Elon Musk: help or hindrance?

Elon Musk has busied himself over the last few days tweeting out possible innovative, hi-tech solutions for rescuing the Thai kids from the cave.

Of course, many people think this is great, likening him to a real life Tony Stark deploying secret technologies in humanity’s hour of need. Ever the skeptic, I’m not so sure. I have no doubt that Musk means well and genuinely wants to help, but he’ll not be unaware of the PR value of this (and he seems to be as good at PR and self-promotion as anything else, to be honest). But he’s not there at the scene, and I suspect a few of the rescue team are getting a bit annoyed about having to divert time and attention to respond to whacky ideas from a billionaire sat on the other side of the world. Imagine you’re trying to work out how to get kids through a 15″ tunnel filled with water when this arrives:

Okay, that wasn’t from Musk, but you get the idea. I’m sure he means well, but I suspect his input is less a help than a hindrance.

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Melania’s Jacket

Demonstrating the gravity and rigour which justifies their unique funding model, the BBC offers five reasons why Melania Trump chose to wear a green jacket with “I don’t care. Do you?” printed on the back. Personally, I think it was her reaction to weeks of gleeful speculation from the press that her absence from public appearances was due to abuse at the hands of her husband rather than kidney surgery, but others differ.

The BBC doesn’t go this far, but some commentators believe her choice of attire was a deliberate snub to Donald Trump, who – as the speculation around her medical absence proved – are desperate to believe she hates her husband and is deeply unhappy. Now it may be that Melania’s marriage is an unhappy one, but you’d hardly rely on the modern media to give an appraisal of what makes a satisfied wife: half of it’s made up of crazed feminists raging about how awful men are, with the other half being pencil-necked omegas who think white-knighting for women who despise them will get them laid. And speaking of crazed feminists:

Antonova seems to think because her own marriage ended in disaster she is qualified to ascertain whether other women, who have given no sign that they are unhappy, are trapped in an abusive relationship. I have no doubt that Melania knows what she’s doing, although I don’t think she’s too keen on the First Lady role. She’s spent her entire adult life around brash assholes like Trump, and I doubt his character took her by surprise. Indeed, women seem to like the man, and others just like him, which no doubt drives feminists nuts. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Chateau Heartiste or similar.

Of course, the comforting fallback is to say Melania’s only with Donald for the money. Which she might be, and everyone said that about Rupert Murdoch’s young wife Wendi Deng. However, when some dickhead tried to throw a custard pie in her huband’s face during questioning by MPs during the phone hacking scandal, she stood up and belted him one.

Y’know, maybe these eastern women actually have some pride in their husbands and take their role as a wife seriously? That would explain why media types are confused.

Finally, I turned on France 24 and saw a discussion about Melania’s jacket between two men and two ageing Frenchwomen who looked as though they’d been drinking vinegar all morning. They agreed the Trump camp had “lost control” by “allowing” Melania to dress in a such a manner, and offered the time she chose to wear high heels as another example of her tin-eared sartorial choices. Naturally, it didn’t seem to occur to any of them that a woman ought to be allowed to dress as she pleases; presumably they’d not be too happy if Fox News spent a segment of a show discussing how haggard Macron’s wife looks no matter what she wears.

Now a bunch of ageing, single women criticising how a prettier, more successful married woman dresses is nothing new, of course. What amuses me is they call themselves feminists.

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Prodnose Priests

Last October I said:

A couple of years back I realised that middle-class snobbery is what drives so much social and political campaigning these days. Probably the best example is the campaign to reduce sugar in people’s diets – for their own good, of course. It is always fizzy drinks and sugary snacks that get cited, never fancy desserts.

Who is trending on Twitter this week, leading the charge in campaigning for the government to introduce new laws aimed at restricting certain foodstuffs in the name of tackling obesity?

I’m sure the lower classes, who are forever blamed for putting a burden on the NHS with their delinquent lifestyles, are delighted to have former Etonian and Oxford graduate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall telling them how to live. Naturally, multi-millionaire Jamie Oliver is four-square behind him:

Albeit looking rather porky himself. Maybe he should do a little less meddling in other people’s lives and hit the gym? And speaking of Jamie Oliver:

Mr Oliver told BBC Breakfast that he does not ban junk food in his home, but that it is only eaten by his children as a “treat”.

Ah, so he’s free to feed his own fucking brats whatever shit they demand, but the choices of other parents ought to be reigned in by the government.

I’ve said this before, these dickheads would be a lot better off going to church. There they can do all the moral posturing they like, and receive assurances of their virtue from someone who is paid to deliver them. People are fond of saying that religion has declined in Britain, but I disagree: all it’s done is take other forms. The prodnosery, meddling, hand-wringing, and moral sneering at those considered less virtuous is alive and well, it’s just the clothes worn by the high priests are different.

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Jamie’s Ditchin’

We shouldn’t be surprised by this:

Jamie Oliver’s two flagship London restaurants have gone into administration, although the celebrity chef immediately bought one back.

His upmarket Barbecoa steak restaurant in London’s Piccadilly will close a year after it was re-launched.

The closure of the 12 restaurants will affect at least 200 jobs.

Court documents revealed that Jamie’s Italian had debts of £71.5m.

There’s a world of difference between being a good cook and being able to run a restaurant. Many a decent cook has been persuaded by friends and family to open a restaurant only to find the skills required are quite different. I find Jamie Oliver’s recipes to be hit and miss, but he’s made good money flogging books and doing TV shows so he has some talent. But as a businessman capable of running a restaurant empire he looks about as credible as Diane Abbott for Home Secretary. The mockney cheeky-chappie shtick doesn’t count for much in the hard realities of business.

The chain also closed down six Jamie’s Italian restaurants in January 2017.

At the time, the company said that the closures were due to uncertainties caused by Brexit and a “tough” market.

Or, as someone on Twitter put it, he was selling bland, overpriced crap served on manky old wooden boards. Sadly, these latest developments will leave him with more free time to lecture the British public on how to feed their children and lobby for an increase in state nannying.

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The Undoing of Rose McGowan

It was the New York Times interview with the actress Rose McGowan that first brought Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour to the attention of the general public last October (it was common knowledge in Hollywood circles). This is why I had a vague idea who she was when I saw the video below, filmed during a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New York:

The person who yelled at her is a transsexual woman who appears to have a rather dubious history of her own. Naturally, this being 2018, the organisers of the women’s march, the event where deranged women turn up in DC wearing pussy hats to scream en masse at Trump, have denounced McGowan and she is now becoming persona non grata:

So last week McGowan was a feminist heroine, a survivor of sexual assault and leading the fight against the Patriarchy. But having not taken any shit from a bloke in women’s clothes who stood up and abused her at her book signing, she’s now an outcast.

Here’s my view: these people are fucking insane. I have some sympathy with McGowan – the lunatic who accosted her should have been turfed out on her ear – but look at her reaction and overall demeanor, best seen in this video shot shortly after the incident:

She’s turned up to a book signing wearing what looks like gym kit, or an outfit she loafs around her flat in. She’s slouched in her chair able only to express anger littered with profanity, coming across as a moody adolescent who’s decided to copy TV portrayals of ghetto thugs when telling her parents she doesn’t want to clean her room. And people actually turned up to listen to this?

People are tempted to point to Harvey Weinstein and say this is what is wrong with Hollywood. Alas, I think the problems go way deeper, and have spilled over into whole swathes of the media and even politics. It is quite something to watch whole swathes of an advanced country go collectively insane.

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Oprah, where art thou?

In the Coen brothers’ magnificent Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? long-time incumbent Mississippi governor Pappy O’Daniel is lagging in the polls to a newcomer named Homer Stokes in the run up to an election. Stokes’ campaign is centered around the theme of “sweeping the state clean” and on his tour around the towns and villages he brings with him a midget who carries a broom.

Later on, with O’Daniel facing certain defeat just days from the vote, one of his campaign staff makes a suggestion:

“We could hire us a little fella even smaller than Stokes'”

I was reminded of this film when I read this:

Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globeson Sunday night prompted wishful calls for the star to run for president — and two of the TV icon’s close friends told CNN that Winfrey is “actively thinking” about seeking the Oval Office in 2020.
Why not? President Donald Trump proved that a celebrity with no political experience could run for the highest office in the land and win.

True, Donald Trump is a TV celebrity who won the presidency but his election was an aberration, a protest vote against what people saw as a corrupt and self-serving political establishment which was taking them for granted. It wasn’t a result of some desire among Americans that they wish to be governed by TV celebrities from now on, even if some clearly do.

The Democrats are probably too dim to work this out, though. So far their response to Trump has matched that of the Republicans for denial-based stupidity, pushing the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harries up a list headed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (who will be 79 on election day in 2020). Like Pappy O’Daniels advisers, they may just be daft enough to think copying the opposition’s gimmick is the way to win the presidency. I’m hoping they are.

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Milo Yiannopolous and Editors’ Comments

Last February, when Milo Yiannopolous was self-destructing, I wrote this:

I understand he used inflammatory language and controversial behaviour to get people to listen to him, but once he had the world’s attention it was time to take it down a notch and start portraying himself as a serious, mature individual who beneath the act is really worth listening to. Instead he stuck with the jokes about sucking black dicks, “feminism is cancer” remarks, calling Trump “Daddy”, and others, all of which were crucial parts of his early “game” of getting attention but made him look as though he was never going to be serious about anything and was purely a professional attention-seeker.

Shortly after this episode, the publishers Simon & Schuster cancelled his book deal, for which he’d been paid an $80k advance (Milo claimed at the time it was $250k). Milo took umbrage at this and sued Simon & Schuster claiming $10m in damages. As a result of this lawsuit, the first draft of Milo’s book Dangerous is now publicly available on the New York state courts’ website, complete with editor’s comments. It can be downloaded from here in .pdf and boy does it make for some grim reading.

Firstly, it is obvious that Milo had no intention of toning down the infantile jokes. Sure, they’re funny once or twice when he says them in front of an audience who didn’t know what to expect, but they quickly got tiresome and the book is full of them. What makes it worse is this brand of humour doesn’t translate into print well.

P.J. O’Rourke once wrote an article called “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink”. It was snortingly funny and got him a lot of attention, but he never used a title like that again (or made many sexual jokes) because it’s only really funny once. Milo hasn’t worked this out, and nor is he anywhere near as clever and funny as P.J. O’Rourke. Consider this for example:

And compare it to this from O’Rourke:

The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whisky I don’t know.

O’Rourke had the extremely rare skill of being able to apply off-hand humour while still making serious points. Milo, as we can see, simply isn’t gifted enough to do this.

The other thing that doesn’t translate well to print is Milo’s ego. Self-aggrandising comments work well enough verbally, but they really grate in the written form.

Unless the author is writing as an obvious alter-ego and staying in character, self-depreciation is far more effective and amusing than self-aggrandisement.

This might not matter so much were Milo capable of making the serious points well. Sadly, it seems he isn’t:

This one is especially scathing:

While some people are showing sympathy for the editor who had to go through this mess, many are asking what Simon & Schuster expected. Milo’s fans would say that Milo has simply written what would be expected of Milo, which is undoubtedly true. I suspect what happened was Simon & Schuster thought they could cash in on the Milo phenomenon and were perhaps persuaded by his articulate and consistent verbal arguments, without realising he can’t write for toffee. And I think that’s the problem here: Milo simply can’t write, or if he can, he decided not to apply his skills here. There are rumours that it might have been ghost written, which doesn’t say much for the ghost. Even for a first draft, this is poor and it’s not surprising Simon & Schuster are using it in defence of their cancelling the contract. Whether they are successful or not remains to be seen; if they’re not, I can’t see anyone having much sympathy for them.

I found all this particularly interesting because the story came about as I was implementing my editor’s comments on my own book. Thankfully I received very few comments of the nature of those above, although this might be because I was paying him. If he’d shovelled eighty grand in my direction in advance of the manuscript, he might have been a little less forgiving. But another reason could be that I didn’t send a first draft to my editor, he got the third draft after I’d gone through it twice removing anything I thought was superfluous. I actually read every line out loud, as if I were on a stage. It’s a good way of seeing how the text flows and if a joke falls flat.

I must thank my readers for helping me with this. When I posted an excerpt of the first draft a lot of people jumped in and told me, quite bluntly, that it was overwritten shite and I should lose at least 50% of it. Someone patiently explained I should write the scene rather than describe it word for word, and introduced to me the concept of being efficient with words. Then Adam Piggott rang me up on Skype and told me it was sub-Dan Brown garbage and if it went to an editor like that he’d be robbing me blind. None of this was particularly easy to take but, armed with a much more critical eye, I was able to make major improvements for the second draft. I was determined that whatever I sent to the editor would not have his eyes rolling, and that he’d at least see I’d made the effort to get the manuscript as good as I could on my own. This is why I didn’t have any problem accepting the editor’s comments. I’d already taken the beating after the first draft; his comments were extremely benign by comparison.

If Milo had run his stuff by someone first, he might not have saved his contract but he’d at least have avoided the humiliation of having editor’s comments like these plastered all over newspapers. He eventually self-published his book, but it didn’t do very well. Writing, it appears, is difficult and requires a lot of effort. Who knew?

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Matt Damon and Feminist Ire

Matt Damon has always come across to me as a sanctimonious arse, but I have some sympathy with him here:

Matt Damon has been criticised as “tone deaf” for his recent comments about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

The actor and writer is facing a backlash on social media for saying people should be paying more attention to men who are not sexual predators.

In an interview for Business Insider on Monday, Damon said men not involved in sexual misconduct in Hollywood are not gaining attention.

“We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is… the preponderance of men I’ve worked with who don’t do this kind of thing,” he said during an interview while promoting his new film Downsizing.

It’s a pretty bone-headed choice of words but this is what happens when actors try forming their own sentences instead of reading someone else’s. Personally I reckon Matt Damon was most accurately portrayed in Team America: World Police:

What I think he was trying to say was that not all men in Hollywood are engaged in sexual abuse, and his comments should be taken in the context of an environment in which certain women believe that all men, by definition, are rapists. To be fair to these certain women, by which I mean deranged feminists, I can see where they are coming from: if I’d put men’s politics and platitudes before their character and subsequently found myself surrounded by low-grade scumbags while decent men kept two postcodes away, I’d probably feel the same way too. But if women are free to declare that all men are rapists, I don’t see why Matt Damon can’t point out they aren’t. Only he would have been better getting his agent or someone to write the words on a piece of paper first.

This, however, is spot on:

Last week in an interview with ABC News Damon said groping and rape were two different things and shouldn’t be treated the same.

“There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” Damon told ABC’S ‘Popcorn’ with Peter Travers

“Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

This is simply common sense, but this is the last thing feminists want injected into the debate:

Both sets of remarks drew criticism from other actresses, including from his Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver – who said Damon was among those to be “utterly tone deaf” on the topic

Who? Oh yes, Minnie Driver, whose career tanked after Good Will Hunting while Damon’s soared. Is she a little bitter, do you think? Perhaps she’s still over in Stanford waiting for him to show up? Meanwhile, here’s Alyssa Milano who, I think, starred as Arnie’s daughter in Commando:

A burn from a kettle hurts. So does getting shot. That doesn’t mean we should conflate kettle-burns with shootings. Okay, I get she think’s they’re connected but:

Which might be why Damon said:

“Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

Actresses are not the sharpest knives in the drawer at the best of times, nor are third-wave feminists. But actresses engaged in third-wave feminism are so dim they make Matt Damon look like the smart one.

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Who knew what?

Via Twitter I came across an astonishing quote from one Bernard Godard, who served as an expert on Islam in the French ministry of interior between 2007-14. His remarks were made in relation to the recent allegations against Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar specialising in Islam who from what I can tell gets wheeled out frequently for commentary and blessed with cushy positions in institutes of higher learning such as Oxford University. Apparently Mr Ramadan is now being accused of raping minors, which seems to be quite a regular occurrence among mildly famous people these days. But what is extraordinary is the statement of M. Godard, who obviously knew Mr Ramadan well (emphasis mine):

“That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned,” he told French magazine L’Obs.

Right, so a pal of yours is known for inviting girls to his hotel room, demanding they undress, and getting violent and aggressive if they resist but when you’re informed of rape allegations you’re “stunned”? Look, I know the French have a rather odd interpretation of what constitutes sexual assault if the man in question is a well-connected older man (see Dominic Strauss-Khan for example), but does this Godard really think everyone’s that stupid? If the British government is being rattled by allegations of inappropriate knee-touching fifteen years ago, Lord knows what we’re going to uncover if the French lift the blanket on the behaviour of their politicians.

I was thinking about all this the other night, and cast my mind back to Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein. Entry into Hollywood is difficult and one doesn’t just arrive and immediately get invited to Weinstein’s hotel room for an audition; there is a process and it takes time. For a lot of people, that will involve turning up and touting around for roles as an extra just to get you on set, building up to a minor walk-on role perhaps with a few lines of dialogue. For others, family connections get them onto a set and shoved up the ladder a bit quicker. Unless I’m missing something, this lifestyle will involve little other than talking to agents, socialising, putting yourself about, and spending hour after hour hanging around either on set or off it with other wannabe actors and actresses in just the same situation as you. You’ll also be surrounded by thousands of other studio workers, e.g. electricians, make-up artists, wardrobe assistants, etc. many of whom will also be working hard on their careers.

Apparently we’re supposed to believe that none of these people engage in gossip or, when a greenhorn arrives in their patch, they spell out how things work and what’s expected of them. If the celebrity stories are to be believed, they navigated the lower rungs of Hollywood for years without getting a single whiff of how it worked, and only at the moment Weinstein jacked off into a potted plant did it all become clear. Right.

Regardless of the industry, newcomers are almost always subject to being pulled aside on day one and educated by the experienced hands as to how things work. Half the time they’re making sure a potential rival doesn’t get above their station, but the other half they’re just engaging in natural paternal or maternal behaviour mixed with the fun of gossiping about people. Anyone arriving on the periphery of Hollywood would have learned very quickly how things work closer to the core. Rumours would abound as to why actress X got that role in film Y shortly after she met with producer Z, and a young aspiring actress would soon learn what was expected of her sooner or later. Some would quit the industry, some would choose to hang around on the periphery or take a less-prominent role which didn’t require the same compromises, but others would choose to press on anyway. This is fair enough, but I find it extremely hard to believe any actor or actress did so without having received dozens of warnings, listened to hundreds of stories, and heard a thousand rumours.

Is this any different in politics? Are those who hang around on the periphery not pulled aside and subject not only to endless dark warnings about how they should behave, but also about the nature and characteristics of the powerful men and women who control the hierarchy? Of course they are. Stuff a tenth as juicy as this becomes office gossip in every organisation, it simply isn’t possible to keep serial debauchery, harassment, sexual assault, or rape under wraps and out of the rumour mill. Every organisation has a load of people who absolutely live for this kind of thing, and they make sure whatever goes on is common, if unconfirmed, knowledge. Exaggerated and embellished of course, but usually based in some sort of truth.

What I feel is getting left out of the “everyone knew” narrative is that this is probably true of the victims, too. Who in their right mind would go to a hotel room of an old creep like Tariq Ramadan or Harvey Weinstein other than to sleep with them? Or did these young women proceed anyway, perhaps thinking they possessed some rare special talent that would mean the meeting would be strictly professional? I could easily believe half of them were dim enough to think that, but the rest? They probably knew damned well what they were getting into.

The minors though, that’s different. My guess is guys who prey on people less powerful than themselves get a kick out of it, and once they’ve been through several dozen willing adults it starts getting boring and they move onto something more edgy. One thing’s for sure, celebrities wrapped up in sexual assault allegations or kiddy-fiddling allegations seem to have an abundance of willing, adult partners on-tap so it’s not driven by frustration. That’s probably reason enough for an organisation to nip this sort of behaviour in the bud as soon as the management hear about it; sure, the university administrations probably thought it was a right giggle that Ramadan used to bed the prettiest girls from the audience immediately after his lectures, but they probably find it less funny now he’s accused of raping minors.

Which brings me onto my final point: in among all this talk of minors being abused in Hollywood or by dodgy Swiss scholars, where the hell were the parents? Nobody seems to want to ask that.

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