Three Hours in Paris

[Amazon Link]

Mrs. Salad is a big Cara Black fan, so she asked for this book for Christmas. Sure thing, hon.

The book also appeared on Tom Nolan's Ten Best Mysteries of 2020 list in the WSJ a few weeks back. So (this is probably a lapse in Christmas etiquette) I read it before she got a chance to. Sorry, hon.

Anyway, the title refers to Hitler's tour of occupied Paris in June 1940. He spent three hours visiting. (Everyone else in the book spends more time there.) Ms. Black constructs an elaborate what-if scenario around the quick in-and-out visit, involving Kate, an American female sharpshooter. She's near-suicidal due to the loss of her husband and young daughter in a Nazi raid on the Orkney Island village where they happily resided. An obscure branch of whatever they called MI-6 back then recruits her to a dangerous, probably hopeless, mission to assassinate Adolph.

Well, she misses Hitler. (This isn't totally alternate history.) But she accidentally plugs a Nazi Admiral, which puts a dogged German cop on her trail. And what follows is a cat-and-mouse caper, as Kate tries to escape Occupied France, The bad guys are pretty good at their jobs, but Kate manages to keep a step or two ahead of them through most of the book. She's much better at spycraft than her cursory training would lead you to expect. Complication: there are a lot of collaborators and traitors within the French citizenry. And the true nature of Kate's mission is only gradually revealed.


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

A Netflix streamer. For some reason, Hollywood makes a lot of these lady assassin movies, where the lady assassin's employers decide she's more trouble than she's worth. Where they decide to take her off the board with extreme prejudice. And soon discover they've got more than they bargained for. How long have they been doing this? Well, I thought back to The Long Kiss Goodnight where Geena Davis filled the role.

So anyway, the lady assassin here is Ava, played by Jessica Chastain. Her handler is father-figure Duke, played by John Malkovich. And Duke's boss, the one who decides he's had enough of Ava's quirks is Simon, played by Colin Farrell.

What's different is that when Ava decides she needs to get her head on straight, she heads back to Boston and her estranged family: sister Judy (Jess Weixler), her ex-boyfriend and Judy's current boyfriend Michael (Common), and they go to visit Mom in the hospital…

And, whoa: Mom is played by Geena Davis. I did not see that coming.

Anyway: lots of bad language, violence, smoking. And (spoiler, why not) an inconclusive ending. If you hate those, avoid. Or turn off the set about thirty seconds before the movie ends.

URLs du Jour


  • Mr. Ramirez is not confused about our kids Getting dumber.

    [Getting Dumber]

    Supplemental reading from the Federalist: To Politicize Curriculum, Teachers Are Dumping More Classic Literature.

  • Or you could read a (somewhat longer) discussion on a related topic: (Higher) Education Is Destroying America.

    Consider this apparent paradox: commanding, as they do, behemoth corporate entities, the media, the entertainment industry and the social media and tech hubs of Silicon Valley, the educated today arguably wield more power, influence and ubiquitous social control than they have ever wielded in American history, and yet they are also as scorned and distrusted as they have ever been. The prevalence of loony conspiracy theories on the political right notwithstanding, less educated people have their reasons for feeling conspired against and for distrusting those who are ostensibly their betters. They distrust the educated contingent’s claims to knowledge and expertise because they both consciously and instinctively know that such “experts” can no longer be trusted, that knowledge claims by the educated elites now routinely come packaged with liberal doses of barely concealed political prejudice. Experts are the ones who tell us that Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump in a blowout and that Democrats are set to pick up significant gains and take control of both houses of Congress in the 2020 election. Experts are the unelected backroom technocrats at Twitter and Google who take it upon themselves, despite having transparent political biases and no obvious qualifications for such roles, to intervene on the side of “Truth” in complex political and factual debates — inevitably citing as backup for their decisions some of their favorite sources, such as CNN or The Washington Post — and then proceed to label, take down, bury and censor competing claims and their conservatives or contrarian sources. Experts are the ones who issue confident pronouncements about Covid-19, only to issue inconsistent but equally confident pronouncements a few weeks or months later, the ones who tell us masks don’t help to protect healthy individuals only to completely reverse that guidance, the ones who command us that frequenting religious services, Trump rallies, restaurants, hair salons or family gatherings poses a mortal risk to our health while turning a blind eye to or even throwing full support behind massive #BLM protests or disregarding their own edicts and going unmasked into chic hair salons or large parties at expensive French restaurants. And, as I’ll have reason to discuss in more detail below, the kind of “expertise” that emanates from the mainstream media or the educational establishment is egregious in its political biases.

    Let me point to (once again) the Racial Justice Resources page issued by the University Near Here. Where the ideological "diversity" displayed ranges from left to far-left.

  • In an "NRPLUS" article (sorry), Kevin D. Williamson reflects on Annus Horribilis, aka 2020.

    How much better or how much worse the American experience might have been if government had done this or that differently is the subject of a great deal of motivated reasoning. Democrats point to the buffoonery of the whining incompetent Republicans made president in 2016 and say “See! See!” while Republicans emphasize that the federal response has been relatively effective compared to the efforts of, say, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York.

    That kind of exercise is foolish for many reasons (as a practical matter, does a coronavirus death in Houston count against the Republicans who run the state or the Democrats who run the city?) and distracts from the single fact that should command our political imagination right now: The second wave of infections revealed that almost no Western government has been able to respond effectively to this epidemic. The United States has its problems, which are obvious enough, but the United Kingdom has hardly managed any better, the European Union has been divided by the issue, and Switzerland, arguably the best-governed country in the world, has tripped over its own skis so relentlessly that Geneva has one of Europe’s highest infection rates. Neither guidance from Brussels nor Sweden’s early laissez-faire approach nor Governor Cuomo’s authoritarian threat to board up the synagogues has proved effective.

    KDW's eloquent and wise bottom line: "[T]he real divide in American life is not between Ocasio-Cortez and Trump but between those who look to such figures for insight and leadership and those who know better."

  • If you've been wondering: Why Is It Taking So Long to Administer COVID Vaccinations?. Well, click on over, brother, to the Dispatch and Declan Garvey:

    It’s been just longer than two weeks since the first batches of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine began rolling out nationwide, and 10 days since Moderna’s did the same. According to CDC data, a combined 12,409,050 doses of these two vaccines—both of which were developed and received FDA authorization in less than a year—have been distributed across the country, and 2,794,588 of those doses have been administered. 

    In a vacuum, inoculating nearly 3 million people against a deadly virus less than a year after it was sequenced is nothing short of a miracle. But given that the daily death toll in the U.S. has averaged nearly 2,500 this month, some are saying it’s not good enough.

    For those of us who expect incompetence and unnecessary delay from any and all levels of government, it's no shock. But if you're interested in the details of the delay and incompetence, check out the article.

  • In still-related news, Reason's Jacob Sullum notes other business-as-usual: Increases in Opioid-Related Deaths Show That Drug Warriors (Including Biden) Have No Idea What They’re Doing.

    Last year President Donald Trump bragged that "we are making progress" in reducing opioid-related deaths, noting that they fell in 2018 "for the first time since 1990." That 1.7 percent drop was thin evidence of success at the time, and it looks even less impressive in light of the the 6.5 percent increase recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019. When you add preliminary CDC data indicating that opioid-related deaths rose dramatically this year, you have even more reason to wonder whether the government is actually winning the war on drugs.

    The 49,860 deaths involving opioids that the CDC counted in 2019 set a new record that is likely to be broken when the data for 2020 are finalized. "Synthetic opioids other than methadone," the category that includes fentanyl and its analogs, were involved in 73 percent of opioid-related deaths last year. According to the CDC's preliminary data, "the 12-month count of synthetic opioid deaths increased 38.4% from the 12 months ending in June 2019 compared with the 12 months ending in May 2020."

    If you're expecting better from Biden, don't. Jacob's judgment: "more of the same". A fitting prediction in general for 2021, unfortunately.