Despicable Me

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At Pun Salad Manor, we consume kiddy movies without excuse, shame, or apology. Some say this is due to second childhood, but … OK, that could be exactly what's going on. This one is very amusing; it's not Pixar, but it's nonetheless a worthy effort. There are a lot of clever asides, visual jokes, and inventive sequences, enough to keep adults interested.

The movie's hero is Gru, voiced by Steve Carell. Gru is an evil criminal mastermind, but not so evil that he actually hurts anyone; he just enjoys taking things that aren't his. Gru is aided by a co-villain, mad inventor Dr. Nefario, and an army of yellow "Minions", an oblate species seemingly made out of yellow Nerf. You'd think that he'd be the nemesis of one or two superheros, but no: his nemesis is the annoying Vector, another evil criminal mastermind. They find themselves in competition to steal the Moon.

Gru launches a scheme that involves the adoption of three cute little girls. Will they melt Gru's villainous heart and cause him to see the error of his naughty ways? <voice imitation="that_guy_in_the_geico_commercial">Is it a bad idea to use a live grenade as a bookend?</voice>

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:21 AM EDT

Ask Not

[Milton Friedman]

It's the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, and my guess is the most famous line will be unavoidable. Milton Friedman wrote a short rebuttal near the beginning of his 1962 work, Capitalism and Freedom:

In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.

The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.

As I've said before: To a mushy-headed kid in the early sixties, it was more than a little jarring to see someone with the utter gall to talk back to one of the Holy Quotations of Saint JFK. And some would say I've never recovered from the shock.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:22 AM EDT