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PJ O'Rourke

Saturday, November 08, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

An absolute must-read from PJ O'Rourke.

H/T: the indispensable The Moderate Voice.

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Home To America

by Michael Reynolds

I have been hesitating over this post.

I’ve moved around a great deal in my life and I have yet to figure out how to do it without making people feel as if I am somehow insulting them and rejecting their town or city or country. I never intend it that way. I have my own odd preferences, my own peculiar tastes, and of course my own agenda.

Long story short, we’re leaving Italy and moving back to the States.

Our visa will expire in spring, so one way or the other we were going to leave in a few months. But we’re bailing early. Like in a week. And here’s the part that’ll make you spit up your Amarone: we’ve chosen southern California. Trading villas and vineyards for used car lots and, um, new car lots.

I am the most impatient person I’ve ever met. I go through life wishing everyone, everywhere would get the hell out of my way. On the road, on the sidewalk, in lines at the store: move! I want all my questions answered instantly. I want everything right now. I am in a huge rush and have been my entire life. Which is odd considering that I’m pretty much inert most of the time.

So you’re thinking, “Well, Michael, it’s good that you’re self-aware enough to know this. Now, what in hell are you doing in Italy? Why didn’t you move to Japan or Germany or New York?”

That’s an excellent question there, theoretical interlocutor. And I have an inadequate answer: I thought I might change. I thought I might slow down, take on less work, stop and smell the flowers. Instead, in the seven months I’ve been here I’ve gone from one book a year and one blog, to two books a year and three blogs. And I’m angling for a third book a year. And I want to start doing a lot more promo. And I’m tangentially involved in a new technology company. Plus I’m thinking of getting involved in book packaging. And e-books. And I’d love to learn how to write scripts.

You’d think a writer would know that core character doesn’t change that much. I’m still impatient and ambitious and greedy and controlling. And to put it bluntly, Italy is getting in my way.

Partly it’s just this rustic lifestyle. It takes forever to get anywhere. If I were willing to shop old-school Italian — make the daily pilgrimage to macelleria to polleria to salumeria and all the other rias — I’d still have to drive fifteen minutes into Pontassieve, search for scarce parking, maybe find it, maybe not, climb the hill to the Centro and spend an hour waiting in line, waiting for things to be wrapped, waiting and walking around with all the string-bag ladies, and all for what? So that I could spend an hour cooking dinner? Who has time for that?

So it’s the local mini-supermarket or a major haul to an Ipercoop. Down narrow, windy roads dodging cars that cross the line into my lane, resisting the urge to nail a passing motorino just for the hell of it. All of it taking time. Time on the road. Time in the absurdly long lines. Time here and time there in little increments, but all of it coming from either my work time or my precious inertness time.

Partly it’s rusticity. Partly it’s Italian rusticity.

Mostly it’s the lack of control. Control freak? Yeah. Just a little. I hate that if I’m hungry at 4:00 pm I won’t find anything, anywhere but a stale prosciutto sandwich. I hate that I can’t just pull into a Wendy’s. I hate the way I can’t do business from noon till 2:30, or 3:00 or 4:00. And I hate the way the country shuts down on Sundays. It offends me. I want to decide for myself what I’ll do and where I’ll go and when and for how long. And as far as I’m concerned the world should wait with bated breath for me to make those decisions and then leap to satisfy my every wish.

I can’t get phone calls returned, or emails answered. Even when all I’m trying to do is get someone to provide the service they presumably need to provide in order to pay their rent. I can’t stand it! I can’t stand the fact that I can’t just wave an American Express card and get people to actually deliver what they are in business to deliver. Don’t these people understand that money makes the world go round?

I can’t get Italy to give me what I want when I want it. I want 250 Advil in a bottle I grab from the shelf, not 12 ibuprofen I have to wait in line for. I want fried eggs in the evening. I want coffee in a take-out cup. I want an ATM card that dispenses more than 750 Euros a month. Italians seem to think that just because they’re a two thousand year-old civilization that they have a right to do things in ways of which I disapprove. They seem determined to deny my God-given American right to have whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want it. And in a wide variety of sizes.

And then, there’s the girl. (No, not a mistress: my effort to convince Katherine that I should adopt what I was hoping was the local custom went nowhere.) I mean our daughter. Kid likes people. Go figure. She needs friends. She needs a group. She likes sports. She wants to be on a soccer team and take gymnastics and fencing and surfing and skateboarding. (Strange the way she likes humans and physical activity. She may need therapy.)

Arranging to ship our car home I ran into a brick wall. No answers. No one who seemed to know anything. 10 days and it was like I was howling into the void. But ffter numerous unanswered emails and ignored phone calls I finally found a responsive, competent person who could answer my questions directly. She replied instantly to my emails. She knew her business. She had definitive answers. She was . . . Finnish.

Our competent Finn has lived in Italy for 20 years. Here’s what she told us, unprompted: Italy is for visiting. It’s a great place to visit. But you wouldn’t want to work here.

And unfortunately that’s my conclusion as well. I will probably never live any place as beautiful as Tuscany. I walk the dogs in the morning with the mist rolling over the vineyard and it’s lovely. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. If I was retired it might work. But I’m an impatient workaholic and man, this is just the wrong country for me. I just don’t have the time for Italy.

A week from now we’ll be in L.A. A week after that I’ll be bitching about it.

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Okay, One More On Palin. Then That's It.

by Michael Reynolds

Justin Gardner at Donklephant thinks some of the hits on Palin are unfair. No doubt. But I think his defense of her intelligence is off-base: Palin really is an ignoramus. And while ignorance is not the same as stupidity, there's a level of ignorance which works as prima facie evidence of stupidity. Set aside the recent leaks and go back to the Couric interview alone. Having been warned off the "I can see Rooshia from here!" justification of her foreign policy savvy she repeated it. That's not just ignorant, that's stupid. In fact it's twice stupid: once for being dumb enough to believe it and then again for being dumb enough not to know that it was dumb the first time.


What’s ironic, and what these anonymous aides couldn’t possibly predict, is that these attacks could bolster her credibility as an outsider. Especially since the attacks seem to be so blatantly self-serving for those involved.

Not only that, the right-wing blogosphere is coming out in full force against the attacks and are threatening to try and banish those who are revealed as the leakers. That doesn’t mean it’ll work, but I can’t imagine that the folks who spread these rumors were anticipating such an intense backlash.

Wingnuts (either end) always double down on stupid. It's what makes them wingnuts. So it's not much of a surprise that the right side of the blogosphere would leap to defend the object of their hot-mom puppy love. But I doubt that will translate into a future for Palin. She's a very tarnished brand.

Palin will be anathema to the Money! and Bombs! wings of the GOP. Both Money! and Bombs! Republicans are literate and able to read (balance sheets and maps respectively.) Palin's only possible constituency is the Jesus! wing of the GOP, the day laborers of the party. If the GOP has gotten its act together in time for the 2012 campaign they'll be lined up behind a Money! or Bombs! Republican.

Or, to put it another way, if Palin is a serious contender for the nomination in 2012 it will only be because the GOP is still deep into its civil war. Which would be lots of fun for me as a Democrat but not a good thing for me as an American.

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Just When Things Were Going Great.

Friday, November 07, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

So unemployment is at a 14 year high.

GM is operating shredders around the clock in a frantic effort to rid itself of every last dollar it has.

Bankers won't lend money because they aren't stupid enough to trust a bunch of idiot bankers like themselves.

We're trapped in two interminable wars.

The stock market is relocating from Wall Street to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  

Our highways and bridges would embarrass Zimbabwe, our airports actually predate the Wright Brothers, we're so far in debt that our Morlock and Eloi descendants are already broke,  and Osama Bin Laden is still alive.

Man.  I sure hope the Democrats don't fuck things up.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Your humble narrator.

3:21 am: Pelago, Italy:
Okay, seriously. I want to go to sleep now. Why don't I just go to sleep? Because of . . . wait a minute. Ohio for Obama. MSNBC. Fox agrees. Ballgame. Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

2:42 am: Pelago, Italy:
Isn't it odd how quiet Drudge is? It's like they took the night off. No cherry-picked polls? No bizarre anti-Obama charges? Did his fedora finally smother poor Matt? CNN joins in on PA. Kind of hard to see how Obama loses this now.

2:36 am: Pelago, Italy:
F**k, we gave up Georgia. It doesn't matter to the election but it means I was wrong. And really, aren't my bragging rights what this is all about?

2:34 am: Pelago, Italy:
CBS chimes in with Pennsylvania. Legacy network unanimity.

2:06: Pelago, Italy:
ABC calls Pennyslvania and NH for Obama. Meanwhile CNN is babbling. What, no more holograms?

2:04: Pelago, Italy:
NBC calls Pennsylvania for Obama! If that holds up it's over.

2:02 freaking am: Pelago, Italy:
Decided against PB&J. Went with the grilled cheese. That's certainly the big news. Wolf projects a bunch of states no one gives a damn about. McCain gets Oklahoma. Obama gets Illinois. It was a good grilled cheese. Mmmm.

1:47 am: Pelago, Italy:
I'm hungry. Wish I had some gelato. Also better bourbon. Elections go better with Knob Creek. Sleepy. Not so much an election live-blog as a series of whines. How about a peanut butter and jelly? That might be nice. Give me some numbers! I'm sick of Gergen. I miss MSNBC.

1:40: Pelago, Italy:
Crappy Italian internet connection fading in and out. Bourbon taking toll. Stuck watching Blitzer. Honest to God, how does he keep his job? Is he not the single most boring person on television?

1:17 am: Pelago, Italy:
CNN has holograms. Ooookay. And this is cool because? Blitzer is talking about being able to have a more intimate conversation with Jessica Yellin. Eyes just lit up at LiveNudeGirls.com.

1:08 am: Pelago, Italy:
MSNBC's Scarborough: "This is a repudiation of the entire Republican party."

1:04 am: Pelago, Italy:
CNBC has cut off the MSNBC stream so I'm back on the internet link.

12:56 am: Pelago, Italy:
Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC reports that a GOP source in North Carolina has admitted that Elizabeth Dole is toast. Good. Dole's "Godless" ad was the sub-basement beneath the bottom of the GOP barrel. Good riddance, Liddie.

12:33 am: Pelago, Italy
. By the way, yes, I have TV. CNBC Europe is streaming MSNBC -- so much better than my herky-jerky internet feed. Also I have Fox and CNN International which is running with the US CNN feed. Thank God for that last: 20 minutes of CNN International will put you in a coma. CNNI is actually more boring than regular CNN which I didn't even know was possible. As for Fox, what is it with those people and the graphics? Is it news or a video game?

I'm also bouncing around the usual web suspects: HuffPo, Sully, Drudge, Kos, RedState and various web friends.

For those who care about atmospherics: Me, Katherine and Jake in our fairly bare, IKEA-furnished living room. Terra cotta-tile cieling and floor, whitewashed walls, giant fireplace no fire, the pug snoring, Goofy on the rug, all three of us on our laptops, me drinking alternately from a bottle of Acqua Panna and Jack Daniels.

It rained like crazy earlier, but it's clear now.

So far, reading the omens I don't see evidence that anyone thinks McCain is going to win.

12:28 am: Pelago, Italy.
You think the polls are closing slowly for you? 6:30 pm EST is half past midnight to me. I'm really hoping we get a call sooner rather than later. A lot going on in my life right now, I need my sleep.

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Monday, November 03, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

"My friends, Joe the Plumber, Obama is a socialist. Thank you."

Summarizing the McCain stump speech I just watched. Amazing. John McCain. The John McCain. He sounds sillier than Mike Huckabee. It's depressing. John McCain, for God's sake.

Joe the Plumber. Jesus H. Christ.

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Least Popular Man On Earth Supports McCain

Sunday, November 02, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Boy, it just goes to show you how much quicker the Obama campaign is. They already have an ad up talking about Dick Cheney's endorsement of McCain-Palin. But McCain's people still haven't produced an ad bragging about this major "get." I'm sure it will be long any minute now. Maybe tomorrow. Or in a few days.

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