I'll Trade You My Potential Mental Illness

… for your bad teeth:

  • Sarah Palin's "refudiate" has been named Word of the Year by the staff of the New Oxford American Dictionary. (Once again, my "Barackrobatics" was ignored.)

    But presumably this means the field is open for 2011. My submission:


    Definition: emission of a thick rhetorical fog to avoid using the term "death panels." Especially if that's what you're advocating. Exhibit A is Paul Krugman, who did, bless him, use the phrase on the TV show This Week:

    Some years down the pike, we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes.
    … but he quickly took to his blog to "clarify":
    … not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we're willing to spend for extreme care
    I. e., a bunch more words that amount to the same thing. Now that's euphemasia.

  • P. J. O'Rourke observes:
    I think we lost the election on November 2. Every race was won by a politician. True, we elected some angry nuts. These are preferable to common politicians. Their anger provokes honesty, and their mental illness prevents honesty from being obscured by charm. (What a loss -Barney Frank would have been as an exemplar of the furious, insane left!) We also elected some amateur politicians. However, politics is like vivisection--disturbing as a career, alarming as a hobby. And we may have elected a few reluctant politicians. But not reluctant enough.
    I have P. J.'s new book on my Christmas list, but if someone out there wants to buy it for me right now, I won't gripe.

  • And I don't want to turn into a full-time Reason shill, but I thought their dead-trees interview with C-SPAN's Brian Lamb was surprisingly good, and it's now online.
    reason: If you could put on a different mask right now, what would it be? If you could live your life over again?

    Lamb: I'm not anxious to live it over again, but if I had to live it over again I'd be a drummer. Full time, on the road. Yeah.

    reason: What kind of music would you play?

    Lamb: I would be in the backup band for Merle Haggard or Willie Nelson. Either one. And if I couldn't do that, I'd be a roadie with Brenda Lee.

    Brian Lamb is interesting. I did not know that.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:30 AM EST

Winter's Bone

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So I get to demonstrate my Philistinism again: this movie was a critical favorite, and I just found it (barely) OK.

It's set in the Ozarks, and just about everyone is dirt poor. They shoot squirrels, and it's not because the squirrels are bothering the chickadees at the feeder. The protagonist, Ree Dolly, is just 17, but she's already taking primary care of her younger brother and sister. Momma's still around, but her mind has taken a permanent vacation. Ree is coping admirably, but then real trouble comes: her estranged father, renowned cooker of methamphetamine, has gone missing. Worse, he skipped bail. And (still) worse, the Dolly land was put up for collateral, so Ree, Momma, and the kids are threatened with homelessness.

So Ree sets out to discover what happened to Dad. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is something nobody wants her to find out. She goes up against her clan patriarch/kingpin, and things don't work out well.

It's a hard look at a small slice of America mired in bleak soul-rotting self-destructive squalor. No spoilers, but (unlike the critics) I didn't care for the ending.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:31 AM EST

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

[Amazon Link]

Hidden in this 590-page novel is a pretty decent 300-page mystery.

I watched the movie before reading the book. Unsurprisingly, the plots are similar: the titular Girl is Lisbeth, a disturbed but brilliant computer geek. She teams up (eventually) with investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to find out the truth behind the disappearance of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger, a scion of the wealthy Vanger family. Only problem is: the disappearance (and assumed murder) of Harriet took place decades ago.

Watching the movie first helped to highlight the problems with the book: there's a lot of bloat. Wrapped around the gripping mystery is a non-gripping subplot about Blomkvist's magazine Millennium, his co-workers, his conviction for libel, and his eventual vindication. The movie wisely pruned this stuff to the minimum necessary for plot coherence.

There's also non-plot bloat as well: we're treated to many, many low-color descriptions of meals, shopping trips, etc., all contributing zip to the plot, atmosphere, or character development. Zzzz.

The late author, Stieg Larsson, was an actual big-C Communist, Trotskyite-flavored. Knowing this, I kind of expected the book to be more tediously strident. Fortunately, this is minimized. Yes, there's a subplot about historical Swedish Nazis (I hate Swedish Nazis), but there's no ideological lesson. Instead, there's an overriding theme about violence against women, and the men who perpetrate it. Larsson is firmly opposed to violence against women, a brave stand.

I think I'll pass on the remaining books. Most seem to agree that there's a significant dropoff in quality in the sequels.

Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:30 AM EST