The Serpent of Venice

[Amazon Link]

This is a sequel to Fool, Christopher Moore's previous book with protagonist Pocket, the fool in Shakespeare's King Lear. A ribald tale that was, and this book continues in that vein.

Here, Moore mashes up two Shakespearian plays: Othello (a tragedy, or so I'm told) and The Merchant of Venice (allegedly a comedy). But it also brings in a Poe reference ("The Cask of Amontillado"). In fact, that's how the book gets its start: Pocket has been dispatched by his wife, Cordelia, to Venice in order to thwart yet another Crusade on the Holy Land. Unfortunately, Cordelia is also dispatched soon afterwards.

Pocket is grief-stricken. His habits of brutal (but R-rated funny) honesty, as well as his mission, anger some Venetians. And he is lured to a deep dank dungeon on the pretext of Amontillado-sampling. Not having read the Poe story, he is somewhat surprised to find himself being bricked up in a damp cell.

Surely he's doomed? Well, no. See the book title. Somehow he has a fearsome (but inexplicably sexual) monster on his side.

Moore turns some well-known Shakespearian characters around. Shylock is not particularly pleasant, but he's honestly angered by the injustice shown to Jews in medieval times. And Antonio isn't a nice guy, he's one of the plotters against Pocket.

Surprise non-fictional character shows up on page 214. Did not see him coming.

2001: A Space Odyssey

[5.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Jeez, spoiler alert for the frickin' Blu-ray box. What is the universe coming to?

I saw this movie when it came out, when I was a callow 17-year-old. At the Indian Hills Cinerama theater in Omaha; as the Wikipedia will tell you, the screen was the largest of its type in the United States. And the place is now a parking lot.

Anyway, for the movie's fiftieth anniversary, Christopher Nolan restored the 70mm print for IMAX theaters. OK, I'm sentimental. Mrs. Salad and I trundled up to Saco, Maine on a hot afternoon to blow our tiny minds once again for Stanley Kubrick's deeply confusing masterpiece.

There were, I think, maybe five other people in the huge IMAX auditorium. Not everyone is as sentimental as I am.

I usually put a small plot synopsis in these movie reports, but… OK: Pre-humans. Tapirs. Monolith. Spaceships. Small-talking bureaucrats. Monolith again. Astronauts. Homicidal AI. Monolith once more. Acid trip. Monolith again. And… Star Baby!

There you go.

I guess, as I type, that it's winding up its IMAX run. But if you get the chance, it's a good experience. (Hopefully your theater won't have an errant fly buzzing around the projector.)

URLs du Jour

2018-08-30

[Amazon Link]

  • I saw, and liked, the movie Crazy Rich Asians. But some people saw problems. At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Exquisite Sensibilities of the Outrage Industry. (Which, come to think of it, would make a pretty good title for a sequel to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But I digress.)

    Asian-American women put up with an unbelievable amount of stereotype-based nonsense, some of which strikes me as pretty amusing, though it’s probably less amusing to them. (A woman of Taiwanese background once explained to me her first-date protocol for identifying and weeding out men with an Asian fetish. It probably would have been funnier as a movie scene than in real life.) But, in this age of heightened social sensitivity, Asian-American women can also easily end up being social-justice offenders, particularly in the eyes of those with a professional commitment to being offended.

    Nora Lum, better known as her rapping alter ego Awkwafina, is having her turn in the barrel. At issue is a scene in Crazy Rich Asians in which she employs stereotypically African-American pronunciations and mannerisms when giving a friend a you-go-girl pep talk. Lauren Michele Jackson, writing in Vulture, insists that “her persona has veered too close to black aesthetics for comfort. . . . It is not just an interracial matter, revived whenever a white rapper hits the Billboard charts or Nicki Minaj dips into Orientalist aesthetics, but an intra-racial, intercultural, cross-cultural, cross-regional, and diasporic one as well.”

    Read on for Kevin's rebuttal. But I just want to say that Awkwafina is one of the major reasons to go see Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, I was leaning against putting the Oceans 8 DVD in my Netflix queue. But… Awkwafina's in it! So in it goes.

    Kevin's bottom line is one I've used before (and, since this is not NR, I'll unexpurgate it):

    If only there were some easy way to distinguish between the decent and well-intentioned and the callous and hateful. Perhaps we should consider the philosophical maxim of Raylan Givens: “If you get up in the morning and you meet an asshole, you met an asshole. If you meet nothing but assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

    Social-justice warriors take note.


  • At Reason, Joe Setyon Top Trump Economic Adviser Asserts Right to Regulate Buggy Whips, Google

    The administration hasn't actually offered any specifics regarding how it will address the situation. But in a Fox Business Network interview today, Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the idea of regulating Google. His reasoning? The government regulated the 20th century economy, so it shouldn't let the Information Age get in the way of more rules.

    "Well, first, there are independent agencies that look into this all the time," Hassett said on Mornings with Maria, referring to the idea of regulating Google. "And it's our job at the White House, really, to be looking at the 21st century economy, not the 20th century economy, right? Like, so we can't be just really good at buggy whips, we've got to think about what's going on right now."

    We could chuckle and point out that Google has sort of conceded the right of governments to dictate acceptable search results to display to the citizenry. So why should they get all bent out of shape when the USA does the same thing?

    Seriously: Hassett should know better. He probably does know better. Is he saying idiotic things like this just to stay on the Trump plantation?


  • Berin Szóka rebuts opportunistic claims: False Alarm: Verizon’s Fire Department Customer Service Fail Has Nothing to Do with Net Neutrality

    Net neutrality activists are having a field day with last week’s Ars Technica report that Verizon “throttled” the mobile data usage of the Santa Clara County Fire Prevention District (FPD), one of the California counties currently fighting the largest wildfire in the state’s history. Gigi Sohn, who’s led the net neutrality movement for over a decade, claims, in an NBCNews op-ed, that the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules would have prevented Verizon from “restricting” the fire department’s Internet service.

    Sohn and others are ignoring the facts and misconstruing the law to fit their long-standing political agenda. What really happened wasn’t a net neutrality issue: The FPD simply chose a data plan for their mobile command and control unit that was manifestly inappropriate for their needs. The FPD needed a lot of high-speed 4G mobile data — up to 300 GB/month when the device was deployed. (The typical consumer uses ~4 GB/month.) Verizon sold such pay-as-you-go plans to government users, but FPD opted for a much cheaper plan: up to 25 GB at 4G speeds, with slow speeds after that point. The 2015 Open Internet Order is quite explicit that data plans with speed restrictions don’t violate the throttling rule, so long as the company is clear about what users are getting.

    Neither Verizon nor the FPD come off blameless in Szóka's story, but it's a much more balanced story than you'll get from the MSM. Basically: the FPD was asking for trouble when it cheaped out on its data plan.


  • So I don't trust the media. Want to know wny? Well, David Harsanyi will tell you: If You Want To Know Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Media, Watch CNN.

    On July 27, CNN reported that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, would be willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that the president knew in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was allegedly selling dirt on Hillary Clinton. This revelation not only contradicted Trump’s denials, but also Cohen’s testimony to Congress. It was quite the exclusive—the closest we’ve come to ferreting out “collusion” since the last time CNN botched a big scoop.

    The story, bylined by Carl Bernstein, Marshall Cohen, and former Obama administration political appointee Jim Sciutto, cited numerous “sources” with knowledge of the supposed bombshell. The Washington Post, chasing the same story, soon outed Cohen’s lawyer, the preternaturally mendacious Lanny Davis, as the source of the contention.

    Is it true? It appears that CNN really, really, wants it to be true.


  • Good news from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): Keene State College becomes third institution in New Hampshire to earn FIRE’s coveted ‘green light’ rating

    A third New Hampshire college has honored the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” by revising all of its speech policies that conflicted with the First Amendment. Today, Keene State College earns the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

    Previous green lights were awarded to Plymouth State and the University Near Here.


  • And Language Log notes that the tributes to John McCain are not always well thought out. An irreplaceable void joins the much-needed gaps.

    “There’s no doubt he’s leaving a void, kind of an irreplaceable void,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said Tuesday.

    The "much needed gaps" reference is explicated here and here. Among the examples:

    When legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper asks movie star Gary Cooper about the new star Grace Kelly in 1956 he says that “she fills a much needed gap in motion pictures” [GC]. Misunderstanding is still prevalent.