Jun 202005

There is bridge blogging, as in “check out my culture, it’s even worse than yours,” which is copious, and then there is bridge blogging, as in the game, which is scarce. Me, I prefer the latter: my own damn culture gives me enough tzuris. Unfortunately, if we except the occasional bridge entry at Floyd McWilliams’ Declarer, there were, as of last week, no decent bridge blogs at all. Now there is one: Squeezing the Dummy, by my friend Justin Lall, the best player in America under 30 and a great system theoretician. He also writes frankly, and in complete sentences. You Gee Chronicles refugees will want to have a look.

(Update: After three weeks of excellent daily blogging, he took it down. Never mind.)

May 172004

Instapundit, with Lileks’ encouragement, took 20 minutes off the other day, Lileks himself took a month near-holiday, Teachout has stopped blogging on weekends, Cosh hasn’t updated his hockey page for a week, which I know you’re all busted up about, and even the Blowhards have been backfilling with guest posters. You people griping that I haven’t updated for ten days are so last year. Sloth — it’s the new black!

But I’m making it up to you below. In spades.

Apr 282004

As of this moment, God of the Machine is being read in twenty-five time zones. Hello Madagascar! (In what Guinness has certified as a new world record, it is being misunderstood in twenty-four of them.) We celebrated our 1,500,000th unique visitor and 10,000,000th page view, and that’s just this afternoon. (How do I know this? I counted, every one of them.) I’d love to write more, but my wine column’s due for The Spectator, Car and Driver is simply insisting that I take this damn Lamborghini out for a test drive, my agent needs to discuss the movie rights to my New York Review of Books piece on Proust’s influence on Balanchine, I’m already running late for my date with Uma Thurman, and Gisele Bundchen’s holding on the other line. Gisele so hates to be kept waiting.

(Update: Terry Teachout comments, generously. And points out that I owe him a link. So there you go. Rick Coencas thinks I missed something.)

Jan 232004

Dave Barry, Jim Treacher, Ken Goldstein, and James Lileks are sometimes funny. This, for instance, is funny. Several other bloggers have been funny once or twice. On to business.

The droll Frank J puts me in mind of Max Beerbohm, except that Max won the prize for Latin verse at Oxford, distinguished himself as a caricaturist as well as a writer, died forty years ago, always dressed immaculately, never wrote about politics, and was funny. Of course it is possible that my own defective sense of humor is to blame, and that ringing endless changes on the three themes of Rumsfeld’s fierceness, Aquaman’s lameness, and Glenn Reynolds’ puppy-blending really is hilarious. Yeah. Credit where due, however, for this bit, in which he complains of readers who have the effrontery to point out errors in spelling and grammar on his site, which are obviously due to carelessness, because, you see, his SAT scores were well over the cutoff for a lifetime exemption from proofreading. Now that was funny.

Scrappleface has become the victim of his own gimmick. Imagine glum Scott Ott sitting down to the keyboard each morning, sighing as he forces himself to grind out yet another news parody item. Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto… Basically there’s only one job in the world for right-wing political humor, and it’s taken.

Those wacky foreigners and their crazy customs! Montesquieu did this number 200 years ago, and Persian Letters wasn’t funny either.

Hey, In Passing! Found humor is to humor what found art is to art.

Hey, Margaret Cho! If women shrieking profanely were funny, then Courtney Love would be funny. Come to think of it, Courtney Love might be funny, were it possible to laugh and grind one’s teeth at the same time.

Humor, unlike literary criticism or political rumination, pays extremely well. Actual funny-type humorists are in high demand and make actual money-type money. Sometimes they spend it on whiskey and cigars and grow old and gouty like Barry and P.J. O’Rourke; sometimes they spend it on smack and blow and grow pale and spectre-thin and die, like Lenny Bruce and Doug Kenney. Either way they stop being funny eventually; humor’s tough in the first place and impossible to sustain. Blog humorists, on the other hand, don’t gather enough from their own efforts to pay the cable bill. The conclusion will be left as an exercise for the reader.

(Update: Jim Treacher comments. Andrea Harris points out that Margaret Cho pays the cable bill and then some, which is true, and worrisome. Ilyka Damen comments. Frank J compares me serially to a jackass, George Meredith, and a muckadoo, complains that I neglected to cite his well-known hatred of monkeys, reassures us that he too can pay his cable bill, and does some other funny stuff I may have missed. Paul Dubuc chastens me in the comments for forgetting Agenda Bender, from my own blogroll no less. Yes, Agenda Bender is funny.)

Jan 102004

The students

Angelina Staccato: Michele Catalano
Forrest Swisher: Agenda Bender
Wing-Ding Weisenheimer: Ken Goldstein
Gilbert Scrabbler: Steven Den Beste
Woolworth Van Husen III: Felix Salmon
Purdy Spackle: Kim du Toit
Chuck Farley: Stephen Green
French Lambretta: Pejman Yousefzadeh (fantasy)
Franklin Furter: Pejman Yousefzadeh (reality)
Madison Jones: Eddie Thomas
Faun Rosenberg: Eve Tushnet
Amana Peppridge: Glenn Reynolds
“Alphabits”: Salam Pax
Howard Havermeyer: Cinderella Bloggerfeller
Lawrence Kroger: James Lileks

The teachers

Mr. Vernon Wormer: Emperor Misha
Mr. Dwight Mannsburden: A.C. Douglas
Miss Dolores Panatella: Susannah Breslin
Miss Violet Coolidge: Mika Cooper
Miss Marilyn Armbruster: Dr. Weevil

(Update: Wing-Ding comments.)

Dec 292003

So much to skip, so little time.

I begin with myself, having sucked a bit of late. This and this were too twee and precious for words. This wasn’t really very funny. This was half-right but embarrassingly wrong in several details, and God of the Machine is supposed to be in the details. This and this provoked squalls of irrelevant commentary. This was weird but informative. This was just weird.

The laziest organizing principle in prose is the list. (This post, for instance.) The cowardly lister postpones his imposition of a Few of My Favorite Things on the world until the end of the year, when everyone else is doing it and he has cover. The busy reader will naturally avoid such things. This goes double for that most elaborate of self-congratulation rituals, year-end awards. “Prizes,” said Ezra Pound, “are always a snare.” Besides, nobody ever nominates me for anything.

Suppose you edited a web magazine with open submissions, and you were obliged to publish whatever you received. You’d have The Carnival of the Vanities, now in its 66th tiresome edition, to which Instapundit still links dutifully every week (Glenn has a keyboard macro for “rich, bloggy goodness”). Which beats reading it, I can assure you. Good writers are often bad: bad writers are never, ever good. I confess that I often enjoy the summaries, in which the host of the week endeavors to say something kind about every submission. This testifies to my somewhat sadistic taste in humor.

The Type 1 political blog post cites an anecdotal news item that confirms his biases, whereupon the blogger crows that he was right and this proves it. Degree-of-difficulty: 0.0, since most of us obtain our news from like-minded sources. (Explaining away an item that conflicts with one’s biases, which would be far more interesting, is naturally far less common.) The Type 2 political blog post scours the Internet for the weakest possible opponent of his views and demolishes him line by line. No poliblog is complete without a healthy dose of Type 1 and Type 2, and many poliblogs consist of nothing but. If you devoted the time you’ve spent reading Type 1 and Type 2 to a more constructive activity, like exercising your abs, you might have that eight-pack you’ve always wanted by now.

Tolkien loses me about when Betamillion is making his way through Gallimaufria to secure the Ring of Fire and win the hand of fair Neuralgiel, or something. The pros established an early lead for dullest Lord of the Rings commentary, with the antis now closing fast. I’ll give you the gist here, with a spoiler-laden review of the trilogy:

Good triumphs over evil.

Not having finished any of the books or seen any of the movies, I admit that’s a wild guess.

Dec 042003

There is something patronizing about the praise for the guest post from the nude model at 2 Blowhards, from people like Terry Teachout who know better. Degas! Titian! Whimsical Thurber-like sketches! And all from a bimbo! Apparently you meet a lot of weirdos and perverts doing nude modeling, which I never would have guessed. Nude models writing are like women preaching who are in turn like dogs walking on their hind legs: it is not done well, but one is surprised to find it done at all.

Blog Posts I Never Finished Reading: “‘I’m reading Michael Woods The Road To Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracle now; theres a lot of meat to it.” “Regarding Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, you might be interested in this long, detailed article from the Columbia Journalism Review about the trustworthiness of the Wall Street Journal editorial page under his leadership.” (Yeah, I’m all over it.) “I am about to hire a programmer to write some code for me that will help collect data for my research.” “Although its great that Ted and Henry get to point out whats wrong with the likes of Instapundit’s take on the Plame Vanity Fair story…” All this and much, much more sleep-inducing material on Crooked Timber, which is in grave danger of dropping off the blogroll, and I know the boys will be all busted up about that.

A.C. Douglas recommends Dale Peck’s half-apology for his literary criticism in The New Republic. Don’t do it. If Portrait of the Artist killed the novel, then sentences that begin “semiotically, syntactically” and end “language waters the seeds of its own failure” will surely kill criticism. Note to A.C.: Sentences like this may kill blogging too: “More prosaic, I, at the first damp and drizzly November day of each year, account it high time to plunge once more into the pages of Melville’s enduring masterpiece, there, for a time, to sweetly perish deep sunk in its overrich language, crowded detail and incident, and mystic and metaphysical loomings as would Tashtego have sweetly perished deep sunk when falling head first into the great Heidelburgh Tun of a beheaded sperm whale had not that leviathan’s capacious case been almost completely baled of its pure, unctuously rich, sweetly fragrant spermaceti.” Melville never actually wrote that way. For excellent reason.

Under no circumstances should you read this comment thread. Except the last one; read that and skip the rest. And please slap me if I write about Clinton ever again.

(Update: The temptation proved too great. Now you have to read the last three comments.)

Nov 272003

Michael DouglasA.C. Douglas’s unapologetic cultural elitism is nice as far as it goes, but apologetic cultural elitism is something I could really get behind. A dose of Michael Blowhard, who if the 2 Blowhards were a corporation would be Sales to Friedrich’s Manufacturing, seems just the ticket. A.C. continues to rail against common men and petit-bourgeoisie: Michael invites them to comment. There are logistical issues, to be sure. Certain topics, like modern architecture, would have to be left alone, lest the blog implode. A.C. has been banned from the Blowhards’ comments, and I hear they can’t stand each other. But as William Holden said in Stalag 17, you hear two people saying that and the next thing you know they’re getting married.

InstaClueless — Several bloggers, including me, have been defeated in their more or less ingenuous efforts to summarize Steven Den Beste. One man alone is up to the job: the world’s tersest blogger, Glenn Reynolds. I envision a two-column layout here, with lengthy explanations of the ideology of America’s enemies on one side, and “Transnational Progressivism. Heh.” on the other. You’ll never have to read the whole thing again.

A Turn for the Worse — Eddie Thomas, of One Good Turn, has plenty of brains but lacks mojo. I want a little invective with my education. Fuse him with some fire-breathing, red-meat-eating, gun-toting conservative, say Kim du Toit, and you end up with the Sam Kinison character in Back to School. “So Montaigne may still be relevant today. You don’t agree? Fuck off and die!”

CCCCCCC (and two guys named Kevin) — Colby Cosh’s Conglomeration of Cranky Canadian Cultural Conservatives (and two guys named Kevin). It’s a Report reunion, as Colby, Kevin Steel, and Kevin Michael Grace, bowing to overwhelming popular demand, join forces to provide the very latest on Hilaire Belloc, A.E. Housman, and their beloved Edmonton Eskies. Laugh — as they compare mug shots! Cry — as they pore over the balance sheets of the Citizens Centre, wondering what happened to their severance pay! Thrill — as they argue about whose turn it is to go out for smokes!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Nov 092003

You know who worry a lot about how there are no red-blooded, responsible men any more and the whole world has gone gay? Women. Historical Sports Note: Babe Didrikson Zaharias entered men’s professional golf tournaments, to no complaints from the men, thirty years before Carson Kressley was a queer gleam in his mother’s straight eye.

Note to Agenda Bender: Unless you’re making some joke that’s way over my head — and not for the first time — it’s Mariel. Muriel Spark, Mariel Hemingway.

(Update: Life Imitates Blogging: Mariel Hemingway has published a memoir.)

Oct 282003

At Marginal Revolution Tyler Cowen plumps for linking, not thinking:

Glenn [Reynolds] is so successful because he understands the idea of blogs as portals. (This is my view, not Glenn’s own self-description.) Blogs that offer too much of the author, and the author alone, are vulnerable to other blogs that cream-skim them, and other blogs, thereby offering the superior product. The question is not who can write the best stuff, but who can collect the best stuff, and comment on it most effectively. Really smart people are not always used to these terms of competition, I might add. The future of blogging lies in the hands of those who recognize the intellectual and literary division of labor.

Now we non-portal types don’t rightly cotton to this. I can’t speak for Cowen, but I read the blogs I do precisely because they offer the author, and the author alone; “too much,” Steven Den Beste possibly excepted, is never enough. Blogs are amusing because they are personal. The “cream” of a blog always means more to the regular reader, who knows the author’s foibles and obsessions, than the skimmer who happens by only for that. By Cowen’s logic book-readers would restrict themselves to anthologies, and music-listeners to greatest hits. Cowen himself writes an entertaining blog where he ignores his own advice.

Linkers also think, and thinkers link, at least once in a while. The hard-and-fast distinction between “commenting on stuff effectively” and “writing stuff” eludes me. (Here I exclude “heh” and “indeed.”)

Cowen might ask why bloggers prostrate themselves before Glenn Reynolds for links. Is it because they are “vulnerable” to portal blogs like Glenn’s? Or is it, perhaps, because Glenn will drive readers to their site, and some of those readers may stick around to become regulars? Readers of portals presumably want to be ported somewhere. Instapundit, in any case, is not a portal in the sense that Yahoo is. Yahoo’s traffic allows it to sell services; Instapundit’s — well, I’m not sure what it does, besides bloat his traffic stats. By trade Cowen is an economist, and hobbies like blogging, into which many people put many hours with no hope of remuneration, are peculiarly opaque to economic analysis.

Cowen neglects to mention, but obviously understands, one key lesson of blogging: since the most devoted audience of blogs is bloggers, navel-gazing will always boost your hit count.

(Update: Rick Coencas comments. Nate Bruinooge comments.)