Aspirational

Yesterday I was musing about how good Americans are at exerting a sort of glamour on the rest of the world.

Take this movie for instance (please nobody else wants.)  The room was made (and written and directed, and possibly conjured) by its main star an immigrant from Eastern parts unknown.  It is a pretty terrible movie by all accounts, possibly the worst movie ever made (a position for which it strives with The Postman and Waterworld, but never mind.)

Knowing The Room is one of those peculiar fascinations of mine (like an aching tooth kind of thing) Chris Chupik put me on to a book “The Making of the room.”  Which I read in fascinated horror, and which survived the great book purge of 2015

It is through that opus that I know things like that Tommy Wiseu  is an immigrant from parts unknown who is sometimes unclear on how things like buildings, roads, cars or indeed people work.  In fact, Occam’s razor dictates that we assume Tommy is a centuries old vampire, whose brain is starting to go.  But that’s not the point right now…

The point is that his move is pretty d*mn depressing.  The main character is being cheated on by his fiance and best friend, has just been fired, and (no, trust me, it’s not a spoiler) ends up killing himself (I almost typed itself.  You’d have to see it to understand.)

BUT the thing is that through all the movie (and the book about it) you get this sense the whole thing is … aspirational.  That this pretty horrible situation is what Tommy wishes he had.

I understand this somewhat, because we watched shows from the US that in retrospect were practically slander against American society.  And all we could think was “I’ve got to get there.”  Murder, manipulation, horrible drug habits, public crime.  “I got to get there.”

Why in heck is that?

Well, part of it is that we’re good sales people.  We make it all look so gosh darn INTERESTING that people can’t help reacting.

The other part is the stuff that leaks around the intended message: Abundance and the freedom that allows it, mostly.  Which get even into the mind of those who would be insulted if you suggest that Americans are any better than their countrymen, and makes people dream.

Unfortunately that “aspirational” quality means people want to imitate the US, and because the image of the US they’re being sold is this distorted fun-house mirror thing, it is, in no small part, responsible for a lot of the corruption and sheer craziness in other countries.  (Not to mention the obsession with living in apartments because that’s “modern.”)

A lot of crazy American left ideas are treated FAR MORE seriously abroad than here, because they get a lot more of it, their governments by and large encourage their dissemination (not the least because they think it makes America look bad, but also because it accords with a lot of THEIR … for lack of a better word thinking.)  How crazy?  Well, “We’re all going to fry up” (My brother thought Al Gore was smart, for ex) or “no borders is a great idea.”

I’m not saying we’re responsible for the mess that is Merkel’s Germany, understand, but I’m saying our far left is, and through their hijacking of the media and entertainment, they’ve projected their insanity as a thing to aspire to to the rest of the world.  They THINK they’re maligning America, but they’re really making the world a horrible place.  And they don’t even know it.  And if they knew it, they might fail to get it.

Which brings us to why we have a lot of work to do.  If the nature of what we have here creates an aspirational movement in the rest of the world, even while our intellectuals hate our country and are trying to slander it, imagine how much better everything would be if we just wrote about the country as it really is, and as we’d like it to be.

Aspirations and dreams are a great force.

Happy new year.  You have work to do.

145 responses to “Aspirational

  1. The other part is the stuff that leaks around the intended message: Abundance and the freedom that allows it, mostly.

    I’ve seen it said that Stalin had The Grapes of Wrath shown to reveal the terrible price of American capitalist decadence… and wound up with viewers going, “Wow! Even the poor have cars?!”

    • The original #CheckYourPrivilege

    • I went camping with my kids a couple of months ago, the first time I’ve been tent camping since I was a teenager. So I had to buy everything. The kids got inflatable mattresses while I got a corrugated foam dealie that promised to keep me warm. It did. It also was about as comfortable as a rock.

      You really have to be rich and live in abundance to pay to sleep hard and uncomfortable on purpose. 😉

      • The best thing is to get the self-inflating camping mat things. They have little air pockets that fill up when you unroll them. You can’t rip them, and the little air pockets keep you warm too.

        They are priceyish, but worth it. Try for a sale.

      • There’s at least one hotel in Berlin that is set up with authentic German DDR furnishings and levels of service, so you can enjoy the standard of living of Communist Germany…

    • Something similar happened during the race riots of the ’70’s. The Soviets were trying to show American society breaking down, but the people were noticing that every store had dozens of color TV’s that were better than anything in the USSR.

  2. And TVs, and refrigerators (BIG ones, not like those seen in Britcoms), with Freezers, and Appliances, and nice-looking stuff in our homes and apartments, and lots (El Mucho!!!!) of nice clothes, and on and on and on…

  3. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Chupik put me on to a book “The Making of the room.” ”

    Ah yes, The Disaster Artist. You can pick that baby up, flip to almost any random page and find something hilarious/mortifying.

  4. The problem is the left just doesn’t understand that individual and economic freedom enable prosperity. They figure that economies Must be managed. They see all that is wrong in America and push top down fixes. The movies show the bad plus the abundance that leftists believe is normal.

    Most have read Heinlein’s “Bad luck” quote.

    • They seem convinced that, left to their own devices, the lower classes will lead lives of gin-sodden desperation, devoid of any meaning or purpose.

      Such behaviour is, of course, primarily a reaction to the Left’s efforts at preventing such amiable existence. Most people are surprisingly competent at discerning their own immediate best interests, and when that best interest consists of subsisting on the meagre allowances the Left permits, then people will eschew accumulating capital, forego investing for the long term and refrain from taking risks when the winnings are “shared” by the bookmaker (indeed, one reason for the popularity of the lottery amongst the poor is that the take is great enough to potentially put you ahead even after the mandated kickback.)


      Thus the genius of the dustman, Alfie Doolittle, in only asking for that which will enable a brief respite without entailing a burden of long-term upkeep.

      • It really doesn’t help issues that the way to make folks looking out for their own interest work the best for everyone involves a philosophy that they really don’t like, because it keeps telling them “no” and being all judgy and stuff. They’re cool with the “judge not,” not so much with the “go forth and sin no more.”

      • “the take is great enough to potentially put you ahead even after the mandated kickback.”

        Albeit temporarily.

    • Prosperity, in their view, “happens.” The unequal occurrence of it can only, therefore, be due to some inequity.

      This fundamental misapprehension of reality pervades many of their confusions, such as believing that disparate impacts can only be a consequence of unequal treatment and not a result of some fundamental difference in the variables. In their minds, if you stood on your back porch ans sowed wheat while revolving 360 degrees, each square yard ought produce the same yield regardless of whether it lies in the sun, the shade, the driveway or you master bedroom. And they can provide the math to prove it!

      • Having a B.S. In Physics, I GOT that joke!

        • The version I heard had a punchline of “assuming a spherical cow, uniformly distributed with milk…”

      • This is one thing I have seen often. It’s how you get people so willing to dehumanize those that think differently. Because anyone normal would have to think the same way. If everyone was treated exactly the same you would get a race of automatons. Except at the base humanity has variations. So you cannot get that perfect equilibrium.

    • They want the freedom to tell you what to do.

      • They also just don’t understand emergent phenomena. If you don’t have a committee working on the problem, you are just one of those delusional optimists.

  5. Stop picking on The Postman. That is actually one of my favorite movies. Heck, it’s not even as far fetched a concept today as it was when released! And Waterworld is not that bad either. The science sucks, and the SJW signaling is over-the-top, sure, but it’s a fun movie. I think people just hate Kevin Costner because Dances With Wolves won so many awards.

    How about the series Mr. Robot for one of your examples?

    • It is sometimes a good idea to leave the brain home when going to the movies. Keeps the head from exploding. Theater workers hate cleaning up.

    • plan 9 from outer space — ed wood
      best worst movie of all time

      • Better than “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?

      • I have never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space. I have often told my better half it has been voted as the worst movie of all time. At least, of those that have been released. Saw it in the bargain bin one day for $4.99. My better half was with me, and wouldn’t let me buy it. Her logic was impeccable. “You’ve told me it’s the worst movie of all time. Why would you want to waste money on it?”

      • Ed Wood’s films are bad, but amusingly bad, charmingly bad.
        If you really want true, soul killing badness, you have to look at either “‘Manos’: The Hands of Fate”, or the Coleman Francis Coffee Trilogy- “Skydivers”, “Red Zone Cuba”, and “Beast of Yucca Flats”

        Why, yes I am a serious MSTie.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Manos may be the most Lovecraftian movie ever made.

          Just not on purpose.

          • Patrick Chester

            It’s the haunting Torgo theme? Nah, it’s the whole movie. 😉

          • You know a movie is bad bad bad when you can riff it twice and not repeat one single riff. You have the classic MST ep, and the Rifftrax live version, and not one single joke is repeated.

        • Recall “The Giant Spider Invasion” with all of ONE (VW) Giant Spider? That was filmed in Merrill & Gleason, WI in the early/mid 1970s. I lived in/near Merrill then (age 7 or 8) and the “rock shop” of the movie was really Merrill Monument Co. (tombstones, mainly) owned & operated by a friend of my father’s. The film was being made fun of as it was made. Even at 7 or 8, I understood that “too low a carbon content” didn’t make sense if the things discussed were any sort of diamond (one might claim excess impurities, but one would say it that way). The producer (Rebane) tried to check himself into the local hospital (Holy Cross, then) claiming hallucinations of spiders. Some been-there-since nearly Creation Sister/Nurse was having none of it and told him off as only such a person as that can do.

    • On the recommendation of a family friend we tried Mr. Robot.

      In spite of giving the show both A Second Chance and An Auxiliary Backup Chance, that show hit the wall going supersonic. If there had not been a metaphorical wall, the show would have achieved solar escape velocity and left Sol’s neighborhood forever. Talk about hard core grey goo.

      Imagining someone viewing the show Over There, I cannot imagine why they would ever consider allowing any family member to come to the US for any length of time, nor ever consider supporting any domestic Over There policy decisions that the US had adopted given the obvious widespread systemic failure of American capitalist society evident in Mr. Robot.

      And yet I can imagine the leak arounds too, though without being a native Over There-ian I wouldn’t be able to identify them.

    • As far as I remember I found the novel rather fun, in the first two parts, almost or maybe even completely human wave, written back when Brin still did write fun stories – but it has its problems, like that the last third read like a different story altogether – but I found the movie disappointing because it was way more dull. Seemed to concentrate much more on the obstacles the characters faced than on the successes.

      The fun in the novel had a lot to do with the feeling that the characters seemed to be thinking more of Hey, we ARE rebuilding civilization! (the main character starts as a fraud, but gets serious as, to his surprise, his actions gets things rolling even if he didn’t actually try for any more than cheating a few meals and such from the people he meets) rather than oh, it all broke down and see how difficult trying to rebuild is, which the feeling the movie seems to stay in.

    • Waterworld made me want to go slash up the tires of volvos. The fact my husband made me watch it till the end didn’t help (we’d paid for it.) I submit is sucky and stock full of bad ideas.
      The Postman hit me during my most ardent libertarian days (yeah, I’m calm now) and the idea that the sign of civilization was the fricking memory of the fricking post office? Give me a break.
      I say they’re both spinach, and say to hell with it.
      Avata– I mean dances with wolves is hated for being a rehash of half-warmed dead 70s ideas, btw.

      • DWW turned me off with the voice-over. It just sounded WRONG. Great cinematography, but I couldn’t buy the story.

      • It might be something that makes more sense if letters consistently making it to your house was a primary means of communication in living memory……

      • The Postman did get it right that long-range communication and civilization are linked, but like so many Progressives they got the causal relationship backwards. Communication doesn’t build civilization, civilization enables communication by keeping the barbarians down to the point that it’s safe to travel more than a day or so from home.

        • It’s dialectical. The more communication, the more specialization, the more productivity, the more civilization, so the more communication.

          At the very least, “The barbarians are coming!” is a very useful message to enable civilization.

      • The purchase of admission to a film is a sunk cost.* The 2’15” spent watching is a manageable cost which can be limited, say by leaving midway to feed popcorn to ducks.

        *(Okay – that wasn’t actually an intentional pun, merely a fortuitous happenstance.) In certain cases a theatre will refund the cost of a movie if a customer effectively complains, especially if the complainant requests passes for a movie to be determined later in lieu of cash refund.

      • Watch it with someone who knows all the extras, all the people who built the sets and camped on the beach where they landed. It’s hilarious.

    • You’re not alone. I really LIKE the Postman. And Waterworld, for that matter, so long as one pretends it takes place on an entirely different planet and ignores the silly premise to it being Waterworld in the first place.

      The Postman, though…that’s one of the very, very few films I actually liked better than the book. I read the book, back in high school. It was fine…until the last third or so, when it got incredibly weird and just…no. Totally killed the book for me.

      • Liking a bad film (or TV series*) is not a character flaw. Claiming a bad film (or yadda-yadda) is good because you like it is a severe character flaw.

        *Why, one of my favorite TV series when I was a wee bairn had plot holes nearly every episode that were so big you could fly a starship through them.

        • That’s fair. I wouldn’t for a moment claim that either of those films is objectively GOOD…I just find them lots of fun. They’re not quite cheesy enough to make the ‘cheesy-with-extra-cheese’ list of things I love to watch (like Krull), but still fun.

          I gotta ask: Which tv series was this?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Star Trek (especially Next Gen) had plenty of plot holes.

            • I thought my selection of metaphor would have made the program evident.

              OTOH, on the internet no one can see how white your hair.

              In fairness to Trek its plot holes were not materially greater than those of Time Tunnel, Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants or for that matter, ANYthing else from Irwin Allen.

              Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, being anthology series, typically avoided major plot sutures.

              Given I avidly watched I Dream of Jeannie, Car 54 Where Are You?, Get Smart, and evenMy Mother, the Car I hardly think I can lay claim to having been a critical consumer of that era’s pop culture.

              • Sometimes plot points are just world-view differences– I can’t remember what the dang show was, but at some point I had to defend a show I didn’t even like because the “plothole” was actually the writer knowing more about animal husbandry than the guy deciding it was a plothole…..

  6. During my time with the gubmint I had the pleasure of dealing with a number of foreign nationals. As they were representatives of their respective countries’ space agencies they were invariably highly educated and well travelled. Even so they had real difficulty with certain concepts regarding American ways. In particular the shear abundance of merchandise in our stores, and the vastness of our land mass, the distance between places they’d heard about. I remember one young lady who dearly wanted to spend a weekend at Yellowstone Park until I made her realize she could not just drive there and back from northern Alabama in just two days.
    After the USSR broke up and we became best buds with the Russians, for some very peculiar definitions of besties I will admit, they flew some rocket engines in for testing in the Marshall test stands. Things had relaxed enough by that time that Huntsville was no longer restricted completely to Soviet bloc visitors, so the flight crews were allowed to visit the city during their layover. K-Mart and Wal-Mart were their destinations of choice and I recall that the top two items on their shopping lists were American jeans and hypodermic needles. Seems both were in short supply and high demand back home.

    • When former-Soviet folks came to Pantex to see how to safely dismantle nukes (send the bombs to the US and have us do the work seemed to be the preferred solution), they got an allowance from someone. Their guide collected all but $10 of that from them, THEN turned them loose in Wal-mart for the first time. After the shock wore off, they got the $$ back to spend as they chose on food, hotel, et cetera. Otherwise 1) they never got out of Wal-Mart and 2) they spent everything on jeans and “cool stuff.”

    • I recall reading a report on a Soviet pilot defector (w/ MiG!!) who was blown away by a supermarket–ALL that was there, so MUCH of it, and all the shoppers!. And on an aircraft carrier, that enlisted men (ENLISTED men) were doing things that only officers were trusted to do in the Sov. navy..

      • That would be Viktor Belenko. Met him once, a very entertaining fellow, and like most fighter pilots I’ve met, no the least bit shy about stating whatever was in his mind.

    • That sounds very like how things progressed after my company (well, to company I worked for at the time) bought Moscow University’s math department. (It kept the team together, and we got some very interesting ideas from the group.)

      When they’d come over to visit, shopping trips to Fry’s and some other retailers were high points of their time out here. Denim jeans and current CPUs, hard drives, and related tech were primary attractions.

  7. I used to hear my upstairs neighbors in Athens listening every week to Dynasty – the theme music was unmistakable. And I used to cringe at what they must think about Americans from watching that and other shows on TV…

    • When I was in Germany, it was Beverly Hills 90210 (dubbed), some police show (which was deemed inferior to the one from Hamburg with the police speed-boat chases), and LA Law. Then the World Cup started and that was that.

    • ” And I used to cringe at what they must think about Americans from watching that”

      Women in America settle their differences by fighting in swimming pools?

      • Or something just as spectacular and sordid. It didn’t help that my landlord and his family, and his wife’s sisters family (who lived on the floor above) had never traveled out of Greece, and also had never rented to an American before … so I very often had the feeling that I was being watched – with friendly curiosity – as if I were some spectacularly exotic bird at the bird feeder.

        • They were probably wondering when you’d whip out the Stetson, pointy boots, and six-shooters…

          • Yep … but they were totally charmed when they discovered that I did home sewing … and made all my daughter’s clothes. And I was a quiet and responsible tenant …
            I am still grateful for the way that I think they disciplined the small children in the top-floor apartment not to make any noise during the mornings. I was on night-shift a lot, and I don’t ever recall them waking me up. Nice people.

            It was funny, though – when we first moved in, the toddler-aged small children — I would see them wearing heavy tights, the boy wearing long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, the little girl wearing tights, dresses, sweaters … and by the end of two years, they were wearing the same sort of clothes as my daughter: light tee-shirts and shorts and sandals, the girl in sleeveless summer dresses and sandals. I wondered again … how much were we WATCHED?

            • I got soooooo much mileage when I lived in Romania over casually mentioning that my grandfather was a real, honest-to-goodness cowboy. AND had been a rodeo rider. I mean, I was already kinda considered fascinating on account of my height and my very red hair (copper red, even, not carrot-red), but a cowboy–!! It was charming, most of the time, because it was always just a normal thing, that Papa used to wrangle cows as a kid and that he was a bull rider until he decided even that was a little too crazy and switched to broncs.

              I have no idea what shows they were watching that were imported from the US, though–I was a missionary at the time, and so we pretty much didn’t see any tv at all for the entire time. The closest we came were the unavoidable news reports when 9/11 happened. And if I knew then what I know now, I’d have been paying MUCH closer attention to that kind of thing.

      • I thought it was by throwing glassfuls of wine on one another?

        At least Bros drink the stuff before hurling it.

    • I heard of an exchange student from Britain who got his notions from Dynasty and Dallas. However, being dragged in to help wrangle cows at the local agricultural fair cleared up matter enough that he entered bread and spaghetti sauce.

  8. The rest of the world knows how fouled up their societies are, and they tend to discount those aspects of our exported popular culture, so what sticks out to them is that which out of their ordinary but still related.

    For example,


    Most American’s look at Peter Parker’s apartment in that scene and think, “What. A. Dump.” Most New Yorkers look at that apartment and marvel at how large it is. Most of the non-American world look at that apartment and exclaim: “What! All that, all to himself?”

    As Thomas Sowell recently noted, when he was born in 1930 Charlotte, NC the household had no refrigerator, no electricity. Now American think of deprivation as “no high-speed wi-fi connection.” We have far surpassed Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake” ignorance* of how well off we are.

    *I know, not Marie, probably not even true. “This is the West, sir,” he explains. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    • As I keep pointing out to people, in the west obesity is an issue with our poorest. Have to beat them over the head with how for once in human history this is the complete opposite of what has been experienced or is still being experienced in other countries.

      • And they’re so busy freaking out about it that they won’t stop trying to wipe out the Ugly Fatsos long enough to try to figure out what’s going on.

        I still think a big part of it is both “people not dying” (for the folks who are factually carrying nasty excess fat) and, for the eyeballing side, having such an incredibly diverse population.
        (I still have trouble grasping folks who look at pictures of my basically textbook black Irish uncles in high school and think they were FAT. Their body fat was so low that they literally sank in water, they just had working muscle instead of display muscle.)

        • Like the nurse who fussed at me about my weight (in winter clothes and boots, no less) until I flexed my biceps. She’d not thought about women who have a stocky body type to start with and then lift weights. Yes, I’m a little heavier than I’d like to be, but there’s a reason I have size 14 shoulders and biceps and a size 6 chest. Adipose is not that reason.

      • I point out that you can’t run a homeless shelter nowadays without amenities — described as necessary to make it fit for human habitation — that kings and queens and emperors did without a couple of centuries ago.

        They grouse that they are tired of that meme.

        • Might this be something for a guest post? A listing of current requirements for a shelter for people who by very definition do not have such and thus one would imagine anything is better than nothing… yet, the standards are… …and here’s how utterly fantastic that looks from, oh, 1817, or even 1867.

          • Don’t even have to go that far– when we were floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with berthings that had been fairly newly gone-over so that they are the HEIGHT of enlisted Naval floating places to sleep, there was a news report from California about the over-crowding in the prisons.

            It really didn’t go over well that their dramatic shots of how prisoners were “horribly crowded” were nicer than the female berthing….
            (we have more required uniform parts, or did at the time, so there had to be more storage space)

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              One Navy Chief on the Bar (Chief Dragon Lady) was very annoyed when reporters talked about the suspected terrorists “being tortured” by living in better quarters/conditions than she did on the Kitty Hawke. 😦

          • needs someone who knows the codes.

            Me, I only know things like if the beverages froze on the dinner table at a shelter, it would be a scandal if not in the middle of a natural disaster, but in Versailles, it was an anecdote you wrote to your daughter about.

  9. I spent a challenging half hour trying to explain why there were no forests in my part of the US. “God just didn’t put trees there” would have been easier, but not that much easier. More than weekly showers also didn’t quite translate, because Americans have such amazingly cheap utilities that we can live on a minimum income and using hot water won’t break our budget. Not so Germany in the 1990s-early 2000s. And this is Germany, not a poor country by any stretch of the mind.

    • I appreciated this Instapundit link:

      Your Shower Is Lame, Your Dishwasher Doesn’t Work, and Your Clothes are Dirty
      Jeffrey Tucker
      Thursday, December 29, 2016

      Even I, who have been writing about terrible American showers for 10 years, was shocked with delight at the shower in Brazil. Now, here we have a socialist country and an entire population that grouses about how hard it is to get ahead. And yet, step into the shower and you have a glorious capitalist experience. Hot water, really hot, pours down on you like a mighty and unending waterfall, sort of like it used to sea to shining sea.

      At least the socialists in Brazil knew better than to destroy such an essential of civilized life.

      But here we’ve forgotten. We have long lived with regulated showers, plugged up with a stopper imposed by government controls imposed in 1992. There was no public announcement. It just happened gradually. After a few years, you couldn’t buy a decent shower head. They called it a flow restrictor and said it would increase efficiency. By efficiency, the government means “doesn’t work as well as it used to.”

      We’ve been acculturated to lame showers, but that’s just the start of it. Anything in your home that involves water has been made pathetic, thanks to government controls.

      [SNIP]

      The water pressure in our homes and apartments has been gradually getting worse for two decades, thanks to EPA mandates on state and local governments. This has meant that even with a good showerhead, the shower is not as good as it might be. It also means that less water is running through our pipes, causing lines to clog and homes to stink just slightly like the sewer. This problem is much more difficult to fix, especially because plumbers are forbidden by law from hacking your water pressure.

      As for the heat of the water, the obsession over “safety” has led to regulations that the top temperature is preset on most water heaters, at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is only slightly hotter than the ideal temperature for growing yeast. Most are shipped at 110 degrees in order to stay safe with regulators. This is not going to get anything really clean; just the opposite. Water temperatures need to be 140 degrees to clean things. (Looking at the industry standard, 120 is the lowest-possible setting for cleaning but 170 degrees gives you the sure thing.)

      The combination of poor pressure and lukewarm temperatures profoundly affects how well your dishwasher and washing machine work. Plus, these two machines have been severely regulated in how much energy they can consume and how much water they can use. Top-loading washing machines are a thing of the past, while dishwashers that grind up food and send it away are a relic. We are lucky now to pull out a glass without soap scum on it. As for clothing, what you are wearing is not clean by your grandmother’s standards.

      [SNIP]

      But wait: what about the need to conserve water? Well, the Department of the Interior says that domestic water use, which includes even the water you use on your lawn and flower beds, constitutes a mere 2% of the total, so this unrelenting misery spread by government regulations makes hardly a dent in the whole.

      In any case, what is the point of some vague sense of “conserving” when the whole purpose of modern appliances and indoor plumbing is to improve our lives and sanitation? (Free societies have a method for knowing how much of something to use or not use; it is called the signaling system of prices.)

      [SNIP]

      If the public knew the whole truth about this, the anti-government feeling alive in the land would intensify beyond anything we’ve ever known. In the meantime, don’t blame the manufacturers. They are the victims, along with the rest of the public. We are all trying to live better lives but the government won’t allow that to happen.
      — — —

      But the government regulations affecting our lightbulbs are critically important to keep the globe from overheating … although I suspect that with the money we’d save by sticking with incandescent bulbs we could probably build a globe-wide heat pump …

      • Yes, and now “they” are saying you really should only use cold water to wash clothes. Bushwah. If we want clean-clean clothes and bedding, we’re going to be back to boiling the whites in a cauldron in the back yard like my Great-grandmother and aunts did at this rate.

        • Yeah, funny how bedbugs weren’t a problem before the whole “wash in cold and don’t use bleach”, eh?

          • Oh yeah. And when bug spray actually killed bugs rather than just giving them a bath.

            • We use stuff that will knock wasps and hornets dead in mid-air. The reason we use it, though, it it’s non-conductive. That said, the same performance stuff can still be found in stores, though it could be conductive. I’ve found non-conductive that way, but you have to carefully read the label for the magic words non-conductive or dielectric, and pay attention to the breakdown voltage.

          • Raises eyebrows. We used to say “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” And I remember a friend who’s family had to deal with a bed bug infestation. I don’t know if it’s really worse now, or if it just was one of those things not mentioned.

            • Not certain outside the big cities, where public health tracks such things, but at Flat State U bedbugs were a problem in some of the student housing because the critters came back from vacation with students from abroad and stayed. Europe is having more and more problems with them, as my parents found out at a 5-star hotel in Prague 11 years ago. They had stopped boiling the bedding and spraying for bugs in order to be more Green.

              • You won’t find as many problems with them in the West and Southwest because one way to conclusively kill bedbugs (especially the ones that decide to hide in the wooden parts of furniture) is to basically bake them… like leaving them in a vehicle in the sun for a day. Heck, if you find a piece of furniture for free that seems to be in really good condition, all you have to do is leave it in the summer sun in black trash bags.

              • While we’re on the subject, some years ago when we had to stay in a city to be near my father, who was in the hospital, there was one row of hotels we avoided, based on word-of-mouth from some utility folks who stayed there during some disaster. The problem wasn’t bed bugs, it was fleas.

        • Don’t know if it’s still the case. A few years, probably a few decades now, the State of NY legislature debated a bill requiring that landlords provide hot water to their tenants statewide at no more then 120°F. City of NY assemblymen stepped in and said NO! after a bit. Turns out NYC had a law requiring landlords to provide hot water at a minimum of 150°F. NYC doesn’t like having it’s local laws preempted by state laws.

          When I replaced my hot water maker, heated by my boiler, the new thermostat couldn’t be set to more then 140°F. I took the thermostat from the old one and installed it on the new, set to 150°F. Problem solved. I run the kitchen faucet until the hot water is fully hot before I start the dishwasher.

      • This article is wrong on several counts. First, you can still buy brand spanking new top load washers. Second, to the best of my knowledge, water pressure to homes are not restricted. Why? Because fire hydrants work off the same main lines. Third, most dishwashers have a heating element. And scalding is a significant hazard. After a close call here, i checked and found the water heater was set higher than 120° F. I lowered that to 120°.

        This gets into another issue. If I thought my house didn’t have enough water pressure, I’d check the main shut-off. When I thought our water heater was set too high, I adjusted it. Don’t most home owners know how to do these things?

        • In Colorado Springs (at least in the 1990s when I was there often) the mains run at something like 75 PSI. Each individual building had a pressure regulator by the meter that dropped the pressure to 40 or 50 PSI.

          > don’t most home owners know how to do these things?

          Nope. And they’re proud of their ignorance.

        • Eh… just bought my first house, still learning. If I didn’t have very capable parents I’d be missing more than I am, in the “don’t know to look for it” category.

        • Most household plumbing items are designed to work in the 40-60 PSI range. Get under 30, or over 80, and you’re going to start having problems. One of the big box stores I worked at started carrying PRVs (pressure regulating valves) for homes in the area. The water pressure in the areas well below the water tower in elevation routinely exceeded 100 PSI. And water heater T&P valves would start leaking. They’re routinely rated for 210°F and 150 PSI. But, they’re a combination relief valve, measuring both. At 90 PSI and 140°F most of them will start leaking by, though not in full relief mode. Some municipalities require PRVs by code in high pressure areas.

          If you’re your own water and sewer company, you can set your pressure. Typically a new pressure switch is preset to 30-50 PSI. Mine is set at 40-60 PSI. Unless you want to build your own water tower, you’re going to have a pressure range where the pump turns on and off.

          And fire hydrants normally work off the same lines as potable water, but not always. Some municipalities separate the loops. In my town, they’re separate. if there’s a fire, someone has to run to the pumphouse and energize the fire pump while the truck heads towards the fire. I live 5 miles from the nearest hydrant, so I don’t really worry about it… Not a lot of people are on municipal water, and the sewage system is a giant version of the septic tank and leech field in my backyard.

          As far as scalding goes, if you can’t figure out how to control your faucet to avoid going ouch, well, that’s a problem. Not my problem, your problem. I’ve been able to do it since I was able to reach the sink. BTW, most modern single handle faucets do have a built in limiter you can adjust to limit the hot water side opening. I don’t set them. If you still have separate hot and cold water spouts, well, can’t do that.

          One of the problems with setting standard 40 gallon electric hot water tanks in cold climates at 120°F is that you can’t take a decent length shower. With a 5000 W element you’re going to bring 40°F inlet water up to 120°F at the rate of about .5 GPM. If you’ve got a water limiting showerhead, you’re using it at 2.5 GPM. In a very short time, you’re taking a cool shower, and not long after, a cold one.

          And the answer to Don’t most home owners know how to do these things? is No.

          • Don’t forget water logged tanks. I found my parent’s water pressure suspiciously low, and need to check if their tank is water logged. And water logged tanks can run up electric bills if they practically have no air.

            • Yeah. Twice yearly maintenance I should do, but neglect. Turn off water pump. Isolate, drain pressure tank. Fill with air to 2 PSI below lower pressure switch setting. Line everything back up, reenergize pump. The other problem you get is when someone thinks the pressure tank is there for pressure, not storage, and fills it with air up to or above the upper pressure switch setting…. The other guy who came into the store with him who had been trying to help him troubleshoot why things were screwy hadn’t even considered that and looked at him like he was insane when he answered my question of how much air pressure was in it.

      • I don’t know if it’s still true, but when I bought a Shower Massage by WaterPik a few years ago the manual included assembly and reassembly for cleaning and descaling. The flow restrictor was a drop-in nylon piece that was clearly identified, and the manual stated in that it was required by federal law. In bold type the manual also said said approximately: “DO NOT LEAVE OUT THE FLOW RESTRICTOR WHEN REASSEMBLING THE SHOWERMASSAGE BY WATERPIC OR ELSE THE FLOW WILL NOT BE RESTRICTED.”
        It turns out that they were right about that. 🙂

        • I believe that the article specifies that the flow regulators work per faucet. Which would be why multiple shower heads would get around the limitation.

          Might be part of the excised portion. Did you go to the article itself or just browse the portion I presented?

          • There used to be an insert in faucets. Now it’s built into the strainer that screws into the “nozzle” of the faucet. No idea if it’s possible to get strainer sans pressure reducers. Pressure reducers are also sold as retrofits, and are just a little bit of plastic.

      • I am not sure if I have ever experienced detergents with phosphorus. I do recall my grandmother grousing some about it in the 1970’s or 1980’s that she couldn’t get “the good detergent” without significant out of state travel. Avoidance of phosphorus might have started a bit earlier in Great Lakes states than it did elsewhere. I’ve not done any significant research on this matter.

  10. The funniest thing about the whole issue, and it is a real one, is that the Hollyweird types have been doing their best to show off the worst aspects of America, all the while failing to comprehend that what they are showing and demonstrating are things that the rest of the world doesn’t have, and didn’t realize they wanted, until seeing it on American TV or movies.

    Funny story–I met an Eastern European cop, once. He’d saved up his money, and finally made it over here for a visit. There were two things he was pissed off about–One, that the level of criminality and so forth was actually so low, because he’d kinda been wanting to see US police in action, and thought that what you saw on COPS was a daily routine, everywhere. About broke his heart when I explained that it was pretty damned rare to see that stuff, outside of some neighborhoods near major cities. Second thing he was pissed off about was how the popularity of the various US police shows had convinced everyone at home that they had a right to things like a Miranda warning, and that the US Bill of Rights covered them, just like on TV. Per his belief, the prevalence of American cop shows had drastically reduced the effectiveness of law enforcement in his home country, and the whole thing just pissed him off. Apparently, he and another cop had picked up some pimp who was trafficking young girls from further into Eastern Europe, and when they had the guy arrested, he demanded to see a lawyer, and refused to say anything to them, on the grounds that it might incriminate him. He apparently thought that the stuff he saw on TV was how things were done, outside of where he came from (Ukraine, or somewhere in the Russian borderlands, maybe Georgia…). The guy I was talking to said he’d really enjoyed informing said pimp that a.) the TV shows were about America, not former Eastern Bloc satellites, and that b.) there were no prohibitions against police brutality in his country. I gather this was explained with such learning aids as rubber truncheons, and that the pimp was in rather sad condition when turned over for custody at the jail…

    But, he wasn’t happy, having to explain that stuff to everyone he dealt with. “No, you do not have the right to remain silent… No, a lawyer will not be provided for you… Yes, I can beat your ass to a pulp, if I like…”. What he was really, really unhappy about? Public pressure was forcing the politicians to start looking at actually implementing some of that stuff in law, over there.

    • ” The guy I was talking to said he’d really enjoyed informing said pimp that a.) the TV shows were about America, not former Eastern Bloc satellites, and that b.) there were no prohibitions against police brutality in his country.”

    • It was rather strange, having grown up in the (post) Miranda era to hear earlier police radio shows where “Mirandizing” didn’t happen. And really strange to hear the very earliest (there are some surviving recordings from a 1920’s radio program) partly from not being the procedural as we now know it (Dragnet style, roughly) but still recognizable as one. Also that when some evidence was needed the reaction was just to go break in(!) and look. Of course, I don’t know how much fiction was in that fiction.

  11. Hey! The Postman and Waterworld were great!

    • … and completely different from the ones Sarah watched in HER world. Because those certainly weren’t great and were barely endurable gray goo.

      • Scratches head.

        Okay then.

      • Question: I keep seeing this “gray goo” expression being tossed around. I know the nanotech definition, is it something similar or is there more I am missing out on?

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          gloom & doom; heroes no better than the villains

        • From the ATH glossary:

          “Grey Goo – depressing, often painfully literary message fiction that (usually but not always) bashes men, the free-market, traditions, humans in general, science and the human spirit. Why science fiction has been in the doldrums for the past 15 years or so (see Human Wave below).”

          I would say it is closely related to the “Darkness Induced Apathy” trope from TVTropes: it’s hard to tell if anything was actually accomplished by the events of the story, and frankly everyone and everything is so miserable that you don’t really care if anything was accomplished or not.

        • Thanks for clearing it up for me. I think “The Postman” (novel) ended up in the “too be recycled” pile after I finished it. Few others like it as well.

        • There is no black and white, no morality, just shades of gray. The Heroes are deeply flawed and not really heroic, and the Villains, they’re just misunderstood, really, and deserve your sympathy. That’s Grey Goo.

        • You can think of it as stories where you wouldn’t mind all the characters and their world being eaten by gray goo, if you like. 0:)

          • The best definition I’ve heard referred to a mystery so filled with unadmirable characters that not only didn’t the reader care who done it, but wished whoever it was had done far more of it.

            • yeah. The really fatal flaw in a work of fiction is not making the reader not care about the character, it’s making the reader wish they could ALL LOSE.

        • Its a term that’s swiftly becoming as overused and meaningless as ‘cuck’ ‘sexist’ and ‘fascist’.

    • Kevin Costner filtering his own pee to drink because…. he couldn’t filter the global ocean of water surrounding him?

  12. Hoppy Gnu Ear to all Huns and Hoydens!

  13. I dunno, sometimes i don’t think that they get it… i just don’t. or they believe every single thing their socialist studies teachers told them in school.

    • I’d say yes. I just spent half an hour snarling at a textbook because of the Industrial Revolution. No, England did not have peasants. No, factories were not h-ll on earth, especially in the beginning. No, factories and mines in 1890 were not the same as 1790. No, women would not have been working with their hair uncovered around machinery because they didn’t go bare-headed after marriage (or puberty in many districts).

  14. Christopher M. Chupik

    My library is a reliable source for bad movie material. They pick up enough odd-ass low-budget sub-Asylum stuff to keep me amused when I get the urge to laugh at badness. The most recent example I found was a truly breathtaking fantasy movie The Dragons of Camelot.

    • scottsaxbury

      picked up two b-movie collections at Wal-mart last year, 50 movies each. Still not sure if the worst was Kong Island, which didn’t have King Kong and wasn’t on an island, or Teenagers from Outerspace, which I believe was acted by wax-droids. But it did have a howling lobster on a stick.

    • If you like bad Dragon movies score Dragon Dynasty which stars a young Stana Katic. You can tell she had real promise; her expression changes.

  15. One of these days, I’ll work up to watch The Room.
    The version with Mike, Kevin, and Bill on Rifftrax, of course. I’m not a masochist!

  16. Passengers is a great movie, better than Rogue One. If you liked The Martian, you’ll love it.

  17. One of the things that Dear Advisor and I agreed 100% on was that we intensely disliked “Dances With Wolves.” But the soundtrack had some lovely moments. We had visions of doing a sort-of riff-trax on it, but decided that we’d run out of beer (his) and soda and snacks before we got to the great moment where KC knocks himself on the doorway (the highlight of the film, IMHO).

    • We tried to watch that movie again, a year or so ago … and agreed with you and Adviser. It has some lovely moments, and the bits among the Sioux were beautiful – did you notice that they were always doing something, while conversations were going on? It was like an anthropological exploration of their lives.

      But as for the historical stuff … oh, lord. By the time of the Civil War it would have been too late for a white officer two have gone native amongst a tribe. There was just too much bad experience there, especially on the Plains. And — the US Army loosing track of a whole outpost? When the purpose of an outpost would have been to protect traffic on the various western wagon and stage routes? Oh, please.

      Now … it might have worked as a plot device if the author had racked it back to just post-Mexican War, nearly twenty years earlier. There could have been a traumatized veteran officer, sent out to explore the vast bits of the unseen new Southwestern territories, who perhaps lost the rest of his small expedition, and struck in with a band of Apache. That would have been historically much more credible.