URLs du Jour

2009-05-13

  • Mark Steyn wins the coveted Pun Salad Read the Whole Thing Award for today, with his Imprimis essay "Live Free or Die".

    MY REMARKS are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire's great hero of the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die!" When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other--a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn't, they went into General Stark mode and cried "Let's roll!" But it's harder to maintain the "Live free or die!" spirit when you're facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. "Live free or die!" sounds like a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.

  • At the American Spectator, Daniel J. Flynn examines the efforts of Massachusetts to levy sales taxes on items bought in New Hampshire by Massachusetts escapees residents. Someone should check the Old Granary Burial Ground to see if Sam Adams is rolling in his grave yet.

  • Continuing today's state-based theme: Granite Staters might want to check out the plan from New Jersey architect Francis D. Treves to replace the Old Man of the Mountain with a giant glass replica head that you could walk around inside and look out. Kinda creepy, but at the same time, kinda neat.

    Daniel Webster famously said, about the original:

    Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.

    So what would Dan say about Mr. Treves's proposal?

  • If Daniel Webster were alive today, and if he were a blogger, and if he were to use the same method I did for naming his blog, he'd have a great choice of names:

    • "Breadline Stew";
    • "Liberated News";
    • "Reliant Dweebs";
    • "Blistered Anew";
    • perhaps even "Baldest Wiener". If he were doing, er, that kind of blog.

  • Few programming geeks will be able to avoid laughing at James Iry's Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages. The first entry should give you the flavor:

    1801 - Joseph Marie Jacquard uses punch cards to instruct a loom to weave "hello, world" into a tapestry. Redditers of the time are not impressed due to the lack of tail call recursion, concurrency, or proper capitalization.

    And, of course, one of the commenters points out that Jacquard's Loom may have lacked conncurrency, but it was multithreaded. (Via BBSpot.)


Last Modified 2012-10-08 5:46 AM EST

Yi Yi

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

This movie got a passel of film-critic awards and mostly delerious reviews, but was snubbed at the Oscars. (It was the same year as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and apparently there was only room for one Taiwanese nominee.) The writer/director, Edward Yang, died a couple years ago, sad to say.

Yi Yi is a small-scope epic: it follows the Jiang family of Taipei over the course of a few months. There's NJ, the father; the mother is Min-Min; teenage daughter Ting-Ting, and 8-year-old son Yang-Yang. (I am not making up those names.) Each has his or her own problems: NJ's first love from thirty years ago shows up unexpectedly, and his business is being forced to seek out alliances for new products. Min-Min's mother has lapsed into a coma, and her idiot brother is in dire financial straits. Ting-Ting is wracked by guilt over her grandmother's illness, and she's getting sucked into the troubled relationships of the mother and daughter who live next door. And little Yang-Yang is tormented by older girls, and is gamely trying to find out the meaning of life through photography and swimming.

It's long, nearly three hours. But it's very touching, funny in spots, grim in others, ultimately optimistic and upbeat.

I was struck by Western influences: on the edge of the family bathtub are plastic bottles of Dove and Head & Shoulders; when Yang-Yang refuses to eat at a wedding reception, NJ takes him out to McDonald's for some Chicken McNuggets and fries; when Ting-Ting practices the piano, she plays Gershwin's "Summer Time"; a couple of scenes are set in a restaurant named "N. Y. Bagels"; and—for some reason this surprised me most of all—when NJ meets with a philosophical Japanese businessman, they converse in English. I didn't expect that.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 8:18 AM EST