Here’s a Cocktail. Let’s Have a Little Chat.

Honeysuckle RoseThe chef at the restaurant where I dally got a hold of a grip of honeysuckle… what? Honeysuckle honey? You get a drop at best per blossom so even a teaspoon represents the labor of hundreds of pulled and milked flowers.

The container before me is mostly simple sugar with maybe a tenth (if that) of honeysuckle nectar, but it’s representative of enormous effort. I’m reminded of Martin Amis in the opening of his Stalin book, Koba the Dread. It’s not a preface, as he tucks it into Part 1: The Collapse of Human Value. He calls it a preparatory, which is chillingly apt.

From Amis:

“Here is the second sentence of Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and The Terror-Famine:

We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book.

That sentence represents 3,040 lives. This book is 411 pages long.”

I didn’t intend to go this direction. Mine was a wish to talk about saying stupid things and why you should be able to, and throw a cocktail at you in the meantime, but I pulled this book off the shelf because I was in mind of how many can be represented by so few. I was thinking honeysuckle product to individual honeysuckle and it reminded me of the staggering Amis comparison.

One further since I’ve already cast a pall on the room:

“In these pages, guileless prepositions like at and to each represent the murder of six or seven large families. There is only one book on this subject: Conquest’s. It is, I repeat, 411 pages long.”

If you get through the preparatory without shedding a tear I salute you. I can’t do it.

Sorry about that.

You look like you could use a pick-me-up.

As of Yet Unnamed Cocktail That Will Probably Be Called Honeysuckle Rose

  • Tequila
  • honeysuckle simple syrup that no one will be able to get so just use simple syrup
  • 2 maraschino cherries, muddled
  • soda water
  • lime wedge
  • lots of cracked black pepper

Put all that stuff in the same glass. Enjoy.

Now, what I wanted to chat about.

Michelle Wolfe ticked a whole lot of people off with her White House Correspondent’s Dinner routine.

Politico got the vapors. They said via interwebs that “Being mean isn’t funny. It’s mean.” CNN’s Chris Cillizza chimed in: “Bullying is bullying. And it’s wrong.”

I’m not on board. Fat jokes can be funny. Jokes about how dumb someone is can be funny. Lisa Lampanelli is not my favorite, but she bills herself as “The Queen of Mean” and packs houses regularly. Mean is kinda comedy gold.

I watched the first four minutes of Wolfe’s nineteen minute routine. It was inappropriate and out of place, but there were some good lines and she has timing. That I’m not overly impressed should be obvious by the fact that I only watched the first four minutes, but I’ve not been convinced that she’s the devil.

One line I read about made me giggle in particular. To paraphrase within quotes that make it look verbatim but actually isn’t unless I dumb luck got it right, “I’m not going to mention Putin or Russia because there are a lot of liberal journalists here and I don’t want to know what you look like when you orgasm.” That’s funny.

There’s a good argument to ending (or just ignoring) the stupid event known as the White House Correspondents Dinner. It’s a hopelessly partisan tradition masquerading as a non-biased banquette where politics are shed in the hope of poking fun at those in power. So rightly, when Republicans are in power the speakers make fun of Republicans and when Democrats are in power the speakers make fun of… well they still make fun of Republicans. Libertarian-leaning folks like me wonder why Republicans attend at all. Wolfe apparently did a number on Press Secretary Sanders who was in the audience that was particularly cruel. That bit seems to have backfired.

But that has nothing to do with what is comedy.

There’s a terrific movie called Can We Take a Joke that features comedian after comedian ruing current attitudes toward their craft. Chiefly, they take issue with those who claim that comedy should not “offend.”

Some out there really cherish the word “offensive.” They wrestle it to the ground and kiss it good and hard. It’s the heckler’s veto with social justice credentials.  This infuriating argument has got the typical quiver stocked with a litany of “How dare you!” and “Marginalized!” not to mention a few shouts of “Punching Down!” thrown in for good measure.

It’s nothing more than an authoritarian attempt to tell people what to do by narrowing discourse to that which is acceptable to the most sensitive among us.

Have another Honeysuckle Rose.

One of the best books I’ve ever read is The Kindly Inquisitors by Jonathan Raush. Skip the old copy that’s been sitting in the library since the early nineties and buy the latest edition with an intro by George Will and an extra chapter from Raush at the end. He highlights the absurdity of limiting access to information because the airing of ideas may make others uncomfortable.

What he doesn’t touch on as much as I’d like – and I still say his book is invaluable despite the omission – is the condescension embedded in most censors arguments. Once you spot one you can’t miss them in other arguments toward the same.

“But some people might think…” is a classic opening of the genre. You get a lot of “But not everyone sees it like we do.” or “People might really believe…” about ideas deemed beyond the pale.

The idea is that while the censor is immune, everyone not of the right clique, is but an ear length of a David Duke speech from donning a hood and firing up a cross. It’s simultaneously a pat on your own back and a swipe at “others” to say these things.

The “I’m all for free speech but…” crowd is completely blind to the fact that the “but” invalidates everything that came before it. We can either say what we want or we are choosing from a list of approved topics and opinions. There’s no middle way.

That’s about the end of my rant. I’m sympathetic to those who think a stupid magazine writer’s comment defining what can and cannot be comedy shouldn’t have ticked me off like it did, but it’s a brick in the wall thing. Every time someone says “You can’t.” they have to be met with a chorus of “The hell I can’t.” A middle finger might be in order as well.

Again, Wolfe was inappropriate and out of place, but she was funny, at least in spates. To those who think you can’t be mean and funny at the same time, shut up you bunch of fatties.

Hope you enjoyed the cocktail.

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