URLs du Jour — 2009-06-30

  • Proposition: the best editorial cartoonist in the world is currently Michael Ramirez at Investor's Business Daily. A recent example:

    [cartoon]

  • At NRO, Victor Davis Hanson examines one variety of Barackrobatics: the "noble lie". You should Read The Whole Thing™, but here's the final paragraph:

    In other words, Obama is our first truly postmodern president. And the Guardians who form his elite circle -- in the very manner that they once falsely accused neo-cons of doing -- deliberately, but "nobly," distort the truth on behalf of us all.

  • But if you have the time to Read Another Whole Thing™, make it Thomas Sowell's column on the wacky unreality pervading all discussions of health care reform.

    The great haste with which the latest government expansion into medical care is being rushed through Congress suggests that the politicians don't want us to stop and think. That makes sense, from their point of view, but not from ours.

    To adapt a saying I've used in a different context: the politicians want you to think that they're controlling prices; but there are no controlled prices, there are only controlled people.

  • A pictorial collection of misplaced optimism: There, I fixed it.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:01 AM EDT
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User Support Translation III

Just a helpful note: when you're in a "support dialogue" (e-mail or verbal) with a system administrator, and he or she types or says this:

You're right that…
what he or she really means is:
What you just said was full of misconceptions, irrelevant information, and probable lies. Nothing was the slightest help in even figuring out the problem, let alone in trying to fix it. However, you did manage to say something technically true, even if it was trivial and obvious, and in an effort to keep this discussion on a positive note, I'll go out of my way to point that out to you.
The usual disclaimer applies: if you happen to be someone to whom I've said this, you are of course an exception to this rule.

(Previous entries in the User Support Translation series here and here.)


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Le Doulos

[2.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm being a total philistine here. The critics and IMDB crowd waxed ecstatic about Le Doulos, but I was much less impressed. Hey, don't go by me: you'll probably like it!

It's a French crime movie, directed by the famed Jean-Pierre Melville. The two main characters, Silien and Faugel, are nobody's sweethearts: Faugel cold-bloodedly murders a fence in the opening scene. Later, Silien knocks Faugel's girlfriend unconcious, ties her up, and tortures her to get her to reveal Faugel's whereabouts. The plot is driven by Faugel's suspicion that Silien is a police informant.

But the plot is unusually twisty; nothing is as it seems, and "what really happened" flashback revelations are postponed as long as possible. Kind of an early version of The Usual Suspects.

So why didn't I like it that much? Probably the lack of sympathetic and interesting characters, and way too many scenes where people are just walking around, driving around, looking all moody. Ho hum.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:01 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-28

  • Call me crazy, but I've never been a huge fan of corporate welfare, bloated bureaucracy, massive regulation, or killing prosperity. At least without detectable benefits. In voting for the Waxman-Markey Cap-n-trade bill, at least 219 members of the House of Representatives, however, have shown that they are all for that stuff. Marc Morano has a good summary.
    The House of Representatives passed a bill it did not read, did not understand. A bill that is based on crumbling scientific claims and a bill that will have no detectable climate impact (assuming climate fear promoters are correct on the science and the bill is fully implemented – both implausible assumptions).
    You can see how your Congresscritter voted here. Mine own, Carol Shea-Porter, unsurprisingly voted yea.

    The thing that really sticks in my craw, though, is the "did not read" bit. Tom Smith rakes his dimwitted (Republican) Congresswoman over the coals for her vote:

    I don't doubt there are plenty of smug hybrid drivers around Temecula but really, in a bill this bad, you could have found a good reason for voting against it just by opening it at random. Of course, that assumes there was a copy in existence, which I gather was not technically the case. But even there, I think most people would regard it as a good reason to vote against a bill that it was in fact impossible to read it, or even most of it, before voting on it. Many of us in law related areas, just to take a random example, would consider it our fiduciary duty to actually read, perhaps even carefully, a legal instrument that would dispose of trillions of dollars of other people's money, before attaching our name to it. Is it too rash for a Congressperson to be expected to do the same? If so, you could have a rule of thumb -- less than $100 Billion: no worries, whatever, go ahead and sign without reading. But more than $100 Billion, or $1 Trillion, say, maybe read that sucker first. Just a thought.
    Just do a quick s/Temecula/Portsmouth/ on that paragraph, and it's a wish-I'd-written. Any half-competent GOP candidate running against Carol Shea-Porter in 2010 should wrap this misfeasance around her neck like the dead albatross it is.

  • On the "health care reform" front, Michael Cannon of Cato gets a high priest of the Church of Universal Coverage to admit that 'universal coverage' isn't much about improving health; it's pretty much all about power.

  • As if to provide an example, McQ notes a current proposal to finance the scheme: taxing any private health plans deemed overly generous by Your Federal Government.

    Unless, mind you, such plans were negotiated by a union. In which case, they're off the table.

    So "health care reform" is not really about "fairness" either. Cannon's right: it's all about power. And unless you belong to some powerful Democratic Party constituency, you ain't got much.

  • Thank goodness the watchdog press is focusing like a laser beam on all this! Oh, wait…

  • I cant imagine that DraftSanford2012.com will be around for much longer, so click while you can.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:00 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-26

  • I didn't know this.
    The Red Sox telecast on NESN is one of only three in Major League Baseball that places its main camera directly behind the pitcher in straightaway center field. The other 27 clubs, including the Braves, put the camera off-center, about 10 to 15 degrees toward left field.
    I did notice, however, that the (relatively recent) camera angle put an end to the phenomenon once noted by many of the maturity-impaired: when the "GIANT GLASS" ad came up on the Fenway backstop, and a hitter stood in a certain way, the "GL" was obscured, leading to immature snickering throughout the NESN coverage area.

    I miss that.

  • Shawn Macomber goes to Mars. Mars, PA, that is, to recount the story of Stephanie Babines, who fought for her right to teach pole-dancing fitness classes on in Mars.

    Diligent Pun Salad research has revealed uncovered found Ms. Babine's website, so if you're in the Martian area, and are so inclined, check her out. (Unless you're allergic to way too much pink.)

  • Are you a big enough math geek to figure out what the xkcd guy is doing today? (Answer is here.)

  • Again, something I didn't know: Stoned wallabies make crop circles.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:59 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-25

  • You might be amused at the chutzpah of news5alert.com, which looks like a news site, but … well, here are the first couple paragraphs of their "news story":
    Are online jobs the next big thing? For Mary Steadman it sure is. Mary, a mother from Durham, NH is thriving, in the middle of an economic recession working in the comfort of her own home.

    From her website: "I get paid about $25 for every link I post on Google and I get paid every week... I make around $15,500 a month right now"

    Well, it says "Durham, NH" for me. But when you click, you'll find that "Mary Steadman" almost certainly lives closer to your own home. And the whole page is full of links going to the same stupid scam: buy our package that will tell you "how to make money posting links online."

    Wired has a good article about fake news sites, and how their links appear in even reputable web publications. (Well, … Huffington Post.)

    I don't keep close track of what's going on over there in the Google ad box. My apologies if it gets invaded by this sleaziness.

  • Since I bitched and moaned about it: the invitation for Iranian diplomats to attend Independence Day picnics at American embassies has been revoked.

  • And I've pretty much given up on writing to my Congresswoman/Toothache, Carol Shea-Porter, but after you read about the Waxman-Markey Cap-n-Trade bill, you might want to try importuning your own congresscritter to vote against.


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The Lucky Ones

[2.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A few warning signals here: (1) Tim Robbins in (2) a film dealing with soldiers returning from Iraq which (3) went nearly directly to DVD. I was expecting something earnest and tediously left-wing. But such are the benefits of low expectations: it wasn't good, but it wasn't awful.

Robbins plays grizzled vet Fred Cheaver, ending his military career, returning home after being injured in Iraq by a falling porta-potty. He makes the acquaintance of TK (Michael Peña) and Colee (Rachel McAdams), on leave to recover from their much less amusing injuries. Circumstances cause the trio to start off on a cross-country road trip in a rented red minivan. Many incidents ensue, colorful characters are encountered, lessons are learned.

The movie treats its main military characters with respect, and all three are fine actors. Most civilians they encounter treat them wonderfully; a few exceptions are clear bad apples.

The main problem is that the movie never quite lifts off from its "Little Miss Sunshine except with soldiers" premise. The writer/director, Neil Burger, previously wrote/directed The Illusionist which was much, much better.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:58 AM EDT
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Straight

[Amazon Link]

This is one of the best of Dick Francis's mystery novels; if you've never read him, this would be an excellent first pick. (It's one of the few Francis books apparently not now in print, but should be easy to find at a second-hand shop or your local library.)

Jockey Derek Franklin is nursing a badly broken ankle from a racing fall. Even more bad news follows, as he gets news that his older brother Greville has been critically injured in a construction accident. Greville's passing means that Derek must decide to do with Greville's gemstone business, and also the racehorses Greville owned. That puts him in over his head, but things get much worse: Derek is accosted (numerous times), and Greville's workplace and home are burgled. And a bunch of uncut diamonds have gone missing.

Derek needs to unravel Greville's business and personal affairs to discover who's behind all the evildoing. Watching him do so is a delight.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:58 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-23

  • Another Barackrobatic promise:

    "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people," President Obama told the American Medical Association on June 15. "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

    Of course, the usual gang of right-wing fearmongers has been calling this, at best, totally and intentionally misleading.

    The latest right-wing fearmonger to do this is named … Barack Obama:

    But today the president clarified that promise. It seems he wasn't saying "no one" will take away any American's health insurance - he was saying the government wouldn't.

    Which is not to say that the government wouldn't create a situation where such a thing would happen.

  • Over at QandO, Michael notes that, although the Iranian regime they represent is busily murdering citizens under its thumb, Iranian diplomats will still be welcome for lunch at US embassies on July 4.

    At Contentions, Max Boot comments:

    It's bad enough that the president is deliberately refraining from being too outspoken in favor of the freedom fighters who are being beaten, shot, and tear-gassed in the streets of Tehran. But that he's still prepared to have America's diplomats break bread with representatives of the very regime responsible for this terrible oppression, and to do it on the holiday that celebrates our own struggle for freedom -- that's too nauseating for words.

  • An assortment of Nuanced Stickers for your perusal. Sample:

    My other car is substantially similar to this one.
    Thank you for your interest in my other car.

    (Via Ken Jennings.)


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:58 AM EDT
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Hamlet

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

Prithee be aware, dear reader, of the "Humiliation" game:
Described in a tome by David Lodge,
The players (honoured natives of Academe all)
Reveal to their fellows the famed lit'ry works they've left unread.
One professor of English Lit proclaims that he's cracked Hamlet not,
Thus dooming his tenure bid.

Well, Hamlet had I also avoided,
In all my eight-and-fifty years,
Never once had I read the play,
Nor watched a performance on stage, television, or film;
Nay, not even perused the comic book.

So, bad on me.

Yet, 'tis oft I have considered this
To be a gaping hole in my cultural literacy.
For even now, over four centuries hither,
Doth not Hamlet allusions continue to crop up
From place to place, and time to time?
Even just the quotes: like
"A custom more honour'd in the breach than the observance",
And "to thine own self be true",
And "goodnight, sweet prince",
And "here's looking at you, kid".
Be unaware of the source of these, and
Risk being taken for a knave or a fool.

And this version definitive seems:
The four-hour-plus effort from Kenneth Branagh,
Who adapted the screenplay, directed, and stars.
And if you looking for acting talent are,
This flick has that out the wazoo:
Derek Jacobi as doomed Claudius,
Julie Chistie as doomed Gertrude,
Kate Winslet as doomed Ophelia.
Most notable was a role for Charleton Heston,
As the Player King. Which will make you say:
"Yikes, we shall not see his like again soon,
And that 'tis indeed our loss."

Aunt May herself, Rosemary Harris,
Plays opposite Chuck as the Player Queen.
Robin Williams and Billy Crystal are also here
And will remind you of that Twainish saying
Concerning the singing dog:
'Tis marvelous not that they do it well,
'Tis marvelous that they do it at all.

Overall, Pun Salad dost commend to you this movie.
Bill's power and pull undiminished be.
But be ye warned: 'tis not an easy go,
And (remember said I: over four hours) neither is it short.
There are times you will, like your humble blogger,
Note that entire swaths of dialog have passed you by,
Like the billowing sails of a speedy ancient galleon,
Leaving you only to wonder: "What the heck did he mean by that?"
The play is full of nuance, allusion, and symbols deep.
Or so have I been assured o'er the years.
So just hang on and grab what you can,
And, should a Trebekian scoundrel ask anon,
Who to a nunnery was encouraged,
Thou canst say for certain:
'Twas that chick from Titanic.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:03 AM EDT
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Barackrobatics: Just Lyin'

Betsy McCaughey in the WSJ:

Last September Sen. Barack Obama promised that under his health-care proposal "you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves." On Monday, President Obama repeated that promise in a speech to the American Medical Association. It's not true.

The president is barnstorming the nation, urging swift approval of legislation that is taking shape in Congress. This legislation -- the Affordable Health Choices Act that's being drafted by Sen. Edward Kennedy's staff and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee -- will push Americans into stingy insurance plans with tight, HMO-style controls. It specifically exempts members of Congress (along with federal employees; the exemptions are in section 3116).

It would be nice if Congress and the President subjected themselves and other Federal employees to the same "benefits" it proposes to shower on the rest of us peons.

In fact, it would seem that this would be a useful thing for the rest of us peons to demand.

The bill that McCaughey is discussing is available as a 615-page PDF here. You can read along and decide for yourself if she's on target.

For fairness, you might also want to check out Brendan Nyhan for the "responsible liberal" reaction to McCaughey; he remembers bitterly McCaughey's New Republic articles that (allegedly) did a lot to doom Hillarycare in 1993.

Nyhan's substantive criticism this time around is aimed at this allegation:

It is reasonable to require that people who accept a government subsidy for health insurance tolerate cost controls to protect taxpayers. But according to the terms of the Kennedy bill, you must enroll in a "qualified" plan or face a fine, even if you and your employer are paying the entire cost of the plan you already have (section 161).

The president has promised that if you like your plan you can keep it. Mr. Kennedy's bill says that too. It's doubletalk, as the consequences of nonenrollment make clear. How big a fine will you face? The bill doesn't specify or set a limit. It says the fine will be enough to "accomplish the goal of enhancing participation in qualifying coverage" (section 161).

In response, Nyhan points to this language in the bill:
No individual shall be compelled to enroll in a qualified health plan or to participate in a Gateway.
And indeed that language is there, on page 43 or so of the PDF linked above.

But then what does Section 161 do? Again, read it yourself and see. It (as McCaughey claims) requires the IRS to impose additional tax liability on filers who lack "qualifying coverage". And (as McCaughey claims) the amount of that liability is to be filled in later to "accomplish the goal of enhancing participation in qualifying coverage."

I may be missing something (that's not unlikely, because reading legislation is tricky for us amateurs) but it seems that Nyhan is relying on the theoretical distinction between being "compelled" and "getting seriously nicked by the IRS if you aren't in compliance".

I'm not impressed by that distinction. I would guess McCaughey isn't either.

(I've left a comment to this effect over at Nyhan's blog; I'll correct myself here if necessary.)


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Chasing the Bear

[Amazon Link]

How big a Robert B. Parker fanboy am I? Well, even though this is a Young Adult (12 and up) novel, it says "A Young Spenser Novel" right there on the jacket, so… I hit the "Two-Day 1-Click®" button before I knew what I was doing.

Even at 176 pages, it's a quick read. It's framed around the contemporary Spenser and his beloved Susan Silverman in the Boston Public Garden, talking about his days as a young 'un out there in Wyoming. (The story breaks every so often so Spenser and Susan can do their usual psychobabble about Spenser's character; I don't know why they bother, because Susan hasn't had an original thought about Spenser for at least the last twenty years or so.)

But the story itself is pretty good. Spenser's mom died at his birth; his upbringing is shaped by his father and his mother's two brothers, an untraditional but effective child-rearing team. Young Spenser's adventures involve confronting a bear in the woods; rescuing a damsel from her abduction by her abusive father; and bodyguarding a Mexican kid from a bunch of bigoted bullies. All purporting to show how he came to be his current menschy self.

No real detecting involved, low on Spenserian wit, and I'm not sure I can recommend it to anyone besides diehard Spenser freaks. I enjoyed it, though.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:57 AM EDT
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Righteous Kill

[1.5
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Dismal reviews, but I queued it up at Netflix for reasons that I've long since forgotten. Still… Robert De Niro! Al Pacino! How can you go wrong?

I should have noticed that Jon Avnet was directing. He previously made 88 Minutes, which also starred Al Pacino, which also sucked me into watching, and which also stunk.

De Niro and Pacino play two grizzled and wrinkly cops who've seen it all. They are tasked with tracking down a serial vigilante killer who leaves scraps of paper with awful doggerel at every crime scene.

The investigation is interspersed with fragments of De Niro's apparent videotaped confession to the murders. That's unfortunate, because it means we are pretty sure right away that he's not the culprit.

So the movie throws in some superfluous characters so the viewer will have some more obvious suspects: Carla Gugino, another cop who's into a kinky relationship with De Niro's character; Donnie Wahlberg and the great John Leguizamo as two younger cops also on the case; Brian Dennehy as the Lieutenant in charge.

We're also thrown a bunch of red herrings. Everybody acts suspicious at one time or another. Overall, the plot manages to be contrived and nonsensical.

There are occasional amusing lines. Extra half-star for that.


Last Modified 2014-11-30 3:21 PM EST
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I Wouldn't Start From Here

[Amazon Link]

This book's subtitle is "The 21st Century and Where It All Went Wrong". The author, Andrew Mueller, is originally from Australia and currently lives in London.

The book came with sterling recommendations: P. J. O'Rourke calls Mueller "the best foreign correspondent of this generation" right there on the front cover. Shawn Macomber gave it a rave review in the Washington Times, in which he compared Mueller to, in addition to O'Rourke, Jon Ronson and David Foster Wallace. I like all those guys!

So I wish I liked the book a little better. I blame myself. Part of the problem is that I'm not very interested in screwed up foreign countries. There are so many.

Most chapters describe Mueller's visits to various world hotspots over the past few years: Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Serbia, and so on. Mueller has a keen eye for the ridiculous, a gift for colorful writing, and a knack for interviewing people in all of the local niches. The book jumps around a lot in time and space; the underlying theme is Mueller's quest to understand why we can't just all get along.

The chapter set in Cameroon is a comic gem, as Mueller is tossed in jail for attending a meeting of a dissident group. His jailers are laid back, and people in charge don't quite know what to do with him. If you need to get jailed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Cameroon is probably your best choice among African nations.

Mueller is much less of a fan of Israel than I am—when he's in the area, he's continually referring to Israeli arrogance and overreaction. But he's honest enough to be dismayed at the Palestinian proclivity for murderous violence, at least when he bothers to notice it.

Things get worse when Mueller touches on American politics. Although he's thoroughly in love with American ideals, he's also thoroughly taken in by the Gospel According to MSNBC. One of his interviewees is Al Gore, whose, according to Shawn, "pomposity he captures in full plume." That may be, but there's no indication that Mueller is anything other than in despair that Gore lost in 2000; he also describes the 2000 Florida vote as "fixed", an assertion that can't stand up to scrutiny.

If anything, Mueller is utterly enraptured by Obama; his afterword, written in post-election November of last year, is a complete swoon. Dismaying to those of us who found both Candidate and President Obama to be a posturing phony, and find his worshipful cult of personality to be profoundly disturbing.

But still, Mueller's the kind of guy that would be fun to hang around with. He lives a much more interesting life than I, and probably you, do. And he's happy to tell you about it.

Mueller's website is right here, with plenty of writing examples, should be enough to judge whether he floats your boat.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:56 AM EDT
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Barackrobatics: Irregular Verb Conjugations

There is a whole family of droll sayings that take the form of irregular verb pseudo-conjugations, playing on tendentiously different ways of characterizing the same facts. As near as I can tell, they date back to the 1940s when Bertrand Russell (or perhaps Katherine Whitehorn) came up with:

I am firm;
You are obstinate;
He is a pig-headed fool.
Anyone can play this game (the link has further examples from 1948). And I was reminded of it when I was poking around in the transcript of President Obama's recent speech to the American Medical Association on his health proposals.

First note how the opponents are characterized as fearmongers:

And if we're honest, another part of the reason has been the fierce opposition fueled by some interest groups and lobbyists -- opposition that has used fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to, yes, socialize medicine.
… OK, fine, but this came after President Obama did all of the following:
  • Claimed care costs are "a threat to our economy"; an "escalating burden on our families and businesses"; a "ticking time bomb for the federal budget."

  • Referred to a cancer-stricken Wisconsin woman with $50K in medical debts; Tennessee business owners laying off employees due to health care costs; a New Hampshire doctor drowning in "disruptive and distracting" paperwork.

  • Claimed that "Americans of all ages" were being forced "to go without the checkups or the prescriptions they need."

  • Described what will happen if we "fail to act" right now: "premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more." Also: "lost jobs, lower take-home pay, shuttered businesses, and a lower standard of living for all Americans."

So Obama's charge that opponents of "reform" use fear tactics rings more than a little hollow. The scenario of not being able to get needed medical procedures for you or your loved ones is one of the scariest out there. Even if we're personally not in that boat, and not likely to be, our natural empathy is engaged when we hear about the plight of others; we're fearful for them. Obama and his allies are not ashamed or reluctant to pluck those strings at every opportunity.

Of course, Obama would deny he's fear-mongering. Instead, he's invoking something like this conjugation:

I am pointing out pressing problems;
You are raising valid concerns;
They are using fear tactics.
And he's not alone in doing this sort of thing. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just get past the posturing, though?

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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-17

  • At usnews.com, someone named Bonnie Erbe is apparently their house brain-dead leftist blogger. Two of her recent post titles:

    1. Round Up Hate-Promoters Now, Before Any More Holocaust Museum Attacks

    2. CIA's Panetta Is Right: Cheney Does Want Another Terrorist Attack

    OK, she's horrid. But the juxtaposition of those two headlines made me think of an IMAO quip from a while back:
    If the liberals do arrest Cheney, that would make an awesome season of Prison Break.

  • If Lorne Michaels had three grams of brains, he'd hire Dave Burge at a hefty salary to write sketches for Saturday Night Live. I, for one, would love to see D. C. Garage.
    DAVE
    Hi everybody, this is Dave Burge -- and welcome to [growl voice] D.C. Garage! [/growl voice] Where we hijack classic American muscle and give it a monster makeover with our pro team of Washington gearheads and Beltway power tools! On tonight's episode of of D.C. Garage: can the team remake this ugly '57 Chevy Bel Air into a lean, clean, federal green machine? Grab your torque wrenches and let's start American choppin'!
    The production might be a tad expensive, but totally worth it.

  • Also must-see TV: Han Solo, PI.


Last Modified 2009-08-31 9:01 PM EDT
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Up

[5.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Currently #19 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. I'm OK with that.

And, really, just go see it if you haven't.

I won't bother to summarize the plot, if you're at all sentient you've picked it up already. After movies with talking toys, bugs, monsters, fish, superheroes, cars, rats, and robots, Pixar chose to make a movie where the protagonist is an ordinary guy. And not even a traditional hero kind of ordinary guy: a grumpy, creaky old guy, widower Carl Fredricksen. That's brave.

And, although I'm unsure how well that might go over with kids, it worked just fine for me. There's lots of fun, but (as you may have heard) the opening few minutes are truly tear-jerking, as the premise of the movie is established by describing how Carl met and (eventually) lost his beloved wife Ellie.

Consumer report: Mrs. Salad and I splurged on the 3D version. Pixar doesn't stoop to any cheap gags, so the 3D experience, while noticeable, isn't in-your-face. So, paradoxically, you might not want to blow the extra money. The power of the flick doesn't lie in the 3D gimmickry.

If you've seen it, there are fun facts aplenty here. (Like: why don't the people have nostrils? And: where was the Pizza Planet truck? I missed it, so I'll have something to watch for when I snag the DVD.)

And Toy Story 3 is (as I type) a mere 366 days away. I'm in line already.


Last Modified 2014-11-30 3:19 PM EST
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Hobson's Choice

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

This is a perfect little 1949 British comedy, directed by David Lean. Although Lean is best known for more serious fare (like Bridge Over the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago) this movie shows that those skills worked well on the funny side too.

The movie is set in late-19th century Salford, a town outside Manchester England. Charles Laughton plays widower Henry Hobson, proprietor of a boot shop. He's "in charge", but it soon becomes clear that his three daughters are actually running things, doing most of the business work, while the bootmakers toil away in the cellar, most notably the gifted Willie Mossop. Henry mainly likes to drink.

But one day Henry decides it's time to marry off his two youngest daughters. But not the eldest, Maggie; she's too old, and (more importantly) much too useful in the business. This infuriates no-nonsense Maggie, and—as near as I can tell, within the space of about three seconds—resolves to marry the talented Willie Mossop, and start up their own boot business across town. And to the consternated surprise of everyone (most especially Willie) that's exactly what happens.

Hobson is probably the quintessential Male Chauvinist Pig, and Laughton is physically perfect in that role. But he's also endearing; we don't hate him, we just want to see Maggie and Willie get out from under his thumb.

And next time someone compiles a list of the best libertarian movies of all time, I have to remember to nominate this. It does a great job of showing how capitalism liberates people from being stuck in the traditional roles their class or sex might otherwise resign them to.

(An impossibly young Prunella Scales, Sybil Fawlty herself, plays one of the daughters.)


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:55 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-15

  • Those of us with a generally libertarian bent can always use a reminder of why today's GOP is so deserving of scorn and ridicule. Today's reminder is from Chris Edwards at Cato@Liberty:
    As I note in my New York Post op-ed today, Republicans are fond of implying that President Obama is a big-spending socialist. But the House GOP recently offered a spending cut plan that was able to find savings worth less than one percent of Obama's budget.

    As Tad DeHaven and Brian Riedl have also pointed out, the GOP spending reform effort is rather pathetic. It proposed specific annual budget cuts of about $14 billion per year.

    Edwards goes on to point out that the Democrat-leaning Brookings Institution proposed a "smaller government plan" a few years back that cut $342 billion in annual spending. If the GOP can't at least propose something comparable, they should just give up. The Obama-Lite approach will just not cut it.

  • Nobel economist Gary Becker detects the hubris behind the Obama administration's "Pay Czar" scheme: the Hayekian "fatal conceit" …
    … hat government officials can effectively determine prices and production through various forms of central planning without having the incentives and information available to firms in competitive markets. A closely related conceit is behind the belief that someone sitting in Washington can determine the pay to hundreds of executives and other employees.
    Having government bureaucrats dictate compensation levels is a bit of brain-dead populism that might play well politically, but like the price controls of the 1970s we'll wind up with "unintended consequences." (Via AmSpecBlog.)

  • Spot the silly error in this (otherwise) good story from my local paper. (Hint: paragraph three.)


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Criss Cross

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

It's a long wait time for Gran Torino, so Netflix sent this instead, a 1949 film noir classic from director Robert Siodmak with Burt Lancaster as the protagonist/fall guy/sucker/schmuck, Yvonne DeCarlo as the femme fatale who leads him into patsydom, and Dan Duryea as the psycho thug menacing them both.

Burt works for an armored car company; his relationship with ex-wife Miss Yvonne gets him roped into a heist scheme. The movie's opening scenes show him wangling to be the driver of the armored car while another guard, an old guy nicknamed "Pops" rides in back. (Is Pops toast, you ask? That's a safe bet.) Then we get a long flashback showing how Burt got into this pickle, then finally the violent robbery, followed by the dark conclusion.

The movie's theme is betrayal: lots of double-crossing, a few instances of triple-crossing, and I'm pretty sure at least one quadruple-cross. You just can't trust these guys.

Burt Lancaster, as usual, dominates every scene he's in; they don't make 'em like him any more.

If you're like me, you're asking: Yvonne DeCarlo? What was she in? Wasn't she Danny Thomas's wife in Make Room for Daddy? Nope, you're thinking of Marjorie Lord. (Or maybe Jean Hagen.) Ms. Yvonne played Mrs. Munster in The Munsters. And also Mrs. Moses in The Ten Commandments.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:55 AM EDT
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ABC News: Fanning the Flames

So I saw the headline:

Sarah Palin Calls for Uprising Against Letterman for Joke About Her Daughter
This story is at ABC News, but the Google will show you their headline wording has gotten traction on the web.

If you've been out of touch for the past few days, the ABC story will tell you why Governor Palin is disgusted with Letterman. I don't blame her a bit. But that's not what I noticed.

Here's the weird thing: search through the story under the headline, and the word "uprising" is nowhere to be found.

Apparently ABC News thinks it's a great idea to proclaim in its headline that Sarah Palin is advocating an "uprising", but not actually bother to quote where she did that.

Do you smell something foul here? In a week where, after a couple of lunatics murdered an abortion doctor and a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, left-wingers are eager to wield a broad tar brush against conservatives, alleging their rhetoric is fueling a climate of hate and violence.

So screaming that a major conservative figure is calling for an "uprising"—my bet is that's a conscious effort to put a little more fire under that meme.

So what did Palin actually say? Gateway Pundit has the video and provides a transcript of the relevant part of the Today show interview with Matt Lauer:

Sarah Palin: And, then I found out later about the comment that was made about the statutory rape of my 14 year-old daughter Willow knowing that crossed the line and then others chiming in on other comments that Letterman made. It's a sad commentary of our culture and society to chuckle and laugh through comments that he made the other night.

Matt Lauer: Since David Letterman is not here let me just say that he did did not mention Willow by name and that he went on to say that he was not referring to your 14 year-old daughter. I do want to...

Sarah Palin: Hey Matt... Matt... OK Matt I would say that you and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman's. It took him a couple of days to think of that excuse and 'Uhhh... No, he wasn't talking about my daughter that was there with me at the game, the 14 year-old. He was talking about some other daughter.' Well I think it was a weak excuse and regardless it was a degrading comment about a young woman and I would hope that people would rise up and decide it's not acceptable. Why do young girls have such low self-esteem in America when we think it's funny for a so-called comedian to get away with making a similar remark as he did....

I've bolded the (apparently) offending words. You can make your own call about whether the "calls for uprising" headline is:
  1. a fair summary of what Palin said;
  2. an effort to imply a far more inflammatory tone to Palin's words than they actually contained.

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Mail From the FBI Director

Well, not really. I'm not in the habit of reading my spam, but this one kind of tickled me.

Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 06:06:35 -0700
From fbi.robertmueller@sbcglobal.net  Fri Jun 12 09:10:02 2009
From: "FBI Director Robert S.Mueller" <fbi.robertmueller@sbcglobal.net>
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Subject: Approved By Fbi
I hear all you skeptics: Wouldn't Robert S. Mueller have an '@fbi.gov' e-mail address? Wouldn't he put a space between his middle initial and his last name? Wouldn't he (at least) capitalize FBI consistently?

Headers on this message, by the way, show that it was relayed to my mail server via smtp27.orange.fr [80.12.242.95], which (the headers claim) was relaying from the IP address 86.120.84.250, an IP address pointing to a hostname with a .ro (Romania) country code. And all you skeptics are asking: is that a likely source for Official FBI e-mail?

OK, all you skeptics may have a point. But let's keep reading, enjoying the random Capitalization, creative syntax, and oddball word usage:

Attn: Beneficiary,

This is to Officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we
have thoroughly Investigated with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring
Network System that you are having an illegal Transaction with Impostors
claiming to be Prof. Charles C. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria,
Mr. Patrick Aziza, Mr Frank Nweke, none officials of Oceanic Bank,
Zenith Banks, kelvin Young of HSBC, Ben of Fedex,Ibrahim Sule,Larry
Christopher, Puppy Scammers are impostors claiming to be the Federal
Bureau Of Investigation.

I was totally believing all those guys were the real deal. Even "none officials of Oceanic Bank". Even Puppy Scammers. Especially Puppy Scammers. Because if you were a scam artist, wouldn't you want to change your name to something different? Like "Robert S. Mueller"?
During our Investigation, we noticed that the reason why you have not
received your payment is because you have not fulfilled your Financial
Obligation given to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment.
So: even though the FBI is saying there's a transaction out there that's illegal, perpetrated by imposters, I still would have gotten a whole pile of money, had I only fulfilled my "Financial Obligation".
Therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry Of Finance on your
behalf and they have brought a solution to your problem by cordinating
your payment in total USD$10.5million in an ATM CARD which you can use
to  withdraw money from any ATM MACHINE CENTER anywhere in the world
with a maximum of $10000 United States Dollars daily. You now have the
lawful right to claim your fund in an ATM CARD.
Quick math note: even if you could find an ATM that would give you $10K at a daily whack, it would take 1050 days to get out all $10.5 million.
Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in this transaction,
you have to be rest assured for this is 100% risk free it is our duty
to protect the You.
I believe this is in the FBI oath of office, to protect the You.
All I want you to do is to  contact the ATM CARD CENTER via email
for their requirements to proceed and procure your Approval Slip on your
behalf which will cost you $570 only and note that your Approval Slip
which contains details of the agent who will process your transaction.
Ah, a mere $570.
CONTACT INFORMATION
NAME: Kelvin Williams
EMAIL: kelvinwilliams11@sify.com 

Do contact Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTRE with your details:

FULL NAME:
HOME ADDRESS:
TELL:
CELL:
CURRENT OCCUPATION:
BANK NAME:
Notes:
  • I think the FBI's Intelligence Monitoring Network is pretty lame if it can't figure out that stuff on their own.

  • They're very fond of the name "Kelvin": one of the "imposters" was "kelvin Young of HSBC".

  • Sify.com is an India-based ISP.

So your files would be updated after which he will send the payment
informations which you'll use in making payment of $570 via Western
Union Money Transfer or Money Gram Transfer for the procurement of your
Approval Slip after which the delivery of your ATM CARD will be effected
to your designated home address without any further delay. Please if you
know you cannot be able to afford the $570 for the delivery of your ATM
card via FedEx then do not bother to contact Mr. Kelvin Williams as we
are at the End of the year and he should be busy with some other things.
Well… if he's busy
We order you get back to this office after you have contacted the ATM
SWIFT CARD CENTER and we do await your response so we can move on with
our Investigation and make sure your ATM SWIFT CARD gets to you.

Thanks and hope to read from you soon.

FBI Director Robert S.Mueller III.
What can I say? Bob needs to work on his English skills. But wait, there's a postscript:
Note: Do disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices
claiming to be in possesion of your ATM CARD, you are hereby adviced
only to be in contact with Mr. Kelvin Williams of the ATM CARD CENTRE who
is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your ATM CARD PAYMENT
and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could
act upon and commence investigation.
I'm going to start forwarding all my scam e-mail to Bob Mueller.

(Although I'd like to think I'm special, this scheme has been bouncing around for months. Norm Wilner was also amused enough to post his version of this mail last December; they only wanted $150 from him, and "Kelvin" had a Gmail address. They demanded the full $570 from Alan Zelchik. Wikipedia has a good article about the general topic of Advance Fee scams, including the variant where the scammer references a previous scam, often posing as law enforcement.)


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:04 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-12

  • The other day I noted that New York Times editorialists almost certainly should have a one-keystroke shortcut for typing "tax cuts for the wealthy" into their output.

    Today, I think I've got a useful proposed shortcut for our side: "Under a Republican President, this would be a huge scandal." I think that would save a lot of carpal wear.

  • [The Mighty
Ortiz Improving my good mood: last night's Red Sox game, a thrilling come-from-behind win against Those Other Guys. The Red Sox have beaten Those Other Guys eight straight times so far this season, the first time that's happened since 1912.

    (To any reader who might be a fan of Those Other Guys: sorry.)

    In addition, Big Papi hit his fourth homer and has yanked up his dismal batting average to (as I type) .203. If the Mighty Ortiz is back, … watch out. (Unpaid ad for Sox Addicts at right; click for their site.)

  • Rochester (NH) mobile home park hijinks gain the notice of Dave Barry. I can't wait to see how the incident appears in the Rochester Police Log; until then, we'll have to be satisfied with:
    Saturday, May 23

    6:35 p.m. -- A six-foot tall bald man is running on Ten Rod Road with his pants undone. Police are there in a flash but see nothing.

    In case you're wondering: I have an alibi.

  • I can't resist the obvious: <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>. New episodes of Futurama are in the works.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:03 AM EDT
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The Secret Life of Bees

[2.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Chick Flick Evening at Pun Salad Manor.

It's all about Lily, a young white girl growing up in South Carolina in 1964. She has her problems, having years ago accidentally shot and killed her mom during an episode of domestic violence. Her dad is alive, but a strict disciplinarian, making her kneel on uncooked grits for rule infractions.

So Lily runs away with her black nanny, off to a honeybee farm run by the black Boatwright sisters. There she's accepted and gradually does a whole bunch of coming-of-age stuff.

It's the 1960s South, so there is unsurprisingly a lot here about ugly confrontations with white racism and the dying gasps of segregation. The Boatwright sisters all have their own problems with life and love, most of which we learn about. Lily will learn the truth about her mother's murky past, and come to terms with her guilt and lack of self-esteem. And, unfortunately, there's a lot of earnest pop-psych dialog involved with all this. Here's one from the IMDB quotes page, where Lily is conversing with May, one of the Boatwright sisters:

Lily: Miss May, I know you get real sad sometimes. My daddy never feels. He never felt anything. I had rather be like you.

May: A worker bee weigh less than a flower petal, but she can fly with a load heavier than her. But she only lives for or five weeks. Sometimes not feeling is the only way you can survive.

A little of that sort of thing goes a long way for me. And, in this movie, there is not a little of that sort of thing. There is, in fact, way way too much of that sort of thing.

Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:53 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-09

  • Another day, another Democrat proposal to drive us all a little faster down the Road to Serfdom, albeit in a hybrid vehicle completely in compliance with CAFE standards.

    In this case, it's health care "reform". You wouldn't expect much praise from the Cato Institute, and so you won't be surprised by this initial analysis from Michael D. Tanner. You should read the Whole Depressing Thing, but here's the bottom line:

    More details will undoubtedly emerge, but it is very clear that the Kennedy plan would put one-sixth of the US economy and some of our most important, personal, and private decisions firmly under the thumb of the federal government.
    What could possibly go wrong there?

  • Also weighing in is Keith Hennessey, an economic advisor to Dubya. Some of his observations:
    • Health insurance premiums would rise as a result of the law, meaning lower wages.
    • A government-appointed board would determine what items and services are "essential benefits" that your qualifying plan must cover.
    • You would find a tremendous new disincentive to switch jobs, because your new health insurance may be subject to the new rules and would therefore be significantly more expensive.
    • Those who keep themselves healthy would be subsidizing premiums for those with risky or unhealthy behaviors.
    • Far more than half of all Americans would be eligible for subsidies, but we have not yet been told who would pay the bill.
    • The Secretaries of Treasury and HHS would have unlimited discretion to impose new taxes on individuals and employers who do not comply with the new mandates.
    • The Secretary of HHS could mandate that you provide him or her with "any such other information as [he/she] may prescribe."
    And, in case you had any doubt, he adds that he opposes the bill.

  • There are many, many words out there lamenting the gullibility of the watchdog press when President Obama speaks of jobs that his administration will "create or save". My favorite so far come from McGurn at the WSJ.
    Tony Fratto is envious.

    Mr. Fratto was a colleague of mine in the Bush administration, and as a senior member of the White House communications shop, he knows just how difficult it can be to deal with a press corps skeptical about presidential economic claims. It now appears, however, that Mr. Fratto's problem was that he simply lacked the magic words -- jobs "saved or created."

    Well, actually, Mr. Fratto's problem (as he probably well knows) was that he worked for a guy despised by the media.

  • Also Frank J. is busy adopting the successful presidential rhetoric.
    • I decided not to be bloodthirsty against common nuisances today and created or saved three squirrels.
    • By not going to McDonalds, I created or saved two cheeseburgers and a large fry.
    • Deciding against serial killing, i created or saved upwards of 33 people (I'm very smart and would not be easily caught).
    … and more.


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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-08

  • Advice for would-be opinionators: If you want to write on the editorial pages of the New York Times, program one of your hotkeys to echo "tax cuts for the wealthy" in a single stroke. This will save you a suprisingly large amount of time, and also decrease wear and tear on your typing fingers. A search for that phrase (in just the Opinion section) gives the disheartening message at the top: "1-10 of 10,000+ Results". That's a lot.

    Of course, you should only use "tax cuts for the wealthy" pejoratively. But even with that restriction, it's useful in any discussion that relates to matters fiscal. The latest example is yesterday's editorial, "Paying for Universal Health Coverage".

    Another way out would be to finance universal coverage by adding to the deficit, the path that George W. Bush took to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy.
    See, you can work it in even tangentially, when you want to quickly stick an "obviously bad idea" label on a proposal.

    The populist appeal of TCFTW is muted somewhat when you go on to advocate "increasing taxes on sugared drinks, alcohol, tobacco and other products that are bad for one's health." Anybody remember how excise taxes impact the poor vs. the rich? (Answer here.)

  • The Politico story begins:
    President Barack Obama is announcing Monday that he is ramping up stimulus spending exponentially in the next three months, allowing the administration to "save or create" 600,000 jobs -- four times as many as during the first 100 days since he signed the bill.
    Note the quotes, and this quibble down in paragraph seven:
    Republicans say the "save or create" metric for jobs is meaningless, since it's impossible to prove or disprove.
    It shouldn't just be Republicans saying this, should it? Because Obama's rhetorical "save or create" mendacity is an obvious plain-as-the-nose-on-your-stupid-face fact, and it shouldn't take a genius Harvard Econ prof to bring it to attention.

    The mention in Politico, even if it's spun as a partisan talking point, is at least progress. Try finding an equivalent note of skepticism in the Reuters story. Or the Washington Post story. Or the New York Times story. Or this LA Times story.

  • George Will threw down the gauntlet in his Sunday column:
    "I," said the president, who is inordinately fond of the first-person singular pronoun, "want to disabuse people of this notion that somehow we enjoy meddling in the private sector." He said that in March, when the government already owned 80 percent of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
    In today's NYT op-edder Stanley Fish hit the same pronoun theme:
    There's no mistaking what's going on in the speech delivered last week. No preliminary niceties; just a rehearsal of Obama's actions and expectations. Eight "I"'s right off the bat: "Just over two months ago I spoke with you... and I laid out what needed to be done." "From the beginning I made it clear that I would not put any more tax dollars on the line." "I refused to let those companies become permanent wards of the state." "I refused to kick the can down the road. But I also recognized the importance of a viable auto industry." "I decided then..." (He is really the decider.)
    Fish purports to show how Obama's speeches have placed more emphasis on the first-person singular pronoun as time goes by.

    I would dearly love to believe that linguistic analysis can reveal Obama's egomania. But one of my other reads is Language Log; there, Mark Liberman subjected both the claims of Will and Fish to simple objective tests and found both severely reality-challenged. The utterances of past presidents (Dubya, Clinton) are shown to be significantly more "I"-heavy in comparable situations. And Obama's speeches haven't increased in their use of the first-person singular over time.

    Also note Frank Rich, who (whatever his faults) actually did the pronoun-counting in speeches delivered June 8 of last year by Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama:

    All presidential candidates, Mr. Obama certainly included, are egomaniacs. But Washington's faith in hierarchical status adds a thick layer of pomposity to politicians who linger there too long. Mrs. Clinton referred to herself by the first-person pronoun 64 times in her speech, and Mr. McCain did so 60 times in his. Mr. Obama settled for 30.

    Obama's policies and proposals are horrid, and do demonstrate massive hubris in attempting to bring broad swaths of the economy under political command and control. It's easy enough to demonstrate this with ordinary argument; it isn't necessary to make stuff up about his speech patterns.


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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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

At IMDB, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is rated #177 on the Top 250 movies of all time. It got 13 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), and Best Actor (Brad Pitt), winning three. (I would have thrown Cate Blanchett in there too, but that's me.)

But just hearing about the premise of the movie made me doubtful: that's it? Benjamin, unlike most of us, is born old, his mother dying at his birth, and grows younger, year after year. Yes, that's it.

But it's a yarn exceedingly well-told, from the end of World War I up to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The main plot thread involves Benjamin's love affair with Daisy, complicated by the fact that she's aging normally. But there's a wealth of rich period detail, colorful characters, and adventure, as Benjamin grows up (or, I guess, grows down).

There might be Deep Lessons buried in the movie somewhere, but (as near as I can tell) it's pretty homespun: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, quit your bitching, say yes to opportunities, and so on. You can ignore this and enjoy the story.

It's very long, two hours and thirty-five minutes, but engrossing.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:53 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-06

  • Back in January, shortly before the inauguration, the incoming Obama economic team issued a (PDF) report "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" advocating passage of the legislation before Congress. Central to the argument was Figure 1, showing their prediction of the unemployment rate with and without the plan (click for original size):

    [Projections]

    There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical then (see Greg Mankiw in the January 10 NYT, David Harsanyi in the January 30 Denver Post, or this handy collection of links from the Cato Institute.)

    But "they won", the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan was passed and signed, and … now, about five months later, some bright person ("Geoff" at Innocent Bystanders) has overlaid the actual unemployment data points on the original graph. The result (click for big version):

    [vs. Actual]

    Fortunately, our watchdog press will make sure this huge gap between prediction and performance will gain wide public attention, January's skeptics will be hailed as being right all along, and the people that advocated, passed, and signed the massive "stimulus" in a panic will pay a heavy political price.

    Oh, wait…

  • The College of Liberal Arts at the University Near Here publishes a newsletter; the latest issue contains the story:
    For six months, Erin Thesing '10 worked as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in Flint, Michigan. As part of a political science internship, Thesing documented this historic campaign.
    And yes, the remainder of the story is just as gushing and adulatory. It will make you wonder how the same publication might treat a "political science internship" volunteer for McCain, or any other Republican.

    And then it will make you emit a hearty laugh, because you can't imagine that scenario would ever be allowed within the sphere of reality at the College of Liberal Arts at the University Near Here. Even if a plucky conservative managed to do an analogous activity, we'd never read one thing about it, never mind reading paragraph after mushy paragraph about it.

    Warning to would-be writers: misty-eyed sycophancy can lead to Really Bad Prose.

    The distance from Durham, New Hampshire to Flint, Michigan, cannot be measured in miles.

    If you're like me, you immediately thought, "Oh, yeah? Sure it can."

  • If you were waiting for Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism to come out in paperback, your wait is over. Recommended.

    And the higher it goes on Amazon's best-seller list, the more it irks liberals. So, win-win.

  • Virginia Postrel has a post titled "The Lethal Dangers of Sand". Consider yourself warned.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 8:06 AM EDT
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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

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

At IMDB, Sunrise is rated #174 on the Top 250 movies of all time. After reading John Nolte's paean to the movie at Big Hollywood a few months back, I decided to queue it up at Netflix. Good call!

It's a silent movie, made in 1927 Hollywood by famous German director F. W. Murnau. It might not be for everyone's taste, but it's quite accessible. (And don't be fooled by the picture over there, it's black and white.)

The story is quirky and unpredictable. The "two humans" in the subtitle are a farmer and his lovely wife (played by 21-year-old Janet Gaynor, who won an Oscar for it). All is not wedded bliss, however, as the farmer has been seduced by a floozy on an extended holiday from the city. She's kind of a nasty piece of work, suggesting that the farmer murder his wife, sell his farm, and take off to the city with her. She even suggests a detailed plan for the crime.

All that in the first few minutes. Things proceed unpredictably from there, involving a trip to the previously-mentioned city, where many adventures occur. Despite the grim beginnings, there are some funny scenes.

If you're like me, at a number of points you'll find yourself thinking: they did this in 1927? Whoa. The movie also won a cinematography Oscar, in addition to one for "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production", an award not given before, or since.

Fun fact: the IMDB has a memorable quotes section for this silent movie.


Last Modified 2012-10-07 7:52 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-02

  • Please make believe I wrote this Bill Simmmons essay on the plight of Mr. David Ortiz, because it expresses exactly how I feel, only Simmons is way more knowledgable and a much better writer.
    Whatever the case, it's clear that David Ortiz no longer excels at baseball. This has been banged home over and over again for two solid months. It's ruined the season for me thus far. The best way I can describe Fenway during any Papi at-bat is this: It's filled with 35,000 parents of the same worst kid in Little League who dread every pitch thrown in the kid's direction. There is constant fear and sadness and helplessness. Nobody knows what to do.
    Yeah. (Via AmSpecBlog.)

  • Barackrobatics in action, as noted in the WSJ:
    "What we are not doing -- what I have no interest in doing -- is running GM," Mr. Obama said in yesterday's bankruptcy announcement. "When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government, will make that decision."

    The President is so busy not running GM that he had time the night before to call and reassure Detroit Mayor Dave Bing about the new GM's future location. GM is being courted to move its headquarters to nearby Warren, Michigan. And Mr. Bing told the Detroit News that he had received a call Sunday evening from the President "informing me of his support for GM to stay in the city of Detroit with its headquarters at the Renaissance [Center]."

    (Via Hit & Run.)

  • Your Sotomayor URLs du jour will lead you to a good essay from Richard Epstein that describes how the GOP could (but probably won't) thoughtfully oppose her nomination. And Thomas Sowell has not one, not two, but three columns examining the laughable claim that Sotomayor's "Latina" assertion was taken "out of context."
    In Washington, the clearer a statement is, the more certain it is to be followed by a "clarification" when people realize what was said.

    The clearly racist comments made by Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the Berkeley campus in 2001 have forced the spinmasters to resort to their last-ditch excuse, that it was "taken out of context."

    If that line is used during Judge Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings, someone should ask her to explain just what those words mean when taken in context.

    That would be must-see TV.

  • Lore Sjöberg is back writing at Wired, just in time to enlighten you about Nebulous Internet Disease. Which you probably have. And which I probably caught from you.
    There are more than 2,000 recognized symptoms of Nebulous Internet Disease, but most sufferers only exhibit between two and 50. The most common are dry mouth, sore throat, runny nose, excessive salivation, fatigue, sleeplessness, change in sleep patterns, lack of change in sleep patterns, areas of raised skin, intermittent nausea, sore joints, anxiety about the length of this list of symptoms, tics, twitches, spasms, fear of spiders, the unshakable feeling that you forgot to do something but can't remember what it is, back pain, chest pain, neck pain, armpit pain, a fleeting sense of well-being and genital freckling.
    Heh. He said "genital".


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URLs du Jour — 2009-06-01

  • On GM bankruptcy day, Jonah Goldberg provides an appropriate quote:
    The ruling principle must be that capital and management reward must be kept in continuous and flexible adjustment with economic possibilities, and that legal and institutional arrangements--like loan contracts, bonds, legal concepts of just compensation, due process of law, and confiscation--must not obstruct executive action of government to maintain this adjustment otherwise than by the present devices of bankruptcy, foreclosures, reorganization, and cycles of booms and depressions.
    I have, however, left out some relevant information, so click on over to get that.

  • Continuing on my quest to link to any and all P. J. O'Rourke content on the web: 2009 Ford Flex: The O'Rourkes do Utah's Lower Left - Feature.

    Now, I'm not sure if "Feature" is meant to describe the type of Car and Driver article P. J. wrote, or whether that's the way P. J. is describing where they went in Utah. ("Come on, kids, pile in the Flex: we're going to see Utah's Lower Left Feature.") In any case, read it.

  • I found NASA's list of books, magazines, movies, TV shows, and music kept on the International Space Station to be oddly fascinating. Star Wars, but no Star Trek. Apollo 13, yes. The Right Stuff, no, neither movie nor book. 2010, but not 2001? (Via GeekPress.)


Last Modified 2009-06-02 1:32 PM EDT
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Angels & Demons

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

Mrs. Salad has been a Catholic all her life, so she's always up for a thriller that involves skullduggery at the Holy See. Hence we made one of our rare trips to an actual theater to see this before it vanished.

We thought we were avoiding the crowd, but it was sold out when we tried to get in Saturday night; we finally made it in on Sunday. It was merely in sixth place in the national weekend boxoffice rankings. Its popularity here may be due to Dan Brown being a local hero.

Tom Hanks reprises his role from The Da Vinci Code, Harvard "symbologist" Robert Langdon. He's wisked off to Rome when the four leading candidates to replace the recently-deceased Pope get kidnapped and threatened with death. If that wasn't enough: the bad guys have also stolen a small chunk of antimatter from CERN's Large Hadron Collider which they threaten to release from its containment. Which would, of course, be bad.

Fortunately, the bad guys have also left plenty of incomprehensible clues involving statues, old texts, ancient societies, obscure history, etc., which is why Langdon comes in handy. (If the bad guys hadn't done that, he'd be worse than useless.) He's accompanied by a foxy CERN physicist, and has to deal with a number of Vatican folks. There's a lot of derring-do, running, dodging, explosions, gunplay, and as near as I can tell, Tom Hanks keeps the same expression on his face the entire time. He's a funny guy, they should give him a couple jokes.

The plot is, of course, absurd, nine ways from Sunday. I asked myself on the way out what the point of the bad guy's elaborate scheme was supposed to be. I couldn't come up with one.


Last Modified 2014-11-30 3:18 PM EST
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