Random Boomer Observation

Last night, as I returned Pun Son to college, I helped carry stuff into his dorm room. Although I tried not to snoop, I couldn't help but notice two wall posters: one of Jimi Hendrix, one of Bob Marley.

Bob Marley was born in 1945; Hendrix was born in 1942 (today would have been his 64th birthday). Which means: had they lived, they'd both be older than I.

And I couldn't help but think: if I had had posters in my college dorm room of musicians older than my father … well, I'd have been subjected to massive amounts of peer-group ridicule.

But it's different now, apparently.

People often bemoan the cultural dominance of the baby boomer generation, and (true enough) we are kind of tedious at times, even as we move out of the treasured 18-49 age demographic.

But I'll offer the hypothesis that the music of my generation really was unusually good. So good that today's kids can put the musicians' posters on their walls without embarrassment.

(Note that I could have gone into crotchety geezer mode above: "Therefore, it's just like I've always said: today's music is crap!" I've restrained myself.)


Last Modified 2006-11-28 6:58 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2006-11-26

  • Andrew Sullivan's blog has become a seething sophomoric Petri dish of question-begging, disingenuousness, and book-hucksterism. Some who have pointed that out recently:

    • James Taranto meditates [last item] amusingly on how Andrew's disgust with Mitt Romney and love of Madonna leads him to deem the latter "closer to Jesus' authentic teachings" while the former is deemed the foreordained candidate of the "Christianists," despite (gasp!) not being a Christian himself. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

      As a bonus, Taranto quotes Andrew extensively, boldfacing each use of "Christianist/Christianism". It brings to mind the classic observation of Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    • Ann Althouse is pretty put out with Andrew's willingness to use Romney's anti-gay-marriage stance as a pretext to belittle Mormons generally.

    • And up-n-comer Glenn Reynolds offers links and commentary (a) refuting the usefulness of Andrew's "Christianist" meme; (b) demonstrating the superficiality of Andrew's political analysis; (c) rubbing it in.

    But, as Taranto points out, Andrew's blog has also "a guilty pleasure, something to gawk at morbidly like the site of a horrible accident." I suppose that explains why I keep going back.

  • Many government policies deserve to die. Some, however, deserve a Hollywood-style, painful, lingering death, after being pursued by a sadistic serial killer through nightmarish landscapes filled with sharp knives, broken glass, naked pictures of their grandparents, Barry Manilow played from unseen speakers …

    Ahem. Near the top of that list of policies is sugar protectionism, a policy with no other rationale besides moving money from the pockets of ordinary people into the bank accounts of sugar producers. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek comments on yet another dysfunctional symptom of this policy: it makes the use of sugar-derived ethanol for energy economically unfeasible in the US. He also points to a free link to a good further explanation of the issue by James Surowecki in the New Yorker, worth reading, although there's no indication that the New Yorker crowd will start wholeheartedly embracing free-market capitalism anytime soon.

  • We all have our hallowed holiday customs. One of mine is "The Reading of Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide."
    Holiday gift-giving is a tradition that dates back roughly 2,006 years, to when the Three Wise Men went to Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus. Of course the next day the Virgin Mary returned these items for store credit, because she was a low-income mother with a newborn, and as the old saying goes, ''You can't diaper a baby with frankincense.''
    Do not drink liquids while reading.


Last Modified 2006-11-26 3:22 PM EST

Junebug

[Amazon Link] [2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Movie Marathon Weekend continues … but maybe I'm getting movie overload. Junebug is critically acclaimed (87% on the Tomatometer, 7.3 at IMDB), but I'm all like … eh.

It was billed as a comedy, but it's one of those comedies that's not actually funny. In fact, it's downright unfunny in most spots.

Amy Adams is great (and was Oscar-nominated) as the very pregnant Ashley. She's a dim but likeable chatterbox. Unfortunately, she's surrounded by her equally dim and uninteresting dysfunctional family. The plot, such as it is, involves the return of her estranged brother for a visit; in tow is his wife, a Chicago art dealer in search of "outsider" art. But I kept asking: why should I care about these people? Didn't find a convincing answer.

Your mileage may vary, especially if you're more in tune with the critics than I.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:26 PM EDT

Click

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Movie Marathon Weekend continues … What's good about Click is its supporting cast: Kate Beckinsale, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner (Rhoda's sister, out from under that tower of blue hair), Christopher Walken, Sean Astin, Jennifer Coolidge, and the wonderful Rachel Dratch. James Earl Jones even does voiceovers! The premise is oh-so-promising: Adam Sandler goes out to buy a "universal remote control" and finds one that really does control the universe.

What's not so hot is the utter predictability of what follows. Sandler will Learn A Lesson; it's clear in the first ten minutes what the lesson is, and it's clear in about the first twenty minutes how the lesson will be learned. And things get pretty sloppily sentimental along the way, even for me; I'm usually a sucker for that kind of thing.

I like Adam Sandler, though, even when he's whiny and sappy.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:26 PM EDT

Just Friends

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Movie Marathon Weekend continues … Sometimes a timely recommendation from a blogger you trust is a better guide than (say) the critical consensus on a movie. Such is the case here, where Just Friends got a mere 42% at Rotten Tomatoes, and a mediocre 6.2/10 at IMDB. But an aside from Reihan convinced me to grab it, and it's really a very good old-fashioned screwball comedy. Underrated, in my humble opinion.

The premise isn't that original: successful guy (played by Ryan Reynolds) goes back to his hometown to get the girl (Amy Smart) who jilted him back in high school. So character is everything, and both major and minor ones are sketched and performed with skill here. Especially funny is Anna Faris, playing a Paris Hilton-type plunked into small-town New Jersey.

Julie Hagerty from Airplane plays Ryan Reynold's mom. She still does sweet ditziness about as well as it can be done.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:26 PM EDT

Monster House

[Amazon Link] [3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Movie Marathon Weekend continues … This animation is non-Pixar, and crude in comparison with (say) Cars. But the story is clever and fun, the voice talent is fantastic. (I was able to identify Jon Heder almost immediately; I'm not sure whether I'm bragging about that, or confessing.)

Among the executive producers are Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, and it's safe to presume they had a healthy input into making this movie watchable. The movie opens with a little girl riding her tricycle down the sidewalk humming/singing; in yet another example of the millions of ways the Internet makes our lives better, the IMDB trivia page reveals that the tune is the theme from Spielberg's old TV series "Amazing Stories." Ah!


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:26 PM EDT

Cars

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

The movie marathon weekend continues… we didn't see Cars at the theater for some reason, but put it up at the top of the Blockbuster rental queue. It's somewhat of a letdown from The Incredibles. The plot is a cliché, and one of the more annoying ones: famous personality comes to live among ordinary folks for a time, and Learns A Lesson.

The difference is that the characters are automobiles, not people. There are no people, apparently all "life" is mechanical; even the bugs are by VW. Nobody explains how that could have happened. I would imagine a Darwin in that world would have a pretty tough time explaining the Origin of Species.

So that's neat, and the Pixar people know how to make even annoying plots, and even annoying plots that you already know exactly how they'll turn out, fun to watch.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:29 PM EDT

Under Orders

[Amazon Link]

I wasn't really expecting Dick Francis to write another book. He's just turned 86 years old. His last book came out in 2000. His beloved wife, Mary, long suspected of being the actual writer of his books, died back in 2000 as well.

But here's a new book, and while it's not his best, it's still pretty good. The main character is Sid Halley, who's been the hero in three previous books. Things begin with three deaths at Cheltenham racecourse: an attendee, a racehorse, and a jockey. The first two are natural causes, but the third is due to three bullets in the chest. Sid gets involved with the latter. He's used to taking punishment, but in this one he's got a vulnerable girlfriend, and that turns out to be a source of anguish itself.

I'm not sure how many more books Mr. Francis has in him, but I'm game as long as he is.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:29 PM EDT

Ice Age: The Meltdown

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

When I watch a sequel to a movie I enjoyed, I often imagine what the moviemakers said to themselves in deciding to go ahead; either:

I really think we could explore these characters in a different and enlightening way in another movie; we've got more to say about them.

or [Amazon Link]

Let's see if we can hustle the rubes out of some more money. Make sure there are scenes we can make into a quickie video game.

I'd really like a sequel to at least pretend that it's not all about cash-sucking. And, unfortunately, this one doesn't try that hard. Although there are some cute moments, and John Leguizamo is really good as the voice of Sid, the sloth. But it's mainly bland and prefabricated.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:41 PM EDT

Casino Royale

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I've been going to James Bond movies for over forty years. I used to go with my dad; now I go with my son. This one is the best I've seen, and I've seen them all.

It's also quite a departure, not only because of new guy Daniel Craig in the role. This entry in the series plays up character and emotion. The traditional Bond gadgetry is minimized; there's no Q. Bond also loses a lot of smirkiness; post-kill wisecrackery is absent. The action sequences are thrilling and spectacular without being unduly cartoonish. It's beautifully shot and staged, in both glamorous and gritty settings. Dialog and acting are first-rate.

It is long, and there aren't a lot of good places to skip out, so plan accordingly.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 6:23 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2006-11-22

We're talking turkey today at Pun Salad.

  • Talking turkey? Where did that come from? Michael Quinion is probably definitive:
    I've found three stories about this, none of them wholly convincing. We do know that it's a US term. It's first recorded in 1824, but is probably much older; one suggestion is that it goes back as far as colonial times. What the explanations have in common is real turkeys.

  • But if you want, doing your best Cliff Clavin imitation, to dazzle your co-eaters with little-known facts about turkey, trot over to the University of Illinois Extension Turkey Facts page. For example,
    Turkeys' heads change colors when they become excited.
    Connect-the-dots types will want to continue reading down the page, where we find:
    Turkeys can see in color.
    Ah. Well, of course. What would be the point of having your head change color if another turkey couldn't tell it was happening? Duh!

    The link is via Carl Schaad, by the way, and he's skeptical of this "fact":

    Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks.
    Carl observes:
    I have mental image of thousands of turkeys just dropping like dominos as Air Force jets fly overhead. The farmer, hearing the death-crys of thousands of turkeys, rushes out to see his beloved birds all lying dead. Being the compassionate farmer he is, he then orders autopsies for all of the animals to find out what happened.

    "It's bad Jim. They all died - of heart attacks. Something scared these birds to death."

    He has an alternate theory.

  • Do not, however, start rambling about tryptophan, at least not until you've read James Lileks debunking The Myth of Tryptophan.

  • And even helpers need help sometimes. From McSweeney's: transcripts from the Butterball Help-Line Help-Line.
    Q: A caller just said she forgot to baste every 10 minutes. I advised her to serve the turkey anyway. Was I correct?

    A: Not at all. The turkey is merely the vehicle for the basting. In a recent poll, nine out of 10 people would rather sit down at the table and suck on the end of a baster full of buttery juices than gnaw at some dry old wing. Bad call.

  • Actually, it's not the "Butterball Help-Line" but the "Butterball Turkey Talk-Line" (1-800-BUTTERBALL). For our vast audience of cooks and fryers: a collection of gastronomic helplines is right here.

  • Yes, that last item contained (arguably) a pun. Sorry.

  • Finally, if you're in New Hampshire for the holiday, a small legal tip: you'll want to forego shooting the robot turkeys. (Via WizBang.)


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:42 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-21

  • The Forbes list of the 15 Richest Fictional People (via CfG).

    Funny coincidence that Oliver ("Daddy") Warbucks became a defense contractor. I mean, "Warbucks" … what are the odds?

  • Interesting story in USA Today (although, as I type, it's USA Day Before Yesterday) about the plans for a new dollar coin, which people are hoping will work where the Susie B Anthony and Sacagawea dollars failed. The new gimmick is that the dollars will feature ex-Presidents, four per year, from Washington (next year) up to Nixon (in 2016); later Presidents are as yet unscheduled.

    Emabarassing local connection: the usually-sensible Senator John E. Sununu (R-NH) was a driving force behind this silliness. Dollar coins are superficially neat, but require Your Federal Government to undertake a lot of social engineering to "encourage" people to use them. Left to their own devices, people prefer bills.

    The esteemed Weekend Pundit also has words on the matter, and advocates removing the dollar bill from circulation. WP is correct that the success of the dollar coin depends on dollar bills being made unavailable (as they did in Canada), and that replacing the dollar bill with the dollar coin would (probably) save the government money; unlike WP, Pun Salad does not think that necessarily settles the issue.

    In fact, the government profits from all currency issuance; this is called seignorage. It's just that they profit less from dollar bils than they would from dollar coins. How much should we care about that, given the obvious consumer preference for bills? Who's running this show anyway? And for whose benefit?

    (Previous Pun Salad post mentioning this issue is here.)

  • What are the biggest questions ever asked? Find out at the New Scientist, where they have an article titled 'The Biggest Questions Ever Asked', with links to further articles.

    I must quibble with the following, tho:

    What happens after you die? By Mary Roach

    We have all wondered if there is an afterlife, but only a few are brave - or foolish - enough to try and find out

    Well, actually everyone—brave, cowardly, foolish, wise—either already has, or will eventually, find out, whether they try or not.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:43 PM EDT

A Headline That Would Have Been Utterly Nonsensical To Me A Mere Few Years Ago, But Now (Unfortunately) Is Totally Understandable

'Pump-and-Dump' Spam Surge Linked to Russian Bot Herders.

(Via LGF.)

URLs du Jour

2006-11-20

  • I—seriously—saw my first 2008 campaign sign today, for presidential candidate John Cox, who might charitably be called a long shot.

    Between Cox and McCain, however, I'll take Cox. And that's without knowing much about about Cox.

  • John Fund reports on past and current efforts in opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, abolishing state "affirmative action" programs, which passed on Election Day, 58%-42%. Tactics, which will surprise nobody familiar with the issue, involve outrage, obfuscation, frivolous litigation, intimidation, demagoguery, and dishonesty.

    Particularly striking is Fund's pairing of an old George Wallace quote:

    "I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

    with a quote from Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick:

    "We will affirm to the world that affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow, and there will be affirmative action in the state forever."

    Of course, "affirmative action" has "officially" been sold as a temporary measure. Apparently Mayor Kilpatrick took his unintentional-honesty pills that morning.

  • Over across the state, at that Other University, Joe Malchow forecasts some chilly times for free expression.

    It is time for Native American students to be outraged. And for administrators to coddle them, and for a slick frosty patina of offense-avoidance to be summoned from the heavens above Hanover that it may coat all our words and our deeds, preventing us from saying anything that might shock the gentle souls of those who derive their human worth from people other than themselves and times other than their own.

    He reproduces and analyzes e-mail from President Wright, who, among other things, is pretty put out by what 1920s-era Boston sportswriters said about Dartmouth back then.

  • I know it's not just a New England disease, it just seems like that at times. Like President Wright, Boston Herald columnist Michele McPhee says

    Hey, I am all for First Amendment rights,

    … can you guess the very next word? I bet you can:

    but …

    Jacob Sullum describes the free speech fuss in Boston, where all the rapscallions would be out singing Christmas carols holiday songs were it not for Grand Theft Auto ads.

  • Speaking of that upcoming holiday, CNN reports that Toys for Tots will now accept the donation of Talking Jesus dolls it previously rejected. No word on what changed, but I suspect they have been renamed "Talking James Brolin" dolls and reprogrammed to offer quotes originally uttered by the character of young Dr. Steven Kiley on Marcus Welby, M.D. Who could be offended by that?

  • But, for me, nothing says Christmas Holiday Season like Santa hats on marine mammals.

  • And (via Instapundit) our Aieee! We're all gonna die! URL du jour: It's those pesky killer asteroids again; they've apparently seen one too many Grand Theft Auto ads.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:44 PM EDT

The Benchwarmers

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Better than you might expect. Better than it probably has any right to be. The basic idea is that three grown-ups, who had (putatively) been bullied and ridiculed as kids trying to participate in youth baseball, decide to form a team and compete against kids.

No, really.

The team is made up of Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder, a combination with lots of experience in playing oddballs. They have a champion in Jon Lovitz, also despised as a teen, who's now rich (When talking to a contractor building a new stadium, he advises: "Keep it under a billion, that's all I got... on me.")

The movie works on its own terms, because it's unafraid to be as tasteless, lowbrow, and stereotypical as you can be in a PG-13 movie. It embaces and explores these qualities, in fact. You won't be culturally poorer if you miss it. But if you're easily amused (and I am) it's pretty amusing.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:27 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-19

  • I can understand if you've overdosed on Milton Friedman tributes, but Thomas Sowell's is very good.
    Students were not allowed to walk into his classroom after his lecture had begun, distracting others. Once, I arrived at the door just minutes after Friedman began speaking and had to turn around and go back to the dormitory, wondering all the while whether what he taught that day would be on the next exam. After that, I was always in my seat when Friedman entered the classroom. He was also a tough grader. On one exam, there were only two B's in the whole class--and no A's.
    Pay attention, kids. You can bounce back from a missed lecture. (Although he doesn't say so here, diligent readers of Professor Sowell's memoir will know he got one of those B's.)

  • Looking up "media consolidation" at the Google will give you (as I type) a hefty 442,000 hits. Many, probably most—sorry, didn't check them all—are alarmist "threat or menace" sites, pointing with dismay to the looming disaster of a small handful of moguls controlling free expression in America. Aieee!

    At the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer points out the recent trend toward deconsolidation, as exemplified by the crackup of Clear Channel, which only a few years back was Exhibit A among the doomcriers.

    Again, don't expect the Chicken Little media critics to acknowledge any of this. As I've said again and again in this ongoing series, this is an example of a well-functioning, competitive marketplace at work. Media critics think every merger or acquisition is all just part of some sort of grand conspiracy to destroy democracy or competition. But when the opposite happens and firms reorganize or downsize, the critics never say a peep.
    To make a Sowellian observation: holders of the unconstrained vision are quick to Point With Alarm to the workings of the free market, in hope that their fearmongering will result in political power down the road. Ironically, in this case—remember those 442,000 hits—they have plenty of willing mouthpieces in the media. People like Thierer are an invaluable counterbalance.

  • On a related note, Clear Channel is being bought by a group of private investing firms, one of which is Bain Capital, which (in turn) was founded twenty years ago by (among others) Mitt Romney.

    The increasingly worthless Blogometer picks up and amplifies lefty thoughts on the matter uncritically:

    ROMNEY: Clearly A Threat To Democracy

    The netroots have taken notice of MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R) founded Bain Capital's purchase of Clear Channel. MyDD's Chris Bowers picked up the story from Rochester Turning who writes: "Mitt Romney is running for president in 2008 (some consider him the frontrunner for the Republican nomination). I bet a fleet of t.v.and radio stations might come in handy. Remember - this is how Berlusconi got elected in Italy." Bowers adds: "To prepare for their 2008 runs, most potential candidates stock up on staff, a Leadership PAC, and support from party leaders, advocacy organizations, and grassroots groups. Mitt Romney buys a media empire. I can't argue with what will probably be an effective strategy, but I can fear for American Democracy. Maybe Romney did this in order to match Giuliani's defacto news organization, Bloomberg."

    A quick look at Wikipedia would have been enough to deflate this hot air balloon:
    Romney departed Bain in 2001, selling off his majority interest.
    The reality-based community never lets such piddling facts get in the way of an ominous dark fantasy, though.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:47 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-17

  • There are many, many people honoring Milton Friedman today; pick and choose. I've certainly missed a lot of good ones, but: Virginia Postrel; Andrew J. Coulson; Greg Mankiw Pejman Yousefzadeh (with a video and many more links); Donald O. Luskin; Radley Balko; Andrew Roth; and Iain Murray. If you're in the mood for something unconventional, Ralph Kinney Bennett recalls his tennis match, with Dr. Friedman. And there's always the Milton Friedman Choir, with an intro by the man himself.

    A few quotes. From Steven "Freakonomics" Leavitt:

    He was truly a revolutionary thinker. People do not realize how revolutionary because so many of his ideas that were thought to be crazy when he suggested them eventually came to be seen as obvious: school choice, a volunteer army, etc.

    Luke Sheahan:

    Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience… are safer today because of the work of Milton Friedman.

    And David Friedman, his son:

    Cattle die, kindred die,
    Every man is mortal:
    But the good name never dies
    Of one who has done well.

  • And, continuing the Freidmanesque theme, compare and contrast:

    This week's "heh" award, via Cato.

  • Reihan makes a good case for not rushing out to see Borat, by quoting David Brooks out from behind Times Select:
    The genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's performance is his sycophantic reverence for his audience, his refusal to challenge the sacred cows of the educated bourgeoisie. During the movie, Borat ridicules Pentecostals, gun owners, car dealers, hicks, humorless feminists, the Southern gentry, Southern frat boys, and rodeo cowboys. A safer list it is impossible to imagine.

    Reihan then moves on to an appreciation of Anna Faris, which is just icing on the cake.

  • If you're a geek, and a movie fan, you'll want to check out Scott Willoughby's list of the Top 20 Hackers in Film History. Unfortunately, a large fraction of those good hackers have been stuck in pretty bad movies. (And I think that Dave Bowman deserves an honorable mention, don't you?) Via BBSpot.

  • And, in our occasional Aieeee! We're all gonna die! category, you'll want to know about NASA's plans for killer asteroids. No, the plans are to deal with them, not create them.

URLs du Jour

2006-11-16

A "good quotes" edition, both timely and timeless …

  • Dean Barnett:
    Trent Lott has won the number two job among Republicans in the Senate! Whoopee! If there's one message that the electorate sent the Republican Party last week, it's that we hadn't given them enough of Trent Lott. I cannot adequately express my delight that Senate Republicans have moved with such expediency to right this egregious wrong.

  • Homer Simpson:
    In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic.

  • Roger L. Simon:
    The last few days ... the reincarnation of Trent Lott, the rise of Murtha, etc., etc. ... have cemented in my mind that anyone who has the remotest confidence in either of our major political parties has cement for brains. Forget the best and the brightest. The leadership of both parties is dominated by an almost willfully constructed collection of the dull, talentless and (often enough) corrupt.

  • P. J. O'Rourke:
    Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

  • And finally, I want to remember Milton Friedman, who has passed away. As one of the foremost champions of liberty and capitalism, Dr. Friedman undoubtedly made life better for you, me, and posterity.

    Specifically, I recall reading this passage near the beginning of his classic Capitalism and Freedom:

    In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.

    The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.

    To a mushy-headed kid in the early sixties, it was more than a little jarring to see someone with the utter gall to talk back to one of the Holy Quotations of Saint JFK. And some would say I've never recovered from the shock. I'll always remember Dr. Friedman with admiration and gratitude. Hit&Run has lotsa links.

URLs du Jour

2006-11-15

  • Or, more specifically, URL du you know where your killer bear is?

  • The Club for Growth guys are fond of pointing out that (outgoing Republican Arkansas governor) Mike Huckabee is a liberal; Matthew Hoy points out that he's also kind of a sleaze.

  • 21. "Jonah Goldberg" is to "Affirmative Action" as:
    1. "Whoopi Goldberg" is to the "Academy Awards"
    2. "Rube Goldberg" is to "Alcholics Anonymous"
    3. The "Goldberg Variations" are to "Adam Ant"
    4. "guy with a shotgun" is to "fish in a barrel"

    Answer here.

  • Something I found out in composing the previous item: there's a website devoted to Rube Goldberg.

  • Here's hoping this doesn't make the Baby Jesus cry:
    A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program.
    So, whose birthday is it again? I know, separation of church and state and all, but still …

  • And a leftover from yesterday: Kip Esquire rules for posting videos illustrating Communism v. Capitalism.

URLs du What Rules

2006-11-14

  • What rules? Well, let's see … The Who, the internet, and capitalism. Not necessarily in that order, but Andrew Roth notes and appreciates a confluence of all that good stuff in a beautiful ad for Cisco.

  • Also ruling today: Ken Jennings' new daughter. Less than a day old, and I understand she can already say "Potent Potables for 200, Alex."

  • All decent folk know that Mike Judge rules, but Fox Studios does not. (I mean that both ways: Fox Studios does not rule, and, not being decent folk, they do not know that Mike Judge rules.) Steve Sailer compares the inexplicable divergence between Fox's handling of Judge's Idiocracy vs. Borat. (Via Jeremy Lott.)

  • And, hey, I rule today, for I submitted this item to Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today, and it made it in:
    "Official: Politicians Don't Reveal the Truth"--headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Nov. 14
    Although, as I pointed out in my mail, I wasn't sure whether it best fit under "What Would We Do Without Officials?" or "Bottom Stories of the Day". (The BOTW folks went with the former.)

    It's a decent article, for that matter. We proud Americans like to think that we're pretty good at political slanting of research results, but it turns out the Brits are making a run at it as well.

(Geeky) URL du Jour

2006-11-13

One of the cooler Perl scripts I've seen in awhile is snowclone.pl, written by a guy billing himself as "the Tensor". The script hits up the Google for "snowclones," phrases that are mutants from original clichés, punchlines, or slogans.

For example, Simpsons fans will recognize Kent Brockman's line, from a newscast where he mistakenly thought giant ants were about to take over the world: "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." Snowcloners fill in a different words for "insect": I, for one, welcome our new San Franciscan Democrat overlords.

People averse to a Unixlike command line will want to look away at this point, but an example usage would be


% ./snowclone.pl "honey I X the Y" > t2

… and your snowclones will be saved in the specified file, and (at least in this case) you'd probably also want to say "Honey, I didn't let the kids read the dirty snowclones." But "Honey, I cooled the planet" is unexpectedly big.

Being not especially creative in this sort of thing, I also tried "X is the greatest thing since Y". Very few came up with anything besides "sliced bread" for Y, although "Red Sky is the best thing since Brokeback Mountain" gets the "Heh" award here.

Check the links for more examples.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:33 PM EDT

Nacho Libre

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

One of my (current) rules for movie fanboyism is: Jack Black can do no wrong. So, this movie, made by the Nickelodeon folks for their older viewers, is watchable and very funny in parts. Jack plays (as you may have heard) a Catholic friar in Mexico, not particularly respected by his peers, who longs for the fame and fortune of professional Mexican wrestling. He also longs for the romantic attentions of the beautiful Sister Encarnación (Her favorite animal, she says, is puppies.)

The movie's not too coherent; a lot of scenes seem to be included just for their comic content, and don't drive the plot or contribute to character development. As a result, the movie seems to go on for longer than the 90 minutes claimed on the DVD sleeve.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:32 PM EDT

The Proposition

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This got good grades from the major critics. It is set in the 1880s Australian outback, mainly in a small town with a despotic mayor and a lawman, Captain Stanley, with a desire to "civilize" the country. Stanley has an English wife, and together they have constructed a little bubble of English gentility in their home and surrounding garden; they are held in contempt by nearly everyone else.

Which would be bad enough, but there's been a horrific murder (apparently) committed by the Burns brothers gang. The movie opens with Captain Stanley capturing two brothers in a bloody shootout at a brothel; he offers to spare relatively-innocent Mike and Charlie, if Charlie will go off and kill the third brother still at large, Arthur. The result doesn't work out well for anyone.

The movie held my interest, but it's unsparingly bleak and the carnage leaves little to the imagination; it's not a chick flick. There are some well-known actors here, but they are nearly unrecognizable, covered as they are in facial hair, dirt, and (often) blood. (Well, except for Emily Watson, playing Mrs. Stanley, who stays relatively clean until the end.)


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:35 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-10

It occurs to me that I did make an election prediction back on October 17:

… I'm pretty much fretful that, no matter who wins, they'll invariably think they've won for the wrong reason.

Interpreted generously, this doesn't appear to have been badly off-target. Specifically, the electoral victors and their hangers-on seem to be teeming with bad ideas.

  • Via Virginia Postrel there's one indication of that in a Slate article by Jacob Weisberg, describing the "economic nationalism" of many of the victorious:

    Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.

    … but there's more substance than name-calling later in the article. You should also read Mickey Kaus for a needed distinction (ignored by Weisberg) between immigration law enforcement and protectionism.

  • It's not all semi-sensible at Slate, though. Timothy Noah giddily pens an article titled "Time To Socialize Medicine". Despite (as he admits): (a) socialized medicine was not a major, or even a minor, issue in the campaign; (b) the last big push for it in the 90s was a major cause of the GOP takeover of the House in 1994.

  • Of course, the Dems don't have to outright socialize medicine to mess things up, healthwise. Greg Mankiw notes that while the day-after-election overall stock market was up by 0.2%, the shares of four large pharmaceutical companies declined by 1.05% to 3.4%. Prof Mankiw speculates:

    The Dems will likely give us lower drug prices and less research into new drugs. Good news if you plan to be sick soon. Bad news if you plan to be sick in the more distant future.

    So plan accordingly!

  • I only got my prediction half right, though. I should have added there's a good chance the losers will also take the wrong lessons from their loss. Daniel Henninger looks at Dubya's recent foreign policy signals, detects wobbling, and is pessimistic.

    George Bush's foreign policy is at a tipping point. The administration's thinking on Iran and North Korea looks stalemated. He has taken to talking about the need for "fresh eyes" on Iraq. Looking back over the roster of the Iraq Survey Group, I'd say the eyes focused on his foreign-policy legacy, all essentially retired from public life, are anything but fresh. In response to Tuesday's election, House Republicans are about to usher in a younger generation of political thinkers. If he really wants to refresh his presidency, Mr. Bush should start looking in the same direction.

    That would be nice, but it's hard to see it happening.

  • [Christine and some hapless bastard] And, since I'm in prediction-reviewing mode, I was totally wrong (and mean-spirited) last Novermber when I deemed the newlywed young man pictured at right to be a "hapless bastard" in for an (estimated) six months' "all-expense-paid tour of Hell." In fact, scanning the gossippers, I can't see any indications of anything besides continued matrimonial bliss, while similar marriages have crashed and burned around them. Best wishes to Christina and Jordan on the upcoming one-year anniversary.

Bottom line: predictions are difficult, especially about the future.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:48 PM EDT

URLs du Silver Lining

Or as the punchline to the old joke has it, "there must be a pony in here somewhere."

  • Don't know the joke? It was allegedly President Reagan's favorite, so check it out.

  • For one thing, as Michelle (ma belle) points out: we won't be hearing about Diebold voting machines stealing elections. Not for a couple years, anyway.

  • At Cato, Jim Harper notes with glee the electoral demise of many New Hampshire Republicans who favored "REAL ID", a foot in the door for a national ID card. (Previous Pun Salad posts on REAL ID here, here, and here.)

    I'm not as convinced as Jim that REAL ID issues played a major part in the local campaigns. But still …

  • Not only did defeated NH Congressman Charlie Bass like REAL ID, he also cosponsored the dreadful Unlawful Internet Gaming Act. Radley Balko gloats here.

    Also, as near as I can tell, not an actual major issue in the campaign. But still …

  • Also at Cato, Andrew Coulson detects signs that Democrats could become the party of educational liberty, noting that "several prominent Democrats" have come out in favor of education tax credits. It would be a classic move to steal a putatively Republican issue—not that the Republicans have done much with it.

    I'm also skeptical here, given the joined-at-the-hip relationship between the Democrats and teacher unions; Andrew kind of handwaves past that issue. But still …

  • It seems that opposition to Affirmative Action is an issue that neither major party wants to steal; nobody likes it, except, well, actual voters. As you might expect, John Rosenberg at Discriminations is prolific about the 58%-42% victory of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Most notable for our theme today is this post, where he points out
    In Michigan, the Republican nominee for governor, Dick DeVos, and the Republican nominee for the Senate, Mike Bouchard, both opposed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). Presumably they were afraid of being called racist, or something.

    Well, I'll call them something: stupid. They both lost, 56% to 42%, and the Republicans lost control the state House for the first time in 8 years and almost lost the Senate …. Meanwhile, MCRI, with which Republicans were afraid to be affiliated, won with 58% of the vote.

Official Notice

Pun Salad has lost patience with Speaker Pelosi.

URLs du Jour

2006-11-07

No election cheerleading or predictions here. You're welcome.

  • I understand Glenn Reynolds is a real up-and-comer in the blogosphere. He has a good essay about vote fraud at TCS Daily that should make sense to all sides. Key quote:

    An election system that is less than transparent is one that's open to conspiracy theories and fear of fraud, whether or not fraud is actually present.

    Excellent point. There's no excuse, six years after Florida 2000, for voting to actually be less transparent now.

  • For more on that, see "Does technology help or hinder election integrity?" in ACMQueue, where Peter G. Neumann interviews Douglas Jones; Peter has been a long time examiner of technology risks. Jones says:

    … the system must convince the losers that they lost. Those who lost an election and their partisans typically have no required technical qualifications, so the entire system must be sufficiently open and comprehensible that nontechnical observers can believe the results. Furthermore, the losers in an election have no reason to believe any assertions made by a government that is run by the winners.

  • Speaking of losers, it turns out that Mussolini did not actually make the trains run on time! As near as I can recollect, my mother did not claim otherwise, but this is one of the myths debunked at Lies Your Mother Told You. If you've kind of always suspected that mom was not on the up-and-up, you might want to check it out. (Although they don't mention "Your face will freeze like that." Maybe that one's true.) (Via Saint BBSpot.)

  • For that matter: duct tape is apparently not particularly good at wart removal. (Posted as a public service for the thirteen people who didn't notice this at Dave's blog.)

  • Things I didn't know about Olivia Newton-John:

    She is the granddaughter of Max Born, a German Nobel prize-winning physicist who fled from Germany with his wife in the 1930s in order to avoid persecution due to Born's Jewish heritage and his wife's part Jewish descent (although Olivia herself is a Christian). Olivia's father, Brin Newton-John, originally from Wales, was an MI5 officer attached to the Enigma machine project at Bletchley Park, and the officer who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in May 1941.

    As an ex-physics geek, I'm sayin': wow, Max Born? Wikipedia link via Andrew "Still Good For Something" Sullivan. It is Wikipedia, so there's a chance it could just be made up crap, but personally I don't want to know.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:49 PM EDT

URL du Election Eve

I'm an iPod guy, but Mrs. Salad listens to Commie Radio (aka "NPR") and she heard probably the funniest thing they've ever broadcast, a parody of election advertising. In flagrant disregard for copyright law (so sue me, you Commie bastards!) here's the transcript, and you might have better luck than I in getting their server to cough up the audio.

The "pro" ad:

NICE LADY: I'm a Mom, and I'm voting "yes" on Prop. 111. Prop. 111 provides free candy for every child in our state.

KID: I heart candy!

NICE LADY: And the candy won't hurt their teeth, because Prop. 111 will fund the development of a high-tech polymer that protects kids' teeth from decay. The polymer also makes kids 200 percent smarter and wealthier, and it makes them hate illegal drugs. And Prop. 111 does all this without raising taxes, by floating a series of magic astrological wizard bonds that incur zero debt while generating billions of dollars in revenue. If you believe in unicorns, vote yes on Prop. 111.

FAST MALE VOICE: Paid for by Citizens for Realism in Voting.

But of course there's an anti:
SCARY VOICE: Supporters of Prop. 111 say it gives candy to children. But thanks to special-interest loopholes, Prop. 111 will actually seal children in wooden barrels and roll them off the tops of skyscrapers.

KID: Help meeeeeeeeeeee!

SCARY VOICE: The plummeting child-stuffed barrels will destroy our roads . 10 percent of state revenue will go towards repaving the streets and burying the dead. And Prop. 111 has provisions for 900 new taxes, including one on the air you breathe. Prop. 111 was crafted in a cave full of vampire bats by demons with wings of fire. It hates you. If you are a human being, vote NO on 111.

FAST MALE VOICE: Paid for by Voters United Against Fearmongering.

Do your civic duty tomorrow, folks! Personally, I plan on drinking heavily.

Last Modified 2006-11-06 8:38 PM EST

Ride the High Country

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link] Guilty confession: I fell asleep for a goodly portion of this ostensible masterpiece (91% on the Tomatometer). What I saw was good, but (obviously) it didn't rivet my eyes open. It's one of Sam Peckinpah's early movies, and it has some of the same themes as The Wild Bunch: the grizzled veterans, increasingly out of place in a too-civilized world, operating under their own moral code, which may or may not involve lawbreaking.

Trivia: Randolph Scott's last movie, and Mariette Hartley's first one. R. G. Armstrong appears as Mariette's bible-thumping dad; you've almost certainly seen him in a bazillion movies and TV shows.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:27 PM EDT

URLs du Voting

Here's irony for you: it's increasingly tough for me to get all excited about politics just before an election.

  • For one thing, as they say, no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in. Russell Roberts reminds us what that means.
    A woman asked me if there was anything I thought government did better than the private sector. Sure, I replied. Killing people.
    His Exhibit A is "Theory, Evidence and Examples of FDA Harm" from http://www.fdareview.org. It's not just vegemite, mates!

  • As a related treat, Greg Mankiw offers a column he wrote for Fortune magazine back in 2000—that they refused to run:
    As election day gets close, get ready to hear the usual exhortations about voting. … responsible people all agree that everyone should be encouraged to vote. It's a national disgrace, the hand-wringers say, that millions of eligible voters fail to turn out in presidential elections. Voting is a civic responsibility, they tell us, because democracy works best when everyone participates.

    The problem is, this isn't true. Sometimes the most responsible thing a person can do on election day is stay at home.

    Read the whole thing to find out why.

  • On the other hand, Orson Scott Card has not gotten all above-it-all and cynical, and he has a pretty strong recommendation for you and me:
    There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

    And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

    If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

    Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

    But at least there will be a chance.

    The remainder of the essay is a strong big-picture view of the War on Terror, and if you've overdosed on the mainstream media's negativism, it's a bracing change of pace. (Via LGF.)

Slither

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link] The "Genre" description for this movie at IMDB is "Comedy/Horror/Sci Fi" which is dead on. It's very funny, and if you can stand lots of gore and bad language, you'll laugh a lot.

Nathan Filion, ex-Captain Mal from Firefly, is the primary hero, a small-town cop finding himself well over his head when he's called upon to save the world from invasion by zombie-creating space slugs. He's perfect in this role. He's aided by Elizabeth Banks (playing the wife of the initial infectee) and Tania Saulnier (the only member of a farm family to escape zombifcation); both prove to be more resourceful than might be expected.

Jenna Fischer, Pam from The Office, has a small role; it involves adopting a twangier accent and bigger hair. Trivia: in real life, Ms. Fischer is married to James Gunn, the writer/director of the movie. And she seems so normal.

Also, you'll want to hang on through the credits for the final scene. (Which is kind of a cliché for films of the genre, but never mind.)


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:28 PM EDT

District B13

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link] This is a French action thriller, set in a near-future Paris where large sections of the city have been walled off and anarchy allowed to reign within. It's all very dirty and gritty in there, and life is fast and cheap. A resident vigilante teams up with a (might as well say it) renegade cop against a local crime lord who has gotten his hands on both the vigilante's sister and a neutron bomb.

The main attraction here is the hyperkinetic action sequences, which aren't at all believable but nontheless fun to watch. Our heroes are impossibly acrobatic, devastating fighters, and dead shots. The bad guys, in contrast, took their shooting lessons at Imperial Storm Trooper Academy.

The plot is mediocre, but the dialog is witty. It's in French, dubbed in English, but very few of the dubbers seem to have French accents; subtitles were fine.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:28 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-02

  • The Torch reminisces about the good old days when the University of New Hampshire threw student Tim Garneau out of his dorm for unauthorized free expression. I'd like to think that UNH learned its lesson, but it's probably premature to conclude that.

  • But as long as UNH behaves itself, we have to make fun of other institutions of higher education instead. For example, Phi Beta Cons has detected amusing comments over the border in Vermont: some at Middlebury College are unhappy that a professorship is being created there to honor William Rehnquist, an alumnus. [Oops. No, he's not.] For example, Assistant Professor of Sociology Laurie Essig:

    "There are all sorts of ways of making someone feel insecure, you could punch them in the stomach or you could name a professorship after a justice whose decisions made many people in this country feel less secure," said Essig. "When you name a professorship after someone like [Rehnquist], you commit an act of symbolic violence against people. You make them feel insecure, as if they've been punched in the stomach."

    Fragile flowers at Middlebury!

  • Frankly, higher education-wise, we prefer the cutting edge Diet Coke/Mentos research being carried out at Eepybird U.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 12:27 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2006-11-01

  • An impressive list of "The Top 150 Guy Movies Of All Time." If you're a Guy, check it out. The always-impressive Bull Dog Pundit has seen 147 of them. My count is 132; I have, for some reason, never seen Full Metal Jacket, Raging Bull, Slap Shot, A Bronx Tale, Platoon, Boondock Saints, Bad Lieutenant, The Hustler, On the Waterfront, From Dusk 'til Dawn, Donnie Brasco, The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Last Detail, Let it Ride, Mystery Alaska, Hard Times, Hollywood Knights, and most inexplicably of all, Happy Gilmore.

    I would put both Roxanne and Groundhog Day in the list; I can see a couple I'd drop out to make room.

  • Hey, John Kerry's pretty funny! (I assume you've heard.) But not as funny as these guys, God bless 'em.

  • Continuing in the free-speech tradition of McCain-Feingold, Senators Olympia Snowe (R) and Jay Rockefeller (D) are trying to bully Exxon into defunding two of my favorite web-places (and associated organizations), the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Tech Central Station because they remain skeptical of the Gore Gospel of Global Warming. Disgusting.