Before I dive into my second column in a month on the virtues of failure, I have to note the passing of Tom Petty.
Petty is on my Mount Rushmore of musicians. I started following him in high school, and he’s the rare rock star who continued to put out quality music over many decades. I chose my grad school in part because Petty had come from that town. (I know – not the most mature way to choose a grad school. But on the other hand, unknown to me, my future wife lived there, and God used Tom Petty to get me into close proximity to her. From there, it was up to my charm and pig-headed persistence during the courtship process to wear her down. Mission accomplished! And to quote Petty, the waiting was the hardest part.)
Losing Petty is a doubly bitter blow because of the knowledge that singers with horrible music and worse politics like Cher (71) and Barbra Streisand (75) and Madonna (112) inexplicably live on.
In fact, in my darker moments, I have to keep from thinking about the unfairness of great creative people who are gone, versus horrible ones who seem impervious to death. Off the top of my head, Vince Flynn, Robert B Parker, Elmore Leonard and Tom Clancy are all dead. Flynn is an especially bitter loss, because he was so young. But many of you might say that Parker, Leonard and Clancy were in their 70s or older, so their deaths aren’t a shock.
Okay. But you know who else has lived into their 70s, and yet continue to torture us with terrible books? Hillary Clinton (later this month) and Bill Ayers. In fact, Bill Moyers is 83, Dan Rather is 85, and Noam Chomsky is 88! And they’ve been living on nothing but bile and hatred of America for at least the last 30 years! And that’s not to mention that Harry Reid and Maxine Waters are still alive in their late 100s, and Nancy Pelosi was a teenager in the Pleistocene Era, and is still fixing me with that glassy-eyed mummy stare through my television screen several times a week!
Ugh. Got off on a tangent there, didn’t I? Anyway, I’ll miss you, Tom Petty!
And now, on to failure. (If I can steal Hillary’s original title for her book on 2016, before she wussed out and went with “Wha’ Happen?”)
Last month I wrote about how entertaining failure can be, whether it’s from a rapper who gets gunned down 10 minutes after crediting God with making him bullet proof, or environmental extremists who get trapped by ice on a sailing expedition to show how the oceans are boiling. And I didn’t even mention Carlos Danger/Anthony Weiner, who would be the funniest failure of the last 10 years, if it weren’t for Clydesdale Ankles’ failure on November 9th, and the fact that Weiner was perving on teenagers.
But today I’ve got a few examples of how failure can not only amuse us, but teach us. And I’ll start – as one usually should – with a quote from Edmund Burke: “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.”
Burke knew a thing or two, and you won’t go far wrong in life if you find yourself repeating, “I’m going with Eddie Burke on this one” when you need to make a decision.
And he looks even wiser when you compare him to the intellectual heroes of the Left – Rousseau was a dope, Thoreau had a nice way with words but went home to stay with mom three nights a week when he was supposedly thinking deep thoughts in the isolation at Walden Pond, Marx is 0-47 in “I’m sure socialism will work THIS time” predictions since 1917, and Noam Chomsky has already lived about 87 years too long.
But I have to quibble with Burke just a bit; it’s not just examples, but examples of failure, that teach us. Especially in a free or quasi-free market, failure sends crucial signals as to what works and what doesn’t.
Hollywood insults their audience, and the box office tanks. Remember that spate of anti-US war movies when we were engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan? I know, I didn’t either.
But I looked up a few titles: Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Stop-Loss, Body of Lies, Green Zone. The cumulative box office returns for those was less than I received from a few exclusive showings of my family vacation films. Sure, I had only back-end points, and took a bath. But I didn’t have to pay Redford to direct, or sleep with Harvey Weinstein to get my masterpiece made, so I’ve got that going for me.
ESPN foists leftist tirades on their audience, and they’ve lost millions of subscribers, and are on a glide path toward implosion. Leftist university administrations – the U of Missouri, Oberlin, etc. – cater to leftist crybullies and thugs in the student body and the faculty, and thereby lose students and financial support and the jobs of many employees who are no longer needed to teach students who aren’t there, and maintain buildings that aren’t necessary to house students who aren’t there.
The NYT puts out biased pap, and slowly bleeds readership and advertisers, and ends up shrinking print runs and laying off employees and renting out floors of their building in NYC (to late-night infomercial makers, if there’s any justice!).
Of course, failure in the political marketplace can also be instructive.
Blue states deploy leftist financial strategies: they levy confiscatory taxes on any citizens who are financially successful, and lavish benefits and promise generous pensions to government employees. They throw up roadblocks to the formation of small businesses, and hire more government workers to inspect and harass and fine the hardy few who run that gauntlet. Then they are shocked when businesses close or flee, and financially successful residents decide that they would rather live where they are not simultaneously resented and bled dry.
Baltimore and other large, Democrat-run cities treats their cops like crap, and lionize their thugs (Michael Brown was a gentle giant, etc.), and then they’re shocked when the “Ferguson effect” ensues. Cops pull back from energetic, interventional policing, and the criminal element in those areas fills in the void, preying on the very poor people and minorities whom the Dems claim to represent.
People vote with their feet, and their eyes, and their time, and their dollars, and the results lays bare the failure of leftist policies.
Okay, so this column has been a little serious for my tastes.
So let me end with a best-of-both-worlds tale, in which failure is both entertaining and instructive. Someone dies in this story, though, and that’s usually not funny. But as we’ve seen with Yung “Bulletproof” Mazi and the guy who got killed (literally) losing a fight to an armless man, it can be.
In this story, we meet an idealistic young vegan named Dr. Maria Styrdom, 34, who along with her husband wanted to climb Mt. Everest. But not “because it was there” – the idiotic reason that most mountain climbers usually give, and that I’ve never understood. (You know one thing that Edmund Burke did NOT say? “I’m sick of these gently rolling hills of England. I think I’ll go give gravity and hypoxia a chance to kill me.”)
No. Styrdom was sick of hearing questions about whether vegans “have iron or protein deficiencies,” so she decided to drag her husband up the mountain with her to prove something. “It seems that people have this warped idea of being malnourished and weak,” she said. “By climbing the seven summits we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more.”
Not since Bob Titanic launched his ship with the boast, “She’s unsinkable, I tell’s ya! Un-freaking-sinkable!” has someone come so quickly to regret their words.
You can guess the result. She made it to the top of the mountain – because God is merciful, and He didn’t play the “iron deficiency” and “malnourishment” cards until she was on the way back down the mountain – and then she died.
This cautionary tale contains at least 4 great life lessons:
First, c’mon. (Do I need to say this?) Don’t be a vegan! I mean, have you ever tried a steak? Or a hamburger? Or a pork chop? Not to mention a pork chop on top of a hamburger, served with a side of steak?
Second, if you must be a vegan, keep it to yourself.
Third, if you absolutely can’t keep it to yourself – and from my experience with vegans, they can never keep it to themselves – don’t announce that you are going to climb Mt. Everest to prove how a diet of soy milk-infused tofu served on a bed of hummus (I don’t know if that’s a thing, but from my experience with infuriatingly chatty vegans, it probably is) is fantastic fuel for a jaunt up a mountain.
Fourth, consider the case of me. Although popular opinion — of the voices in my head, anyway — is that I’m aging quite well, my cholesterol is probably in the mid-300s, I can no longer cover a speedy wide receiver on crossing patterns over the middle, and I pretty much hang around at sea level, other than on an occasional trip to walk in the woods in the Appalachians.
But I’ll never bother you with details of my diet or talk down to you about yours, and my chances of dying with de-oxygenated blood under a tumbling Sherpa in the middle of an avalanche along the treacherous north face is pretty darn close to zero.
So take it from me – and sure, from Fast Eddie Burke, too: have a burger and listen to some Tom Petty, and enjoy the instructive and entertaining cavalcade of failure that is the slow-motion implosion of the left.