Enemy

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

As I'm sure I've noted before: Mrs. Salad's Netflix picks tend to the offbeat and bizarre. Sometimes based on nothing more than (in this case): "I like Jake Gyllenhaal". Downside: you wind up watching movies like this sometimes. It was named "Best Canadian Film of the Year" at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, but truth be told, it might have been a slow year for movies up there.

Spoilers ahead, probably. Adam is a college history prof, who tells his bored students about Hegel's historicism, which Marx abbreviated to "first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." (He's shown saying this twice—heh!). But while watching an obscure DVD movie, Adam notes a bit-part actor who is literally his double. It's Anthony, who's shown to be a dissolute, disagreeable jerk and pervert. Adam and Anthony eventually meet, and before you can say: "nothing good can come of this", it doesn't.

Keep your eye on the spiders, folks.

Problem: like many pretentiously arty movies, this one has endless (but pointless) shots of scenery (especially the ugly Brutalist architecture of Adam's school), Gyllenhaal-as-Adam wandering around looking lost and moody, tricky lighting, and the like. Cut those out, trim some of the gratuitous nudity, and you've got a pretty good 60-minute episode of Night Gallery with room for commercials.

If Not Us, Who?

[Amazon Link]

I got this as a freebie for renewing my subscription to National Review awhile back. (You can only have so many NR t-shirts or coffee mugs.) And it finally percolated to the top of my to-be-read pile. Written by David B. Frisk, it is a hefty tome, 438 pages of text, over 60 pages of endnotes.

And what's it about? It is a biography of William A. Rusher (1923-2011), the publisher of National Review for about thirty of those years, from 1957 until his retirement in 1988. In addition to his work at the magazine, Rusher was also a political activist, heavily involved in an effort to steer the Republican Party to a more consistently conservative direction. Although his early GOP efforts were in support of Dewey and Ike, he came around to a solid conservatism after being disillusioned with the Eisenhower presidency.

Rusher was considerably different from NR's famous editor, William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley was born rich, comfortable moving in sophisticated society, totally charming. Rusher was from a modest background, working his way into Harvard Law, very much the practical politician, obsessed with devising winning strategies. WFB was the golden retriever in the limo, Rusher the pitbull in the street.

It's surprising things worked as well as they did at the magazine. Frisk does a good job of describing the inner wangling factions at NR, often setting Rusher at odds not only with WFB, but also with such eminences as James Burnham. There were disagreements aplenty: what the overall tone of the magazine should be; which political candidates should be supported, which dumped; just how dismissive should the magazine be toward conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and other fringe-dwellers. (Shrinking the tent of acceptability is fine in theory, but once you start factoring in the loss of subscribers, contributors, and advertisers, it gets more difficult.)

Rusher was a huge Goldwater fan in the early 1960s, a major force pushing him into his 1964 presidential candidacy. Frisk reminds us that, like any sane person would be, Goldwater was unenthusiastic about running. He seems only to have embraced the process when it was clear he wouldn't win.

But the Goldwater campaign was successful at beating the liberal Republicans, and it hatched the political career of conservatism's most shining success, Ronald Reagan. Rusher was an active participant there too. He never liked Nixon much, and wanted Reagan to be the nominee in 1968.

Outside of politics, well… there wasn't much there to Rusher. Never married, a few close friends. Obviously his choice, but somewhat sad.

I can't recommend this book to anyone who isn't really interested in the history of the US conservative political movement. At times it seems that there's no memo so inconsequential, no squabble so trivial, that Frisk doesn't describe it. Still, it's readable, and will act as a lasting memory to someone who undoubtedly had a major effect on his times.

The Phony Campaign

2015-07-26 Update

[phony baloney]

The prognosticators at PredictWise have raised Joe Biden's probability of being Our Next President to 2%, so he's back, baby:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2015-07-19
"Jeb Bush" phony 924,000 -96,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony 697,000 -4,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 468,000 +63,000
"Donald Trump" phony 259,000 +18,000
"Rand Paul" phony 157,000 -11,000
"Joe Biden" phony 136,000 ---
"Scott Walker" phony 112,000 -16,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 105,000 -15,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 99,300 -13,700

  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Slams Jeb Bush for Visiting a ‘Fake Abortion Clinic’? Wow, that's a grabber.

    That turned out to be News from Planet Rachel. On Planet Earth, Jeb was visiting the Carolina Pregnancy Center, which (indeed) does not perform abortions.

    Is the Carolina Pregnancy Center, as Rachel claimed, falsely "designed to look like they provide abortions to patients"? Well, you have to be pretty oblivious to get that impression. In fact, if you can't figure it out from their home page, you have to travel one mere mouseclick from there to learn that they "do not offer, recommend, or refer for abortions."

    Some people out there get their news from Rachel. Pity them.

  • The NYT gives a tonguebath to its favored candidate: Bernie Sanders’s ‘100% Brooklyn’ Roots Are as Unshakable as His Accent.

    “I’m very proud of the fact that he speaks Brooklyn, because he’s not a phony, and that shows,” said Marty Alpert, who used to cheer for Mr. Sanders when he was on the track team at James Madison High School, where she is now on the alumni board.

    Unassailable logic there.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie puts forth the question: Agree or Disagree?: Rand Paul Should Go Libertarian or Go Home. Noting that Paul has lowered his score on the Libertarian Purity Test:

    As a matter of fact, on a bunch of recent issues, Paul has been very close to other, more-consciously conservative Republican candidates than to any vision of libertarianism. His response to the murder of a San Francisco woman by an illegal immigrant, for instance, was to denounce "Sanctuary Cities" and support an onerous surveillance program. He's against the Iran deal. While he was quick to call for yanking the Confederate battle flag from public grounds, he was slow-to-never in challenging Donald Trump's moronic view of Mexican immigrants as mostly criminal or to issue a statement about the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage (he eventually said he wants to privatize marriage). Earlier in the year, he supported more defense spending than a couple of GOP hawks (albeit, Paul wanted to pay for the increases with offsets elsewhere in the budget).

    Big surprise: when you blur your branding enough to blend in with the other candidates, you don't give anyone any special reason to vote for you.

  • Huck went on Fox & Friends and meandered extemporaneously:

    Huckabee said that Trump has “struck a nerve with people,” and “I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the things that he’s saying, those are things that, in many ways, I’ve been saying those for eight years, before he was a Republican. Things like talking about how China has cheated. Talking about how there is this Wall Street-to-Washington axis of power that grinds out jobs against Americans. I mean, these are themes that I’ve been talking about. But, let me say this, if you put as much air in my balloon, not just you, but if all the media, will pump the air in my balloon, as has been pumped into Donald Trump’s balloon, I’ll be leading the pack as well.”

    Thanks be to Huck for reminding us that there's more than one know-nothing demagogic populist on the GOP side.