The New York Times issued a compelling argument that web pages are better than newspapers yesterday, when they published this interactive graphic of the most popular Netflix movies in major US cities. Fascinating trends abound, from the predictable—the distribution of Obsessed turns out to be a handy map of where black people live—to the predictable-in-retrospect: the Reneé Zellweger vehicle New In Town, about a big-city girl who moves to Minnesota for some reason, is fantastically popular in Minneapolis and nowhere else. (For those of you who find the slider irritating, as I do, New In Town is just to the right of the second hash mark. Things that are not related by quantitative induction, where each element n cannot be said to have an n+1, should not be arranged on a slider. Leviticus 14:5.) At right, you will see the map for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a movie that I did not see but which I am going to assume, based on the preview, was not exactly Citizen Kane. Those of you wondering where the line is between upper Manhattan and the South Bronx need look no further than the sharp red-white delineation between highways 9 and 1. Also, if you’re wondering which parts of Brooklyn are nice now, there you go. Hint: not Gravesend.
We here in the Combat! offices read Andrew Sullivan a lot, but we don’t get to link to him as often as we’d like to, probably because he doesn’t spend enough time saying things that are completely insane. A Tory transplant from the UK, Sullivan has identified as a conservative for most of his career, despite his sexual preference (dudes) and his tendency to support centrist Democrats in second-term Presidential elections (Bush-to-Clinton, Bush II-to-Kerry.) Basically, Sullivan’s conservative principles guide his political affiliations, not the other way around. Until Tuesday, he’d managed to lean left and right while remaining publicly aligned with the Republican side of the American political spectrum. All that changed with this blog post, in which Sullivan announces that he can no longer support “the movement that goes by the name ‘conservative’ in America.” His public repudiation of the American right—and, by implication, the GOP—is seismic coming from a man who prides himself on being “of no party or clique.” It’s also an indicator of how far the Republican Party has drifted from anything that an informed, reasonable American who is not himself a politician would want to endorse.
The photo at left was sent to me by alert reader Ben Fowlkes, whose near-constant cruising for chimpanzee snuff movies on the internet is interrupted only by his cruising for chimpanzee snuff porn movies on the internet. National Geographic published this photograph of Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late forties who died of congestive heart failure. According to the NGM blog, the other chimps in the Sanga-Young Chimpanzee Rescue Center gathered to watch her burial in eerie silence. “If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures,” said photographer, center volunteer and typographical error Monica Szczupider. Dorothy was a maternal figure for many of the residents of Sanga-Yong, which rehabilitates chimps traumatized by habitat loss or the African bushmeat trade. It would appear that the chimps pictured above are grieving. Next time someone smugly refutes Darwin’s theory of species differentiation through natural selection by pointing out that his grandma wasn’t an orangutan, viewing this picture gives you legal grounds to slap him in the mouth.
Don’t get me wrong: I like David Brooks as much as the next guy. I realize I sound like I’m about to tell a David Brooks-ist joke—and if my grandpa asks you how you keep David Brooks out of your watermelon patch, just don’t respond—but I really do think that he provides sober, interesting analysis on a fairly consistent basis, provided that basis does not occur during campaign season, when he becomes insane. Generally, though, he’s a reasonable man. He employs logic and persuasive rhetoric in his columns, as if he were addressing people who did not necessarily agree with him before they started reading, which makes him something of a rarity among commentators on the right. As a result, his lucidity affords a valuable insight into the reasoning behind contemporary conservative thinking—a reasoning that is often obscured in the provocative (read: insane) rhetoric of a Beck, a Limbaugh or a Malkin.
Still, just because it’s valuable insight doesn’t mean it won’t be sad. Brooks’s column in today’s New York Times, in which he criticizes the Obama administration’s decision to limit executive compensation at banks and investment firms that received federal bailout money, exposes the nihilism at the heart of contemporary conservatism. Worse yet, it contradicts what he was saying one year ago at this time.
Just how bad is our continuing economic downturn? Depending on whom you ask, the recession is basically over, or it will continue for many months, or the American economy will become so vitiated that we will all be forced to subsist by selling naked pictures of Tila Tequila to our Mandarin overlords. It’s all a matter of perspective. If you’re a guy with slicked-back hair in JG Melon, chances are things are looking better for you, since the Dow is back to a rosy 9,825—a far cry from the bat[sugar] crazy heights of 2007, but still pretty good. For people who are not named Tad, little has improved since this time last year, as unemployment approaches ten percent and the job-loss rate increases. It’s a good old-fashioned jobless recovery, and once again the best way to make money in America is to do no work and produce nothing of value. So is it time to strap on your overalls, sterilize your harmonica and ride the rails in search of pie? When your grandpa talks about how bad the Depression was, can you call him a bitch? Economic misery is a competitive business, and if you’re like me, it’s not enough to know if things are Bad. You want to know if they are Historically Bad.