“Faced with the disturbing prospect of enduring an entire World Cup match with no alcohol after the Qatari authorities banned the sale of beer in and around the stadiums, Matthew Wyatt did what any England fan would do in a similar emergency. He deployed his backup plan.’He was under pressure to find an appropriate establishment,’ explained his friend Mel Kenny. One option was to consult the Qatar Alcohol Map, a list of drinking venues that had been devised by a concerned American and was spreading like samizdat as fans poured in to this tiny, mostly alcohol-free, nation. But Wyatt and Kenny instead made their way to the Red Lion, a pub discreetly tucked inside a Doha hotel, and one that, the Daily Star tabloid back home helpfully reported, offered “beer-starved England fans a boozy oasis in the desert.” It was already heaving with fans. Many countries’ fans enjoy beer with their soccer, of course. Americans and Argentines, Germans and Mexicans and (mostly) everywhere in between. But there remains something about the English. ‘I’ve never seen a sober English football fan in my life,’ said a 36-year-old fan named Simon, who declined to give his last name, perhaps because he was a little unsober himself. As for alcohol and England matches, he said: ‘I believe the word is ‘essential.’ Or ‘mandatory.’ Or several other synonyms.’” Sarah Lyall
“There is something desperately boring about despots and plutocrats. And one of the frustrating consequences of an unequal society is that the rest of us have to care what is going on with them. Now Trump might be gone, but we still have a main character we don’t want. Not that this is a new phenomenon. The ancient historian Suetonius may not have been the most accurate source, but seeing people like Musk and Trump in action, I feel more sympathetic to his accounts of what boring people, given power answerable to their whims, wind up doing. I thought it was ridiculous when he said Nero, literally the emperor of Rome, decided that, actually, what he wanted to be was an actor — but here is Musk, one of the richest men on the planet, who has decided for no reason whatsoever that what he wants to be is a Twitter troll! And not even a funny one; just as transphobic and anti-vax and awful as the bog standard. I’m sorry I doubted you, Suetonius! Maybe if we are lucky Musk will start doing more of the fun caesar things, such as trying to get a horse into the Senate, and will stop his mission to turn Twitter into a hateful cesspool! But somehow I doubt it. I hate that we have to pay attention. Our lives will be impacted if Trump is again elected president, say, or the roads are suddenly filled with exploding cars, or if the place where journalists go to water-cooler about breaking news gets seized up and its rules rewritten, seemingly arbitrarily, on the fly. Mark Zuckerberg changes an algorithm, and livelihoods in the content economy shudder in terror. I would like nothing better than to not have to know or care about these people. With the amount of time I pour into them, I could have invented Narnia twice. But instead we are sitting there squinting into the king’s stool.” Alexandra Petri
“An inkling of the Republican Party’s shocking underperformance in the midterms could be seen in a literal, not figurative, crusade. Allen West, former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman, decided in September that the time was ripe to join the Knights Templar, the infamous sect of medieval soldier-monks. Photographed standing in a white robe emblazoned with a red cross draped jauntily over his tuxedo, West—a close ally of Donald Trump—tweeted that he had taken ‘an oath to protect the Christians in the Holy Land.’ The real Knights Templar, of course, were dissolved in 1312. The organization West joined is an American-based ‘chivalric order’ that grants its members ‘knighthood’ and, aside from its name, shares nothing with the actual Knights Templar. West’s bizarre fascination with the imagery of medieval Europe does not exist in a vacuum: The right is getting weirder. That might begin to cost Republicans elections in years to come and undermine their own appeals to American patriotism in a way policy extremism alone could not. American voters see the political parties as equally extreme in policy, ignoring evidence that Republicans have moved right much faster than Democrats have moved left. However, a party fixated on genital sunning, seed oils, Catholic integralism, European aristocracy, and occultism can alienate voters not because of its positions but because of how it presents them—and itself. Among the right’s intellectual avant garde and media elites, there is a growing adoption of habits, aesthetics, and views that are not only out of step with America’s but are deliberately cultivated in opposition to a national majority that the new right holds in contempt.” Graham Gallagher
“’If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.’” So said Winston Churchill. Or US president John Adams. Or perhaps King Oscar II of Sweden.” John Burn-Murdoch
“Best of all, being 60 and embracing my age gives me the license to be young again. The 30s, 40s and 50s are all about dreary responsibility, caution and not upsetting the apple cart. Being a bloody grownup. Now I’ve hit the big six-oh and am officially an old fart, the pressure’s off. At 60, I have the freedom to be as immature as I want. Game on.” Simon Hattenstone
“Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence.” Dr. Johnson
THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX MOVED MY CHEESE!
Up here in the Big Damp Woods we caught the very tail end of the arctic blast that hovered around last month. Because the Big Damp Woods is mighty damp the cold brought with it ice storms that put down anywhere from a quarter to half an inch of ice on all the highways and streets. After being stuck inside for three days the most obvious detriment was the lack of mail. Things were so bad that the USPS would not get down side streets and arterials.
Panic at the post office ensued as the ice melted very near Christmas. Long lines formed in so many post offices that the tv stations had to show up and gawk. Most of their stories revolved around people who are angry because they didn’t get their mail. (None of the interviewed appeared to be under 65.) This was mighty obvious when I took my armful of parcels and jammed myself into the long line that stretched from the post office lobby and right into the street. In front of me were plenty of angry old mail-deprived codgers who spoke real loud while jabbing the air with an index finger or two. The tedium was finally broken when the old timer in front of me waved his arms at the clerk and bellowed, “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND? THIS IS AN EQUITY ISSUE!”
With roughly seven billion people on the planet it stands to reason that there should be at least one angry LIBERAL old coot out there, but to have one standing mere steps away?
What are the odds?
This got me to thinking about the expectations people have about those who have spent more than a little time on the planet. Specifically what are the conceptions people have when they see some old graybeard in his natural habitat, the post office?
Those people dropping off those Amazon and Zappos boxes aren’t likely to be cranky. No, that’s reserved for the old guy wearing a faded yellow Members Only jacket with the permanently dirty collar. While everybody else in line keeps to themselves they all know it’s just a matter of time before Dad finds something wrong.
He’s old and old people, thanks to our slightly shrunken frontal lobes, believe they have carte blanche to say something and say it right now.
Which I find quite liberating now that I’m on this end of the average lifespan.
Stick around – we’re going the long way around the park.
From my earliest teens right into my mid-20s people used to tell me, “We would have invited you, but people were afraid you might say something.” Back then I was expected to alter my behavior to suit the needs of others.
I’m supposed to say something.
People are waiting.
And all that time ago it wasn’t like I was going on and on like Uncle Ed with his constant cataloging of “welfare cheats” and all manner of “those people.” What really, really got me in trouble were four little words, “Well, by that logic…”
Keep a squirrel in the glove box? Shove steel wool in your ears? Shave your butt and walk backwards?
Those four words lead to endless possibilities.
So as we begin the new year please be aware that if you have trouble self editing or get talking a little too fast for your brain to work out the details, rest assured that me and those four words are waiting around the next corner.
As Mr. Hattenstone said, “Game on.”
Oh, good evening Mrs. Hoo, my that’s a lovely dress you’re wearing
Originally this post was supposed to be one of those end of the year rear-enders full of lists and predictions. Due to the ice storm and my shrinking frontal lobes it has been reduced to an explanation of the most recent World Cup.
Much was made of Qatar’s politics. Many said it was an oppressive state to which I said it might be the most oppressive of all.
Think about it this way – Kim Jong Un would let you have a beer.
Hell, he might even join ya.
Qatar spent the better part of a month proving to the whole world that their tiny nation is the biggest buzzkill on the planet. They took what is the basis of a worldwide party and turned it into stale donuts and bad coffee after church. It was like being invited to a supersized high-school make-out party where you finally thought you might get somewhere with Cindi Loo only to turn a corner and find her mom who brought all the Hoos down in Hooville with her. Instead of beer and smooching you wind up with a warm Pepsi and Cindi Loo’s little brother wiping his nose on your good sweater.
Whether you watch soccer or not you might have seen the word “sportswashing ” go by. Sportswashing is the staging a large scale event in hopes that you can improve your image. In this case Qatar spent countless billions so that they may now go out and meet with Germans, Canadians, Brits, Americans and God knows who else who will then welcome any Qatari delegation with the the simple greeting, “Ohhh, yeah … you … the no -beer people. We remember you.”
Most people associate Winston Churchill with WW2, but what many people overlook is that Churchill spent a great deal of time in the Mid-East and much of what was the old Turkish Empire. That’s why you find in his memoirs his recollection, “In Qatar there is no beer. That’s why we drink it here.”
And you know what they say about people who don’t learn from history.
But enough of that. We’ll deal with the contents of Elon Musk’s chamber pot later.
Instead let’s now all sing along as we welcome Mr. Allan and the Texas GOP’s effort to revive the chivalry.