The Man Who Invented Christmas

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This is (spoiler alert!) about how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol, Yes, we kind of watched it out of season. We were inspired to put it in the Netflix queue by watching the trailer for it on a different DVD. Fortuitous!

The premise is that Dickens is going through a rough patch. His early stuff, especially Oliver Twist, gave him fame and fortune. But after a string of relative duds, he's still got the fame, but the fortune has gone a-glimmering. (The movie lists Martin Chuzzlewit as one of the duds, but if I'm reading the bibliography correctly, that book was actually published after A Christmas Carol.)

Dickens needs to come up with a hit, fast. With Christmas on the horizon, what could be more natural? Inspired by a sparsely-attended funeral for a rich guy, various and sundry colorful characters from the London streets, he sets to work. His creative process involves summoning up his characters into his writing room. Most notably, Scrooge, who is given life when Dickens comes up with his name.

In addition to financial pressures, Dickens' domestic life is full of turmoil. Mom and Dad show up, uninvited; his Dad is revealed to be kind of a starry-eyed deadbeat. (Flashbacks show him going off to debtor's prison when Charles was but a lad. Traumatic!)

A certain amount of dramatic tension is unavailable to us because we know how things turn out. We know A Christmas Carol was a huge hit, so getting us to worry otherwise is futile. Dickens toys with killing off Tiny Tim in the book, but we know he doesn't. And so on.

The acting is first-rate. Matthew Crawley himself, Dan Stevens, plays Dickens convincingly. But Christopher Plummer as the Dickens-imagined Scrooge is priceless, and occasionally hilarious.

Like the book A Christmas Carol, the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas is entirely Baby Jesus-free, other than in the title. I'm not a good enough Christian to complain overmuch about that, but it's something other people have noticed.

URLs du Jour

2018-07-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Whoa! Out of nowhere, Proverbs 11:22 makes a pungent and telling observation:

    22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
        is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

    Every lonely loser has said something like that, hasn't he? I know I did, back in the day. It's a slight solace to know that someone was saying it back in Ancient Israel too.

    Also reminded me of Joe Jackson's 1978 hit, "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" It's like a long-version of this proverb.

    Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street
    From my window I'm staring while my coffee goes cold

    Which (further) reminds me that the WSJ did an "Anatomy of a Song" article on a different Joe Jackson hit a few weeks back: "Steppin' Out". Both songs are in the five-star rotation on my iPod.


  • Speaking of pungent and telling observations, at NRO, Kevin D. Williamson looks at one Democrat-floated scheme: Against Packing the Courts.

    The current push on the Left to expand the no-quarter approach to Supreme Court politics by introducing court-packing schemes is genuinely dangerous for the country. That’s worth thinking about, but it is also worth considering — not that I’ll shed any tears over it — that it’s dangerous to the political aspirations of the Democratic party, too. Republicans have bested them in all their own favorite games, gerrymandering, filibusters, and weaponizing congressional procedure prominent among them. They’d probably be better at court-packing, too. The Republicans may look divided and in disarray in the Trump era — and they are, of course — but it is the Democrats who have the more pressing long-term coalitional problem of being a party in which little old white liberal ladies lord over a growing and politically dynamic constituency that is much younger, much browner, and surely wondering why its members’ most pressing priorities have to be signed off on by that ghastly butcher Cecile Richards or that puffed-up PTA president Dianne Feinstein. It isn’t obvious that Latino ethnic-solidarity politics is going to be a real big winner in UAW country. That permanent Democratic majority, like Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidency, is always on the way but never quite arrives.

    "Puffed-up PTA president." Kevin is a national treasure.


  • Reason's Baylen Linnekin has his eye on food-related matters, and he wants you to know that The USDA Is Considering Some Lousy GMO-Labeling Rules. They have to, thanks to the "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard" legislation passed by Congress, signed by Obama, back in 2016. Details were left to the USDA, and…

    One needn't look further than the USDA's proposed mandatory GMO labels, which the agency publicized for the public comment period, to see the law is a harbinger of nothing good. For example, the agency invited comments on its three different proposed labels for "BE" food. What's "BE" mean, you ask? The USDA proposes to use the term "BE"—short for "bioengineered"—to designate foods that are genetically modified or that contain GMO ingredients.

    The link goes to a PDF with various "BE" stickers (some smiley-faced!) that could appear on your next jar of Frankenfood. Baylen quotes people who would no doubt prefer a skull-and-crossbones logo instead.

    I'm so tired of GMO scaremongering that I swear I would go out of my way to pick up some GMO-enhanced peanut butter.


  • Toni Airaksinen of Campus Reform points to an amusing STUDY: Fossil fuels contribute to ‘petro-masculinity’.

    A feminist professor at Virginia Tech University is warning that fossil fuels are contributing to a warped sense of “masculine identity” and “authoritarianism” among men.

    Cara Daggett, who teaches classes on politics and global security at Virginia Tech, penned her criticism of petro-masculinity in an essay “Petro-masculinity: Fossil Fuels and Authoritarian Desire” for the most recent issue of Millennium: Journal of International Studies.

    Writing in response to the 2016 election, Daggett coins the term “petro-masculinity” to describe what she sees as a convergence of “climate change, a threatened fossil fuel system, and an increasingly fragile Western hypermasculinity.”

    I, speaking as one male-identifying person of pallor, would prefer increased reliance on nuclear energy. But I'm sure Prof Daggett would deem this "nucleo-masculinity" in some future "study".


  • Hey, President Trump is gonna announce his Supreme pick tonight in prime-time, baby! We'd like an originalist, please! But Scott Sumner has a sobering query: Are there any originalists?

    The 10th Amendment to the Constitution seems to severely limit the scope for Federal action:
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
    That seems pretty clear. Congress cannot do anything unless the Constitution explicitly gives it the authority to legislate on the issue. And if you read the rest of the Constitution, there is very little authority given to Congress. I’d guess that over 90% of what Congress does do is not explicitly authorized by the Constitution.

    I know that—see above—Kevin D. Williamson considers court-packing to be "dangerous", but I confess that it would be very tempting to pack the court with justices who would be very strict about applying the 10th Amendment.