URLs du Jour


  • Not that we continue to be tax-obsessed or anything, but there's a good op-ed column from Yaron Brook at Forbes convincingly decrying the proliferation of nanny-statism via the tax code. Examples aplenty. The bottom line:
    If government were restricted to its proper functions--police, courts and a strong military to defend individual rights against physical force and fraud--our 66,000-page coercive tax code would be a thing of the past. What's more, a great burden would be lifted, not just from the economy, but from our lives.

    Imagine reasserting ourselves as rational, sovereign individuals, whose rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness include the right to choose values without asking society's permission--and without chasing our own money, like lab rats sniffing cheese, down the twisting corridors of a labyrinthine tax code.

    What he said. (Via GeekPress.)

  • It's kind of old—three whole days!—but lovers of irony will appreciate Bill Bradley's inside account of how Obama's pop-lefty sociology on bitter small-town voters made it into the Huffington Post, with Arianna Huffington herself weighing in from the South Pacific, where she was vacationing on David Geffen's 454-foot yacht.

    I like to imagine that at some point she said, "No, of course Obama's comments don't sound elitist to me, darling! Don't be silly! … No, I asked around, and nobody else here thinks they're elitist either."

  • Beware! May contain Traces of Peanuts! (Via BBSpot.)

  • Yes, that last item contained, arguably, a pun. Those responsible have been sacked.

The Ruins

[Amazon Link]

I really liked Scott Smith's A Simple Plan from 1993, so when I saw he'd come out with another one, I bit. (Yes, he's not exactly prolific.)

While A Simple Plan was a taut tragic-noir thriller, The Ruins is pretty much straight horror, and kind of long at over 500 pages. It doesn't seem bloated though: everything's there for a reason.

It concerns four young Americans vacationing on the Mexican coast; they befriend a German and three Greeks. The German's brother wandered inland with a archeologists to explore, and hasn't returned. He, the Americans, and one Greek decide to go after him. Things go very very badly for them over the next 495 pages.

The book takes its time getting up to speed, but eventually became a page-turner for me. Without going into spoiler territory, both A Simple Plan and this book contain characters with flaws not particularly noticeable in everyday life, but external events conspire to turn those flaws into gaping maws of death, doom, and destruction.

Smith also wrote the screenplay for the movie based on this book, which is bombing in theaters as I type. I'll probably rent the DVD just to see what's different.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:35 AM EDT

The Pianist

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

For some reason, we'd missed seeing this 2002 movie that got Adrien Brody a Best Actor Oscar and serious smoochery with Halle Berry. As I type, it is #56 on IMDB's list of the 250 Best Movies of All Time, it has a solid 95% on the TomatoMeter, and I probably should have liked it even more than I did.

Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jew with the misfortune to be living in Warsaw in September 1939 as WWII kicks off with the invasion of Poland. In a stunning opening scene, he is playing the piano for a live radio broadcast as the bombs begin to fall. Everyone's telling him to stop and run for cover; he continues playing until (nearly literally) the walls are falling down around him. A neat picture of artistic devotion, married to a spacy detachment from the real world.

It's based on a true story. While I kept expecting Spillman to (for example) participate in the Ghetto Uprising, or some other act of resistance, his actions are limited to observing the horror and trying to survive, mainly by dumb luck and the goodwill of others. One of the most powerful developments happens near the end, when he's harbored by a German officer. Just before the closing credits, it's revealed that the German met a richly undeserved fate. Just like pretty much every other decent person in the movie.

The movie is unrelenting in its depiction of the horrible degredation and violence unleashed against the Polish Jews. It's also an unambiguous condemnation of passivity in the face of oppression and aggression.

So after all that, I feel a little guilty that I liked Adrien Brody in King Kong better. Moviewise, under this aging exterior, I'm still a teenage philistine at heart …

Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:35 AM EDT