Doctor Strange

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Once again a boring story from my younger comic-reading days (approx. 1969-1973): I devoured the Marvel tales of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Man, the Avengers, Captain America, etc.. But I never got much beyond reading one or two issues of Doctor Strange. For some reason, all the magic seemed like cheating; you can always pull an unexpected spell out of your ass, right?

Yes, that's right. All those other comic heros were totally believable for me.

And also, I got the impression that Steve Ditko was writing/drawing Doctor Strange when he was on LSD. (Which turns out to be totally wrong by the way.)

So I was not especially moved to see this movie in the theater. But I noted the good reviews, and lo and behold, I really enjoyed the movie, once Netflix sent it to me.

It is (of course) an origin tale, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. Initially, Strange is a gifted, egomaniacal surgeon. But one fateful night he foolishly pushes his hot car a little too fast, and smashes himself up pretty badly. He won't play the piano again, nor will he be able to do the surgery he's famous for.

So, what to do, what to do? A new career calls: saving Earth from the Dark Dimension and the evil plots of Dormammu. Things look pretty bleak, because Strange is just learning how to become Master of the Mystic Arts, and Dormammu is a pretty bad dude. Nonetheless, … well, you know how these movies work.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well Cumberbatch fit in the role, as in "now I can't imagine anyone else in the role". He also sports a convincing American accent. I don't know anything about acting, but I think that one of the toughest things for an actor to do is spout off lines like "Dormammu, I've come to bargain!" with a straight face. There should be an Oscar for BC for that. (And Tilda Swinton, who plays "The Ancient One", should get two of them.)

URLs du Jour

2017-04-06

■ We start a new Proverbial chapter with 27:1:

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Is it just me, or does this make you think about that catchy Fleetwood Mac song?

■ James Freeman notes the shifting stand of the NYT editorial page on the Senate filibuster of Supreme Court nominees: this year, they bemoan that its demise hearkens the dawn of the Court as a ‘Partisan Tool’.

Freeman recalls 2013, when the same editorial page hailed the demise of the filibuster for appointees to lower courts and executive-branch nominees with "Democracy Returns to the Senate" and the change was "long overdue".

A former writer of this column might argue that this change simply represents a bargain for longtime Times readers, because they can now enjoy two papers in one.

Mrs. Salad is currently "enjoying" me doing an explosion sound effect whenever the TV news says "nuclear option".

■ Timothy P. Carney corrects the record at USA Today: Actually, Neil Gorsuch is a champion of the little guy. As Carney notes, you can't get much littler than the Little Sisters of the Poor, or New Haven, Connecticut's eminent domain victim Susette Kelo. Bottom line:

The rule of law doesn’t care if you’re powerful or powerless; it applies to all. Gorsuch has spent his years on the bench reading the law and applying it, without animus or favor. That’s bad news for those, such as New London’s mandarins or the Obama administration’s HHS, who want special treatment. It’s good news for the little guy.

"You mean the leprechauns?"

■ Virginia Postrel takes on the latest widely-despised ad from Pepsi: The Company Desperately Trying to Be Something It Isn't.

At issue is a short-lived new commercial starring model Kendall Jenner, a member of the Kardashian clan, along with a large crew of telegenic millennials of assorted races and creative professions. One, a handsome Asian cellist, leaves his studio to join a swelling protest march. He catches Jenner’s eye as he passes by the photo shoot she’s posing for. In response, she strips off her blond wig, wipes off her lipstick, and -- having paid homage to the glamour of authenticity -- joins the crowd. As she strides down the street, she grabs a Pepsi and hands it to one of the young, handsome, and un-armored policemen standing guard over the march. A gorgeous photographer wearing a hijab snaps her picture. Peace, love, and understanding prevail.

Thanks to TiVo, I don't see a lot of ads any more, but the other day I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of eyes suddenly rolled in their sockets in contempt. I feared something terrible had happened. Now I know it was Pepsi.

■ Not that it matters, but when I type "Pepsi tastes like" into the Google search box I get the suggestions: "dirt", "soap", "metal", "cinnamon", and "flat coke". YMMV. Cinnamon doesn't sound that bad though.

■ At NR, John J. Miller notes that the inventor of the Internet is up to his old tricks: Al Gore’s Lincoln Lie. At issue: an anti-corporation Lincoln "quote" from Gore's 2007 book The Assault on Reason.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign . . . until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands.

It turned out the quote was an assault on honesty, convincingly revealed as an 1888 forgery.

But here it is, 2017, and there's a new edition of The Assault on Reason, and… the quote's still there.

Today, however, Gore knows that he’s peddling a lie. Ten years ago, in more innocent times, he introduced the quote by writing that Lincoln “perceived the dangers” of corporate power and “noted” them in his 1864 letter. In the new version, however, Gore pulls back from his assertion: “Lincoln may have perceived the dangers” of corporate power, “and some historians attribute the following statement to him.” (Emphasis added.)

Pun Salad has been holding Gore in contempt since 2006.

■ At Cato, Randal O'Toole suggestions that you Protect Your Privacy and Save Money by Telling NHTSA No to the Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Mandate.

If approved, it will be one of the most expensive vehicle safety rules ever, adding around $300 dollars to the price of every car, or (at recent car sales rates) well over $5 billion per year.

O'Toole also notes that it's innovation-stifling, prematurely settling on one technology when others may (someday) do the job better and cheaper.

■ If you've been wondering who the worst enemy of the Trump Presidency is, NR's Jonah Goldberg has a candidate: The President Is This Presidency’s Worst Enemy.

Trump brings the same glandular, impulsive style to meetings and interviews as he does to social media. He blurts out ideas or claims that send staff scrambling to see them implemented or defended. His management style is Hobbesian. Rivalries are encouraged. Senior aides panic at the thought of not being part of his movable entourage. He cares more about saving face and “counterpunching” his critics than he does about getting policy victories.

In short, the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character.

Now, to be honest, there's quite a bit of "I told you so" here. But … you know, he did tell us so.