In Praise Of Eccentricity

In one of my favorite scenes in Bull Durham, Crash Davis upbraids rookie Nuke LaLouche for having filthy shower shoes along these lines:  “When you’re in the Majors, you can have dirty shower shoes and they’ll call you ‘eccentric’.  Until that time, you’re just a slob.”

Nuke’s not alone.  The awful Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, is often called “eccentric” by the fools in the entertainment media;  but what doesn’t show in the photographs is that because she hardly ever showers or uses deodorant, she has body odor that can stop a buffalo.  Ditto Johnny Depp, who seems to confuse his Jack Sparrow character with real life.  Apparently he seldom brushes his teeth,  which means the unfortunate female co-stars who have to kiss him in a love scene should demand danger pay because of his toxic bad breath.

They’re not eccentric;  they’re just slobs.

I love eccentric people — or to be precise, I love people who do eccentric things.  The above two don’t qualify, but the other night I watched a Brit TV series called A Stitch in Time, in which a “fashion historian” gets period clothing made for her by a team of seamstresses so that she can see what is must have been like to wear them.  But the seamstresses don’t make the clothing using modern technology or material;  they make them by hand, using only the tools and materials available at the time.  So, for example, cotton thread has to be run through wax so that it doesn’t fray or come apart, and buttons and such have to be manufactured to be as historically accurate as possible.  (New Wife was astonished that I would not only watch such a show, but enjoy it utterly;  but as I explained to her, I’m a historian, and seeing how clothing was made and worn is as interesting to me as seeing how contemporaneous weapons were made and used.  It’s all history, and I’m quite promiscuous about the topics thereof.)

And they were very ambitious projects.  Here are a couple of the dresses they made:

The Amalfini Portrait

La Chemise De La Reine

What I loved about the show was not just the garments, lovely though they were.  What got to me was that this group of seamstresses has spent literally decades learning how people made clothing in every period of history, not just contenting themselves with the tailoring skills, but learning all about the materials, the dyeing processes and the constraints which faced the tailors and seamstresses of the various eras.

And it wasn’t just them.  At one point, the head seamstress pulled a book off the (very full) shelf, and I caught the title of the book next door to it, entitled something like “Dressing Customs In The Restoration”.  I asked myself:  “Who would be driven to write a book like that?” And there were lots of books on the shelves, in similar vein.

That, my friends, is true eccentricity:  doing something that’s so different, so outside the modern idiom that perhaps only a few people in the whole world have done it, let alone mastered it.

Here’s another example of eccentricity:

A Victorian-obsessed graduate has snubbed the 9-5 life to pursue her dream of living like a 19th century duchess in a country mansion.
Jacqueline Brown, 25, from St. Louis City, Missouri always thought she’d take an office job after university, but decided to pursue her passion for the Victorian era after coming across the opportunity to be the live-in caretaker of a 19th century manor house.
The graphic design graduate, who estimates she has spent over $5,000 on period clothing in the last three years, whiles away her days showing guests around the 1853-built Oakland House and tending to the property’s upkeep.
And her time staying at the house has made Jacqueline re-think her ambitions and she now hopes to move to the home of the Victorians themselves — Britain — to work in a museum devoted to her favorite period in history.

Here she is:

Jacqueline said: ‘Living in a Victorian mansion was never my original career plan, but it has allowed me the opportunity to live my dream.
“I’ve been the caretaker here for just under two years and I don’t want to leave. I’m in love with everything about the Victorian era. The clothing is my favorite thing. I love the shape of the dresses. I love that women were feminine and I love the romance of courtship. I try and dress in a historical way whatever I’m doing and I almost never wear trousers.”

Is this not wonderful, this eccentricity?  Is she not magnificent?

I have often said that if it were possible, I’d like to live as a gentleman in the Edwardian era (1900-1913) in Britain or the U.S., because I like everything about the period:  the manners, the clothing, the way of life, the conservative outlook, everything.  I might not live that life openly — I don’t wear the clothing and so on — but in every other way, I am as obsessed with the period as young Jacqueline is about the Victorians.  I’m not eccentric, at least not truly eccentric.

Compared to the people above, I’m nothing.  But at least I am never a slob.


A Stitch In Time is on Amazon Prime.  And by the way, I always believed that the merchant’s wife in the first painting was pregnant.  She isn’t.  Watch the show to see why.

Not Gonna Happen

Here’s a hopeful thought:

The record-breaking gun sales during the coronavirus pandemic could bolster candidates that support the Second Amendment in 2020 and alter the course of American gun politics for the foreseeable future.

You mean guys like these?

Nope.  They’re Democrats, support BLM (by their own admission) and if you think that they and all the other liberals buying guns are going to become Trump voters in November, you’re delusional. The only reason they’re waving their guns around like idiots is because the Great Unwashed happened to come close to their precious house.

Even worse is this:

Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said that the group’s success could change the political landscape at the local, state, and national level.
“The NRA believes voters who recently purchased guns for self-defense will join other Second Amendment voters and be an even more formidable voting bloc,” Hunter told the Washington Free Beacon. “They’re educated, passionate, and they know anti-gun politicians are the biggest threat to their fundamental right to self-defense.”

Well, if the NRA thinks this is the case, that’s even more cause for gloom and skepticism.

Sure, I have no doubt that many first-time gun buyers, especially those in the poxy socialist enclaves like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, had their noses rubbed into the consequences of their home cities’ gun control laws (which they probably all supported before the Chinkvirus thing happened);  but a) they’re probably not going to vote for Trump or even a Republican mayor or city council, and b) even if they did, their numbers will be too small to make much of a difference to the outcome in said cities.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range.

Americans Second

Looks like the fix is in again:

U.S. employers keep roughly 600,000 foreign H-1B visa workers in jobs throughout the United States, according to an unprecedented report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
The total number of resident H-1B workers has successfully been kept secret for decades, mainly because Fortune 500 companies do not want voters to recognize the massive outsourcing of jobs for themselves and their college graduate children.

Based on personal observation, I think that about a quarter of the above number live within a square mile of my apartment, but that’s a topic for another time.

Whenever people show faith in the powers of “the market”, I want to kick them in the balls.  Here’s why.

In the normal course of events, “the market” can and should address the problem of shortages by creating a price increase — in this case, if there are apparently not enough Americans to fill the skilled positions needed in Corporate America, the pressure is put on salaries so that existing skilled workers can change industries to take advantage of the higher wages, or (in the longer term) prospective employees can adjust their training from, say, a university-centric Women’s Studies major into an IT profession.

But that would Cost The Companies Money;  and gawd forbid that costs rise, affect the balance sheet and, most importantly of all, jeopardize executive management bonuses.  So said companies lobby the government saying, “Oh we need  skilled workers, and these lazy idle Murkins don’t wanna do the jobs so please pretty please O Benificent Government, can we import furriners to save us from going out of business?”

Whereupon Congress, whose members are all either stupid, unpatriotic or else beholden to Corporate America for campaign contributions (I know:  massive overlap) will turn around and say, “Sure thing.  Get these H-1Bs from anywhere you like — say, India or China — and just add a zero to your next contribution, will you?”

The fact that these foreign workers stay a while then go back to their home countries taking their expertise with them, is, of course, irrelevant.  (I should point out that I myself was one of the above H-1B workers back in the 1980s, except that I had skills which my sponsoring company did not possess at all, AND I was coming over as a senior executive to implement a brand new business model which I had created back in the Old Country and made successful.  Also, I stayed and became a U.S. citizen, and the rest you know.)

So “the market” works fine, mostly — except where the sticky and incompetent fingers of Gummint get placed firmly on the scale of surplus : scarcity, and the results are what we see now.

There’s another part of the article which engendered a scowl from me:

The USCIS report admits that “no unique identifier exists for all H-1B petitions in the USCIS electronic [system of record, so] we use a methodology of statistical inference.”

For those not familiar with bureaucrat-speak, “statistical inference” means “we took a wild-ass guess”.  Or, to be more polite:

For years, [DHS] has deliberately not stored [visa worker] information into their databases. They only enter selected information into the computers. That was deliberate so that no one could know what is going on. We have sent in all kinds of [Freedom of Information Act] requests, and often the response is “we don’t keep track of that.”

And to make matters still worse:

“Close to a quarter of the records — dealing with workers who often make $100,000 a year or more — there is no Social Security number.”

In other words, we let them in, and allow a situation where people don’t necessarily have to pay taxes.  How charming.  But it gets worse (and I’ve added emphasis):

The failure to track legitimate H-1B documents and workers — or to punish groups for using fake H-1B documents — is routine. For many years, business advocates have kept legislators in the dark by splitting and subdividing oversight of the visa-worker economy between the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Labor, he said.
This fragmentation has helped to minimize awareness of the scale among journalists and the public. For example, very few reporters describe the scale of the H-1B population to their readers, and most rely on talking points from business advocates who say the program brings in 65,000 or 85,000 “high skilled” workers each year when companies cannot find U.S. workers.
In reality, up to 85,000 H-1B visas are given out to companies each year, while roughly 15,000 are provided to non-profit groups, including hospitals, research centers, government agencies, and hospitals.

Now let’s add a little “China is asshole” to the mix:

The new USCIS report does not estimate the number of fake H-1B documents in circulation despite myriad cases of fraudulent work permits and made-in-China green cards.

And in India, procurement of green cards is an entire industry, catering to U.S. corporations — I’ve seen it in action at first hand.

Several years back, I posited the situation where if one won a large foreign lottery (e.g. Euromillions), whether it would be better to bring the earnings back to the U.S. and pay the 40% tax, or just to vanish into a European tax haven like Monaco with the (untaxed) millions.  My conclusion was that I wouldn’t do that, because I am of course a loyal American citizen.  As I read stuff like the above, however, I’m starting to think that “loyal American citizen” is rapidly approaching the status of “sucker”.

Change my mind.

Proper British

This story got a lot of attention a little while ago:

A supermarket security guard has won the internet’s hearts as he stood in the pouring rain to shelter a patient dog. Morrisons security worker Ethan Dearman was photographed braving the elements outside the supermarket in Giffnock, Glasgow on Sunday. The picture, taken by Mel Gracie, 25, shows Mr Dearman holding a green umbrella over golden retriever Freddie, who is relaxing underneath.

And the pic:

Several people have commented that this is a typically-British story.  I disagree (and my Brit Readers will back me up on this, I think).

What would have made this a typically-British story would have been if the security guard was fired for not doing his proper job — because if there’s one thing Brits excel at, it’s bossing people around just because they can.

It’s precisely the same mindset behind a parking warden booting an ambulance for parking in a No Parking zone while picking up an injured patient, or a pharmacist’s assistant denying a customer a purchase of a pregnancy test kit during a lockdown, because it’s not an “essential” item.

I love Britain and its people, and I have as many Brit friends as American or South African friends, but this is one character flaw I find particularly tiresome.