This week's writing. The Only Living Boy in New York. And a new Tech Corner
The Charles C. W. Cooke Newsletter
0004 September 18, 2021

Good morning to everyone except for Alabama fans.

It's a big weekend here in North Florida. Today, the Gators host Alabama in Gainesville. Tomorrow afternoon, the Jaguars host the Broncos in Jacksonville. And, tomorrow evening, Blue Ōyster Cult will play at the beach. In all likelihood, only one of these won't end in crushing defeat — and, oddly enough, it's the one that involves the reaper.

Before we get to it, I want to welcome the hundreds of new people who signed up after I mentioned this newsletter on Mad Dogs and Englishmen and The Editors (yes, even the Alabama fans), and throw in the usual reminder that if you have any friends you think might like this newsletter, please feel free to forward this to them or let them know that they can sign up themselves here.



Writing, Speaking, Podcasting, and More


On Monday, I joined Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer on America's Newsroom to discuss my column calling for the immediate end of the COVID-19 travel ban. You can watch the whole clip here.


As a bonus, my microphone was slightly too loud, so in addition to hearing my argument you can also listen to me breathe.


At National Review this week, I implored the Democrats who say that they are worried about deficit spending, the size of the debt, and the prospect of inflation to do the sensible thing and kill the reconciliation bill stone dead. There is currently a debate as to whether Congress should spend $1 trillion, $1.5 trillion, or $3.5 trillion, but, having just spent $6 trillion on COVID-mitigation, the obvious number to spend is $0. We are not in a crisis or a recession, we do not have a government with a large popular mandate, and there is no pressing need for any new spending. The idea is absurd.


Elsewhere, I contended that Joe Biden is hurting the pro-vaccine case by talking about the vaccinated as if they are vulnerable when they are not. In essence, I argued, the president is in charge of a marketing exercise, and the message he has deployed is confusing. Given the range of options available, the best one would be the most simple one: go and get vaccinated, and then you can do whatever you want. Also on the topic of COVID, I noted that Governor Ron DeSantis has been roundly castigated for promoting monoclonal-antibody therapy, but that, two months later, it has become clear that every single thing that was said about the push was nonsense. It does work, it's not a distraction from the vaccine, and his motives were not corrupt — which is why the Biden administration has stepped in to ensure that other states get their "fair share."


In shorter posts, I asked why the staff at the Met Gala were wearing masks while the celebrities weren't, and pushed back against the pernicious idea that those who want to limit government intrusion into their affairs must be criminals.


For my full archive, you can click here.


I was on two episode of The Editors this week. On the first, we discussed the Democrats' tax bill, AOC's appearance at the Met Gala, and the impending recall election in California. On the second, we talked about the news that General Milley had been freelancing foreign policy during the Trump administration, John Durham's first indictment, and the worsening crisis on the border. You can subscribe to The Editors on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and more. 


On this week's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Kevin Williamson and I discussed the "Tax the Rich" dress that AOC wore to the Met Gala, as well as the Biden administration's approach to vaccines. You can subscribe to Mad Dogs and Englishmen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and more.

What I'm . . .

Listening To

A chance joke at National Review about the word Parsley led to a subsequent joke about the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which led in turn to a debate about the best Simon and Garfunkel song, which led to me playing on repeat the best Simon and Garfunkel song, which, science tells us, is without a doubt, The Only Living Boy in New York:

Naturally, this is just, like, my opinion, man. Indeed, one could get away with picking pretty much any track from the album that The Only Living Boy in New York is on and calling it the "best." That record, which was their final offering, only has eleven tracks on it, and among them are:

  • Bridge over Troubled Water
  • Cecilia
  • Keep the Customer Satisfied
  • So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
  • The Boxer
  • Baby Driver
  • Why Don't You Write Me
  • Song for the Asking

It's an embarrassment of riches.

But, I think that The Only Living Boy in New York takes the cake because it sums up all that was great about the duo in a single song. It has the open sound and travel-story quality of an America; the ethereal backdrop of a The Boxer; the on/off harmonies of a Keep the Customer Satisfied or a Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall; and the impossibly beautiful melody of a Bridge Over Troubled Water or an April Come She Will.

A fun and instructive musical game to play is to think about which single song you would play an alien if you had just one chance to convey what your favorite band sounds like. I think The Only Living Boy in New York does that. And also, my Dad likes it, so I'm biased.

Tech Corner

A reader wrote to me last week and suggested that I add an occasional Tech Corner feature to the newsletter. In particular, he said that he was interested in the home-server setup that, I assume, I must have mentioned on a podcast at some point — probably on Mad Dogs and Englishmen. So, I thought I'd do just that.


The first thing to say is that it's actually a lot easier than you'd think to set up an internal Netflix-like system in your house. All you need is:

  1. a spare computer — the operating system doesn't matter unless it's really rare — with a good amount of disk space and a fast enough processor transcode files;
  2. a piece of software that will act as the server — I use Plex, which you can download for free here;
  3. a browser, if you want to watch on your computer, or a client app if you want to watch on your phone, computer, streaming device, smart TV;
  4. a little patience while you set it all up

In my setup, I have:

  1. an always-on Mac Mini with a big external disk attached to it as my Plex server;
  2. three Apple TVs, each running the Plex client app, from which I can stream the files on the server;
  3. a rule in my firewall that allows a select group of other people to stream from my library from outside my house (N.B. this step is nice, but not at all necessary)

Because wireless can be unreliable, I have wired everything in using a series of switches, but that's not imperative, and in most circumstances your Wi-Fi setup will be able to handle the bandwidth just fine.

Over time, I have ripped all my music, my movies, and my TV shows and put them into Plex. It doesn't matter where the files originally came from — be it DVDs, downloads, or even my iPhone (for home movies) — Plex is agnostic as to the source of the material, and it's capable of playing pretty much any filetype you throw at it. Once it's up and running, adding new material is as simple as putting it into the relevant folder on your computer, and then entering the metadata so that it shows up nicely in your apps (this is largely automated, but occasionally you need to intervene and correct its guess).

Why do this? Well, because while Netflix, Hulu, Disney + and so on are terrific — and I subscribe to all three — I have no control over what they keep in their library, and how. There's something nice about having a large collection of media that can't be removed at some else's whim, especially given that the scolds have started to scour old material and remove anything from the canon that they consider offensive. In effect, Plex gives me the best of both worlds: I don't have 5,000 DVDs and CDs cluttering up my house, but I'm also not reliant upon mega-corporations for access to my entertainment. If you have the interest and a little technical know-how, I'd highly recommend setting it up.

There is a full instruction guide here, and, if you run into trouble despite it, feel free to email me with questions.

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