Guy’s Weekly Reader
By Guy Shepherd

Guy takes a spin around the global-wide web and comes back with a bunch of souvenirs. First in a series.

Guy’s Weekly Reader


The web is world-wide, with lots of little islands of delight

Here's the map for this week. Bon voyage.

We are not alone in our efforts. There is a great deal of good entertainment and information online. I see it everywhere — but I have struggled to figure out how to share it. The good stuff is just piling up. I’m failing you.

I like the idea of curating links à la RealClear—the masters of the big picture and balance.  I just want to give readers a taste of what’s on offer from the digital buffet and why I like it — the same way a good sommelier shares his reasons behind his choices.  

A taste of what’s on offer from the digital buffet and why I like it.

So going forward, I am going keep track of what I find that’s great and good and once a week share it with you and see if this ambition of mine is achievable.

Currently, I’m watching Showtime’s Billions—which is in the middle of a Covid-disrupted fifth season.  It’s great. I had just finished watching Paul Giamatti in the excellent HBO series John Adams and Mrs. Shepherd and I are loving this one, too. These are like war movies.  John Adams gave us the epic battle to found an 18th Century start-up. Read my review here.

Billions depicts the epic battle of public and private ambition. A US Attorney (Giamatti as Chuck Rhodes) with his eyes on becoming governor is pitted against a hedge-fund titan (Damian Lewis) who has populist charm and a Pentium mind.  It’s all very alpha v. alpha, with alpha wives included; Rhodes’ wife is especially awesome. This is not a good versus evil morality play; the US attorney is not a Boy Scout going up against an evil venture capitalist.  Giamatti captures the ambition and kink of Elliot Spitzer perfectly. Three Thumbs up.  More later.

The Robb Report came in the mail today. One of the perks of this job is that I get to sign up for the stuff that shows me who is competing for your limited attention and dollars.  The Robb Report is an oasis of excellence in a desert of aesthetic despair.  It’s very much a publication geared to the global one percent.  But flipping through it is a visual joy that appeals to the strivers in the best of us—remember Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?  Americans have traditionally liked the rich because they believe that with hard work in the service of good ideas, a good market and some good luck, they can get rich, too.  The Robb Report is like Treats! but without the distracting nude women. It’s solid editorially and aesthetically. Paul Croughton‘s editor’s letter actually says something about the thinking behind what has become my first read; I flip through it like a tourist’s guide to resort living and overspending, the kinds of pleasures that frame our fantasies. It’s fun to look at the fruits of success, even when they aren’t actually yours. But maybe someday. Besides, who wants to read a magazine about the consequences of failure? (We call that Mother Jones.) The Robb Report is Planned Man with a bank behind it, and a much more interesting choice than GQ, which, like Esquire, has lost its way and features clothes you would never get caught wearing and a condescending editorial sensibility that reflects all that is wrong with the publication. El Hefe—and men of similar standing—you need to subscribe to The Robb Report. And if, as a consequence of subscribing, you ever buy a private jet, or a super car—or even a super Tuscan—give your friend Guy a call.  

I would be remiss if I did not mention to you that the website is not paywalled so there are no barriers to peeking at the good life. 

I have just finished reading The Spectator’s issue on Sex. Every contribution is worth reading. 

A word about the Spectator.  Founded in 1828, it’s a venerable magazine—the oldest weekly in the world—but with a really smart—dare I say hip? — editorial sensibility that is youthfully skeptical, with newly added US and Aussie editions. It’s well worth a subscription, something you can get here.  What I love about the magazine is that it cares about what is important to our species’ survival and the importance of edification and in just the right proportions. 

Not only is the current issue devoted to sex, the magazine also focuses on something truly pornographic: the debasement of American dollar.  Characteristic of everything in its pages, they smartly argue their case in a piece called “Mad Money”: “Sooner or later—more likely sooner—a reckoning is coming. 

“You can’t keep borrowing and expect interest rates not to rise; you can’t keep printing money and expect inflation to stay low.”

This is a mic-drop of a sentence that should make you think about William Devan’s What’s in Your Safe?’s advice. 

My intellectual disposition is not to bitch, moan and complain about what I dislike, but to focus my attention on discovering and leveraging what is good and deserving of our attention and support. The art of thinking persuasively in public is not doing well. But it’s alive and well at the Spectator. If you want to support it, subscribe to it.  They have a free month offer! Take them up on it. 

Here’s what’s behind the paywall:

This issue had a number of pieces that intersect with Planned Man’s interest.  (In fact, I found something important and worth sharing in all of them, but my favorite came last in the publication order. So it ended on an optimistic bang.)

Sex and dating: The sexual counterrevolution is coming: America’s young elite is turning against free love by Mary Harrington. She argues that modern dating rituals are the product of three forces working together: sex, commerce and feminism—culminating unintentionally but understandably in erotic ennui and sexual disenchantment.  Interesting observation: “If we listen to its inheritors, the outcome has not been polymorphous pleasure but escalating degradations: not female erotic emancipation but violence masquerading as desire, not the garden of earthly delights but desecration, loneliness and collapsing birth rate.” 

Total fantasy: Why are young men so scared of sex: sexting is taking the place of sex Zoe Strimpel, who starts with a but of angry foreshadowing: “I am tired of men.” She had my attention.  Her criticism, a familiar one, is that men don’t like the foreplay that precedes the play. But she’s also tired of the nurturing consequences of technology and social forces like the MeToo movement.  Men would rather hang out online and give up on offline life altogether. “The reality is what young men really want these days is not action, but talk; not sex, but smut.”  

Digital Fetishism and Death of Western Civ:  America’s race to the bottom: the nation’s anal fixation by Dominic Green ends with both a bang and a whimper, the consequence of the locus of desire shifting from the wholesome breasts that built Playboy to barren, digital fetishism. According to Green, “the tedium and the increasingly jaded demand for images will result in frazzled-out synapses summoning an ever-increasing and ever-more exotic supply of transgressive images of unproductive acts.  This is a doom loop, a desperate squeezing of interest and profit, a commerce and culture of narcissism, a society heading to its own backside.  This is how a civilization dies: with both a whimper and a bang, recorded for posterity.”

Is she faking it?  The pornographic experience is not the same for men and women: porn exposes the difference between men and women by Cosmo Landesman.  Fun Fact:  “Porn Hub reports that women make up nearly one third of its audience, and that share is increasing.  In 2019, Porn Hub claimed that 32% of their visitors were female—a 3% increase over 2018.  What’s particularly interesting is that after proving that more and more women like porn, they don’t like the porn men watch. And it’s not just Cosmo who is saying this: “Studies show that women prefer what is called Femme Porn: Porn with a feminist sensibility that offers something more than boobs, bowjobs and bonking.”  Think about the success of Fifty Shades of Gray and you get a glimmer of the future of female porn.

The feeling’s mutual. But the last and best of the issue was this one: Men’s magazines don’t care about men: We aren’t living in Hef’s cultured Playboy world anymore; if anything, we are living in Hustler’s nightmare by Bridget Phetasy.  Even before finishing, I said to myself, “She is perfect for Planned Man.”  Bridget did what I never did: she educated herself about men by reading Playboy—then coming out the other side a fan of men and Hugh.  She was convinced by Heff’s stances on civil rights, reproductive rights, and most notably his stance of first Amendment.  The force is strong in this one.  My favorite sentence, “More than anything, Hugh inspired me to get naked with my words.”  Maybe this was the moment that I wanted her in our pages.  What I particularly liked is how she could separate  Hefner’s very real achievement from the consequence of successfully lifting the lid off the American id.

All these share a common porn theme, so after reading The Spectator, I felt it was incumbent to check out the state of porn in the USA.  So off to Google I went and typed in the simple, short, but loaded word porn.   (I should add that I did this in private browsing mode, which gives a clean search result).  Mrs. Shepherd is coming home soon, so I will limit my survey to the top three search results.—tops the Google list and claims to be “largest porn tube in the world.” Don’t we all think that? This is what is trending in uporn‘s America: Stepmom. Step Sister. Step Dad. Mom. Step Brother, Black, Lesbian. Step back.

XVideos.  The second-place on the list: “Naughty teen babe gets fucked by huge monster dick.” Following this is “Cartoon Porn” featuring Homer and Marge Simpson. Then a black teen shoplifter banged by a white security guard. Then something called “Family Raw”—forgetful father forgiveness. Thus far, this is a completely different sport than Joe Camel.  The Bang Bros. serving of two black guys double-penetrating an adult white woman. Then “Step Sister Fucked by Her Bro” by Family Strokes (not his real name).

Porn Hub: “PornHub is the world’s leading free porn site.”  Hey PornHubbers, I don’t know if you have noticed it, but you’re coming in third place in a clean search result.   By comparison with the others, Porn Hub appears tame.  The top slot goes to women getting roughly sodomized—and yet who do not appear to be enjoying it.  Second is an “Amazing Big Booty Asian Slut Getting Her House Pounded in POV”—which to the uninitiated in porn lingo means “point of view,” not as a unique worldview, but more like Call of Duty—a first-person shooter game—done with the penis as a focal point.  Followed by two videos that you expect to see: “We got bored and then fucked in bed” and “Fucked in the morning”—how quaint in comparison.  Then comes the Ganged Banged by 9 black strangers.  What no blended family porn? Not a chance. Their “Recommended Feed” is chock full of crap that would sicken Sigmund Freud. Recommended or not, I ain’t eatin’ that shit.

Oops. The missus is home. So not quite an exhaustive study but pretty revealing of the ick factor that we are swimming in. Is it time to start paying for porn again? You get what you pay for, and free is pretty fucked up.