August 23rd, 2005


Via Lileks

After weeks of relatively innocuous entries, Jimmy opens up on us with both barrels today, proving that he's still capable of being both politically and culturally fatuous at the same time without even breaking a sweat.

In the Bleat, he's feelin' the midlife crisis (Gnat no longer needs constant parental monitoring, so as teachers and friends subsume his role, he's beginning to notice that he's a boring old crank) the only way he knows how: by complaining about pop culture he doesn't enjoy. Let's watch!

There’s very little music I like less than blues. Polka, perhaps. Not really very enthusiastic about bluegrass, either. Or most folk music. I know some people absolutely adore the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, but I’d rather have shards from the broken CD jabbed in my gums than hear it again. I am a man of constant sorrow, are you. Well, here’s why: because your music is unlistenable!

Okay, well, so he doesn't like bluegrass and folk music. Fair enough. Heavy-handed sark aside, there's no accounting for taste, and no matter how much I love the music, I can't take issue with him hating it. You can't argue someone into liking music. But wait, this is James Lileks! Surely there's some gross stereotyping to be had! Oh, here it is:

To ward off the angry letters: yes, I know the fellow is a venerated icon with a fascinating life story; I read all about it in the New Yorker, and by the time the piece was over I considered getting on the back of an old pickup and joading my way out to Californny


Then I listened to the songs, and thought: nope, not for me. No sir. I’ll be over here with the guys with skinny ties and thrift-store suits and checked Vans, listening to New Wave.

It's a sad testament to the cultural decline of our country that millions of people bought the O Brother soundtrack, but hardly anyone showed up for the Knack reunion tour. Anyway, there's our perquisite southern stereotyping; now can a brother get a hamfisted reference to Europeans of some kind?

While googling around I got sidetracked, and discovered this: a site devoted entirely to colors. Or Colours, as the Brits spell it, while they’re walking to the lift to get the alu-MIN-ium out of the boot of the Mini.

Ha ha! And they call an truck a lorry, and bad teeth, and pip pip cheerio and, uh, ooh la la or something!

Working on a 70s tribute site, and you want to capture all its horrors? Here you go.

Reminder #78,253: James Lileks hates the 1970s. EVEN THEIR COLORS WERE WRONG! He also hates the fact that, now that the Gnat doesn't need him to constantly remind her that he really hates terrorists because someday they might kill her, he's got to find something else to fill up his empty hours:

Doesn’t mean my work is done. Just that I’m coming to the end of the way things were done. I have to come up with something new. I don’t want to spend all the time at the office, since nothing is less conducive to work or imagination. I don’t want to go to the office, twiddle my thumbs, clean out the mailbox, then walk around downtown looking for urban details. I’ve done that. I’ve found them all. There aren’t any more.

The idea of perusing some cultural artifacts that might weaken the massive force field of contemptuous prejudgment he's built up over the years, or just of working on becoming a better, funnier writer, seems not to have occurred to him.

Meanwhile, in the Screed, Lileks instructs us how NOT to write him letters that will get read, issuing a set of rules that he himself violates pretty much constantly in that very space:

One correspondent, for example, asked if I was serious when I accused anyone who disagreed with the Administration’s Middle East policy of “moral cretinism.” What I had written was that anyone who could not see the distinction between Israel having nukes and the mullahs of Iran having nukes was a moral cretin. Not an insignificant distinction.

Because, you see, one is an oppressive nation where dissent is stifled, official policy makes a mockery of the putative democracy, the military makes constant hostile overtures to its neighbors, and the government was founded on exclusionary religious principles; and the other is Iran! HA HA HA, pause for five seconds while James Lileks calls me an anti-Semite.

The term “wingnut” is not as harsh and cutting as you might expect. Personally, I don’t like any of these terms – moonbats, repugs, democraps, etc.

That's funny, because Lileks uses "wingnut" all the time, and the first place I ever encountered the term "moonbat" was on his site.

(Except for “idiotarian.” I like it because it’s ecumenical.)

Even though he only uses it to describe leftists.

“Oh, so XX’s speech is the equivalent of shooting a school?” Sigh. Yes. Of course, that’s exactly what I think.

This one is a real killer, because Lileks himself does this constantly. I cut a lot of it out here, but basically, he's bitching about people who say "Well, if you believe (reasonable conservative argument A), you must also believe (ludicrously extremist right-wing argument B)". Which, he's right, is very annoying and presumptuous, but he does it all the time. Seriously, go through the Screedblog archives -- he hasn't been doing it that long, it won't take all day -- and you'll see roughly a hundred bajillion examples of Lileks saying that if you oppose the war, or if you think maybe the president should have a clearer plan for conducting it, or if you think maybe it's not helping to torture innocent people, well, then, you just won't be happy until the terrorists nuke Seattle. Sigh. Yes. Of course, that's exactly what we think.

It may surprise you, but I actually have heard that argument before. The one about WMDs. Also the one about “shifting rationales.” It’s come up from time to time. Consequently they do not leave me open-mouthed in stunned surprise, unable to craft a response. So it’s not the show-stopper you think it is, alas. Everyone always thinks they have some armor-piercing argument the other side has never considered, but that’s rarely the case.

He then goes on, not surprisingly, to not answer the argument, as he has not answered it in the past. Maybe the reason people keep busting out the argument is because they have yet to hear a convincing response to it.