I suppose I should have some throat-clearing up here, just to get around the little "go to comments" icon. The copy has to be substantial enough to wrap and get underneath. I could tell the tale of the mentally ill man who yelled at me outside the office, but perhaps that thrilling tidbit can wait for tomorrow.
We've a lot to do today, so let's get ready to rrrrrrrrrr <record skritch>
Sorry, that's a trademarked expression.
Longish sort-of-fun thing here, followed by the Diner.
I have no idea what this is about, but I assume there's a rough sort of continuity.
Diner 2018 E05.
Just so you know it's there.
This anti-travel manifesto is one of the most exhausting and interminable things I’ve read this month. I’ll spare you the opening section, which concerns the uncomfortable nature of commercial flight. People get dragged off planes! There was that one story about that mean flight attendant, also. And the lines! The author writes with energy, but it’s the energy of someone you run into on the street who goes on and on about their dog’s sciatica.
Let’s get to the revelatory passages.
Your reward is that you then must fly. During the airless, comfortless journey that follows (for which you more and more wondrously have to pay), amid air contaminated by engine oil and other toxic substances, you will also be at risk of radiation, congestion, constipation, nausea, dizziness, headaches, hypoxia, jet lag, flatulence, the flatulence of all (and I mean all) the people around you, deep vein thrombosis, fleas, bedbugs, and whooping cough. No one delays a flight because of illness anymore—that would be costly and cowardly. Instead, they leap on board in the service of their microbes, dutifully coughing, sniffing and exuding right next to you for hours. If you’re very unlucky, you may catch Ebola or TB while innocently trying to untangle your gratis audio set; to be capped by Montezuma’s revenge on arrival at your destination.
I got a cold from a plane trip once. Maybe.
While the business-class swells chow down in their business lounges at the airport, or in their big Business Class seats on the plane, and make big business deals and get big business grease from their big business filets mignon all over their big business suits and the Business Class upholstery, economy passengers’ food, once it arrives, is a throwback to TV dinners of the 1970s.
Oh, naughty, horrible Business. As for the food - what’s the deal with airplane food, amirite? - I always buy a good sandwich at the grocery store the day before, put it in the fridge, then take it on the plane. It’s one of my favorite things to do while flying: eat a delicious roast beef sandwich with horseradish! Mmm.
I guess this is one of those insider hacks.
But complicated work-arounds like this seem to elude the author, for whom life is one horror to be passively encouraged through inaction, with every horror amplified by the existence of the statistically insignificant experiences of people she read about.
The author says the travel by migrants and immigrants is okay, since it’s a fundamental human right, but
It’s the leisure travels of the leisured classes that deserve scrutiny. The automatic rush to the computer to book cheap flights—we barely even notice we’re doing it anymore.
I know! I’ll be sitting at the computer and I get an email that confirms my flight, and I’m, like, how did that happen?
A long weekend in Guadalajara, a short one in Zagreb, Zimbabwe, or Zeebrugge. The requisite bucket-list prance through a lavender field, a pyramid, a rainforest. A ride on a donkey, dromedary, dolphin, double-decker. . . . We’re such saps! We’ve been fed a bunch of fake reasons to travel by evil geniuses determined to use up all the fossil fuels as fast as possible, so as to coerce us all into accepting nuclear power as soon as possible.
She is kidding, in that arch, clever, funny-but-not-actually-funny-at-all sense of someone in a British rom-com we’re supposed to love because she’s so cutting.
The movement of people and ideas, grandly called globalization, is not just about the silk trade. It has led to two world wars already, and oceans full of plastic debris.
Uh huh. Note that the author has not only come out against travel, she has shifted the argument to include the movement of ideas, which caused two world wars. Hey, I'm with her - Marxism should have stayed in the town where it was cooked up.
The hope that it might spread wealth and strengthen intellectual bonds is long gone—all we got out of it is a crushing cultural conformism. We’ve adopted the obtusest form of worldliness, whereby we all have to experience the same banalities, the same supposed delights, the same hamburgers, the same terrorist atrocities, and everybody’s got to weight-watch and whale-watch.
Who, exactly, is this we she keeps indicting? It doesn’t include her, obviously; she’s much too smart to buy any of this travel nonsense. By we she means you, and by you she doesn’t mean her friends - well, some of them, but she views their travels with indulgence because they’re lovely people, and they don’t eat the same hamburgers or experience the same terrorist atrocities.
I did whale-watch once. It was an interesting way to spend an afternoon. The boat was full of people from all over the world, judging by their accents, all of us bobbing along in a small craft looking for signs of these enormous creatures. At the end of it I thinkI said “we’re worldly now, but I have the feeling it’s an obtusest form.”
Travel is killing as much culture as it spreads. Languages, dialects and accents die out whenever Cloaca-Cola, Pizza Hurt, and Brook No Brothers arrive. To ensure this, all major cities now offer the same chain hotels, stores and restaurants, the only acceptable receptacles for the unthinking on the move. But if Prada, Superdry, Nike, and H&M are everywhere, what the hell is the point in city-hopping shopping?
In all the major and minor cities I have visited around the world, I have patronized not one of those chains or stores. Well, I did have a Coke in Paris. Stone me. But again, note the construction: languages, dialects and accents are dying out because major cities want to ensure that they do, by bringing in chains. Is this an act of government? No. The London City Council did not ensure the destruction of a dialect or accent by demanding that an old hotel be purchased by Radisson and brought up to modern standards. Now, if you say “what is the point in city-hopping” if you stay at a Radisson when there’s a Radisson in your home town . . . you’re really not thinking about this very clearly.
But even if I’d stayed at a non-chain hotel, I would have done the same things: look at the city and visit the museums.
Is that okay with her? Am I doing it right? Nope. We steamroll along:
There is an American blind spot to other cultures that really gets in the way of deriving any discernible benefit from travel. So why go? Stay home and eat ham in Birmingham. And what’s with the sneakers, the raincoat, the Bermuda shorts, the camera, and the fanny-pack? Is it some kind of Pop Art joke? In this getup, Americans descend on foreign places like boulders, speaking in very loud voices and squashing flat any locals who get in the way.
It’s odd how she spelled “Germans” “Americans.”
They scour Bulgaria for a whiskey sour. They tell everybody America won the Second World War. (Actually, it had a lot of help.) They freak out if their credit cards don’t work, or the shower’s weak, or the bandwidth’s narrow. Having almost single-handedly caused global warming, they still worry inordinately about rain. And they assume everything is or should or must be done the American way; otherwise it’s weird. And that everybody knows English—if they don’t, they’re weird. Everything amazes them, everything comes as a great big surprise. Shock and awe. You mean that was built before the American Revolution?! Gee. You mean I have to put some of these crazy coins into this slot and then the bus will take me where I want to go? Weird.
Question: how can someone who obviously doesn’t travel much because it’s wrong know so much about how everyone behaves?
These tirades always end by demanding something be taken away from the wrong people, aka We, aka You:
What we need is an intervention. Either put these wander-losers on a low-mileage diet, or make them go cold turkey. If they need support, they can join Carboniferous Anonymous, a 12-step program for fossil fuel addiction. First step, instead of getting god, as most AA people seem to do, recovering carbon addicts will be steered toward nature. (At home. It’s right outside the door, if not inside.) Nature is clearly what everybody originally worshipped anyway. We experimented with other objects of veneration, all dead ends. We tied ourselves in theological knots and wound up with a grouchy god of war! What goofballs.
I used to feel good about my Iceland experience but now I realize I should have stayed home and prayed to a ficus.
Next step, write to all your descendants apologizing for the environmental catastrophe you’ve left for them. Say you’re sorry for ruining the air, the land and the water, and for killing off half the animals on the planet (so far). Next, ditch your computer—the “cloud” uses more electricity than whole countries. Buy local—containerization is one of the dirtiest practices ever invented. Stop supporting war—according to Bob Hughes, a fifth of all environmental deterioration is caused by militarism. And for god’s sake, quit booking those flights.
Bio: “Lucy Ellmann’s novel Mimi contains The Odalisque Manifesto, which proposes a peaceful revolution leading to worldwide matriarchy.”
From the New York Times review of the novel:
“Is the joke on me? Let’s stipulate: satire should be deadpan. Many thought Jonathan Swift was being serious in his “Modest Proposal” when he advocated that the Irish poor sell their children to the landowners as food. But as we know — duh — he was illuminating the monstrous economics of Irish poverty by the ancient rhetorical device of reductio ad absurdum. Ridicule as argumentative accelerant. The catch is you have to be Jonathan Swift to pull it off.”
By the way, the article is called “The Lost Art of Staying Put.” The author was born in Michigan. She later moved to Scotland. She she references her Edinborough stay in the past tense, I assume she’s moved again.
Do as I shriek, not as I do.
Lately we have been enduring the second iteration of . . .
“The Wizard’s men have learned where Morton keeps his secret formula; Batman and Robin trail them to his office.” That’s the narrator’s set up.
I’ve snipped a little for time’s sake and to show how the door isn’t the same door.
As the crooks get away, Batman gives the most . . . unusual explanation for why he’s not dead:
I don’t know how that possibly works. Well, the crooks get away right under the nose of the stupid cops, but Vicky Vale gets a picture, just to give her something to do. Bats gives chase, and Wizard deploys . . . A ROBOT DECOY CAR.
Fools ‘em real good! Anyway, it turns out it does matter that Vicky Vale took the picture: she recognizes the driver of the getaway car as her brother.
All the other crooks want Brother Vale to get the picture. She tells Useless Bruce Wayne she’s going to meet the criminals; he’s nonchalant. Have a good time, I’ll be here getting hammered on fine scotch.
Of course Batman and Robin bust up the meeting, and get the crap beat out of them again.
The picture’s gone! No, not if Batman uses Science. He gets a good picture, and decides to check out one of the crooks with his exhaustive criminal database, his Rogue’s Gallery.
Remember the computers in the Batcave?
He has a file cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Wizard gives himself another jolt of Walkin’ Juice, so he can stand for a while:
He tells the crooks to get rid of Jimmy Vale, but they say hey, c’mon, he’s a good pilot. Okay, snarls the Wizard, but you’re responsible for him. Meanwhile, Jimmy calls his sister and says he’s getting out of town. Vicky tracks the call to the Harbor Club on the waterfront about the same time Batman identifies the guy in the picture as a crook who hangs around the Harbor Club.
Awfully convenient. The crooks tie up Vicky and take her to the dock, presumably for drowning; Batman hears her screaming, and it’s peek-a-boo time.
Vicky slips her bonds and enters the fray, but her contributions are minimal. Note her absolute stark terror in the water.
You want to check the credits to see if her body double was a department store mannikin.
That's it! What, you want more? Okay, there's more. Don't forget the Diner!