URLs du Jour

2009-01-06

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>

  • Big Hollywood debuts today, a group blog hatched by Andrew Breitbart. Its editor-in-chief is John Nolte, late of the excellent blog Dirty Harry's Place (which is now defunct, a mere two days after I recommended it here).

    Initial articles by Nolte, Andrew Klavan, Orson Bean, James Kirchick, and more. It looks to be a must-read for conservatives and libertarians who like movies. Which is to say: me, maybe you too.

  • Apple has introduced an awesome new laptop.

  • And Google Mars. Unfortunately, it still needs work: they're unable to find the Great Toonolian Marshes.

  • OK, not really good news, but: Viking Pundit reminds me of one of the reasons I let my Boston Globe subscription lapse: their continued employment of the self-important and vapid James Carroll.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 8:23 PM EDT

Real Education

[Amazon Link]

The subtitle is: "Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality". Here they are:

  1. Ability varies.

  2. Half of the children are below average.

  3. Too many people are going to college.

  4. America's future depends on how we educate the academically gifted.

Murray lays out his arguments for each of these propositions, then, in a final chapter, presents his guidelines for a reform of America's educational system. His writing is extraordinarily clear, reasonable, and unpretentious. And (for me at least) he's quite convincing.

One of Murray's fat targets is "educational romanticism": an idealized vision of universal educatability married to careful ignorance of contradictory evidence. This vision is present on both the left and right—think "No Child Left Behind".

Although Murray is probably too kind to mention it, there's also often a nasty component of narcissism involved as well: policies advocated and positions taken because they make us feel good about ourselves. When you're congratulating yourself about how compassionate you are, who needs to check on whether you're actually helping anyone?

Predictably, Murray's opponents went apeshit when this book came out late last year. And it's difficult to imagine a college president, for example, agreeing with the "too many people are going to college" proposition. At least not in public. ("We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!") A decent discussion of the book was held at the Cato Unbound site last year, recommended either before or after you read the book.

I'd like to think that Murray's recommendations had a chance of enactment, but the interests vested in the status quo are huge, and America doesn't seem to currently be in the mood for non-wishful thinking. The best chances for reform seem to lie at the pre-college levels, where "choice" movements are opening up opportunities for escaping from government schools.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 8:23 PM EDT

Horton Hears a Who!

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

First off, the animation and the lush imaginative visuals here are simply amazing. It would be heresy to claim that it's better than Pixar, but… to my untrained eye, it appears to be right up in the same league at least.

[UPDATE: just re-watched WALL·E, and the above sentence may be the single stupidest thing I've written on this blog. Although the Blue Sky folks are wonderfully inventive, they're not that close to Pixar yet.]

It's based, of course, on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name. In the jungle one day, Horton hears a voice calling out from a speck floating by; it turns out to be the home of microscopic Whoville, inhabited by (of course) the equally microscopic Whos. Horton resolves to protect the Who-infested speck from certain disaster. This, for some reason, incites the local lady Kangaroo, who insists the Whos are imaginary, setting up the movie's conflict.

Horton is voiced by Jim Carrey, and the filmmakers apparently thought that a good deal of the Carrey personality should go into Horton as well; it's as if he's been possessed by the Ace Ventura demon. (Similarly, the Mayor of Whoville is voiced by Steve Carell; he seems to have been infested with way too much Michael Scott from The Office.)

Also rubbing me the wrong way: the close-minded, intolerant Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) snippily informs Horton that her child has been "pouch schooled": A gratuitous swipe at home-schoolers, apparently.

So, despite the glorious eye candy on the screen, everything else seems just a little off. Maybe watching it with the audio muted would have worked better.

Aside: Horton's famous line from the book, also in the movie, is, "A person's a person. No matter how small." Wikipedia relates that, naturally enough, this is often seized upon by pro-life groups. Which (in turn) irked the famously lefty Dr. Seuss: he threatened to sue a pro-life group for putting the phrase on their stationery. So:

A person's a person. No matter how small.
Um, unless he's unborn; that's not a close call.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 8:23 PM EDT