The guilty pleasures of Velveeta

I was a child during the 1970s. In those days before concerns about juvenile diabetes and child obesity, the mass-marketing of junk food was in full swing. And children were fair game for the marketers.

Velveeta is to cheese what SPAM is to meat. It is a sort-of cheese, but not really cheese. Velveeta is a “processed cheese product”, which the internet defines as “a product made from cheese mixed with an emulsifying agent”. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

The Kraft company promoted Velveeta heavily throughout my childhood. In the case of our household, at least, the marketing worked. Velveeta was always in our refrigerator during the 1970s.

My mom made macaroni and cheese with it. Velveeta was also tasty by itself. A little slice of Velveeta could hold you over until dinner, most of the time. And it did taste good, by the standards of 1970s mass-market, prepackaged food.

Velveeta was invented in New York in 1918. This 1966 ad tells us that “Dutch children thrive on it”; but I’m inclined to doubt that children in the Netherlands ever consumed much Velveeta. I’m also inclined to doubt that Dutch adolescent girls wore traditional kraplaps and lace bonnets as recently as 1966.

No one claims that Velveeta is a weight-loss food, but there is some debate over just how bad it is for you. It contains an equal amount of fat (4g) and protein (4g) per 70-calorie serving.


A rainy, controversial Easter

Today is Easter Sunday. A rainy day here in the Cincinnati area.

I didn’t want to get into any controversies today. Easter is a Christian holiday, and you are more or less free to observe it or ignore it, as is your preference.

Easter always falls on a Sunday, so we don’t have to fret about whether or not businesses are open or closed. Most of the grocery stores are open today. My gym is closed.

But controversy came my way. One of my Facebook friends had to tell me that President Biden declared Easter to be “Transgender Visibility Day”.

That isn’t one hundred percent accurate. Transgender Day of Visibility has actually been around since 2009. It has always been observed on March 31. This year it happened to coincide with Easter, which falls on different dates throughout March and April.

Transgender Day of Visibility is a day for all transgender individuals to wear reflective gear when out and about. Just kidding! Not that kind of visibility. You know what kind of visibility I’m talking about.

President Biden has made transgenderism one of the salient characteristics of his administration. He has elevated numerous transgender individuals to senior posts, including Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Rachel Levine.

She was Dr. Richard Levine not so many years ago, and she is the father of two children. Yes, that’s the logic of the world we’re currently living in.

At the same time, the Biden administration banned religious symbols from any eggs submitted for the annual White House Easter egg contest.

That means no crucifixes, no stars of David, no Islamic crescents, even. Are angels okay? I would guess not.

Never mind that Easter is a specifically religious, specifically Christian holiday.

To put this in the contest of the LGBTQ theme, that would be like banning the rainbow flag during Pride Month. If you’re going to ban the associated symbols, why even bother with the holiday?

But the Biden administration isn’t about to ban the rainbow flag. Throughout Pride Month, the rainbow flag flies not only inside the White House, but in US embassies throughout the world.

And herein lies the backlash to Biden’s very public Transgender Day of Visibility commemoration. Americans aren’t afraid of gender fluidity. We aren’t hostile to it. We had Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s, and Boy George in the early 1980s, for goodness sake.

What we are sick of is an administration that treats religion as something that is barely tolerable, while demanding that we salute the flag of alternative sexuality at every turn. There’s an imbalance here, at the very least.


The American “heritage” obsession

The American obsession with “heritage” is long documented. And, as suggested in the video below, our preoccupation with heritage sometimes veers into the cringeworthy.

This isn’t just something for the old folks, by the way. Generation Z is not exempt. On the contrary: Gen Z has been raised to have an obsession with identity politics. Gen Z can be the cringiest of all in this regard.

Last summer I met a woman in her twenties who described herself as “Latvian”. She was serious about this. She broadcasted her Latvian heritage on her social media profiles.

Her last name was…clearly of Irish origin.

I asked her if she spoke Latvian. No, of course she didn’t. (I don’t judge her too harshly for this. Latvian is a notoriously difficult language, and it’s spoken by only around 1.5 million people.)

But she was Latvian on her mother’s side, she insisted.

Oh. Was her mother from Latvia, then?

No. Her mother was from Ohio. Not Latvia.

Her grandmother, perhaps?

Well, no, actually.


Her great-grandmother, who had been a World War II refugee, was from Latvia.

The great-grandmother, born in the early 1900s, died before this twentysomething “Latvian-American” was born.

But the twentysomething was “Latvian”, nonetheless.

By the way, my great-great-grandmother came from County Cork, Ireland. According to the extremely loose standards outlined above, that would qualify me as a genuine Hibernian.

But…not so fast. Like everyone else, I have sixteen great-great-grandparents. Only four of them came from Ireland, or were born to first-generation Irish immigrant parents. The rest were from Scotland, England, and various points in Continental Europe.

I don’t even get to be a proper Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day. To begin with, I’m a teetotaler. What kind of an Irishman doesn’t drink?

Also, I’ve never been to Ireland.

No disrespect to my sainted Irish great-great-grandmother intended, but I’m simply not Irish. I might wish I were, it might give me an air of mystery if I said I was…but I’m not. 

Instead, I’m that most unromantic and common thing of all: a typical American mongrel.


Of victims and victimless crimes

A bit of excitement in my neck of the woods this past week. My local law enforcement agency carried out a raid on the Sunny Spa, a nearby massage parlor.

Four women, all Chinese nationals, were charged—not with espionage—but for the heinous crime of engaging in sex acts for money. The nefarious “happy ending”. Right under the noses of respectable citizens.

No, I never visited the spa and I never intended to. But it was located at an intersection I pass through more or less daily. I could not help noticing it.

I’m all for law and order, but I’m also for the state minding its own business when there are no victims. A victimless crime is no crime at all, properly speaking.

A radical statement, perhaps. But who were the victims here? No children or animals were involved. The youngest of the lucre-seeking women was 42 years old. We can assume that all of the women’s male customers were over the age of 21, and likely older than the women.

So this was basically a mobilization of state resources to stamp out consensual sex acts between middle-aged adults. The women could have done whatever they did for free, and no crime would have been committed at all. How does this make sense?

I’m not here to beat the drums for the World’s Oldest Profession. In an ideal world, it would probably not exist. But in the big scheme of things, paid sex acts among emancipated adults over forty seem like pretty small potatoes.

I am concerned not only with the injustice, but also with the waste. This year my property taxes rose by a whopping 20 percent, and I was not alone. Property tax increases of 35 percent were not uncommon in the area.

My county has now been saved from the ever-present threat of Chinese handjobs, but to what avail? Don’t the police, and the public prosecutors, have anything better to do with the money they extort from us?


AI narration: an experiment

One of the dominant players in the AI audiobook narration field recently offered access to its platform at a deep discount.

As an author, it behooves me to keep up with such things, even when I have my doubts. I have long been skeptical of the much-ballyhooed AI panacea. But I thought I should try AI narration before I completely wrote it off.

And like I said: the company was offering a deep discount.

I gave the whiz-bang AI narration platform a try. It does indeed output a narration from text. 

That narration is far from perfect. Not something that I would package as a for-sale audiobook…not at this point.

But I might use it for some short stories for YouTube and my website.

More on this later…


Classical music in small doses 

Amadeus, the biographical drama about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the mid-1980s. Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, and Elizabeth Berridge, Amadeus brought the famed 18th-century composer and his times to life.

Amadeus remains one of my favorite movies of all time. But when I saw it for the first time, as a teenager in the 1980s, I was inspired: I had a sudden desire to learn more about classical music, or at least about Mozart.

This was more than a little out of character for me at the time. As a teenager, my musical tastes ran the gamut from Journey to Iron Maiden, usually settling on Rush and Def Leppard.

So I read a Mozart biography. I was already an avid reader, after all. Then it came time to listen to the actual music. That’s when my inspiration fell flat.

I found that Mozart the man was a lot more interesting than his music. At least to my then 17-year-old ears. Nothing would dethrone rock music, with its more accessible themes and pounding rhythms.

Almost 40 years later, I still prefer rock music. In fact, I still mostly prefer the rock music I listened to in the 1980s.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1781 portrait
**View Mozart biographies on Amazon**

Recently, however, I took another dive into classical music.

Classical music, like popular, contemporary music, is a mixed bag. Some of it is turgid and simply too dense for modern ears. Some pieces, though, are well worth listening to, even if they were composed in another era.

Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is one such piece. For the longest time, I mistakenly assumed that this arrangement was written for the 1986 Vietnam War movie, Platoon, in which it is prominently figured.

I was wrong about that. “Adagio for Strings” was composed in 1938, long before either Platoon or the Vietnam War.

“Adagio for Strings” is practically dripping with pathos. It is the perfect song to listen to when you are coping with sadness or tragedy. This music simultaneously amplifies your grief and gives it catharsis. You feel both better and worse after listening.

“Adagio for Strings” was broadcast over the radio in the USA upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. It was played at the funeral of Albert Einstein ten years later. The composition was one of JFK’s favorites; and it was played at his funeral, too, in 1963.

Most of the time, though, you’ll be in the mood for something more uplifting. That will mean digging into the oeuvre of one or more of the classical composers.

While the best-known composers (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc.) all have their merits, I am going to steer you toward Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) instead.

Dvorak was born almost a century after Mozart and Beethoven, and longer than that after Bach. To my philistine ear, Dvorak’s music sounds more modern, while still falling within the realm of the classical.

Antonin Dvorak

I would recommend starting with Symphony Number 9, Aus der Neuen Welt (“From the New World”). This is arguably Dvorak’s most accessible work, and my personal favorite at present. Symphony Number 9 contains a lot of moods. It takes you up and down, and round again.

This is not the story of an older adult turning away from the pop culture of his youth for more sophisticated fare. Far from it. Dvorak is not going to replace Def Leppard on my personal playlist. Bach and Mozart have not supplanted Rush and AC/DC. 

But time has made me more musically open-minded. Almost 40 years after I was inspired by the movie Amadeus, I have, at long last, developed a genuine appreciation for classical music.

But that is a qualified appreciation, for an art form that I still prefer in measured doses.


Southern Ohio’s Dead Man’s Curve

Not far from where I live, there is a stretch of Ohio State Route 125 that has been dubbed Dead Man’s Curve

The spot is just a few miles from my house, in fact. I’ve been by there many times.

According to the urban legend, if you drive this section of rural highway a little after 1 a.m., you might see the faceless hitchhiker. From a distance, this male figure may look relatively normal. Once you get close, though, you’ll see that he has no face.

Sometimes the hitchhiker isn’t content to stand there by the side of the road and watch you. There have been reports of the phantom actually attacking cars.

Creepy, right?

Yeah, I think so, too….

Dead Man’s Curve on Ohio State Route 125 has a long and macabre history. Route 125 is the main road that connects the suburbs and small towns east of Cincinnati with the city. But much of the road (including Dead Man’s Curve) was originally part of the Ohio Turnpike, which was built in 1831. (Andrew Jackson was president in 1831, just to put that date in perspective.)

That section of the Ohio Turnpike was the scene of many accidents (some of them fatal), even in the horse-and-buggy days. The downward sloping curve became particularly treacherous when rain turned the road to mud. Horses and carriages would sometimes loose their footing, sending them over the adjacent hillside.

In the twentieth century, the Ohio Turnpike was paved and reconfigured into State Route 125. In 1968 the road was expanded into four lanes. 

As part of the expansion, the spot known as Dead Man’s Curve was leveled and straightened. (As a result, the curve doesn’t look so daunting today…unless you know its history.) This was supposed to be the end of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

But it wasn’t.

In 1969, there was a horrible accident at the spot. The driver of a green Roadrunner—traveling at a speed of 100 mph—slammed into an Impala carrying five teenagers. There was only one survivor of the tragic accident.

Shortly after that, witnesses began to report sightings of the faceless hitchhiker during the wee hours. (The hitchhiker is said to be most active during the twenty-minutes between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m.) There have also been reports of a ghostly green Roadrunner that will chase drivers late at night. 

Oh, and Dead Man’s Curve remains deadly, despite the leveling and straightening done in 1968. In the five decades since the accident involving the Roadrunner and the Impala, around seventy people have been killed there.

Is there any truth to the legend of Dead Man’s Curve?

I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that I’ve heard many eyewitness accounts from local residents who claim to have seen the hitchhiker. (Keep in mind, I live very close to Dead Man’s Curve, and it’s a local topic of discussion and speculation.) Almost none of these eyewitnesses have struck me as mentally imbalanced or deceitful.

I know what your last question is going to be: Have I ever driven Dead Man’s Curve between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m. myself?

Uh, no. But perhaps I’ll get around to it someday, and I’ll let you know in a subsequent blog post!


Hey!…While you’re here: I wrote a novel about a haunted road in Ohio. It’s called Eleven Miles of Night. You can start reading the book for FREE here on my website, or check out the reviews on Amazon.

You can also start reading my other two novels of the supernatural in Southern Ohio: Revolutionary Ghosts and 12 Hours of Halloween. 

Check out my FREE short stories, too….many of them have macabre elements.

And stop back soon! I add content to this website every day!

A crime novel that came from a casino visit

One day in the early spring of 2018 I traveled to a rural part of southern Indiana to attend to some family matters. (I live in Ohio, but I’m half Hoosier. My dad grew up in nearby Lawrenceburg.)

I spent most of that day in Switzerland County. You’ve probably never been there. Switzerland County, Indiana looks nothing like Switzerland. In early spring, that part of Indiana, along the Ohio River, can look a little bleak. 

(Portions of the 1988 Molly Ringwald/Andrew McCarthy movie, Fresh Horses, were filmed in Switzerland County. McCarthy said of the area, “There’s the whole starkness up there; it helped the mood of the movie.” )

Southern, rural Indiana is home to several large casinos. I ordinarily have no interest in gambling venues. I ate lunch at the nearby Belterra Casino that day, though, because…there weren’t many other dining options in the vicinity.

My visit to the casino got me thinking: What if a young couple in debt visited the casino in a make-or-break effort to get ahead financially? What if they were lured there by a special offer? $300 worth of ‘free’ gaming chips?

What if their beginner’s foray into gambling went horribly wrong, and they fell further in the hole? Then suppose that a narcotics kingpin offers them an alternative plan…another way to get ahead. 

All they have to do is run an errand for him. What could possibly go wrong?

That’s the premise behind my 2020 casino novel, Venetian Springs. Set in a fictional version of Belterra Casino, Venetian Springs is a story of two down-on-their-luck high school teachers who succumb to the lure of easy money. They soon discover that easy money doesn’t exist. But this is a lesson that may cost them both their lives.

Watch the Venetian Springs trailer below.

View Venetian Springs on Amazon.

Read the first 8 chapters of Venetian Springs here on Edward Trimnell Books.

The ideology behind ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

The other day, a reader asked me what I thought of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005).

Yes, I read the book; and I saw the 2011 movie starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Despite the name, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is mostly the story of a polyamorous middle-age journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who tracks down Nazis with the occasional help of Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous young lady with the dragon tattoo.

Blomkvist is a stand-in for the novel’s author. Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a left-of-center Swedish journalist. Larsson flirted with the radical leftist movements of the 1960s at a very young age. He declared himself a Marxist at the age of 14.

To his credit, Larsson later disavowed outright Marxism. He longed, though, to wage a righteous battle against European Nazism. Never mind that most authentic European Nazis were in nursing homes and graveyards by the time he reached full adulthood.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo suggests a preoccupation with rightwing conspiracies. Not that there’s much of a risk in Larsson’s native land. Sweden, on the contrary, is one of the most “woke” countries on earth. The Swedes pioneered the use of the self-consciously “gender neutral” pronoun half a decade before such absurdities reached the English-speaking world.

There are also the cartoonish, over-the-top depictions of misogyny in the book and the movie. The original title of the novel was, Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men Who Hate Women”).

Was Larsson kidding? No, he wasn’t. Even in Sweden, though, there was enough common sense in commercial publishing to avoid saddling a book with an ideological title like that.

If you read the book and/or watched the movie, you’ll find that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is fantasy fulfillment for its author. Mikael Blomkvist saves Lisbeth Sanders from the bad guys. He doesn’t really want to sleep with his much younger heroine. (According to the book, Blomkvist has always preferred middle-age women to “young girls” in their twenties.) But the twenty-something Salander comes on to him. So how can he say no?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, even though I saw it for what it was: fantasy fulfillment for a politically left-leaning journalist who had entered midlife crisis territory.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a bad novel, despite it’s flaws. By all means read and enjoy it. Just don’t take it literally; and realize that the book’s author, Stieg Larsson, had multiple axes to grind when he sat down at the keyboard.


**View THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO on Amazon (quick link)**

Drea de Matteo, and the mutually demeaning nature of OnlyFans

Men are in supply and women are in demand. That is the basic economic reality behind all forms of what is now euphemistically called “sex work”.

Most women would rather not sell sexual favors for money, as this is a lowest-common-denominator form of employment. 

Most men would rather not pay for sexual favors. The man who purchases sex has, by the very act of his transaction, failed in the social marketplace.

Therefore—and understandably—few people who participate in sex work, either as sellers or buyers, are eager to talk about it. But some forms of sex work are more demeaning than others, for both sides.

OnlyFans is, without a doubt, the most demeaning form of sex work, for both the women who are on the site, as well as for the slavering male “simps” who patronize them.

Consider the alternative. A woman who turns to high-end escorting for a time can make a lot of money per transaction. Afterward, there is no tangible evidence that she was ever engaged in the trade to begin with. I suspect that all over America, there are happily married wives and mothers who briefly worked as call girls, with no one being the wiser today.

The male patrons of escorts, on the other hand, at least get something for their money. Yes, a man who buys sex is acknowledging market failure. But he is, at least, getting laid, if I may be blunt.

But then there’s OnlyFans. A woman who is on OnlyFans must submit to placing scores of revealing images of herself online, where they can be downloaded and stored by thousands of men, who might then distribute them elsewhere throughout the Internet.

And images—unlike in-person sexual encounters—have an infinite lifespan. A man can’t prove that he slept with a particular woman, on a particular date, in 2006 or 2016. But a trove of pornographic images is a privacy-destroying landmine that is beyond anyone’s plausible denial.

And for what compensation? In the case of OnlyFans, the price of admission might be as low as $15, for ongoing revealing images of a well-known celebrity. That’s what Drea de Matteo, the latest famous content provider on OnlyFans, will be charging, according to news reports.

Drea de Matteo portrayed Adriana La Cerva for six seasons on The Sopranos, which ran on HBO from 1999 to 2007. I loved The Sopranos. And even though Adriana La Cerva was a secondary character, I remember Drea de Matteo’s performance in that role. De Matteo received a much-deserved Emmy for her work.

This is why I’m particularly dismayed to learn that she will be joining the cheesy autoporning OnlyFans. There would be far more dignified and lucrative ways for De Matteo to make money, even within the field of sex work.

But let’s return to the men who patronize OnlyFans. The men plunking down their credit cards so they can jerk off in front of their computers. (I am usually not so blunt, but such is the nature of this topic. Sorry.)

While OnlyFans cheapens women, it teaches men to train their sexual impulses toward the merely visual. A man who pays for sex with a woman beyond his league naturally wouldn’t want to brag about it (and Drea de Matteo is way out of most men’s leagues). But a man who runs up a high credit card bill to look at an endless stream of naughty photos? That strikes me as much worse, somehow.

To summarize: I admire Drea de Matteo as an actress, and—I suppose—I wish her well in this new online endeavor of hers. But I won’t be joining the OnlyFans party. I wish she hadn’t, either.


Flexible hygiene standards and the GenX childhood

Suburban parents nowadays worry obsessively about their kids catching something. Some parents even carry around little packages of sanitary wipes, so that they can sterilize surfaces in advance of their progeny. As if an American kid is going to catch Ebola at a birthday party.

This obsession with a germ-free childhood is a recent invention. GenXers grew up in an environment in which germ theory was understood, but not always given much consideration.

It was not uncommon in the 1970s to see kids passing around and drinking from the same bottle of soda. Maybe someone wiped the mouth of the bottle clean before they handed it to you…but probably not. Nor could you easily object. To express too much fastidiousness about the casual exchange of bodily fluids would have been regarded as fussy, especially among boys.

The childhood tradition of becoming “blood brothers” was mostly obsolete by the 1970s, but it happened. In that era before AIDS, no one worried about mixing blood, either.

We were sometimes told to “wash our hands”, but that carried its own dangers. School restrooms were unhygienic by today’s standards. They were often equipped with creaky cloth towel cabinets, in which the same towel roll was recycled again and again. (Twenty-first-century versions of the cloth roll towel cabinet are reasonably sanitary, I am told. But the ones you would typically find in a public school restroom in 1978? Not so much.)

Was this lax approach to juvenile hygiene a good thing, or a bad thing? Arguably the proof is in the pudding. The majority of us made it to adulthood without expiring from any communicable diseases. I am now in my mid-50s, and I rarely get a cold. So I suppose there is something to be said for naturally acquired immunity. 


Why Asian Americans kick butt in college admissions

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court limited the degree to which universities can use race as a criterion for admissions. A blow to affirmative action, in other words.

Affirmative action is a minimal factor at state schools like the one I attended (the University of Cincinnati). People are not exactly selling their kidneys to go to schools like UC.

There are plenty of open slots, after all. Want to go to the University of Cincinnati? Unless you’re truly a hopeless case, they’ll almost certainly let you in. (Heck, they even let me in, some thirty-odd years ago. That’s how lax their standards are.)

Yes, they will likely pester you about your racial and ethnic identity on your way in. But this is just so they can tout their “diverse student body” in their brochures. It’s mostly pretense. Whether you identify as black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or Klingon, you’re getting into the University of Cincinnati.

Race-based admissions are mostly a factor at prestigious Ivy League universities, where each slot in each freshman class is an object of intense competition. People don’t just sell their kidneys to get their kids into the Ivy League; they sometimes sell their souls, as well. A few years ago, a number of parents were actually caught offering seven-figure bribes so that their munchkins might find their way into these universities. It’s all a little bit nuts—as are some of today’s parents.

So the recent SCOTUS case was basically about who gets into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, et cetera. Harvard has an acceptance rate of 3.4%; the other Ivy League universities are similarly difficult to enter.

I reiterate: this isn’t about who gets into your local community college or state university. Such is why this particular SCOTUS decision (as opposed to last summer’s abortion ruling), hasn’t reverberated much beyond the commentariat and the educational elites.

The affirmative action SCOTUS case came about after some Asian Americans groused. (Oh, and filed a lawsuit.) Asian Americans aren’t white, of course. But they nevertheless get the short end of affirmative action policies.

Despite being racial minorities in this allegedly racist society of ours, Asian Americans seldom require—or ask for—special treatment. Quite the contrary: Asian Americans don’t need anyone to tilt the scales in their favor. If Harvard based its admissions solely on merit (GPA, test scores, etc.), each incoming Harvard class would be about 98 percent Asian American.

That offends a lot of sensibilities—not on the right, mind you, but on the left. Asian Americans’ lopsided degree of achievement contradicts the dominant liberal narrative. (“America is a hopelessly racist country where no one who is nonwhite can possibly succeed!”). It also prompts uncomfortable questions: “If Asian Americans can do so well, all by their lonesomes, why can’t other groups do the same?”

Just for the record, I’m not Asian American. I’m a white guy from semi-rural Ohio. And I never had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting into Harvard. Never even thought about it, not even in my salad days.

But I’ve known a lot of Asian Americans over the years. Here’s what I’ve observed about them:

Asian Americans are often of recent immigrant stock. They come to the United States with little more than the shirts on their backs.

Because they are hampered by language barriers, members of the first generation usually apply themselves entrepreneurially, as restaurateurs, dry cleaners, etc. All those Chinese restaurants at your neighborhood strip mall? Those are the creations of industrious Asian American immigrants.

But the restaurants and dry cleaning ventures are just means to a larger end. This isn’t about forming Peking duck dynasties. Asian American immigrants play the long game. 

It is members of the second Asian American generation who master English, get excellent grades, and go to college. They become doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and successful entrepreneurs.

I’ve observed this formula in action many times over.

They achieve all of this without being white. How do they do this? They work hard. They study hard. They typically don’t have children out of wedlock. They delay short-term gratification for larger goals, in other words.

They stay out of trouble, too. Look at the mugshots on your local news channel. Very few of those faces are Chinese- or Korean-American.

That says something about Asian Americans. And also something about everyone else.

Jemele Hill, a sometime sports journalist and constant social media complainer, took to Twitter to scold Asian Americans for initiating the legal action that resulted in the SCOTUS decision. Hill asserted that the Asian American plaintiffs “carried the water for white supremacy…”

When you see “white supremacy” everywhere, well, you see white supremacy everywhere. And Jemele Hill sees a white supremacist under every bed.

If ambitious, hardworking (nonwhite) Asian Americans take the lion’s share of freshman slots at Harvard and Yale, how does that serve the cause of “white supremacy”? Is Asian American achievement a white supremacist plot, too?

On the contrary, Asian Americans provide a model that the rest of us (including whites, but not only whites) might follow to their benefit.

In my hometown of Cincinnati, I’ve been paying attention to the “crime beat” news stories of late. Cincinnati has recently had an upsurge in violent crime, especially youth-related shootings.

I’ve been watching those mugshots. I can’t help reflecting that I have yet to see a single Asian American face among them. But there are lots of Asian American names and faces on the honor roll at any high school in the Cincinnati area.

If Asian Americans are the most objectively qualified students for the Ivy League, then let them take all the slots. This might force other groups—including white people, but not only white people—to reexamine their priorities and childrearing practices.


Bud Light and the perils of half-hearted corporate wokeness

Let’s begin by acknowledging that we’ve all been a little too fired up about beer of late. But as the dust of a recent tempest-in-a-teapot controversy settles, Anheuser-Busch has become an object lesson in the perils of half-hearted corporate wokeness.

Earlier this month, Bud Light (an Anheuser-Busch brand) ostentatiously partnered with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, a biological man who began presenting as a woman only a few years ago.

Most people could care less what pronoun an individual chooses to use, or how they choose to present their gender identity in public. More than 40 years ago, Culture Club’s frontman, Boy George, regularly appeared in female attire. This was the early 1980s. No one cared a rat’s hindquarters about how Boy George chose to dress.

In the early 1980s, however, most people accepted that gender-fluid folks like Boy George were unique and special individuals, not role models for the masses. There were no lemming-like corporate branding managers who sought to push gender fluidity as the new norm.

Ah, the 1980s. Those were saner, live-and-let-live times.

Now, however, every Fortune 500 marketing team in the country seems to believe that it must constantly beat this drum, lest the company and the brand appear insufficiently woke.

Such is the context for the resultant backlash against Bud Light. Sales of the beer predictably tanked in the wake of the Dylan Mulvaney publicity stunt.

What did the Anheuser-Busch management team do?

They punted and backpedaled, that’s what they did. Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth squeaked, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

Oh, gag me, to use a phrase from the aforementioned 1980s.

As Bud Light sales fell amid conservative boycotts, Anheuser-Busch also released a hastily produced commercial with lots of patriotic memes. These included a Clydesdale horse. The Clydesdale upset the PETA folks, because the horse’s tale had been amputated. (I’m not sure why, but this appears to be the case.)

Maybe now Travis Tritt, Kid Rock, and Grills Restaurants (a Florida chain) will embrace Bud Light again. So, maybe, will the many consumers who have abstained from the beer since earlier this month.

But I doubt that, somehow.

The editorial team of The Advocate, one of the oldest and most well-established LGBTQ media outlets, probably won’t be downing any Bud Lights in the foreseeable future, either. As The Advocate noted in a recent editorial about Anheuser-Busch’s self-serving prevarications, “There’s nothing that consumers loathe more than a brand that’s wishy-washy.”

Hear, hear.

The Advocate went on to suggest that LGBTQ beer drinkers, and not red state conservatives, are the ones who should be boycotting Bud Light.

The Advocate is right. Brands that attempt to piggyback on LGBTQ issues for me-too marketing campaigns deserve disdain from both sides of the political divide. And in the case of Bud Light, at least, that is exactly what happened.

“Bare Minimum Monday” may come back to bite you

Bare Minimum Monday is the latest thing on the Internet—especially TikTok, that wellspring of youthful oversharing.

Bare minimum Monday means what it sounds like: doing the bare minimum at work (especially office jobs) on Mondays.

Slacking on the job at certain times of the week is nothing new, of course. And it isn’t limited to Gen Z white-collar workers. During the 1970s and 1980s, the prevailing wisdom was that you didn’t want to purchase a UAW-made automobile that rolled off the assembly line on Monday or Friday.

But Generation Z seems to be putting its own spin on the concept, to the cheerleading of the mainstream media. CNN gushes that younger workers are using “’bare minimum Monday’ as a form of self-care”.

So goldbricking has now become yet another version of seeking safe spaces and avoiding microaggressions. Just what the younger generation needed: yet another reason for older folks (who still do most of the hiring) to perceive them as effete, fragile, and incompetent.

Of course, there has never been a shortage of 40- and 50-somethings who believe that the younger generation is leading the world straight to perdition. I’m from the original “slacker” generation: Generation X. When I joined the so-called “adult world” as a newly minted college graduate in 1991, I endured the subtle jabs of older colleagues and bosses who quipped that “young people nowadays just don’t know how to put in a full day’s work”. And that was more than 30 years ago.

I worked in a corporate office environment for many years. I would like to tell you that I gave one hundred percent every day, but I would be lying. Almost no one, save US Navy SEALs, gives one hundred percent effort one hundred percent of the time. Human beings simply aren’t wired that way.

But I can tell you this: I had the good sense to at least look busy. In the corporate workplace, perception is at least 90% of the reality. One way not to convince your boss that you’re valuable to the organization is to make a “bare minimum Monday” TikTok video. As we all know, moreover: things posted to the Internet have a way of hanging around, and coming back to bite us.

For the sake of fairness, I should note that not all of the bare minimum Monday videos I saw on TikTok were from twentysomethings and Millennials. But most of them were.

Such are the fruits of the younger generation’s tendency to overshare on the Internet (really, kids, it is okay to keep your private life private). Also, many people under the age of 30 believe that no one over the age of 45 or 50 can figure out the Internet.

Google? Snapchat? Apps? Oooh….our hoary old noggins are spinning at the very mention of such things! I can’t figure out how to use Google without the aid of the high school kid next door, who is a whipsmart wunderkind of the Digital Generation.

So goes the cliché, and it’s one that many older folks would like you to believe. Trust me, though, as an adult who turns 55 this year: the secret code of the Internet has been broken. It was broken at least a decade ago. Even my 76-year-old father is pretty good with the Internet nowadays.

Your 40- or 50-something boss can certainly navigate the labyrinth of TikTok. So can your company’s HR manager. That’s something to keep in mind, before you post a digital declaration of your fondness for bare minimum Monday, which essentially states that you make a habit of slacking off for twenty percent of the work week.


A paypig and his money are soon parted

WishTender was trending on Twitter this morning. It’s a new app that allows online “content creators” to ask “fans” for gifts.

But not just any content creators and not just any fans. You probably won’t find your favorite indie rock band using the site. And if you’re a writer thinking about WishTender…stick with Patreon instead.

Certain hashtags were predominant in the WishTender Twitter thread: #paypig, #findom, #footfetish, etc. If some of those terms are unfamiliar to you, I’ll let you do the Googling. But you probably get the general idea.

During the COVID lockdowns, there were numerous stories about enterprising women making millions by autoporning on OnlyFans. Sex—or the mere hint of it—sells, in case you haven’t heard. One young lady, an adult content creator who posts under the nom de guerre of Amouranth, claimed to have made $2 million in a single month.

A former pretzel store worker told the New York Post that she makes $99K per month posting risqué photos online. She quit her job after making $20,000 during her first month on OnlyFans.

On one hand, I’m skeptical of such claims; but we can assume that the OnlyFans millionaires who make the news are the outliers. No one asserts that all OnlyFans content creators make this kind of money. I’m sure it takes persistence, and more than a little luck.

And then there’s the target audience to consider. Many men are easily led around by their…noses…when placed in the presence of a woman they find attractive. Even a virtual presence. And it’s sooo easy to spend money online. I can’t visit Amazon without finding at least two or three things that I absolutely need.

WishTender takes the digital sex panhandling economy to yet another level. Here one can make a naked (pun fully intended) exhortation for anonymous Internet saps to send them stuff. “Get your Prada/groceries/coffee funded by your fans” the Wishtender site promises its users.

This is all perfectly legal, and it should be. If there are people (almost exclusively men, one can assume) who are that eager to be “paypigs” and “findoms” to strangers, more power to the content creators who are raking in the cash…and designer shoes.

But I can’t help wondering: at what point does this particular sector of the online economy reach its saturation point, especially when you consider the likelihood that the broader economy will slow down in 2023?

But then…silly me. I’m forgetting the gullibility that arises when you combine (some) men with photos of attractive women they’ll never meet, and the ease of spending money online. There are no doubt men out there who will prioritize the purchase of digital porn over food.