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May 19, 2018

Thread before the Gardening Thread: Radical Chic [KT]


Serving your mid-day open thread needs

Tom Wolfe died this week. I guess I knew him best kind of through general circulation of phrases from his work, rather than from reading his work myself. I certainly knew about that party at Lenny's, but didn't know much about the guy who described it. He was called a pioneer of "The New Journalism," which was not exactly the post-new journalism we have today. Before New Journalism was a thing, he wrote about classic cars.

I heard a few comments on his book The Right Stuff on NPR, sort of by accident. They were rather admiring, for NPR.

There's a piece about him up at Chicago Boyz called The Last Realist. It includes a long video discussion between him and William F. Buckley. Don't make TV like that no more.

Wolfe championed a literary style that was part journalism, part acerbic effervescence. Few (if any) recent writers were better able to craft stories by such vivid portrayals of particular people in particular places at particular times.

By the way, don't miss Sgt. Mom's Revolutionary War piece right below it, The Worst Day At Work, Ever.

A lot of history packed into that short piece. Fun to read.

But back to Wolfe:

Forbes ran an article concerning "Two Essential Pieces about the American Economy" that he wrote. One concerns Silicon Valley. The other was about working for government:

"Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" tells the story . . . of how, in the late 1960s, representatives of the "urban ghetto" shook down bureaucrats to get their hands on all the new welfare-state money. The preferred tactic was to intimidate--to "mau-mau" the bureaucrat, the "flak catcher."

"[T]his lifer is ready to catch whatever flak you're sending up. It doesn't matter what bureau they put him in. It's all the same. Poverty, Japanese imports, valley fever, tomato-crop parity, partial disability, home loans, second-probate accounting, the Interstate 90 detour change order, lockouts, secondary boycotts, G.I. alimony, the Pakistani quota, cinch mites...veterans' dental benefits, workmen's compensation, suspended excise rebates--whatever you're angry about, it doesn't matter, he's there to catch the flak. He's a lifer. Everybody knows the scene is a shuck."

The author of the Forbes piece, Brian Domitrovic, also notes that these "lifers" enjoy being connected to power. He makes several very interesting observations and reaches an interesting conclusion from the two Wolfe pieces, though not a surprising one:

As Wolfe's polar pieces more than suggested, if we sized down government, entrepreneurialism and real-world employment would increasingly appear as the natural, proper, and fulfilling province for so many of us.

Well, yes.

The Barrister at Maggie's Farm calls him an anti-intellectual intellectual. You might want to follow the link and read the piece by Continetti, too. How much has the academic climate changed for those whose views do not fit with progressive expectations since "that evening in the sixties"?

Hope you have a good weekend. Thinking about making some history?

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:12 AM

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