His Best Friend Was a 250-Pound Warthog. One Day, It Decided to Kill Him. (Peter Holley, February 7, 2024, Texas Monthly)

By the age of thirty, a time when most people are just beginning to think about their mortality, Austin Riley had already conquered his fear of death. He’d come exceedingly close to dying on multiple occasions, including a few months before his first birthday, when doctors discovered a golf ball–sized tumor growing inside his infant skull. He would go on to spend much of his childhood in and out of hospitals, enduring high-risk brain surgeries and grueling recoveries. Then in his mid-twenties, he was nearly killed by a brain hemorrhage that arrived one night without warning, unleashing the worst pain he’d ever felt. He emerged from that experience reborn, feeling lucky to be alive and convinced that his life had been spared by God.

So as he sat in a pool of his own blood on a beautiful October evening in 2022, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the morbid absurdity of his current predicament. He’d spent decades conquering brain injuries only to be killed while doing mundane chores on his family’s 130-acre Hill Country ranch in Boerne. “After all I’d been through,” he said, “I just couldn’t believe that this was how it was going to end.”

As he slumped against a fence and his mangled body began to shut down, Austin’s mind went into overdrive. He thought about his girlfriend, Kennedy, whom he’d never get a chance to marry, and the children he’d never be able to raise. He thought about how much he loved his parents and how badly he wished he could thank them for the life they’d provided. He thought about the land before him, a valley accentuated by crimson and amber foliage that seemed to glitter in the evening light, and realized it had never seemed more beautiful than it did in that moment.

But mostly, he thought about the animal that had just used its razor-sharp, seven-inch tusks to stab him at least fifteen times. The attack had shredded his lower body and filled his boots with blood, and then left gaping holes in his torso and neck. Had any other animal been responsible, Austin would’ve considered it a random attack. But this was a pet he’d trusted more than any other: his lovable, five-year-old warthog, Waylon.

It wasn’t just an attack, as far as Austin was concerned, but a murderous act of betrayal, one that shattered everything he thought he knew about the deep bond between man and pig. “For years, that animal trusted me everyday and I trusted him,” Austin said. “I put blood, sweat, and tears into his life and he decided to kill me.”


In ‘American Fiction,’ An Excellent Depiction of a Politically Incorrect Professor (John Tamny, January 11, 2024, Real Clear Markets)

Some, conservatives in particular, will read this write-up and be interested in its portrayal of guilty white left wingers, the black professor who disdains their guilt, along with the film’s proper ridicule of white guilt as an excuse for the pursuit of diversity for the sake of diversity. It’s all there, including Monk being asked to serve on a prestigious book-prize panel that will decide the year’s best novel. You guessed it, the organization behind the prominent award wants a bit more “diversity.” Yes, conservatives will enjoy the film. Big time. It’s fun to see black people mock the same political correctness that members of the right have long similarly mocked.

At the same time, the view from this right-of-center writer is that while conservatives will surely laugh endlessly during this hilarious and extraordinarily well written film, that it’s brilliantly funny for everyone, including left-of-center types. There’s a family story that the great Kyle Smith viewed as filler, but that worked for me as a way of explaining Wright’s character, and the why behind Wright’s character, in entertaining fashion.

Additionally, it will be said here that conservatives shouldn’t walk out of the theater with too smug of a countenance. This is based on their own routine desire to feature black conservatives in their newspapers, magazines and television shows every time a racial situation reveals itself, the tendency of white conservatives to cheer a black person’s expressed conservatism regardless of whether it’s well-reasoned (I once witnessed a right-leaning black judge give a wholly unremarkable speech that ended with a standing ovation…), not to mention the growing desire of conservatives to deify the “canceled” members of their own flock (with book deals, awards, and well-paid jobs) in the way that dopey left wingers defity anything that’s “Black,” and no matter how ridiculous it is.


MAGA senator’s attempt to discredit expert backfires at gun crime hearing (video) (DAVID PESCOVITZ, NOV 28, 2023, Boing Boing)

Kennedy started by asking Ramey what he thought was a clever trap question: “Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range? You think it’s because of Chicago citizens who have no criminal record, but who have lawfully a gun in their home for protection? Or perhaps for hunting? Or do you think it’s because of a finite group of criminals who have rap sheets as long as King Kong’s arm?”

Ranney didn’t take the bait. Instead, she told Kennedy that the state he represents is deadlier than Chicago.

“So Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri actually have higher firearm death rates,” she said.


All Classics Are Funny: If it isn’t hilarious, do you really think anyone is going to be reading it in ten thousand years? I didn’t think so. (JOEL CUTHBERTSON, NOV 10, 2023, The Bulwark)

ALL THE BEST JOKES, whether literary or otherwise, include some obscure and mysterious mix of expected and unexpected. If a punchline lands—if you get walloped, or even tapped upside the head—it’s because the writer used the quick hit of the expected to distract you from the oncoming haymaker of the unexpected. There’s no getting around metaphors here. Why is a joke funny? We will see the face of God before the truth is known. Possibly God will say, “What do you call a sea creature who keeps banging on the door?” And as the seventh seal is opened, we will glow with glory, murmuring, “O Lord, a knock-topus.”

But I don’t mean that all jokes are simply puns. Consider Norm Macdonald’s all-time late-night routine. “In the early part of the previous century, Germany decided to go to war. And, uh, who did they go to war with? The world.” This verbal gag turns on the way “World War” has been lodged into our brains as a stock phrase, one that has become abstracted and detached from the specific historical realities it’s meant to designate. Norm’s brilliant reifying swerve is the result of his attention to that curious slippage. (“It was actually close,” he says, keeping at it.)

The same deep attention that enables great jokes can be found in all the books that have earned the “classic” label. Without humor, without the heel-turn of wit, a book’s range shrinks. The re-readability of lasting works is based on the vivacity of the text’s continual swerves, the mix of expectations met, undermined, and overturned. Humor is a virtuosic form of the mind’s spontaneous engagement with the world: Take it away, and the text’s formal vitality, even in the best dramatic outings, withers.