She Was a Backwoods Girl

[Slow Train Coming]

… but she sure was realistic:

  • We kvetched a couple times about Cowardly GOP Weasels being less than serious about cutting federal spending in the wangling over H. R. 1, setting the budget for the remainder of this fiscal year. If you're wondering how your CongressCritter did, the folks at Heritage Action kept score.

    Fun facts: 47 Republicans voted for every possible spending cut; 95 Democrats voted against every single one of them. Everyone else fell somewhere in between.

    For Granite Staters: my own Congressman, Frank Guinta, scored a decent 73%; Charlie Bass garnered a measly 33%, getting a mention from Heritage as one of the Republicans "most reluctant" to cut spending.

  • George Will is on target about the train fetishism of the modern American "progressive".
    To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they--unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted--are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
    George is getting very libertarian in his old age.

  • The Granite Geek opines on backing into parking spaces. If you're interested, there's a website devoted to it:

  • And in case you're looking for the best picture on the Internet, it's right here: You're welcome.

Last Modified 2011-03-08 9:57 AM EDT

Human Accomplishment

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Charles Murray fan since I read his In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government more than a few years back. But somehow I skipped over this one (from 2003), so I decided to fill in that particular gap.

Murray's goal here is a little audacious: a study of human progress and excellence in the arts and sciences throughout history. He travels up and down the historical timeline, and throughout the entire world. He locates the significant individuals, discoveries, and ideas in a large number of fields, and describes how they were distributed not only in time and space, but also how things broke out in terms of sex, race, and ethnicity. In short, it's a real tour de force.

Murray's results won't cheer dogmatic feminists, cultural relativists, or anti-Semites. Historically, no other area can hold a candle, achievement-wise, to Western Europe. (And not all parts of Western Europe: northern Italy, France, and southeast England dominate.) Similarly, Jews are over-represented, despite experiencing simultaneous appalling bigotry. And (sorry, ladies) the highest levels of excellence are pretty much male-dominated.

For us America lovers: Murray notes that we're not really all that special either. Sorry.

Murray spends almost as much time describing his methodology as explicating his results. He painstakingly describes his efforts to avoid any sort of chauvinism. (Which, by the way, makes the Publisher's Weekly kneejerk review on the Amazon page look deliberately obtuse: la, la, la, I can't hear you!)

Even the little side trips are interesting. Example: Early in the book, Murray spends some time discussing the "Antikythera Mechanism", a sophisticated calculation device dated sometime between 150 and 100 BC; its design demonstrates a previously unsuspected sophistication in both astronomy and mechanical engineering for that era. Murray uses this (and other examples) to point out that there are large unknown areas and mysteries in the history of accomplishment.

Soberingly, Murray finishes up with by investigating whether achievement may be in a long-term historical decline. He answers with a firm "maybe."

Last Modified 2012-09-27 11:55 AM EDT


stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The movie opens in the 70's, showing a member of the French Foreign Legion getting blown up while trying to defuse a landmine in the middle of the Sahara. This drives his wife to the loony bin, and effectively orphans little Bazil, our hero. Bazil escapes from an oppressive orphanage, and grows up to manage a small video store, where he's content to lipsync Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's dialogue in The Big Sleep, as dubbed into French. But misfortune strikes again, as a gunfight breaks out outside the store, and a stray bullet whangs right into his brain.

Please note: this movie is billed a comedy.

Miraculously, Bazil survives, but loses his job and becomes homeless. Fortunately he takes up with a colorful band of misfits living in a junkyard. And he decides to wreak vengeance on the weapons manufacturers that built the mine that killed his dad and manufactured the slug that still sits in his frontal lobe.

Again, please note: comedy.

Bazil and his cohorts are not merely colorful, they're charming and funny. They bring a diverse array of oddball talent to Bazil's plot. The heads of the weapons firms are slimy and arrogant, and richly deserve the fate that Bazil is plotting. (My normal troglodytic attitudes lead me to think that weapons manufacturers are pretty much OK folks, so it's a mark of the film's quality that it sucked me into its narrative on this point.)

It's directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who previously did Amélie, another charmer. There's lots of amusing cleverness and whimsy; it's mostly visual-based, which I won't attempt to describe. But after the initial grim carnage, I chuckled pretty much all the way through.

Last Modified 2012-09-27 11:45 AM EDT