Live By Night

[Amazon Link]

This is the second entry in Dennis Lehane's series about the Boston-based Coughlin family. The first, The Given Day , was set shortly after World War I and focused on older son Danny's woes as a wannabe-honest Boston cop. This one jumps forward to the 1920s, Danny's little teenage brother, Joe, has turned into a 20-year-old criminal. Surprising behavior from someone whose father is a higher-up in the Boston Police Department, but what are you gonna do?

Joe and his misbehaving Irish buddies make the mistake of ripping off a poker game attended by underlings of the local Irish mob boss. During the theft, he meets Emma, and is immediately smitten. This sets him on a very seriously dangerous path that takes him to the Charlestown Pen, down to Florida and Cuba, and all sorts of nefarious activities. Although Joe fancies himself an "outlaw", he eventually finds himself as something he tried not to be: a gangster.

An epic book, but "only" 400 pages. A lesser writer would have gone to 800. As before, Lehane writes as if he had access to a time machine; he writes very believably about the Boston/Florida/Cuba settings.

This book was also the basis for a Ben Affleck (written, produced, directed, stars) movie that was a huge flop. I might watch it when I get the chance.

War for the Planet of the Apes

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

I don't know what accounts for the popularity of monkey movies. Not just the multiple incarnations of Planet of the Apes, but there's also King Kong, and … well, here's a list. Go for it.

That being said, I'm a fan myself. And this one is pretty good. You'll want to have seen the first two in this series first, though.

As the title implies, it's apes vs. humans, and there's no doubt about which side we're cheering for. All the apes want to do, pretty much, is live peacefully in the forest; but the humans, for some reason, are trying to wipe them out. (Speaking of monkey movies: one of the attacking army has "Bedtime for Bonzo" scrawled on his helmet. Heh.)

The humans, at least the ones surviving the "simian flu" outbreak described in the previous movies, are still technologically superior. And it doesn't help that some of the apes are dumb enough to sell out their side. The human leader, Woody Harrelson, is ruthless and demented. And he goes too far in one of the attacks, causing the normally-peaceful ape leader, Caesar, to embark on a path of revenge.

Film buffs will recognize a lot of inspiration from non-ape movies. Comic relief is provided by "Bad Ape", played by everyone's favorite goof-actor, Steve Zahn.

Purists might gripe at the massive deus ex machina at the film's climax. I was about to, but… hey, it's a monkey movie. Slack is demanded.

URLs du Jour


Autokennzeichen: USA (Wyoming -

■ A basic lesson from Proverbs 16:6:

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
    through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.

That's the way it's supposed to work, anyhow.

■ George F. Will observes the culture that is Oregon: Progressives rejoice at a stunning gift: The right to pump their own gas. A point I've not seen adequately made elsewhere:

To be fair, when Oregonians flinch from a rendezvous with an unattended gas pump, progressive government has done its duty, as it understands this. It wants the governed to become used to having things done for them, as by “trained and certified” gas pumpers. Progressives are proud believers in providing experts — usually themselves — to help the rest of us cope with life. The only downside is that, as Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated, such government, by being the “shepherd” of the governed, can “take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking” and keep them “fixed irrevocably in childhood.”

It doesn't take much insight to observe that policies that treat adults like irresponsible children will encourage them to behave like irresponsible children. But Will is saying: yes, that's the intention.

Which makes sense: irresponsible children will always want (and reliably vote for) Mommy Government to protect them.

@kevinNR also has an on-target observation. Donald Trump is The Porn President.

President Trump is a master of changing the subject. Stung by Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Trump held an open negotiation on immigration with congressional leaders in order to showcase his executive mettle — and then went on to provide a slow day’s worth of headlines when he voiced his contempt for tropical “s**tholes” and their would-be emigrants. Scatapalooza was a fun news cycle, but it immediately was surpassed by pornapalooza.

That yellow redoubt of anti-Trump tabloid muckraking known as the Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump paid Stephanie Gregory Clifford, better known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump while he was married to his third and current wife, Melania. The White House denies the adultery but not the payment.

Guess: we'll see an exodus of decent people from the Trump Administration this year. They will say it's because they want to spend more time with their families. And, for once, that reason will actually be true.

■ In the Casper Tribune, Jill Ottman muses on Wyoming plates. License plates, that is.

Let us also be thankful we don’t have a motto on our license plates, although I admit I’ve always been partial to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” and our neighbor’s “Famous Potatoes.” Pennsylvania, not content with years of “the Keystone State,” recently went through a disgraceful time with “You’ve got a friend in” plastered on the top of its license plates. Quaker heritage notwithstanding, most Pennsylvanians are not F/friends, and, in fact, the only people of my acquaintance there are certain of my ex-husband’s relatives, whom I fondly hope will not leave. It might be even worse for us: we could have a URL. I am deeply sorry for the hapless citizens of about six states, stuck with URLs on them. My aforementioned mother now lives in the state of “” That just makes me wince. I’m perfectly happy to live with license plates that identify my vehicle and indicate whether I have or have not paid my registration in a timely fashion that year. Just let me also have my bucking horse and the ability to determine at a glance whether or not I should call out another person’s bad driving.

Wyoming's license plates are (indeed) pretty; see the embedded pic du jour. And if you can't have LFOD on your plates, why bother?

Not that I have anything against Wyoming's Offical State Motto: "Equal Rights".

■ John Pudner writes in Pravda-on-the-Merrimack [aka the Concord Monitor] on that old chestnut of "campaign finance reform": Fix it, America. A paragraph:

A series of Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Buckley v Valeo and continuing through McCutcheon, created this problem. It’s time for American citizens to unite and fix it. We need to clarify that the original intent of the Founders when they wrote the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was to protect free speech – not to forbid any state from determining if they wanted to place any requirements on the practice of giving politicians and lobbyists campaign donations in exchange for your tax dollars. To say otherwise would be to completely undermine the “Live Free or Die” state by practically inviting taxation to fund political donors.

Actually, John, it's the Constitution that "created this problem".

Pudner continues the fine tradition of (a) pretending to respect the First Amendment while (b) advocating that we go ahead and outlaw certain types of political speech.

His solution is the Fix It America Constitutional Amendment. Which (read it yourself) is vague and feelgood, and imagines "Congress and State Legislatures" will legislate restrictions on campaign communications that will not be designed to protect their incumbency. And those restrictions will automatically be deemed constitutional, due to the proposed amendment's language.


■ And finally, Michael P. Ramirez on the candidacy of you-know-who:

Still, this is a country that elected Trump...

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT