for 10 April 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
This Is Joe Franklin Reminding You To Buckle Up
Seriously, Tom, who died and made you Harry Reasoner?
p.s. You should have seen me flip out when Reagan was shot.
40th Street Black
I enjoyed your piece on taxi mythos, although I'm not certain there was a point to it. If the point was to establish a taxonomy of cultural cab references, let me add two more that I feel were unjustly left out. On the other end of the spectrum from Taxi Driver, if equally gritty, is the 1998 film HellCab, in which Paul Dillon turns in a stoic tour DaFoe as a cab driver that picks up every nut in Chicago (like John Cusack, Gillian Anderson and Julianne Moore). File under: Working Class Anthem/Anathema. And how could any discussion on our perceptions of the big-city cabbie be complete without a nod to Sega's Gen. X, product placement vehicle, Crazy Taxi. Dig the demographics of both the cab drivers one can play as (the Lug, the Babe, the Rastafarian and the singer from Green Day?), and the fares one can pick up around the hip, VR town (African Americans tend to want to go to the KFC). OK, maybe that's a different column, but file under: Cultural Hyperbole.
Dr. Nathan The Freshmaker
Since "Tour Dafoe" is funnier than anything I wrote, I'm going to take all your advice to heart. I think my point was there exists an overwhelming and highly mutable cultural whispering-in-the-ear from cabbie culture to general American making-sense-of-stuff. I was sort of overwhelmed by the amount of material that surfaced when I started checking around, and a great deal of it didn't make it into an already-long article, thus sort of proving my point.
Hellcab I'm familiar with in both its largely unsuccessful movie (as I recall, the title was changed to Chicago Cab, and curiously got a lot of press as a change-of-pace move for the then-hot Gillian Anderson) and its amazingly lengthy, discourage-the-other-Chicago-theater-companies run as a late-night Windy City mainstay. In both forms, it does serve as a nice bookend to Taxi Driver, you're right. Viva Paul Dillon. The videogame, on the other hand, is a new one on me. For something not around when you need one, those damn taxis are everywhere.
40th Street Black
"Anyone over five feet tall, crammed into the truncated space left by a security shield in a converted car flagged down on Chicago's Miracle Mile, will grow wistful for the legroom of yesteryear's cabs."
I thought Chicago had a Magnificent Mile, not a miracle mile....
If this were a movie, right now would be the time I'd give you blankface stare, distract you, jump in a cab and speed away. Ugh. Maybe we can find a nice street in Lincoln Park and make that the Miracle Mile? I could never catch a cab up there, for some reason.
40th Street Black
surprised you didn't bring up London's black cabs. With their codes of behavior and cleanliness, and the requirement to learn every street of the city (called "The Knowledge"), being a London cabbie is the blue-collar Londoner version of being a professional, or a member of a military elite.
Thanks for reading the piece. I wish I had made some sort of reference to London cab culture in the piece so I could better pretend to be a completist. But there's so much material available, all of it quite distinct in terms of cab culture England really does seem an island unto itself, stretching all the way back to that oft-reprinted Dickens profile. The contrast, particularly as it touches on class, probably deserves its own article someday in another publication.
40th Street Black
Man, I can't believe I sent that item including the mention of "Night on Earth" before I finished reading your piece.
I got caught up in a frenzy of remembering the film but not the name, going off to imdb.com, flashing back to the old days, etc. Then, on top of that, imdb doesn't even have Benigni on the first page, which also threw me.
More flashbacks, but much much hazier:
National Lampoon's "My Meter is Running" column.
In the late 1970s in Japan, cabbies (and, for that matter, airplane pilots) wore white gloves. I have no idea if the custom persists, but let's see how THAT plays in San Diego.
Thanks for writing twice! I understand the confusion on Night on Earth, particularly as I'll take any opportunity to blame IMDB for anything I can. I'm not sure why.
The white gloves is a new one on me. Like most articles of this type, there was just a ton of information on taxi practices in other countries which I couldn't include for space reasons. One connecting thread which I don't think made it into the final draft was how taxi drivers have seemingly become the lazy international reporter's common man of choice, profiled endlessly and plumbed for local insight. Over time, that has to have as distorting an effect as seeing New York City through cabbies' eyes would be.
40th Street Black
It must really have galled you to admit that Horowitz is right about leftist fascists at major universities. And then you add, unbelievingly, in so many words that "who cares if there is free speech on campus or not". Ah, now I get it, academia is supposed to be fascist! Gee, all these years and I thought universities were supposed to encourage free exchange of ideas. Thanks for clearing that one up for me.
Another of your weird takes is your apparent lack of awareness of the enormous amount of speeches and articles gurgling out daily from the reparations for Blacks crowd i.e. just about every Black politician, and magazine and newspaper columnist. My own university UW-La Crosse just had a "symposium" on race which strongly accented this very issue as reported by my hometown newspaper. If you don't think it's being propagated by many as an important issue, tell it to those people. If Gore or Bradley had been elected, this would be front and center a huge issue in Congress. So Horowitz tries to counter this nefarious avalanche by race hustlers and poverty pimps preaching to the academically deluded by getting his counter-argument published, and of course to you he's just a self-aggrandizing rabble-rouser.
But at least you realize there are leftist fascists. You seem to be able to grasp a few things. There may be hope for you yet.
Thanks, John. Although you've mastered the art of assuming every interlocutor is a leftist/liberal/democrat until proven innocent (which is also the MO of great Horowitz himself), I plead not guilty of any of those labels. Nothing galls me except the fact that you claim to be in college in the United States and have a pretty questionable grasp of how to write an English sentence.
Somehow, it's not too surprising that you hear plenty of speeches about slavery reparations. That, as I indicated, is because you are in college, where the population generally doesn't have to worry about putting food on the table and can indulge in flights of fancy.
Which brings me to your misuse of words: I believe you want to say "unbelievably" rather than "unbelievingly". Unless you're accusing me of being a non-believer. Or unless you think "supposably" is a word too. And the phrase "in so many words" means exactly the opposite of what you apparently meant for it to mean.
My advice: Can the student activism and hit the fucking books. It's a tough world out there.
bravo. nice article. even though i'm still haunting the realm of la-la land under the guises of "post graduate studies," your piece took me back to my early days of college. college--that place where you do greater quantities and larger varieties of drugs; that place where you fumble around in the dorm room either asserting your heterosexuality or experimenting with homosexuality; that place where the student newspaper is epitome of the give and take of free speech.
well, two out of three ain't too bad. free speech, maybe, but a free speech that is only relevant within the context of college, and, therefore, irrelevant outside of it.
free speech about pre-marital marriage (for or against depending on the political bent of the student body), the legalization of marijuana, how the parking situation on campus is "like, totally unfair," and, among others, the qualities (or lack there of) of the greek system.
real issues, such as affirmative action or abortion, are left to the big boys. shadows of these issues may show up in poorly written, op-ed pieces, which spawn a slew of letters to the editor pointing the blanketing finger of "racism" or spouting off right-wing/left-wing propaganda slogans. but all of this "action" never really covers the issue. people with something to say usually don't think twice about the articles, because it is only the student newspaper after all, and go about their day. hmmm, what is it i'm trying to say? i don't know, really. maybe it's sad that the state of student reporting is so bad. maybe it's sad that college, which should be a place where people learn to be comfortable with themselves, are so uncomfortable that they can't express themselves.
maybe it's sad that the college setting, which (i'd always been lead to believe) is a place where you're made stronger, smarter, and more free thinking, is a place that perpetuates conformity, herd-mentality, and fact regurgitation. i haven't read horowitz's ad, and so i cannot say whether i agree or disagree (given the fact that i consider myself a liberal, i would probably disagree...but a few conservative thoughts rattle around in my brain now and then, so i can't say). i can say, however, that it should not be censored out from publication just because some people "don't like it." if an editor of a newspaper chooses to print the ad, then, fuck it, let him or her print it. if you don't like it, then write an article for the next issue of the paper giving a reason why you disagree. don't burn confiscate the paper. don't burn books. the free speech carries with it the nasty possibility that someone, somewhere, is going to say something with which you completely disagree. the beautiful possibility is that you can say something back. it is a good joke horowitz played, though. but will college newspapers get the punchline? did i offer anything new on the subject? or just regurgitate what you said in your essay?
Wait a second. You were supposed to assert your heterosexuality and experiment with homosexuality? Jesus, I got it mixed up again. I guess it had to do with my opposition to pre-marital marriage. I was such a prude back then.
I very much appreciated your piece on Horowitz and the dreamy amble down Bard College Memory Lane.
The Bisexuality Awareness Picnic was an unmitigated *hoot.*
Look forward to seeing more of your work.
All About Anna
Thanks, Anna. Back at good ol' Rutgers we had some columnist in the student paper who'd write these sexed-up columns about how hot it was to be a bisexual. There were occasional references to how the lesbian community should accept her for what she was, but mostly it was just stuff about how hot men and women could make her. Made me pretty hot just reading it!
There was another one who would do these columns about how her multiracial background was the reason she was so beautiful. And she was in fact pretty cute. But hell's bells, does that mean we have to read her "Don't hate me because my Irish/Asian genes make me beautiful" claptrap?
Of course, I did read it, and told her how thought provoking I found it all, in a pathetic effort to get into her mixed race pants. Fucking A, when I think of the awful ways I could delude myself for a pretty face. "Gee, Melissa, you're a really talented sculptress!" I make myself sick sometimes.
Ah, to be a boy again!
In any form of group discussion, weather it be Plastic or newsgroups, the trolls are bound to surface. Horowitz is the same sad species of creature that cares more about the reaction to an idea rather than the merit of an idea itself. Those of us with more meaningful pursuits than mental masturbation deal with trolls in the only way they can be dealt with: we kill file their ass if the medium supports it and ignore them if it does not.
Advocating troll starvation,
The problem with Horowitz is that he forgets that all trolls on college campuses should include offers for credit cards. That's a requirement! Congress passed a law that says so!
What's your point? That it's okay for liberal college kids to be closed minded, and that Horowitz is a bully for exposing them for it? You make a big mistake in your reasoning, when you say colleges have always been repressive. The difference is that it had traditionally been the faculty that kept the lid on free speech, and now it's the students themselves. And I don't think those schmucks at Harvard really scared anyone with their plague of thrown lightbulbs, by the way.
Please offer some better evidence, of modern times, when students themselves have been the repressive ones, other than some lame, non-specific comment about the "class clowns of the cultural revolution" or what have you.
On The Media Intern
Hey, I know interns are pretty young, but the Cultural Revolution took place during relatively recent times, when in fact this now-senile Suckster was living, albeit wrapped in swaddling clothes.
For a more recent example, how about this: Back at dear old R.U., on the banks of the old Raritan, a bunch of students were so incensed over a proposed 3 percent tuition hike (at a state school where the tuition was dirt cheap and the facilities were vast and generally first rate) that they took over "Bishop House," a barely used administration and storage building that nobody except the protestors knew existed, and handcuffed themselves to the railings. The school paper spent weeks doing stories like "Good God, they've taken Bishop House!" and "After Bishop House, the healing begins," and editorials about how it was all a great blow for civil liberties and economic justice.
Or there were the posters they'd put up all over the campus, with the word "HATE" being smashed by a manly fist attached to a muscular forearm. Because we were all supposed to stamp out hate as violently as possible, apparently.
Or there was even a small-scale newspaper confiscation incident, after the alternative student paper did some kind of Mr. Moto-type parody column and Asian students went bananas. Of course this was Central Jersey, where cooler heads always prevail, and the school's 40,000 students ended up in a consciousness-raising colloquy on sensitivity.
And countless other episodes. I didn't say it's OK that students are closed-minded buffoons. I said that students are closed-minded buffoons, whether we like it or not, and for Horowitz to score points off their intolerance just shows that he's a buffoon too. My entire college experience taught me to fear fellow students even more than teachers and that was on the rare days when my roommate wasn't chloroforming me and making me his sex slave. But that's another story. Life ran very high in those days!
Well put--and I enjoyed the inside joke about The Archers (can it be concluded that Jack Cardiff was the best part of the Oscars last Monday?) However, the stupidity of the kids, as you put it, may have been in accepting the ad in the first place.
When I was the nominal editor of one very left-wing collectively run student newspaper, we found an excellent all-purpose Benjamin Franklin quote to the extent that a newspaper wasn't a public convenience, like a stage coach--it didn't have to let on just anybody on board.
Now, if Horowitz had written an editorial arguing that slavery was pretty much all for the best, he could have been challenged, point-counterpoint wise. In taking Horowitz's tainted money--'taint yours and it t'aint mine--the student papers made themselves liable for a lot of fury as vessels of Horowitz's well-funded ignorance. And they didn't do their job and challenge Horowitz's malarky, either--perhaps out of fear of offending an advertiser? Greed (and budget cutbacks) got the better of these editors; the students knew it, and got justly pissed off. Depending on the campus their reactions ranged from stupid (stealing the newspapers) to rather restrained under the circumstances (that is, protesting and raising a big stink.) What else could they do? They could write an article--some of them did. They could go to Century City and picket underneath the ivory tower where Horowitz is housed, thereby drawing more attention to the man and his politics..or, they could do what this responsible adult does--they could sit at home impotently raging, daydreaming about squashing a large coconut custard pie into Horowitz's smug kisser.
Richard von Busack
Good old Ben Franklin! I was actually disappointed that none of the students used that argument. I keep waiting for some editor to say "We didn't take the ad because we are free to reject any ad with no further explanation to you or anybody else." But I guess saying that would mean you have to end the discussion and not indulge your infatuation with the sound of your own voice not typical behavior from editors of student papers.
Regarding last Friday's "Horse Sense": Rodeo is the only sport constructed around a lifestyle? I find that hard to believe. What about golf? Or perhaps foxhunting or polo? There are plenty of sports that were clearly designed as leisure-time activities for the elite of Europe and the U.S. which certainly seem to bespeak a certain lack of meaningful pursuits and affinity for funny pants, among other cultural indicators. Maybe what rodeo needs is a Tiger Woods to reignite the country's interest.
And on "Baiting Whitey": I liked the article, and I had to give props to Horowitz for his stunt, despite his overall political stance. But you do seem to perpetuate a journalistic and historical sophism that just won't die, that says nobody anywhere ever holds reasonable, rational, moderated viewpoints. In fact, journalism and perhaps even history are geared to stamp out the evidence that anybody holds these views, because those that do tend to work for change in small, non-revolutionary, behind-the-scenes ways. They do not generate the kind of exciting, attention-getting controversies that Horowitz or that misguided college students do. In other words, which headline do you think will get published: "Students hold courteous, civil debate balancing moral principles with practical concerns" or "Left-wing fascists seize campus newspapers"?
Keep up the good work,
Thanks, Amanda. At Suck, the idea that nobody anywhere ever holds reasonable, rational, moderated viewpoints is not sophism; it's a core belief. It's what gets us up in the morning.
If Horowitz were only bullying naifs with his superior logic, that would be amusing; however, the guy is immune to fact. He posts column after column with gargantuan errors of fact, historical misstatements, and out-and-out bullshit, then claims afterward that his critics have launched ad hominem attacks, touching not at all the points of his argument. He does this with amazing regularity (about every three months) and Salon only rarely calls him on it. By way of example: regarding his slavery reparations ad, one refutation covers all his errata nicely, but has yet to be acknowledged by the great man himself.
Right-wing pundits-for-hire should at least be funny. Horowitz bores; give me P.J. O'Rourke any day.
You said it, Michael. But you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking Horowitz's gift for fiction stems from his conservatism. Back when he was still wandering in the wilderness his career consisted largely of doing long, turgid pieces about how, say, Mao and Castro and Stalin were really a swell bunch of guys and just victims of bad Yankee press.
Nice column, especially the wrapup.
One little detail about Brown that I only saw once (in the Times) was that the children din't grab the press run of the offending issue, but rather a later one that didn't even have the ad in it.
Yeah, it's tough being a Brown student. Some days they almost forget to pamper you.