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January 08, 2008

Amateur Sociology

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Tyler Cowen visits a Costco for the first time. Commenters -- nearly all of them male -- tell him why they love to shop there.

* Steve Sailer asks, Why do so few male golfers seem to be gay? Commenters try to puzzle it out.

As for Costco, I've only visited a few times myself, but what has struck me most vividly is how much guys seem to enjoy shopping there -- and I mean guys of the "I usually hate shopping" kind. There seems to be something that feels right about the Costco experience to many straight guys. What could it be?

I'm flailing, but it seems to me that guys may find the warehouse setting pleasing (no frou-frou) and the limited selection on offer a relief. (We like it when taste doesn't enter into the equation too vehemently.) And the possibility of bargains on "bulk" items may appeal to our underexercised Neanderthal mammoth-hunting instincts.

As for gays 'n' golf: I wonder if the shortage of gayguyz in golf might have to do with the fact that golf has somehow become the last refuge of the big ol' square straight guy. No need to be in shape. No need to dress sharp -- anything but! Lots of dopey masculine ritual, dopey masculine joshing, and dopey masculine mockery. Zero gossip. A general "Lordy, I do appreciate a few hours away from the wife" atmosphere. And the food usually stinks. What's in it for a gay guy?



posted by Michael at January 8, 2008


My guess is that gay men don't play much cartball primarily because they're highly fitness-conscious and would rather spend their time doing more physically demanding activities. It also may be relevant that a high percentage of gay men live in cities, while cartball is more of a suburban activity.

Posted by: Peter on January 8, 2008 4:04 PM

I was introduced to Costco by the Karaoke Queen.

Great guy shopping! You can buy a year's worth of paper towels in one trip. Get your full office uniform at one place. And, the joint is jumping with pretty ethnic girls.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 8, 2008 4:59 PM

I recently went to a Costco for the first time too and loved it!

I had a totally greasy chicken 'bake' which was disgusting but I liked it and had to eat salads the rest of the week to make up for it.

I'm such goof. They had the entire collection of Bronte novels (yup, all the gals) in these huge volumes for 20 bucks. It was a big, square, unwieldy book, gold-edged and with print in two columns like a newspaper. I laughed out loud seeing it and was all set to buy one and then backed out at the last minute. I stocked up on lots of dry organic-y snacks for the office and home. Biscotti and the like.

Posted by: MD on January 8, 2008 7:52 PM

Golf culture, and there is one, is unbelievably straight, and I don't just mean sexually. Nothing wrong with that, but it makes it hard for an oddball, let alone a gay man, to fit in. I love to play but have a hard time relating to most others who play.

As for Costco, yeah, it's partly the stripped-down warehouse setting, but mostly the wares on sale. Lots of tech and machines.

Posted by: JV on January 8, 2008 10:08 PM

I think your Costco-guys observations are on the money, Michael. I'll just add that as someone inconvenienced by a mild case of agoraphobia I've noticed that even a crowded Costco doesn't trigger the buzzy-panicky brain-cloud to the degree that, say, an uncrowded Ikea does. Ikeas make me especially crazy: my sense of direction gets completely thrown off-kilter by the floor lay-out -- which seems to be the designer's intent. I keep track of where the emergency exits are, but this is of small comfort: if I ever do have to resort to using one, I know it will take me several minutes to figure out where I am once I've left the building. Costco is a straightforward grid. Easy in, easy out -- even when it's busy.

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on January 9, 2008 7:34 AM

My previous comment was actually typed on my new iPhone... not purchased at Costco.

I did not mention that many of the pretty young ethnic girls visit Costco done up in full courting warpaint... date makeup, fishnet hose, short skirts and fresh hairdo. In Jersey, where I shop, I see some truly beautiful Asian and Hispanic gals.

Costco seems to play a role in the mating game for these girls. Beware, players! These girls are looking for a husband who wants kids... and I mean three or four kids, not the measly one kid desired by the self-indulgent, liberal American. A girl looking for a husband at Costco believes in the traditional American dream of a big house, family and abundance.

If only I were 30 years younger, I'd spend some time in Costco casing out these chicks.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 9, 2008 10:16 AM

Whiskey Prajer:

Second your comment about IKEA-mediated stress levels. The yellow-brick-road thingy layout gives me no sense of control over where I am or where I'm going. Retracing steps, if the store is crowded, is a nightmare of bumps and glares and whispers of "Anti-social! Not of the body! Help us, Landru!" And there's no clarity to the order in which the goods of the store are unveiled. There's a long, long story IKEA wants to tell you, and you are going to. Hear. It. All. In. Order. In short, a design perfect for the ambling, exploratory, process-oriented person. That is, a woman.

Costco, on the other hand, is rectangular and blocky with ways to improvise routes. It allows the goal-oriented man (but I am redundant!) to sniff out his target and make a (blocky, rectangular) beeline for it.

Costco is like men's approach to sex: you know what you want, you go straight for it, and you're out in minutes. IKEA is like going shopping with a woman, even if you're alone. An hours-long descent into a depthless slough of stupefying insulin coma zombification.

I dread visiting IKEA.

Posted by: PatrickH on January 9, 2008 12:47 PM

Those're some funny observation about golf and gayness. One of my old friends told me a few years ago that he'd taken up golf, and I told him I'd relate easier if he'd told me he was gay. Was it Twain or someone else who described golf as "a good walk ruined"?


Posted by: Narr on January 9, 2008 1:28 PM

Golf culture, and there is one, is unbelievably straight

You mean except for all those lesbians, right? Lesbians seem to love golf.

Posted by: TG on January 9, 2008 2:49 PM

Now I'm worried. Here I am, a man and everything, yet I actually enjoy shopping at IKEA (even if some of the merchandise is mediocre at best) and don't like warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Clubs.

Posted by: Peter on January 9, 2008 4:17 PM

I have to say that I think Costco is one of the all time great shopping experiences. The ambience in a Costco is comfortable, never too frenetic. The combination of skylights and fluorescent lighting feels good. As you enter one, you don't get the feeling of being crowded or overwhelmed with jillions of SKU's on endless taaaallllll shelves blotting out the view, as in a Home Depot. At Costco you walk into a central area that has low aisles, giving you a broad view of the entire store, with tall aisles on the sides. But that view is not intimidating as in a Walmart. The mercdhandise is limited but of high quality. You can stroll the entire store in 45 minutes and get a great idea of what's in it. Once you stroll one Costco one time, you've got it. But the kicker is the great food. Also, it's great to check out their specials. Great pepperoni pizzas!!!

IKEA is for insane persons. I don't like the layout, the colors, the crummy merchandise or the industrial strength architecture. It's the shopping experience from hell. IKEA makes a Walmart seem warm and friendly. When I left the IKEA in Atlanta a few years ago, I almost ran out of the building. My wife and I were grimly determined never to get close to another one.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on January 9, 2008 11:40 PM

I went recently to Asda, the British arm of Walmart. The bastards piped pop music at me. I fled.

Posted by: dearieme on January 10, 2008 8:08 AM

Sounds like Peter is a self-actualized adult male with absolutely no "commitment issues." The rest of us IKEA-phobes may need to book a session with Dr. Phil (if he's through chasing Britney).

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on January 10, 2008 9:24 AM

"The rest of us IKEA-phobes may need to book a session with Dr. Phil (if he's through chasing Britney)."

She probably ran into an IKEA store to hide. They'll NEVER find her there!!!!

Posted by: Bob Grier on January 10, 2008 11:12 PM

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