Patriots Day

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

This, I probably don't need to tell you, is the based-on-reality movie describing days around the 2013 bombing near the Boston Marathon finish line. It's grim, powerful, and chilling, as was the reality.

The one noticeable fictionalization is the casting of star Mark Wahlberg as "Tommy Saunders", a composite of a bunch of Boston cops. He's present at the bombing, at the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, meets Big Papi on the day of the "this is our fucking city" speech at Fenway, and a lot of places in between. No actual Boston cop did all that, but that's OK, he's Mark Wahlberg.

Nothing more to say, really, except the movie's a good reminder that all the happy talk about the unlikelihod of being killed in a terrorist attack (Example: You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist.) doesn't make terror any less real.

The IMDB parents guide counts about 150 f-bombs, and David Ortiz only has one; most of the others are from law enforcement.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie is another example of the rule: Good actors can save a movie from dreadfulness. (I note that IMDB rating is, as I type, a pretty dreadful 5.8. Rest assured: it could have been worse.)

Zach Galifianakis and Isla ("Anna Kendrick wasn't available") Fisher play Jeff and Karen Gaffney. They are the very definition of normal: Jeff is an HR guy for a defense firm, Karen is mostly a housewife, but also an interior designer. Their lives are disrupted by new neighbors, buying a house in their cul-de-sac: Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and wife Natalie (Gal Gadot); they have an unlikely globe-trotting lifestyle that screams "cover story". And Tim seems overly interested in Jeff's interactions with his co-workers. Karen is (rightly) suspicious.

What transpires (explosions, gunplay, chases, etc.) is overly predictable, but watchable. Particularly watchable: Gal Gadot. In fact, I defy any straight American male (and a lot of non-straight ones too) to look away from the screen when she's on it. I don't think it's possible.

The movie is PG-13 with appropriate levels of "sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language" (i.e, one f-bomb dropped). I think I noticed a little sloppy editing: a joke that would have made more sense with some pre-establishment, which I speculate was cut.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

[Amazon Link]

So, back in 2009, I picked up a two-volume collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and novels. Slowly (and not so surely) I worked through 'em, and over hiatus, finished up with this final collection of twelve stories, written between 1921 and 1927.

Although I had a good time reading them (for the first time since I was a teenager), I'll warn you that the Case-Book stories ain't popular among the critics. There were even suggestions that some stories therein weren't even written by Doyle. There are noticeable breaks with tradition: a couple stories are narrated by Holmes instead of Watson. One is even written in third person. There are plots kind of recycled from previous stories

Doyle's complex attitude toward his fictitious creation is obvious in his introduction to the collection. He points (seemingly wistfully) to his "more serious literary work". Fine, Art. Nobody reads those books any more.

There are numerous signs of the era's casual bigotry. I'm not particularly PC myself, but I'm not blind either. There's a cartoonish African-American Negro thug in "The Adventure of the Three Gables". In "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place", the subject of Holmes's investigation is deeply in debt, which is referred to as "holding off the Jews" (once) and "in the hands of the Jews" (twice). Yeesh!

But those were different times. I didn't let it mar my enjoyment.

URLs du Jour

2017-08-28

Oy! Again, with the mockers in Proverbs 21:11:

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
    by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.

This (also) isn't the first time we've noticed the Proverbialist drawing a distinction between wisdom and knowledge. If you're interested in further explanation, Googling finds an article at the Lifehack site: What Are the Differences Between Knowledge, Wisdom, and Insight?

But if you're a mocker, I'm afraid I can't save you from the punishment the Proverbialist promises.


■ At Reason, Mark Lisheron warns the Lone Star State: Out of the Way, Texas, Federal Hurricane Rescue Is Coming. He shares a 2005 post-Katrina insight:

"No government screwup is so colossal that it can't be used to justify yet more government," we wrote in our 2005 roundup of the coverage, "After the Storm." "For most liberals, Katrina merely proved that Washington needs more resources to prevent and respond to such disasters; for many conservatives, it proved that society is a fragile construct that can collapse into chaos at any moment, and that only police or military force can hold it together in times of stress."

And of course, for libertarians it proved that Governments Screw Up. Let's be aware that confirmation bias works that way.


■ George F. Will's column discusses Trump, the Novice Protectionist, and he demolishes ever-popular anti-free trade fallacies. Sample:

Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute says that in the last 20 years the inflation-adjusted value of U.S. manufacturing output has increased 40 percent even though — actually, partly because — U.S. factory employment decreased 5.1 million jobs (29 percent). Manufacturing’s share of GDP is almost unchanged since 1960. “U.S. manufacturing output was near a record high last year at $1.91 trillion, just slightly below the 2007 level of $1.92 trillion, and will likely reach a new record high later this year.” That record will be reached with about the same level of factory workers (fewer than 12.5 million) as in the early 1940s, when the U.S. population was about 135 million. Increased productivity is the reason there can be quadrupled output from the same number of workers. According to one study, 88 percent of manufacturing job losses are the result of improved productivity, not rapacious Chinese.

Also making a fallacious appearance: West Virginia Governor (and new GOPite) Jim Justice.


■ I think Andrew Klavan makes about the best pro-Trump case that can be made: Trump vs. the Enemies of the People.

It's true that Donald Trump cannot yet claim a major legislative accomplishment. It's also true that he himself bears some of the blame for that: the distractions of his chaotic style have given cover to a divided and spineless GOP legislature. Nonetheless, those of us who voted for him with misgiving can still feel more than well pleased with his three major achievements so far: the appointment of an excellent Supreme Court justice; the battle against the Giant Squid-like beast of the regulatory state; and the fact that he's not Hillary Clinton, a felonious battle-axe who would've continued the Chicago-style corruption of the Obama administration and destroyed the American Experiment with freedom-smothering socialism. Speaking personally, I'd put Trump on Mount Rushmore for that last achievement alone.

But there's a fourth major accomplishment too, unofficial and extra-governmental though it may be: Trump's emotional torture of the press.

Fine, but…


■ Charles Sykes rebuts the Klavan argument pretty effectively: The Trap of Liberal Tears. Yes, Trump drives the lefties crazy, and that's fun. But:

This has become a familiar pattern among some on the right, who rush to defend anyone (especially Trump) who is attacked by the Left, no matter how reckless, extreme, or bizarre their behavior has been. If Liberals hated something, the argument goes, then it must be wonderful and worthy of aggressive defense, even if that meant defending the indefensible and losing elections. So in years past, conservatives embraced and defended figures like Christine (“I am not a witch”) O’Donnell and lost winnable senate races with candidates who said bizarre things about rape (Todd Akin) or were just too weird for the electorate (Sharron Angle.)

I would have put a pointer to Sykes' post in a comment on Klavan's article, but it already has (as I type) 328 comments. I haven't read them all, but the signal-to-noise ratio seems low.


■ The Free Beacon's Rachel Frommer tells the story: Law Professors Condemned as Racist After Praising America’s 1950s ‘Bourgeois Culture’.

The lawprofs in question are Amy Wax (University of Pennsylvania) and Larry Alexander (University of San Diego). They spin a cautionary tale worth reading in full, and here's an excerpt:

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

That sort of thing Did Not Sit Well with "54 Penn Alumni & Students" who penned a pensive missive to the college paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian. Sample:

But at the same time, history teaches us that these hateful ideas about racial superiority have been embedded in many of our social institutions. They crawl through the hallways of our most prestigious universities, promoting hate and bigotry under the guise of “intellectual debate.” Indeed, just days before Charlottesville, Penn Law School professor Amy Wax, co-wrote an op-ed piece with Larry Alexander, a law professor at the University of San Diego, claiming that not “all cultures are created equal” and extolling the virtues of white cultural practices of the ‘50s that, if understood within their sociocultural context, stem from the very same malignant logic of hetero-patriarchal, class-based, white supremacy that plagues our country today. These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability, i.e. two-hetero-parent homes, divorce is a vice and the denouncement of all groups perceived as not acting white enough i.e. black Americans, Latino communities and immigrants in particular.

Lest you think I picked out a particularly turgid and querulous paragraph, I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing. It's all like that.

The "54 Penn Alumni & Students", of course, have their chilling demands:

We call for the University of Pennsylvania administration — Penn President Gutmann and the deans of each school — as well as faculty to directly confront Wax and Alexander’s op-ed as racist and white supremacist discourse and to push for an investigation into Wax’s advocacy for white supremacy. We believe that such statements should point directly to the historical and sociopolitical antecedents of Wax’s hate speech, and to disallow hate speech whether shrouded in respectability or not.

Coming soon to a University Near Here? Geez, I hope not.


Last Modified 2017-08-29 6:08 AM EDT