Dear Committee Members

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I heard good things, at some point in the past, about this book. Might have been this WSJ review or this WSJ review. I didn't find it as riotously funny as the reviewers, but maybe I was in a sour mood.

The author, Julie Schumacher, is a professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Minnesota. Her protagonist, Jason Fitger, is a (male) professor of Creative Writing and English at (fictional) Payne University. Thumbs up to Prof Schumacher for writing from a gendered POV not her own!

It's an "epistolary" novel, consisting of (mostly) letters and (some) web forms into which Jason pours his distressed, peevish, soul. He will write letters of recommendation for just about anyone, including Melanie deRueda.

I've known Ms. deRueda for eleven minutes, ten of which were spent in a fruitless attempt to explain to her that I write letters of recommendation only for students who have signed up for and completed one of my classes. This young woman is certainly tenacious, if that's what you're looking for.

Jason's character is slowly revealed via correspondence with his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends, academic colleagues he's accumulated over the years. His sputtered-out literary career becomes apparent. He's particularly dedicated to nurturing the writing career of a student who's in the process of a "shattering reinterpretation of 'Bartleby'", titled Accountant in a Bordello: the poor updated scrivener works in a whorehouse outside Vegas. Things don't work out well.

It's an easy read, 180 pages with a lot of whitespace. Denizens of English departments at institutions of higher education might especially relate. (But hopefully not; Jason's life is not a pretty one.)

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

The Good Liar

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link]

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I've been picking through the DVD selections at Netflix, looking for movies we missed queueing up when they first became available. Sometimes we pick a winner, like this one: a nice, nasty little crime drama. Needless to say: Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen ensure the acting will be first-rate. And everything else is pretty good too.

McKellen plays a ruthless con artist named Gandalf   Magneto   Roy. He and his buddy Vincent (Jim Carter, aka Downton Abbey butler Carson) play classic investment scams on people with a lot of money, who want to have even more money.

Ms. Mirren plays Betty, shaping up to be Roy's newest patsy. They're set up via a computer dating site, where both of them aren't entirely honest about their profiles. Never mind, because Betty's a lonely widow, and succumbs to Roy's polished charms. No sex, please, we're British. But the objections of Betty's skeptical grandson are ignored, and Roy moves into Betty's modest, boring beige home. Soon enough the scam appears…

Will Ray succeed in duping Betty? No spoilers here, but (let's face it) it would be a pretty uninteresting movie if his plan goes off flawlessly. What actually develops is unexpected, shocking, … well, check it out. I didn't see it coming.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2020-11-01 Update

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Well, here 'tis: the last update for the 2020 edition of the Phony Campaign. We started up back on November 11, 2018, and this right here is number 103 in the series.

It's funny to look back at that first entry:

  • Caroline Kennedy was deemed by Betfair bettors to have a 13% probability of grabbing the Democratic Presidential nomination.
  • Both Kamala Harris (16%) and Elizabeth Warren (10%) were judged to have a higher nomination probability than Joe Biden (9%).
  • I made fun of the prospect of President Bernie Sanders getting sworn in at age 79 in January 2021. I totally missed snarking on Joe Biden, who will be 78 on January 20, 2021.

The Amazon product du jour is probably not deliverable by Tuesday, but you could probably store it away for the 2022 election, when your choices may be even less palatable.

In our table, you'll note that Wheezy Joe gained a net 2.6 percentage points over President Bone Spurs. But (as expected) Trump outdoes Biden in phony hits, winding up campaign season with about a 2-to-1 advantage. Congratulations, Don. Most people are saying that's the only contest you'll win this month.

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 34.6% -0.4% 2,260,000 -740,000
Joe Biden 64.8% +2.2% 1,040,000 -80,000
Jo Jorgensen 0.0% unch 24,700 +1,600
Howie Hawkins 0.0% unch 14,600 +1,400

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

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    At Reason, John Stossel urges us: Don’t Freak Out About the Election.

    Worried about Tuesday?

    Remember: The most important parts of life happen outside politics.

    Love, friendship, family, raising children, building businesses, worship, charity work—that is the stuff of life! Politicians get in the way of those things. But despite the efforts of power-hungry Republicans and Democrats, life gets better.

    You may not believe that. Surveys show most people think life is getting worse.

    But it isn't, as Marian Tupy and Ron Bailey point out in their new book, Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know.

    Amazon link at your right, if you're a smart person who needs some cheering up.

  • But if you're feeling a little too cheerful, Ann Althouse might bring you down. She watches Cher, so you don't have to. But if you want to…

    Oh … goodness. That's awful. Ann provides the lyric excerpt:

    Right now our country's gloomy
    Fear is in the air
    But when Joe's president
    Hope is everywhere
    Troubles fly away
    And life will easy flow
    Joe will keep us safe
    That's all we need to know....


    I just got done reading a (typical) article, this one in Wired, warning us that Donald Trump Is Attacking the Very Core of America. Eek!

    I'm not a Trump fan either. But … geez … those lyrics reveal a far more alarming mindset: the President as our Great Protective Father/Tribal Chief/King. Omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient. Don't bother thinking, because "that's all we need to know".

    Nice country we had there. It was a shame something happened to it.

  • National Review authors are revealing their electoral preferences. Jack Fowler unleashes his considerable talent on Joe Biden: Vote No. This story is telling:

    The awful story of the first Mrs. Biden, Neilia, is well known: Along with her daughter Naomi, she was killed in a car accident in December 1972, just weeks after her husband had been elected to the U.S. Senate. It was what it was — an accident. A truck hit the Biden car, but the truck driver was blameless. Whatever the cause, this is true: No charges were filed. Nor should they have been.

    But what if the driver, the late Curtis Dunn, had been drinking?

    That’s not true either. But years after this terrible tragedy — a tragedy that has generated genuine sympathy for Joe Biden, a tragedy that could not possibly generate more sympathy for Joe Biden — Joe Biden sought . . . more sympathy.

    It is one thing to exaggerate your class standing, to manufacture teen tough-guy stare-downs at the public pool. But this is a wholly different strata of lying in which Biden engaged. Nearly 30 years after his wife’s death, he began telling audiences that Dunn had been drinking, that he had had the old liquid lunch (I wrote about this for NR last year). The Dunn family called out Biden — the boozed-up story was a lie. It denigrated their late dad, who lived out his years bowed by the heaviness of the tragedy. Biden ignored repeated requests to end the fictional death tale. Eventually he stopped (without apologizing). But he should never have started.

    Joe Biden embellished a profound tragedy, he persisted at it, he repeatedly lied in the face of all known evidence, his exaggerations pained actual people, whose cease-and-desist requests were ignored for years. To be Joe Biden means at times to be a twisted Walter Mitty, a contriver who thrills to go down fantastical alleyways. His thought processes, his motivations, his objectives — it can combine, and does, to produce a deeply disturbing package.

    I can see voting against Trump. I can't see voting for Biden.

  • Back at Reason, Jacob Sullum describes Trump's latest assault against truth: White House Says ‘President Trump’s Coronavirus Response Has Saved Over 2 Million Lives’.

    A White House "fact sheet" posted yesterday asserts that "President Trump's Coronavirus Response Has Saved Over 2 Million Lives"—a claim that relies on an utterly unrealistic worst-case scenario that the administration promoted last spring. Six months later, Trump was retweeting outlandish claims that COVID-19 had killed a "minuscule" number of Americans: about 9,000, compared to the official death toll of about 187,000 at the time. Although Trump may have thought slashing the number of deaths by 95 percent reflected well on his policies, the implication was that he could not possibly take credit for saving millions of lives, because COVID-19 never posed much of a threat to begin with.

    During his debate with Biden last week, Trump reverted to the position he took at the end of March. "As you know, 2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die," he said. "We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease." That we was suspect, since it was governors, not the president, who decided to fight COVID-19 with sweeping social and economic restrictions. Nevertheless, Trump was clearly suggesting that lockdowns had reduced the death toll.

    There will be plenty of reasons to bemoan the election result. But one ray of sunshine: I agree with Dan Klein that the media's "Covid propaganda will start to fade away" no matter what. It will have either succeeded or failed in its true purpose: to defeat Trump.

Last Modified 2024-06-03 5:59 AM EDT