URLs du Jour


  • Dinosaur You should subscribe to Reason, but if you don't: editor Matt Welch's column from the latest issue is online; he considers John Stossel's pessimistic view of the state of the ongoing batter for liberty. A sobering take:
    Take federal spending: In March, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed, and House Republicans passed, a budget blueprint that increases federal spending over the next decade from $3.6 trillion to $4.9 trillion (in current dollars), and according to the Congressional Budget Office never once comes close to balancing any year’s budget during that time frame. At a time when debt levels and entitlement time bombs are putting the nation at severe financial risk, Ryan’s budget should be seen as inadequate to the task of averting catastrophe. Instead, he’s being accused of deliberately starving the poor.
    Welch argues that fans of liberty should play the "long game." Pun Salad agrees.

  • Your blog post title of the day: "Eat, Fart, Die".

Last Modified 2017-12-02 2:08 PM EST


[Amazon Link] The full title is (apparently) Robert B. Parker's Lullaby, reflecting the fact that this novel was not written by the late Mr. Parker; instead, Ace Atkins has been passed the torch of recounting the adventures of Parker's classic private-eye hero, Spenser. I'd been reading Parker's Spenser oeuvre since the mid-70's; this forced me to ask: am I a Parker fan or a Spenser fan?

Related question: Should I make some sort of purist objection here? Nah, I guess not. If the Widow Parker is OK with it, I can go along for the ride. I always saw Spenser as Parker's alter ego, so it's a little odd to have the fictional guy live on.

As near as I can tell, Atkins decided to adopt/mimic Parker's writing style. That's not an easy thing to do, and it might not have been an easy choice to make. But, if I was presented, double-blind, excerpts from each author, I'd have a tough time distinguishing Atkins' writing from Parker's.

Nearly everyone's here: Susan, Hawk, Quirk, Belson, Henry Cimoli, Vinnie, Rita, … And Spenser remains his wisecracking self. Eventually, I caught some subtle distinctions: Atkins does the Boston geography thing to a significantly greater extent than Parker. And his Hawk seemed to be slightly more chatty than Parker's. But otherwise… dead on.

What about the plot? Spenser's client this time is 14-year-old, Mattie. Mattie is a foul-mouthed Southie girl whose mother was murdered four years previous. A lowlife thug was arrested and convicted for the deed, but Mattie is unconvinced; she saw two other thugs toss her mom into a car the night of the crime. But she couldn't, and can't, get the authorities to take her seriously.

Spenser is a sucker for this sort of thing, and (of course) it develops that Mattie is totally correct about the shoddy justice in the case. His technique is, as usual, to make himself a total pain in the wazoo to all involved, until the bad guys get rattled enough to try to thwart the investigation. That happens a lot here. It all builds up to an extended climax full of peril and action. Win!

Last Modified 2012-09-23 11:23 AM EST

A Better Life

[3.5 stars] A Better Life (2011) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

Netflix insisted I would love this movie! I had my doubts, but it wasn't bad at all.

It's the story of Carlos, an illegal Mexican immigrant eking out a tough living assisting in a gardening business in L.A. Carlos's wife has long since split, leaving him with a now-teenage son, Luis. Family life is teetering on the edge of dysfunction: Carlos gets home late, exhausted, gets up the next morning to do it all again; he's only got time for a few words to Luis. Luis is increasingly surly; worse, his girlfriend is in a family full of gang members, and it's widely expected that Luis will go that way too.

One hope: Carlos's boss is retiring, and wants to sell his truck to Carlos. This would enable Carlos to—just perhaps—start climbing up the ladder from the lower class.

Things don't go well, of course.

Demián Bichir, playing Carlos, got a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance here. I'm not sure this wasn't a PC "diversity" nod by the Academy voters, but he does a fine job. PJ Media's Roger L. Simon is credited for the story, so that's a big plus. A number of commenters at IMDB found this to be propaganda on the side of immigration reform, amnesty, open borders, etc. Eh, I don't think so; the movie never slides into that kind of tendentiousness. Instead, it's a decently powerful story of a guy striving against the odds for himself and his kid. You don't have to draw any deeper political lessons from that unless you want to.

Last Modified 2012-09-23 11:22 AM EST