URLs du Jour — 2013-04-02

  • scene of the crime Local resident Sarah Long was grievously injured in broad daylight yesterday by a greasy Portuguese assailant. Best wishes for her speedy recovery.

    (Map of crime scene courtesy of MarineTraffic.com and Google; click to embiggen.)

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) weighs in on the "Stomp on Jesus" class activity at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and the ensuing charges. Unsurprisingly, their judgment is: "a screwup from start to finish."

    It's a balanced and thoughtful article, and notes the (possible) overreaction of the devout Mormon student, Ryan Rotela, to the exercise. Bottom line:

    The university's repeated attempts to get on the right side of the politics of the issue has instead simply added to the litany of problems it has caused. Here's hoping for the day when universities discover that sticking to your principles is the best form of PR.

    For a bunch of allegedly smart people, you'd think that discovery would have been made long ago.

    On the other hand, there's the uncomfortable fact that they are running an academically-bereft course at their bad joke of a college. If they had principles, they wouldn't be doing that either.

  • New Hampshire Watchdog Grant Bosse takes on my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, for endorsing SB126, a bill that champions local car dealerships against their franchising manufacturers.

    Grant (correctly) notes that the state should stay away from changing contractual obligations freely entered into by the dealerships. And he also points out the "protectionist nonsense" involved:

    Tilting government to favor local, popular businesses against less popular out-of-state companies may be quite tempting for politicians and advertising-supported media, but it makes no economic sense. Undermining the power of contracts simply inserts political meddling into the marketplace. Local car dealers complain that they lack leverage with the auto makers. This is simply untrue. In fact, state law already grants them far more leverage than they’ve earned from their place in the market. State laws in all 50 states prevent automobile companies from selling their product directly to their customers. This is a ludicrous and indefensible restraint on trade imposed on manufacturs [sic] because local dealerships have more political clout than market power.

    Here's hoping Foster's is paying attention.

  • If you're in the mood for some cheering up, the NYPost provides (what they claim are) "The greatest gags, tweets, jests and jokes from the past year". I don't know about that, but here's one I laughed at:

    I wonder if Jeremy Irons ever quietly laughs to himself while he’s ironing.

    So far, the people I repeat that to invariably say: "That's stupid!" But they always laugh first.

  • If you're using the Pun Salad default view: my take on Anna Karenina is available on the Movie view, and A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block on the Book view.


Last Modified 2013-06-19 10:11 AM EDT

A Drop of the Hard Stuff

[Amazon Link]

I've been reading Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder mystery novels for — well, quite awhile. Mr. Block has slowed down some: the previous Scudder book (All the Flowers Are Dying) came out in 2005, and the one before that (Hope to Die) was published in 2001.

Mr. Block is 74, and has earned the right to write as slowly as he wants. But I also took my time in reading this one (originally published in 2011).

Mr. Block is a gifted storyteller and a impeccable prose stylist. (He's also written a lot of how-to-write stuff.) And Matt Scudder is a compelling protagonist: he started off as an alcoholic ex-cop, wracked by guilt over his accidental shooting of an innocent bystander. To make ends meet, he became an unlicensed private investigator, for which he had enough of a knack to make a living at. Eventually, he joined AA, and even got semi-respectable. This book is mostly a flashback to a few decades back, about a year into Matt's sobriety. He runs into Jack, an childhood acquaintance at an AA meeting, one who came up on the wrong side of the law. Now struggling through AA's 12 steps, he's "making amends". But (unfortunately) something about the step gets Jack gruesomely killed.

Jack's AA sponsor has a list of folks that Jack made for Step 8: "all persons we had harmed". But he doesn't want to give the list to the cops: they might hassle a bunch of innocents needlessly. Scudder is hired to check them out.

Does he eventually solve the murder? Well, sure; he's Scudder. But along the way is a lot of fun, as he meets a bunch of colorful folks and needs to deal with some of his own problems, even the recurring demon of booze.

Next up: A Long Line of Dead Men, a collection of shorter Scudder fiction.


Last Modified 2013-06-19 10:10 AM EDT

Anna Karenina

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Based on the famous Russian novel by Tolstoy!

The movie is set in 1870s Russia, mostly in the upper strata of the aristocracy. The centerpiece—why would the call the movie this otherwise—is young Anna (Keira Knightley); she's married to much older Alexei (Jude Law), but fatefully (and, eventually, fatally) attracted to the young and dashing Count Vronsky.

There are subplots: Anna's dad is a serial adulterer, which causes problems in his marriage; friend Levin is smitten with Kitty, who's initially attracted to Vronsky, but by the end of the book realizes this folly. Levin is also devoted to a philosophy that causes him to live in the countryside, working the fields with his serfs. (These subplots are given much more weight in the book, but they're just pointless tack-ons in the movie.)

The main gimmick about the movie: a lot of it takes place in a theater setting: not only on stage, but backstage, in the rigging, down where the audience would sit. Some sort of metaphor for urban life? Maybe, as Levin's farm is apparently in the great outdoors. This gimmick, and other in-your-face stylistic flourishes were lost on me; it made the whole movie come across as affected and dishonest.

It won the Oscar for costumes, though. And it was nominated for cinematography, production design, and musical score. So if you're a fan of those things, even when they're wrapped around a pretentious, empty movie, check it out. But otherwise, read the book: it's not bad.


Last Modified 2013-06-19 10:10 AM EDT