Thursday, February 10, 2011

HURRAH, CPAC IS ON! Emerging soiled and groggy from a seething bed, I proceeded unthinking to the internet and was confronted with this:

It's all sorts of wonderful. There's a suggestion of Macbeth: "Read no more, Jim Hoft does murder sense." It also suggests another Murderer's Row, and a vision of one of these mobile gas rigs asking Lou Gehrig what he thinks of the Progressive Menace. Overall there is the hilarious idea that this bunch should be called anything more butch than the Wingnut Whine Press or Piddlers' Pond or All The Good Ones Are Taken or GOPRoud, Ladies, or the Hack Isolation Ward, or -- oh I could go on all day.

Been poking around the related social media. Here's attendee @jtejkl: "Girls grindin, UK kids smokin, throw up, and errbody drunken.. On the way to #CPAC." Name: Joshua Location: 517, Miami University Bio: I hope that the future will be better than the past. Recent tweets: "@lizzielitzow are you still going to dc?" "Looks like Michigan is stopping at least some of the waste, peace out bridge cards. #welfare." The movement's in good hands.

And I see they're bringing in Donald Trump. Bad move. When Trump joined WWE everybody knew it was in the shitter. (They still don't know it's fixed, though. Wrestling, I mean.)

UPDATE. Gingrich tells the crowd, "2010 was the appetizer. 2012 is the entrée," a remark worthy of Clubber Williams. From @mpk33: "My most memorable #CPAC moment was the 2010 Breibart/Madden shouting match in the Marriott lobby." Really? I prefer the 2010 Breitbart/Max Blumenthal shouting match. I think someone should compile a DVD of Breitbart's shouting matches so we can all judge for ourselves.

UPDATE 2. CPAC has a live feed. Who is this guy?

He was talking about Reagan, which seemed to be the panel subject. Told a funny Reagan story: "Reagan was confronted by a smelly hippie -- it could have been Bill Clinton…" Said liberals are trying to "reinvent" Reagan with the "pernicious myth that Reagan and Tip O'Neill were friends." Reagan was for a time in danger of being remembered "as a nice guy," until his diaries came out and everyone realized he was brilliant (and presumably not nice). Also, Reagan "was even more tea party than Jefferson" -- Jefferson was interested in libraries, for Chrissakes, whereas Reagan was "entrepreneurial." (Bonus: Freedom "was lost for a time at the beginning of this century." Not sure whether he meant George Bush or Woodrow Wilson. Maybe both!)

Moderator came out at the end to tell everyone to spread the word about Reagan before the kids get confused about him.
OH WELL. You know what? I thought. I should see what Jim Lileks is doing. After all, life is full of surprises. Maybe it'll be like running into someone I went to college with and seeing that he's way cooler than he was when I knew him -- I might then be forced to think whether I had misjudged him, or whether people can change more than we normally think they can; either way it will lead me to an improving contemplation of the human condition. Surely that can't be bad.
As for the reading to the class: it’s the school’s annual Readathon, and I was a “celebrity” reader for my daughter’s class and a first grade class. Fifth-graders are tough. They know everything. Top of the food chain, ma. One kid was sitting back with his arms crossed over his chest, wearing what appeared to be Oakley sunglasses, challenging my remarks on the difficulty of climbing Everest. K2 was harder, he said, and yes. he’d read the book I was about to read.

At this point you want to walk over and DI the guy until he sits up straight and looks away and says SIR YES SIR, but that battle: long lost. Adults are not Elders, or creatures worthy of respect; they’re just slower, lesser creatures who have authority because they’re older, and there’s no reason other than that. I don’t believe in ancestor worship, but I do remember having respect for grownups. They were not my “friends.” They occupied a completely different realm...
Oh, never the fucking mind.

UPDATE. In comments, lots more interest in Jimbo, child behavior, and A Wrinkle In Time than I expected. Well, I should have expected the last -- this crew has a serious representation of sci-fi nerds. (I was never that way myself; I was always more of a nerd without portfolio.) And Lileks is an endless source of pleasure even when he's not fantasizing Fargo engulfed by barbarian hordes.

But those damn kids? HMDK, for example: "I agree with your point and despise Lileks, but I also hate snotty spoiled kids. You'd think that'd make me conflicted. It doesn't. Turns out: I have plenty of hate to go around." Oh well I appreciate that. But as for kids, my default reaction to their occasional impudence is 1.) recognition of my jacked-up-shit former self, reincarnated in better clothes; and 2.) a gently-delivered message that if you miss this, kid, it's your loss. YMMV but I haven't been shivved by the little hoods yet.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A FINE EXAMPLE OF THE GENRE. Megan McArdle has a 1,494-word post up about how conservatives are discriminated against in academia, just like black people are discriminated against in whatever it is they want to get jobs in. It is everything you expect and more, but for the time-conscious consumer I here reproduce my favorite ripple in her stream of consciousness:
In other words, a professor is almost twice as likely to support the Democratic party as a member of the general population, and about 80% less likely to support the GOP... In fact, the only profession I could find that skews 80% towards Republicans is Southern Baptist ministers. I suspect both professors and ministers would resent the comparison.

Professors might rightly rejoinder that no one's demanding that the Southern Baptist Conference start recruiting liberals to balance things out. I'm not sure this is quite true, actually, as there are quite a lot of liberal baptists attached to the American Baptist conference, and probably even some within the Southern conference who would like to move it to the left.
Probably even some! Oh, wait, I almost forgot the punchline:
But certainly, I don't know many professors who are demanding some sort of liberal baptist affirmative action.
She's like Gracie Allen with no sense of humor.
ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM, PART 544,030. Goldman Sachs got cold feet about its sale of Facebook shares to preferred U.S. investors in advance of a public offering. It was widely suggested that they feared SEC scrutiny, as the Feds might consider the drawn-out sale an attempt to jack up demand. At the Daily Beast, former Goldman Sachs managing director Nomi Prins said the deal looked like a stinker to her:
If you're one of those investors, here's the deal in a nutshell: You get to buy shares, forking over 5 percent of any possible gains, on top of a 4 percent placement fee and a 0.5 percent expense reserve fee (so you're down 10 percent before the game starts) in a private company that doesn't have to disclose any pertinent financial information to you or any regulator for 15 months. For the privilege, Goldman gets its eight-digit windfall...
Finally GS and Facebook decided to sell the shares exclusively to foreigners with the help of some friendly Russians, which took some of the heat off and raised a lot of cash.

This may look to you like more shady business by which some rich people try to screw other rich people -- and since the suckers will in this case be foreigners, go U.S.A.! But the Wall Street Journal saw it differently: Though "it is 'considered a serious embarrassment for Goldman,'" they wrote, actually "it is the SEC that should be embarrassed." Because of the overregulation. You see -- oh, why not let Ron Hart at the Daily Caller give you the libertarian interpretation directly?
Sadly, the great mother of innovation that was once our country, that helped us create Facebook and Google, might no longer benefit investors. With the proliferation of cumbersome and often ambiguous American financial regulatory laws, companies like Facebook choose to let people in other countries invest in their growth, not Americans. Such was the case with Facebook’s most recent offering where, instead of filing all the complicated paperwork and risking our litigation/regulatory system, it sold $1.5 billion in shares to Russian and other overseas investors, giving them what will probably be a hefty profit. All the layers upon layers of rules and regulations Washington has heaped on an already-fragile financial system have hamstrung our competitiveness and sent jobs and investment money to friendlier shores...

That Russia, a country that once crumbled under the weight of its own immense bureaucracy, is now less regulated and more business-friendly than America speaks volumes.
A writer at Reason gives this big ups, right on the heels of a post that tells how "Russia has long been backsliding, in the words of The Economist, into a 'neo-KGB state.'" But with all those invigorating fee-market deals coming their way thanks to Obamasocialism, no doubt the Russkies will soon shape up.

Meanwhile more internet companies are entering the sluice, and no doubt there'll be more calls for the government to stop being a killjoy when there's money to be made on intangible services. It's all beginning to remind me of what I saw at the dot-com revolution.

This worldwide depression can't come fast enough. The suspense is killing me!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the Reagan 100th festivities. Not a loser in the bunch!
"PILONIDAL CYSTS" WAS ALREADY TAKEN. I want to keep most of my Reagan Centennial powder dry for tonight's column, but I had to pass along this Warner Todd Huston joint, in which he explains that before St. Ronnie turned things around, young bucks like himself were losing their patriotic fervor:
In the 70s I was myself on the verge of thinking that America was irreversibly broken. I even passed on joining the armed forces at the time because I couldn’t imagine serving under the hated Carter regime.
Sure, Betty Lou, that's why he was just hanging around the corner drug store. Were I Huston, I would have gone with, "I saw Apocalypse Now and decided I couldn't sign with any outfit that treated premium beef so poorly."

Friday, February 04, 2011

SERVICE ADVISORY. For me Blogroll Amnesty Day will be this weekend. Nominations?

UPDATE. Getting a lot of links for sites that are already on my sidebar. Guess that means I have good taste, indie cred.

UPDATE 2. I'm gonna rotate them over the week. Today, Unbound Confine, D-Squared, and Zen Comix.
SHORTER COMMENTARY: Don't worry, subscribers, Rand Paul was just kidding about denying aid to Israel. Ask that more traditional voice of the Tea Party, Rev. John Hagee. It's still totally on for Israel to be the eternal Jewish homeland or the staging ground for the Apocalypse, depending on your preference.

(I know it's Alana Goodman, but this seems written by executive order.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

IN WHICH GALILEO PERSECUTES THE POPE. Long piece at National Review today by Discovery Institute-Intelligent Design-woo woo crackers guy David Klinghoffer about how science is persecuting Christians. Some of Klinghoffer's renderings of the Jesus people's ordeals at the hands of scientist-inquisitors are in conflict with those of other sources -- for example, he says Guillermo Gonzalez "was refused tenure, despite a spectacular research publication record, because of a book he co-authored arguing that life is no cosmic accident," but Wikipedia indicates that a.) no, he wasn't, b.) some critics found Gonzalez's pub record less than spectacular, and c.) the Discovery Institute has been working long and hard at a self-publicity campaign based on Gonzalez's case, in the course of which they have not been entirely scrupulous with the facts.

I feel about this the way I usually do when the sons and daughters of the Inquisition weep that they have been denied their First Amendment rights by schoolteachers. I also see that one of Klinghoffer's implied remedies is to defund the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health so that they can no longer feed a "universal compulsion to conform" with their corrupting research grants. Then, presumably, churches and corporations will take up the slack, and force those atheistic scientists to get working on better boner pills and the greater glory of God, as they should be.

The punchline comes from one of the many crybabies in the comments section:
Looks it's all a matter of who has political power, nothing else. Islam has it in droves and Christianity does not.
There actually are people in America who think Islam runs the country while Christianity cowers in alleys, yet have not been committed to asylums -- which is a good thing, as the Discovery Institute would make a persecution protest out of that, too.

UPDATE. Thanks, Tom M, for spelling help.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

CONNECT THE DOTS, PEOPLE! A lot of people are laughing at Glenn Beck's latest teaching exhibition on the Snowball of Marxist-Islamist Death that will turn Western Europe into a caliphate. And it's pretty funny, with such great lines as "I have chalkboards full of questions" and "The entire Mediterranean is on fire!"

But it's a pity these mainstream lunacies steal so much of the spotlight from indie comers like National Review's Michael Walsh, who today tells us:
Anyway, when you look at the course of revolution in the modern era, it’s always the same-old same-old:
  • Czar Nicky -- Kerensky -- Lenin
  • Kaiser Willie -- Weimar Republic -- Hitler
  • Shah Pahlavi -- Mr. Bani Sadr -- Khomeini
I was hoping next he'd go "Ferdinand Marcos -- Corazon Aquino -- NoyNoy Aquino." But then he'd have to explain how Aquino fils is a monster fit to stand with Lenin, Hitler and Khomeini. Instead Walsh gives us this:
Heck, we can even take it one step further:
  • Gorbachev — Yeltsin — Putin
All hail the new king of the monsters! The thin end of the wedge: Putin sent his pal to take over the New York Nets*.
The rebellions sweeping across North Africa and into Jordan may in fact be the stuff of the neocon/Bushian fantasy that all peoples everywhere yearn to be free and that the answer to “Islam is the answer” is Jacksonian democracy. But color me skeptical.
Wow, things have sure changed at National Review since a Republican was President! Wonder why that is?
By the way, does the Obama administration’s use of that historically resonant catchphrase bother anyone besides me?

Pace Marx, maybe “farce” isn’t the right word.
I've broken with my usual style and implanted Walsh's links so you may see that he refers to the White House's admission of the protesters' "legitimate grievances," ties that to the use of the same phrase in a 2003 anti-Iraq-war article by Richard Falk at MERIP's Middle East Report (boy, is that a distant echo), and ends with a reference to -- Neville Chamberlain!

We may infer from this that Obama is down with the leftists who treasonously noticed how bogus the "neocon/Bushian fantasy" was before Michael Walsh did, leading to appeasement, leading to Hitler (or maybe Putin, or maybe NoyNoy).

Maybe the guy's bucking for a TV show.

*UPDATE. A commenter asks: "New Jersey Nets?" That ship has sailed, though they may be called the Brooklyn Nets instead. The city fathers and their new commie friend saw to that! Maybe Walsh should add to his taxonomy of tyrants, "LaGuardia -- Giuliani -- Bloomberg."

UPDATE 2. Some commenters are enjoying the game: "Coke -- New Coke -- Coke Zero," "Legwarmers -- Hammer pants -- Jeggings," "Nixon - Kissinger - Pol Pot," etc.

Monday, January 31, 2011

R.I.P. JOHN BARRY. The veteran film composer has died. His resume is extremely varied -- from the pseudo-medieval chants in The Lion in Winter to the witty score for The Wrong Box to the theme from Midnight Cowboy -- but today everyone's talking about his Bond movie scores. I recall, in my days as a young film nerd, having my attention directed past the jangly guitar theme to the moody orchestral stuff. One of my fellow nerds claimed the Thunderball score contained the greatest romantic music of the 20th Century. I wouldn't go that far, but it's remarkable how much feeling Barry could work into a big-budget assignment that required him to be acceptable to the masses, and which might have led other composers to offer something less than their best work, out of panic or contempt. I never get the feeling from Barry that he's faking it, even with cheese like Born Free. That's as much as you can demand from any popular artist and, most of the time, much more than you're likely to get.

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the Egypt crisis and the fluctuations in rightblogger reactions to it. For a while they were going in a "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" direction ('member that?), but now they're all very upset that the Bad Muslims are taking over, and blame Obama -- whom they were earlier deriding for not getting behind the groovy revolution fast enough -- for fucking up that great thing we had going with Mubarak. You can't win!

The switcheroo has led to some muddled responses. Ole Perfesser Instapundit, having no truck with consistency anyway, just sort of rambles, blurting out sour nothings like "This is a tough problem, but nothing Obama has done so far has inspired any confidence," and occasionally some good ol' country-lawyer revisioning:
Had we pushed the overthrow of tyrannical Arab regimes post-Iraq (as some unsuccessfully urged) there might have been a wave of truly democratic revolutions, with Iraq explicitly the model, leading to Egypt as the “prize.” We are now seeing, at least potentially, such a wave, but the U.S. has been propping up Mubarak — thanks, Joe! — the Saudis, and other despots since we lost our pro-democracy mojo in 2005 after the Cedar Revolution, for reasons that are still not entirely clear.
"Reasons that are still not entirely clear"! It's something to see Reynolds, who gets all the talking points when they're still wet from the mimeograph, stalling until the labs can cook up some clear reasons why Bush didn't just go swinging through the Middle East like Errol Flynn, dishing out democracy. I'm betting they'll have something to do with tyrants knowing that their best friends the Democrats were about to take over Congress, and nothing at all to do with America's finances.

For straight pinheadedness I direct you to Reliapundit, whose prediction for the fate of Mooslimland includes goodies like these:
El Baradei is probably not a jihadist, but he is most definitely a postmodern leftist who sees the USA and the West as evil - just as Obama's mentor at Columbia --- Edward Said --- did!...

And, he probably thinks he is using the Iranians to promote a postmodernist and socialist and UTOPIANIST world...

YES: the postmodernists think that the USA and Israel and fossil fuels are so very evil that getting rid of them would be worth destroying the present world economy and bringing on a totally global and viciously kinetic final battle to WW4.
Reliapundit also observes that "Iranians invented chess and are patient chess-players - patiently moving pieces in position over years," which probably occurred to him as he was trying to get one of the marbles from his Chinese Checkers out of his left nostril.

UPDATE. It's true, apparently -- there's nothing that can't be made worse by the contributions of Ross Douthat, whose new column tells us this:
The long-term consequences of a more populist and nationalistic Egypt might be better for the United States than the stasis of the Mubarak era, and the terrorism that it helped inspire. But then again they might be worse.
That's pretty much the summary, if you add "Arabs suck," as Douthat describes Nasser and Mubarak in monster-movie terms -- no matter what they did, it came out jihad! (I bet Ataturk was even worse.) Also anti-Americanism: "For many young Egyptians, restless amid political and economic stagnation, it’s been a short leap from hating their dictator to hating his patrons in the United States." The next day, Douthat's paper ran BBC poll results that show Egyptians like the U.S. a lot more since Obama was elected. Douthat, alas, will never improve; his faith in Jesus insulates him from any instructive feelings of humiliation.

Friday, January 28, 2011

YOU DIDN'T WANT THAT AMERICAN DREAM ANYWAY. Ack! Remember when Ann Althouse was pretending not to believe that America once had a middle class that included blue collar workers who were able to support their families on a single income? David Harsanyi (surely you remember him -- big libertarian!) goes her one better -- he sort of acknowledges that such a state of affairs existed, but insists it was horrible compared to the dynamic depression we're in now:
Really, was this country ever about being proud that your children ended up in the same plant you slaved in for 30 years? Even with a promise of a union pension and -- if you're lucky -- an "occasional" promotion, it sounds like a soul-crushing grind you'd want your offspring to escape, tout de suite.

Luckily, in the real world, history tells of a story filled with dynamic movements of people, class climbing, churning innovation, booms and busts, and widespread embrace of risk taking...
...ending in a collapse of the banking system due in large part to "churning innovation" in financial instruments. But that was just the wow finish -- for decades the middle class has self-evidently been squeezed until the entry fee, which had once just been a willingness to (to coin a phrase) work hard and play by the rules, became a college degree, a second income, a willingness to work round the clock and on holidays, and the normalization of the sort of financial manipulations in which, once upon a time, only brokers and con men engaged.

And that's for the lucky ones.

Go ahead, Dave -- go among the unemployed and marginally employed and ask them if they think a steady job is an intolerable oppression that they're fortunate to be rid of. Hell, ask the fully-employed people who're hanging onto solvency by their fingernails if they're enjoying your churningly innovative thrill-ride.

I've always assumed these people were raised in Skinner boxes, but I'm beginning to think they never got out of them.
EGYPT ME, EGYPT YOU. Al Jazeera, whose live feed you can see here (thanks Skinny John!), is reporting that Egyptian cops are beating up reporters. And they're on their way up to the Al Jazeera studios in Cairo. ("I will stay on the air as long as I can... until we are forced off the air.")

It's almost curfew time, so this should be interesting.

UPDATE. I'm so old I remember the Iranian Twitter revolution -- which achieved little concrete political change, though it did lead in an uptick to avatar modification -- so I'm not making any calls on this. I do notice that some conservatives are worried that the uprising, should it take, may not be to America's liking*. But the mainstream play for conservatives is to act enthusiastic about it, as they did with the Orange Revolution and the Cedar Revolution. Remember those? Many medals were given out then for supportive blogging! But the world seems not to have gotten much freer because of them.

UPDATE 2. State media reports Army's been ordered into the streets to put down the protests, says AJ. Just saw a bunch of protestors flip over an armored personnel carrier.

UPDATE 3. *At National Review, Michael Rubin really wants it both ways: "A reader points out that while Biden’s 'Mubarak is not a dictator' comment is risible, the vice president was correct that Mubarak should not step down, because what comes next — a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship — could be worse." There's a man who knows how to spread his chips!

And would you believe it, the situation reminds Victor Davis Hanson of In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, and Stop Loss. And Michael Moore! It's become a major Hanson tic. He'll be applying these topics to world events at his rest home, assuming perhaps unfairly he's not in one already.

UPDATE 4. "GOOD NEWS," says Atlas Shrugs, "EGYPT ARRESTS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADERS." Apparently Mubarak is cleverly engineering just who will chase him out of the country and take over. Probably he's working with the most pro-democracy faction. What a patriot!

Good continuing coverage at Mother Jones.
SHORTER RADLEY BALKO. A Tennessee university fired a gay coach. Students protested, and the school agreed not to discriminate against gays in the unlikely event that they ever let one get by them again (the fired teacher didn't get her job back). This proves that the Civil Rights Act is useless and should be repealed.

UPDATE. In comments, Angry Geometer considers Balko's punchline -- "This is just one example. But it's a pretty compelling one" -- and says, "I'd hate to see this dude at the roulette table."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE. In and among her abortion ravings, The Anchoress always finds time to check out American Idol (in which she periodically pretends not to be interested). Lately the show's had segments about a singer who's taking care of his brain-damaged fiancee, and another who got knocked up and found out her baby was going to be disabled but had the baby anyway and loves her. The Anchoress reflects:
This is either the most cynical exploitation of human drama for the sake of ratings that we’ve ever seen, or it’s a downright providential celebration of the inherent worth of every human life (and the right to live the life one has, no matter what the challenges) and a far-reaching lesson in the transcendent power of love.
Guess which The Anchoress decides it is? (Bear in mind, this is American Idol she's talking about. After the mom sings, Jennifer Lopez says, "It brought tears to my eyes, and that's the first time that's happened today.")
Gotta tell you that after reading the filth of the utter disregard for humanity contained in the Grand Jury Report against Kermit Gosnell and his abortion clinic, these videos feel like pure gift.
This is mainly what you need to know about The Anchoress: She's always going on about how you can't trust the lamestream media/MSM, but she believes 110% in American Idol.
OSCAR CATCH-UP, PART 1. Black Swan. The Exorcist in tights. Instead of the struggle of God and the Devil, we have the struggle of the White and Black Swans driving our poor little girl unto her indignities. (The Swan fable is even spoken aloud for us at the beginning by the hilariously elevated ballet master with a vestigial sweater around his neck.) The film puts our ballerina Nina through much grisly (though hallucinated) physical trauma that compares nicely with Linda Blair's spinning head and crucificial hate-fuck. And since it's just about artsy people rather than a major religion, the dark forces get to win.

Darren Aronofsky, who likes to show the ugly-real's losing struggle with the seductive-unreal (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), goes heavy on the fantasy here. The showmanship is dazzling, but I think he lost his grounding. Fantasies are powerful when they heighten a real-life feeling shared by lots of people. But Nina's need to be perfect is neurotic rather than transcendent; while performers may project enough of their own experiences onto Black Swan to buy it (and that may be why it's so acclaimed), ordinary people will wonder why she didn't go to a doctor when she saw feathers growing out of her skin. I don't think they'd question, say, Lust for Life the same way, because corny as it is, there they can see and feel where the drive comes from.

The acting's fine. Natalie Portman's persistently childlike affect is perfect for Nina; Barbara Hershey's game for Monster Mommy; Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel are appropriately ludicrous as the life-force and the cock-of-the-walk, respectively. And thanks so much, Winona Ryder, for the unexpected laughs.

The Fighter. The last half-hour threw me (mild spoiler), as I didn't see the turn-around coming. I mean, what suddenly made family love real to all these people, who had previously expressed it only with insults and jealous rages, and motivated them to come together? Christian Bale's so good that I almost believed his pitch to his brother's girlfriend Charlene to come back and make things right, but with everyone else it was like, "Wuh-okay, guess here's what we're doing now." It's really just something you have to buy to get to the feel-good ending.

Maybe David O. Russell thought this hey-ho-let's-go approach had worked so well in the beginning that it should work at the end. And in the rest of the film, it does work. We get thrown into the story so fast that momentum carries us. The brothers' relationship we at first have to take for granted and on faith, but over time we get little glimpses of how growing up together might have been for them: Dicky the crazy cut-up, Micky the quiet, industrious plodder -- and Mom the breeder/empire-builder who decided long ago that Dicky was going to be the ticket out for them all. We get enough information that by the time the relationships break, it doesn't have to be explosive -- it's just right, and thereby dramatic.

In this context the more conventionally-developed romance between Micky and Charlene takes on added weight: You get the feeling that family was just something that happened to Micky, while Charlene is part of his underdeveloped adult life of choices and forward movement. No wonder his family hates her -- and that Micky clings to her like a life-raft.

All the acting is terrific (though at one point I wanted to yell STOP IT, YOU'RE MAKING ME GRIND MY TEETH at Bale), but I give special props to Marky Mark, who also produced the picture. I saw an interview recently in the Hollywood Reporter with filmdom's biggest producers, and Wahlberg was in there. He was very, very focused on the job of making the picture the best and most successful it can be, no matter what. His performance in The Fighter is unshowy, even slightly withdrawn. Wahlberg's a pretty good actor, and he knows what a star needs to get over in a big picture; I get the feeling he took one for the team here. For some reason that really impresses me.

UPDATE. In comments, Jay B. demurs: "I thought Bale was overrated, actually. The clip of Dick and Mickey at the end shows what kind of juice the real guy had -- he was more charming in thirty seconds than Bale can ever be, and funnier too. Bale can act, but, for me, he can't connect. His eyes are empty." Hmm. I thought Bale was going full crackhead, which would make anyone a little opaque, but come to think of it I've never seen him do a lot of relating onscreen -- whenever I see him, all I can think is, "You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste..." Anyone else?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM, PART 499,010. David Harsanyi has an article at Reason -- which, surely you know, is the nation's preeminent libertarian magazine -- about abortion. Synopsis: That guy who killed those babies in Philadelphia was just doing what all abortionists do, there are more late-term abortions than you think, "Does life really begin on the say-so of a single person—even the mother?" Nat Hentoff, Ron Paul, "41 percent of pregnancies in New York City were terminated with the destruction of the nascent human being," etc.

Since this is a libertarian magazine, Harsanyi drops little notes here and there to indicate he's not being pro-life exactly (those people are "folks I generally don't hang with," dude), he's just asking questions, such as "How many Americans instinctively turn to the pro-choice camp because pro-life proponents aggravate their secular sensibilities?" If you're inclined to answer, "Dunno -- how many people turn to the pro-life camp because Jesus told them to?" you're obviously beyond Harsanyi's reach. And that's too bad, because he's just trying to be reasonable:
It's unfortunate that abortion is a social issue, because it is science and reason that can turn the debate...

I'm certainly not under the delusion that every problem has an answer. But if the pro-life movement is going to win the hearts and minds of the rest of the nation, it's not going to need more God. It's going to need more reason.
Reexamine your premises, baby-killers -- like those global warming alarmists, you're the ones flying the face of science!

Reaching to clasp hands from the other side of the conservative-libertarian divide, National Review's chief theocon Kathryn J. Lopez talks about "Abortion as a Tea Party Issue":
Has our financial mess brought us to the brink of getting beyond the culture wars?

It’s a question that we might see play out on Capitol Hill in the coming months as the new majority seeks to make the late pro-life congressman Henry Hyde proud, by defunding Planned Parenthood and prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion.
Lopez brings in an expert to explain that "forced payment for abortions is not just or even primarily about abortion but about experts in Washington instructing us about how we make decisions about sensitive matters." Yeah yeah, to-may-to, to-mah-to, so long as they can save those fetuses. Later on, there'll be another angle they can apply to abortions that, though privately funded, can still be shown to contradict the wishes of the Founding Fathers -- maybe because they were foisted on an unwilling America by activist judges or the "elites" or "ruling class" or whatever.

Remember all that "Tea Party Avoids Divisive Social Issues" stuff? Psych! All they had to do was remove abortion from the category of "social issues." The effect's still the same, though.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU, SO WHAT. Well, that was nice and anodyne. I understand the necessity -- the House is now flooded with Republicans, and Obama doesn't want to give them any handles to grab. And he didn't; the yap about Sputnik sounded silly from him, but it sounds sillier coming from the amateur stand-up comedians of the right. The whole thing was evasive that way -- telling the Republicans that he wants to cut government too, har har, and talking about how "contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be" and how we're all going to argue but finally come together as if it's a sitcom premise -- Democrats! Republicans! Always a-fussin' and a-feudin', but when Al Qaeda comes to dinner, they join forces!

At least he told them he wasn't going to compromise on universal health care coverage -- though that would be more impressive if the Democrats hadn't already compromised like mad in Congress before the bill was even passed. This Administration is a blessing after the last one, and will probably look like a Golden Age after the one that comes next (if we survive it), but that's grading on a ridiculously steep curve.

Also, I don't see what the point was in electing an anti-American socialist Kenyan if he's gonna talk so fucking much about what a great country this is.

UPDATE. Paul Ryan just ain't cutting it. Nobody gives a shit about his three children and their alleged sufferings under a budget deficit. "Stimulus spending spree" isn't a very cutting charge after the President's gooey-sweet speech. And the "picking winners and losers" stuff isn't going to play well with millions of people who've been losers too long and know just looking at this obvious, lacquer-haired factotum for great wealth that if he's the one to pick, they'll be hurled into an even lower circle of hell.

And oh my Lord, "Share our principles," "the wisdom of the Founders," etc. If this doesn't lead to an offering by the Franklin Mint, it's a waste of time. People voted for Republicans because they were desperate, not because they're in love with their Revolutionary War reenactor schtick. Why didn't he think to give them something tangible -- like a co-branded half-price promotion with Dunkin' Donuts? "Buy a dozen donuts and John Boehner treats you to coffee!" Idiots.

UPDATE 2. Crap, it's late, haven't they got that dizzy queen Michele Bachmann's head screwed on yet?.. Oh Jesus, it's a freakin' forum in which Bachmann is only the nuttiest participant? Why are the other participants all mumbly young dorks talking policy? It almost makes you miss the guys in tricorners and knee-britches waving flintlocks and yelling "WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!"

UPDATE 3. Commenters tell me Bachmann's got an actual rebuttal going on, but I don't get CNN and the web outlets aren't working. I'll take commenter dex's word for it: "like coming back from the bar at 2am to watch infomercials in hell."

UPDATE 3.5. National Review's Fartmaster General Jonah Goldberg says, "I was truly surprised by how lackluster and clichéd Obama’s speech was," as if his profession of surprise and use of every liar's favorite word, "truly," will convince anyone he's recording his genuine response. (No doubt he was out back of the shop during the speech, impressing the interns by operating Kinect with his butt.) The rest of his post is about as believable. Despite heavy competition at NatRev, Goldberg's only real challenger is Mona Charen:
“America’s standing has been restored.” Still sniping at George W.? This must be some kind of record for gracelessness.
They keep this awful Reagan-era relic in a closet nine months out of the year for a reason.

UPDATE 4. Ann Althouse:
[Quoting Obama] Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion....
When was that true? Who is he talking about? I'm 60 and I don't remember that ever being true.
I can remember vividly the tract-house neighborhood I grew up in, filled with factory workers who supported families and houses and cars on single incomes. And as I got older I saw some of them retire from the companies they started working for as young people, and collect pensions; they didn't have to become greeters for Wal-Mart. Many middle-aged people in America recall such events. Maybe Professor Althouse doesn't remember because then, as now, she was inattentive to what was going on around her. Alternatively, maybe she's just full of shit.

UPDATE 5. Looks like Obama got high viewership and approval numbers for the State of the Union -- which explains the redoubled stridency of conservative attacks on the speech this morning.

Several commenters step up to say they, too, remember single-earner, blue-collar families who managed to achieve the American dream in pre-Reagan days. Clearly these are false memories, as everyone knows that bastard FDR not only prolonged the Depression but also left America broke and powerless after World War II, with most citizens living in hobo camps. Read Amity Shlaes' next book to learn all about it!
WINGNUTS OCCUPY THE OSCARS! (PART I) The Oscar nominations are out, and so are the rightwing Zhdanovites. Roger L. Simon:
“The King’s Speech” – a conservative movie – leads Oscar nominations

“The King’s Speech” – an unabashedly pro-royalty, anti-fascist film – has received the most Oscar nominations (12) for this year’s Academy Awards. Does this mean that the normally liberal Academy has had a political conversation to the Dark Side? No. It shows that good filmmaking can sometimes trump ideology.
I guess he thinks a liberal film, conversely, would be anti-royalty and pro-fascist. (Like what? The Patriot?) Here's the saddest bit:
But it may reveal more than that. Movie business liberalism is only skin deep. It is all very much a show for self-aggrandizement. Deep down, they respond like the rest of us. They just won’t admit it. Unless the movie’s as good as “The King’s Speech.”
So Hollyweird liberals aren't even really liberal -- they're just pretending to be, out of pridefulness; but their sham is exposed by the magic of the movies, as seen through the kaleidoscopic chemical cascades in the brain of Roger L. Simon. Hollywood ending!

I'm surprised to see that other conservatives have also rushed to claim The King's Speech. (Conservative Lesbian, for example, headlines her review "Traditional Values Take Center Stage." She should share her idea of traditional values with the House GOP leadership.)

I saw and reviewed The King's Speech, which I enjoyed despite some risible bits. And I must say, if you wanted to stick politics onto it, you could just as easily take this one the other way.

To begin with, isn't the whole preoccupation with a speech impediment anti-conservative? It's the sort of therapeutic subject liberals allegedly love -- an affliction other people neither share nor understand, leaving the sufferer isolated and moody until he is "healed" and brought into the sunshine of a supportive community. If that doesn't sound like a pitch for one of Michelle Obama's fascist fat camps, I don't know what does.

In the course of the movie we are sensitized to (or, to use the nomenclature, blessed with "awareness" of) the problem. Thus we learn to care about yet another type of victim, just as we learned from other movies and TV shows to care about victims of autism, Tourette's, brain damage, depression, etc. Isn't looking at people as victims what liberalism is supposed to be all about?

Even worse, the film has excited yet another special interest constituency -- stammerers have glommed onto the movie as a fund- and awareness-raising tool. Why, next there'll be a fucking ribbon for it. Then it'll be classified a disability, and the speech-impeded will get their own set-aside information and customer service desks where they can stutter and stammer to their hearts' content without people yelling for them to get on with it.

Admittedly the King overcomes his problem eventually, but look how he does it! He actually goes slinking off for help for his problem! Fancy a Live Free or Die Tea Partier going off to a therapist -- with taxpayer money, yet! Why, a real rough, tough conservative King would just beat up any subjects who dared be unimpressed with him. (Maybe that'd be the Schwarzenegger version: "S-s-s-s-metimes ze v-v-v-v-v-vords f-f-ail-me [Head butt].") His tutor turns out to be an actor -- you know what they are -- who refuses to call him Your Highness and talks to him about his feelings and his childhood. The therapist even encourages him to yell and swear as if he were in a Primal Box. By God, it's a wonder the King didn't wind up gay and soaking in hot tubs at Esalen. They call this conservative? It's just Rain Man with royals.

Plus their beloved Winston Churchill is presented as yet another Timothy Spall grotesque.

Okay, now I'm warmed up for the conservatives who say The Social Network is about the magic of entrepreneurism.