The Midnight Line

[Amazon Link]

I envision a conversation that may have taken place between Lee Child and a friend, shortly before work started on The Midnight Line.

"Lee, your books are great, but you seem obligated to stick in a violent scene every 50 pages or so. Does your publishing contract require that?"

"No, not at all."

"So it's just something you think you need to do to keep the reader paying attention or something?"

"Hm, maybe. Unconciously."

"I bet you couldn't go … say … a hundred pages without sticking in some sort of fight, shooting, stabbing, or otherwise violent death."

"'Bet', you say? OK. And to make it interesting, let's make it three hundred pages."

And so we have The Midnight Line, where [slight spoiler content ahead] our hero, Jack Reacher, beats the crap out of six bikers on pages 23-27. And then no actual violence until page 354.

This book may also set a record for fewest casualties in a Reacher novel. (I haven't been keeping track, but I bet someone out there is.)

Anyway, things kick off when Reacher gets off a bus at a comfort stop in a small Midwest burg, in the sad part of town. When his attention is pricked by a ring in a pawnshop window: class of 2005, West Point. Small, obviously for a woman's finger. Reacher is touched—that couldn't have been an easy sacrifice—and he decides (having nothing better to do) to discover the story behind the pawned ring and its ex-owner.

All he wants to know is the story. But does he, in the course of finding that out, happen upon an immense criminal conspiracy? Of course he does. He also accumulates some allies, in the form of local law enforcement, a private eye, and the PI's client.

As always, a masterful job from Mr. Child, even with the change of pace. I see the next one, Past Tense, is set at least partly in my neck of the woods. Once the price comes down.

I, Tonya

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

IMDB genericizes this movie as "Biography, Comedy, Drama". You might think "comedy" is a stretch. I think "Tragedy" might be most apt, but I don't know if they have that. According to the IMDB parental guide, the f-bomb rate is in the neighborhood of one per minute, which counts (according to the MPAA) as "pervasive language".

Margot Robbie, in the title role, was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress. Alison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tonya's mom.

And, unless you've been living in a cave for a few decades, you know the story: Tonya Harding's rise and disastrous fall in the hypercompetitive world of American figure skating. Obstacles? You bet. Foremost is her very-low-class origins, from a broken home and a psycho super-abusive mom from hell. (Who, nevertheless, gets Tonya enough coaching and backing to propel her into the upper reaches of competition, so it's a mixed bag.) Judges are biased against her, although that's claimed from her POV, so who knows?

In addition, Tonya sets up her own problems: she's dishonest, makes dreadfully poor life choices (notably: husband Jeff Gillooly), has zero impulse control, and dysfunctional in many other ways.

So: spoiler alert, she flames out badly, and the only surprise is how far she gets before it happens.

The movie is well-done, but I had to balance that against the lack of sympathetic characters.

URLs du Jour

2018-07-19

[Amazon Link]

  • We move (backward, don't ask) into a new Proverbial chapter today with Proverbs 10:1:

    1 A wise son brings joy to his father,
        but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

    Presumably it works the other way for daughters, so things even out between parents.

    (This is NIV, our default. A few PC translations substitute "child" for "son". I don't see any that substitute "parent" for "father" and "mother".)


  • Did slavery make America rich? If you've been wondering about that, wonder no further. Deirdre Nansen McCloskey answers at Reason: Slavery Did Not Make America Rich.

    In his second inaugural, Abraham Lincoln declared that "if God wills that [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk…as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

    It is a noble sentiment. Yet the economic idea implied—that exploitation made us rich—is mistaken. Slavery made a few Southerners rich; a few Northerners, too. But it was ingenuity and innovation that enriched Americans generally, including at last the descendants of the slaves.

    Read on for Professor McCloskey's detailed refutation.


  • We seem to be on a transgender kick today. Jeff Jacoby reports on … what might make a pretty good movie: The transgender posse vs. Scarlett Johansson.

    Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to left-wing pressure. In 2014, protesters demanded that she sever her ties to an Israeli company, SodaStream. Last year a racial interest group condemned her for playing the character Motoko in "Ghost in the Shell," a Hollywood remake of a Japanese classic.

    The posse came after Johansson yet again last week. Her supposed sin this time: agreeing to star in the upcoming movie "Rub & Tug," which tells the story of Dante "Tex" Gill, a brothel owner in 1970s Pittsburgh who was born female but lived as a man. The casting of Johansson triggered a backlash from transgender actors, who not only argued that the role should go to someone who personally identifies as transgender, but claimed it would be unethical and hostile to do otherwise.

    Bottom line, Jacoby notes: ScarJo has pulled out, the movie may not be made now.


  • Bias is the water in which the mainstream media swim, and it often takes an outsider to notice. At NRO, Charles C. W. Cooke observes that, according to the MSM, Apparently, Only Conservatives Spend Money on Politics. Example NYT headline:

    I.R.S. Will No Longer Force Kochs and Other Groups to Disclose Donors

    The "other groups" include every group operating under the IRS's 501(c)(4) rules. But…

    The Times notes that “varied” groups will benefit from this change, which is true. But the “varied” groups given as examples are “arms of the AARP, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and Americans for Prosperity, which is funded partly by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.” Gosh, what a range! They must have been plucked from the air . . .

    Just for the record, Ballotpedia lists the "ten most viewed 501(c)(4) organizations" on their site:

    You'll recognize some of them, of course. It's far from the one-sided lists ominously peddled by the Times and their ilk.


  • At the Weekly Standard, Kevin D. Williamson has a non-negotiable demand: Stop Calling It 'Treason'.

    President Trump, who has a little something of the later Roman emperors in him, is not engaged in making war on the United States, though it is galling to defend him from such charges given his own propensity for talking treason lightly.

    He is not engaged in treason or anything like treason. He is engaged in hypocrisy and moral illiteracy. He is a frank admirer of caudillos such as Vladimir Putin, because in his mind ruthlessness, grasping, and amorality are associated with effective leadership. Hence the praise for Kim Jong-un.

    Trump is a boob of a familiar sort: The guy sitting on the barstool (though Trump does not drink) saying, “I’m not saying I approve of Hitler, but he got things done.” The president finds much to admire in autocracies and police states, and in foreign affairs he makes that plain enough. The insistence that Putin must have kompromat or financial leverage over Trump is, in the absence of evidence, only a conspiracy theory, and no responsible person in public life should be trafficking in those—not even late-night comedians. Civilization went awry when we stopped socially classifying actors and related entertainers with prostitutes and tinkers, but even Stephen Colbert owes some public duty.

    The list of folks against whom treason charges were (legally) brought in the US is surprisingly short.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is a fondly-remembered text from the previous outbreak of treason accusations.


  • I take Mental Floss quizzes every so often, and I got 96% on Is It in the USA? Not bad for a stay-at-home guy. How about you?


Last Modified 2018-07-19 11:11 AM EDT