Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

[Amazon Link]

Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts is even rougher than years one through four. Even before it starts, he and his porcine cousin Dudley get attacked by Dementors, a surprising event in the supposed safety of Privet Drive. Harry behaves heroically, but gets in serious trouble for using magic in the muggle world; he gets brought up on charges before the Ministry of Magic.

He gets out of that scrape, thanks to some clever and resourceful defenses by Headmaster Dumbledore. But things still aren't good: Harry's haunted by dreams that make his famous scar throb. His claims about the return of Voldemort are widely disbelieved, especially in the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore is also put on the defensive: the Ministry forces Dolores Umbridge into Hogwarts, and she's very interested in tormenting Harry.

It's the longest Harry Potter book (870 pages), but it continues to be a good yarn. Once again, Harry survives; but just as in the previous book, there's a dreadful loss at the climax. A overarching theme is the refusal of bureaucracy to react effectively to menace; wonder if Rowling is trying to say something about the real world there?

Last Modified 2012-09-24 8:07 AM EDT

Point Blank

[3.5 stars] Point Blank (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

A French movie, but—thank goodness—hardly artsy-fartsy at all. There are good guys, bad guys, desperate situations, and non-stop action. You can even opt for the dubbed-in English version and pretend it's not French at all. (However, you can tell even then: there's a lot of cigarette smoking.)

Samuel and Nadia are a very happy married couple; she's extremely pregnant, he's about to become a male nurse at the local hospital. But things quickly go south: a mysterious guy is brought to the hospital; he's been chased into traffic by a couple of gun-wielding thugs, and got hit by a motorcycle. While in the hospital, an assailant cuts his respirator hose; Samuel saves him in the nick of time. Hero!

But then things turn really bad: Nadia is kidnapped and threatened with death unless Samuel gets the mysterious guy out of the hospital. Which, of course, he must do.

It's a neat little thriller, with a plot worth paying attention to.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 8:08 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • This week's phony update alluded to the various partisans who thought pro-forma Senate sessions were hunky-dory when used to deny Dubya's recess appointments; now that Obama has asserted the power to make recess appointments anyway, those previous pronouncements have gone down the memory hole.

    Or almost. Check Adam White who examines the that-was-then-this-is-now shamelessness of Lawrence Tribe; the MinuteMan does an equally fine job on the New York Times.

  • Here's basic free-market econ: a society becomes more prosperous by shifting resources from less productive activities to more productive ones. Most people win, but some lose, and some have to make adjustments they would have preferred not to have made. One side of the dynamic is so-called "creative destruction", yet another term originally coined by the enemies of capitalism that's been adopted by its advocates.

    Which is why the use of Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital as a political issue by his opponents is so disgusting. Did Bain's involvement with some companies result in some people losing their jobs? Sure. Did Bain make mistakes? It would be surprising if they didn't.

    So I'm with James Pethokoukis: Romney doesn't need to apologize for his Bain career. I'd expect Democrats to use the issue against him; they thrive on demagogic economic illiteracy. But Republicans should know better, and I've lost a lot of whatever respect I've had for Huntsman, Gingrich, and Perry.

    Fortunately, Ron Paul gets it right, as does Rick Santorum. Good for them.

  • I think SOPA (the "Stop Online Piracy Act" being considered in the House) and PIPA (the "Protect IP Act" in the Senate) are dreadful, liberty-killing, pieces of legislation. If you're unfamiliar, see Jerry Brito at Time; Peter Suderman at Reason; or just Google and look around.

    It's probably a write-your-legislators issue. Unfortunately, for New Hampshirites, both our state's Senators are co-sponsors of this travesty. Write them anyway.

    My CongressCritter, Frank Guinta is apparently undecided.

    Constituent pressure works in some cases. Congressman Paul Ryan changed his position on SOPA yesterday. Good for him.

  • Tim Carney puts his finger on the Huntsman misjudgment that (I'm pretty sure) doomed his campaign: by going out of his way to announce his "belief" in evolution and anthropogenic global warning, he signalled his contempt for the great unwashed.
    Huntsman chose to play the game of identity politics, and it hurt him. There's an apt saying that voters don't need to like a candidate, they just need to believe that the candidate will like them. When Huntsman gives off his substance-free liberal signals, he's telling conservatives to buzz off and go back to their Bible class or hunting blind.

    If Huntsman fails tomorrow in New Hampshire's primary, it will partly be the consequence of his unwise signaling, but it will also be an indication that the GOP base has put style over substance.

    So there.

  • Here's something I didn't know: astronomers have observed a phenomenon called "the ashen light of Venus" for centuries, and we still don't know what causes it.

Last Modified 2017-12-02 5:17 PM EDT


[3.5 stars] Metropolitan (1990) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

When John Miller came out with a list of the best conservative movies a few years ago, I'd seen most of them. One I had missed was Metropolitan, a 1990 movie written, produced, and directed by Whit Stillman. (The writing part got him an Oscar nomination.) Finally, I got around to it. And it didn't make me rave, but it was unusual and unexpectedly watchable.

And it's not my kind of thing at all: it concentrates on a close-knit group of Manhattan-based upper-class socialites, in the midst of something called the "debutante season". This involves a lot of post-dance gatherings where conversation occurs. A semi-outsider, Tom Townsend, gets caught up in the group. He refers to himself as a devotee of Fourier's socialism, and still has a hopeless crush for Serena, a girl from his college days. Tom develops an asymmetrical relationship with Audrey: he enjoys discussing literature with her, she's gradually becoming smitten with him.

Much of the dialog is ultra-stilted, affected, and (sometimes) mean; for a group of ostensible friends, they sure do insult each other a lot. They're obsessed with their status and prospects. As weeks go by, unexpected alliances are formed, characters are revealed.

Although billed as a comedy, there aren't a lot of jokes; the amusement is to be found in observing the characters' manners, pretensions, delusions, and affectations. This worked for me, maybe not everyone.

The actors are relatively unknown, and IMDB makes it easy to verify that. Edward Clements, who played Tom, had a grand total of one more movie appearance, as "Young Crewman" in Star Trek VI.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 8:09 AM EDT