Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOTU WHAT? There's not much to say about tonight's State of the Union address. As President Bush sees it, there are no Constitutional concerns with the NSA, Gulf hurricane victims need school vouchers, and homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to get married. This we knew. As for the "addiction to foreign oil" bit, I am old enough to remember the promise of hydrogen cars in the 2003 SOTU, so I know it means nothing.

I might ask why the list of countries to which we will inevitably deliver democracy did not include Cuba, but what's the point? Apart from the grisly image of aged and infirm Coretta Scott King embracing MLK with his throat shot open, this speech had no literary substance whatever. Leave it for the dogs to pick over.
SITUATIONAL ETHICS PART 399,045. Hugh Hewitt finds a Democratic Congressional candidate who was mean to a Republican decorated veteran, and asks
Where are the Democrats who should be denouncing this? The ones who, rightly, slammed the comments directed at Congressman John Murtha's service?
Wow, I didn't know Hewitt was against those comments directed at John Murtha! And there's a good reason I didn't know it: because he said something entirely different at the time:
Every Democrat who attempted to charge the Republicans as attacking Congressman Murtha's patriotism was instantly revealed as a fraud...
The wolf is never so disgusting as when he's pretending to be Grandma.
SHORTER CULTURE-WAR NUTS: What! No nominations for Jesus? This is the most left-wing Oscars ever! Giving awards to small movies, rather than multi-million-dollar epics like Marty amd Chariots of Fire? Further proof of liberalism! Real people will boycott Oscars in favor of Justice Monday! Reese Witherspoon's inevitable Oscar is the exception that proves the movie-traitor rule! And that's the trouble with these artist-people -- they politicize everything!

Monday, January 30, 2006

THE POLITICIZATION OF EVERYTHING, PART 988,098: Michael Novak at The Corner:
GO STEELERS! So it's steeltown America on the rise, the rough and the ready, not a rich team but always fighting and always playing smash-mouth, and running hard, and slashing... and I love it that their opponents this year will be wearing the colors of --hard to comprehend this -- Hamas! Couldn't be a better opponent, who will probably be favored. .... Pittsburgh is the city of the Deerslayer, and the American flag, and always the highest casualty rates in American wars...
I guess it could be a joke, but at The Corner how does one tell? (I do smell bourbon, though. Oh wait, that's just me.)

I eagerly await responses from the objectively pro-Seahawks crowd.

UPDATE. Shortly thereafter: "K-Lo suggests that Kiefer Sutherland's win in the SAG awards might be a case of Hollywood finally catching up on the war on terror."

Anyone remember that old Peanuts strip where Violet bragged to Charlie Brown about her "new hi-fi bracelet," leaving CB to wonder, "How can a bracelet be hi-fi?" I think about that one a lot these days.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

DONKEY LABOR. I blush to admit that tonight was the first time I had seen Au Hasard, Balthazar. I saw Bresson's L'Argent years ago, and never visited him again, but now I want to see all his movies. I understand this is a common reaction.

The story, such as it is, is probably familiar to you: a donkey's life, and the lives of the people around him, none of which go particularly well, but all of which are ennobled by the telling of the tale. I was amazed, after all these years, to recognize in Balthazar Bresson tropes from L'Argent: concentration on hands and legs, tears that appear without histrionic squeezing ("Don't mock my tears, Gerard"), and a benumbed performance style.

I had heard plenty about the Christian sensibility of the film, and it is unavoidable, but the donkey's role in the proceedings surely is not that of Christ, or at least not that of the exemplary Christ seen in most film treatments (to take the most noble example, Johannes in Ordet). Balthazar is beaten, persevering, and loyal, but his example neither teaches nor saves anyone. Even Anne, who loved him as a child, mostly ignores him after she has taken up with the silly moped gangsters. The drunkard is close in status to a mystic -- barefoot, misanthropic, prayerful, and given a second chance by a mysterious inheritance -- and at times he seems like the most natural companion to Balthazar, even in his superstitious cruelty toward him ("Satan! Jinx!"), but in the end merely falls, with a kind word, off Balthazar's back to his death.

What then makes Balthazar's presence so powerful in the film? Perhaps his necessity. Everyone needs Balthazar, to carry loads, to smuggle, to love (briefly), to perform in a circus, to draw well water. He is the ultimate supernumerary, suddenly and unexpectedly given his own storyline, and his prominence throws a new light on everyone around him. Everyone avails him, but only the audience sees Balthazar's importance, or cares about what happens to him, and only we (along with other beasts of the fields) are around to observe and mourn his passing. If Christ is in this picture, he is only in our reaction.

Balthazar reminds me in some ways of the subservient Schmurz in Vian's The Empire Builders -- but unlike the Schmurz, he does not come to collect his due at the end. (Maybe that would be Mel Gibson's Au Hasard, Balthazar.) He also reminds me, perhaps more appropriately, of Firs at the close of The Cherry Orchard. I think Chekhov wanted to create a moment there that would sharply and suddenly contrast the rich folks' struggle of vanities over the old and new orders, which comprises the rest of the play, with an earthier correlative: an old, enfeebled, abandoned retainer, lying down as if for a moment, but really for the last time, at the post. Maybe Bresson's insight was to build a whole work of art around that: the forgotten party, the "sound of a broken string," and the axes working in the background.

Friday, January 27, 2006

REPUBLICAN POPULISM AT WORK: "Though my sample size (about 30 people) and location (the small towns of Greensburg and Latrobe) were hardly scientific, I think my results were broadly representative of working-class Americans." -- Mark Stricherz

(In case you were wondering, Stricherz' working class thinks abortion is infanticide and has no truck whatsoever with "feminist terms about autonomy, privacy, and rights.")

You see a lot of this sort of thing nowadays: conservatives who, so far as I know, do not themselves labor as stevedores or bare-knuckle boxers, explaining that liberals know nothing about the real people. I am tempted to bring up my own long career in menial jobs, but who would believe me? No one who ever swept floors could believe the cuh-razy things I believe.
HANG ONTO YOURSELF. I watched Boston Legal this week. Most weeks I catch at least a little of it. It's a horrible, horrible show, the apotheosis of David E. Kelley's lurid vision of professional life as an endless series of jacked-up and frequently absurd job crises, the tension of which is inevitably relieved by sexual intrigue (also in an endless series, and jacked-up, and frequently absurd). Most of the players are attractive young people who can barely get their chiseled jaws around the preposterous dialogue.

But Boston Legal stars James Spader and William Shatner, and they make a fascinating spectacle in this shabby little arena. From the beginning, they have seemed to inhabit a different universe from all the other characters. They float through their scenes like 19th-century royals after a good lunch at Maxim's, self-satisfied and serene. They are dimly aware of the other characters' needs and desires, and sometimes are inclined to indulge them for reasons of appetite similar to those that animate the other characters -- professional honor or glory, morality, and sex. But where the other performers sweat this stuff, granting it as much importance as I believe the audience is meant to, Spader and Shatner feel the pangs of motivation as one might feel an urge to scratch or stretch, and react to them with refreshing naturalness and self-possession.

This makes them stand out, and reveals a mystery of the performer's art. Acting is a cooperative venture; even monologuists must engage the camera or the audience, while most players also have to evidence relationships with other players. So the actor has to concentrate on people as well as lines, blocking, and the director's orchestration. Maintaining this divided consciousness is a key part of the job, and when an actor says "I really felt it tonight," he is (usually without noticing) celebrating the fact that he felt it while doing everything else he had to do. (Interestingly, Pauline Kael relates that Orson Welles had just this sort of epiphany, which seems to have been rare for him, during the solo in Citizen Kane in which he wordlessly smashes up a room.)

Good actors can handle all that, but great ones know that there is another focus of concentration that needs to be maintained: the concentration on oneself as a character. The famous hams, of course, concentrate on themselves, period, which is actually almost as good. I thought of this while watching John O'Hurley -- yes, Peterman! -- play Billy Flynn recently in Chicago. He wasn't quite what I had in mind, and his schtick usually tires me, but he seemed so perfectly comfortable with himself and his "That's right, Elaine, the white lady -- yam-yam!" readings that he made me comfortable, too, and pulled me over my general objections.

This is why stunt casting is seldom totally disastrous: assuming the player has not lost the nerve that made him or her a celebrity, that boldness in self-presentation will read from the cheap seats as well as a journeyman actor's conscientious characterization.

(This self-regard is not the same thing, of course, as self-consciousness; self-consciousness will make even a great spirit awkward; the self-regarding man could walk into a scene covered with shit and, after perhaps a brief word of explanation for the stench -- offered for your benefit, not his -- go on as if nothing untoward had happened.)

I think Spader and Shatner have a little more on the ball than O'Hurley, but while their characters have a few shades to them, it is their extreme comfort with themselves that makes them galvanic. The relative slightness of their interest in other people is perhaps a little hammy, but certainly not offensive -- if you were this fascinating person, wouldn't you be more interested in yourself, too?

That Spader and Shatner have one another to re-enforce this routine just exponentiates the effect; I especially enjoy the coda of each show, where they sit out on the balcony with drinks and cigars and stare out onto the skyline while talking out their days -- parallel egos taking a moment to take mutual pleasure in their singularities.

For further reference, see Jose Ferrer in Enter Laughing, or Errol Flynn in anything. But I'm sure you can think of other examples.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

THE RIGHT ARE VERY DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME. "...my appetite for fisking has abated; it feels like angry break-up sex, and I don’t quite see the point much anymore." -- Jim Lileks. In the words of Curly: Nggggyaahhh. I wonder if the angry, fisky sex Lileks recalls was with this girl, and if that's what he meant by "end hard"? Time to check The Smoking Gun for old police reports.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

WONKETTE HAS BEEN HACKED. Just a heads-up. Apparently someone's trying to show us just how unsexy and unfunny real nerds can be. As if we needed reminding!

UPDATE. The unfun and unsexy continues. You can always judge a man by his 70's rant. If it's all breakdown-of-society stuff, with no appreciation for the rampant drug abuse and unprotected anal sex, then it's time to move on to the next party.
Kayne West's Jesus schtick is intended to buy some controversy. He's posing as Jesus for Rolling Stone. I really hope the religious right doesn't take the bait...
Jonah Goldberg, who I guess is not religious, forty minutes later:
A reader makes a good suggestion. If a rock or rap star wants to make waves in an interesting and novel way rather than this clich├ęd Jesus rip-off, they could always dress up like Muhammed. I don't support it, but that at least would take some guts.
Hey, that's a funny idea. Maybe Goldberg should do it. Oh, wait, his family couldn't afford the lost income etc.

Three minutes later, Tim Graham:
There is a media-bias connection to the Kanye West outrage.
Linked story cites Matt Lauer's outrage in 1997 over a National Review cover showing Clintons as buck-toothed Mistah Magloo Asians. Lauer's outrage makes it hypocritical for Rolling Stone (of which Matt Lauer was once editor-in-chief, right before Howell Raines and Michael Moore) to show a black man wearing a crown of thorns, is the point I'm guessing Graham wants to make. Or maybe there's another explanation -- like psilocybin:
Rolling Stone’s theology is interesting: they’re tongue-in-cheek about Jesus and genuflect under the ashes of dope fiend Hunter S. Thompson.
Graham's also pissed that West says he gets turned on by porn instead of by Canadian elections like normal people.

Meanwhile the publicity for Kanye West spreads like cooties in a junior-high locker room. Advantage: blogosphere! Or hiphoposphere! Or bullshitosphere! Or something, anyway, other than common sense.

UPDATE. It hadda happen! The Ole Perfesser does his bit for the Kanye media blitz; takes time to "yawn," link to Goldberg. What's Roc-A-Fella paying these people?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'M A STUPID MORON WITH AN UGLY FACE AND A BIG BUTT AND MY BUTT SMELLS AND I LIKE TO SMELL MY OWN BUTT. Jonah Goldberg offers a list of books from a liberal POV "that I personally found interesting or useful." What makes such books interesting or useful to him?
There are certain things you need to look for when measuring the honesty of liberals writing about certain periods. For the Progressive era, they need to admit that civil liberties often mattered very little to the champions of "reform." When it comes to the New Deal, they need to acknowledge that on the specific terms used to justify the New Deal — i.e. ending the Great Depression — the New Deal was a failure (the best recent conservative book on this point is Jim Powell's FDR's Folly). Moreover, they need to acknowledge FDR's numerous shortcomings in terms of personal honesty and intellectual heft. I'm not saying that you have to think FDR was a lying dullard, or that the New Deal was a bad thing, to be an honest historian of the period, but you have to deal with those allegations thoughtfully.

As for the 1960s, you have to admit that at least some of the rebellion was little better than a pose; that fear of Vietnam and not high-minded pacifism was a major motive for the protest movement; and that some of the participants in the 1960s were either damaged people or became damaged because of their participation.
Similarly, I find conservative books most honest when they acknowledge Reagan's numerous shortcomings in terms of personal honesty and intellectual heft, and his failure on the specific terms of the Reagan Revolution -- i.e., to get the government off our backs (though if you think Reagan's purpose was to allow corporations to raid the Treasury, you would be honest in calling Reagan a success).

Also, you would need to admit that at least some of the Gingrich Revolution was little better than a pose; that enthusiasm for a new scam for disentangling suckers from their loot, and not high-minded government reform, was a major motive for the Contract with America; and that some of the participants in the Revolution were either damaged people or became damaged because of their participation.

Such books exist, but the conservatives who write them are usually called liberals.

Friday, January 20, 2006

SHORTER BYRON YORK: The stories conservatives told about Clinton in the 90s were fake but accurate.
THE RIGHT TO GO TO A SCHOOL THAT LOOKS GOOD ON MY RESUME WITHOUT HAVING TO HEAR ANYTHING MY DAD THINKS IS RED. I see an UCLA alumni group is posting a hit list of leftist professors, and offering students money to monitor said professors' activities. Even the usual idiots are a little embarrassed by their co-religionists' project, though they still maintain that lefty bias among college professors is a very serious problem.

I have said it before, and before that, and before that even, but I will repeat it here: what prevents these aggrieved students from transferring to Liberty University, where Jerry Falwell will see to it that they never hear another leftwing prof again? Or to Hillsdale, or Wheaton, or the Claremont Colleges, or any of these schools? You don't even need vouchers! Let the free market rule!

If these people loved education as much as they loved to bitch and moan, this country would be in great shape.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NERD CENTRAL STATION. Oh Christ, the Perfesser turns a book review into a dating seminar for his buds. General consensus: Bitches won't give manly mens a break! Here's my favorite chump:
As a 48-year-old never married single man still in decent shape, successful and now retired, and having weathered the "feminist" cultural storm still raging since my teens, I can tell you that even your having read Norah Vincent's book, you STILL have no idea of the anger, the hatred, the vengeance and the pain so many otherwise attractive and available women are afflicted with. It is an epidemic of conflict and self-distortion that begins and ends with an impenetrable sense of entitlement, based on a false sense of victimhood, and for which not just any man but every man must pay forever for the restoration that's never good enough.

The "feminist" demand runs from fathers to brothers to sons and husbands, to their friends and acquaintances and chance encounters; it is endless. "I am woman, hear me roar" has produced a psychological wasteland that would put Sherman's march to shame and into which any man who travels does so at his peril....
That's why God made Astrolube, buddy.

Reynolds gets his missus in on it, leading to a discussion so stupefying that I found myself making a little Dada exercise out of scrolling down the page and reading lines at random, which vastly improved the experience. My favorite so far:

And if your 'drift' is that I'm greg kuperberg, I'm not. I already told you that I'm a female attorney.


Rather than thinking like prostitutes, I believe these women you describe are thinking like anti-prostitutes.


Since her death, I've made it a point to look for another Filipina.

Perfesser Reynolds' last linkee sees that thread differently: "When we last checked, there were 108 venting males on her site. Don't women want men expressing their feelings? Could it be that women only want their men expressing some of their feelings, if so many had to wait so long for this one lone chance to let fly?" I wonder if he's single, or involved in a committed relationship with the mummified hitchhiker in his smokehouse?

Suddenly all those jokes about keyboard kommandos and Mom's basement have become horribly, horribly real.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

MAD MAILBAG: EPISODE ONE. Busy again, so I invented a new category that allows me to recycle other people's work and make it look like I did something. Hehndeed!

As a break from the tedious forensic work of isolating the central fallacies in wingnut columns, we go straight for the cheap laffs with Mad Mailbag -- celebrating comment-box crackpots and their prose-poetic descriptions of the alternative universes in which they dwell.

Today's winner comes from Winds of Change, in a response to Armed Liberal's MLK day complaint that liberals don't get King right.

As a quick scan of sites like Roger L. Simon's and (pre-hejira) Michael Totten's shows, the usual fan base for pro-war sorta-usedtobe-whatever-liberal guys like AL consists of conservatives delighted to hear smack spoken by an insider against the hated liberals.

But some in the crowd are not convinced that the former fellow-traveller has truly repented; and when the audience has thinned out, they step to the podium and, as the speaker is packing up his papers, lean over and whisper in his ear:
Armed Liberal said in post #6: "While I think that the Left has foolishly abandoned both the moral center and style of discourse used by Dr. King, I'd bet that it would resonate still in the right voice. I'm looking for that voice..."

Armed Liberal, I hope that you never find it. Because three are some people who are responsive to that voice. They are Christian, conservative and the backbone of the pro-life cause.

The Left, which the voice that you are looking for would serve, is committed to "choice". When all the oily rhetoric about "choice", "quality of life" and so on comes to a practical point, it is the point of a hypodermic needle piercing the heart of a viable human foetus, to inject it with potassium chloride, to kill it. A voice for the Left is a voice that facilitates the slaughter of helpless human beings.

I think that what you want is a Saruman the White, using the finest words to get people to agree to the worst actions.

I hope you never find him.
With friends like these, who needs glassy-eyed stalkers?

P.S. I also propose a codicil to Godwin's Law: any political argument availing wizards, wookies, elves, necromancers, or persons named Something The Something is prima facie bullshit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

LATRINE DUTY. It's not all major essays and heavy thinking here at alicublog. Sometimes basic maintenance has to be performed. I am here to tell you, first --
First [Hillary Clinton's] husband decides somehow that he is an African-American by claiming to be the "first black President" because he comes from a broken family.
-- that Captain Ed is full of shit: Clinton never seriously portrayed himself thus; it came from Toni Morrison.

Second, they haven't begun to dismount that Brokeback Mountain hobby-horse yet -- but they have moved from the anger stage to bargaining, experimenting with a manly, non-gay way to appreciate the film --
To come down from the mountain, and settle down into gay domesticity is not an option for them, because it would rob them of their dignity as men... and it would transform them into gay men -- a queer kind of quasi-male our society is willing to tolerate, and even to chuckle over and smile at, the way people chuckle over and smile at the funny sissies on Will and Grace. But neither of the cowboys could allow such an insult to their pride and dignity, and thus their only escape was to return to the isolation of the mountain, where, by themselves, they could achieve what even the most gay tolerant society could not give them -- a sense of manliness...
Butch it up as much as you like, girlfriend -- it's still hot man-on-man action to me!

UPDATE. Clinton joked, people choked! See comments.
THESE "LIBERAL FRIENDS" OF MINE! I keep asking but no one can tell me...
Most of my friends are liberals. This series is the conversation I wish that I could have with them. I wish they would let me finish my train of thought before interrupting. I wish that they would consider my arguments, rather than try to bury them in rhetorical put-downs.
...how do guys like Arnold Kling acquire, let alone keep, these "liberal friends" when they express such obvious contempt for them?

I mean, what would the conversations be like?
KLING: See the Colts game?
LIB FRIEND: Damn, I knew they'd fuck it up. They've been riding for a fall.
KLING: Oh, well, you would say that.
LIB FRIEND: Whattaya mean?
KLING: (pulling out charts) As this graph indicates, you have a tendency to claim prescience after the fact.
LIB FRIEND: After the fact? I wrote you an e-mail two days before the game that said the same thing.
KLING: I wish you'd stop interrupting me.
LIB FRIEND: I'm sorry. What were you going to say?
KLING: That your childish behavior is attributable to a deep-rooted psychological malady.
LIB FRIEND: Yuh don't say. (knocks him down)
KLING: You also have a propensity for violence.
(Cue theme for the "The Odd Couple," blackout)
I don't see how anyone with any self-respect would put up with that kind of treatment. Many there's an escort service in D.C. that handles it. Didn't I read about it at Wonkette?

Or maybe it's just bullshit. Yeah, let's go with that.
I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSHISNAME. If you though "Bring Back Birdie" was a bomb, wait 'til you get a load of "Bring Back Reagan," now playing at OpinionJournal:
When Rep. John Shadegg jumped into the race for House majority leader last week, he called himself a "Reaganite" who would bring back the Gipper's vision of limited government...

It's telling that now, five years into the second Bush presidency, conservatives are still looking for the next Ronald Reagan to champion their ideas in Washington. Even as Reagan and the current President Bush have similar presidential records--fighting wars of ideas around the globe and running federal deficits at home--Reaganism is the party's philosophy, with its belief in small government, low taxes, forceful conservatism, a strong military and the view that this country is a shining example for all the world.
Several of this article's ideas are humorous -- for example, the notion that "wars of ideas" has been redefined since St. Ronnie's time to include carpet bombing, prolonged and unwanted occupation, and the secret detention of American citizens -- but only one is interesting: that conservative apparatchiks still count on invocations of Reagan to sanctify their latest predations.

Does that shit work anymore? Reagan is widely admired, true -- but so is Bill Clinton. This poll has the Glimmer Twins at one and two -- ahead of Lincoln! -- with younger voters prefering Bubba.

Clearly these findings have little to do with historical reality, and much to do with aspiration and self-identification. People who grew up in the 1980s tend to overvalue Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark; likewise, those who grew up with Reagan, when approached by the opinion collector, think not of the evil GE shill sticking a hose into the Treasury and throwing the other end to his corporate buddies, but of their carefree youth. Same with Bubba Blowjob.

So as they prepare the Republican makeover, professional bullshit artists will naturally avail heavy quantities of Spirit of Reagan. They may be right. Not to get too deep into it, but our country is sunk into a peculiar, new state that we might call psuedo-romanticism, best symbolized by the gestural, yellow-sticker support our citizens reflexively give to a war in which few of them believe. We are awash in bunting, but bankrupt of ideals. Ask your neighbor which American value he prizes above all others, and he'll probably hesitate (or name the dollar menu at McDonald's). What do we stand for? Greater earning power than you get in Kenya? All-you-can-eat shrimp? Supposedly preserving freedom for others at the expense of our own?

St. Ronnie may be a great icon for such a time. Or it may be that he's outworn his welcome. Seeing for the millionth time his wizened, hard-smiling visage in OpinionJournal, I was reminded of the Joker in Batman. As our values become more formless and free-floating, the shock of the new must be constantly applied to keep this rumbling corpse of a Republic tottering forward.

If Reagan turns out to be as welcome at the Republican relaunch as any other senile grandfather, things will get weird. What other corpses and near-corpses are available? Nixon? Ford? Bush I?

In that case, prediction: the lighting rise to power of Kurt Busch!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Should the United Nations be reformed? Or dissolved altogether?

That became the question of the evening at the first night of the Liberty Film Festival as the audience was treated to the LA premiere of "Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60"...

However, while the documentary dismantles the UN's credibility, it calls not for abolishment, but reform. And as you can probably guess, that's not what most of the audience at a conservative film festival have in mind -- and they didn't even wait until the end of the film to make that clear.

When one of the film's interviewees declared that "we can't fight these problems [terrorism, etc.] on our own," one audience member piped in with "The Marines can!" which was met with applause.

After the film, in a rather unusual move, radio talk show host Tammy Bruce was given the podium before the filmmakers. While praising the film as a good first step, Bruce challenged the idea of reform, declaring the UN to be part of the problem.

Not one to shy away from verbal excess (what radio host ever is?), she compared reforming the U.N. to trying to reform the Nazis, declared that un-reformable "Jew-hatred" is at the heart of the U.N., and said the U.N. "keeps righteous nations like Israel and the U.S. from being able to do what they need to do."
-- "Dateline Hollywood: Compromising Art or the Art of Compromise?" Ryan Zempel, Townhall
In the early 1960s, when Judelevicius wrote Gyvasis Sekspyras, Soviet critical views of Shakespeare were still officially regulated by the strain of ideology proclaimed at the First Soviet Writers' Congress of 1934 and synthesized in 1936 by A. Smirnov, whose Shakespeare: A Marxist Interpretation had neatly bound up the dramatist's entire oeuvre within the confines of socialist realism in a way that both limited the range of permissible readings and outlined an austere program for Soviet literary criticism in general. In a 1965 article entitled "Literature and the Arts in Captive Lithuania, " Jonas Grinius outlined this "totalitarian encirclement" as it affected Lithuanian writers. Foremost among the requirements of works of both academic and imaginative works produced in the Soviet era, Grinius explained, was that of historical optimism. Other prerequisites included the demand that all literary material be interpreted according to the dialectical and historical materialism preached by the Communist Party, always concerning itself with some aspect of the class struggle and depicting evil characters with the supposed traits of the bourgeoisie. Rimvydas Silbajoris has specified an even more basic limitation on the Soviet Lithuanian literary critic: he must not interpret using aesthetic criteria, but exclusively through the lens of sociology; and he must assert "the supremacy of a single ideology over the multifaceted and ideologically self-determined inner world of the artist."
--Patrick Chura, "Hamlet" and the Failure of Soviet Authority in Lithuania

Friday, January 13, 2006

SHORTER PERFESSER REYNOLDS: After we completely fuck up this planet, me and my buddies will just get in our rocket ships and leave it all behind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"When Mrs. Alito walked out of the room, I thought of Mary Jo Kopechne."
When they open the Hack Hall of Fame, Roger L. Simon gets in on the first ballot.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

GOLDBERG: THE EARLY YEARS. Jonah Goldberg talks today about his school days and all the feminists he -- well, let him tell it:
Moreover, many of the dedicated feminists I knew and befriended (and, yes, dated) sincerely believed in the cause...
The mind reels! Here's a little number we at The alicublog Comedy Hour like to call "Young Goldberg and His Feminist Date":
IMA LIBERAL: Jonah, my eyes are up here.

JONAH: (cracking that adorable, crooked grin) I was looking at your hands. You have nice hands -- really nice hands! (laughs, sprays cracker crumbs)

IMA LIBERAL: Ghod. So, what movie did you want to go see?

JONAH: Are you sure you want to go to a movie? Because I'm gonna pay for your ticket, and you'll be forced to sit right next to me in a dark room. Isn't that a signifier for the patriarchy or something?

IMA LIBERAL: Ha ha. No, Jonah, that would be fine.

JONAH: I bet you think you're speaking for all women when you say that. That's pretty arrogant, don't you think?

IMA LIBERAL: Okay, Jonah, you made your point.

JONAH: Oooh, the thought police are trying to silence me because I'm not being politically correct!

IMA LIBERAL: What is that weird voice you're doing?

JONAH: Bluto! Hey, what did the feminist say to the lesbian! Nice hands! Ha ha ha ha -- oh shoot, I'm out of chips! (suddenly "black," waves chips bag) Yo, go git me some mo' chips, bitch!

IMA LIBERAL: What the fuck is wrong with you?

JONAH: Relax, I'm joking. Jeez! Can't a guy tell a joke? You feminists are really touchy! You must be having your period. (pointing at her) Woody Allen used that in "Annie Hall" so if you get mad it's hypocritical!

IMA LIBERAL: Listen, Jonah, this is too weird. I'll see you. (leaves)

JONAH: (to the audience) The part of "Ima Liberal" was very thinly drawn, which shows that liberals like Edroso don't respect women as much as I, who only wanted to take her to a movie and, maybe, if things worked out, hold her "hand." (Snorts, farts, and throws confetti like Rip Taylor.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GET R-READY! THE WOR-RLD IS COMIN' TO AN END! This New Criterion review of the journal N+1 starts okay, and the author, Stefan Beck, even manages to be funny ("If 'boredom is a moment of danger,' I just fell out a fifth-story window into an abandoned mineshaft full of quicksand"). What the hell, N+1 deserves a few knocks.

But at the end Beck reveals a tendency, shared by all the more hardcore kulturkampfers that nest at the New Criterion, to grab a sandwich board and play the Get-Ready Man:
...it seems inevitable that n+1 will recede from view... It will fail less because of its obnoxious hype machine than because, as the world’s troubles become more dire and more immediate, nobody’s going to turn to the Kunkels for the answers. A civilization declining within and attacked from without can’t afford to ponder its fate in the same glib, nugatory way that it ponders “trends in network comedy.” So nobody will turn to n+1. They’ll just wonder, one hopes, why they ever made such idols of Progress and Thought—without a moment’s attention to where they were going or what, if anything, they were thinking.
Years ago, when David Letterman was funny, he had as a guest on his show G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy obviously cared little for his host, and throughout the interview fixed him with icy stares and gnomic responses suggesting that he was far too wise and advanced to be trifling with fools like this. Letterman reacted with nervous laughter and defensive mutterings of "ooooh-kaaay" until the very end. After he asked Liddy what he thought his own legacy would be, and Liddy replied, "My legacy will be what everyone's will be -- a diet for the worms," Letterman turned to the camera and said, with a big grin and in his best announcer's voice, "There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: G. Gordon Liddy says, tomorrow we'll all be dust."

I credit folks like Beck for taking art more seriously than the usual Zhdanovite clowns, but Jesus Christ, guy, if you feel that way about things, why bother writing about such ephemera, unsuited as both the object and the analysis are to the New Sparta our times demand? Why not go make munitions, or hang yourself?
...Ladies like to play games. One of those games apparently is playing hard to get on the phone. Now, to be sure, men like playing games as well and since men are not oftentimes as verbal as ladies like them to be, games don't even have to be played to (inadvertently) mess with a lady's mind. But the traditional male compulsion to remain relatively Stoical and silent along with the fear that the ladies are wrapping us around their lovely fingers with "will she call me/will she not?" phone games compel us to be relatively shy in the conversation department...

Want to have a few of us break out of our shells? Then stop playing games!...

This is my plea: Help us help you...
Send that boy a blow-up doll.

Oh, and get this:
If this post doesn't excite the hate mailers, nothing will.

UPDATE: Okay, so not much hatemail. But I probably should clarify a few things . . .
Admiringly squibbed by credentialed wingnuts, yet still in the "hotpants and harangues" stage of his socio-sexual development. I hope the fame compensates for the anguish of these, his teenage years.

Monday, January 09, 2006

JEFF GOLDSTEIN DEFAMES HIS COUNTRYMEN. Despite conservative tubthumping for our super-wonderful, jacked-up economy (Here comes another millionaire! Feel your per-capita income going up!), consumer confidence is lagging. Jeff Goldstein offers this analysis:
Yet still -- with unemployment below 5% and the DOW threatening 11000 -- many economists at odds with Bush’s economic philosophy insist that Americans are somehow worse off, that their jobs are a inauthentic, that their situations really are far more dire than they themselves are able to understand.

Which is why for years now, I suspect, the health of the economy has not polled well among the American public, many of whom continue to recognize that though they are doing just fine, others must necessarily be suffering greatly—because this is the dour economic news they receive day in and day out from people like Krugman...

...The result is, Americans -- a compassionate people -- are often concerned about this phantom suffering of others in the abstract, and will react less confidently to the current state of the economy based on how they believe others are suffering under it, even while they themselves note (often with some degree of secret shame) that they seem to be doing just fine.
I have a pretty low opinion of my fellow citizens' intelligence, but I never would have imagined them easy marks for the hypnotic powers of Paul Krugman. Especially with everyone else drowning out Krugman's incantations with cries of "strong economy."

Also, I have lived amongst Americans for a long time, and I have never known one to minimize his financial status -- in fact, I have heard more than one claim to be "doing great!" when he was in fact two paychecks from a barrel overcoat. Americans are proud of their treasures, however many credit cards and mortgages are paying for them. When your average American buys a new car, for instance, he rides it slowly, almost insolently past his neighbors; he blathers on to strangers about it; the only person he hides it from is the collection agent.

Is Mr. Average American really so whipped by firewalled Times columnists that he feels "secret shame" at his big house, car, and alarm system? Why, Goldstein makes him sound more like some kinda goddamn grape-boycottin', guilt-trippin' liberal than a real American! I advise him to apologize forthwith if he wants to keep his place. Remember what happened to Andrew Sullivan!
JUST LOOKING IN. I'm awful busy this morning, but if it's laughs you want, you can go here and watch Ross Douthat condemn abortion by comparing zygotes to bums. No, really:
If I shoot a mother of four, it's a much greater tragedy than if I shoot a friendless bum, and you'd probably want to give me a much stiffer prison sentence. But it doesn't mean the mom should have the right to life and the bum - or the fetus, the embryo, or the zygote - shouldn't.
The rest of it's pretty funny too.

Stray thought: Given all we've been told about how Jesus made Chronicles of Narnia a hit, does its replacement at #1 by Hostel mean that America has decided it prefers serial killers to Christ?

Friday, January 06, 2006


... so why would I go watch fags?

(Remember when conservatives were at least pretending to like gay people? Why were they doing that, I wonder? Just to see how much bullshit they could get away with? Anyway, ol' Mallard demonstrates that things are getting back to normal; next week, Chantel will jack his car, and Mr. Noseworthy will ask Mallard if he's ever been to Harlem, and Mallard will be all like, "Are you kidding? I can't stand my own black skin!")

UPDATE. Some interesting subtextual analysis in comments. I would add that, in this series, Mallard exhibits the loathing of public events and contact with fellow human beings typical of suburban conservatarian dweebs.

There really is No Such Thing as Society when you smell bad and can't fit in a theatre seat.
SHORTER TIM GRAHAM: Pat Robertson is a liberal plot.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

SO MANY RETARDS, SO LITTLE TIME. God, the web's infested with brain-lice today.

I expected the usual idiots to exploit the recent dead-miner unpleasantness as a victory of blog-borne news over old, worn-out, no-longer-cool MSM (though I notice Pajamas Media, the Perfesser's hobbyhorse, reported the story on January 4 this way: "In an extraordinary twist of fate, 12 miners caught in an explosion in a coal mine were found alive late Tuesday, more than 41 hours after the blast").

But I must credit the New York Post's Ian Bishop with going beyond the call of idiocy, under a headline that sounds like a collaborative effort by Evelyn Waugh and Nathanael West: "SIMPLE FOLK VENT THEIR OUTRAGE AT THE BIGSHOTS" --
Residents were rightfully serving up blame by the bucketful. Mine executive Ben Hatfield was an easy target — and so was Gov. Jim Manchin.

The local talk-radio stations — both of them — were lit up with calls whacking the gov.

Where was their Rudy Giuliani? irate listeners wondered...

The locals feel that they're saddled with the brother of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, whose hand-wringing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year made her a national joke.
At least Bishop refrained from using quote marks. Even credulous Post readers might find it hard to imagine heartbroken backcountry folk in their moment of anguish crying out for Rudolf Giuliani or cursing the name of Kathleen Blanco.

Meanwhile, I suppose you all heard about that poor woman whose ventilator was turned off because she couldn't pay for it, and who subsequently died. This is the sort of thing that outrages normal people, but gets the glibertarians enthusastically re-tucking their shirts and clicking their pens. Andrew Sullivan's third string :
While here the critics are mostly on the left, the argument parallels closely what you'll hear from opponents of assisted suicide on the right: revulsion at the prospect that terminal patients might make decisions about when to end their lives on the basis of "economic considerations." I'm with Landsburg: It seems mad not to allow economic considerations to play a role—that's not heartlessness so much as the ethical equivalent of refusing to let your genitals do the thinking for you.
There's an argument: if you support the right to die, you support the right to be killed! As for the "genitals" bit, there are some depths to which my analysis will not sink.

God, that was depressing. I could use some real laughs... but Lileks is too generically hippie-hatin' today, only recovering the higher notes of his madness with the climactic "Wal-Mart, for example, probably won’t stock the Swedish jeans. I think that says it all"; Crazy Jesus Lady is just gently scolding the dolls around her tea-table, and what's the fun in that?

Thank heaven for Altmouse!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT? This New Orleans native tells National Review's readers that if they don't want to save her city, they are being just like those baby-killing liberals:
But the utilitarian mindset -- that someone is valued only to the extent that they are useful to someone else -- is not limited to Katrina politics. It pervades the mindset of those who see human lives themselves as valuable only if they are useful -- those who seek to use human embryos as spare parts for embryonic-stem-cell research, those who seek to use fetal parts from aborted babies, those who seek to euthanize the disabled because they are of no use to anyone.

And if we can apply the utilitarian mindset to human lives so easily, it's no wonder that we do the same to a beloved American city like New Orleans...

We're back home now experiencing the surreal in-between of an expectant mother of a high-risk pregnancy. New Orleans experienced a watery tomb, but now she awaits rebirth in an expectant womb. Let's choose life for the new New Orleans. Just because we love her.
I applaud the author. True, her analogy is insane -- but it may be effective in her purpose. She knows that while her conservative readers are incapable of any sympathy at all for resourceless, unconnected, full-grown humans, they jes' loves them a fetus; and by portraying the city as immersed, not in the waters of Lake Ponchartrain, but in amniotic fluid, she may get them to provide more support and less of the usual bullshit.

It may be she doesn't even believe this nonsense, and spews it only because she loves her home so much that she is willing to make herself look like a moron in order to gain it a little help. If so, New Orleans should build her a statue.

Myself, I plan a cyber-tour of the conservative precincts, featuring pictures of me with my close friend & personal savior Jesus Christ, and His message: "Roy shall be with me in Heaven, but meantime he needs your cash contributions. Don't make me send a plague; give generously now. Say, doesn't he look kind of like a fetus, all curled up like that around his empty bottle of JD?"
TENURED RADICAL. It turns out Professor Althouse, pioneer of the no-but-I-saw-the-trailer school of film criticism, has more ambitious aesthetics than I ever realized.

For one thing, she doesn't believe in the representation of historical figures in fiction films:
What a big drag! I especially loathe the biopic. This year, we're supposed to care about Truman Capote and Johnny Cash -- I mean a pretentious actor impersonating Truman Capote or Johnny Cash... Why can't we just see actual footage of Ray Charles? It's disconcerting to imitate his mannerisms. Since there's plenty of film of the man, why not make a documentary?
She definitely doesn't believe in it if said historical figures did bad things:
[Mark David Chapman] should never be mentioned, never given any attention, and no film should ever be made about him. I don't care how much the filmmakers think they are expressing disapproval, when a movie is made about a person, he becomes, in some sense, a hero. No one should ever see that man realize any part of his dream of linking his name to Lennon's. The news was reported when it happened. You can look it up if you want to know who did it. Now, the media should black out his name, forever.

And they shouldn't have made a movie about the woman who shot Andy Warhol, either...

If there were any chance that this "Chapter 27" thing is a great screenplay along the lines of "Taxi Driver," I might make an exception. But you know damned well it's not. The moviemakers are just trading on Lennon's fame and trying to grab what they think is a built-in market of people who are interested in him. We should shun them.
(I wonder if she knows that Taxi Driver was partly inspired by the diary of George Wallace's assassin, Arthur Bremer. Maybe Paul Schrader gets a pass because the Professor didn't grow up twisting to "Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever.")

This is all pretty far out, but today Professer Althouse makes her boldest statement yet:
Spare me your made-up characters and stories and tell me whatever you have to say about the world you observe.
V.S. Naipal did say that fiction is dead -- but now that a blogger with a large fan base has lined up against it, I guess we might as well stop writing stories and novels, and give our cultural heritage over to travel sketches.

At which the Professor is quite good, by the way, and to which she should stick.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

GOOD-BAD BUT HE’S NOT EVIL. In A History of Violence, a gentle man living in smalltown America turns out to have a violent past, which he has to settle with violence. This is classic American movie stuff -- Out of the Past, Shane, and Unforgiven come speedily to mind. What might David Cronenberg have to add?

He subtracts more than he adds. The biggest change is in the central character. His forebears in the genre suffered qualms, waxed philosophical. Tom doesn’t do that. He isn’t quite a cypher, but moral anguish isn’t part of his makeup. He isn’t obviously tortured by the past --when he tries to talk to his wife about it, he doesn’t have much to say. At first I thought he might just be inarticulate – a doer, not a talker. It turns out there isn’t anything to talk about. His second life is the one he wants: his first life he thought he’d "killed," When he can’t easily turn the past away, he goes back to do the job right.

In fact, the old Joey and the new Tom are very similar – taciturn, observant, economical with his emotions and gestures. The good one’s voice, we find out, is slightly airier than the other one’s. I’ve been thinking about that a while. Is this a sign of enforced gentility – like a hard man being gentle around children? Or is it just as much acting as he’s capable of? (The character, not Viggo Mortensen, who is really, really good.)

Tom’s only problem, besides the obvious, is his family. They aren’t cooperating. In fact, they’re starting to challenge him. You can guess how he might react to that, though it’s shocking when he does.

There’s a lot going on at the edges that I still haven’t got straight. All the other bad men are unmistakable – when they come onscreen, even in the elliptical beginning, you get a bad feeling about them. Much is made of the moment when the serial killers stare down the local bully, a poser out of John Hughes. Real evil is heavy. So how did Joey get away with his act for so long? Is there some way in which he has really changed? If he hasn’t, does it matter, so long as he has the will and opportunity to be good?

I honestly don’t know whether Cronenberg missed an opportunity to make things clearer, or if, in his estimation, it just doesn’t get any clearer than that. What do you guys think?
ALL IS WELL. Captain Ed covers the Fiesta Bowl pretty much the way he covers Iraq:
6:53 - Last quarter, and the Irish can still come back, but they'd better play better than the first three if they're going to do it...

7:13 Samardziaj finally pulls one in and puts the Irish back into the long game...

7:22 - Gotta run. Granddaughters trump the Irish. It looks like the Irish may be ready to score, and I'll be listening on the radio. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
To be fair, he didn't tell us that if we failed to stop the Buckeyes in Tempe, we would wind up fighting them in St. Paul.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

MUNICH AS A MOVIE. I’m not much on late Spielberg. Schindler’s List, for example, struck me as three good movies – one about Oskar Schindler, one about Amon Goeth, one about the Nazi persecution of the Jews – smashed together to make the super-duper holocaust spectacular I suppose Spielberg wanted to make.

These movies aren’t bad. Spielberg is very good with his tools and, as well-developed craft seldom comes without passion, he can orchestrate the hell out of scenes and sometimes (as in the Goeth thread) grasp beyond what I imagined to be his reach. But by and large I just don’t think he’s a very deep thinker. Sam Fuller wasn’t a deep thinker, either, but The Big Red One is a whole lot more grown-up than Saving Private Ryan. Fuller had been in the shit, of course, but Robert Aldrich never served, and he made the magnificent Attack!.

So I think this is more a question of artistic temperment, and maybe personal temperment, than biography. Spielberg has a gift for seeing the world through a child's eyes, but when it comes time to process the information, I’m not sure how much more developed than a child he is.

Munich isn’t bad, either. It’s very watchable, especially considering the pains taken to de-glamorize the violence. The acting is first-rate -- I expect people will stop ribbing Eric Bana for The Hulk now. But again I don’t think Spielberg was up to the material.

For Munich, Spielberg seems to have picked up some vibrations from the dark sensibilities of Seventies films. This may seem odd for a director who got famous making "movie-movies" full of references to much earlier pictures, but Spielberg’s a movie buff first and last, and can’t help but absorb the spirit of whatever milieu he’s working in. As I watched it I kept thinking of The Kremlin Letter, The Quiller Memorandum, and Sorcerer. The visuals are bleak, the downturns in fortune inevitable, the mission increasingly absurd. Avner, our counter-terrorist hero, starts as a cipher and becomes luminescent as he accumulates despair.

So far as it goes, this is a creditable approach that might have served, say, Alan Clarke or Costa-Gavras well. Try, though, to imagine Spielberg sticking to a format like this. He just can’t do it, and has to reach out of the moral morass for his nearest equivalent to redemption, the Big Movie Moment that is his stock in trade: the Moment of recognition between Avner and his Arab counterpart (across a bloody street battle), the Moment of personal crisis (cribbed rather tastelessly from The Conversation), several Moments of Mom involving the women in Avner’s life -- his mother, his wife, and Golda Meir -- and the biggest Moment (and biggest mistake), of Thanatopsis, when Avner recalls the climax of the Munich massacre during a physical act of love. (Not the mention the Moment with the radio, which would have made a nice Coca-Cola commercial.)

It says something that the most genuinely eloquent, unforced, and moving moment in the movie is Avner’s reaction to his infant daughter back in Brooklyn saying "Dada" on the phone. Home is where the heart of Munich is. The screenwriters have loaded the story with references to home, and made it the McGuffin for the widening gyre of violence. Maybe this is what attracted Spielberg to the project: E.T. wanted to go home, and so does everyone else, including people who haven’t got one. I suppose Spielberg thought pointing this out would suggest a common ground on which these feuds could be settled, and sharpen the sense of waste and futility of the struggle.

But "home" really is one thing coming from a muppet in a kiddie picture, and another coming from adult commandoes on a blood-hunt. This is not a political but a dramatic observation. In the context of what actually happens in Munich, the endless talk among the counter-terrorists and their contacts of home -- and of morality, ethics, and nearly everything else more exalted than munitions and procedure -- is revealed to be absurd, and the sentimental gestures that inflate the movie are all a con. The team’s Mossad handler is very clear-eyed (not to say correct) about the whole business -- when Avner confronts him about the reciprocal nature of violence, he shrugs, "Why should I cut my nails? They’re only going to grow back again." Did none of the other team members ever consider this point of view, either to adopt or reject, before joining the mission?

Clearly Spielberg doesn’t see it that way; even as characters become disillusioned, worn-out, and dead, the high-minded talk goes on, and there is no sign even by the end that we are meant to find the ceaseless killing as anything other than the result of a tragic misunderstanding among moral, reasonable people who happen to be blowing each other up.

Spielberg took over A.I. as a project from Stanley Kubrick, a man whom Spielberg eulogized, ridiculously, at the Oscars for his "message of hope." Only a cockeyed optimist could see the director of Paths of Glory, The Shining, and Barry Lyndon that way. For a while, Spielberg’s A.I. is creepy and riveting: Pinocchio turned into a nightmare. But he has to reward the Little Silicon Boy’s quest for home, resulting in a science fiction climax of dizzying insanity: time and technology create a DNA-enhanced Mom who will love him. For all the deep feeling that may have produced this, this strikes me as an appalling evasion of life as it is actually lived by human beings, which art was created to encounter as a means to understanding. I wonder if a director’s cut of Munich exists in which aliens solve the middle-East crisis.

MUNICH AS A STRAWMAN. In Munich there is, as I have said, much discussion of morality, Jewish and existential. Everyone has his reasons, and explains them at length. One might wonder, then, why so many yahoos have been attacking the film as pro-terrorist even without actually having seen it.

This pre-emptive attack on the double-plus-ungood is not limited to Free Republic types, though they are its most humorous practitioners. Michelle Goldberg has covered the "neoconservative War on Munich" well at Salon. When word got around that the film was not going to be Starship Troopers with Arabs in place of bugs, these people apparently saw a public-relations threat, and used their pulpits to denounce the film as a matter of politics. This must be a popular duty. If they can depress attendance of a Steven Spielberg film -- well, someone's getting a promotion!

Most of the operatives doing this dirty work have no natural interest in the lively arts, but have a lively interest in propaganda. Correspondents to NRO’s Corner have posted criticism of other people’s endorsements of the film, which said correspondents, of course, had not themselves seen. Warren Bell, who may have seen it (it’s hard to tell), complains:
Ultimately, Spielberg admits he made a movie that asks more questions than it provides answers. My argument is that the questions aren't that hard, and Steven Spielberg is in a unique position as America's most popular modern filmmaker to take a real stand on the side of right and the side of justice. That he didn't is an act of moral and artistic cowardice.
Bell seems to think that artists have a moral (and artistic!) duty to promote conservative talking points; if a director makes a film that "asks more questions than it provides answers," he is a coward. This idea is more Soviet than American.

A new low, though, has been reached at OpinionJournal:
Maybe it has something to do with Mr. Spielberg's curious use of "Jewish" tropes. Again and again in "Munich," the Israelis are seen counting the cost of each kill, down to the last dollar: $352,000 for an assassination in Rome; $200,000 for a bombing in Paris. "Killing Palestinians isn't exactly cheap," remarks one of the members of the Israeli team. A Frenchman in the business of retailing the whereabouts of wanted men praises Israeli squad leader Avner Kauffman (Eric Bana) because he pays "better than anyone." A Mossad officer warns Kauffman not to overspend his budget. "I want receipts," he says.
Yes, you read that right: Brett Stephens suggests that Spielberg and his Jewish co-scenarists are promoting anti-Semitic caricatures.

In the actual film, the quibble over receipts is a humorous, bureaucratic in-joke, a humanizing device. (Some of the squad are shown enjoying wine with meals; I wonder why Stephens didn’t accuse Munich of portraying Jews as drunkards.) Money is not a "’Jewish’ trope, but a terrorist trope: Avner overpays the Frenchman to buy his future acquiescence. And the "isn’t exactly cheap" line is a mordant rejoinder to a Golda Meir quote, "I want to show them that killing Jews is expensive."

Stephens’ elision is baldly slanderous. But why should he care? He had his mission, and he fulfilled it. Being a dark, downer movie, Munich will not be seen by many, while the operators of the Mighty Wurlitzer will spread the word that Spielberg hates Jews and Americans and the proof, trust them, is in a movie you haven’t seen. There’s more than one kind of assassin.

UPDATE. At The Corner, Tim Graham mocks a gathering of prominent critics. "They started with 'Munich,'" he says, "bashing conservative critics who haven't seen it."

2005's hottest trend was reviewing films you haven't seen. This year, I predict, the know-nothings will press even further, vigorously defending the argumentum ad ignorantiam against those arty-farties who actually see the movies they talk about. ("They even discussed obscure movies they liked," marvels Graham. By "obscure" I guess he means films on which he can have no opinion, as the Central Committee has failed to classify them.)

Zhdanov, your children are here.