The End of the Tour

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

I was a mild David Foster Wallace fan, and that may have affected my interest in this movie. Specifically: I didn't fall asleep. I'm not sure how a non-fan would take it.

It's the based-on-truth story of how Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky latched onto DFW for a few days on the tail end of the book tour for Infinite Jest in 1996. (Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky, and "How I Met Your Mother" actor Jason Segel plays DFW. (Just so we know the sad story: the movie's first scene is Lipsky learning of DFW's 2008 suicide, and most of the remaining is a flashback.)

DFW is portrayed as … well, it's complex. He's reclusive and secretive at times, others hospitable and generous. Both reticent and revealing. Proud of his literary talent, but also aware of the pitfalls it could bring.

But Lipsky has his own baggage. His editor is hassling him to get the lowdown on DFW's alleged drug abuse; he correctly senses that probing that issue might ruin his rapport with the writer. He's (maybe) more than slightly jealous of DFW's fame and talent, while his own writing career is nowheresville.

The movie is mainly dialog between Lipsky and DFW, as they travel from DFW's Illinois home to Minneapolis for the book tour stop, and back. So a lot depends on whether you might find that inherently interesting. I did, mostly. And I put the book on which this movie is based on my TTR list, so make of that what you will.

Fun fact: according to IMDB Trivia, Lipsky's DFW article never went beyond the interview stage. Interesting, and a little sad.

The Phony Campaign

2020-09-13 Update

I detect competing narratives:

[Amazon Link] [Amazon Link]

Joe Biden had a good week in the betting markets after weeks of losing ground to President Bone Spurs; he widened his probability advantage by 3.2 percentage points. (The RealClearPolitics Betting Odds page agrees.) But let me make the completely obvious point: we still have a ways to go.

So obvious, in fact, that I'm not sure why I typed that.

And everyone save Jo Jorgensen lost phony hits this week, but Trump maintains his solid lead there:

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
9/6
Phony
Results
Change
Since
9/6
Donald Trump 43.7% -1.5% 1,930,000 -1,490,000
Joe Biden 53.5% +1.7% 732,000 -408,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 119,000 +17,000
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 18,400 -61,600

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At Law & Liberty, Richad Gunderman has useful advice for the next 50 days: Coping with Bullshit.

    One of the most unlikely philosophical bestsellers in recent decades was retired Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. Published in 2005, it remained on the New York Times best seller list for 27 weeks. It opens:

    One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.

    What is bullshit? Frankfurt distinguishes between lying and bullshitting. A liar knows that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right—and opts for falsehood. A bullshitter, by contrast, believes that it is not possible to distinguish the false from the true. Yet this realization does not prevent him from making assertions about the way things are.

    Neither major candidate is mentioned in Gunderman's article, but I'm sure he was tempted. My take on Frankfurt's book (from when this blog was only a couple months old) is here.


  • The PG euphemism for bullshit is mentioned in Kyle Smith's article about Wheezy, revealing a Failed Manager. It's based on his rereading of a book about a previous campaign:

    The portrait of Joe Biden that emerges from What It Takes (1992), Richard Ben Cramer’s thousand-page New Journalism–style report on the 1988 presidential race, in which Biden ran for a few steps until he stumbled over his own shoelaces, is a familiar one. Biden is the grinning, overconfident oaf, a strutting salesman who keeps selling himself loads of bull manure even as everyone around him becomes alarmed by his obliviousness to facts. Or to cite another figure for comparison: He’s the lord of Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp. But I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp . . .” The story of Joe Biden is where staggering incompetence meets irrepressible self-confidence. The more he fails, the more convinced he becomes that he’s right.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Biden, managerial visionary. We turn to page 248 of Cramer’s tombstone-sized book. A couple of years into his Senate career, Biden has a dream of living grandly by buying on the cheap a former du Pont manse, together with a huge chunk of land, for $200,000. The house was boarded up and soon, probably, to be torn down. But Biden saw something in it. Sure, it needed some fixing up. Never fear, Joe is here! Joe is a can-do fellow. The first winter he and Jill spent in the house, it used up 3,000 gallons of fuel oil. It turned out the third floor was wide open, to the stars. Squirrels were living up there. Oops. The judgment on display here is not great.

    Things go downhill from there. Think of it as a metaphor for how Joe might manage the presidency.


  • Which brings us to "America's Newspaper of Record", the Babylon Bee: Libertarian Party Reminds Americans They Can Actually Choose Lesser Of Three Evils.

    As election day in America draws nearer, the Libertarian Party is reminding Americans that they don't have to choose the lesser of two evils in a corrupt two-party system. This year, thanks to Libertarian candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen, they can now choose the least of three evils!

    "This is a game-changer for this country," said Dr. Jorgensen as she received a rabies shot due to her recent bat bite. "Americans have too long been forced into an impossible choice between two parties who are not serving or representing the people. We are proud to be adding a third choice to that mix, allowing citizens to pick between three flavors of evil rather than just two!"

    The Libertarian Party's ballot access map is here. And the Green Party's is here.


  • Since we've been using them heavily this season, I was prepared to like this Mercatus Center article from Charles Lipson: The Value of Political Markets. His bottom line (no kidding, he calls it that):

    Betting markets are more accurate and timely than even the best polling averages. But the two are complements, not substitutes. Betting markets build on political polls, as well as other information.

    Watching these markets closely has two advantages for political observers:

    1. They are timelier since the odds reflect the latest news, which may take days to show up in polls; and
    2. They are probably more accurate since the odds incorporate both polling data and other information.

    Useful as political markets are, they could be better. That will happen only if U.S. laws change so people who know more can wager more. When they can, the odds will better reflect all available information, public and private, and everyone will have a clearer understanding of where the races really stand.

    Or we could just move to a remote cabin in the White Mountains for a couple months.


  • And an amusing article from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: Harris flip-flops. From a CNN interview:

    BASH: President Trump, Vice President Pence, they have been campaigning more and more on the issue of fracking, which is a process of oil and gas drilling. They think that this is going to help them win votes in key states like Pennsylvania. Joe Biden has said — quote — “I am not banning fracking.” During your primary campaign, you said that you supported a ban. Are you comfortable with Joe Biden’s position?

    HARRIS: Yes, because Joe is saying, listen, one, those are good- paying jobs in places like Pennsylvania, and, two, that we need to also invest and put a significant investment in the good-paying union jobs that we can create around clean energy, around renewable energy. And that is the kind of approach we need to have, but always understanding that it’s a false choice to suggest that we either take care of jobs or we take care of our environment. We can do both, and we should do both.

    Good Lord, if I hear that "good-paying jobs" again, I'll scream.

    Of course it is in candidates' interest to have voters believe that they can provide "good-paying jobs".

    I'm reminded of a couple lines from the Simpsons' Monorail Song:

    Barney Gumble: What about us brain-dead slobs?

    Lyle Langley: You'll be given cushy jobs!

    Monorail! Monorail!


Last Modified 2020-09-13 11:26 AM EDT