Category Archives: In Our Time

Barack Obama, Selfie Subject in Chief

Did selfies exist when W. was president? I don’t recall, but they’ve certainly been a huge factor in the current administration.

They’ve both been part of the Obama legend — this was the youthful, supposedly tech-savvy president who complained back in 2009 about having to curtail use of his Blackberry (an archaic device that, amazingly, he continued to use into this year, thanks to the government’s sclerotic pace of adaptation) — and a bit of a curse, as everyone he meets spins away from him in order to snap a shot.

As The Washington Post noted just this week:

Obama has complained — with increasing regularity during his final year in office — about the prevalence of the selfie and its intrusion on his personal space. But the president, who has leveraged his image as a tech-savvy and approachable leader to mobilize young voters, has not been willing or able — despite his ample executive powers — to contain the selfie explosion. No blanket selfie ban has been issued.

The upshot: Obama and the humble smartphone have forever altered one of the most iconic American moments. Never again will citizens interact with their president in quite the same way. #ThanksObama….

Generally he’s been a good sport, as you’ll recall from the famous Buzzfeed video, in which he reached out to young people by letting on that he, too, could be way narcissistic.

heres_looking_at_you_obama.0

Then there was the selfie he and soon-to-be-ex-PM Cameron oh-so-cheerfully posed for with the hot Scandinavian blonde… with the First Lady sitting off to the side scowling — as well she should, since they were in the middle of a funeral for one of the most revered people on the planet (actually, the photographer later said the photo was misleading on that score):

MANDELA-SELFIE_2761644b

It’s a bit weird the way this one minor feature of smartphones — the reverse lens, a goofy little add-on — has transformed the way people across the country and around the planet interact with the most powerful man in the world.

Yesterday, I remarked on the lack of gravitas exhibited by the president and the young leader of Canada in the selfie Tweeted by PM Trudeau. David Carlton chided me a bit, saying he was pleased to see national leaders so loose and informal.

And I suppose it’s all right. At least they’re wearing coats and ties, so my Tory sensibilities aren’t too offended. Harrumph.

I, personally, do not have a selfie with the president, strictly speaking. I have this old-fashioned shot taken by an actual photographer after interviewing then-Sen. Obama in 2008. Sorry. Best I could do:

brad-Obama

General, you might want to spread your troops out a bit

ClevNgYWYAAMQks

Ran across this photo when the U.S. Army Tweeted it out in celebration of National Selfie Day — which apparently is a thing — earlier this week.

It shows Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, posing with some of his troops.

All I could think was that in a combat situation — and the way they’re decked out it certainly looks like a combat situation — a formation like this would be suicidal. One mortar round, and that’s it.

I’d just feel a lot better if they were spread out in a proper skirmish line.

Beyond that, it just looks ridiculous… it sort of cracked me up.

A gram is better than a damn, ma’am

Soma ad

Sometimes Google Adsense makes, well, sense — such as the Ancestry.com ad I’m seeing in the rail at right — I’ve really been into building my family tree lately.

Sometimes I am mystified. That’s the case with the “Soma” ad you see above.

Doubly mystified. To me, “Soma” means:

  1. The therapeutic and recreational drug of choice in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where “A gramme is better than a damn” is axiomatic. It is used to keep people in that creepy utopia from feeling disagreeable emotions. Life is tough? Take a soma holiday!
  2. The muscle relaxer I have used at times over the years — generic name “carisoprodol.”

I don’t associate it with ladies in swimsuits. But apparently, that’s a thing now.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that their products are meant to fit women’s physical forms, since “soma” means “the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.” You know, as in “psychosomatic.”

But it caught my eye…

Soma

Apparently, Hillary is more ‘with it’ than I am

CkZqglTW0AI7gjr

I saw the reporting on this Tweet from Hillary Clinton, in reply to Donald Trump:

… and I was like, “Yeah, OK. So?” To me, it seemed to be an extremely unimaginative response, smacking slightly of authoritarianism (as though Hillary had, along with winning the nomination, just been named Hall Monitor of Twitter).

Apparently, it’s a thing, and the kids loved it:

Can we get you some ice for that burn, Donald?

Hillary Clinton shut down presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday with a simple, three-word tweet to end all beefs.

Clinton’s tweet — repurposing a well-known and beloved Internet meme — was in response to Trump’s reaction that President Barack Obama had endorsed Clinton (his former Secretary of State) for the 2016 election. …

Well, the fact that that lame response was “a well-known and beloved internet meme” was entirely news to me, so I followed the link to the alleged best uses of the meme ever.

And you know what? Each of those struck me as just as flat and uninteresting and blah as when Hillary used it. To much-younger Twitter-users, though, it is the distilled essence of wit, or so I’m told.

Huh. They don’t ask for much, do they?

But even if the first thousand or so uses of the line were just high-larious (which I doubt, but let’s just say they were), it still shows a lack of imagination for Hillary to use it instead of coming up with something original.

And as “burns” go, it seems decidedly tepid.

But as I say, apparently the kids loved it, and isn’t that the point when you’re Hillary, and desperate for some of that juice that Bernie has with the young?

The reaction she’s gotten probably has the Democrat just hugging herself, saying, “I’m with it. I’m groovy. I’m fab. I’m a hepcat. 23 skidoo…”

Trigger warning: This may insult your intelligence

And it also might give you stressful flashbacks to some really maddening conversations you had during your college days.

So you are warned. This is not a safe space.

So much has been written about the newer sorts of ideological correctness on the campuses of American universities, mostly by haughty old white guys such as George Will and Bill Kristol, just harrumphing away.

51xdxNQIQ1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Or for that matter by Kim R. Holmes (don’t worry! even though the name is “Kim,” it’s another oppressor white guy, refusing to check his privilege!), the author of The Closing of the Liberal Mind, which was was reviewed this morning in The Wall Street Journal.

So unless academia is your milieu, you’ve probably only heard such terms as “trigger warnings,” “safe space,” “cultural appropriation” and “microaggressions” within a disapproving context.

So it was kind of a nice idea to give the kids themselves a say in the matter, and over the weekend The Washington Post did that with a story headlined, “The new vocabulary of protest: What students mean by terms like ‘safe space’.”

Trouble is, while I feel for the student who says she doesn’t think the desire for a “safe space” or concern about microaggressions “makes me a stupid, naive child,” most of the quotes in the piece… how shall I put this?…

Basically, they read like the quotes a satirist would construct in creating fictional students who espouse the notions that The Closing of the Liberal Mind criticizes. A satirist who know nothing about these terms other than what he read by the critics.

If you’re likely to harrumph along with Will, this piece isn’t going to change your mind a bit.

These kids are sensitive. Just ask them; they’ll tell you. Like hothouse flowers. And they talk just like people who have a worldview that is entirely rooted in that sort of sensitivity.

So, stereotypes are not dispelled. Some samples:

Fadumo Osman: When I wear my traditional clothing I’m a foreigner and I’m criminalized for it, but when you wear it you make money off of it, and it’s cute….

Liam Baronofsky: One microaggression is like one paper cut, so it’s something small but it hurts the person at the core of their identity level. But it happens so often, you come home every day with like 15 paper cuts … and it really hurts….

But perhaps you’ll disagree. Go read the story, and let me know what you think.

 

Finally, Twitter will only count the characters you actually TYPE

twitter header

This is exciting news for those of us who are addicted to Twitter — and it’s long overdue.

How many times have you carefully honed a Tweet to well under 140 characters, only to have it disqualified when you add the photo or link that inspired the post?

Did that feel unfair to you? It should have. It always has to me, even though, over the years, I’ve come to accept the stricture.

Mind you, it’s not that I object to the 140-character limit itself. Far from it. I embrace it. I think it provides the necessary tension to keep Tweets lean and mean — there’s just enough room to express an idea as long as you squeeze the fat out. It’s just right. It’s like the 90 feet between bases — an inch more or less and the balance between runners and defense wouldn’t be perfect.

But when you attach a picture or a link to your carefully-honed Tweet, suddenly you’re over the limit, through no fault of your own.

In any case, this injustice is finally at an end, or about to be:

Twitter Inc. is making a major shift in how it counts characters in Tweets, giving users more freedom to compose longer messages.

The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment….

“Declined to comment?” They should be shouting the good news from the rooftops!

Young Icelanders seem confused about God and science

Sistine

Yet another story from The Washington Post that I meant to post about over the weekend…

I was intrigued by this headline:

In this country, literally no young Christians believe that God created the Earth

The story reports that “Exactly zero percent of respondents in a recent survey said they believe that God created the Earth.”

That apparently includes the 40 percent or so of younger people in the increasingly secular country who still consider themselves to be Christian.

I tried to find out how that could be, and the explanation was confusing:

Despite the trend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is still the country’s declared state church. Solveig Anna Boasdottir, a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, agreed that scientific progress had changed religious attitudes in the country. But she said that about 40 percent of the country’s younger generation still consider themselves Christian — but none of them believe that God created the Earth. “Theories of science are broadly accepted among both young and old. That does not necessarily affect people’s faith in God,” she said….

Yeah. Got that. I don’t see any reason why acceptance of science would diminish faith in God — I’ve always found that simplistic dichotomy (God on one side, science on the other) — to be rather absurd, with the battle over evolution being one of the more ridiculous manifestations.

But I don’t see how it would affect people’s belief that God made the world, either.

I’ve always thought evolution is exactly the way God would create people and other species — a majestically slow, dignified, enormously complex process, rather than some Cecil B. DeMille, abracadabra “poof!”

Same with the geological eons to create the world on which all these species live.

Yeah, I get it that some people are very literal-minded, and they think that if it didn’t happen in the six days set out in the Genesis allegory, then God must have had nothing to do with it.

So if this survey is right, every single person who lives in Iceland is that literal-minded.

Which surprises me…

So basically, these folks are the opposite of deists, who believed God did create the world, but then left it alone…

The story even acknowledges what seems obvious to me, which is that “some Christians believe both in the Big Bang theory and God’s role.” So… how does that lead to no one believing God created the world?

Maybe the story’s just not well-written…

A film almost, but not quite, entirely unlike anything that appeals to me

When I saw the email from Netflix headlined “Brad, we just added a movie you might like,” I braced myself. Netflix chirpily announcing it has something I will like gives me the same creeping feeling that Arthur Dent got when the Syrius Cybernetics Corporation’s Nutrimatic drinks dispenser offered him another cup of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

And sure enough, here’s what it was offering me:

netflix

Don’t know about you, but I consider that to be one of the silliest, most ridiculously hyped films of the past decade. It easily qualifies as my least favorite Ron Howard film, and I suppose my least favorite featuring Tom Hanks as well.

It was like a cheesy retelling of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, and I didn’t like that, either. There are people who just eat up a tale involving a conspiracy stretching over thousands of years, especially when it involves the Knights Templar (as both tales do). I’m not one of them. I’m not a huge fan of the whole paranoia thriller genre to begin with, and when you stretch it to such extremes, you totally lose me.

And don’t even bother feeding me a tale about brilliant algorithms duplicating the human mind and taking over the world. When Netflix gets a clue as to what I like, then I’ll worry…

These days, apparently, you ARE entitled to your own facts

We now know, as a result of an FBI announcement late this morning, that one of the San Bernardino attackers had “pledged… allegiance” to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

That’s the first piece of information we’ve had indicating that the killer couple had any sort of connection, direct or indirect, to radical Islamic groups.

That news broke about 6 hours ago. But before that, there was a remarkable number of people in this country who were so sure that this was indeed an act of Islamist terror that they were contemptuously dismissive of anyone who expressed anything other than absolute certainty on that point.

For instance, take a look at some of the Twitter reactions to a story that was in The Washington Post this morning (meaning that it was probably written last night, long before that FBI disclosure). The story was headlined, “Motive elusive in deadly San Bernardino rampage as FBI takes over probe.”

Which was certainly true when the story was posted. This was a weird case, and not only because it was the first potential terrorist attack that we had seen involving a married couple with a young child (so much for the stereotype of sexually frustrated young men). This couple had taken the trouble to amass a modest armory, had taken their child to relatives for safekeeping — and yet had not left the world any obvious message as to why they were doing what they did. It fit no known pattern.

But there are a lot of people out there these days who just know things without any evidentiary support, such as these:

… and so forth.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Oh, how quaint.

Today, people are adamant that they are so entitled to their own facts. That’s why Donald Trump doesn’t implode no matter how many stretchers he may defiantly utter. There is a natural constituency that believes that truth is whatever they choose to forcefully assert.

I find myself suspecting that this is related to the rise of the Web. Since there are no barriers to publication, there are no standards. Anyone who believes anything can find an audience of people who believe him — and stand ready to amplify him — and that’s the only test one has to meet. The hordes of people who embrace this new state of affairs have been waiting for a man like Trump, and the moment has found its man.

Anyway, back to actual reality…

This case remains perplexing. Why would this woman have “pledged allegiance” to ISIL’s leader, but done so in such a backhanded manner? One of the cardinal rules of terror is that you kill and/or sacrifice yourself to send a clear political message.

Why has ISIL not leaped to claim even indirect responsibility, given the way they did so so quickly after Paris?

I’m interested to learn more so that I can understand what happened and why, and learn valuable lessons for heading off this kind of thing in the future. Yeah, I know. I’m hopelessly old-fashioned. I like facts…

336 days, 355 mass shootings

I got this from The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog. How is a “mass shooting” defined for the purposes of this count?

The San Bernardino shooting is the 355th mass shooting this year, according to a mass shooting tracker maintained by the Guns Are Cool subreddit. The Reddit tracker defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire.

The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting — the old FBI definition focused on four or more people killed as part of a single shooting.

It would be also be the second mass shooting just today — in the early morning hours, one person was killed and three were injured in an incident in Savannah, Georgia.

Speaking after the Colorado Springs shooting last week, President Obama urged Americans to not let this type of violence “become normal.” But the data show that this type of incident already is normal. There have been more mass shootings than calendar days so far this year…

So if only three people are hit, it’s not a mass shooting, by this count.

Is Heroin Chic back? Oh, I really hope not…

heroin chic

So I was doing this blog post for ADCO about a design group that recently redesigned Vogue’s website, and ran across the above image.

Yikes.

Wikipedia says Heroin Chic went away in 1999 with the arrival of the über-healthy Gisele Bündchen. As Jake Barnes said to Lady Brett Ashley, it would be pretty to think so. Very pretty, in this case.

But that girl in the middle of the picture above looks way, way worse than the illustration of Heroin Chic that Wikipedia provides.

Maybe this is something else. Walker Chic, perhaps, in the “Walking Dead” sense? In any case, this is a terrible thing for the world, especially for girls who see such images held up as something to emulate. (Not that it’s all that great for them to be expected to look like Gisele Bündchen, either. But at least she looks alive…)

The extreme embarrassment of Ultron

In another context, his stance might look menacing. Here, he seems mortified...

In another context, his stance might look menacing. Here, he seems mortified…

Forget about separate bathrooms; there is no more dramatic separation between the sexes than the stark contrast between the store aisles devoted to items marketed to boys and those aimed at girls.

The “boys'” aisles are filled with menacing things that shoot, crash, kick, punch or snarl, and the dominant colors are not baby boy blue, but black and brown, relieved only by blood red, ninja turtle green and sometimes alarming orange.

And the “girls'” aisles are, well, pink. That’s about all you can see at a distance, and sometimes close up. So much pink that I still feel an aversion to walking down them, like there is still a trace of Wally and the Beave in me, thinking, “Aw, Mom! Don’t make me go there! What if one of the guys sees me! He’ll give me the business!”

And anyway, we try hard to find more neutral things for our granddaughters — building sets, puzzles, games — something less frou-frou at the very least. There are such things still to be found, for girls and boys, and they are only occasionally to be found floating in the sea of pink.

And when you find something that doesn’t belong there, boy does it stick out. Like “Ultron” above, which I found amid the pink at Target, no doubt left by some kid whose parents said, “Put that down; we’re shopping for your sister.” (Or maybe the sister wanted it, and her parents preferred to buy her something more “suitable.” I don’t know…)

How did I get here? I'm not touching anything!

How did I get here? I’m not touching anything!

I like Ultron’s stance in the photo. With his shoulders hunched up toward his ears (or where ears would be if he had any) and his arms hanging in a way that suggests a reluctance to touch anything, and that mechanical grimace, he looks terribly awkward and embarrassed, as though he had accidentally gone clanking into the women’s bathroom. He seems to be thinking, “Get me outta here before the Avengers see me! They’ll give me the business!”

Well, it just serves him right for being such a testosterone-fueled bully who wants to dominate the world. Maybe in the future he’ll remember to check his privilege before barging in among all these lady dolls…

Y’all are all getting ads like this too, right? I said, RIGHT?

The ad at right, generated by Google Adsense to appear in the right-hand rail of the blog for my viewing pleasure, is weird on a number of levels.testosterone

  • What’s the connection between hot women and low testosterone? Is the theory that guys who have need of the product will look at the picture and think, “I feel nothing, so I must have low T”? I would think that most heterosexual males would be persuaded, by looking at a picture like that, that one thing they do not need is more testosterone. I mean, seriously, did Ulysses think he had low T as he was tied to the mast, his naked ears tortured by the sirens sweetly singing?
  • Who are the ad wizards who wrote that copy? You’re saying this is “What Happens When You Take a Testosterone Supplement?” Well, then, no thanks! I don’t want to look like that! (I mean, it might be gratifying to see Bruce/Caitlin Jenner turn green with envy… but not that gratifying.)
  • Finally… why am I seeing this? I promise you that I have not searched for “What do I do about low testosterone?” or “Large-busted young women who wear T shirts that are way too small.” Hey, maybe that’s the problem! Maybe Google assumes that if you’re NOT searching for such pictures, you must have low T….

But of course, it’s not just me, is it? All of you fellas are getting the same ad, right? I said, right?

I don’t know. I just think it’s weird. And what about all those ads about meeting Asian women? Is that just because I’ve written about going to Thailand?…

The deputy and the student: That violent Spring Valley video

Again, South Carolina makes national news, and again, it’s in a bad way.

It’s early in the discernment process, and we lack any context (whatever the context may be), but the extremely brief video is a kick in the gut, especially the instant when the desk flips backward in a way that almost seems to defy physical laws. It’s amazing that the student wasn’t injured, a fact we can only chalk up to the resilience of youth.

Here, from The State, are the skimpy facts, which tell us next to nothing:

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident between a school resource officer and a female student at Spring Valley High School on Monday, after a video showing a confrontation was posted online.

The female student and a male student were arrested for disturbing the peace, said Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson. The resource officer, Senior Deputy Ben Fields, has been placed on administrative duties with pay pending the investigation’s results, according to Wilson.

While Fields will work at the Sheriff’s Department, he won’t be performing any duties at area schools. In a statement, the Richland 2 school district said it had “directed the school resource officer not return to any school in the district.”

The video shows Fields approach the female student seated in a desk. The resource officer proceeds to place his left hand on the female student’s left arm, before putting his right arm around her neck. Fields then flips the desk over, with the student still seated, before spinning it around and forcibly removing the student and trying to restrain her at the front of the classroom.

Wilson said no one was injured in the incident – neither the students nor Fields.

Wilson said prior to what is shown in the video, the female student was asked to leave the classroom and refused. Wilson said that was when the resource officer was called in….

The official response to the incident seems appropriately cautious so far. The sheriff is out of town. The mayor wants an independent investigation. The school district’s one response, saying it doesn’t want that officer back in the classroom, seems appropriate under the circumstances.

All we have now is a video that shocks the viewer as much as it seems to have shocked the bystanders, who react not at all — their stillness is almost eerie — except for the one who shot these 15 seconds.

Thoughts?

 

 

Forest Acres officer shot, killed at Richland Mall

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

Horrible news travels so fast these days.

By the time I got a news alert from WACH telling me that a Forest Acres officer had been shot and killed at Richland Mall this morning, the flags at City Hall were already at half-mast:

And more astoundingly, my friend Mary Pat Baldauf had already contributed to a memorial fund for him:

It’s like we don’t even get a moment anymore to absorb the news, to say, “Oh, my God. How terrible…”

So consider that to have been said by me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later.

See, that’s what I dislike about the “like” button

I’ve been enjoying Alexandra Petri’s stuff since I discovered her very recently.

But I must take issue with her piece last week, “A DISLIKE button, on Facebook? DISLIKE.” I don’t disagree with her on that. I don’t like the idea of a dislike button, either. And she argues her point ably:

A badly kept secret of human beings is that we never quite have the right words for delicate situations. We love “Like” for this reason — better than “Congratulations!” by a mile — but what is awkward in Facebook is not that there is no button for framing your compassionate response to loss. It is that grief and condolences are inherently unwieldy. Even the right button would not quite be the right button. The act of pressing a button in response to that news would feel wrong no matter how compassionate the word was. “Like” feels wrong. But I’m not sure “Dislike” would be much better.FBDislike

And any negative word presents the possibility of abuse.

Look, being considerate takes work. Communication takes work. Correspondence takes work. Finding words takes work.

I always find striking the rare Facebook status that has more Comments than Likes — usually, this comes when someone has suffered a loss. And then, in our fumbling way, we struggle for words. “I’m so sorry,” we say. “Sending thoughts,” we say. These responses are never very many words, but they feel infinitely difficult.

And they always have.

But here’s where I disagree: I have the same problem with the “like” button. It’s a cheap way out from doing the hard work of expressing what you really mean: Look, being considerate takes work. Communication takes work. Correspondence takes work. Finding words takes work.

I’ll admit that the harm done by hitting a “like” button is minimal compared to being misunderstood when you hit something just as simplistic with negative connotation (and I’ll confess I’ve made use of it, when I feel the tiny urge of social pressure to say something, and the like button is a sufficiently inadequate social gesture to meet that need). Seldom will anyone angrily confront you to demand, “What do you MEAN, ‘like’?” Although some people would. OK, I might. One can only take so much unfocused affirmation.

But I have to say, I “like” her suggestion for a “MEH” button…

‘What dreams are made of:’ Your own, personal flamethrower

Our discussions about gun control go nowhere, so let’s talk about this.

A flamethrower and a BIG ol' tank of gasoline: What could possibly go wrong?

A flamethrower and a BIG ol’ tank of gasoline: What could possibly go wrong?

“You might ast yerself, what is this? Well, ah’m ‘one tell ya. This, my friends, is what dreams are made of,” says the crusty, country-fried Santa in the video above. “Look at that, would ya. Heh-heh, ha-HAAAH! Ah’m talkin’ ’bout get some fer sure. Guys, this is a XM42 personal flamethrower.” When he gets to the word “personal,” he tilts his head forward and peers out knowingly from under his brows, letting each and every one a you red-blooded viewers know that he sees into your innermost desires, and knows this is what you’ve always wanted.

Or, as the boys at Bennettsville High School when I was in the 9th grade would have said had they seen this, “GOT-tawmighty!”

I learned from The Washington Post today that:

Anyone with $899 and an Internet connection can buy one.

No background checks, no permits, and in 48 states, no regulation….

Which are the two states that would presume to stand in the way of your God-given right to burn s__t up at will? Well, California — the ultimate left-coast Nanny state — requires a permit. Maryland outright bans them.

I must confess that — perhaps because the Warthen part of my family tree hails from Maryland — I have, shall we say, reservations about the ready availability of these weapons. I’ve always thought there was something a little unsavory and shall we say unsportsmanlike about them. Oh, I’m sure that if I were a grunt on Iwo Jima or Normandy, I’d welcome them as a way of frying the machine-gunners who’d been killing my buddies from the safety of a concrete pillbox. But in playing a Red Army sniper in Call of Duty: World at War, I always aimed for the Germans with the tanks on their backs first. No one wants to be on the receiving end of one of these things, even in virtual reality.

The political battle lines are drawn. On his first day in office, President Obama signed a three-decade-old U.N. ban on the use of napalm and flamethrowers (some of which use napalm as fuel) on civilians.

Now, civilians can have their very own flamethrowers in most of this country. And as the guy in the video says, “As always, keep up the fight against flamethrower control… and gun control. And remember, Big Daddy loves yuh. Oo-rah!”

Is America’s love affair with cars really hitting the brakes?

SOME young guys still love cars: This is my grandson two years ago, when he was just learning to stand.

SOME young guys still love cars: This is my grandson two years ago, when he was just learning to stand.

…Mom&Dad&Buddy&Sis in the suburbs… There they go, in the family car, a white Pontiac Bonneville sedan— the family car! —a huge crazy god-awful-powerful fantasy creature to begin with, 327-horsepower, shaped like twenty-seven nights of lubricious luxury brougham seduction— you’re already there, in Fantasyland, so why not move off your snug-harbor quilty-bed dead center and cut loose—go ahead and say it—Shazam!—juice it up to what it’s already aching to be: 327,000 horsepower, a whole superhighway long and soaring , screaming on toward…Edge City, and ultimate fantasies, current and future…Billy Batson said Shazam! And turned into Captain Marvel.

— The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Dear Millennials,

As sick as I am of hearing about y’all (when everyone knows the only truly fascinating generation was the Baby Boom), come on home. All is forgiven, if you are truly ushering in an era when America will be a little less crazy about cars. From The Washington Post over the weekend:

Cruising toward oblivion

America’s once magical – now mundane – love affair with cars

… For nearly all of the first century of automobile travel, getting your license meant liberation from parental control, a passport to the open road. Today, only half of millennials bother to get their driver’s licenses by age 18. Car culture, the 20th-century engine of the American Dream, is an old guy’s game.

“The automobile just isn’t that important to people’s lives anymore,” says Mike Berger, a historian who studies the social effect of the car. “The automobile provided the means for teenagers to live their own lives. Social media blows any limits out of the water. You don’t need the car to go find friends.”

Much of the emotional meaning of the car, especially to young adults, has transferred to the smartphone, says Mark Lizewskie, executive director of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa. “Instead of Ford versus Chevy, it’s Apple versus Android, and instead of customizing their ride, they customize their phones with covers and apps,” he says. “You express yourself through your phone, whereas lately, cars have become more like appliances, with 100,000-mile warranties.”…

Personally, I have my doubts that folks who are in the time of life when hormones rule most dominantly are really satisfied with, say, interacting with the opposite sex via text rather than in the back seat.

But whatever the cause, if there’s an opening here for public transportation (which I love) and bicycles and walking, a chance at a less Hummeresque future, well then good for you, young people! The Energy Party salutes you! (But I think you boys should maybe get your T-levels checked, just to be on the safe side.)

I’ll close with a couple of pictures of my family’s (that is, my parents’) favorite car ever, the 396-horsepower 1965 Impala Super Sport (cue the sound of Tim the Tool Man grunting). This isn’t the actual car, but it looked just like the one(s) in these photos. I never got to drive this one (I was only 11 when we got it), so I feel like I missed out:

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Sorry, governor: It wasn’t me; it was Facebook

One of the things I hate about Facebook is the way it will randomly grab an image from my blog to go with a post that has no image.

People think I spend a lot of time on Facebook every day. I don’t. When I post something on my blog, the headline and link automatically post to Twitter. All of those Tweets — plus all of the Tweets I compose directly in Twitter itself — automatically post to Facebook. It’s not me; it’s the algorithms.photo (14)

If there was a picture in the post, that also shows up in the Facebook post (which up to a point is cool — I wish Twitter would do that, too).

But when there isn’t a picture in the post, Facebook goes and finds one. As often as not, it grabs one of the scores of header images that are generated randomly from my image library to display at the top of each page on the blog.

This makes for some picture appearing with posts that are wildly unconnected to the subject matter. Which is frustrating.

I particularly hate what it did last night — pairing the header image below, from Nikki Haley’s campaign appearance with Sarah Palin in 2010, with the headline “These are some bad guys. Some really, truly bad guys,” and the link to my post about ISIL.

Please allow me to apologize to Gov. Haley (and to ex-Gov. Palin, although you couldn’t really see her). I know I’ve been critical at times in the past, but I did NOT mean to say that about you.

And I wish to set the record straight with everyone else. I was not saying that about our governor.

The only good news in all this is that to the best of my knowledge, you could only see the governor in the phone version of Facebook (the iPhone app version, anyway). The iPad version and the browser version randomly cropped the image so that you couldn’t see anything but some of the granite steps. Which looks stupid, but at least doesn’t seem to say something I don’t mean to say.

Facebook can be such a pain…

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