Western Stars

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

Probably for Springsteen fans only. It's (mostly) a concert film, staged in his barn, with a 30-piece orchestra, mostly strings, backing up more standard guitars, keyboards, and drums. The songs are from his latest album, which are drenched in modern cowboy mythos.

In between songs, Bruce monologues his thoughts on life, romance, etc. Which—and I say this with all respect—is mostly new agey psychobabble and gobbledygook. The scenery is gorgeous, though: it's apparently (thanks, IMDB) Joshua Tree National Park in California. Even though his barn is in New Jersey. There are occasional various home movies of (I assume) Bruce's earlier life, from when he was a kid, a scruffy struggling rocker, and (very sweet) canoodling with a much younger Patty Scialfa.

Along the way, he makes reference admiringly to Jimmy Webb's songwriting. And he winds up with a really good cover performance of the old Glen Campbell song, "Rhinestone Cowboy". Here's the audio-only YouTube:

The Disappeared

[Amazon Link]

Yay, another C. J. Box novel. This one is a signed copy, obtained via an author event given by the Portsmouth Music Hall a couple years back. (Which means I'm almost caught up with his latest.)

Game warden Joe Pickett is having a contentious relationship with Wyoming's new governor. He's sent to investigate the disappearance of a rich British businesswoman who drove off from a high-end dude ranch after a dream vacation, but did not show up in Denver for her flight home. This is British tabloid fodder, and the guv is (he claims) disturbed by the bad publicity given the state.

And, oh yeah, in one of those Dickensian coincidences, Joe's oldest daughter Sheridan has a job at that same dude ranch. (She has a major role here. In fact… naw, that's too much of a spoiler.)

But there's apparently some (related?) skulduggery in the area as well: a attendant at the incinerator is being paid off to look the other way while a couple of shady characters are disposing of … something in the fierce flames. And there's an unusual smell in the air afterward.

A great page-turner, as Box-usual. Sorta spoiler: while getting near the end of the book, I mentioned to Mrs. Salad that I didn't see any way that everything could be resolved in the few pages I had left. Guess what? Some things were not resolved. Ah well, I was going to read the subsequent books anyway.

Sorta gripe: the action takes place in the coldest part of Wyoming's winter, and the cover doesn't reflect that at all. And there's all these random white scratchy lines going every which way on the cover. I thought maybe they were a printing flaw, but (you'll note) they appear on the Amazon book pic too. What's up with that?

URLs du Jour

2020-05-09

  • AEI's Mark J. Perry gives us A tribute to an economic giant — Friedrich Hayek — who would have celebrated his 121st birthday today. Yesterday, actually, but that's negligible at a distance of 121 years. Mark quotes a Matt Ridley piece from 2018:

    [Hayek] was the person who saw most clearly that knowledge is held in the cloud, not the head, that human intelligence is a collective phenomenon.

    The “cloud”, the crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud, is not a new idea at all. It has been the source of human invention all along. That is why every technology you can think of is a combination of other technologies, and why simultaneous invention is so common as ideas come together to meet and mate when mature.

    Which is, of course, why the internet is such an exciting development. For the first time, humanity has not just some big collective brains (called trade networks), but one truly vast one in which almost everybody can share and in which distance is no obstacle.

    And that gives us Yet Another Excuse to fire up the GIMP:

    [More Salma Wisdom]


  • George F. Will is not a fan of the latest Pulitzer Prize, awarded to the '1619 Project'. Because The ‘1619 Project’ is filled with slovenliness and ideological ax-grinding.

    Confidence in institutions declines when they imprudently enlarge their missions. Empty pews rebuke churches that subordinate pastoral to political concerns. Prestige flows away from universities that prefer indoctrination to instruction. And trust evaporates when journalistic entities embrace political projects. On Monday, however, the New York Times — technically, one of its writers — received a Pulitzer Prize for just such an embrace.

    Last August, an entire Times Sunday magazine was devoted to the multiauthor “1619 Project,” whose proposition — subsequently developed in many other articles and multimedia content, and turned into a curriculum for schools — is that the nation’s real founding was the arrival of 20 slaves in Virginia in 1619: The nation is about racism. Because the Times ignored today’s most eminent relevant scholars — e.g., Brown University’s Gordon Wood, Princeton’s James McPherson and Sean Wilentz and Allen Guelzo, City University of New York’s James Oakes, Columbia’s Barbara Fields — the project’s hectoring tone and ideological ax-grinding are unsurprising.

    Mr. Will documents "three examples of slovenliness, even meretriciousness" in the project. He wonders if the NYT has effectively embraced Oceania's motto from 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."


  • An occasional source of irritation is state politicians' insistence that their states are "net donors": their taxpayers send more money to Washington in federal taxes than the state gets back in federal spending. At City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the worthlessness of that argument: Givers and Takers. One point:

    For decades, the biggest portion of Washington expenditures has been retirement income sent to individuals from the federal government, principally in the form of Social Security or retirement benefits for federal workers. The studies track this money as it is sent to the states where people reside in retirement. New York has consistently ranked near the bottom in the amount of these funds that it receives because it’s not a desirable place to retire and has one of the highest rates of out-migration to other states. A Pew study based on the Moynihan model found that per-capita spending in the Empire State for this category was 8 percent below the national average, and that New York ranked 42nd in terms of outlays when adjusted for its population. That’s hardly Washington’s fault. New York is a “donor” state insofar as its citizens take their retirement income and move elsewhere. Don’t blame Washington for that.

    It's somewhat dishonest (and when I say "somewhat", I mean "totally") for pols to gripe that federal taxes paid by their state's citizens are not being funnelled back to state governments. Simply letting their state's taxpayers keep more of their money is never mentioned.


  • Since I've been scornful of the Church of Lockdown's mask hectoring, I should give Jonah Goldberg some equal time. He attempts to defend in his latest column, Idiocy Unmasked.

    According to any remotely recognizable theory of limited government—whether you call it libertarianism, constitutionalism, conservatism, classical liberalism, or even Americanism—the government has not just the authority but the obligation to prevent threats to public welfare. From colonial times to well after the ratification of the Constitution, governments took extreme measures—quarantines, inoculation programs, etc.—to prevent the spread of yellow fever and other epidemics. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington ordered the mandatory inoculation of his troops to prevent the spread of smallpox.

    Nice try, Jonah, but I'm unpersuaded by the comparisons.


  • A good counterpoint to Jonah is provided by Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center, who explores The citizen's role in reopening the economy.

    Wearing a mask is not a sign of complicity (there’s no mask order in New Hampshire). It’s a sign that you don’t need the state to tell you to care for your fellow citizens.

    Individuals, acting in their own capacity without government orders, have the ability to slow or stop the spread of the coronavirus.

    Isn’t that what a self-governing people ought to be doing?

    Drew suggests that a Gadsden flag might be an appropriate mask material.


  • Michael Shermer writes at Quillette on another feature of America in 2020: COVID-19 Conspiracists and Their Discontents.

    One reason why it’s surprisingly difficult to disprove many conspiracy theories is that they typically contain a real germ of truth, however small. In some places and eras, Jews really were overrepresented among communist cadres and the media. John F. Kennedy’s administration really did propose false-flag operations as an excuse to invade Cuba and assassinate Fidel Castro. Certain aspects of the World Trade Center collapse—including the fall of Building 7—really were odd and unprecedented. Some military video footage of unidentified aerial phenomena really is hard to square with conventional aircraft flight patterns. And then, of course, there are the various detours of the single bullet believed to have caused no fewer than seven entry and exit wounds to President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally on November 22nd, 1963.

    This same complication applies to unfounded or thinly evidenced theories regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did the SARS-CoV-2 virus originate in bats sold at a wet market in Wuhan—or an artificial virus created in a bio-lab? Did Dr. Li Wenliang, the Wuhan Central Hospital whistleblower who warned his government weeks before officials locked down the city, really die from COVID-19? Or was he murdered? The whole area of inquiry has become a fertile playground for conspiracists, in part because no one can reasonably dispute the germ of truth behind their theories: the dishonesty and lack of transparency that often has characterized China’s response to the pandemic.

    Something of which I was previously unaware: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is promulgating dark motives to "5G robber barons" who have used the lockdown to facilitate the technology's rollout, "microwaving our country and destroying nature." Eek!