Google+

Tags: Something Lighter

Like Heck We Can’t Move on from the 1980s!



Text  



Following up on Thursday’s 1980s discussion, here’s the long form of the routine I offered on Twitter that afternoon . . . 

As Republicans pick up the pieces from 2012, you are hearing a bit less of the very well-worn refrain, “We need to emulate the model of Ronald Reagan.” And that’s good, because constantly invoking Ronald Reagan probably makes those of us on the right seem like we’re still living in the 1980s, fixated with returning to the ’80s, like we have an Obsession with an Eternal Flame, and we’re just Livin’ on a Prayer.

Let’s be honest about our circumstances: The Tide Is High. We’re up Against All Odds. We feel Jeopardy from a Cult of Personality.

It feels like The End of the Innocence, each time Another One Bites the Dust. The Heat Is On, In a Big Country.

Amid Shattered Dreams, it feels like the economy’s Free Fallin’. With Every Breath You Take, you sense gloom In the Air Tonight. Some say it’s Just the Way It Is.

Hey now, hey now. Don’t Dream It’s Over. Don’t Do Me Like That. Don’t Stop Believin’.

If Beds are Burning, We Didn’t Start the Fire. We Built This City! And We’re Not Going to Take It. It’s time to Shout!

As for the voters? People Are People. That Was Then, This Is Now. Let us be their Sledgehammer!

We’ll get Into the Groove, faster than you can say, Abracadabra!

Now, In the Heat of the Moment, some skeptics may Take on Me, dismissing me as some Goody Two Shoes. Now, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? Well, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.

If You Don’t Know Me by Now, What I Am is Hungry Like the Wolf. Every Day I Write the Book. And I’m Never Gonna Give You Up.

Remember, in foreign affairs, we Rock the Casbah and have a View to a Kill. We know Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Especially . . . I-Ran.

In economics, we know there’s no such thing as Money for Nothing. We believe in Workin’ for a Livin’, because One Thing Leads to Another. Pretty soon, we’ll be Puttin’ On the Ritz and Back in the High Life Again! Don’t let them tell you it will take The Longest Time.

We believe in Freedom. Freedom! And our Voices Carry, One Way or Another.

Remember, It Ain’t Over until It’s Over.

So in short, my advice is Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Celebrate! And Don’t You Forget about Me.

And don’t let anyone tell you that your thinking is stuck in the ’80s.

Tags: Something Lighter

Forgive Me for a Moment of Bragging . . .



Text  



As mentioned in today’s Jolt, this was the best Father’s Day present I received that wasn’t made out of Legos or hand-drawn with four-to-six-year-old handwriting:

The Weed Agency debuted at No. 8 on the Washington Post’s bestseller list this past weekend. Don’t ask me why it’s categorized under “Nonfiction/General.” I suppose when I described the book as “fake, but accurate,” they said, “eh, close enough.”

Tags: Something Lighter

Thank You, Readers!



Text  



If you didn’t see this Tweet yesterday, The Weed Agency is going to its third printing on its second day after publication. This obviously doesn’t happen often, and is a sign that the book is on the road to success. Thank you so much to all of you who have been a part of that.

For those of you who haven’t purchased yet — I know, I know, both of you — it’s at $9.94 on Amazon with Amazon Prime (expect it to ship within days, not weeks), $7.99 on Kindle, $10.45 at Barnes and Noble, $9.99 on Nook, and IndieBound can steer you to an independent bookseller near you. (Cover price is $13.)

John Mark Reynolds offers a largely, but not completely positive review of the book over at Patheos. Unsurprisingly, I concur with the praise and disagree with the rest.

Tags: Something Lighter , Shameless Promotion

A Quick Note for Those Ordering Through Amazon . . .



Text  



So, good news and bad news. Amazon.com has sold all of its copies from its initial shipment of “The Weed Agency,” so people who are ordering now are getting messages that it will take 3 to 5 weeks to arrive. I’m told by my publisher that a new printing was ordered recently and is on its way to Amazon, so the delivery should just be a matter of days, not weeks.

Thank you so, so, so, so much to everyone who has ordered today. While I make no endorsement on which bookseller you choose, if you find the Amazon delay intolerable, Barnes and Noble still has it at $9.94. The book is $9.99 on Nook, and as of last night, $7.99 on Kindle. For you Canadians, it’s $9.99 on Kobo.

Kathryn Lopez and I chat about the book, and the old dot-com and wire-service days, over on the homepage.

Tags: Something Lighter

What You Missed at TXOnline, Part One



Text  



From the Morning Jolt, arriving in e-mailboxes moments ago…

What You Missed at TXOnline, Part One

This weekend, Americans for Prosperity hosted the “TXOnline” conference, and they were kind enough to invite me and a lot of my favorite bloggers, podcasters, Tweeters, and other denizens from the conservative media world’s Island of Misfit Toys. Before we go any further, thanks so much to Kemberlee Kaye and her team for putting it together.

Dana Loesch kicked off the festivities by contending that the tea parties are dead, but not in the sense that the gloating media usually does. She suggested the Tea Party’s original form is dead, or ought to be, because they were a catalyst, spurring people to pay much closer attention to local government — sheriff’s races, town and city councils, etc. The fact that the tea parties aren’t in the rallies-and-town-halls mode of 2010 is natural, because a catalyst can’t go on forever. “The Sons of Liberty dumping tea in the harbor wasn’t designed to be a long-lasting movement.”

The panel on writing about policy featured Guy Benson of TownhallWilliam Upton of Americans for Tax Reform, and Avik Roy, who you know from NRO and Forbes. I realize Avik Roy’s role in the conservative movement for the past year can be summarized like this:

[Obama administration announces some sudden change to Obamacare]

Most of us: This is terrible! This change is ridiculous! They’re changing this law every five minutes! By making this change, you’re . . . you’re . . . it’s going to…

[We log online, go to check what Avik Roy has written on the subject, find a torrent of statistics, data, anecdotes and examples]

Most of us: Ah-ha! Just as I thought! This is a terrible change because [quotes Avik]!

On a panel on the state of First Amendment rights, the Franklin Center’s Erik Telford dismissed the ridiculous notion that legal protections for journalists should only apply to “official” journalists, and not bloggers and others who aren’t part of larger organizations: “In Iran, they pick the three people who are allowed to run for president. We don’t get to elect our reporters and journalists who ask questions on our behalf. I don’t think the government should get to pick who has the responsibility hold them accountable.”

Melissa Clouthier and our Charlie Cooke, among others, launched a fascinating discussion of whether the conservative movement has too eagerly embraced scalp-hunting of liberals by using their own standards of political correctness against them — think of Alec Baldwin, or Martin Bashir, or any other time a prominent Democrat finds themselves in trouble with their liberal brethren over a controversial statement. The room seemed pretty divided on that; Charlie argued that we ought to stand for an America where the First Amendment means something, where individuals can speak one’s mind without retaliatory economic threats and efforts to get someone fired.

I pretty much agree with Charlie, but I think — and hope — there’s a difference between “this person said something I disagree with, and I denounce the statement” (or the person!) and “you must fire this person for making that statement.” (Ahem.)   But one reason people think and express appalling ideas is that they’re largely oblivious to how much others are appalled by those ideas. If you walk around in circles where it’s perfectly okay to say the sort of thing that Martin Bashir said about Sarah Palin . . . once you say it for public consumption, everybody’s got the right to react, and the negative reaction is designed to discourage further statements in that vein.

Fingers Malloy and Thomas LaDuke of FTR Radio did a presentation on podcasting, and offered a positive thought on the future of radio — as you probably know, the talk-radio audience is aging rapidly. As Internet radio gets more common — after all, you can surf the web on your phone in your car — people aren’t going to care whether your show is broadcast on the Internet or on radio. In terms of sound quality, Internet podcasts are increasingly on par with regular terrestrial radio.

I spoke on a panel on polling and data analysis, moderated by PJ Media’s Bryan Preston, the Tarrance Group’s Logan DobsonDan McLaughlin — whose head is not, in fact, a baseball, as his avatar would suggest. My co-panelists expertly dissected what they look for when evaluating a poll — sample size, timing, wording of questions and so on; I noted how much polls are used to tell stories and stir a particular emotional response in the intended audience — oftentimes, to boost confidence in one side and dispirit the other.

On a panel discussion about how to make stories, arguments, and other concepts “share-able” — i.e., likely to go viral on social media, Jon Gabriel offered this stunning statistic: “A YouTube video has to make an impression in the first two seconds.”

The most contentious and most interesting panel was entitled “Culture Is Upstream of Politics.” Larry O’Connor began by noting that while we mocked President Obama for appearing on wacky morning shows such as Miami’s The Pimp with the Limp, that’s where the voters are.

Bill Whittle said the inevitable and discomfiting conclusion was that Barack Obama spoke a language to Americans that Mitt Romney didn’t, and thus, by this standard, Barack Obama was in fact more “American” than Romney was. He contended that the vast majority of Obama voters, particularly the young ones, “don’t sit through Obama speeches from start to finish. But Lady Gaga, George Clooney, Katy Perry everybody that they do watch votes for Obama — it saves them the step of having to think things through for themselves.”

Emily Zanotti objected. “People between 18 and 35 aren’t political idiots. We don’t just vote a certain way because celebrities do.”

Noah Rothman, who’s joining that web site Warmer-than-Warm Air, noted that with increasing frequency, Democrats and their allies prefer to shift the conversation to cultural topics and the culture wars. (This may reflect the fact that the economy continues to stink and the world beyond our borders looks increasingly unstable.)

The Democrats’ approach in the culture wars is to tell groups — particularly minorities, women and young people, “the Republicans/conservatives hate you” and they latch onto anyone they can use as an example — regardless of whether or not that person is actually a Republican or outspoken conservative: rancher Cliven Bundy, Clippers owner Donald Sterling, TV chef Paula Deen, former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. This is cynical and divisive, but it is also effective.

Clearly the catalyst for much of the panel’s debate was the bold, uncompromising viewpoints of Matt Walsh, a fascinating guy with strong opinions on everything from divorce to the indisputable menace of people who leave their shopping carts in the middle of the supermarket parking lot. The unexpected directions of this conversation may warrant a separate discussion in a future Morning Jolt. A key takeaway is that conservatives and Republicans usually have two simultaneous goals, and those goals sometimes clash. One goal is to stand for “the Truth”, or a particular viewpoint of what constitutes a good life well lived. The other is to persuade people to vote for their candidates. Oftentimes there’s a tension between the two priorities and sometimes they’re in all-out conflict. We want people to minimize their dependency on government assistance . . . but we have to persuade “the 47 percent” that we don’t look down on them and that they ought to vote for our guys.

After Walsh’s comment that pop culture was frivolous, our Kevin Williamson responded that “pop culture is only frivolous in that it runs the world.”

In tomorrow’s Jolt, I’ll briefly cover the discussion of whether Texas could become a swing state and the unparalleled, hysterical whirling dervish of entertainment chaos known as “Tracked and Targeted” — as well as a bunch of other folks from the Island of Misfit Toys you probably ought to follow on Twitter.

Tags: Something Lighter , Tea Parties , Texas

Ritual Begging and Pleading, This Time With Transformers



Text  



Because no day is complete without asking people to buy my book just one more time…

Today’s Ritual Begging and Pleading, This Time With Transformers

Today’s update on The Weed Agency: My publisher told me some updated pre-order numbers. They’re . . . okay. Not bad. Not that good, though. I’m a bit unnerved because in terms of reaching potential book buyers, you kind folks are the lowest-hanging fruit. You already read me and, hopefully, you already like me. And a healthy number of you already have ordered, paper and e-book versions (about even, interestingly enough) and for that I thank you, and I thank you, and I thank you again.

Unfortunately, this is the part where I beg and plead for you to order a copy for your friends. You see, a week after my book is released, Hillary’s Hard Choices hits the shelves. (The most recent “hard choice” she’s blown was selecting that title.) You know that in the coming weeks, Hillary’s book will be devouring column-inches in the book-review sections, occupying the front tables at the big bookstores, and dominating the cable news airwaves — all the spots that a book like mine needs for exposure.

Macintosh HD:Users:jimgeraghty:Pictures:Devastator.jpg

Above: the five major pieces of Hillary’s P.R. machine have combined to form a giant robot called “Devastator.”

I see Hillary’s promoting her masterpiece by doing the tough interviews:

Hillary Rodham Clinton hits Chicago for a speech on June 10 — the day her new book “Hard Choices” is released — and at the Chicago Ideas Festival the next day, she will be interviewed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is helping raise money for a group encouraging her to run for president in 2016.

So, she’s got Rahm, the Clinton machine, MSNBC, David Brock and company, and the whole gang helping her out.

I’ve got you.

Can I count on you to help me out? Can we show that there’s an audience out there for a funny little satire that exposes how the bureaucracy-laden federal government is very rarely an effective, efficient, fast-moving tool to solve national problems?

And it’s a pretty cheap way to send that message: $13 cover price, $10.09 on Amazon — don’t ask me why it shifted up a few cents in the past few days — $9.99 on Nook, and as of last night, $7.99 on Kindle. For you Canadians, it’s $9.99 on Kobo.

Tags: Something Lighter

Where Do Our Ideas Come From?



Text  



Also in today’s Jolt, a discussion of where ideas come from . . . 

Where Ideas Come From

Since I started writing the novel, friends asked how I came up with my ideas, characters, story, and so on. I always liked how Gary Larson, the brilliantly twisted cartoonist of “The Far Side,” described it:

“Where do you get your ideas?” has always been the question I’m most often confronted with. (“Why do you get your ideas?” is a close second.) I’ve always found the question interesting, because it seems to embody a belief that there exists some secret, tangible place of origin for cartoon ideas. Every time I hear it, I’m struck by this mental image where I see myself rummaging through my grandparents’ attic and coming across some old, musty trunk. Inside, I find this equally old and elegant-looking book. I take it in my hands, blow away the dust, and embossed on the front cover in large, gold script is the title, Five Thousand and One Weird Cartoon Ideas. I’m afraid the real answer is much more mundane: I don’t know where my ideas come from. I will admit, however, that one key ingredient is caffeine. I get a couple of cups of coffee into me and weird things start to happen.

For The Weed Agency, the structure of the story came from the initial outline, beginning with the plan that each chapter would cover a certain time period in the life of the characters. (The story stretches from 1981 to 2012.) The simplest way of explaining how the scenes came about is that I’m watching a movie in my head. The characters enter the set, and start doing things. And then I rewind if the scene isn’t going anywhere, and then go in another direction.

Sometimes a scene clicks instantly; sometimes it sputters and has to be scrapped entirely. Every once in a while, the light bulb goes off, and it feels like I’m tapping into some rear corner of the brain’s synapses where all the good stuff is lurking that is all-too-frequently out of reach.

In a story that examines the frustrating aspects of working within the federal bureaucracy, I felt I needed to explain why people choose to work there — besides the benefits and all. I felt like I needed a short sequence that showcased the contrast with the private sector, for good and for ill.

One of my key characters is Ava, a young woman who comes to Washington, D.C. in the early 1990s. It’s been deeply satisfying to hear from the women who have read it so far that they identified so strongly with Ava — smart, driven, idealistic, and, as she enters the working world, perhaps a little naïve about how the world works.

Ava’s career includes a ride on the dot-com roller-coaster, working out in Silicon Valley for a tech start-up, EasyFed, that builds a site designed to help people when they need something from government agencies. Life at the dot-coms is initially lavish, but increasingly tense as everyone begins to realize they haven’t quite figured out how their company is actually going to make money. (Any resemblance to my past employers during those years is strictly coincidental.)

Ava’s company, not quite enjoying the instant success it expected, blows a big chunk of its remaining budget on a Super Bowl commercial, featuring their spectacularly ill-conceived mascot and icon, a half-chicken, half-squid creature named “Squiggy,” and the result was the one scene in the book that pretty much wrote itself:

January 2000

A gigantic chunk of the advertising and marketing budget for EasyFed.com — $1.1 million — was spent on the air time for a 30-second nationwide ad during the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIV on January 30.

The ad began by showing a harried Ernest Borgnine at his desk with a computer, his tables strewn with paper, and lamenting, “File my taxes online? Apply for a small business grant through the Internet? I can’t understand any of this stuff!” At no point did the ad-makers feel any particular need to explain why the star of McHale’s Navy and Airwolf was applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A computer-generated Squiggy, about the size of a traffic cone, popped out of Borgnine’s coffee cup, and immediately began waving his tentacles towards Borgnine’s computer keyboard.

“I can help, Ernie!”

Instead of immediately beating the strange, pinkish-purple, one-eyed beaked cephalopod to death with his shoe, as most people’s instincts would suggest, Borgnine exclaimed, “Squiggy the Squicken!” in joyous recognition. Apparently it had taken the actor several takes to get the portmanteau correct, and the director had to keep explaining it wasn’t a “Squidge-ken.”

“Have government web sites got you seeing red? Try EasyFed!” chirped the unnervingly happy squid, with an eye that the Taiwanese computer animators had depicted with perhaps a bit too much realism. “EasyFed.com helps you get the information you need, and fast! Simple, easy, and quick!” as the tentacles typed with blurring speed.

“GRANT APPLICATION APPROVED!” appeared in giant letters on Borgnine’s computer screen in a font no government web site had ever used. Underneath the actor’s beaming face, fine white print clarified, “Results not typical. EasyFed.com is not responsible for the results of any interaction with any agency on its customers’ behalf, and government response times vary greatly.”

“Thanks, Squiggy!”

“Remember, there’s no need to dread! Try EasyFed instead!”

The squid did a cartwheel on its tentacles off the desk and past a window, where an aging Michael McKean and David Lander appeared as their characters from Laverne & Shirley. “I remember when I was everyone’s favorite Squiggy,” lamented Lander.

Across America, roughly 88 million Super Bowl watchers, previously enjoying the Saint Louis Rams build a 16 to 6 lead over the Tennessee Titans, all simultaneously turned to each other and asked, “What the hell was that thing?”

The USA Today ad-meter reviewing the ads the following morning suggested that test audiences and online respondents graded the ad medium-to-bad, suggesting that the audiences liked its protagonists and remembered it, but found it bizarre and were vague on the actual product being sold. But the ad scored off the charts with the advertising professionals, who praised its humor, creativity, and unpredictability.

The ad garnered a lot of mockery from the likes of Dennis Miller, Dave Barry, and James Lileks. George Will declared, “It is long past time for mandatory drug testing of Madison Avenue’s creative staff.”

But in the following days, traffic at EasyFed.com was up considerably, almost as much as at the web sites devoted to Ernest Borgnine and Laverne & Shirley.

If that scene freaked you out, rest assured that’s about as surreal as this satire gets.

You know the drill: $13 cover price, $10.09 on Amazon — don’t ask me why it shifted up a few cents in the past few days — $9.99 on Nook, and as of last night, $7.99 on Kindle. For you Canadians, it’s $9.99 on Kobo.

Tags: Something Lighter

The Mysterious ‘Only 8 Left in Stock’ Warning



Text  



Has anyone else ever had an “Only a few left in stock!” warning for a book on Amazon pop up on some computers but not on others? As mentioned in today’s Jolt, this weekend, my in-laws’ computer indicated that Amazon was running out of copies . . . but that seems really hard to believe just based upon pre-orders. The same warning didn’t show up on my computer:

I understand Amazon is having some dispute with some publishers — I don’t think Crown Forum/Random House is among those in the fight, but then again, nobody ever tells me anything. Anyway, I hope you are able to get your copy in a timely fashion, and please let me know if you have any issues. (Not that I have that much any leverage over this. Perhaps I’ll just call you up and read you my copy out loud.)

Anyway, considering the storm clouds on the horizon on with this Amazon–publisher thing . . . perhaps it’s best if you order while you can.

You knew this sales pitch was coming. $13 cover price, $10.09 on Amazon — don’t ask me why it shifted up a few cents in the past few days — $10.09 on Nook, and as of late Sunday night, $7.99 on Kindle. For you Canadians, it’s $9.99 on Kobo.

Tags: Something Lighter

And Now, This Morning’s Undignified Begging.



Text  



(Sigh) Here is the shameless begging that begins today’s Jolt . . . but, as a reader pointed out, it’s more fun, and less cringe-inducing, to just talk about how much fun the book is than to say, “Hey, please give me money, transferred through a bookseller and publisher.”

We Begin the Morning with Some Undignified Begging

Let’s begin by noting the awkward situation of asking others to buy your book when National Review is beginning its spring webathon asking for donations.

Secondly, I hate asking people for help. I particularly hate asking readers for help, because all of you are already kind enough to give me your time and attention every morning. You have a lot of choices in this media landscape that is more crowded than the sets of Soylent Green, and everybody and their brother has a morning newsletter. I hope that most mornings I can give you something a little bit different, funny, thought-provoking, and enjoyable to read.

Above: The 2014 Political-Newsletter Writer Convention;
during my keynote address, I screamed like a madman,
“E-mail subscribers are people! They’re peeeeeeeeople!”

But I have been told, directly, from on high, that the difference between my book being perceived as a high-selling success or a low-selling failure largely depends upon my willingness to be shameless in the coming weeks.

Sigh. Here we go.

My publisher recently shared with me the number of pre-orders of my book on Amazon.com so far. The publisher is satisfied, but I’m not so much. I know that there are [FIGURE PARTIALLY REDACTED BY NR E-MAIL ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT] hundred thousand of you who get this newsletter, and that the number of people who have pre-ordered a copy is . . . a significantly smaller number. (“They’re directly comparable, just like the numbers in Jill Abramson’s salary and the numbers in her predecessor’s salary!” — Pinch Sulzberger.)

If you’re among those who have pre-ordered already, thank you. If you haven’t . . . now would be a good time.

I realize I had talked about the official publication day, June 3, being the big “Everybody Buy My Book on Amazon and Let’s See How High We Can Get in the Amazon Rankings” day. I’ll still probably do that — I know some folks who will be ordering multiple copies for their friends that day — but I realize some folks may want to get theirs as soon as it arrives. Or you may be busy that day.

As noted before, buying my book is probably the one of the least expensive favors you can do for me: only a $13 cover price, $9.94 on Amazon, $9.99 on Nook, and $9.99 on Kindle. It’s aimed to be a good, quick, fun beach read.

If you’re looking for a sense of what the book is like, check out the website of the fake-but-accurate U.S. Department of Agriculture Agency of Invasive Species, found at www.theweedagency.com. The stuff that’s on the site hints at the world depicted within the book, but is not (other than the complimentary chapter) in the book. Think of the web site as the DVD extras!

In fact, order the book, and I’ll do a Q-and-A with any e-mailed questions. I only have one e-mail address, the one at the top (or is it bottom?) of this message, [email protected].

And once again, all sales up to one week after the official publication date count towards getting on the bestseller lists. So if you buy before June 10, you’re helping me out a lot.

Tags: Something Lighter

Ten Years Ago Today . . .



Text  



Ten years ago today, Kathryn Jean Lopez invited readers to enjoy the Kerry Spot.

You can check out that first week here.

Thanks to everyone who started then or started reading somewhere along the way.

Tags: Something Lighter

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Needs Submachine Guns.



Text  



The problem with trying to parody runaway federal bureaucracies is that reality always catches up with your imagination and attempts to surpass it:

A May 7th solicitation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks “the commercial acquisition of submachine guns [in] .40 Cal. S&W.” According to the solicitation, the Dept. of Agriculture wants the guns to have an “ambidextrous safety, semiautomatic or 2 round [bursts] trigger group, Tritium night sights front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore group) and scope (top rear), stock collapsible or folding,” and a “30 rd. capacity” magazine.

In my novel, the Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species does opportunistically emphasize its centrality to the Reagan administration’s Cold War defense policy and then later to the need for post-9/11 crop security and terrorist threats to agriculture.

But I never thought of having the USDA employees running around with submachine guns. It could have been an action thriller!

Tags: Something Lighter , Department of Agriculture

The Harvard Satanists Are Offended That We’re Offended.



Text  



Let’s close out the day with some mockery of Harvard Satanists:

Dear Harvard Satanists: Go to Hell. I Hear You’re a Fan of the Management.

There are quite a few Christians (and non-Christians) who have offered thoughtful, sensitive, and intellectual responses to the aborted attempt to hold a satanic ritual on the grounds of Harvard University. See Kathryn Jean Lopez, Jonah Goldberg, and A. J. Delgado.

This morning, what I offer . . . is not thoughtful, sensitive, or intellectual. But it needs to be said, and I suspect most of you will enjoy it.

The news Monday night:

A reenactment of satanic rituals known as a “black mass” that had been scheduled for Monday evening on the Harvard campus was abruptly canceled amid a chorus of condemnation from Catholic groups and university officials and students.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, said in a phone interview that the event was canceled because organizers no longer had a venue.

Wait, they were New York-based satanists? And they expected a warm welcome in Boston? Perhaps they figured their pentagrams and horns would be less provocative than Yankees caps.

“Everyone involved, outside of the Satanic Temple, got really scared,” Greaves said.

Scared? Scared? You worship the embodiment of evil traditionally depicted with horns, fangs, claws, red skin, and/or as Willem Dafoe, and you’re scared? Of Christians? Of nuns? What the hell kind of Satanists are you?

“And I don’t necessarily blame them, because I understand that they were getting a lot of vitriolic hate mail, and I don’t think they expected it.”

What the [bleep] were you expecting? A lot of thumbs up and “attaboys”?

You just put out a public statement that you “didn’t expect” this kind of reaction? You realize what response you’re asking for, aren’t you?

“Vitriolic hate mail”? Wait, you aim to perform — I’m sorry, simulate the performance of — a tribute to the embodiment of evil that may or may not include the desecration of the Holy Communion, and you didn’t expect vitriolic hate mail?

Yes, part of your problem is that you’re morally inverted, and part of your problem is that you have no capacity to appreciate or respect a faith that you don’t personally practice. But another big part of your problem is that you’re really, really stupid.

But in a statement later on Monday evening, the cultural studies club said it was no longer sponsoring the mass after plans to hold it at the Middle East club in Central Square in Cambridge fell through.

The cultural studies club did not respond to an inquiry asking why it had decided to move the mass.

Ah, “the Middle East club” wasn’t such a good venue after all? Who could have seen that coming? Perhaps somebody called our Muslim friends, as I had suggested. They tend to get a little excitable when they think somebody’s mocking their faith, and they’re not as laid back and patient as we Christians are. When they turn the other cheek, it’s usually because they’re yelling about the new fatwa in a different direction.

Yeah, it’s a shame that all this hullabaloo could put the kibosh on somebody’s look-at-me-I’m-angry-at-my-parents performance art, but let’s face it, you anti-religious types took the easy shots at the pacifist Christians for a long time, and got way too comfortable doing it. Everybody knows you guys — with the possible exception of Bill Maher — don’t dare mock the Muslims, and everybody knows why. Back when he was anchoring “Weekend Update,” Dennis Miller joked that the last name of Salman Rushdie comes from an ancient word meaning “someone who is in a rush to die.”

You let’s-mock-religion guys set up the incentives for the faithful with your own behavior. If a religious person responds the way the loudest Muslims do, everybody’s too scared to mock them. If a religious person responds in the nice and tolerant way the Christians and Jews traditionally do, they’re the butt of every joke and everybody’s favorite punching bag. The satirists of organized religion must be astonishingly slow-witted if they thought other religions wouldn’t notice their habits of self-censorship.

“The Satanic Temple has informed us that they will stage their own Black Mass ceremony at an undisclosed private location to ‘reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves,’” the studies club said.

You know, at this point it feels like there’s some malfunctioning automated political-correctness phrase-maker at work. What’s the offensive speech? Who’s supposed to be shaming who? Are we supposed to be ashamed because we don’t like them mocking our faith? We’re marginalizing them? You’re already marginalized, you’re friggin’ satanists.

These whiny entitled trustafarians are offended that we’re offended when they announce they’re going to act out a ceremony mocking and desecrating our connection to the Divine. Expecting us to not only permit it legally but take it all in with a smile like a bent-over fraternity pledge suggests that they have a bigger entitlement issues than the federal budget.

To hell with that!

Tags: Something Lighter

Examining the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species



Text  



Greeting Morning Jolt readers today . . . 

You Must Check Out the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species

Forgive me, dear readers, but the book publication date is about three weeks away and I must turn into a relentless self-promotional machine.

Thankfully, I can direct readers to the website of the subject of the book, the sordid and twisted history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species, and its serving as a metaphor for the growth of the federal bureaucracy over the past 30 years. The recently redesigned website for the USDA AIS can be found at TheWeedAgency.com.*

There you can learn more about the agency’s staff, official statements, logo changes through the years, and headquarters:

Hidden somewhere on the site is the book’s first 32 pages.

(Minor detail: My book is a novel, a work of fiction set against the backdrop of recent Washington history, and the USDA Agency of Invasive Species does not, technically, exist.)

If you have already pre-ordered, thank you very much. I have wanted to write fiction for a long time, and I figure each sale gets me closer to the opportunity to do this again. I was asked by the good folks Crown Forum/Random House to take one of the world’s driest, most infuriating topics — the federal bureaucracy, and how it works (or doesn’t work) — and turn it into a fast-moving comic satire in the tradition of Christopher Buckley, P. J. O’Rourke, and Yes, Minister. Either I succeeded, or enough well-known people feel the need to say nice things about me:

“A conservative comic romp through the toughest corridors of federal bureaucracy . . . a fun glimpse into the fake-but-accurate world of bureaucratic infighting.” — Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor and Author of The Outpost



“Jim Geraghty is smart, funny, compelling, entertaining . . . and his book does real damage to liberals if thrown hard enough.” — Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana

The Weed Agency brilliantly captures the absurdity of the real Washington. It is, as they say, funny because it’s true.” — Jonah Goldberg, author of The Tyranny of Clichés



“Geraghty captures the hilarious realities of Washington waste brilliantly. And we all need to laugh at Washington to stop from crying.” — S. E. Cupp, author of Losing Our Religion and CNN Host

“No matter your politics, Jim provides an entertaining look at just how the good intentions of a federal law or regulation can get misused over time to become more of a problem than a solution. Interestingly, lock any two veteran Washington politicians from opposite parties in a room and they’ll admit that some federal agencies need to be reined in. Like anything with Washington these days, sometimes all it takes is a little sunlight to grab their attention.” — Chuck Todd, NBC News

“Jim Geraghty absolutely nails it. You’ll want to believe this book is fiction, but in your heart you know so much of it — too much of it — is all too hilariously real.” — Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Order

If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, and you’re on the fence . . . well, think of this as an easy way to say “thanks” if you’ve liked anything I’ve done for the past few years on this newsletter, or the past ten years blogging at NR (my official ten-year anniversary is Friday). It’s pretty cheap; only $13 cover price, $9.75 on Amazon, $9.99 on Nook, and $7.99 on Kindle.

If you feel like pre-ordering in the near future, I am contemplating asking everyone to order it on the same day — say, the official publication date, June 3. (You may see copies on bookstore shelves before the “official” publication date.) Your kindness in response to NR Publisher Jack Fowler’s imperative to purchase the book already drove it to rank around 1,700 on Amazon a few weeks ago. If everyone bought, say, the morning of June 3, the book could — briefly, at least! — rank even higher:

While Amazon keeps their exact formula for picking the top books under wraps, it is clear that it weighs heavily on how many books you can sell in a short period of time.

In fact, a recent campaign by Seth Godin for his book We Are All Weird was able to hit the #2 spot on Amazon by selling less than 2000 copies of his hardcover in a day.

Another author I worked with was able to generate 500 sales of his book in a single day and this put him in the top 100 on Amazon.

On the other hand, you might forget to order on June 3. So maybe I should urge you to go ahead and make that purchase right now.

Tell you what, since you’re doing me a favor, you pick the time and place that’s most convenient for you. The good news is that all sales up to one week after the official publication date count towards getting on the bestseller lists. So if you buy before June 10, you’re helping me out a lot.

* Right around here, discerning and wise readers said, “Hey, wait a minute, if it’s a federal agency, why doesn’t it have a .gov address?”

** More discerning readers are remembering November has 30 days.

Tags: Something Lighter , Shameless Promotion

Don’t Do That, Congressman!



Text  



Also from today’s Jolt… Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrat of Florida, may be the nicest guy on the world and/or not so bad on the issues.

But this video, found by America Rising, depicting him doing something phenomenally embarrassing… well, I just feel sorry for the guy.

I’m pretty sure whatever he’s ingesting is not, in fact, approved by Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative. Even though it is organic.

Tags: Joe Garcia , Something Lighter

Sights You Just Don’t See Every Day.



Text  



Sights from the Exhibit Hall of the 2014 National Rifle Association Annual Meeting . . . 

Who knew the NRA had a wine club?

Annie Oakley’s pistol:

At last, a laser sight with a lower carbon emission.

In case you’re looking for something in the style of Jack Bauer’s gun (at least from the early seasons) . . . 

. . . or something a little heavier.

I wonder if it’s harder to sell ammunition with Soviet-style marketing since the Crimea invasion. That exhibitor featured a fur-hat-clad booth babe.

If you’re looking for a Browning Semi-Automatic 30 Caliber, Ohio Ordinance Works can help you out.

Or if you’re looking for a nice katana, ask this pirate.

Almost everybody’s enjoying themselves at the convention. Well, except for Porky:

Tags: NRA , NRA Convention , Something Lighter

A Face to Strike Fear in the Heart of Putin



Text  



At yesterday’s White House Easter Egg Roll, President Obama terrified the children in attendance by announcing that he was, indeed, in the process of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

No, no, just kidding. The above photo from the AP shows the president reading from Where the Wild Things Are.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

President Obama’s Trip to Europe Was an Absolute Zoo



Text  



“Sure, Mr. President, why don’t you go ahead and use the room with the giraffe statue?”

I hope the U.S. Secret Service checked out that giraffe.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza of President Barack Obama signs items backstage next to a sculpture of a giraffe in a shipping crate, following remarks at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium, March 26, 2014.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

Announcing a Big Change to NR’s ‘Morning Jolt’



Text  



With the big changes coming to the Jolt, here is today’s edition, in its entirety, to bring everyone up to speed . . . 

Morning Jolt
. . . with Jim Geraghty

April 1, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: MSNBC PURCHASES MORNING JOLT NEWSLETTER FROM NATIONAL REVIEW IN SIX-FIGURE DEAL

Readers, you may have noticed commercials for MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, touting the program as a Morning Jolt.™ That branding effort was, in fact, an early promotion for MSNBC and NBCUniversal’s effort to diversify its morning news assets. Last night that effort took a dramatic step forward — with an additional bit of leaning forward — as NBCUniversal finalized its purchase of the Morning Jolt™ newsletter from National Review, Inc.

In exchange, National Review, Inc. received an undisclosed sum, as well as a second-round draft pick in this year’s National Media Pundit Draft, held May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

And now, presenting our New Morning JOE-LT format . . . 

Why Doesn’t Joe Scarborough Run for President?

Isn’t he awesome? I mean, just layers upon layers of awesome.

So while he’s technically denied that he’s running for president . . . 

Joe Scarborough is running a campaign. It may be a campaign to change the Republican Party, to sell a book or perhaps to enhance his reputation.

But not, he insists, a campaign for president.

“I’m not running, and I’m not considering running,” Mr. Scarborough, a Republican former congressman and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he was on spring break with his children. “I’m not making any Shermanesque statements, but I do not expect that to change.”

. . . that didn’t stop people from speculating recently . . . 

Scarborough’s speech sounds for all the world like a campaign speech — and a not-bad one at that. During the audience Q-and-A, a man stands up and says, “Thank you for giving my wife a tingle every morning.” Scarborough blushes hotly underneath his smooth tan, face scrunching gleefully behind his horn-rimmed glasses. “I categorically deny it!” he says.

. . . and it didn’t stop people from speculating in 2012 . . . 

After the presidential inauguration in January, Joe (no fan of Mitt Romney’s — “I’ve been very critical”) plans on publishing a memoir that will serve — no joke — as a vehicle to test the waters for a presidential run in 2016.

. . . and in 2010 . . . 

There’s no campaign yet, and there may never be, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MSNBC’s morning talk-show host Joe Scarborough have begun trying to figure out whether they could be an independent presidential ticket in 2012 — and who would be better to be on top if it happens.

. . . and in 2009 . . . 

I think I’ve found the new face of the Republican Party. It’s not a new one, entirely, and it’s been hiding out on national television every weekday morning from six to nine.

Joe Scarborough.

Clearly, the only thing that can stop people from speculating about Joe Scarborough running for president is Joe Scarborough actually running for president.

 

Why Doesn’t Mika Brzezinski Run for President?

As this newsletter noted in a past edition, the conservative movement mostly shrugs its shoulders at America’s increasing obesity rates, choosing to believe that individual responsibility can resolve the issue. But evidence is mounting that resolving this national problem will take more than that. Clearly, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” and “Let’s Drink Water!” and “Let’s Breathe Oxygen” campaigns have had only a marginal effect.

I suspect skyrocketing obesity rates and the resulting costs on our health-care system are issues that we on the right are going to have a tough time addressing. Most of us don’t think this is something the government ought to be involved with, and we rightfully point out that some recent efforts to address this have a distinctly Orwellian tone, like Mike Bloomberg’s war on large sodas. (Brzezinski calls Bloomberg “her hero.”)

Freedom means the freedom to make the wrong choices. Unfortunately, the wrong choice can have really bad consequences, and you wonder how self-destructive a choice must be before others are allowed to intervene to try to steer people away from those bad choices. If your eating habits are near-certain to create health-care costs later in life that you will be unable to afford, racking up huge costs to the Medicare system, is it still your business alone?

This isn’t a job for a first lady; it’s a job for a president. This country needs a commander-in-chief in the war on weight, and that leader is . . . 

Okay, maybe not that guy. Perhaps it will require . . . President Brzezinski.

Seriously, can your morning show hosts do this?

 

Why Doesn’t Donnie Deutsch Run for — Eh, Never Mind.

I mean, come on.

 

Why Do Conservative Guests Keep Eyeing MSNBC Contributors Skeptically?

Seriously, it’s almost as if the guy sitting on the left has been psychologically conditioned to greet everything Robert Gibbs says with skepticism.

And will someone please tie down his hands? He’s going to knock somebody out with those hand gestures.

 

Coming Tomorrow: Thirty-Seven Signs Your Favorite Media Source Is Emulating BuzzFeed in an Effort to Increase Traffic

ADDENDA: You remember what day today is, right?

Tags: Something Lighter , MSNBC

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This.



Text  



Think of this Jolt section as your late Friday afternoon fun coming early:

Recasting Indiana Jones? I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This

WARNING: This is going to get geeky, and the following may be my most self-indulgent writing since the Twin Peaks analysis.

This is a bad idea, in its current form. But it doesn’t have to be.

Our ever reliable sources are informing us that while Harrison Ford might still play Indiana Jones in the next film of the franchise, the window of making that happen is getting smaller and smaller.

There is a date and if Indiana Jones 5 is not moving forward by then, the studios are 100% prepared to recast a younger Dr. Jones and ready up a new trilogy.

Let’s be realistic, Harrison is not the box office draw he once was and he is only getting older.

Don’t think of it as a reboot but just recasting the same way the James Bond (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) movies have been doing for the better part of five decades.

And who just might be one of the actors that the studio is looking at ? The word is that they are looking at several but Bradley Cooper is at the top of the list.

Like I said, as is, this is a terrible idea. We’ve actually had four actors play Indiana Jones besides Harrison Ford – River Phoenix as Young Indy in the beginning of Last Crusade and then Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery, and George Hall in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. But when you say, “Indiana Jones,” everyone thinks of Harrison Ford. He owns the role. It’s his. Leave it to him.

There’s no need to rehash the criticisms of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull; needless to say, most of the fan base left deeply disappointed, and has likely concluded that it doesn’t want, or need, any more Indiana Jones movies. But we sure as heck would love to see more movies in the tone and style of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So allow me to offer Disney two possibilities.

Option One: Tell a 1930s-1940s-1950s pulp adventure story featuring another adventurer, perhaps someone who’s heard of Indiana Jones or mentions him as a rival. (In Raiders, Indy himself mentions he has rivals going after the same treasures he does: “This is where Forrestal cashed in. . . . He was good. Very good.”) A lot of real-life archeologists are mentioned as “the real life Indiana Jones” or claimed to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones – Roy Chapman Andrews, Hiram Bingham, Percy Fawcett, Howard Carter, Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, among others. Alternatively, let Cooper play one of Professor Jones’s first students, determined to emulate Indy. Maybe even bring in Ford for a cameo; maybe this student is looking for the one treasure Indy never found. Make clear this is a story that’s taking place in the world of Indiana Jones, but that Indy is enjoying retirement with Marion.

Option Two: The other possibility — one I prefer — is to tell a story that takes place in the modern day. Cooper could be a descendant of Indy’s, or just some young archeologist who’s uncovered Indy’s personal papers (his own “grail diary?”). Maybe today’s archeologists dismiss Jones as a bit of a lunatic and reckless daredevil. (See Professor Jones Gets Rejected for Tenure.) But our protagonist — a bit of a stand-in for the audience — thinks Indy is the coolest guy that ever lived and is determined to follow in his footsteps.

Like in the other scenario, he finds a reference to some long-lost treasure that Indy sought but could never locate . . . and of course, a key missing clue has only now been found at some recent archeological discoverythe gold at the Temple Mount, the Egyptian city buried under the Mediterranean Sea, even the ship found underground at the site of the World Trade Center.

Like Indy, our Bradley Cooper character begins with a bit of a mercenary side to him, chasing fortune and glory — maybe even talking aloud to his unseen late mentor, “I hope you’re watching from up there, Indy, ‘cause I’m gonna do what you never could!” — but gradually learns to be a more well-rounded person, caring for others, and learning there’s more to life than just treasure and punching people.

You can still tell a pulp-style Indiana Jones story in today’s world; our globe still has enough far-off dangerous and exotic corners — the mountains of central Asia, the pirate-laden waters of Southeast Asia and the horn of Africa, the jungles of the Amazon, just about anywhere in the Middle East . . . Just remember to include femmes fatales and feisty companions, comical sidekicks, villains that you love to hate, constant fistfights, gunfights, chases, and at least once, a menace of a lot of dangerous animals in a confined space — perhaps the saltwater crocodiles of Ramree Island, Burma.

As you can tell, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about this. My friend Flint Dille — a writer on the old Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons, and all kinds of video games, including the Indiana Jones-esque Uncharted series — invited me to participate in a joint writing project called TikiWikiFiki, a series of interconnected pulp stories set in World War Two era (or immediately post-war) South Pacific. Who knows, maybe if enough copies of this book sell, I’ll get to tell those stories.

Most importantly — and perhaps the element that makes Bradley Cooper the right guy to carry the torch — any new films need to remember to include the two key moments of every Indiana Jones sequence:

[A DANGEROUS SITUATION DEVELOPS]

Our hero suddenly realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew, eyes bulge, and we share with him a split-second of panic or “oh, crap”

This is what I look like when I’m on cable news and realize the show changed topics without telling me.

[THROUGH HIS QUICK WITS AND PHYSICAL SKILL, OUR HERO ESCAPES]

Our hero smiles.

This is what I look like when I’ve steered the topic back to the one-liner I wanted to use.

You’re welcome, Disney.

Tags: Something Lighter

He’s Still What of the U.S.A.?



Text  



Looking for Lego-related images, I came across this graphic, posted shortly after Election Day 2012 . . . 

It’s a good likeness, but someone ought to inform the creator about the lack of a monarchy in the United States.

Then again, considering how President Obama is tossing around executive orders and pledging to work around Congress . . . 

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

Pages

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review