NPF: THAT HE DID, CHAP.

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 14th, 2017 by Ed

In 1882 an internal dispute between the compositing (layout and typesetting) department and the editorial staff of The Times of London led to an incident that can best be described in modern terms as "Victorian Shitposting."

A speech by Home Secretary William Harcourt was selected by the editors to be reprinted in full due to an upcoming by-election. The conclusion of the Rt. Hon. Gentleman's speech was, in the edition that went to press and was distributed across England the next day, quoted as follows:

I saw in a Tory journal the other day a note of alarm, in which they said “Why, if a tenant-farmer is elected for the North Riding of Yorkshire the farmers will be a political power who will have to be reckoned with." The speaker then said he felt inclined for a bit of fucking.

The reader could be forgiven for wondering if Sir William had in fact said this, or had perhaps been misquoted.

Victorian Furor followed. The Times ran a mortified apology four days later and left no stone lie in its attempt to find the perpetrator. A few months later (presumably he) struck again. An advertisement for a book called Everyday Life in our Public Schools was altered to claim that the book was bolstered by "a glossary of some words used by Henry Irving in his disquisitions upon fucking."

Many employees of the compositing department were given the sack. It is unclear if the guilty person was among them, or merely was scared into ceasing his endeavors by the consequences handed down to his co-workers. In either case the incidents stopped and did not return.

Truly was this a great moment in the history of culture-jamming, pranking, civil disobedience, or whatever one chooses to call this kind of brilliance.

NPF: FALCONS vs. PROBABILITY

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 5th, 2017 by Ed

I'm about to get to the segment of my research methods course covering probability, and I have a new favorite example of the cumulative probability of independent events. Too bad I can't use it in class, given that football is a rather culturally biased source for anecdotes.

Super Bowl viewers may recall that despite a furious New England comeback, the Atlanta Falcons were leading 28-20 with four minutes remaining and in a dominant position – first down at New England's 22 yard line. From here, literally all the Falcons had to do was fall down three times (which would either force New England to spend their timeouts or run 2 precious minutes off the clock), kick a simple 40-yard field goal, and return the ball to New England down 11 points with little time left. In other words, a Falcon victory was virtually guaranteed.

How guaranteed? Well, consider if Atlanta ran the simplest of plays on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down: a run straight up the middle by very excellent running back Devonta Freeman. It didn't matter if he gained yards or not. Running the clock and, crucially, NOT fumbling the ball away were all that mattered. Fortunately for Atlanta, Freeman carried the ball 227 times and caught 54 passes this season with all of one fumble, so we can calculate his odds of running the play without fumbling as 1 – 1/(227+54), or 99.64%. To calculate the odds of running the play three times (independent events) without fumbling, we cube that figure, (0.9964)3 = 98.92%. Assuming that Freeman would actually be trying much harder than usual to avoid fumbling at the expense of trying to gain yards, this is probably a serious underestimate to the likelihood of success. But let's stick with it.

On fourth down, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant would appear to kick a field goal of just under or over 40 yards. This season he made 95% (19/20) of kicks under 40 yards, and 97% (28/29) under 50. The 41 year old veteran has made 300 field goals in the NFL over 15 years, so presumably nerves wouldn't have drastically altered his performance. But for the sake of being conservative, let's say his odds were 92% (his total season average). 98.92% x 92% = 91%. In other words, by doing nothing but what was obvious, the Falcons had at least a 91% chance of taking an 11 point lead and essentially guaranteeing victory.

Instead, Atlanta got too cute. On 1st down Freeman carried the ball for a short loss. On second down, Atlanta passed for baffling reasons. QB Matt Ryan was sacked, losing 12 yards and making a potential field goal very long. Then they passed again, this time drawing a very obvious holding penalty and losing 10 more yards. Now, no field goal attempt was possible. The rest is history.

Consider what they did there. Leave aside for a moment the 30% chance of a pass being incomplete and stopping the clock, which would be bad (helping New England) but not fatal. QB Ryan had 1.3% of his passes intercepted, was sacked 6.5% of the time he attempted to pass, and the Falcons performed near the NFL average of an offensive penalty on 1 of every 10 plays (10%). The sum of those (17.8%) is the probability that something really, really bad could happen on a pass attempt. That leaves an 82.2% chance that things will be alright on a pass attempt. Counting Freeman's first down run (0.9964), we then multiply by (0.822) x (0.822) for the second and third down passes, giving us 67.3% probability of these three plays being run without "something bad" happening. Multiply that by Bryant's 92% chance of making a field goal, and we see that the plays Atlanta actually ran gave them only a 61.94% chance of getting that crucial 11-point lead.

NFL coaches may not be rocket scientists but most could tell you that 91% is greater than about 62%. And remember, 91% is an extremely low, conservative estimate.

We see this all the time in football; coaches get too fancy trying to "outsmart" the odds. When it works, they're praised for being Bold. But math is going to win more regularly than Guts or Boldness or anything else.

NPF: UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Posted in No Politics Friday on February 24th, 2017 by Ed

We aren't at our most observant during childhood and adolescence. And even when we do notice some things that are objectionable, we're likely to think they're funny because we're immature and stupid. Hey, white kids raised by and among white people who casually interject racism into 90% of their conversations are not very likely to listen to a song and think, "Hmm, I find this language Problematic" or "This movie unfairly stereotypes ethnic groups." Maybe I'm projecting and you were Super Woke as a child. I wasn't. I guess you're a better person than me.

Recently I had two experiences with media that I remember from when I was much younger, both of which I remember enjoying quite a bit when they were new. And now, as a 38 year old adult I find myself kind of amazed at how fucked up they seem. First, I pulled up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to stream as a background movie while grading exams. I probably haven't seen it in 30 years. I distinctly remember my mom driving me and my sister to my dad's office to pick him up at work, after which we went straight to the theater to see it on its opening day. I must have been less than 8 years old, and I remember loving it. Try watching it now as an adult; tell me you can enjoy it even a little given 1) how totally and stunningly Kate Capshaw is able to act, even a little, and 2) how kind of jaw-droppingly racist it is. I mean. It's hard to expect sensitive treatment of non-Western cultures in action-adventure movies of the present (let alone decades ago) but…come on. There's a limit. I can overlook a sass-quipping Asian sidekick (that actor, it turns out, has had a very successful career in film in non-acting roles) or having a Non Specifically Ethnic Villain, but it's as if the people who made this movie took a lengthy checklist of stereotypes about Indians and Asians and made sure not to miss any of them. Christ.

Second – and this one is more recent, but hear me out – was having DMX "Where the Hood At" pop up on a shuffle. This track (from 2003) came out in my early adulthood, at the point where I should have known better, but if you know anything at all about rap you understand that you're not listening to DMX to listen to his lyrics. He has one of the smallest vocabularies in hip-hop. And that's OK, because, "in last place: DMX. But this shouldn't undermine an artist whose raw energy and honesty were the most memorable qualities of his music." OK. But try listening to "Where the Hood At." Holy balls the first verse of that song is the most brazenly homophobic thing in existence. Most people probably don't even know it's there, because the entire point of DMX (and that track) is to turn it up real loud and yell WHERE THE HOOD WHERE THE HOOD WHERE THE HOOD ATTTTT with a large group of similarly enthusiastic people. Even devoted fans probably don't know the rest of the words to the song. But….damn. You've been warned.

What are some of your favorite examples of shit you thought was awesome and now do a hard cringe at?

NPF: IT WAS A SIMPLER TIME

Posted in No Politics Friday on February 16th, 2017 by Ed

No Politics Friday has taken a beating since I moved to Chicago. It made my commute pretty exhausting and by the time I reach the front door on Thursday evenings I rarely have the energy to get a Friday post ready. That said, I'm working on carving out the time. Like this week, for example. This week I carved out the time.

On April 3, 1956 a woman who identified herself as Julia Chase sneaked away from a public tour of the White House. Having joined the tour group alone, without any companion who might notice her absence, nobody knew to look for her or sound an alarm. She made her presence known by spending nearly five hours sneaking around the building starting fires. To recap, then, a 53 year old woman spent half a day committing minor arson around the White House. Here is the front page of the next day's Chicago Tribune to prove it.

It's not just amazing that this happened. What really blows the modern mind is the response.

The woman…was taken into custody by government guards after the fifth fire and was sent to DC General Hospital for observation…Hagerty said the woman appeared to be 'not quite lucid.' She told police she did not know where she had come from…She explained that she 'had a lot of trash and wanted to burn it.'

The story continues to explain that she was released from the hospital into the custody of her family. And White House public visitation continued as normal for the day.

When older people refer to "simpler times" my first reaction is to gag on the sentimentality for a time period in which society was as staggeringly unequal and unjust as it was in the early post-War era. My second reaction is to remember this story and think, I bet it was pretty nice to live in something short of a state of constant fear that encourages law enforcement to overreact without restraint to anything perceived as a threat.

Shit. This got Political. Well, at least it's a Friday post. That's a start.

2016 GIN AND TACOS ANNUAL WHEEDLE SPECTACULAR

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 30th, 2016 by Ed

Reader,

I make an effort to limit this kind of request or reminder, because nobody wants to read a hundred pleas per year for the kinds of things a dude with a website is supposed to request. I appreciate your patience with the following paragraphs. I don't maintain this site for financial reward, and I hate creating the impression that you're expected to pay for the privilege. You certainly are not. Not even a little. But if you happen to feel the urge to be generous, here are some options.

1. If you haven't already, follow G&T on the ol' Facebox. There's more to it than a bunch of links to posts. It's a little heavier on humor and lighter on politics compared to this site. And I'm supposed to, like, try to boost traffic and build a base of readers and all that shit. So do it. Oh, as the previous post explains, I'm also temporarily banned because apparently it's OK to swear at strangers but not OK to take a screenshot of strangers swearing at you and post it. Makes sense!

Gin and Tacos | Promote Your Page Too

2. Speaking of, even though traffic has increased consistently over the years the site remains and will remain free of advertisements. If you have to ask why, you must be new. In lieu of advertisements you have to put up with the following few paragraphs once per year.

You can do nothing and continue to enjoy the site for free. This is called "free riding", and it's an entirely rational behavior. I have done (for thirteen years!!) and will continue to do this every day whether I make a million bucks, nothing at all, or I have to pay out of pocket for the privilege.

You can use this tip jar / donation link to contribute an amount of your choosing to defray the costs of this site. If you happen to be saddled with extra cash and feel like donating fifty bucks, I will be extremely grateful. However, if donating fifty cents is more in line with your current budget, my gratitude will be no less. If zero cents is your preferred option, that's A-OK too. Your tips and contributions are (obviously) voluntary but greatly appreciated. Either way I'm glad you're here and I appreciate you.





3. I finally committed properly to the Merch game in 2016. The "Everything is Terrible" t-shirts sold out, and in fact I had to cancel and refund about 75 orders. To say they were popular is an understatement, and early in 2017 I will be replenishing the supply. Because I did a second batch of Clurb Shirts, a few of those are still available if you're so inclined. On the $5-and-under end of the spectrum, there are very lovely Clurb bumper stickers and the classic G&T background image stickers for $3. Your positive response to the t-shirts was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me.

4. Post frequency on this blog fell a little in 2016. Part of that has to do with professional obligations and some changes I've had to make to my daily routine since moving to Chicago last year. I'm working on adjusting my schedule to better accommodate regular updates, because this is important to me. I enjoy it and it's the only part of my life that doesn't consist exclusively of people telling me I'm shit. So that's kinda nice.

Thanks. Big things are in store. Despite the fact that 2017 is going to be a terrible year, it also has the potential to be a good year if we don't all die first. Trust me that this post felt as awkward to write as it must have been to read.

NPF: DOUBLING DOWN, APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH

Posted in No Politics Friday, Skip this if you hate sports on December 3rd, 2016 by Ed

I haven't used the "Skip this" tag in over a year, so if it applies to you just bear with this post.

Gary Bettman has done a lot of good things for the NHL. When he became commissioner in 1993 the league was struggling to attract revenue beyond the gate (i.e., other than ticket sales) and it was a niche sport in the US on par with soccer or tennis. He thoroughly modernized the league, something even his biggest detractors admit, and in the process has probably been a net positive.

His Achilles Heel, though, has been the insistence on bringing hockey to the Sun Belt in the US. On paper it makes sense, although owners in 1993 were rightly incredulous. He had the foresight to point out how much of the US population would move to the Sun Belt, and his predictions came true. Unfortunately expanding to the Sun Belt has been a mixed bag at best because the fundamental premise – that Midwest / New England transplants to the South will want to see their favorite teams come to town for road games – is badly flawed. If the team can't build a local fan base because local fans simply don't care about hockey, the franchise is doomed. Atlanta lasted all of seven years. The Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes have been a ward of the league several times and don't attract flies to their expensive Glendale arena even though the team has been good recently, making the playoffs multiple times and even knocking off the 3-time Cup winning Blackhawks in 2011. Florida has been a basketcase / zombie franchise in a Miami market that could not care less about it for over 20 years now.

The two teams that succeeded in the Sun Belt – Tampa Bay and Nashville – did so because their ownership groups were intelligent enough not to rely on old fans coming to see their team on the road as a fan base. They both sustained huge short term losses by giving away tickets (especially to kids, knowing that the parents would have to come too) by the bushel. For every 10 free tickets, 1 person came and realized "Hey, I like this!" and they slowly built a local base. Having good teams helped a lot too (TB has won 1 Cup and runner-upped a second). So Bettman will, with some justification, point out that Sun Belt hockey can work.

And now he's doubling down on Las Vegas. Las Vegas is going to be a goddamn disaster. My suggestion on a popular hockey site for the team nickname (which ended up being the atrocious "Black Knights", as generic a name as you can find) was the Nordiques, because this team is going to be in Quebec in ten years or I'll eat my hat. Las Vegas has nothing that suggests it can ever support a pro sports team, and especially not hockey.

The obvious flaw in the Vegas market is that even the local population is transient. People, usually younger people, move to Vegas to work for a few years before burning out on the "Sin City" atmosphere and moving somewhere normal. It's not a place any sane person can take for very long. The other part of the population is retirees who are only going to care inasmuch as they can see the Bruins or Blackhawks come to town a couple times per year. It is beyond unlikely that a hockey team – assuming for a second that anyone in the desert even is predisposed to care about hockey – is going to build a strong local following in a place where the population is constantly churning.

They'll sell out in year one for the novelty factor – At the very least the league will strong arm casinos into gobbling up season tickets to give away for free – and I'm guessing that by the end of year two there will be more people on the ice than in the seats. Even if the team is good, which isn't likely given the expansion draft rules adopted last summer, this has all the makings of a non-starter.

Winnipeg's new team, the ex-Atlanta Thrashers, proves that when in doubt, NHL teams belong in Canada. Statistical analysis suggests that even though it is the 4th largest city in the US, Houston (pop. 6,500,000) has fewer people who like hockey enough to buy tickets than Saskatoon (pop. 260,000). Insiders were floored that Quebec City, with its billionaire ownership group willing to self-fund an arena and where the Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche) are still missed, was not awarded an expansion team in favor of Vegas. Something tells me that they'll be getting their team soon enough. Despite the US/Canadian exchange rate issue, which Bettman blamed for the QC group's rejection, can't override the basic fact that people in Quebec will go to the games and nobody in Vegas will.

The worst outcome will be Bettman choosing to die on the hill of a Vegas franchise as he has stubbornly refused all attempts to relocate Phoenix or Florida despite them both being clear failures and money losers in their current markets. Bettman's getting old and he could decide to dig in his heels. But if 10% of the league's teams – 3 of 30 – are money losing Bettman pet projects, I think the owners are likely to rebel. So it's time for Hamilton and Quebec City to make sure that the local owners' groups and arena plans are ready to roll because this Vegas adventure is likely to be as short lived as it is poorly thought out.

NPF: FORGET-ME-NOT

Posted in No Politics Friday on November 4th, 2016 by Ed

So this is sports, but it's not sports.

It has been very interesting from an armchair sociological perspective to watch the nation (and certainly the city of Chicago) lose its marbles over the World Series win by the long-suffering Cubs. At 108 years, their championship drought certainly was unprecedentedly long. That's not interesting outside of a sports context. But the fact that national media outlets devoted exclusively to covering sports apparently forgot that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series just 11 years ago is.

I'm somewhat biased here, as a Sox fan. I was at Game 2 of that World Series. But the distinction between Cubs and White Sox fans in Chicago is something we can describe without being affected by our own preferences. The Cubs are the North Side. The Sox, the South Side. The North Side is wealthier, whiter, younger, and where people go to have a good time. The big music venues, the fancy restaurants, the theaters…all north of the loop for the most part. The South Side is not glamorous. It is traditionally less wealthy, not a place people associate with having a night on the town, and heavily composed of black, Hispanic, Irish, Polish, and other identifiably "ethnic" populations. The North Side is residential and cosmopolitan. The South Side is industrial and without frills.

In 2005, the year the White Sox won the Series, it was interesting to watch how little anyone outside of the South Side gave a crap, here or nationally. The previous year, the Boston Red Sox won their first series since 1918 and everyone in the national media treated it like the second coming. Yet when the White Sox were going for their first win since 1917 – an even longer drought – nobody seemed to care. That they played the equally anonymous (but excellent) Houston Astros probably didn't help. And now ten years later everyone is going crazy for the Cubs and their drought again. Hmm.

The excuses for people hopping on the Cubs bandwagon – everyone loves an underdog, etc. – fall flat. It's clear that *some* underdogs and *some* droughts are worthy of our collective sympathy. As long as the team is one for whom being a supporter is sufficiently cosmopolitan and has sufficient social cachet attached to being a fan, then everyone cares. If your fan base is 25% native Spanish speakers and your stadium is located across the highway from what was once America's most notorious public housing project, then nobody even notices let alone cares.

I don't mean to read too much into reactions to a sporting event, and I have no doubt personally that the Cubs fans outnumber Sox fans in Chicagoland. Yet the White Sox victory parade in 2005 was attended by 3 million people, a staggering number that I'm sure today's Cubs parade will match. I can't help but feel that which 3 million people were excited about the White Sox is a significant part of the explanation for why their World Series championship inspired so little interest compared to what happened for the Cubs and Red Sox.

CODA: And it was great baseball, too. The White Sox went 11-1 in the playoffs, won a 15 inning marathon in Game 3 of the World Series (the kind of game that legends are made of), and won in the 9th inning of Game 4 on two plays by Juan Uribe that, had Derek Jeter made them, would have been the subject of feature films.

NPF: HAMILTON

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 23rd, 2016 by Ed

More than a year into its rise as a Cultural Phenomenon, I knew almost nothing about "Hamilton." I do not like musicals in general – there's nothing wrong with them, I'm simply not the intended audience for it given the things I like – so not only did I not make an effort to see it but I remained almost totally ignorant of it. I knew it involved rap and Aaron Burr and a guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda who received a Macarthur Grant despite the fact that he already earned like a billion dollars off the musical. Other than that, I was a blank slate when an old friend texted me that an extra ticket was available for a group outing among her friends. Though somewhat worried about the ticket cost (I'd heard rumors, dark rumors) I accepted. It didn't seem likely to hurt me to put on some decent looking clothes and hang out with other adults for a while on a Sunday.

I would not necessarily recommend that anyone run out and pay the borderline crazy prices being sought for second hand tickets, but I will say that I have a very, very hard time believing that anyone who saw this performance could fail to enjoy it. I looked hard for reasons not to like it, and I found none. There are some minor nits to pick with the production, like the fact that the cartoon Pepe le Pew French accent makes Lafayette totally unintelligible, and with the accuracy of the way that some people are portrayed. Thomas Jefferson's role, as many critics have noted, is particularly odd but I also understand that this is a musical, intended to entertain, and that some character would have to serve as the comic relief and secondary antagonist. The spirit of the events retold here is accurate, and obviously the writer was not trying to reproduce conversations verbatim (it turns out the people involved did very little rapping in 1800). Overall, I strongly suspect that a viewer who could not enjoy a live performance of this musical is not capable of enjoying much of anything.

This is so Ed, but I have to be honest about something: I liked it slightly less when, later that evening, I did a little reading about Mr. Miranda. There's nothing deficient about his character or his motives. He obviously created something that strikes a chord with audiences right now and deserves to be rewarded handsomely for it. What disappointed me slightly – remember, I consume no theater or musicals at all – was that he was already successful when he wrote this. As it had been told to me, I was under the impression that this was a crazy idea carried out by an eccentric genius, a man devoted entirely to an idea so insane that one can only admire the fact that he stuck it through to completion. "It's going to be about Alexander Hamilton, but lots of rapping" is not a description that would produce many encouraging responses.

However, Miranda had already starred in a play called In the Heights and had been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance. Even I know that means he was already well established in the world of Broadway, enough so that he could take a relatively crazy idea and receive full benefit of doubt. No matter how bad the idea looked on paper, you can imagine the money people saying "Well, what the hell. His last one was a hit" and putting it on anyway. I'm not sure why, but that diminished it for me just a bit. It didn't change the performance, obviously, but it took a little bit of the shine off the backstory. I guess I liked the idea of some guy living dollar to dollar sitting in his apartment scribbling out a script and telling himself, "You'll see! It will be a hit, I'm telling you! Just you watch and see!" Everyone likes a good Starving Artist Makes It story, I guess.

Lastly, I think one of the reasons many people do not like musicals is that it's hard to do a musical really well, and the difference between a musical done really well and one that is mediocre or worse is stark. There are only a small number of performers with enough talent to really pull something as conceptually weird as Hamilton off. I'm sure this will eventually spawn several touring versions, which may or may not be just as good, but I'm glad I saw it with the A+ cast while I had the chance. I think it would be hard to pull off with anything less than the best performers.

So for the first and last time that's my take on a musical. Ten stars, would see again, call the babysitter, fun for the whole family.

NPF: THE BALLAD OF SMILEY RATLIFF

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 7th, 2016 by Ed

Because my work schedule involves me working a lot and sleeping little on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before a 3-4 hour drive home in traffic on Thursday evening, I've really been dropping the ball on NPF lately. Let's just say I'm not filled with enthusiasm for writing or doing much of anything else when I walk through the door at 9:00 and flop on the couch. I'm going to try to make it all up to you with the power of this one story.

The British Empire once proudly boasted of covering more of the planet than any in history. While it remains technically true today that "the sun never sets" on said Empire, it has declined to a very tiny sliver of what it used to be. Yes, the UK still has colonial possessions of various kinds. However, the list is not terribly impressive. In the three decades after the conclusion of WWII nearly every part of the Empire that stood a passing chance of surviving on its own economically and militarily declared independence, and the last real part of the Empire of any significance – Hong Kong – returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. What remains, with the arguable exception of Bermuda, is a scattered list of barely populated islands held due to military significance (Diego Garcia, Ascension Island) or because nobody wants them (Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha, etc). The Empire as it remains is less a proud possession and more of a burden. You get the distinct impression that were there any way to talk Saint Helena into declaring independence or perhaps to find another country willing to take it the Brits would hand it over with pleasure.

The saddest part of the Empire, though, is Pitcairn Island. Home to less than 50 people today, Pitcairn is known (if at all) as the place where Fletcher Christian and the mutineers from the "Mutiny on the Bounty" incident took refuge. The story has been made into books, films, and other media countless times, so at least Britons are familiar with it. Pitcairn is one of the most isolated populated places in the world, and its population of heavily inbred castoffs has only garnered the interest of the modern world in 2004 when women who escaped the island brought suits in UK courts claiming (accurately, as it turned out) that the island's primary social activity for decades had been organized rape. The UK is at present patiently waiting for the remaining islanders – no women of child bearing age remain to grow the population – to die out so they can declare it uninhabited and be done with administering it once and for all.

So. Let's time travel to a different but equally sad place: Appalachia in the early 1980s. It's time to meet a man named Smiley Ratliff.

Mr. Ratliff was a cartoon character, a multimillionaire coal baron right out of Central Casting. He was dumb, crude, uneducated, weird, profane, and somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society (which he actively supported) – a hybrid of JR Ewing from Dallas and Jed Clampett. Briefly, Mr. Ratliff had a short list of things he hated with a passion bordering on obsession: Communists, psychoanalysis, paying taxes, and journalists were the primary villains in his world. The things he loved included privacy, drinking, his dozen mistresses, and watching old cowboy movies. So, to make a long story short, Smiley decided in the late 70s that what he really needed was to find a remote island somewhere on the globe, buy it, rebuild his enormous mansion there, and be left alone for all eternity.

That is how, one day in 1982, a no doubt bemused British civil servant responded haughtily to a request to purchase Henderson Island – an unpopulated rock off Pitcairn – for the purpose of building an airstrip, leveling everything else, and importing the entire life of one Mr. Arthur "Smiley" Ratliff there. Parts of the Empire are not for sale, "SIR," you can imagine him saying. Undeterred, Ratliff used his wealth and political connections to press the matter. Eventually it occurred to someone in Whitehall that, matters of honor and pride aside, the British do not actually want this goddamn place anymore. And – though it later attempted to deny it – that is how the British ended up very nearly accepting his generous offer of $3 million cash, an airstrip on Henderson with a ferry boat to allow its use by Pitcairners (who were and are otherwise without an air link to the outside world) and medical and telecommunications facilities for Pitcairn and Henderson.

The man was crude and uneducated, but he knew how to do business apparently. The UK government began to realize that it couldn't generate a good enough excuse NOT to accept such an offer. Pitcairn was a money pit and its people a national embarrassment. Here was a man willing to essentially take over the burden of supporting the place in exchange for being allowed to do whatever he wanted on an empty fragment of land near it. Alas, those proud defenders of Empire and British pride found salvation in the World Wildlife Fund, which pointed out that Mr. Ratliff's plan would devastate the pristine habitat of dozens of rare flora and fauna. Some are found nowhere else on Earth. Rather than further antagonize the environmentalists already vocally criticizing the UK government in the early 1980s, Whitehall informed ol' Smiley with regret that it must decline his very nice offer.

Ratliff died in 2007, never having found a government to sell him an island but not for lack of trying. And that's the story of how the British almost sold part of the Empire populated by inbred hillbillies to a different, very wealthy hillbilly so that he might turn it into some kind of Xanadu / Fortress of Solitude.

It's good to be back, Fridays.

CLURB GEAR

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 5th, 2016 by Ed

At long last, you can finally show the world how important regular visits to The Clurb are in your life. If you are not familiar with The Clurb you must not be following Gin and Tacos on Facebook, which is your loss. Due to popular demand I'm offering the following Swag (as the kids probably no longer say) featuring a campaign-inspired design inviting everyone to follow you to The Clurb.

These stylish t-shirts show the world that you're on your way to The Clurb AND on the reverse side (not pictured) invites said world to "Dance Up On Me." Gin and Tacos is not responsible for any Dancing Up On that occurs as a result of these cotton-poly blend Canvas brand t-shirts screenprinted (no cheap transfers) in vibrant color in Ohio, USA by Screenin' Fever. Unisex / Men's shirts in athletic/heather gray are $20 plus a small shipping fee and, since women earn 79% of a man's salary for the same work in this country, Women's fit V-Neck shirts (also by Canvas in heather gray) are $17. Click for Canvas sizing guides for unisex and women's v-neck shirts. Click the image to order, or here to see a slightly larger version of the shirt. (Note: as of the date of this post this is a PRE-SALE, since I have no idea what sizes and quantity are in demand. Shirts will arrive to you no later than Oct. 30)




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BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE. We have these lovely bumper stickers in UV-resistant vinyl from the fine folks at Sticker Robot. 9" x 2". Guaranteed to get you followed by strangers intrigued by the mysteries of The Clurb. $4.50 (shipping included in the US, with a $2 surcharge for non-US shipping). Slap one on your car, your guitar case, your genitals, or literally anywhere solid. Here's a full sized image, or click the sticker below to purchase via PayPal.


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Can you do any less than order one now? Finally you'll have a garment suitable to be married in!