URLs du Jour

2008-07-14

  • I let out a soft low moan when I noticed the New York Times article where John McCain pointed to Teddy Roosevelt as his presidential idol. I consulted the index of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: just way too many entries for Roosevelt, Theodore.

    Karl at Protein Wisdom has an excellent summary why a confessed admiration for Teddy is a red flag to anyone who supports limited government and individual liberty.

  • Speaking of Jonah, his recent column is worth reading, if only from the Barack Obama quote he pulled from The Audacity of Hope:

    I find comfort in the fact that the longer I'm in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes, that a striving for rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition, and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience.

    I find myself wondering which would be worse: if he actually believes that, or if he doesn't.

    The boys at Power Line use Jonah's column as a springboard to excerpt Ryan Lizza's New Yorker article on Obama's rise. Think of it as the "scary parts" version.

    Or, in 4-blockworldese:

    full of himself

  • The Big Idea du Jour is from Kenan Malik at Butterflies and Wheels. He takes a hard look at multiculturism, and the notion that cultures must be protected against "decay", often by coercive measures:

    Modern multiculturalism seeks self-consciously to yoke people to their identity for their own good, the good of that culture and the good of society. A clear example is the attempt by the Quebecois authorities to protect French culture. The Quebec government has passed laws which forbid French speakers and immigrants to send their children to English-language schools; compel businesses with more than fifty employees to be run in French; and ban English commercial signs. So, if your ancestors were French you, too, must by government fiat speak French whatever your personal wishes may be.

    The kicker is the reminder that we've seen a similar kind of thing before:

    A century ago intellectuals worried about the degeneration of the race. Today we fear cultural decay. Is the notion of cultural decay any more coherent than that of racial degeneration? Cultures certainly change and develop. But what does it mean for a culture to decay? Or for an identity to be lost?

    Today's "progressive" multiculturists would no doubt blanch at the notion that their views are similar to KKK-like notions of racial purity. But that shoe seems to fit pretty well.

    (via Will Wilkinson.)


Last Modified 2012-10-11 4:06 PM EST

Gentlemen of the Road

[Amazon Link] I've enjoyed Michael Chabon's previous novels. This one didn't quite do it for me, but your mileage may vary.

The book is set in 950AD in the Caucasus. It follows Zelikman and Amram, two adventurers and con men, as they get roped into playing nursemaid to a "stripling", who turns out to be kind of a big deal in the Kingdom of the Khazars.

There are a number of old-timey illustrations, a considerable amount of swashbuckling violence and intrigue. So what's wrong? Well, it's the old-timey writing, very flowery and ornate. An example from a random page:

Sullen-shouldered, thin at the wrists, freckled and green-eyed, wrapped in a bearskin too warm for the evening and too fine for a dusty caravansary stinking of pack animals and cheeses, the stripling had as yet no shadow on his chin or lip, but he stood nearly as tall as Zelikman, and from the rosiness of his complexion, the gloss of his close-cropped russet hair and a commingled look of shame and haughtiness in his eyes, the physician from Regensburg was able to infer 15 or 16 years of good food, clean linens and the expectation of having his wishes granted.
Yeah, it's all one sentence. And that's not unusual.

Chabon is a professional writer, and there's no question that he writes pretty much exactly the prose he wants. So it's me, not him. Maybe it would have worked better read out loud.

There's a charming afterword, where Chabon confesses that his original title for the book was Jews With Swords.


Last Modified 2012-10-11 4:06 PM EST

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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

Mrs. Salad is a huge Johnny Depp fan, but not much for realistic violence and gratuitous gore. So she was ambivalent about seeing this, but finally her Depp side won out.

It's a musical tragedy. As the movie opens, Sweeney Todd is returning to London, obsessed with revenge against the powerful and villainous Judge Turpin, who wrecked his happy family years ago. He finds a willing ally in Mrs. Lovett, who needs "fresh supplies" for her pie shop.

The movie doesn't seem to have any deeper point than the usual one in tragedies: obsession is bad, and can rebound on you in ways you don't expect. There are some class-oriented noises, probably inevitable in a Victorian setting; but upper-class Judge Turpin is just as much a victim of his obsession as is Sweeney. There's also a heavy layer of general people-just-suck misanthropy.

It drags a bit in the middle, and I dozed off. I used the replay-at-1.5x trick to fill in the gaps the next day.


Last Modified 2012-10-11 4:05 PM EST