Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wal-Mart nukes the magazine industry

The times, they are a-changing…

From the Silicon Alley Insider:

The world’s biggest retailer is pulling [the New Yorker] and more than 1,000 other [magazines] off its shelves. Some of these are small fry mags you’ve never heard of, but there are some big mass market titles here as well – notably the big three business mags: ForbesFortune,BusinessWeek.

No official word from Wal-Mart about the reasoning behind the move, but we don’t need one. Wal-Mart is ruthless about maximizing every inch of its floorspace, and it’s clearly decided that it’s only worth keeping a handful of magazine titles on its racks.

A delusional magazine industry type rationalizes to the NY Post‘s Keith Kelly that this could be good for the business, since it will reduce clutter and give the remaining magazines it sells more prominence. But make no mistake – this is a disaster for the magazine world, which depends on Wal-Mart for an estimated 20% of retail sales. [20%!!]

It is also a prelude to what’s about to happen to the music business, as Wal-Mart and the other big box retailers start to hack away at the retail space they devote to music. And it may also happen to Hollywood, which depends on the [big box retailers] for DVD sales.

Failure Now An Option

So says The Onion, confirming decades of Silicon Valley conventional wisdom…

In a stunning reversal of more than 200 years of conventional wisdom, failure—traditionally believed to be an unacceptable outcome for a wide range of tasks and goals—is now increasingly seen as a viable alternative to success, sources confirmed Tuesday.

“Americans have always been told that they should succeed at all costs,” Emory University sociologist Dr. Lauren Hodge said. “But based on new evidence, this can no longer be called true—if, in fact, it ever was. As failure continues to dominate the American landscape, this mantra must be overruled.”

“We have no choice but to revoke failure’s non-optional status, effective immediately,” Hodge continued. “Now all citizens will be able to step back, stare down the hardship and difficulty they will face in the pursuit of success, and say, ‘Fuck that—this isn’t worth it.'”

…Many scholars now believe that [widespread] failures have historically been obscured by optimistic slogans and so-called positive thinking, neither of which, according to the report, has had a verifiable effect: Americans’ overall failure rate went up nearly 2,350 percent over the past decade, with 1,435,643 instances of failure reported last Sunday alone.

“In retrospect, failure becoming an option was inevitable,” historian Michael Lambeau said. “The only difference is that now Americans can choose, without fear of being ostracized by society, to quit long before getting ahead.”

Lambeau predicted a substantial decrease in the number of everyday Americans who fear failure, and a dramatic rise in those who actually embrace the once-reviled stench of defeat and disappointment.

…Though the broad new trend touches all 300 million citizens, experts said that sports coaches, CEOs of large corporations, U.S. Army commanders overseeing large-scale military operations, and anyone who often starts sentences with the word “gentlemen” will be most affected.

Daddy, what was conservatism?

Well, son, it’s a long story…

William F. Buckley (yes, that William F. Buckley) in the National Review:

The federal government being the only agent that can possibly intervene, it needs to do so, by forbidding the liquidation of mortgages until the disparity between true value and hypothetical value is pounded away by time and inflation — and a revitalization of the functions of the marketplace.

Ron Paul’s greatest hits

[Obligatory declaration of intent to keep politics out of this blog elided.]

One of the more remarkable aspects of the current American political silly season is the surge of popularity of Ron Paul among some sectors of young people, free thinkers, and Internet users.

Now, granted, some of this has to do with real or perceived issues with the theoretically mainstream candidates. And, Paul does occasionally speak truth to power on important topics such as why Islamic religious fundamentalists may have issues with us beyond simply “hating freedom”.

On the other hand, you have to admit he does tend to take trips to crazytown on a disturbingly frequent basis, whether he is declaring his intent to return us to the gold standard, or taking a firm stance against the Civil War a hundred and forty years after the fact.

So this may lead one to wonder, who is Ron Paul? Who are we really dealing with?

Luckily, Paul has been politically active for decades, and in fact has published his own political newsletters — Ron Paul’s Freedom ReportRon Paul Political Report,The Ron Paul Survival Report, etc. — since 1978. And we are fortunate that James Kirchick of the New Republic has recently unearthed many issues of Paul’s newsletters via excursions to the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Kirchick points out that Paul’s newsletters have few bylines and it is difficult to know who wrote what within them over the years. On the other hand, they all carried Paul’s name front and center, “some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him”, “many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author”, “the articles seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him”, and he made money from all of them.

And so, courtesy of Kirchick and the New Republic, Ron Paul’s greatest hits:

Opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions…

If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be…

Order was only restored in LA [after the 1992 riots] when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began…

[In those riots, Koreans in LA were] the only people to act like real Americans, mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England.

Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems.

If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it.

I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.

[In 1990, re Martin Luther King Day:] What an infamy Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

[Martin Luther King was] the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration.

[In 1991:] Our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of [former KKK Imperial Wizard David] Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom.

[South Africa’s transition to multiracial democracy represents a] destruction of civilization… the most tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara.

The right of secession should be ingrained in a free society… there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it.

[Praising Representative William Dannemeyer, who advocated quarantining people with AIDS:] [He] speaks out fearlessly despite the organized power of the gay lobby.

Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.

I miss the closet.

Gays in San Francisco do not obey the dictates of good sense… these men don’t really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners… they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.

Whether [the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center] was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.

[T]he 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty [are] one of the most encouraging developments in America…

[Advice to local militias:] You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head. Keep the group size down. Keep quiet and you’re harder to find. Leave no clues. Avoid the phone as much as possible. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.

[Promoting a video that claims that Waco was a conspiracy to kill ATF agents who had previously worked for President Clinton as bodyguards:] I can’t vouch for every single judgment by the narrator, but the film does show the depths of government perfidy, and the national police’s tricks and crimes… Send your check for $24.95 to our Houston office, or charge the tape to your credit card at 1-800-RON-PAUL.

Applied lessons in unpredictability, 2008 primary season edition

One of my favorite TATWTESBTISBAs — Truths About The World That Everyone Should Be Taught In School But Aren’t — is that the real world is a wildly unpredictable place, and that most interesting or important things that happen aren’t predictable, because there are simply too many moving parts and unknown factors at play.

Consider the last several months.

On the Democratic side, first, everyone said Hillary had a lock on the nomination. Then Obama steamrolled her in Iowa and his inevitability was widely agreed upon byall experts all through the weekend. And tonight, Hillary wins in New Hampshire, counter to all the polls, including her own internal polls, which had her losing by 11 points.

On the Republican side, first, McCain had a lock on the nomination. Then he completely blew up over a confluence of Iraq and immigration, and was regarded by everyone as done, cooked, over. Meanwhile, Huckabee was widely viewed as a joke who undoubtedly couldn’t win so much as a bingo game. Huckabee cleans up in Iowa, surprising everyone. Then McCain comes back in New Hampshire and once again is being widely viewed as the presumptive nominee.

The moral of the story: in the immortal words of William Goldman, nobody knows nothing.

If the world were a sane and just place, every pundit, commentator, expert, and reporter who predicted the things that didn’t happen and missed the things that did — which is to say, all of them — would resign their jobs tonight.

Since that won’t happen, the only logical response is to put one’s hands over one’s ears and say “Nanananananananananananana” every time one sees them on television from here on out.

They know nothing.

Yum! Patton Oswalt on the KFC Famous Bowl

Adventures in fast food at the Onion A.V. Club:

Editor’s note: Periodically, The A.V. Club enters its gleaming, sterile laboratories to taste-test new and bizarre foodstuffs it finds on the open market… Recently, The A.V. Club considered taste-testing the KFC “Famous Bowl,” that inexplicably popular, remarkably grotesque heap of food that comedian Patton Oswalt memorably described as “a failure pile in a sadness bowl.” Then it occurred to us that we should just have Oswalt do our dirty work for us—especially since he admitted he’d never actually sampled one of those failure piles for himself. So we dared him to. Here are the results.

I am writing this under appreciable mental strain, since by tonight, I shall be no more. When you read these hastily scrawled words, you may guess, though never fully realize, why I must have forgetfulness or death.

Would that I could forget that fateful evening in the autumn of 2006 when I first heard the shrieking, beckoning clarion call of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Famous Bowl…

Kentucky Fried Chicken had filled a bowl with gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, breaded chicken, and finally, cheese. Shut-ins, people afflicted with Prader-Willi Syndrome, and manic-depressives also do this. If you’re trying to make a fortune in the food and beverage industry, those are the three demographics to shoot for—the Famous Bowl is one of the bestselling items on the KFC menu…

I wrote a bit about the Famous Bowl. I’m a comedian. I’m obsessed with love, crime, America, and the apocalypse. The KFC Famous Bowl is all of these…

And boy, did the bit work. I love doing it. I put it on an album and did it on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. And it took on a weird life of its own. People keep telling me about the Famous Bowl, in all its permutations. Someone told me KFC added a biscuit to the bowl. I heard desperate whispers about newer, more sinister products that were being tried out at the ominous-sounding “test market store” in Louisville—including something called “The Megaleg,” which I fear will be part of some future A.V. Club Taste Test…

But I have a shameful secret.

I’ve never had a Famous Bowl.

Until now.

The A.V. Club asked me to try one and write about it. I said yes. I bought one and ate it. It was a mistake.

First off, when I went looking for a KFC in Los Angeles, I realized I hadn’t been in a KFC in decades. I remember, as a kid, how fun they were, with the corn on the cob on a stick, and the way KFC chicken tastes so goddamn awesome the next day after spending the night in the fridge.

The franchise I visited, on Hollywood Boulevard near my old apartment, looked like it had withstood assault by bullets, flamethrowers, Baseball Furies, and a hundred hook-handed whores. Everything inside the store—including the employees and customers—looked like it had been rubbed with sad ham. And they were offering a new product for kids—”fun meals” that came in colorful cardboard containers that opened like laptop computers. A generation of children are growing up associating computer use with fun, grease, and food. I will flee to the mountains before I see how porn gets folded into that equation.

…I drove the Famous Bowl home. It sat on the passenger seat next to me like a sullen runaway I’d picked up on the interstate…

The Famous Bowl hit my mouth like warm soda, slouched down my throat, and splayed itself across my stomach like a sun-stroked wino. It was that precise combination of things, and so many other sensations that did not go together. At all.

The gravy, which I remembered as being tangy and delicious in my youth, tasted like the idea of blandness, but burned and then salted to cover the horrid taste. The mashed potatoes defiantly stood their ground against the gravy, as if they’d read The Artist’s Way and said, “I’m going to be boring and forgetful in my own potato-y way!” The corn tasted like it had been dunked in fake-corn-flavored ointment, and the popcorn chicken, breaded to the point of parody, was like chewing a cotton sleeve that someone had used to wipe chicken grease off their chin.

The cheese had congealed. Even in the heat and steam of the covered Famous Bowl, it had congealed. I stabbed it with the tines of my spork and it all came up in one piece. I nibbled an edge, had a vision of a crying Dutch farmer, and put it down.

I managed three or four more spoonfuls, trying to be fair. I am not the healthiest eater, but this was a level of crap I hadn’t earned a belt in yet.

Afterward, I had the weirdest feeling. I’m trying to imagine this feeling amplified, as if I’d finished the entire bowl:

My mouth was laced with the various “flavors” of the Famous Bowl. My stomach was bloated and uncomfortable with the fist of starch I’d just put in it. But I didn’t feel like I’d eaten. It’s like when you see some loud summer blockbuster, or hear an overproduced pop song—you’re left with the sensation of seeing, hearing, or in the case of the Famous Bowl, eating. But in the end, that’s all they are—sensations.

There was nothing of consequence or value for me to digest, no taste or memory left on my teeth or tongue to savor and think about.

It’s goddamn horrible, this Famous Bowl.

The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery, living mound lumbering against it. It shall not find me! God, that gravy! The window! The window!