Just to recap, the contestants are the Official Headshots of the NRO Fund-Raising Cruise Speakers. The photos themselves are a diverse bunch -- some boast that professional sheen typical of those Glamour Shot establishments in the shabbier end of the mall, usually wedged between the Orange Julius and the Dress Barn. Others have an oddly candid feel, as though they fell out of one of those photocopied letters people mail their relatives around Christmas, along with photos of the dog, that trip to the Chain of Lakes, and a fuzzy one of the kids playing Guitar Hero in the bonus room. While still others make Awkward Family Photos look like a Helmut Newton portfolio.
In short, the Speakers offered up photos of themselves that demonstrated either a complete lack of vanity, or a complete lack of self-awareness, but in neither case did they seem like the sort of thing calculated to make even a diehard Corner fan reach for his debit card. Or as D.Sidhe marveled in comments:
There are people who would voluntarily get on a boat with people who chose these pictures to represent themselves? I'm so bothered by that. I know the point's been made before, but the buffet would only have to run out of shrimp cocktail for ten minutes before these guys were deciding which of the paying customers to eat first.Still, maybe these photos had a subtle charm not evident upon first exposure, for as the competition ground on, from semi-finals to finals, she seemed to find herself warming to the Contestants:
I will concede that they are probably not the worst people to end up on a boat. Some of them may in fact be capable of actual kindnesses towards their fellow human beings, John Yoo might, for example, offer a choice of waterboarding *or* stress position on an indefinite detainee's birthday, and Ralph Reed may not actually use a hammer to beat to death swans born out of wedlock. Lileks, you might even imagine, could allow a runaway chained in the basement to keep her real name, even after several years.I fully expect some of the above encomiums to wind up as pull quotes in the next issue of National Review.
And, okay, maybe I was hasty about demanding they each be fitted into a suitcase and left there so I could pick a winner, and despite my earlier comment it seems unfair to assume they'd start ranking the other passengers by likely degree of marbling before the buffet was out of shrimp cocktails (I think they'd probably wait until the Swedish meatballs were gone as well).
Now, on to the winning Losers.
Second Runner-Up is a tie between Mark Steyn and Roman Genn:
Nigel Tufnel said, "That's not Roman Genn. That's funnyman Bobby Bitman (real name: Herschel Slansky) about to appear on the Sammy Maudlin Show." Which, while somewhat ambiguous, I still counted as a vote. FrJohn complimented Genn, noting that his "oddly asymmetrical eyes go well with his Jacqueline Susann hairdo," while Doghouse Riley wondered, "is that Genn's Assistant Maître-D photo? Somebody posed him in front of the men's room dividing wall?"
melior looked beneath the unflatteringly reflective surface of the image, and saw the Man Within: "I suspect his true calling to excellence would be in Most Extraordinary Nose-Hair Moustache if he put in the extensive prep time required." Finally, R. Porrofatto pinpointed the source of the Contestant's appeal, which he eloquently summed up as "Roman Genn's Transylvanian waiter affect."
Between the Hobbity Steyn, and the Darth Vadery hair helmet of Roman Genn, this may indeed, as AnnPW predicted, "turn out to be The Year Of The Hair."
First Runner-Up was also a tie, between James Lileks and John Yoo, a mano a mano battle between Banality and Evil.
Bidziliba ticked off Yoo's many virtues ("the cultural sensitivity of Michelle Malkin coupled with the discreet humanitarianism of Reinhard Heydrich"), but most voters seemed to agree with Korda when he said "the fact that he actually enabled Evil, as opposed to merely advocating it, puts him out of the running in a contest as good-natured as this one," since Yoo faded badly in the Finals.
Brian allowed that Lileks "shares my fascination and love of the defunct and ephemeral, although I think he likes them for different reasons," while Chris Vosburg opined:
Sadly, Lileks, who was up till then a normal enough fella, was one of the sad souls who went a little crazy in the aftermath of the WTC bombing. When he's not writing of politics, I still enjoy his columns. When he writes of politics, I avert my eyes, just like I do when I come across a man urinating on himself in the alley behind my apartment buiding, or when my nutty Aunt explains the efficacy of shark cartilage as a cancer cure."There were also practical reasons to favor the diminutive matchbook hoarder. "If we're heading into ice berg territory," remarked heydave, "I'd only feel safe with Lileks strapped to the prow, his forehead of dumbitude crashing our way through to safety.
But I think Stacia best summed up Lileks' qualifications, and why he -- a relative latecomer to the ranks of wingnut pundits -- annoys me more than contestants who have spent a lifetime being insufferable little bullshit flumes:
Yoo's crimes against humanity notwithstanding, I think the worst conservatives are the sneaky conservatives, which is why my vote goes to James Lileks. He's one of those semi-closeted celebrity conservatives like Michael J. Nelson, Scott Adams or Alton Brown, on one hand aware enough to know they would be loathed by most fellow humans if their political beliefs were to get significant press, yet egotistical enough to believe their popularity is in part due to their backwards worldview. Lileks sits on his webpage, poised like a Venus Flytrap baited with hipster humor and memories of the good old days, sure he will eventually convert lost liberals in dire need of his guidance.Certainly can't argue with that last point! So, in the event the Winner is unable to perform his duties, James Lileks will go to the Sears Family Portrait Studio and pose for some more passport photos that make him look like a sandblasted clown.
But mainly it's because he looks like the creepy window-peeper gas station attendant character in every film noir from 1942 through 1949 inclusive.
Now, the moment I'm sure we've all been waiting for...The coronation of Miss Wingnut, 2011! And the clear favorite, by a landslide margin of 3 votes is...
In addition to the many other laurels Cal has earned during a seemingly never-ending career, he is also known throughout the Netherlands as...Well, let's let legacy Dutchman Chris Vosburg explain it:
You may recall that Cal Thomas went off on Dutch euthanasia laws in a column back in 2004, and didn't stop there: prostitution, drugs, immigration, you name it, everything about the Netherlands was wrong, wrong, wrong. As final insult, he finished his column with the observation "All of this in a country where the Nazis murdered Ann Frank just because she was Jewish and therefore less than human."This was news to me (I am clearly not aware of all internet traditions), so thanks for bringing a bit of international flavor to the Pageant, Chris.
Denizens of the fierce little undersea kingdom promptly responded with a google bomb linking Cal Thomas inextricably to the search phrase ignorant asshole.
Brian also honored the spirit of the competition, while looking deep within his own soul for the answer:
So that leaves me to vote based on the most important criterion: "Who's picture makes me want to punch them in the mouth the hardest?"Scripto introduced a personal angle into the deliberations ("He reminds me of my long hair grabbing prison guard dickhead great uncle. Only more wordy.") while Suezboo asked an important question which I don't believe Cal has ever adequately addressed before: "Is that short for Callous Bastard?"
Well, it is now, Suezboo, and I'll be heading off to Cal's Wikipedia page immediately after the Pageant to share this little known fact with the rest of the world ("Thomas was named after his father, Callous Thomas II, and his mother, Amelia Bastard, of the Boston Bastards...").
Ultimately, though, when you get past all the glitz and the glamour, the kleig lights and ballyhoo, this contest is about one thing: America. And no one summed up what America means today better than Doghouse Riley:
I guess I just wasn't meant for a time when wingnuts like Lileks and Genn would come up through a sort of farm system, like Texas' Miss America Corporation, and employ high-priced hair stylists and fashion consultants. It's like watching a bike race where everybody's coked to the gills on human growth hormone, except in this case it doesn't make anyone faster, or stronger, or, god knows, better looking, just tone deaf enough to continue.Personally, I'm still holding out for that iceberg. Oh, I know the NRO Coin Cadging Cruise is scheduled to ply the pellucid waters of the Caribbean, but a fella can dream, can't he? Besides, that didn't stop Christopher Lee in The Castle of Fu Manchu.
So, Cal Thomas, the last surviving artifact of an optimistic time when we could say, "If we can just hold out until Cal Thomas dies of ugliness and impacted mucus this shit'll be over."
Thanks to our fine panel of judges, and congratulations to all the contestants. Keep reachin' for the stars, and keep staring into the camera with the soulless, glassy gaze of an taxidermied beaver.