URLs du Jour

2006-12-26

  • Patrick Hynes points out Irwin Stelzer's column at the Daily Standard website outlining the incoming Democrats' legislative priorities. They're dreadful, as you might expect: minimum wage, protectionism, kicking drug companies in the teeth, and all manner of resentment of "the rich" worked out in tax policy. (And, I might add: no hope of reasonable defusing of the fiscal time-bomb posed by the current trajectory of entitlement programs.) Pat comments:
    Next time some libertarian friend of yours tells you that there isn't a dime's worth of different between liberal Democrats and 'big government conservative' Republicans, slap him upside the head.
    Slap received here, although I don't recall actually saying that. But slaps should also be held in reserve for both (a) Republicans who only fitfully and ineffectively campaigned on the other side of these issues before the election, when it actually mattered and (b) the voters, for whom it probably wouldn't have made a lot of difference anyway. Not to mention that the GOP has squandered a lot of its credibility on spending and trade in any case.

    Pat also says:

    But hey, those damned Republicans tried to keep that girl in Florida alive, so screw them, too, right?
    For the record, not all libertarians were on the "starve her" side. My posts (I guess I'm feeling a tad defensive today) touching on the issues spurred by the Terri Schiavo case are here, here, here and here.

  • I'll take the liberty of quoting three paragraphs from Thomas Sowell's latest column where he sticks a sharp pin in the hot-air balloon of a talk show host's comment that a particular high corporate executive salary "makes no sense".
    Years ago, a famous essay pointed out that nobody knows how to make a simple lead pencil. That is, there is no single individual anywhere who knows how to grow the wood, mine the graphite, produce the rubber, and manufacture the paint.

    Complex economic processes cause all these things to be done and coordinated by a wide variety of people, just in order to produce something as simple as a lead pencil. Multiply that by a hundred or a thousand when it comes to the complexity of producing a car or a computer.

    If you cannot understand something as simple as making a lead pencil, why should you be surprised that you don't understand why someone is making a lot more money than somebody else?

    The 48-year-old masterful essay that Professor Sowell refers to is right here. It should be required reading for politicians everywhere, about which they should be required to pass a comprehension test afterwards (including Professor Sowell's question above), and they should be required to write their answers with a Number 2 Mongol 482 Woodclinched Yellow Pencil. Just sayin'.

  • Meanwhile, over at the American Spectator blog, John Tabin espies a sentence which, in his estimation, "may be the perfect distillation of everything that has been wrong with American liberalism since the Progressive Era." So you'll want to check that out.

  • Bob Newhart's retail Christmas memories. 'Nuff said. (One of my Christmas gifts from the Salad family: the second season of The Bob Newhart Show on DVD. Woo!)


Last Modified 2012-10-21 7:25 AM EDT

Little Miss Sunshine

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

Yes, I liked this better than Blade Runner, which is probably enough to get me unceremoniously drummed out of the Geek Brotherhood. Oh, well, I can save some money on the dues.

However, in my geeky defense: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe from 24, has a small role. Although she's not hunched over a keyboard here, she does wear a headset, is (mostly) a no-nonsense hardass, and you can kind of get a Chloe vibe off that, if you're so inclined.

As to the rest of the movie: it's a dark comedy, playing off the utter dysfunction of the Hoover family. You won't get any descriptions here, though; part of the enjoyment is discovering how and why the various family members are the way they are. Although it involves—you can probably deduce this from the DVD box—throwing everyone into an aging and cantankerous VW Bus for a trip from Arizona to California. The bus is practically a character on its own.

And almost certainly you can thank your lucky stars that whatever interpersonal problems your family has, they're not as bad as the ones shown here. (If they are, well, my sympathies, and … have you ever considered writing a screenplay?)

Very notable is Steve Carell, who, in a departure from his normal roles, gives a nuanced disappearing-into-the-character performance that's really worth watching. If there's any justice, he should get a nod for Best Supporting Actor; there probably isn't any justice, though.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 7:01 AM EDT

Blade Runner

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

When this DVD showed up in the $5 bargain bin at Wal-Mart (no, I'm not kidding), I snapped it up. After all, it got a studly 92% on the Tomatometer, and the IMDB folks have ranked it number 96 (as I type) on the top movies of all time. It's a blending of two genres I revere: science fiction and film noir. It stars Harrison Ford, one of my all-time favorites. It has a obsessive fan website devoted to it (which you should really check out, by the way, if you're interested in (a) the movie, or (b) the heights to which obsessive fans can go). And yet …

It's kind of dull; I had to start it three times before I watched it through without dozing off. It's heavy on symbolism and ambiguity, which I don't appreciate. The hero isn't very likeable or even understandable (which relates back to the movie's ambiguity on a key plot point, no spoilers here, but if you don't know about it by now, any of the links above will tell you). The acting is flat as a pancake, save for Rutger Hauer.

I should mention some positives, too. The movie impressively depicts its near-future dystopia. The "director's cut" version I got has dropped Ford's droning voice-overs and sappy ending seen in the original release. So that's good.

And, yes, I really did watch this movie on Christmas. Talk about incongruity!


Last Modified 2012-10-21 7:01 AM EDT