Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE GET-READY MAN RETURNS.

What say we start the week with Rod Dreher crying Get ready! The Worr-uld is coming to an end! This time the big issue is trans people born one thing who call themselves the other thing. Normals say who gives a shit but Dreher sees the End Times, and he is especially disappointed in the liberals, who should after all understand why it's so important:
This is a principle that the American Left can see is terribly damaging when put into practice by those who clear-cut forests. But they are blind when it applies to human beings clear-cutting, so to speak, their own bodies.
It's a wonder we haven't got abortion clinic protesters putting in extra shifts outside practices that do gender assignment surgery. Maybe harrying scared pregnant women is a less daunting prospect than confronting someone like Fallon Fox.

Also, per Dreher, Dante put Ulysses in Hell because of his "corrupt desire to defy the gods in pursuit of his own will," and "this is us. This is the West. This is America, 2015," with our homos and test-tube two-daddy babies and space travel, too, no doubt -- imagine what Dante would have thought of that! Not to mention harnessing the power of lightning to run artificial brain-machines -- so the Saving Remnant better Get Ready:
This is not going to be stopped by us. But one day, it is going to stop. We know where this is going. The task of the traditionalist today is to live in such a way that truth and sanity survive the darkening of our collective intellect. That we not forget who we are, and what is. This is hard work, but as the Noah myth should instruct us, it is past time to start building that cultural ark.
The ark will no doubt be filled with VeggieTales, well-beaten Bibles, and Brother Rod's approved reading list, which will be fine until some passenger finds it insufficient and in the margins of some Flannery O'Connor paperback defies the Captain in pursuit of his own will. Then come the floating witch trials and the Aguirre The Wrath of God ending. Go with God, dummies!
It may well be that this civilization continues in relative peace and prosperity for some time. I certainly hope it does, because I live in it.
Also because he's about to fuck off on yet another foreign foodie vacation:
Really, though, Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show episode on Lyon, with Daniel Boulud, put things over the top. I’ve watched it three times on Netflix streaming. I want to go eat at a bouchon or two (or three), and I want to make a pilgrimage to Reynon the traiteur, and taste his saucisson à cuire. I think this must be the first time I’ve ever chosen a travel destination solely for the purpose of eating.
Been to Lyon? Where should we stay? Where should we eat? Talk to me.
How about you stay in a monk's cell and pray for a clue?

UPDATE. Comments are very good. Jeffrey_Kramer:
I'm not sure whether the literature to be preserved on the Cultural Ark would lean more towards the Autobiography of Saint Teresa or the collected works of Anders Breivik
And JayB, by coincidence, recently happened to be passing through Lyon himself:
Since Rod asked, I did come across a gay AND 'libertine' Sauna on the Croix-Rousse. I didn't partake, but someone with his hangups would surely find something a bit rogue going on. I'm sure he'll be there in a week with a camera, a notepad and a heart filled with angry curiosity. Bon champs, you dickhead.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FRIDAY ROUND-THE-HORN.


This is all I want to hear about fucking llamas anymore, thanks.

•  Dear God -- Ross Douthat reviews Boyhood:
“Boyhood” does a very good job of offering grist for multiple interpretations of its family drama: There are people who watch the movie and come away feeling like Linklater is passing a harsh (maybe too harsh?) judgment on the Patricia Arquette-played mother’s romantic choices, people who feel like the movie is a portrait of her overall parental success in spite of the odds, and people (like me) who read the portrait of the Ethan Hawke-played dad as a case study in how our culture tends lets slacker-ish, slow-to-grow-up men basically Have It All at the expense of their progeny and the women in their lives. But then what you wait for, or at least what I waited for, is to see how Mason interprets things, how the mess around him in his childhood affects his relationships with both parents as he rises toward adulthood, how his desire not to repeat their mistakes or his tendency to fall into the same traps might manifest itself, how the tension and difficulty that he experiences passively as a child will translate into the actions he takes and mistakes he makes as a teenager and young man. 
And that’s what the last hour doesn’t offer. The conflicts ebb, Mason’s family (parents and sister) flatten and diminish, everyone suddenly gets nicer, and the sense of dread and dislocation disappears with nothing dramatically interesting to replace it.
In other words: He wanted a movie about how single-parent families are ungodly and a social drain, preferably one where all the principals realize as much and enter covenant marriages (and maybe all the abortions they ever had go in slow-motion reverse like at the end of The Theory of Everything), and Linklater didn't give it to him, so the movie is a failure. Is there a single conservative left who is not a Child of Zhdanov? (My much better Boyhood review here.)

•  You know I offer this video with all affection -- the now-late Mr. Nimoy singing about Bilbo Baggins:



This is how I will remember him: a serious person who nonetheless was able to give himself over to the ridiculous, and thus made us all a little happier. (Oh yeah -- he was a very good Mustafa Mond.) (Oh yeah, and this -- a story I didn't know before today, but not a shock.) (Oh and yeah also, the story FMguru tells in comments about Nimoy taking a stand on voice-casting for Sulu and Uhuru.)

•  Jonah Goldberg has a post about how liberalism is "exhausted" because MSNBC isn't tearing up the ratings. Samples:
As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal recently observed, Barack Obama has successfully moved his party to the left but has failed utterly to bring the rest of the country with him.
Guess they just voted for him twice because he was black.
If you still think Obama has generous coattails, ask Rahm Emanuel for a second opinion.
Many voters deserted the socialist Emanuel for the arch-conservative Chuy Garcia.
Contrary to myth, Fox (where I am a contributor) is in fact an actual news network, albeit with prime-time opinion shows.
No comment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

CRY ME A RIVER.

What conservative is being oppressed today? Steven Hayward of Power Line. A Congressman is investigating the financial ties between major climate-change deniers and oil and gas tycoons -- I know! I was surprised to hear about it, too! -- and to this end asked Hayward's employer Pepperdine for the skinny on Hayward's funding. Hayward announces this outrage under the title,
ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A CLIMATE SKEPTIC?
Hayward also calls the Congressman and his colleagues "McCarthyite witch hunters." He's the victim of a blacklist, see, except he's still working, and all the people who are likely to employ him consider him a hero. Other than that it's Red Channels all over again.

But what does Hayward think about Joe McCarthy himself? From a 2011 Hayward post about Eugene McCarthy:
Following a speech to the Manchester Kiwanis Club, for example, Gene McCarthy was presented the customary service club thank-you plaque with an inscription expressing “appreciation to Senator Joseph McCarthy.” (Emphasis added.) If only.
Elsewhere you can find Hayward praising M. Stanton Evans' Blacklisting History, "by far the most serious defense of McCarthy since the Buckley-Bozell book in the 1950s," and looking forward to an upcoming Evans opus containing "new details about Alger Hiss, Elizabeth Bentley, Owen Lattimore, Harry Dexter White, Eleanor Roosevelt, and especially Harry Hopkins." (Possibly just to debunk it, though!)

As for modern-day witch-hunters, Hayward's attitude toward them changes depending on the identity of the witch -- from a 2012 AP story on people who think Obama's a socialist:
Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of a two-volume biography of Ronald Reagan, said Obama is not a socialist under the strict definitions of that term – central economic planning and government control of production. 
"However, socialism has a secondary meaning that is harder to explain – government regulations, supervision of the private economy," Hayward said. "The problem now with Obama is, 'What does he really think?'"
I'm constantly being asked if I hold the Voltaire defend-to-the-death position on people I disagree with, but I am seldom offered a for-instance where the subject isn't just entirely full of shit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

GRADING ON THE CURVE.

Carly Fiorina? For President? At National Review, Jim Geraghty jokes about the demon sheep ad from her disastrous 2010 Senate campaign, but in his newsletter for the true believers Geraghty circulates some straight-up Fiorina PR: After praising Fiorina's staff hires ("CRC Public Relations is a pretty big mover and shaker in the world of conservative clients"), he says:
You may recall that last month I wrote, “the former Hewlett Packard CEO has a broader and more interesting résumé than you might think -- member of the CIA’s External Advisory Board, committee adviser to Condoleezza Rice, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies -- and despite the “nice” CEO image, she’s fearless on the attack -- tearing into Hillary for lack of accomplishments, ripping liberals for hypocrisy on abortion, challenging Valerie Jarrett on live television about unequal pay for women at the White House. A cancer survivor with a great personal success story, she may be a much more serious contender for the [vice-presidential] slot than most people think right now.” 
Heading into CPAC, she has the not-so-insignificant advantage of being accomplished and almost entirely dismissed by the political media, so the bar is set pretty low.
Pretty low indeed! "The not-so-insignificant advantage of being accomplished"? The consensus (bipartisan, as it were) on her reign at Hewlett Packard, the most significant of her alleged accomplishments, seems to be that she nearly ruined it. And getting on committees and boards is simple for high-level executives even if they are terrible at their jobs. As for tearing and ripping, you can get a dog to do that. (I will say it's nice that she got over cancer.)

Also: Fiorina has never won elective office. Neither had President Washington and President Grant, but we are talking about a whole different level of being-accomplished here.

In fact this is very close to the imaginary-but-with-a-budget campaigns of Ben Carson and Donald Trump. And it reminds me of the complaining conservatives and consensus-seeking politicos did when Scott Walker was recently mocked as a college dropout. I understand the anxiety that episode raised: American folk wisdom says you shouldn't need certification to excel and prosper, and I hope all good people lament that citizens are badgered by employment anxiety to get a diploma and the gigantic price tag that comes with it just to keep the wolf from the door.

But with  candidates like Fiorina, it looks like the Party of Joe The Plumber, which has never put much stock in fancy book learning anyway, is not merely being open to talents (as if these people really qualify as talents), but favoring people who lack not only traditional qualifications but also common sense, as if having the slightest idea what you're doing is some elitist shibboleth that needs to be refuted once and for all with the election of a total dumbass.

Can they pull it off? Depends on how much the voters remember about George W. Bush.

UPDATE. Geraghty's not Fiorina's only friend in the world of wingnut journamalism -- Al Weaver of The Daily Caller:
Is Hillary Clinton Stealing Speech Lines From Carly Fiorina?
The Answer May Surprise You!
During her speaking event in Silicon Valley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemingly snagged a campaign line from potential GOP 2016 candidate Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. 
Clinton, the presumptive 2016 candidate for the Democratic Party, called on attendees at the conference to “unlock their full potential,” a line Fiorina uses.
Unlock their full potential -- has a ring to it! I bet it catches on, retroactively. Weaver also claims that "back in June during Clinton’s book release of 'Hard Choices,' much was made of the similarities between her book and Fiorina’s 2007 memoir, 'Tough Choices.'" No links and no quotes, natch, and besides, who believes anyone read enough of both books to make an informed comparison?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

STOP THE PRESSES.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen...


But seriously, folks:
“Laudner would not go there unless Trump is all the way in,” Deace said. “Laudner used to be a high-ranking official with the Republican Party of Iowa. He is on good terms with pretty much every single respected conservative in Iowa, really tight with Congressman Steve King and helped Bob VanderPlaats run the judicial retention fight we won a few years ago. There’s no other way of understanding that. This is a major coup for Donald. Major coup.”
Maybe Trump ought to limber up for the Presidency with a run at an Iowa school board seat first.

SO CLOSE.

For a second, in the right light, it looks as if Megan McArdle may have achieved self-awareness:
This is a question I’ve asked myself before, funnily enough, when arguing with anarcho-capitalists. For those who do not follow the ins and outs of libertarian sectarianism, anarcho-capitalists want to replace the state with private institutions, with insurance companies and private security forces substituting for most current government functions. But when I’ve probed into the actual mechanics of this, I’ve often found that anarcho-capitalists end up describing something unpleasantly like a police state, only not called “the government” -- like giving insurance companies and private police forces the ability to perform warrantless at-will searches in order to prosecute crimes. One way or another, society is going to protect itself against theft and violence, rape and murder, and putting those tools in the hands of private parties causes much the same trouble as they do in the hands of the police.
Alas, no. The problem is, when the state oversteps its role, there is at least a formal mechanism for addressing that problem -- you can throw the bums out. (Yeah, I know it's not a perfect recourse, but if it were useless why would all those people spend so much time and money trying to achieve electoral results at all?) Once this social contract is swapped out for something more like Facebook's terms of service, however, you get only what you can negotiate -- and with collective bargaining being swept away, you can't negotiate shit.

So when McArdle says, "there may be trade-offs: The price of safely enjoying our vices may be surrendering some of our civil liberties, either to the government or to private parties," it doesn't mean she's had an epiphany; it just means she's gotten smart enough to do false equivalence with a straight face.

Monday, February 23, 2015

AFTER-PARTY.

The Oscars should be about the simple joys of life -- gambling and vanity -- and not about politics, but I see Charlie Pierce has people expecting me to talk about those poor nuts who hate-watched Libtard Hollyweird from their survivalist treehouses. Most of the best ravings have been well picked over, but there are a few morsels left to enjoy. First, Matthew Clark, "Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the [wingnut front group] ACLJ" and author of the dystopian epic "Hollywood’s Self-Indulgent Delusional Demagoguery." Sample:
For anyone who has an ounce of critical thinking ability (critical thinking, not PC dogmatic zombism), [the Oscars are] almost unbearable to watch (it’s like watching sausage being made, with rotten meat, and then watching someone eat it, on prime-time TV).
This guy has a future in slasher films. Oh, also:
What if an actress said this award wouldn’t have been possible if my mother chose to abort me? 
Sarah Silverman hasn't done this bit yet? Get on it, Hollywood!  Next we have Young Cons and their wonderful headline:
Sean Penn Makes “Racist” Remark At The Oscars, Everyone Forgets His Party Affiliation
Similarly, when Jane Fonda does something stupid, the media just sits back and lets everybody think she's a Republican. My favorite, though, is the line from IJReview's "5 Hollywood Actors for Conservatives To Root For At This Year’s Oscars," introducing their #3, Michael Keaton:
Michael Keaton may not be a conservative, but his speech at the Golden Globes this year espoused strong conservative principles, even if he didn’t realize it...
Also, #2 Reese Witherspoon: "While she may not be a conservative, she espouses some refreshing ideas regarding modesty..." If this kind of thinking spreads, I could wind up on this year's Best-Dressed List. Thank you, good night!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

OSCAR PICKS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

I should add a review of The Imitation Game to my other on to Oscar posts, but it's almost magic time, dammit, so, quickly: We have a cryptographer-hero who's so ahead of his time he may as well be bringing penicillin to neanderthals, and who's also a gay martyr forced into chemical castration and suicide, plus he's possibly on the autistic spectrum, plus he sticks up for women's rights (well, one woman's) -- all this, as they say, and World War II! A Beautiful Mind meets Casablanca! It’s such perfect Oscar bait that I had to admire it, despite hearing each gear-tooth in the machine clicking — click, the platonic love of the smartgirl makes him try to be sociable and he’s humorously inept, click, but they’re going for it, and they stand up to The Man, click, etc.  Keira Knightley as always seems like a little girl playing at grown-ups and once again Charles Dance is made to be the Wicked Witch of the West. But Cumberbund or whatever his name is -- I thought he was supposed to be a pretty-boy and a joke, but in this he's not only believable and affecting in his swallowed anguish, he's absolutely magnetic, a real screen-filling star. Maybe the kids know something after all.

OK, on to this annual death march. I've been good and I've been awful, so make sure you can spare the money:

× Best Picture: The Imitation Game. People are talking Boyhood and talking Birdman. But those movies are probably too weird to win -- look at the past winners -- and will I believe knock each other off. As I just said, The Imitation Game is big-time Oscar bait, and has all the right nominations including Actor, Director, Screenplay, even Editing. (I half-expect -- maybe one-quarter-expect -- a late miracle surge for The Grand Budapest Hotel, so remember that if chaos ensues.)

× Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman. I really was thinking Eddie Redmayne, but Glenn Kenny got me thinking about it -- Redmayne's performance has some nice shadings but nothing like the wells of anger and sorrow that, say, Daniel Day-Lewis gave Christy Brown in My Left Foot. And despite the gags about going full retard, disability is good for getting Oscar nominations, but not so much for winning the prize. In Birdman Keaton was acting his ass off, in both the good and bad ways, and the Academy gives points for effort (if you are or ever have been a star).

× Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Wild. I didn't see any of these movies except The Theory of Everything, so here's my half-assed but not necessarily wrong reasoning: The surge of enthusiasm for Julianne Moore in Still Alice reminds me of the alleged sure thing that was Julie Christie in her Alzheimer's drama Away From Her. Also, I hear great things about Witherspoon's performance, and people love her.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. The odds are too steep for anyone else, plus I'm making too many wild picks and must cut my losses somehow.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood. Ditto.

×
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood. If it's not the picture of the year, it's the stunt of the year (or past 13 years) anyway. This is exactly the kind of thing that wins directors Oscars in year when their films don't win.

× Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think the Academy likes Wes Anderson but has been waiting for him to dispel their suspicion that all his movies were written to be performed by children, and that Anderson was having a laugh by using big Hollywood stars instead.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game. Now, one or two craft awards and we've got a believable Best Picture card.

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman.

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulie, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I think Birdman's camera trick carries so much of the movie's feeling that the voters will go for it. Also, now that Budapest has caught their attention, they can lavish rewards on his stunning visuals. (I am violating my own rule on costumes this year -- that the earliest period gets the award, particularly if there are ruffs and crinoline -- so Mr. Turner may make a fool of me. But I am prepared.)

Best Film Editing: Tom Cross, Whiplash, because it's got drumming, and I bet there's a lot of rhythmic stuff going on (almost as good as a car chase!).

× Best Score: Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game. And there's your Best Picture winner craft award! I still like Jóhann Jóhannsson's The Theory of Everything music very much, but Desplat has been a bridesmaid too often.

Sound Mixing: Whiplash. Drums!
Sound Editing: American Sniper. Guns!

Visual Effects: Interstellar. Ugh, what do I know. Speaking of which, I didn't have time to meditate and my Ouija board is broken,  so I'll refrain from predicting the other awards, though I will say I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't throw one to Glen Campbell just to fuck with us.

UPDATE. I cleaned up on the minor awards and wiped out on the major ones. Until they got to Best Score I was flawless, baby, solid gold, and even there I got the right composer. (Not predicting shorts, docs, and cartoons really helped my percentage, though, I had no idea what the fuck was going on there.)

But Desplat getting it for GBH rather than The Imitation Game was a tipoff that my big bet wouldn't clear. Guess the WWII-winning loner who's also gay, autistic, and bullied was a bit too on the nose; maybe it would have won if they'd just extended their rewrites of history and  given Turing the happy ending he deserved, perhaps ascending into heaven with Christopher like at the end of Gladiator. (And why not? I'm with Graham Moore, fact-checking the water lilies is stupid.)

I have to admit, if you'd tipped me that The Imitation Game wouldn't win and that Keaton wouldn't win, I still would not have guessed Birdman would win. It may be the most avant-garde (in relative terms) winner since All Quiet on the Western Front. Even other arty winners like American Beauty and No Country for Old Men give viewers some old-fashioned hey-that-star-is-a-guy-like-me thrills, or at least entertaining chase scenes, before it all goes existential; Birdman is the kind of headscratcher people used to associate with Europe and make fun of. Well, forty years of future studio execs going to film school have paid off. 

My Birdman review here.