Baby Driver

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

Like all thinking individuals, I have made a point to see all and any movies with titles taken from 47-year-old Simon and Garfunkel songs. Next up is Bridge over Troubled Water, a based-on-actual-events story of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, starring Denzel Washington as a crusty civil engineer whose warnings go unheeded, and Kirsten Dunst as "Lady in Car".

No, just kidding. Heh. Although I would go see that movie.

The IMDB raters currently have Baby Driver as #146 of the Top 250 Movies of all time. And I'm like: please. It's neat, yes. But better than Fargo? The Big Lebowski? Or… again, please.

"Baby", played by young actor Ansel Elgort, is a troubled young man who has been roped into the job of "getaway driver" by criminal mastermind "Doc" (Kevin Spacey). His goal, of course, is to do One Last Job, and then he's off. Reinforcing that desire is his meeting of lovely young Debora (Lily James), who's amenable to them driving off into the sunset, but she's blissfully unaware of the nature of his day job.

Also complicating things are the violence-prone members of Doc's heist teams, always threatening to shoot, maim, or otherwise obliterate anyone standing in their way, or people who might get in their way. Also, criminals double-cross each other a lot. Everyone knows that.

The "relatively innocent getaway driver" genre isn't exactly fresh, but writer/director Edgar Wright manages to make it a lot of fun to watch. He's very good at choreographing on-screen action and visual gags with the movie soundtrack. Especially pay attention during the opening scenes.

I knew I'd seen Lily James before, but could not think of where. As it turned out, 'twas in a totally different context: she was Lady Rose in Downton Abbey. She makes a seamless transition to Diner Waitress.

Weaponized Lies

How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era

[Amazon Link]

I had my doubts about spending an Interlibrary Loan request on this book. With a title/subtitle combination like that, there was a possibility that it would be a partisan screed, perhaps the same old anti-Trump boilerplate, something on which I've already overdosed. (Not that the anti-Trump boilermakers aren't correct—he does indulge in fantastical untruths. It's just that—yeah, I got that already.)

But it turned out to be not that political. And I wasted my ILL pick for a different reason: it's overlong, repetitive, poorly organized, and unfocused. I'm sure the author, Daniel J. Levitin, is a nice guy, but this book is not good.

Underneath the attention-grabbing title (a previous edition had the more pedestrian title, A Field Guide to Lies), what the book tries to be is an introduction to the basic tools of critical thinking: how to recognize when you're being bamboozled, either intentionally or unintentionally. Or, perhaps more important: how not to bamboozle yourself. Those are worthy goals, and Levitin does uncover a number of useful tactics. In that, it's like an updated version of Darrell Huff's 1954 classic (and still in print) How to Lie With Statistics. Except there's stuff in here about how to lie without statistics as well.

I'm not sure about the audience Levitin intended for this book. I would think that about 95% of the material could be comprehended by high-schoolers with a little math background. He gets into Bayesian probability here and there, and that's a little more advanced. Anyway, I found myself confronted with page after page of The Obvious.

The book occasionally meanders into seemingly stream-of-consciousness irrelevancies. One detour was a little irritating: on page 93, Levitin goes off on IQ testing. "It is used to assess people's intelligence, as if intelligence was a single quantity, which it is not—it manifests itself in different forms, such as spatial intelligence, artistic intelligence, mathematical intelligence, and so forth. And IQ tests are known to be biased toward middle-class white people."

Levitin's claims are at best controversial, and shouldn't be presented as bare fact, especially in a text concerned with distinguishing fact from non-fact. The news about the "middle-class white" bias would come as news to anyone who knows that East Asians outscore whites on average IQ.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-17

The Wayward Wife - La
provinciale

■ The Proverbialist ventures into PG-13 territory with the father-son advice in Proverbs 23:26-28

26 My son, give me your heart
    and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
    and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
    and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

This is the NIV translation. In contrast, jolly old King James did not euphemize; the "adulterous woman" was simply a "whore".

I can't help but wonder if Marco Rubio is going to make this one of his tweeted Proverbs. Yesterday's was … pretty tame:

C'mon, Senator. Let's get to the Proverbs about hookers and wayward women!

■ P. J. O'Rourke writes in the new issue of American Consequences on cryptocurrency: A Blockhead Confronts the Blockchain

Government treats your money like a stalker treats posting things on your Facebook page. A couple of clicks of a Federal Reserve keyboard, and there's another creepy rant. The original rant didn't have much value, and subsequent rantings are increasingly worthless and worrying. But "unfriending" the government is hard.

American Consequences seems to be based on a convoluted scheme to get you to view their ads: the "magazine" is an online PDF page-turner. I wish them luck with that.

■ There's a lot of insight in this short post from Arnold Kling: John Goodman on health legislation prospects. Here's a bit:

This is a $3 trillion industry and basically all the special interests want to keep the basic structure of Obamacare. Each wants to get rid of its own Obamacare tax. But they want to keep the taxes on everyone else. That’s the main reason why the Obamacare revenues will stay in the system and there will be almost no federal health reform.

No fooling. It seems there's a daily sob-story in our local paper about people dying in the streets if the GOP legislation is passed. Not surprising that the people to whom the money flows want it to keep flowing.

■ Patterico also has an accurate point on Rand Paul, ObamaCare, and the “Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good” Argument.

It has become accepted wisdom in Washington that the most we can do about ObamaCare is tinker with it around the edges. Make marginal improvements. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good, we are told.

One man, and one man alone, has consistently made a strong and public case insisting that Republicans keep their promise to repeal ObamaCare. That man is Rand Paul.

I think he deserves some praise and support, for being (as far as I can tell) the only Republican vocally demanding that the GOP do what it promised to do.

As Patterico says, it's a lonely position to hold, and Senator Paul deserves credit.

■ Or, as Mr. Ramirez draws:

Walking Dead


Last Modified 2017-07-17 5:57 AM EDT