Friday links! Varieties of human experience edition

"I actually find nothing strange about Antonin Scalia. Bafflingly, I regard Antonin Scalia as the default human condition. Now bring me Solo and the Wookie."

We at Combat! blog spend a lot of time considering the problem of others. Partly that’s because I work from home, where I live with several terrariums. When you live alone, have no coworkers and socialize with an insular peer group, it’s easy to start thinking that other people are basically the same as you. They are not. The human experience is characterized first by its stunning variety, and what one person considers the givens of existence are, to another, mere trifles. Take lying, for example. When I lie, I have to take care that what I’m saying sounds like the truth. Otherwise, people will start to think less of me, and because I see the same people over and over again—the colloquial term for this phenomenon is “friends”—my life will get worse. For other people, lying is a sort of formality, the way Japanese people say ittadakimasu before eating. They just have to make the gesture of a declarative statement, and even though nobody believes them, that gesture is enough. It’s probably because they have no friends and the truth means to them what Rembrandt’s Christ With Arms Folded means to a labrador, but who knows? This week’s link roundup is chock full of absurd behavior undertaken by weirdos, and it serves to remind us that other people are startlingly different. Won’t you shudder in disrecognition with me?

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Close Readings: Sarah Palin and “refudiate”

Sarah Palin, seen here monopolizing a city council meeting in A Just World.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin risked the loyalty of her constituents by announcing her opposition to a planned mosque at Ground Zero, via Twitter. She’s since deleted that post, for reasons the foregoing article makes obvious, but here’s her original tweet:

Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.

“Refudiate” is, of course, not a word. It seems to be a concatenation of “refute” and “repudiate,” or just a one-letter typo, although Palin’s subsequent defense (see below) suggests the former. The commentariat regards her use of “refudiate” as a gaffe, and they’re having a pretty good time with it. As is often the case, though, Palin is stupid like a fox. It’s a good thing “refudiate” is in that tweet, because it distracts from the rest of it—and you know what that means. When meaning tries to hide behind language, and also when the Combat! blog headline  has “close reading” in it, it’s time for another Close Reading.

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Oh god, no!

Of the four promises made on the chalkboard below the window, only one is true—although "party party" is basically just an exhortation.

Cheapshots (and Beer,) arguably the best bar in New York—and all subjects become increasingly arguable the longer you stay in there—has been closed by order of the city for “illegal activities.” According to Allison L Arenson, the attorney prosecuting the case, “The community has severely suffered, and continues to suffer, as a result of the illegal activities…interfering with the health, safety and well being of those who live, work and visit in the surrounding neighborhood.” I don’t want to be unnecessarily negative, here, but there is no way we’re going to win this one. The attorney for the plaintiffs obviously has a made-up name, and chances are Cheapshots will never see trial. It’s just going to wake up in a basement somewhere and see Bernard Kerik with a car battery and three feet of lamp cord and confess to everything.

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Friday links! Spectacle of morality edition

hotdogIt’s Friday, and that means it’s time to look back in evaluation of the week that is about to finish having been. If you’re like me, you’ve been paying extra-special attention to being good lately, in the hopes of getting that Barnes & Noble knock-off Kindle that costs as much as a regular Kindle for Christmas. The problem with being good, though, is that it’s awfully hard for other people to notice. So much of being good is about not doing stuff, especially stuff—stealing, looking at boobs, I think farting—when no one is around to see you anyway. The problem with personal morality is that it’s so personal. If only there were some way that I could make a public spectacle of my goodness, so that all the world would be forced to acknowledge what a moral/books-equivalent-of-a-Zune-deserving person I am. Oh, well. I guess I’d better just resign myself to reading books printed on wood pul—wait a minute! What if I looked to the morality of others? If I were some kind of self-appointed superintendent of other people’s goodness, I could not only make a spectacle of my own righteousness, but also relieve myself of the burden of scrutiny of my own actions. It’ll be like having a maid to clean my kitchen for me, while I accuse her of adultery. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome, at least for me. I guess for everybody else it will be kind of irritating, but what are they going to do? Turn my own righteous indignation against me? That’ll be the day. I just hope nobody has thought of this alrea—oh, dammit. It turns out the totality of world culture beat me to it. I guess I’ll just go back to documenting their craven attempts to aggrandize themselves by pointing out the foibles of oth—HELLO! We’re back in business.

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Balwinder Singh, rookie American

Conclusive, blurry evidence that there is a man named Balwinder Singh driving a cab in New York City, and I am not a liar. In this case.

Conclusive, blurry evidence that there is a man named Balwinder Singh driving a cab in New York City, and I am not a liar. In this case. Props to Mike Sebba for the photo.

A year ago at this time, I was a tutor for prep school kids in New York City. In that capacity I took a lot of cabs around the Upper East Side, and one night I found myself conducted down Fifth Avenue by a man named Balwinder Singh. In New York, unusual cab driver names are something of a collector’s item. You can tell the people who just moved to the city, because they will sit down at the bar and excitedly tell you that they were just driven there by Muhammad Ali—not realizing that Muhammad Ali is the Harry Johnson of New York cab driver names: kind of funny, yes, but also too common to remark upon. After you’ve lived there for a few years, Muhammad Ali becomes just another fixture in the background of the city, like the Empire State Building or human suffering. To impress the true connoisseur of foreign cabbie names, you need something genuinely weird—like a Sherpa Sherpa, say, or a 45 year-old man named “Ball-winder,” who has unwittingly immigrated to a country where that is completely hilarious.

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