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« Mary on Classic Writing | Main | End of Evolution: Airliners »

March 16, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Digital photography now accounts for 90% of the photography market. Douglas Gantenbein wonders what we may be losing as photography shifts over to 1s and 0s.

* Michael Oakeshott is one of my three or four favorite philosophers, yet he's a hard one to recommend. Many people find his writing style (which I love) as slippery, subtle, and hard to grasp as late Henry James. Joseph Sobran's short appreciation of Oakeshott is one of the best EZ intros to Oakeshott's work that I've run across.

* Once upon a time film directors brought something more to their jobs than merely the desire to be a film director, and few directors brought more life experience into the business than the sometimes-great William Wellman. Here's a good Scott Eyman interview with Wellman, from 1978.

* Bjorn Lomborg's view of global warming is that it's happening; that there isn't much we can do about it; and that the money we might spend holding global warming off for a few years could be put to much better use otherwise. Though Lomborg's view strikes me as hyper-sensible, many eco True Believers despise him.

* Strangers sometimes email me, asking for advice about publishing a book. (If you Google "Writing a book," a blogposting of mine often shows up high on the list.) Because the experience of getting your work professionally published is often an unpleasant and unrewarding one, I always suggest that they look first into publishing their work themselves, whether online or via one of the new Print on Demand outfits. FWIW, I've heard some good things about the self-publishing outfit known as

* Kenneth Harvey riffs very amusingly on the James Frey fiasco.

* They're calling it "slivercasting": programming that is designed to appeal to a very narrow demographic. We may soon be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing.

* Tatyana goes to the theater and wonders what's become of the art of the beautifully-placed pause.

* Will there be sparks? I sure hope so. Naomi Wolf interviews Harvey Mansfield about manliness on CSpan2 this Saturday at 9 pm Eastern Time.

* Steve Sailer makes some sense out of the Balkans.

* Chris Gondek is making his interviews with business thinkers available via podcast. He blogs about his podcasting adventures here.

* James Verini's piece about the raucous, exhibitionistic phenomenon that is is as hilarious as it is alarming.

* How'd this one get by me? Robert Towne's long-planned film of John Fante's novel "Ask the Dust" opened last weekend. Has anyone seen the picture? I have to confess that, while I like the novel, I don't revere it in anything like the way many people (especially people from L.A.) do.

* Those who can't get enough Crunchy Conservatism will want to check out this George Nash review, this parody site, and NRO's own dedicated Crunchyblog. Wow: There's something about the idea of Crunchy Conservatism that makes Jonah Goldberg carry on like a real asshole. (Links thanks to Dave Lull.)

* Double-entry bookkeeping, perspective, town clocks -- Jim McCormick reviews Alfred Crosby's "The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600." One to print out and ponder. (Thanks to Lexington Green for the link.)

* So she's nearly 50 -- Sharon Stone looks fabulous. And, from the evidence (scroll down a bit), "Basic Instinct 2" looks like the kind of movie that could turn me into a movie-theater-goer once again.

* MD is displaying some of her poetic and evocative writing here. She calls what she's doing "microfiction," and I'm all for it.



posted by Michael at March 16, 2006


Great stuff - I especially liked the first one. I recently took a beginning photography class that was split into both digital and film, and there was this amazing sense of camaraderie among all the film users. Like they were last of a dying breed of purists. I felt so cheap with my digital camera...

Posted by: jenny on March 16, 2006 06:06 PM

Glenn Reynolds' new book says that home-brewing is the paradigm for the future. I predict a movement of home-brewers making their own film - if there isn't such a thing already.

Matthew Brady rolled his own, after all, and people still hunt with flintlocks, so why not?

Posted by: Brian on March 16, 2006 08:20 PM

Speaking of the predictions - and Ibsen (thanks for the mention, MB!), let me quote a small part of the dialogue from Hedda Gabler.

...[T]his one (the book - T) deals with the future.
With the future! But, good heavens, we know nothing of the future!
No; but there is a thing or two to be said about it all the same.
[Opens the packet.] Look here---
Why, that's not your handwriting.
I dictated it. [Turning over the pages.] It falls into two sections.
The first deals with the civilising forces of the future. And here is
the second--[running through the pages towards the end]--forecasting
the probable line of development.

Michael, I think you reversed the order - we heard the forecast, let's have it whom do you hold being civilising forces?

Posted by: Tatyana on March 16, 2006 09:10 PM

Oh all right, in the spirit of appreciation for the plug, let me share with you my latest discovery.
I'm very fond of Apartment Therapy, facinating place where architects and interior designers might meet actual live (well, as much as the screen allows - and as I witnessed with my own eyes recently, at Union Sq. meetup) people and hear what they really want and like (and vice-versa)! And lemme tell'ya, conversations on the open threads are quite, quite lively.

Posted by: Tat on March 16, 2006 09:49 PM

That print-on-demand concept - is there any possibility that bookstores or Amazon will carry a book produced that way?

Posted by: Peter on March 16, 2006 10:04 PM

I thought that Goldberg made some good points myself, but then I'm neither "crunchy" nor conservative. I think that a lot of people underestimate how raw the wounds from the late 60's - early 70's still are, and how much many conservatives (even, perhaps especially, the younger ones) loathe anything that smacks of the counterculture. After having been lectured by liberal Boomers for the last 30 years about the Moral Superiority of Hippies, a lot of the under-40 set is ready to go ballistic at the mere mention of granola. But I think that it was the intellectual imprecision of a lot of the "crunchy" stuff that really irritated Goldberg, though. As James Lileks put it, "Crunchy Conservatism is everything and nothing and this and that, and mostly what they personally like..."

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 08:29 AM

I'm with tschafer. I don't care for the label, which seems to create a new marketing niche for foodies who homeschool, or the idea of the label. And their whole tone of moral superiority rubs me the wrong way. I do love the ContraCrunchy blog, though.

Posted by: Rachel on March 17, 2006 10:15 AM

Jenny -- I guess they *are* the last of a dying breed. I wonder if film-photography enthusiasts are going to become like antique car collectors, or something, real antiquarians. I'd imagine that the companies that manufacture film will be cutting 'way back on the varieties available ...

Brian -- Well, there's the answer: home-brew everything.

Tat -- Ibsen and me, we're two of a kind. I've got to explore Apartment Therapy, tks. It'll be interesting if designers start getting more feedback from end-users than they've traditionally gotten. I wonder if they'll take heed.

Peter -- Yeah, I'm pretty sure Lulu can/will get your book on Amazon, though there may be a few hoops to go through. Home-brew your own book! I'd love to see self-publishing take off a lot more than it has, though I suppose you could argue that that's exactly what blogging is.

Tschaefer -- That'd explain a lot. Nothing like sanctimonious Boomers to make other people irate. What's odd about Goldberg is that he generally knows how to take part in intellectual debate -- he normally doesn't allow the heat of the moment to disturb his poise, or make him lose his sense of humor. With the Crunchy-Con thing, though, he's so offended that just glowers, fumes, and makes no sense. He keeps trying to argue with Cruchy-Conism, completely failing to understand that they aren't a debating team -- as Dreher says, he's describing a cultural sensibility, not an ideological program. Goldberg is like someone who so dislikes the color yellow that he denies it exists.

Rachel -- I find the whole thing pretty sanctimonious too. Whether or not I like it, though, seems to me pretty irrelevant, at least at the opening stages of the conversation. Dreher spotted a genuine sociological phenomenon (people who mix up home schoolin', organic food, religion, some hippie values, and yet who generally tend Right), gave it a catchy label, and described it. Seems to me we gotta admit that Dreher is onto a real phenomenon (and I meet people like the ones he describes all the time) before we start throwing mud at what he's describing. That's what Goldberg fails to do. Goldberg's so offended that he can't bring himself to shrug and say, Yeah, these people exist.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 10:41 AM

Maybe I didn't explain myself well enough--for that matter maybe Goldberg didn't either. Crunchiness sounds more like something Faith Popcorn would dream up than a political philosophy. The idea that some conservatives eat granola is perfectly fine with me. As I see it, conservatism is a big tent that's supposed to be a big tent. What unites conservatives is a belief that government should get out of the way and let individuals make major life decisions for themselves. Whether you shop at Wal-Mart or Williams Sonoma just isn't a part of it.

What I also dislike is, as we both agree, the sanctimony. As tschafer points out, Dreher seems to have co-opted the hippie stereotypes and grafted it onto a religious/conservative framework. Just because Birkenstocks are ugly doesn't mean they're either good for you or better than my stilettos. OK, maybe they're better for you than my stilettos.

And then there's the laughable romanticization of the past--notably that stalwart icon of romanticism, the man of the soil. Like Lady Chatterly and her gamekeeper, Dreher has the hots the family farmer. Until recently, when the smart man of the soil moved to California to cultivate heirloom tomatoes, the family farmer led a life of backbreaking labor and deprivation. Thanks to agricultural innovations a few large combines can grow enough food to feed the whole world. It's not romantic, but it's pretty hard to argue that it's a bad thing. And it opened up new markets for the heirloom tomato grower, the organic dairy farmer, etc.

Finally, sorry to be going on so much here, the world that Dreher pines for could only be achieved with a heavy dose of social engineering. I'd only read snippets of the NRO crunchy con blog until you linked to it, Michael, but last night I read through a great deal. And propositions like legislating a "family wage" sound very ominous to me.

Posted by: Rachel on March 17, 2006 11:24 AM

Rachel -- I haven't followed the blog, only read the book, so maybe we're talking at cross-purposes. But Dreher in the book makes quite a point about *not* turning CC into a political philosophy. He discusses it as a sociological phenomenon and a cultural sensibility. That's where I marvel at Goldberg. I wouldn't mind it if Goldberg said, "Well, those are a bunch of dumb people," or "what a dumb development." But that's not what he does (except occasionally, when he runs out of other bullets to shoot). He keeps trying to turn CC into a political philosophy and then argue it down. He's missing the main point, which is that people with these values actually exist.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 11:34 AM

Michael -
Thanks for the information about
Regarding the financial aspects of the book-writing experience, I have an anecdote that may be helpful. Over 15 years ago I was peripherally involved with the providing of a financial service to an older woman, now deceased, who was a published author. And not just any author; she was very well-known in a popular fiction genre (I rarely read books of that sort but immediately recognized her name) and had won many national awards. She had published dozens of books and they could be found in any bookstore. According to Amazon, many are still in print. And yet, according to the applications materials which I had reason to review, she was living on an annual income typical of, say, a schoolteacher or city bus driver.
Sorry for the vagueness, but even after all these years I have to respect her privacy.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 11:38 AM

Rachel just made most of my points for me, in a far more eloquent manner than I could have done. One more point - The issue is not whether "CrunchyCons" exist - obviously they exist, and I don't believe that Goldberg is debating that. Dreher is not simply acting as an impartial reporter, though - he is explicitly stating that "Crunchitude" is a better, more moral type of conservatism (read the Crunchy Manifesto, if you doubt this). That is what Goldberg is so teed off at. The way I see it, the "Crunchies" want to have it both ways - they explicitly state that Crunchy conservatism is a superior type of conservatism, but when this belief is questioned, they fall back on the "it's only a sensibility" position, and refuse to debate. Maybe it's only a sensibility, but it’s being put forth as a superior sensibility, which is what Goldberg is questioning. It seems to me that it's the Crunchies who are trying to shirk debate. (As regards stiletto heels, anything that looks that good just HAS to be good for you..)

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 11:47 AM

Peter -- Interesting, tks, and it confirms what I often saw when I was hanging around book publishing. It was amazing how little money ever made its way to authors, and how well-known an author could be yet still be just getting by. Meanwhile, people in book-publishing offices weren't doing too badly ...

Tschaefer -- Like I say, I haven't followed the CC blog. So the debate may well have gone places I'm not familiar with. But before the CCblog existed I saw Goldberg (on the general NRO blog) get cross-eyed with wrath many times about CC, to the point where he seemed to be doing his best to exile the whole idea to Siberia. 1) It doesn't exist! 2) If it does exist, it isn't conservative! 3) If it is conservative, then it's stupid! He'd cycle through these attacks, getting ever more purple in the face. It's clear that Dreher is onto something, pop-sociology-speaking -- but Goldberg didn't even want to allow for that. I was amazed by how amiable and generous Dreher managed to remain in the face of Goldberg's misbehavior, which was really unseemly. I'd have thought some higher-up would have taken Goldberg aside and told him that he was airing 'way too much dirty laundry.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 11:58 AM

I don't think that there's any doubt that Dreher is a nice guy, or that this issue REALLY irritates Goldberg, in a way that I don't really understand. But I do more or less agree with him, I'm afraid. Maybe we read the book differently - I (and it seems, Rachel, not to put words in anyone's mouth)saw it as taking more of an advocatory stance, as the CC blog certainly does. You seem to see it as more straight reporting, like David Brooks' "Bobo" book. Not sure who is right; I suppose that we always approach any book like this with predispositions. I have not really followed this debate for the last couple of weeks - did Goldberg get personal, or vituparative? If so, I agree, that's over the line - when I was following the debate, he was simply arguing that CC is not a superior sensibility, which seems perfectly valid to me. Of course, I'm not real keen on hippies either...

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 12:13 PM

I think Rachel and tschafer are both right and wrong on the CrunchyCon thing. I haven't read the book, so I believe Michael when he says Dreher isn't advocating a political philosophy - but at the same time, there is a sense in which this kind of project must be at least partly didactic and more than descriptive. This is true of any cultural movement, whether you call it a mere sensibility or not. If it is good that I conserve then it is even better if you do too.

Maybe I missed something, but in all GOldberg's pompous fulminating, I never saw a substantive critique, only a denunciation of the arrogance of these damn CCs, supposing themselves to be practicing a superior way of life. The audacity!

I think Tschafer is absolutely right that the reaction against CC-ism is at least in part due to the memory of 60s counterculture - Nothing else could explain the mindless a bitter reaction. But maybe its time to get over that and start considering that case on its merits.

This is a really interesting debate for me because I am certainly one of those who has been alienated by the reflexive materialism and reactive hostility to conservation. I am as conservative as they come these days, but grew up on an organic family farm and have managed to out-crunchy my Berkeley co-op housemates in most matters save regular bathing and a well-groomed appearance.

Rachel spoke of agriculture as if there exists a perfect dichotomy between these luddite CC heirloom tomoato growers and a sufficient level of agricultural production. Not true. The truth is that the modern sustainability movement in agriculture aims - and has often succeeded in - marrying traditional agrarian values to a production-centered economy. To the extent that such a marriage is possibile, it seems trivially true to me that it ought to be pursued.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 12:23 PM

Tschafer -- What may confuse everyone is that the book is a piece of reporting, but of very sympathetic reporting. (There's very little advocacy in it, though certainly the CC people seem glad to discover each others' existence.) And maybe that makes the temptation to leap into the "is it good?/do I agree?" argument before passing through the "Sure it exists" stage too hard for some people to resist.

In Goldberg's case, I'm more struck by his purple face and popping veins than I am by his arguments. You and Rachel make good points calmly. Fun to compare notes. With Goldberg, I'm more prone to want to take him to the emergency room for treatment than I am to address what he's saying.

I wonder why the topic makes him so very splenetic. I mean, he's outraged, he's offended, he's fulminating -- and 'way beyond any possible CC provocation. Any hunches?

Certainly it can't simply be that the CCers think that their take on things is a good one. Of course they do -- and after all, doesn't everybody think their take on things is a good one? Nothing wrong with that per se. Also, conservatism should certainly allow for many different varieties of itself. (And rural agrarianism and nostalgia have been big parts of American conservatism forever.) So whassup with JG? Or maybe we'd do better to leave it between him and his shrink...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 12:23 PM

Ah, well I haven't read the book. Like you, Michael, I first read about CC on NRO when Dreher first floated the idea. Goldberg wasn't impressed then and I think he wasn't impressed because, as a purely cultural sensibility, isn't the whole notion of CCism yawn-inducing? I mean, why shouldn't some conservatives prefer whole grain to white bread? Unless you believe that all conservatives are ignorant rednecks whose idea of a night on the town is a Nascar race followed by an amuse bouche at McDonald's? Sounds to me like college-educated blue staters who happen to vote Republican. A tool for marketers, perhaps, but not much more. And the gloss of moral superiority that you, tschafer and I have all noted makes it an unneccessarily divisive label, which is part--I think--of what Goldberg objects to.

Then I read somewhere--Lileks I think--that Dreher was bemoaning the loss of the independent video store on the CC blog and I thought: "How stupid. Time to make fun of them"

Than another blogger pointed me to the ContraCrunchy blog and I had a good laugh. But reading through the CC blog on NRO last night led me to believe that it's somehow morphed from being a cultural sensibility to a political philosophy and not a very desirable one.

Posted by: Rachel on March 17, 2006 12:31 PM

While Steve Sailer gets a lot of things right about the demonizing of the Serbs, he, as most Western journalist types, gets it wrong on how Serbs had settled into Bosnia and Croatia (in large numbers) and in Slovenia (smaller number) after Yugoslavia came out of WW II under Tito's dictatorhsip. There always seems to be an assumption that the Serbs were always in those areas of the Balkans before. They were, but not in such a large number. Being put into influential positions of power in the police force, army and navy, and administration of govt. offices offered the Serbs the opportunity to move to the more prosperous republics. The "evil" Mr. Sailer discusses was not just slightly palpable; it was a strong taste that simply re-inforced generations old animosities. When a lot of the most beautiful parts of the coast were given to Serbs, a large bitter fruit was being grown. If there wasn't Milosevic, there would have been someone else just like him who would have felt it was his duty to grab back what was taken back from the Serbs in the 1990's.

The one great thing about Mr. Sailer's piece is that he didn't mention Rebecca West's "Black Lamb & Grey Falcon" as a source of fact for his points. Most Western, especially British, journalists take this book as the Bible of the Balkans. At least as this book is concerned, Rebecca West was the 1936 version of James Frey. Fiction posing as fact.

Posted by: DarkoV on March 17, 2006 12:35 PM

My guess on Goldberg is one, or all, of three things: 1) The whole resentment of the counterculture thing; 2) The tone of moral superiority taken by many of the crunchies - it's one thing to say that someone's political ideas are wrong, another to claim that your lifestyle is morally superior to someone else’s'; 3) I believe that Goldberg thinks that the CC's are trying to dodge debate with the "only a sensibility" take. I actually agree with Goldberg on a lot of this - much of the counterculture was destructive, the crunchies DO seem to be dodging debate, and if you are going to claim that you are morally superior to other people, you had better be ready to back it up, or expect people to challenge you. I'm not nearly as worked up about it as Jonah is, though. By the way, Peter makes a good point, that a lot of conservatives and libertarians would agree with - raisin farmer and historian Victor Davis Hanson would agree, for example. He's not "crunchy", though.

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 12:38 PM

Whee, it's the topic that just keeps giving.

Peter -- Judging from the book at least, CC is one of the least pushy cultural phenomena I've ever run across. I'm not sure it even qualifies as a movement. Who's the leader? Where's the candidate? I can't imagine they'd mind anyone getting on board (or seeing their own values reflected), but I don't see evidence of anyone doing any active proselytizing, just evidence that a lot of people have fumbled their way to a semi-similar set of preferences and lifestyles. So why anyone would go to the bother to work up enough steam to attack it puzzles me. I mean, if CCers were on the verge of taking over the House of Representatives, that'd be one thing ...

Rachel -- I think you're unusually sophisticated, as well as culturally aware. The idea that there might be people out there who combine hippie and conservative values evidently comes as news to a whole lot of people.

Posted by: MIchael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 12:39 PM

CC sounds like former hippies who have become more conservative in some areas but would like to retain the more "lifestyle" aspects of their former hippie-dom. Something akin to "social-liberal/fiscal-conservative."

Posted by: the patriarchy on March 17, 2006 12:42 PM

DarkoV -- Fascinating, tks. Although I've just collapsed back into semi-complete confusion, sigh. I think the dumb American in me wants some good guys to root for. Are there any such? Or is it all a matter of endless, un-tangle-able tribal grudges? Fun to learn about your evaluation of the Rebecca West. I've never read it but I've often been told it's a classic.

Tschafer -- Yeah, it seems bizarrely personal on Goldberg's part. I'd say that he's being weirdly aggressive and belligerant. He seems to want to force a debate where none is warranted. Nobody's trying to sentence him (or you or me) to a life on an organic farm, after all. And it's just weird that a conservative should object on principle to someone believing that their lifestyle is a morally good one. A) Of course they do, and why not? B) Even the most mainstream conservatives don't exactly shy away from arguing that the conservative approach to things is a morally good one. Does JG really think that he and only he knows what's morally good? He's got some weird grudge: he's carrying on as though the CCers are trying to convert him personally, and have been for years. Hmm: hey, maybe he's turned on by back-to-the-earth hippie chicks and is fighting his attraction to them. Well, that's my theory anyway.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 12:50 PM

Yeah, one more post (just one more, then I'll quit - famous last words!)
Actually, the CC book is pretty inoffensive, but a lot of the CC blog posts are not. For example, a post by one CCer stated that anyone who moved away from his family was motivated by "selfish desire" and that anyone who put their child into daycare was a negligent parent. If you are going to go around saying things like that, you can expect a lot of flak, and just saying "it's only a sensibility" won't get you out of it. It is important to note that Dreher doesn't say these things - as with so many other people, his supporters are his worst enemy.

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 12:52 PM

tschafer wrote:
I think that a lot of people underestimate how raw the wounds from the late 60's - early 70's still are, and how much many conservatives (even, perhaps especially, the younger ones) loathe anything that smacks of the counterculture. After having been lectured by liberal Boomers for the last 30 years about the Moral Superiority of Hippies, a lot of the under-40 set is ready to go ballistic at the mere mention of granola.

Exactly right, except that it applies to over-40s as well. It's a big reason why I watch almost no TV and generally despise the Hollywood entertainment industry, which seems to be full of people who think the '60s and '70s were some kind of golden age.

Rachel's points are good too.

Posted by: Jonathan on March 17, 2006 12:53 PM

Actually, JG isn't saying that only he knows what is morally good - that's what he thinks the crunchies are saying, and that's one reason I think that he's so PO'd

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 12:56 PM

Patriarchy -- I think that's a big part of it. What's interesting (as a sociocultural phenom, anyway) is how many of the CCers are younger than you'd imagine. It's part of what made me giggle in the book: these earnest young people talking about granola topics (Small is Beautiful, etc) as though they'd just been discovered.

Jonathan -- Eager to read more of your movie/TV thoughts. Do you follow movies or shows at all? Foreign or indie stuff?

Tschafer -- I think you're right about that. But I think JG's wrong. He's attacking the CCers as though they're proselytizing. And they aren't -- part of the CC thing is that you don't proselytize, instead you live your values out as best you can. That's something something very different. Would Goldberg attack a Hindu who's leading a peaceful Hindu life full of believed-in Hindu values just because he/she thinks it's a good one? Maybe he would. But then again maybe I'm the weird one. I'd look at such a Hindu life, take note of it, be grateful he/she is peaceful and productive, think, "Well, I hope he/she is getting what she's looking for," and further think "Each to their own, and what a wonderful, full-of-variety world we live in." The last thing I'd do is push the Hindu to 1) lay out all his beliefs and 2) defend them in intellectual/political debate. Call me uptight, but that seems like ugly, bullying behavior to me. If someone has a set of values that he finds rewarding and that helps him lead a decent life (and that doesn't interfere with mine), more power to him. I might even be able to summon up a bit of wary interest in what those values are, not because I'm likely to adopt 'em myself but because I'm interested in how people get by and make lives for themselves.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 01:07 PM

"JG isn't saying that only he knows what is morally good "

Well, sure he is. Maybe not is such terms, but as Michael said, if you hold certain values, you hold them because you think they are better than anything else. Now, there may be a measure of humility that it's proper to show, but in the end that's all it is - show.
Maybe CCs should show some more humility; but they aren't going to win converts by saying "your way is just as good as mine." And whether this is a political movement or not, converts are what they are looking for -- or else they wouldn't be wasting all that time on the blog and book.

If this all comes down to the fact that the CCs are more direct than they should have been, then that is still a pretty silly reason to go ballistic a la Goldberg. Yeah, some of the statements Tschafer pointed out are over the top. Are we going to pretend that Goldberg hasn't ever gone over the top in his caricatures of his political enemies? Please.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 01:10 PM

Peter: I don't think there's a dichotomy between the tomato growers or big agriculture. I think big agriculture made it possible for the boutique farmers to exist. And frankly, I'm glad of both. Though I wish I could get better produce in my benighted corner of the exurbs.

I really dislike nostalgia as an emotion, nevermind as a prescription for how to live today, and that's one of the things that grates about CCism. The past is past. And it was never as good as those who wax nostaglic about it proclaim.

I do go ballistic at the mention of granola, however, but the whole sixties thing should be the subject of another post/rant.

Posted by: Rachel on March 17, 2006 01:16 PM

Yeah, but the Hindu hasn't opened up a blog on NRO and invited people to discuss his philosophy, either. If said Hindu wrote a book implying that Hinduism was a superior form of life to other religions, and then opened up a blog inviting comment, he shouldn't be surprised that people disagreed with him, sometimes strenuously. I presume that the reason the blog was opened was to invite comment and debate - and that's what JG is giving them. I doubt if Goldberg stops peaceful Birkenstock-wearers on the street and berates them, or knocks granola from the hands of Earth mothers at Whole Foods. But when you post your views on the web, and invite comment, you shouldn't be surprised when you get it, and that some people don't agree with you. By the way, I'll bet that commotion over at the CC blog hasn't hurt Dreher's book sales one little bit - Hell, he and Goldberg might be splitting the profits...

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 01:18 PM

Sure, Goldberg is over the top - that's why he gets a lot of hate mail. All I was saying, is that if you make statements like that, you can expect a pretty strong reaction.By the way, I'm not sure that I would say that I believe that my values are necessarily the best - I THINK that they are, but I'm not so sure of it that I'm out there trying to make converts to Schaferism. The crunchies seem to have a lot of certainty, based on a pretty fragile base. Does everyone really believe that their lifestyle is so morally superior, that they try to make converts to it? Or am I just odd?

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 01:27 PM

Peter -- I should obviously just shut up at this point, but I'm not sure the CCers are looking for converts. Generally, anyway. Judging only from the book, it seems to me that their energy (at least at the moment) is coming mostly from their delight at discovering that there are others like them, not from any wild-eyed "you must do likewise" rabidity.

Rachel -- I don't know why, but I'd have guessed you wouldn't be fond of nostalgia. But bring on the better produce in any case.

Tschafer -- I think the secret may be that we're all odd ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 01:34 PM

"I think big agriculture made it possible for the boutique farmers to exist."

That's true, but my point is that there is more to the Ag scene than industrial Ag and boutique farmers. What if there were an option that exalted the social and environmental role of family farms, ensured that its practices would be possibile 100 years from now, offered a superior product to consumers, made producers and consumers healthier, and with all of that had little to no production disadvantage. This is the kind of agrarianism I am talking about, and it exists and is growing!

Still, there is still a big part of this that is ineffable. I know I am grinding dangerously close to some unpleasant orthodoxies here, but I truly believe that a community alienated from the ground is an impoverished one. Im not saying everyone should become an Organic farmer - far from it! But something is lost when such an important part of our lives as food is just a unit on the assembly line. I don't expect to convince anyone on that point!

I'm a nostalgic kinda guy, so I guess we part ways there, but I think a cold hard look at the facts lots of times brings the two back to the same place.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 01:34 PM

Michael - You have obviously read the book, so I defer to you. I guess I was just projecting my own sensibility on to it. I feel that there are certain practices associated with CC that, when properly understood, would find wide acceptance. And as such, why not try to convince people? Sure, try not to be alienating. But shoot, I'd be thrilled as hell if I could convince more people to consume less and conserve more.

Sorry if I harped a little too much on it.

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 01:41 PM

That's it, I think - we're all odd. That's why some people get so upset when someone seems to be implying that there is one best way for everyone. I believe that there are many different ways of living a good, moral, fulfilled life, and what is right for me, or Goldberg, or Dreher may not be right for someone else.
My God... I sound like a HIPPIE!!!
Great posts, everyone..

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 01:45 PM

I feel like I'm back in college! But in a good way this time.

Peter -- Heavens, apologies if I seemed to scold. Didn't mean to, just to pass along my impression of the book. I've got crunchy-eco streaks in me too, and god knows I'll pick earthy food over non-earthy food any day. Come to think of it, I've found myself wanting to learn more about ag policy recently. Warily so: it took me years to sort out the whole architecture/urbanism thing to my satisfaction, and I'm not sure I've got the endurance to spend that kind of time or energy on ag policy. But still! Can you recommend any resources? I just bought "Fast Food Nation," but I'm eyeing it suspiciously. Is it trustworthy, or just Nation-style propaganda?

Tschafer -- Dude, you can't fool us. We can tell that you spend the weekends wearing Birkenstocks....

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 17, 2006 01:52 PM

Heavy, dudes... 'scuse me - I gotta go put on some Dead and groove - can ya dig it?

Actually, Fast Food Nation is mostly leftie propaganda, but underneath all that blubbery agitprop, the guy actually has some valid points...

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 02:09 PM

"What if there were an option that exalted the social and environmental role of family farms, ensured that its practices would be possibile 100 years from now, offered a superior product to consumers, made producers and consumers healthier, and with all of that had little to no production disadvantage. This is the kind of agrarianism I am talking about, and it exists and is growing!"

That's fine by me. If someone wants to run a family farm and can sustain it, I'm all for it. I'm especially for better tasting food. But I'll pay them out of my food budget and not my tax dollars, if you don't mind.

As for a community alienated from the ground, well, I've always been a rootless, wicked cosmopolite--I come from a long line of such--but I do enjoy gardening.

As a rootless, wicked cosmopolite

Posted by: Rachel on March 17, 2006 02:13 PM

I am ashamed to say I haven't yet read FFN, so I'll defer to tschafer that it "is mostly leftie propaganda." But that's the thing about this debate – the topic is pretty marginalized and almost everything worth reading on the subject is admixed with "Nation-style propaganda" precisely because Lefties have been the only ones talking about it. This is why I am thrilled that CrunchyCon-ism, with all of its silliness, is actually making a mark.

Michael Pollan spews a lot of typical agitprop, but he is good on a lot of points too. I heard him lecture with admiration on uber crunchy-con Joel Salatin. Journals like Acres are a good bet.
Tschafer mentioned VDH… he doesn’t talk about Ag policy as such, but if you’re interested, his “The Land Was Everything” is a moving tribute to the life and death of family farming. If you like the literary angle, VDH’s neighbor David Mas Masumoto writes movingly on the same topic. (I grew up not far from where they both live). Again, this stuff is hit and miss. Most of what I know is absorbed by being partly connected to the organic industry.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Eco movement is that they take the exact same arguments traditional conservatives make about human societies and apply them to eco-systems. The funny thing is, it works! But neither side is interested in using the other’s application. I took an agro-ecology class once, and I was amazed that if you changed just a couple words here and there, they would sound like a died-in-the-wool reactionary.

Interesting partly related fact: Recently, the human Gods in Bentonville, AR sent out a decree to all the Super Wal-Mart distributors that they must double its organic food selection. Sustainability advocates say this could be a good thing or bad thing (When Wal-Mart starts to sell something, they gain an almost dictatorial control over aspects of its production.) But it is undeniable that some 'crunchiness' is going mainstream - and it is no longer inextricably connected with birkenstocks!

Posted by: Peter on March 17, 2006 02:56 PM

Anybody else think of MLKJr when they read this? --

"the man of [conservative] disposition understands it to be the business of a government not to inflame passion and give it new objects to feed upon, but to inject into the activities of already too passionate men an ingredient of moderation, to restrain, to deflate, to pacify, and to reconcile; not to stoke the fires of desire, but to damp them down. And all this, not because passion is vice and moderation virtue, but because moderation is indispensable if passionate men are to escape being locked in an encounter of mutual frustration."

"...the conjunction of dreaming and ruling generates tyranny."

Posted by: J. Goard on March 17, 2006 03:02 PM

Rachel, "what a strong telepathic connection exists between us"(c)!

You said everything I said to myself yesterday night while reading those ridiculous "e-mails from readers" - only in Russian- so thanks for translating my thoughts to English.

Irritation with 60's-70's counterculture: I was scanning threads in LJ and came across this post, 3 clicks away from "what is freedom" discussion. It's in Russian, but the message is visual- and clear. The author (and architect in Israel) proposes to complement his favorite t-shirt "Fuck the system" with more positive message, " I adore mid-level managers".

Discovery of "Small is Beautiful": look at this very recent thread. Oh I'm having so much fun with Apartment Therapy!

Posted by: Tatyana on March 17, 2006 03:30 PM

Perhaps I should have said that FFN is leftie propaganda in my opinion - others may think it's the Gospel truth. I don't like the undertone of denial of personal responsibility in it at all, though - in my experience, coercion is only one step behind the denial of personal responsibility. But the author did have some good points about American eating habits, even if you don't buy his overall ideology.

Now, can we get back to that stiletto heel thing...?

Posted by: tschafer on March 17, 2006 04:17 PM

MB, I don't follow anything, and I'm not sure that my thoughts are worth much. It's just that when I happen to watch TV, particularly anything serious and dramatic, I find that the embedded political/philosophical points tend to give me a lot of Goldberg granola moments, if you know what I mean. I think the worst-ever show in this regard was MASH, though it's quite possible that recent stuff that I didn't watch was worse.

Sharon Stone, I must admit, is quite attractive. Perhaps in her case I should make an exception to my anti-Hollywood regimen. Do you think she is a libertarian?

Posted by: Jonathan on March 17, 2006 06:58 PM

Jonathan, I'm not Michael, but I can tell you: she must be one! Can't a beautiful woman like her (and with her IQ, too) NOT be a libertarian.
My Jewish grandma, when talking about somebody she particularly liked for some reason, often said: (S)He must be Jewish. Can't a smart man like him NOT be Jewish!

Posted by: Tat on March 17, 2006 09:09 PM

I hung out with organic hippy types in my teens, even working on a farm powered by draft horses. At eighteen or so I read Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwater. The book summed up everything I already believed - leave people alone, do your own thing, don't trust the government - so I started calling myself a conservative, which greatly confused some of my friends. You might think this history puts me right in the market for being a crunchy-con, but I'm not one.

Why? Because there's three ideas to the crunchy-con thing, and only one of them is good.

First of all, they're pro-beauty. They point out suburban churches are hideous, synthetics offend the eye, and reality television rots the mind. Fair enough. We'll check this off as the lone good idea.

Second, they are anti-modernity. They say modernity is cheap mass-market ugliness, while beauty dwells only in the family homestead and the communal well. (Eeeew!) It follows that, since modernity is ugliness, modernity's advocates must either be fans of ugliness, or else yahoos too obtuse to discern it.

That's the bit that grates on most. But we're not done yet.

Third, they're anti-individual. They believe "conviviality" is the great social good. The collective comes first. The individual should be bound by his community, his family, his town, his race, his roots. Ambition is selfish. The pursuit of money shatters communal bonds. Technology is bad not because it enslaves, but because it liberates. (One of the comments on the Con-Crunchy blog got to the heart of this belief's absurdity by suggesting the rot set in with the first candle, which liberated the individual caveman from the communal fire.)

From an allegedly conservative beginning, we wind up huddled together on a collective farm, undermining the go-getters amongst us and taking dibs on who gets first crack at the outhouse. Makes one wonder why we fought the Cold War, no?

Personally I'm pro-beauty because I have taste, pro-modernity because I have sense, pro-individual because I have self-respect, and anti-Crunchy because I have all three.

As to their tone, Lileks summed it up conclusively: "In the end it's just dinner. It's not A FRICKIN' REQUIEM."

Posted by: Brian on March 17, 2006 09:24 PM

Also, the new philosopher's carnival is out and it is the best one yet. It is here:
(Believe me, this is no waste of time)

Posted by: gawain on March 17, 2006 09:34 PM


Are you saying Sharon Stone is Jewish too? Kewl.

Posted by: Jonathan on March 17, 2006 10:11 PM

Jonathan: you doubt it?

Posted by: Tat on March 17, 2006 11:16 PM

re Bjorn Lomborg: might want to be careful about citing him. His "commonsense approach" (to use Frank Luntz's term) has caused a firestorm, both for his statistical mistakes and his social science approach to a climate problem.
According to an Wikipedia article about him , there have been accusations of fabrication of data, as well as a Scientific American editorial criticizing his science. Gadflies tend to polarize, but there's so much against him that I suspect he's more of a polemicist than an analyst.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on March 18, 2006 09:16 AM

Robert -- I could be 180 degrees off here, of course. But I spent some years as an eco-freak, and I also got fascinated by Lomborg when he first emerged, and spent a lot of time looking into him. My impression at the end of it all was that he's very trustworthy -- far more so than the eco-establishment. For one thing, I couldn't see any reason to suspect him of anything nefarious. He's gay, he's Green, he's Danish, he's basically left -- not that these are good things, just that they're indications he's not some greed-head industry shill trying to put one over. He's basically *of* the whole lefty-eco scene. I saw him speak once to a rightie group, for instance. They were basically expecting him to be Their Boy. And he didn't play that role at all. Even as he presented his figures and charts, he tweaked them (and American Republicans generally) mercilessly for being anti-eco, or apathetic about eco-things. In his view, there really are legit eco-concerns.

For another thing, I'd reached many of his conclusions (in a disorganized, muddleheaded, impressionistic way) on my own, simply from my own experiences in and around the eco-world. I'm very sympathetic to a lot of eco-concerns. But out in eco-ville I ran into a *lot* of theatrics, muddle-headedness, politics, and hysteria. Some of which I appreciate, btw, but as political strategy, not for its truth value.

For a third, he's always used the eco-groups' own figures, and just looked at them more directly. His conclusions about global warming, for instance, aren't based on disputable personal research. They're based on numbers generated by the eco-groups themselves. If anything, he's a little too credulous about their research -- but that's a strategy he uses deliberately. That way, if they go after him for "dishonesty" (which it turns out they do anyway), he can always point out that he's using their research.

He's also been very quick to accept corrections and respond to criticism -- much better about this than the eco groups themselves have ever been. They can be really touchy. I'm very wary of anyone or any outfit that can't stand sympathetic dissent, which is what Lomborg offers. He's an eco-person; he isn't dissneting from the idea that there are legitimate eco-concerns. But he dissents about interpretations and prioirities. That strikes me as a good thing -- as an enrichment of the discussion. But the environmentalist mainstream didn't react that way. I followed the SciAm controversy very closely, for instance. I was completely appalled by the case that SciAm made, which seemed to me horrifyingly unscientific. And I was appalled even more by their behavior, which in its thunder and moral wrathfulness reminded me of religious nuts, not civilized people debating science.

One of Lomborg's points in his book is that there's what he calls (if I remember right) an Eco Litany -- a kind of credo that you must, you simply must subscribe to if you're to be a good eco-being. And that much of it is much more disputable than the eco-establishment would have you think. In my view (and I suspect his), the eco-thing should be an ongoing, open-ended conversation -- it should welcome free-market approaches and ideas, it should appreciate extremists, it should invite criticism, it should adjust when it learns better. That would be healthy. But much of the eco-world isn't like that at all. It's more like a Church. You come to worship and agree, not to discuss and compare notes.

From my years out on the fringe, I agree with him 100%. (I've lifted his image of the Litany and used in relationship to culture and the arts. Among the culture establishment, there's a Culture Litany -- and if you don't subscribe to each and every one of its points, then you aren't really a Culture Person. Baloney to that. There are many, many ways to be a culture person.) And I agree with Lomborg 100% that the eco-thang has become a partyline religion for a lot of people. Dissent from it, and you're cast out from the fold. That isn't a rational response; it's a religious response. For many people the eco-thing functions as a kind of cult -- Lomborg argues that, and based on personal experience I agree.

Not all eco people are religious-esque nuts, or are using the eco-thang as a surrogate religion, by any means. I met and learned from some shrewd, tough, smart people who were very knowledgeable and honest. They cared, but they weren't deranged. They were concerned but they weren't True Believers. But they were generally that way privately, while being publicly good team players. Lomborg (who seems to love the role of provocateur and gadfly, and who plays it gustily and well) simply went public with a lot of things that the people I'd learned to trust most were saying privately: that a lot of what gets said in public by the eco-groups and eco-people is p.r. and propaganda, and is said mainly for effect.

Anyway, through my own fumbling I came to a position very similar to Lomborg's. I grew to dislike mainstream environmentalism quite a lot -- it's very much like the feminist/PC/Democratic establishment, very semi-socialist, very social-studies-class/worthy and smothering. I just can't stand it. (This is temperament not reason speaking.) But there's a lot of eco-people/dissenters among whom I was very comfortable. They're genuine eco-people, but they aren't primarily religious or primarily political, at least where their points about environmentalist stuff are concerned. They're more steelyeyed and trustworthy than the mainstream people (who, it seemed to me, are driven by primarily political and/or religious concerns) are. Unfortunately they can be hard to find. The weeding-out process took me years.

But that's for my far-out and idealistic side. As for the practical side of things, Lomborg's approach nails it, as far as I'm concerned. If you've got ten bucks that you can afford to spend on eco-concerns, why not get the most bang for your investment? I found it weird -- childish -- that anyone should quarrel with this approach. What? You want *less* bang for your buck? Why? Time and money aren't infinite, so why not do better with them rather than worse? But the true-believers (including SciAm) find that approach so hard to stomach that they -- weirdly -- refused to accept that Lomborg, however hard-headed, is an environmentalist at all. But he clearly is an environmentalist. He's informed and concerned. So what could possibly be motivating the eco-people who want to cast him out of the fold? Religious or political zealotry was the only answer I could come up with.

Anyway, and obviously FWIW, my own conclusion/hunch is: Lomborg is *much* more trustworthy than mainstream environmentalism. If anyone's got better info than I have, though, I'm always eager to learn more.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 18, 2006 12:14 PM

MB, your last comment would be a good kernel for a new post.

Posted by: Jonathan on March 18, 2006 04:37 PM

More than a kernel. Cut, paste, tweak, post. Go for it, dude.

Posted by: Lexington Green on March 18, 2006 06:02 PM

".. one of my three or four favorite philosophers..."

What an odd idea: having a favorite philosopher.

Posted by: Raw Data Complex on March 18, 2006 08:47 PM

>>What an odd idea: having a favorite philosopher.


Posted by: Bryan on March 19, 2006 12:33 AM

People who are into philosophy always have favorite philosophers, in my observation. People who are into anything have favorites.

Posted by: Lexington Green on March 19, 2006 09:38 AM

Oh the phrase ".. one of my three or four favorite philosophers..." just struck me as similar to having a favorite flavor of ice cream or maybe favorite movie star.

MB is such an odd mixture of extremely astute judgment and simple banality.

But it's no big deal; his strong points far outweigh his trivia.

But when I read ".. one of my three or four favorite philosophers..." I just started to see sports-star cards...Oakeshott on one, Rawls on another etc etc and started to laugh.

Posted by: Raw Data Complex on March 19, 2006 12:12 PM

Call me simple, but I don't see why having a favorite philosopher, ice cream flavor, or baseball player is such a ridiculous thing.

I don't fault people if they DON'T have a particular favorite anything, but I don't hold it against them either.

Posted by: Bryan on March 19, 2006 02:13 PM

Favorite philosopher: Eric Voegelin
Favorite Baseball Player: Carl Yastrzemski, number 8, Captain Carl, Yaz
Favorite ice cream flavor: Chocolate Almond Fudge

Is that banal? I don't think so. Not for me, anyway.

Michael's favorite stuff isn't banal, either. He writes about it in interesting ways.

Unmerited smugness, now that is banal.

Posted by: Lexington Green on March 19, 2006 02:19 PM

Wow, what a thread - but Michael, you would make things way easier for me, here, by quoting &/or linking from time to time to particular posts by Jonah Goldberg that bug you.

In a way, I'm as "crunchy" a conservative as there ever was - gay as a goose, and obsessed with questions like: "should we get Lady Amherst Pheasants, or Golden Pheasants, for mom's farm?"

Yet I find JG's comments on Crunchy Conservatism invariably insightful and frequently hilarious...

To say nothing of "Mean Mr. Mustard"!

Posted by: Steve Burton on March 19, 2006 02:32 PM

Heh. Somehow, when I read Raw Data's comment, I could hear him stressing the second syllable - ba-NAHL.

"You're calling me jejune?!? Me? You have the temerity to insinuate that I'm talkin' to you out of jejunosity? I'm one of the most june guys in all the Russias."

Posted by: Brian on March 19, 2006 03:20 PM

Is this a record for The Most Comments on a 2Blowhards Posting?

Posted by: Peter on March 19, 2006 09:14 PM

Nah, Michael has received over 100 comments on other posts, but it does seem like a record for comments on one of Michael's "Elsewhere" columns.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 20, 2006 11:17 AM

Whenever the Comments are drying up, I whip out one of the guaranteed-to-generate-comments topics, like Crunchy Conservativism, or maybe immigration. "Starship Troopers" sometimes works too. Call me cheap, call me banal, I don't care. Actually I kinda like it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 20, 2006 06:22 PM

But you missed out on feminine hygiene products this time.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 21, 2006 09:58 AM

I think Michael is way off on why Goldberg is so exercised about the Crunchies. It's not that he is afraid of a return to 60s counterculture at all. JG dislikes Crunchy Conservatism for the same reason he dislikes Compassionate Conservatism: for the implication that most conservatives are hate-filled, environment-raping, selfish, mass consumerists, except these new folks who have rediscovered the true way. I'm come down heavily with JG on this one. The Crunchies are working on my last nerve, too. I dislike their sanctimony, their preening, their weird insistence that elevates their personal likes to a moral good. I can't remember if it was Jonah or someone else who directly contrasted the picture in Dreher's book with Virginia Postrel's _The Future and Its Enemies_, but it's an apt one. I am in harmony with Postrel's dynamism much more than I am with Dreher's neo-Luddite social conservatism.

Posted by: CyndiF on March 21, 2006 11:20 AM

Yikes, a super belated thanks for the link to the rough-and-ready microfiction. Jeez, now I actually have to work on it.......

Posted by: MD on March 24, 2006 06:36 PM

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