(yaaaawn) can find a sexual angle to opine about. Yup. They did. Take a
gander at this
piece about the horrible sexist hatred of women that's responsible
for Hillary's flameout in the Democratic primaries. It's wrong, of
course. Men obviously love women, or Sweeps Week would be about beer
and sports, not all boobs all the time. But how else are they going to
sneak our favorite subject into their political monomania? A Paul
Begala column on strange sexual positions Hillary refused to try with
Bill? Not going to happen.
Mostly, we're pleased that whatever causes the May Sweeps to exert a
contagious influence on all forms of media, we, happily, are immune to the
impulse to exploit and pander to it. (Let us know what you think of the
Bounce-O-Meter. And if you like it, email all your firends about
InstaPunk and then send us some money.)
There was some grand final inference we were going to draw, but it's
slipped our mind for the moment. If we think of it, we'll let you know.
Later in the week. It might be something about vaginas. Friday-ish.
About the audio file. If you think about it the way Randy Newman does, hats are
actually sexier than bras. Is that the point we couldn't quite remember
earlier? No. But it's more intriguing than anything tmz.com has to
offer. Unless you're the kind who gets off on this kind of (NSFW) 'Girls Gone Sweeps
Week' gallery. But in that case, we don't want to have anything to
do with you. Unless you send money.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Just for Joshua*
(*and others too smart to be curious)
More photographic hoaxes, mistakes,
and mysteries here.
. I may have misunderstood his intent, but well respected
InstaPunk reader Joshua Chamberlain seemed to be declaring his
impatience with the subject of UFOs in his comment on the Thursday, May
8 post, which concluded with the sentiment, "Too many credible stories
about UFOs and USOs. If any of
them are true, the scientists are full of shit. Which isn't that much
of a reach. Let's face it." Mr. Chamberlain's observation was, "You're
To be blunt, yes, I am. There are two poles of scientific certainty:
the theories scientists are certain are true; and the theories
scientists are certain are nonsense. Examples of the first kind are
black holes, neo-Darwinian evolution, and man-made Global Warming.
Examples of the second kind are ESP, reincarnation, and UFOs. Most
people follow the easy middle path mapped out by the scientists,
accepting what they say is true and rejecting what they say is untrue.
Some have the temerity to question what scientists believe in while
still following their lead in dismissing phenomena that are documented
by more evidence than has ever been put forward for black holes. On the
face of it this seems rather arbitrary. If scientists can be mistaken
about subjects they have spent entire careers studying, why can't they
be just as mistaken about subjects they've barely studied at all?
Yes, I know there are professional
skeptics who make their money by wading into one controversy after
another -- always claiming to be objective and devoted to the
scientific method -- and always emerging from their investigations with
exactly the same conclusion: nothing to it. To me they'd have more
credibility if they occasionally (or even once) conceded that they
don't know enough to be certain one way or the other. They're
incredibly tiresome about repeating the Sagan Rule, "extraordinary
claims require extraordinary evidence," but they almost never consider
the possibility that the difference between extraordinary and ordinary
may consist of baseless assumptions. Moreover, they're just as remiss
in acknowledging that most of the phenomena they apply this standard to
don't actually have what a real scientist would call a control -- that
is, an equivalent population that can be compared to the population
being studied or experimented on. There is no other self-conscious
intelligent species we can look to as a basis for determining whether
or not it is an extraordinary claim that ghosts exist, or
reincarnation, or remote viewing, or Jungian synchronicity, or
visitation by advanced alien species. If we really did have such a
control population, it might be that the ordinary assumption regarding
all these phenomena is that they're routine and to be expected.
If we could kidnap Leonardo da Vinci from the fifteenth century
and bring him to ours, what would we have to do to convince him that a
smaller unit of matter than any he was aware of could be split apart to
produce an explosion that would level Florence and kill everyone who
lived there? Would it be enough to show him the physics calculations
and explain the technology? After all, that's all it would take to
transform our faith that this
is so into knowing certainty, and most of us aren't half as brilliant
as Leonardo What if we showed him film of the first Los Alamos
detonation and he didn't believe it? Is it really the claim that's
extraordinary, or is it rather that his assumption set is simply too
primitive? Even if he refused to believe it until we actually set off a
nuclear warhead in his line of sight, it doesn't change the
authenticity or the matter-of-fact correctness of the calculations and
technology descriptions we showed him in the first place.
The Sagan Rule doesn't relate to evidence per se; it relates to the
point of view of the percipient, specifically the closed-mindedness of
the determined skeptic. If you're pre-disposed to disbelieve something,
you're going to be harder to convince. That doesn't change the
acceptable measure of proof at all. None but a handful of people has
seen the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. But
we all (agree to) believe it exists, even though photographic evidence
faked and all the supposed eyewitnesses have an economic incentive for
making us believe their claims.
Yes, but we all just know
that the earth isn't really being visited by a extraterrestrial
civilizations. Sure we do. We also know
that there's such a thing as an electron, which is sort of there and
sort of not there too, according to quantum physics. What kind of
evidence do you accept for the latter? And why is that so much more
plausible than the evidence you dismiss for the former? Or haven't you
ever really bothered to look into either?
You're on your own in researching the reality of the electron. But I
can give you a start into investigating the possibility that the UFO
phenomenon is a deeply mysterious reality of some sort whose
fundamental nature isn't understood by anyone:
Browse and sharpshoot to your heart's content. At the end you may think you know. But you won't know.
Nobody does. And the scientists who keep telling us they're sure how
the universe works are guessing along with the rest of us.
That might be kind of sad, and it also might be kind of wonderful. It
sort of depends on your point of view. Like everything else.
On a different subject, faithful InstaPunk readers please note the
update to the May 4 post about the Liberty
Medal. I really am asking
for some audience participation here. Not for Country Punk, who posted
the original. But for Sid Mark, the amazing gentleman he was writing
about. Thank you.
into the new NEW feminism now, the post-Hillary, post-modern, post-love
generation of git-up-and-go professional mothers to be. They'll be up
on all the pre-nuptial agreement laws, time-off for post-partum
murderous fantasies therapy, breastfeeding-till-puberty fashion statements, daycare-reimbursement rights, car-seat
regulations, divorce-the-bastard-to-death self destructiveness,
single-mother-I-get- the-house-and-everything- else-but-a-father
litigation, my-kid-can-do-no-wrong denial, and post-doctoral, Michelle Obama, permanent, pissed-off
hard-on about how-much-my- life-sucks-now politics. A breakthrough.
Thanks to the fearless pioneers of the last half of the twentieth
century, tomorrow's kids will have moms who know what men and phones
are for (although the order of those should probably be reversed if
priority is important).
Who could possibly have foreseen an age in which women would get "push-presents"
just because they're maybe possibly capable of becoming mothers someday, and,
well, basking in literally unbounded admiration just for the fact of
their belonging to the superior female sex? Who could ever have
anticipated the attractive distance and ennui of Michelle
"Gloria is a very young soul--" began
Mrs. Gilbert eagerly, but her nephew interrupted with a hurried
"Gloria'd be a very young nut not to marry him." He stopped and faced
her, his expression a battle map of lines and dimples, squeezed and
strained to its ultimate show of intensity--this as if to make up by
his sincerity for any indiscretion in his words. "Gloria's a wild one,
Aunt Catherine. She's uncontrollable. How she's done it I don't know,
but lately she's picked up a lot of the funniest friends. She doesn't
seem to care. And the men she used to go with around New York were--"
He paused for breath.
"Yes-yes-yes," interjected Mrs. Gilbert, with an anaemic attempt to
hide the immense interest with which she listened.
"Well," continued Richard Caramel gravely, "there it is. I mean that
the men she went with and the people she went with used to be first
rate. Now they aren't."
Mrs. Gilbert blinked very fast--her bosom trembled, inflated, remained
so for an instant, and with the exhalation her words flowed out in a
She knew, she cried in a whisper; oh, yes, mothers see these things.
But what could she do? He knew Gloria. He'd seen enough of Gloria to
know how hopeless it was to try to deal with her. Gloria had been so
spoiled--in a rather complete and unusual way. She had been suckled
until she was three, for instance, when she could probably have chewed
sticks. Perhaps--one never knew--it was this that had given that health
and _hardiness_ to her whole personality. And then ever since she was
twelve years old she'd had boys about her so thick--oh, so thick one
couldn't _move_. At sixteen she began going to dances at preparatory
schools, and then came the colleges; and everywhere she went, boys,
boys, boys. At first, oh, until she was eighteen there had been so many
that it never seemed one any more than the others, but then she began
to single them out.
She knew there had been a string of affairs spread over about three
years, perhaps a dozen of them altogether. Sometimes the men were
undergraduates, sometimes just out of college--they lasted on an
average of several months each, with short attractions in between. Once
or twice they had endured longer and her mother had hoped she would be
engaged, but always a new one came--a new one--
The men? Oh, she made them miserable, literally! There was only one who
had kept any sort of dignity, and he had been a mere child, young
Carter Kirby, of Kansas City, who was so conceited anyway that he just
sailed out on his vanity one afternoon and left for Europe next day
with his father. The others had been--wretched. They never seemed to
know when she was tired of them, and Gloria had seldom been
deliberately unkind. They would keep phoning, writing letters to her,
trying to see her, making long trips after her around the country. Some
of them had confided in Mrs. Gilbert, told her with tears in their eyes
that they would never get over Gloria ... at least two of them had
though.... But Gloria, it seemed, struck to kill--to this day Mr.
Carstairs called up once a week, and sent her flowers which she no
longer bothered to refuse.
Several times, twice, at least, Mrs. Gilbert knew it had gone as far as
a private engagement--with Tudor Baird and that Holcome boy at
Pasadena. She was sure it had, because--this must go no further--she
had come in unexpectedly and found Gloria acting, well, very much
engaged indeed. She had not spoken to her daughter, of course. She had
had a certain sense of delicacy and, besides, each time she had
expected an announcement in a few weeks. But the announcement never
came; instead, a new man came.
Scenes! Young men walking up and down the library like caged tigers!
Young men glaring at each other in the hall as one came and the other
left! Young men calling up on the telephone and being hung up upon in
desperation! Young men threatening South America! ... Young men writing
the most pathetic letters! (She said nothing to this effect, but Dick
fancied that Mrs. Gilbert's eyes had seen some of these letters.)
... And Gloria, between tears and laughter, sorry, glad, out of love
and in love, miserable, nervous, cool, amidst a great returning of
presents, substitution of pictures in immemorial frames, and taking of
hot baths and beginning again--with the next.
That state of things continued, assumed an air of permanency. Nothing
harmed Gloria or changed her or moved her. And then out of a clear sky
one day she informed her mother that undergraduates wearied her. She
was absolutely going to no more college dances.
This had begun the change--not so much in her actual habits, for she
danced, and had as many "dates" as ever--but they were dates in a
different spirit. Previously it had been a sort of pride, a matter of
her own vainglory. She had been, probably, the most celebrated and
sought-after young beauty in the country. Gloria Gilbert of Kansas
City! She had fed on it ruthlessly--enjoying the crowds around her, the
manner in which the most desirable men singled her out; enjoying the
fierce jealousy of other girls; enjoying the fabulous, not to say
scandalous, and, her mother was glad to say, entirely unfounded rumors
about her--for instance, that she had gone in the Yale swimming-pool
one night in a chiffon evening dress.
And from loving it with a vanity that was almost masculine--it had been
in the nature of a triumphant and dazzling career--she became suddenly
anaesthetic to it. She retired. She who had dominated countless
parties, who had blown fragrantly through many ballrooms to the tender
tribute of many eyes, seemed to care no longer. He who fell in love
with her now was dismissed utterly, almost angrily. She went listlessly
with the most indifferent men. She continually broke engagements, not
as in the past from a cool assurance that she was irreproachable, that
the man she
insulted would return like a domestic animal--but indifferently,
without contempt or pride. She rarely stormed at men any more--she
yawned at them. She seemed--and it was so strange--she seemed to her
mother to be growing cold.
Richard Caramel listened. At first he had remained standing, but as his
aunt's discourse waxed in content--it stands here pruned by half, of
all side references to the youth of Gloria's soul and to Mrs. Gilbert's
own mental distresses--he drew a chair up and attended rigorously as
she floated, between tears and plaintive helplessness, down the long
story of Gloria's life. When she came to the tale of this last year, a
tale of the ends of cigarettes left all over New York in little trays
marked "Midnight Frolic" and "Justine Johnson's Little Club," he began
nodding his head slowly, then faster and faster, until, as she finished
on a staccato note, it was bobbing briskly up and down, absurdly like a
doll's wired head, expressing--almost anything.
In a sense Gloria's past was an old story to him. He had followed it
with the eyes of a journalist, for he was going to write a book about
her some day. But his interests, just at present, were family
interests. He wanted to know, in particular, who was this Joseph
Bloeckman that he had seen her with several times; and those two girls
she was with constantly, "this" Rachael Jerryl and "this" Miss
Kane--surely Miss Kane wasn't exactly the sort one would associate with
But the moment had passed. Mrs. Gilbert having climbed the hill of
exposition was about to glide swiftly down the ski-jump of collapse.
Her eyes were like a blue sky seen through two round, red
window-casements. The flesh about her mouth was trembling.
And at the moment the door opened, admitting into the room Gloria and
the two young ladies lately mentioned.
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
Yeah, he knew something about Princetion, and even Yale. But what the
hell did he know
about iPhones, text-messaging, and girl power? Women invented all that stuff. And
future babies will thank them forever. Especially when they figure out
how easily their moms could have ditched them in that incredibly
uncomfortable and vanity-assaulting ninth month.
Happy Mother's Day to all the old-fashioned mothers out there. We love
you. Oh yes we do. You we
absolutely revere and treasure. Because we know you never thought about
killing us to keep your career, your figure or your boyfriend.
Nobody under the age of 40 can be really sure of that anymore. Moms.
Try listening to the audio file as if it were a fetus talking to the
neo-Mom of the graphic above after she'd decided to, uh, "end the
pregnancy" for the good of all concerned. Would Gloria care?
Would Michelle? Would the current Princeton female graduating class?
[Text your answers to 98987.]
That's the basis of our heartfelt thank you to the real mothers who
don't need push-presents or all the convenient empty clap-trap of
post-modern narcissism. Which has always been there. It just never used
to be regarded as a virtue.