When I first started writing this column (no, not this specific column — which began 4.5 seconds ago — but this feature), I was paid with the crusts of old sandwiches and the backwash of whatever sodas the editors of National Review couldn’t finish. Things have changed. Today I make… well, I don’t want to seem gauche; let’s just say that if you converted my salary to Italian lira, I’d be nearly a millionaire.
Meanwhile, we put the new webkids on the old-crusts-and-backwash pay schedule (typical suit: “Rickets, shmickets: If it was good enough for Goldberg, it’s good enough for you!”). Why, just the other day Chris McEvoy flicked a lit cigarette butt at our new guy George Vara and, after it had bounced off his forehead in a burst of sparks, George leapt on it like it was his Christmas bonus (the funny thing is, it was his Christmas bonus).
I bring this up, I guess, because I’m waxing nostalgic over the early days of NRO — when men were men and creditors were nervous. Back in the old days, the Goldberg File was a bunch of small items strung together by poor formatting and egregious spelling. Today, the formatting is a lot better. But while I’ve moved toward long essay-type doohickeys, it seems like the whole world is going in the other direction. Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, Jim Romenesko, the Pope (no, no not the Pope), Mickey Kaus, and even our own Jay Nordlinger are just a few of the folks adopting what industry experts call the “blogger” format.
So maybe I’m missing something.
SPEAKING OF MISSING SOMETHING For most of the bombing campaign, CNN and the rest of the networks were eager to show footage, either from al Jazeera (Arabic for “a bunch of crap”) or from Taliban-escorted junkets, showing Kabul in “ruins.” We saw piles of stones and rocks which made it look as if Fred Flintstone’s house had been pulverized. The establishment Left, as well as pretty much the entire Middle Eastern world, denounced the “destruction” of Kabul and the senseless slaughter of Afghan civilians. Well, we’ve seen two interesting things since independent, less propagandistic cameras were allowed into Kabul. First, we saw a largely un-slaughtered populace grateful to have the Taliban gone — something we’d been assured wouldn’t be the case when the Afghans united against immoral American bombing. And, second, we could plainly see lots and lots and lots of buildings. There is no way you can square the pre-liberation footage of smoldering sandstone rubble and the glass and concrete buildings we’re now seeing every day on TV. Unless, of course, the networks were simply a scandalous transmission belt of misinformation.
SPEAKING OF MISSING SOMETHING II On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert read from the lede of a New York Times story about the growing anti-American sentiment in Kuwait (Arabic for “ungrateful bastards”) — the country we saved a decade ago and continue to protect today. The Times story begins:
Eight years ago, the al-Munaif family slaughtered sheep in tribute to one President Bush, as that leader was hailed as the liberator of Kuwait during a 1993 visit in which he basked in adulation. But by last year, when a son was born to Sara, one of 11 al-Munaif children, the young woman did not hesitate to choose a name meant to send a very different signal to the West. The little boy is Osama, after Osama bin Laden.
Russert was clearly, and rightly, stunned that the Kuwaitis could be so irrational in their ingratitude. He asked Ahmed Rashid, author of The Taliban, “How do you explain that mindset to an American audience?”
Mr. Rashid commenced on a very sober explanation about the Kuwaiti royal family making promises to initiate democratic reforms, blah, blah, blah. Tom Friedman, of the New York Times, then chimed in with another high-minded analysis involving such things as the shortcomings of the Arab press and the need for women’s emancipation.
All of that was well and good. But… I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I would think any explanation of Arab or Kuwaiti irrationality would begin with the fact that we’re discussing a society where people still sacrifice sheep and goats at the drop of a hat (or turban).
SPEAKING OF MISSING SOMETHING III Oh, by the way, Ramadan has begun and we’re still bombing. But Muslims haven’t taken to the streets like the bulls of Pamplona. Maybe that’s because, the American media’s round-the-clock handwringing and self-flagellation notwithstanding, Muslims were never going to make a big deal about it. Or, maybe, the Muslims who were going to make a big deal reconsidered once it was clear the Taliban were going to fold like something commonly used in metaphors about rapid foldability. For those of us who argued for Ramadan bombing, we’ll take the silence as a tacit admission that we were right.
STATING THE OBVIOUS Knowing my (male) readers as I do, I cannot be the only one to have noticed the new Victoria’s Secret ad campaign (click here for a commercial). In posters and commercials, they blast the provocative question “What is Sexy?” all over the place.
Now, usually when someone asks, “What is Sexy?” it’s meant to question the “dominant paradigm” — as they say in postmodernism classes. Even on shows like Oprah, or in untold numbers of glossy magazines, famous people are always invited to answer the question, “What is sexy?” or “Tell us what you think sexy is,” or “Define ‘sexy.’” Invariably, these authors, movie stars, psychologists, and the rest give some very nice answer about “brains” or “intellect,” “compassion” or “tenderness.” We’re told that men such as Brad Pitt or George Clooney love women with a good sense of humor, and who work with blind kids or something else awwwww-inspiring. In any event, the question is always supposed to evoke something clever, unexpected, or unsuperficial.
What’s hilarious about the Victoria’s Secret ads is that they ask the question “What is Sexy?” — but their answer is super-hot chicks with, pardon my French, bodacious ta-tas falling out of constrictive bras, or in lacy garters writhing around on unmade beds with the come-hither looks of concubines not seen in my dreams since I was 17. Suffice it to say, there’s not a heterosexual man in America who needed this tutorial.
What’s next: an ad that asks, “What are the truly important things in life?” followed by a montage of scenes showing a guy rubbing his wealth and success in his friends’ faces while driving a really sweet car and living in a phat mansion with lots of chicks from Victoria’s Secret commercials.
WELCOME ABOARD My very good friend Nick Schulz has been hired as the editor of TechCentralStation, the techno-hub of the inestimable, though sadly libertarian, James Glassman. Nick used to be the editor at Foxnews.com, but the folks over at TCS wisely stole him away. Rumors that he left Fox because Geraldo was coming over are not true. If you’ve never heard of TechCentralStation, you should spend less time watching frothy gay sitcoms. Anyway, check ‘em out, especially if you’re into that techno-libertoid-politics-hope-growth-and-opportunity stuff. They always have something interesting.
WELCOME ABOARD II Speaking of techno-libertoid-politics-hope-growth-and-opportunity stuff, now that The American Spectator has gone that “direction,” one of its greatest assets has become harder to find. James Bowman, currently of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and who knows more about arts and culture than I know about lying around drinking beer, has launched his own webpage. You’ll be able to find his film reviews for the old American Spectator, as well as stuff from elsewhere.
GOOD NEWS The Orlando Sentinel has picked up my syndicated column. If you live in the Orlando area, follow the editors home from work, barge into their houses at dinnertime, and personally tell them how much you like it. No, wait, bad idea. But a nice note couldn’t hurt.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOLLOWING MY LINKS You may not realize this, but following my links is very, very important. Oh, not to you necessarily — or even at all. But in the world of web journalism, the ability to send traffic around is the power to create or destroy. And while I’d like to think at least some of you would take me at my word that certain things are worth checking out, it’s even more important (again, important to me) that I become the Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu waza Banga of the World Wide Web. This, as we all know, was the name of the dictator of the former Zaire (now the Congo). His name roughly translates to “the all-powerful rooster who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake” (though there are other translations which imply he gets jiggy with hens, or some such).
So, when I plug sites like Nick’s or James’s, I would really appreciate it if you could go over and check them out. Whether you stay or not is entirely up to you, of course. But, if I can legitimately get thousands of readers (flying monkeys, whatever) to storm over the parapets of various websites like marauding Huns into an unarmed village, it will not only make NRO more of a powerhouse out there, it will get me a lot closer to being the guy in that ad which asks, “What are the truly important things in life?” (minus the writhing models, of course — I’m happily married). Or, at least, it might get me a raise, though the two seem equally improbable.
HOUSEKEEPING Around noon on Wednesday, the star-studded NRO Thanksgiving page will be unveiled. Check out some NRO favorites: Victor Davis Hanson, John Derbyshire, and some NRO special guests, including Ron Radosh. You’ll have plenty of time — NRO will not post new material until we run out of turkey sandwiches, i.e., Monday morning. Of course, if America declares war on Iraq, or Geraldo Rivera decides he needs to inject more butt fat into his forehead (yes, he really did that) in order to cover the war in Afghanistan, we’ll fire up the diesel engines and start up NRO early.