Civility: It's a One-Edged Sword

The Financial Times has Simon Schama interview Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post. It's quite fawning. Schama might be angling for a coveted spot in the "Most Obsequious Interviews of 2010" Anthology. I was particularly amused by this bit, discussing Ms. Huffington's support for the Stewart/Colbert Washington Mall rally last month, for which she supplied a fleet of buses:

For Huffington the latest rally was "not just an exercise in point and counterpoint" but "something much bigger": a call to restore the civil society she wants to see replanted in an America polarised between destructively competing demonologies. […] The Huffington Post fleet was a vindication of everything its founder is trying to do to detoxify American politics.
I sometimes read the Huffington Post, so I know that their preferred method for bringing detoxified civility to politics consists of:
  • Deeming Sarah Palin a "patriotic traitor" (along with "Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, the teabaggers, the birthers, and the deathers.")

  • Revealing that "I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face." (And, apparently non-ironically, calling Sarah Palin "deranged".)

  • Asking us readers to think of Ann Coulter "as Ophelia with her violetless garlands, crossed with a real fucking hack." (This was a response to Ms. Coulter's column on the death of her father.)

  • Fingering Republicans as "the real enemies". Not to mention the axis of evil.

  • Accusing the Dubya Administration of stealing the 2004 election. (And then calling these successful thieves, somewhat contradictorily, "cretins".)

  • And trashing, in an article by Ms. Huffington herself, Mary Matalin's sins in jewelry, clothes, and makeup. And then revealing that she considered Ms. Matalin to be "nasty". (Also apparently meant to be non-ironic.)

When you're Arianna, civility is for the little people.

(Original link via the Weekly Standard.)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

There were plenty of danger signs here:

  • It's a young person movie; I am not young.

  • It's very hip; I am instead worried about breaking a hip.

  • It has young-people music; young-people music has sucked ever since I turned 30.

  • Michael Cera plays the lead; I haven't really liked anything he's done since Juno.

But I really liked this movie. Go figure.

Cera plays Scott Pilgrim: a young man living in Toronto without much to do except half-heartedly play bass in his dreadful band, "Sex Bob-Omb". He feels somewhat defensive about his much-younger girlfriend, a Chinese-Canadian 17-year-old named (really) "Knives Chau".

But one day, Ramona shows up in town. And Scott is smitten. Unfortunately—and I couldn't really work out the reason behind this—having made such a commitment, Scott must defeat Ramona's seven "exes" (mostly, er, ex-boyfriends). And by "defeat", I mean "defeat in battle." Wait, what?

And that's where the movie is cleverly creative: Scott's reality is tilted more than just a tad into the video game/comic book universe. Sound effects are often spelled out on screen. (Remember the old Batman TV show? OK, but it's better here.) Many characters occasionally exhibit superhero powers: flying, super-strength, invulnerability, etc. So Scott's battles with the exes are special-effects extravaganzas.

It's a lot of fun. I laughed all the way through.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:51 AM EST

Curse of the Spellmans

[Amazon Link]

Really kind of thought I would like this book more than I did. It was nominated last year for an Edgar for Best Novel. The front-cover blurbs proclaim: "whip-smart sass" (People), "delightful" (USA Today), "Fast-paced, irreverent, and very funny" (some guy I never heard of).

Instead, the book yielded (for me) one or two chuckles every hundred pages or so. (Disclaimer: humor's a funny thing: most people seemed to enjoy the book just fine, and, dear reader, you'll note the Amazon link over there will get you a copy for $0.01, plus shipping and handling. Check it out, see if your mileage varies.)

The Spellmans are a San Francisco family. Ma and Pa Spellman run a private-eye agency, employing eldest daughter Isabel (the book's narrator) as an investigator. Also in the mix are a 15-year-old precocious daughter, Rae, brother David (a lawyer), and a cop named Henry Stone, who was (apparently) accidentally run over by Rae in the previous book. Stir in new-neighbor John Brown, about whom Isabel is instantly suspicious. Also: someone is copycatting one of Isabel's past misdeeds: vandalism of a neighbor's holiday lawn displays. And (finally) all members of Isabel's family are acting mysteriously, as if they have something to hide.

When you check the reviews for the book, you'll see words like "wacky", "madcap", "screwball", "daffy", "quirky", etc., etc. Yes, fine, I get it. I didn't care too much about, or for, the primary characters, so all that wacky daffiness just sat there on the page. Neither does it help that Isabel's a pretty lousy detective. I figured things out about a hundred pages before she did. (Actually, she doesn't figure things out: someone literally calls her up with the solution—deus ex telephone.)

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:50 AM EST