all means go full screen, watch the whole thing, and experience the
EXCEPT IN AMERICA. Now we're starting the great debate about the
expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Being the simple-minded sort, I
immediately thought of (er, went in search of) the two videos shown in
this post. The one up top is of a Japanese arcade game called Pachinko,
which reminds me of the president's $897 billion stimulus
package. The similarities should be obvious. The game involves
dropping 897 billion little steel balls into a complicated series of
baffles, visually analogous to layers of government bureaucracy whose
position and deflections may or may not drop a ball or two into the
grasping crab claws of a few immobile recipients at the bottom of the
display. The overwhelming majority of the balls, however, find their
way to the waste bin at the very bottom. Think of the crab units as
government jobs saved or created. Think of the waste bin as national
All of which reminded me of several points of irritation in the current
and historical debate between right and left about the economy and the
best way to deal with issues of recession, growth, and long-term
prosperity. For example, it's always bothered me that conservatives let
liberals get away with describing conservative approaches to economic
stimulation (tax cuts and reduced government interference in the private sector) as
"trickle-down economics," whereas the Keynesian approach of massive
government spending is somehow the reverse, some kind of direct
injection into the vitality of the economy. Well, you can't find a
better metaphor of Keynesian spending than Pachinko. Look at all those
billions trickling down, down, down, from Washington, DC, through all the layers of federal,
state and municipal departments, agencies, authorities, and regulatory
bodies. All the bouncing, delays, and near misses are the result of
government bureaucracy. There's hardly anything direct or immediate
about what few good effects are achieved. The waste is still near total.
Yet massive government spending as economic stimulus is still
the only real antidote the Obama administration has proposed with
respect to curing the recession. Everything else they've proposed or passed and
spun as some kind of stimulus -- healthcare, cap-and-trade, increased
financial regulation -- serves chiefly to add more deflecting pins to
the obstacle course the balls have to navigate before they can fall, or
not, into the hands of the passive recipients of their benevolence at
the bottom of the economy. You know, the "working men and women" they
principally aim to serve, as opposed to the (non?) working men and women who take the risk of starting and running small businesses that don't just sit there with their hands out, hoping for a lucky catch.
Another thing that strikes me, like a glove smacked across my face, is
the powerlessness of the individual "player" in the Pachinko game. His sole act
in the whole show is inserting his coin to begin the noise machine. You
can think of that as voting for Obama. Everything else is a top-down
waiting game, a playing out of inevitable randomness that is inherently
zero-sum. Points scored are a tiny fraction of what is saved from the overall
and overwhelmingly huge waste. Nothing is actually created along the
way. It's classic liberal static analysis, as I heard it from Mara
Liasson on Fox News Sunday yesterday. "The cost of the Bush tax cuts in a time
of such huge deficits is unacceptably large."
Let me translate Mara's costs in Pachinko. Fewer steel balls dumped
into the machine from above. Which means fewer incidental captures by
the stationary crab claws at the bottom. That's what we call static analysis. A
dollar the government doesn't tax is a dollar less available to the
government to put into the Pachinko show. Which guarantees fewer points
to the crab claws.
Watching Fox News Sunday, I waited for at least one of the three conservatives on the panel to
make the case that the economy is NOT a zero-sum game. Only Brit Hume
gave it a try and he failed miserably. He failed to declare directly
that tax cuts are not a cost to government because the money belongs to
individuals in the first place, not a right of government. He failed to
point out that both the JFK and Reagan tax cuts resulted in huge
increases in government revenues (no doubt because he didn't want to get
sidelined into explaining away the deficit-increasing LBJ/Tip O'Neill orgies of
overspending caused by those increased revenues). However. He did point
out that swiping more money from individual entrepreneurs would reduce
the growth opportunities for the economy as a whole. Which neither Mara
nor Juan Williams could fully comprehend because they can't see it in
the Pachinko model they use as their
metaphor of the economy.
Which leads me to my second video. The American precursor of Pachinko.
Note the differences. What is capitalism? It's the flippers, stupid.
Pachinko is the top-down, trickle-down, liberal macro-economic government game. Pinball is the
bottom-up, individual initiative, micro-economic capitalist game. Pachinko has 897 billion balls.
Pinball has about five -- what any individual has available to him in
his pursuit of point (i.e., wealth) creation. Is there still waste?
Yes. Ball by ball an individual can fail, make inept flipper moves, and
if he's bad enough score next to nothing. GAME OVER. But the billions
of macro Pachinko balls are balls taken away from the individual players in
the micro Pinball game.
In this video, the best ball is the final ball,
beneficiary of experience and learning, which racks up more points than all previous balls put together in a non-zero-sum game. Non-zero
because there's an unlimited number of points available, depending on
how skillfully you manipulate those flippers. But the total available
to any player -- and his ultimate taxable revenue -- is reduced if he has only four balls to play rather than
Where is the real cost/benefit of a tax cut? Yes, there is a cost to
the government in static analysis terms. If you extrapolate from the average four-ball score, government will have less revenue. But there is a much larger potential benefit to the
individual player (and, uh, government revenue), because his higher total scores and free balls and free games won may result in more macro points, more total
players, more individual interest in getting good at the game. To put it another
way, why would anyone keep playing Pachinko when there's nothing you
can do to affect the outcome? Pinball, on the other hand, can be
inspirational. Watch someone score 40,000 points and you might start
practicing up yourself.
It's all in the flippers. Obama can't see it, of course, or Mara or
Juan. Maybe because all they can see is a vintage redneck game that has
something to do with the flyover waste of time called bowling. And they
already know Obama is superiorly incompetent at that. He doesn't know from flippers. Nobody ever expected him to learn how to use them and he didn't. All that's left is gutter balls and other missed opportunities.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
"Guys, why don't you like me? I'm trying
to be reasonable, here!"
NEWSWORTHY. Just in case you get your news from the same place that
Gibson & Bob
Schieffer do, here
is Tuesday's big story (and Wednesday's).
Another JournoList leak. I had a hard time
getting too excited about it because, I mean, whoa...hang on a sec. The
MSM is some sort of gigantic echo chamber full of leftist group think?
Since when?? We already
knew about JournoList, anyway. That was just me being cynical,
though. It is important, but
in all the
copious punditry on the matter, I did not hear anyone make
what I think are the two biggest points.
First the easy point and the one most related to IP's recent
post with Doc Zero. The JournoList thing isn't a "Gotcha! LOL!"
moment as so many of the pundits out there are treating it. This is
serious, but I think many of us are so numb to examples of liberal
bias in the media it's hard to see the big picture sometimes, which is
this: peeking inside JournoList
is actually getting a glimpse of
the left's war room. It's like a movie scene where somebody is
undercover, walking through a hallway in the enemy's HQ, when one of
the bad guys walks out of a room and the door takes a little too long
to close, revealing something nefarious going on inside. And these
the enemy, as they are so fond of reminding each other when they think
no one is looking. When you read what these people are saying,
it is very clear
that they are at war. With us. Whether we like it or not. The money
quote, from Spencer Ackerman:
What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of
going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and
smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding
mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it
needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this
Oh, rhetorically. Obviously,
Spencer, obviously. Too bad his next paragraph about intentionally
slandering people as racists was not rhetorical. There are lots more
quotes, which I'm sure you've seen, but here's my question: is the
right also at war
with the left, or is it a one way street like the one we've got going
on with Islam right now? When 2012
rolls around, will the lib media bias be a front and center issue
forcing a paradigm shift in the way we approach elections, or will the
Republicans once again be led, supine and sheep-like, to another series
of debates run by outright Democrat Party shills?
Take Fred Barnes. He was called out by name in JournoList.
Personally. Does anyone think ol' Fred considers himself at war with anyone or do you think
he's merely focused on his next titillating roundtable discussion on
before heading out for a brew with Juan Williams? With all due respect
to Doc Zero,
if it's Ackerman vs. Barnes in a bar fight, my money is on Ackerman.
He's the only one of the pair that realizes he is actually in a bar fight.
Which reminds me of Johnnycakes McCain. Whatever one thinks of Sarah
Palin, she brought down the house with her speech at the GOP
convention. The next night, John McCain lackadaisically finished his
speech with the halfhearted, "Friends, fight with me! Fight with me!"
line. The first thing he did after that was to go on the fucking
View where he wouldn't even fight Whoopi Goldberg. So "fight with
me"...where? Against who? I'm still not quite sure what the hell he was
talking about, and I don't think he nor most of the GOP knows, either.
Here's hoping they wake the hell up and figure it out. Soon.
The other thing: I haven't heard anyone point out that many of these
JournoList members are (allegedly) in the business of selling
information. They are theoretically supposed to be competing
with each other, day after day, about why the general populace should
be coming to them for their news. Unlike people on the right who sell
themselves by saying, "This is what I believe and why I believe it",
the reason the MSM says you should pay attention to them instead is
because they are the most honest, the most impartial, the most
trustworthy, etc. They're going to get you the whole
story. Yet here they are, on a regular basis, locked in a
secret room with the aforementioned competition and planning out
exactly how they all, as a group, will be shaping the news narrative.
If my business did that with our competition, it would look like this:
"Hey, the price of aluminum is dropping again, but we all still
have high-cost inventory to burn through. So look, nobody sell this
stuff for less than $3.00/Lb or we'll all start losing money. We need
whatever we can to prop the market price up, including getting rough
with anyone that tries to go under our target pricing." Now that would be called collusion and
it would be illegal. For my
Doesn't the left hate corporations and capitalism because the
conversation above is how they think the free market works? The same
liberals who dismiss the JournoList story as
"not newsworthy" would foam at the mouth in rabid anger if they ever
discovered a plot like the one above. They'd be demanding
more business regulation, more internet regulation, windfall profits
taxes, CEO salary caps, price controls, and on and on and on. How many
liberals do you know who will dismiss a story out of hand without even
glancing at it simply because it comes from Fox News, Michelle Malkin
or Breitbart, who are "not real journalists"? Where is their outrage
right now over the collusion of the supposedly impartial mainstream
media that they have relied on their entire lives?
Don't worry, Spencer Ackerman, I'm only asking that "rhetorically".
TAKE ON CP'S DUMB TV TIPS. So it's my task to convince you why it's
worth it to rent, buy, or steal a massive six season box set of the
recently completed television series LOST, eh?
Before I start, a brief aside. I'm apparently the only Instapunk
commenter who saw the show beyond a few episodes. I'm perhaps the only
one who saw the entire series from beginning to end. Why? Did you never
give it a chance or did you see a couple of episodes at random and
decide what it was or was not? Did you come in too late and hear from a
friend that "you've got to
watch it from the beginning…"? I'd love to
hear reasons in the comments if you'll indulge me. What caused you to
say 'meh' to one of the biggest shows of the decade?
If you bailed out, I get it, really I do. Putting more than casual
attention into a TV show suddenly obligates you, and one of many
possible endings to a long series is disappointment and a real sense of
wasted time. I can understand not wanting to invest that time.
I've also been burned. TV shows often put their best cards on the table
early to hook you in, but quickly become a serial repetition, attempt
to change things up with terrible results, or get messed up by network
execs. All the above happened to one of my favorite shows from 15 years
ago, The X-Files. They dragged it out far too long; the real stars got
tired and left; the execs saw money still being made from a rabid
audience and dropped in new actors; and the show became an unending
cycle of 'supernatural' shows and government conspiracy shows, every
Back to LOST… is it any different? I'd argue yes, and here's why:
First, motives. J.J. Abrams and the original producers and writers set
out to tell a complete Story, with a beginning, middle, and definitive
end over the course of six seasons. They weren't always sure what would
happen in the middle, but they had a definite plan for the whole show.
This is usually the domain of miniseries, and most shows have season
finales that try to wrap things up in case they don't get picked up
again, often lamely.
Second, the pilot. The two hour pilot episode is downright cinematic,
an experience. Big scenes have come to TV since the LOST pilot over 7
years ago, but I just saw it again recently and it holds up.
Third, the cast. It's a big cast of then-unknowns, but the structure of
the show allows you to see over a dozen actors do some excellent acting
in a variety of situations, not just on the island. They're not all
good, but there are some phenomenal talents in the group. Some don't
even appear in the first season.
Fourth, the plot. Each season introduces you to a sphere of events, and
each season finale pierces the sphere so that you see the coming of the
next level, the bigger universe. Can you name another show that
continues to expand like that?
Fifth, the filming. It is just a beautiful looking show, with brilliant
color, gorgeous locations, and several lovely to look at people. The
camera work is often inventive and as I said above, it frequently feels
like a movie, not a weekly TV show.
Sixth, the themes. All the richest themes from human history and
literature are in there: good and evil, life and death, faith and
materialism, belief, consciousness, the nature of time… It's never
quite clear if it's a sci-fi show or a supernatural show, and there are
many episodes that would support either view. And in the end? It's
still up for debate, in a way. That's a debate I'd love to have here or
on the new forums.
Seventh, the questions. Many would criticize LOST throughout the
seasons that they had gotten to the point of just making stuff up,
adding new questions and never answering them. That's not quite true,
but the show does continually hold an air of mystery. Do you like
everything solved by the end of the hour every week? Fine, go watch The
Mentalist. LOST does answer its questions, but often gives way to more
questions, bigger questions on the next sphere outward.
Eighth, the twists. If you allow yourself to suspend a bit of disbelief
and get wrapped up in this show, it has some great tricks up its
sleeve. More than any other show I've seen, this one pulled a 'WHAT?!'
out of me most often. Not your thing? That's okay. I've watched TV with
the guy who always knows what's going to happen next. Not fun.
Finally, the End. No one knew if they would be able to pull off the big
end to the big show this last season. In fact, they made some very
strange choices on how to use their time in the last 16 episodes. But
in my opinion, they nailed the ending, brought it all together, and
delivered the complete Story. Again, that's up for a debate, and I'd
love to discuss it with all of you.
What do I recommend? Disabuse yourself of the notion that you know what
the show is all about already. It varies quite a bit internally,
especially after the halfway point. Watch the pilot. If it does nothing
for you, doesn't intrigue you or merit a longer term interest, so be
it. But if you find yourself falling down this unique rabbit hole, feel
free to email me as you go along. I've been there, watched the whole
story from tip to tail and loved (nearly) every minute of it.
I think it's worth it. But given this site's track record of
recommendations and favorites, our collective senses of what we like
are incredibly varied and perhaps not able to be synched.
[ED. NOTE. I've never liked shows that keep you in the dark forever.
But if Lake says it's good, it's a more than fair bet that he's right.
Think about it. He's talking in terms that make The Closer and Burn Notice seem like pretty small
potatoes.What else are you doing to make this summer memorable?]
My in-basket is full. People want me to weigh in on the
JournoList scandal, the NAACP/Department of Agriculture woman, the
ballooning Gore sex scandal, spineless congressional Republicans, the
Lockerbie fiasco, and the president's plummeting poll numbers. I always
take reader posting suggestions seriously, so today we're going to talk
Because nothing important is happening at the moment. Trust me on this.
The audience is filing slowly into the theater and the orchestra is
just tuning its instruments. The house lights are still on, and it's
really really HOT in here, particularly in the globally warmed box
where globally shaped Al
Gore is sitting.
So. Where were we? TeeVee. Conservatives are prone to getting carried
away with "End of Days" type reviews of popular entertainment fare. Do
they know that you can still watch a lot of the old TV shows that made
the so-called Golden Age when there were no toilets or breasts in
America? You can still see Gunsmoke,
Maverick, and Andy of Mayberry if you want. I
wonder how many of them check Nickelodeon first when they turn on the
TV. Just saying.
Anybody in the mood for some good
news? There's actually some quality stuff on TV these days, arguably
better than it has ever been before. The availability of a zillion
channels helps, but that's not the whole story, either. Others more
expert on the subject than I am have flatly declared that the best
writing in show business is happening on TV, not in the movies. They're
right. So I'm offering a quick overview of shows you might want to
check out while you're waiting for something actually interesting to
happen in politics.
Not all of these are great, but they are worth a look. I'm using a one
to four star rating system, mostly my own appraisal but here and there
averaged with Mrs. CP's rating. If there's a huge difference between
us, I'll call it out. To set the standard for you, I'll explain that
four stars (****) would be Justified,
and no stars ( ) would be Boston
Legal. Everything else would be somewhere in between. The pool
of candidates consists of the stuff that's running new now. Not all of
the ratings are high for various reasons, but all of them merit a
one-episode trial at least.
The writing is top notch even when some of the politics offend. The
protagonist, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, is not a nice woman. She's
self-centered, obsessive, manipulative, ruthless, and possessed of a
mean streak a mile wide. And you can't take your eyes off her. Her
supporting cast is as fabulous as her clothes. All the regulars are
flawed, and all of them are well drawn. The show is funny except when
it's cleverly satirical about office politics and man-woman stuff. And
Kyra Sedgwick is an absolute marvel in the role of Brenda Leigh. She's
the only actress I know of whose mind you can hear ticking and clicking
when she has no lines to say. She doesn't need lines in those shots.
She's a force of nature. Nature as Machiavelli would understand it.
A cheapie Canadian show about the president of the police union in some
Canadian city. Sounds awful, doesn't it? It isn't. It's kind of a lower
key Canadian version of The Shield. The protagonist is a politician, a
womanizer, and a man who cuts some pretty big corners in a pretty big
way. And cheap isn't always bad. It forces more attention to
writing than splashy chases and backgrounds. We've only seen one
episode of this so far, so it might be a bum steer. But give it a
Inside the CIA with a newbie operative played by Piper Perabo and a
deep backstory borrowed from the Bourne
Identity. Yeah, I know. But the writing and characters are
surprisingly, well, above average, including her blind chick-magnet
mentor and an old flame of mine from Nero
Wolfe, Kari Matchett. It could all go disastrously south in a
hurry, but Mrs. CP and I were entertained by the pilot anyway. Although
it may not be a good sign that Mrs. CP can't remember the title: Cloistered Affairs? Undercover Affairs? Her memory is
usually a lot better than that.
In Plain Sight.***
Starring Mary McCormack, an actress I was outrageously unfair to when
she played the National Security Adviser on the West Wing. This is my chance to
make it up to her. She's a real pistol on this show, playing a U.S.
Marshal in the Witness Protection Program. Somehow she manages to come
across as a cynical, foul-mouthed guy-type gal without actually using
any four-letter words. Like Kyra Sedgwick, she's also pretty darn good
at thinking on camera. The other gem in the cast is her partner
Marshall Mann (ha ha), played by Frederick Weller. He's literate, more
sensitive than Mary, and my candidate for the best "will they-won't
they" postponed romance I've ever seen on a TV series. And I really hate that tired old tactic. What's
different here is that they don't flirt and litter the script with dumb
sexual innuendoes. Mary is just too rigid and self-absorbed, too damn dumb, to realize that the only man
who's ever actually understood and accepted her for who she really is
is her partner. And he knows it. The episodes are uneven, and some of
the peripheral family stuff (Mary's alcoholic mother and narcissistic
sister, etc) can be a thudding bore, but the show is frequently clever
and funny, and occasionally affecting.
Another Canadian cheapie but a truly first-rate one. You've all seen
some of the no-name cast before, but the writing is stellar. We're
following a class of probationary rookies in a big city police
department. But they're not what their counterparts would be in an
American network series. They are anxious, inexperienced, and, well,
prone to mistakes big and small. Once again, the tight budget puts the
focus on writing instead of effects, and I watched two episodes in a
row without a moment's hesitation, even though the second started at
bedtime. I'm hooked.
You're Cut Off.*
I give it one star because I think that's all they were going for. But
this VH1 series is for me what Jersey
Shore was to Mrs CP: a trainwreck I can't look away from. The
premise is that these would-be divas have spent and whined and bitched
their way out of the affections of their own families and have been
sent to a reality show rehab program that requires them to do chores,
get jobs, and learn how to get along with actual human beings as well
as each other. They're every father's worst nightmare -- spoiled,
pampered, selfish, brainless, character-free spending machines. And
they make you want to grab your own daughter and hug her in gratitude
for everything she is that they aren't. Given a choice between watching
the newly maudlin and exploitatively creepy Deadliest Catch and this show, I'm
watching You're Cut Off every
time. Mrs. CP loves it, too. Not watching the show, which she can't
stand, but watching me watch the show. She wouldn't miss it for the
Okay. This is taking longer than I thought it would. I have more
recommendations, but I guess I'll save them for a future post. There's
only so much fine TeeVee a person can assimilate in one day anyway.
Now. Wasn't that better than reading another column about the NAACP/Ag
Department racist who's suddenly the darling of Hotair
Comments already coming in. Someone mentioned Dexter, which we've reviewed a
couple of times, most recently back in September
2009. It just doesn't happen to be on now in our neck of the woods.
Also, DJMoore spent some time taking Covert
Affairs and (sadly) Piper Perabo's character apart:
She's worthless as a spy. She can't keep
her cool, she can't control
her mouth, she gives the game away. She's supposed to be top of her
class, top of the class for many years, in fact, but she blows her
first two opportunities to act like a spy.
Sorry, I don't
care how clever the dialog or how good the acting are. The writers and
director are going for cheap shots that disrupt the integrity of their
story and character.
But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? btw, Mrs.
CP read the same review and explained that her difficulty in
remembering the name was due to the fact that it really should be called The Bourne Similarity. She's right.
So, while we were talking about other things, it's been
decided by all the leading lights that a black person who thinks, "Let
his own people take care of him" and then decides at last to do the
right thing is someone owed an apology and a government job. Aren't we
glad that's settled? Me too. But the cacophony of all those
conservatives falling on their swords belt-buckle first is giving me a
case of tinnitus. The buzzing is so bad I can't hear myself think about
how generous liberals would be with a racially conflicted white man who
did the right thing while openly admitting his own lifelong prejudice
against black people. I could hear them standing up and cheering such
an inspiring moral parable if it weren't for the ringing, ringing,
ringing in my disgusted ears.
Which is why, I suppose, I'm suddenly back to the task of promoting the
best of summer TV during this long, hot, incredibly inane summer.
Speaking of inane...
Don't laugh. It's a delightful dessert souffle with a kick of Cognac
inside. It's ridiculously easy to criticize -- the liberties it takes
with due process alone are sufficient to render it star free -- but
there's something, well, ineffably sweet
about it. I shouldn't say this, or admit it in public at any rate, but
I really like this show. The premise is absurd. A shallow Beverly Hills
model has an accident in her BMW because she's chatting on her
cellphone and dies. Kewl. But when she gets past the pearly gates, her
lifelong sense of entitlement causes her to trespass on heaven's
keyboard, thus returning her to earth in the body of a fat woman
ten years her elder. Worse, she's an attorney at a law firm where her
erstwhile fiance is a junior associate. With me so far? None of this
would work without a wonder of an actress in the fat girl role. But lo
and behold, that's exactly what we get. Her name is Brooke Elliott and
she's absolutely out of nowhere, but wonder she is, with a fine comedic
touch, a beauty that bursts through her avoirdupois, and an amazing
ability to navigate lightweight scripts -- somehow tacking between
farce and heartbreak in a way that forces you to watch, like, and
believe her. The girlfriend (April Bowlby) who knows the secret of her
reincarnation is another comedic jewel, playing the wisest dumb blonde
since Judy Holiday. Even the two Lesbians in the regular cast (I cannot
bring myself to name them) are more winning here than they've ever been
before. Guys, get over yourselves. If this is the worst chickstuff your
wife ever forces on you, count yourself among the lucky ones.
The rating is a compromise. Mrs. CP gives it three stars, and I give it
two. How to describe it? It's the modern day incarnation of the Rockford Files. Michael is a career
spy suddenly and mysteriously blacklisted and more or less confined to
Miami. He has friends, but with friends like his, who needs enemies? In
a clear tip to Rockford, Michael's mom is Sharon Gless ( a Rockford
regular), a role in which she's every bit as annoying and endearing as
Noah Beery was as Rockford's dad. There's also Bruce Campbell, a much
improved incarnation of Angel, and in a nicely new touch, Gabrielle
Anwar as a homicidal IRA-ish assassin (retired) who loves Michael when
she isn't having a full-blown psychotic episode. The writing is
excellent in the voiceovers that describe high-tech espionage
tricks, though less credible when it comes to character and plot
development. But the payoffs can be delicious. A long-running female
villain of the show came into Gabrielle's rifle sight at the end of one
season, and when she died from a single shot to the head, Bruce
Campbell told a very
satisfied Gabrielle, "I know you want to savor the moment, but we gotta go."
The show is not nearly as consistent as Rockford, and sometimes it's
too cute for its own good, but it is
Yes, it's a Stephen King thing. And, yes, it's continuously amazing
that Stephen King's incompetent dialogue somehow infects scripts
adapted, rewritten, whatever, by professional scriptwriters. However.
There's this conflicted female FBI agent. And this weird but quaint
town in Maine. Where everybody might have some weird secret. Dumb?
Sure. But I've seen two episodes and I may watch a third. There's a
certain charming eccentricity about it... On the other hand, the
biggest problem with most Stephen King conceptions isn't that his
characters are ludicrously overdone; it's that his third act never lives up to his first. He
doesn't deliver the goods. I'm thinking that'll be the case here, too,
but as I said, I'm going to watch one more time at least.
All right. I told you I'd let you know if the CP-Mrs. CP average was
out of whack. That's the case here. She gives it three stars and I give
it one and a half. The premise is that a gifted Chicago homicide cop
gets exiled to Florida because his boss shot him for sleeping with said
boss's wife (which our hero cop denies). He hates Florida (kewl) and is
so over the top in his investigative style that mostly everyone else
hates him too. Except for the mouthy emergency room nurse who's raising
a son whose dad is in prison while she's struggling through medical
school. Okay? To me, he's House
reconfigured as a cop, egotistical, obnoxious, and overdone. But Mrs.
CP likes him. Why? Maybe I should keep my mouth shut at this point.
Two stars because it's half a great TV show. Here's what I love: the
imaginative use of old high
technology. Computers with manual typewriter keys. Cell phones with
fifties caliber TV screens. The colossal warehouse ripped off from the
final scenes of Citizen Kane
and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Here's what I hate: The male protagonist, half of the federal team
which constitutes the operative arm of a secret organization charged
with protecting the warehouse and its paranormal relics from bad guys
and such. He's a dolt and a cartoon. Here's what I love: The museum
curator, the new girl with the smart mouth and the purple streak in her
hair, the consistently literary plots involving Poe, H. G. Wells, Dante, and even Sylvia Plath. Here's what I hate: The male protagonist. He's like the butt of
every dumb male joke in every commercial on television. Mrs. CP doesn't
even agree with the two stars. Just so you know. But there's such a
good idea hiding inside this mess of a show that I can't let it go. Not
yet. And the female agent isn't half bad. Kind of a secondthird
string Olivia from Fringe.
Rizzoli & Isles.**
This one gave me two surprises. First, Angie Harmon is a lot better at
playing a no-nonsense cop than I'd ever have expected. She's not as
pretty as she used to be, but she's more attractive. Can't say the same
for her partner, who turns out to be Kate from NCIS, the one got shot in the head
while Special Agent Gibbs was standing helplessly at her side. Then she
was a slick, slim former Secret Service agent. Now she's a mousy, shy,
vaguely dowdy and possibly plump medical examiner. Oh well. Mrs. CP
fell asleep, so there's no way to know if my sort of liking this
unoriginal cop show is due to my infallible quality antennae or to my
old guy admiration for a mature woman with a provocatively husky voice.
I'm sure you'll tell me which of these is the case within moments of
This is going to be a bit disorganized because there is
so much going on in the new
Discovery Channel reality series called The Colony.
So forgive me while I try to sort through it all. But it is important, especially in the
context of what we've been talking about with respect to The
Book of Eli, The Road, and
Here's the premise. Volunteers agree to be subjected to mild torture,
including 30 disorienting hours of sleep and food deprivation, and then
turned loose in a contained section of Los Angeles that represents the
aftermath of a deadly biological weapons attack. Their mission is to
survive for ten weeks and begin the rebuilding of civilized life. They
will eat and drink what they can find, and they are equally on their
own when it comes to shelter, sanitation, and self-defense. That's
right. They will also be harassed by marauders who want anything and
everything they have. Their filmed experiences are sparingly
interrupted by "experts," such as the psychologist who informs us that
even people in an artificial situation move rapidly into a mindset
indistinguishable from what it would be in reality. O-k-a-a-a-y.
Mrs. CP was a little dubious, but I convinced her to watch the first
episode because we'd both suffered through the BBC's apocalyptic
dramatic series called Survivors,
which was bleak, depressing, and not very believable. I never thought everyone was a narcissistic twit
with the attention span of Paris Hilton. Mrs. CP's position was that
the English obviously are, but maybe not everyone. So we sat through the
first one, and she watched the second one without objection. It is intriguing, even fascinating. On
so many levels. We'll get to those later on, I promise.
The first episode was riveting. Our hardy band of survivors "discover"
an abandoned industrial warehouse and start making themselves at
home.We are introduced to them as they scout the site for resources:
some canned food, a couple abandoned cars, storage drums, a variety of
hand and power tools (some still in shipping boxes), a toilet with no
running water, a scattered array of twelve volt batteries, and the
normal detritus of a warehouse, including pallets, shipping envelopes,
and a fair amount of tinfoil. The survivors are just as motley: a
20-something female personal trainer and martial arts instructor, a
60-ish electronics engineer from MIT, a middle-aged handyman, a doctor,
a new-grad aeronautics engineer, an emergency room nurse, a machinist,
and so on. They've been up for a day and a half, but they get to right
to work. First priority: water. They scuttle down to a nearby L.A.
storm sewer (like the one used in the chase scene in Terminator 2), and
scoop up as much water as they can carry in their makeshift vessels.
Then the MIT prof, who began by wondering what he could possibly bring
to the table in a world without electricity, built a water filtration
system out of sand, charcoal (yeah, there was some lying around...),
a plastic drum. They reinvented fire in a 55-gallon oil drum, dried
their socks, dined on potted sausage, force-flushed the toilet with
their new water supply, and built a communal bed out of pallets and
(Thank God!) old mattresses discovered in a back room. The handyman,
who had already done most of the heavy lifting and hole-punching, stood
the first watch and had to run off a small night attack by a pair of
The next day, security is again threatened as a smaller band of
sleepless volunteers arrive at the door begging for shelter. The
handyman resisted but was overruled by most everyone else, and the
community was augmented by a mechanical engineer, a contractor, a
marine biologist, and (gasp) an ex-convict. They shared a meal
together, which the psychologist informed us was a key step in
community building, and set to work on new projects, a community on the
In the second episode, fractures begin. The engineers and the handyman
collaborate to daisy-chain the batteries and restore some electrical
power (lighting) to the warehouse. But the handyman thinks he's being
taken advantage of and does an on-camera rant about people with PhDs
and such. "Screw'em." It's clear he has an anger management problem.
When the marauders return, he wants to bash them with iron pipes and
take one of their motorcycles. He's informed that his risk is a threat
to the group, because if he gets hurt or killed, the group would lose
his capabilities. Even so, the food situation is becoming critical, and
so an expeditionary force sallies out to find provisions. The squad
runs off a couple of squatters and harvests the food they leave behind,
which causes the MIT prof to wax morally conflicted about the us versus
them thing, although he ends the episode in near orgasmic ecstasy when
a rare L.A. rainstorm -- coupled with clever plumbing deduction and
pipecutting by the handyman -- allows our little group to capture the
water runoff from the warehouse roof while the prof dances naked
outside in the rain.
Okay. Sorry about all the exposition, but it was necessary to show you
how the new national obsession with apocalypse is being packaged in the
Smart Channel universe. I mean, I really can't
believe how apt Eduardo's title, Apocalyptopia, is. It's absolutely
perfect. It's all somebody's wet dream. But whose?
Well, most of what's going on is theater, propaganda, and wish
fulfillment fantasy. But there's an element that's far more interesting
than that, which we'll save for last.
Theater. Of course it's not real. There's a small print disclaimer at
the end of each episode informing us that there are onsite resources
which intervene if the survivors are about to do something dangerous to
themselves. And we're pretty much expected to remember on our own that
there are cameramen filming all this all the time. The job I would want
is marauder. They live off set, eating pizza and drinking beer until
they're called on to make an appearance, which they do on cue and are
then run off after a few bangs on the warehouse door. Kewl. The
handyman thinks he can lay one out with his iron pipe. Everybody gets
scared. Anyone given any thought to what a man on a motorcycle can do
if he's carrying a pipe? The
whole security subplot is a joke. No one's going to let survivors or
marauders get hurt. "Cut!"
Which means the whole pissed-off, class-resentful handyman thing is
also a joke. Which is where the propaganda part comes in. The handyman
is so very obviously carrying the bulk of the labor burden in these
first two episodes that he's a one-man proletariat. No wonder
he's pissed. Because has anyone noticed that our survivor crew is
overwhelmingly top-heavy with higher education? Engineers, trained
medical personnel, a biologist, exactly the people you'd expect to run
into at random in the event of a biological attack in a bad part of Los
Yet among them there is no natural leader who steps forward to take
charge, ration food and water, dole out task assignments, and stop
snits from becoming tantrums. They do all this communally. Which is clearly the
right way. Because look at how much they got accomplished in such a
short period of time. Smart people cooperating is the clearly the best way through any crisis.
Anybody could see that.
But interestingly, what hasn't been mentioned or tried so far is capitalism. The communal mentality
doesn't admit of it. The MIT prof is troubled by the fact that the
squatters were run off. But what can you do? It's us against them. Our
bigger group against their smaller group. How about, "We have clean,
safe water to drink, and we'd like to do a trade." Same with the
'marauders.' How about some good old-fashioned bartering? You don't bang
on our doors but protect our doors and our foraging expeditions, and
you'll share in the fruits of our superior technological capability? It
never comes up. Never occurs to anyone.
Rebuild civilization? From a bunker filled with technocrats? No way, Jose. There will be no civilization
rebuilding from this group. They're into the busy-busy showing off part, not the
rebuilding part. Think about this: if you were a teacher (a real one,
not an NEA stooge), wouldn't your first priority during a foraging
expedition be the recovery of a set of Dickens novels? Something to be
read our loud after the day's chores were done so that all and sundry
could remember their essential humanity? Civilization doesn't begin
with flush toilets. It begins with recognition that there is more to
life than eating, sleeping, shitting. and fucking. (Granted, there's been no sign of any kind that this vital little band has any interest in sex. Perish the thought. Gaia would raise an eyebrow.) But there are no liberal arts majors on our 'new civilization' team. What purpose could they possibly serve?
Which brings us to wish-fulfillment fantasies. The only group with a
higher percentage of technical degrees than our survivors is the
television audience for this Discovery Channel show. That's whose wet dream this is.
"Yeah, if it came down to it, I could survive a situation like that, as
long as everybody else kept their heads like I would. I can do the math." Give me a break.
It's all total fantasy.
Everything above is a fair critique. Here comes the unfair critique,
the perhaps unintended Achilles heel of the entire project. I'll put
some asterisks in to make it clear that I'm entering unfair territory.
I can't help it. This show reminds me of neo-Darwinian evolutionary
theory. We're asked to imagine a new beginning from, well, nothing.
Human beings without even a functioning toilet. But we're going to be
inspired by how much they can accomplish in just ten weeks. The engine
of civilization and all that. Communal effort, classless coordination,
and suppression of individualistic notions is the key. (Maybe they should call this show "The Tech College" instead of "The Colony." Oh. Never mind.) Just stand back
and watch what the right sort of people can do if they put their minds
and backs into it. We're witnessing the whole creative momentum of life
as it changes, adapts, and responds to even the most difficult of
environments. Nature will find a way. Man, as a creature of Nature,
will find a way to go on evolving, adapting, and surviving.
Which is a total crock of shit. And, to my mind, a significant and emblematic crock of shit. There's
absolutely nothing random about this starting point. What's actually
riveting about the first episode is how well designed it was. The "survivors"
represent a perfect mix of mechanical human capabilities and expertise, the
precise set of capabilities anyone would want to overcome the first
obstacles to survival. The place to which they are led is also
beautifully designed to seem
random although there's nothing random about it, either. Almost
everything they find has a use, a purpose, if they can only find it and
exploit it. The show's premise is a stacked deck.
I know I'm nuts, but when I look at the survivor resumes and the
warehouse configuration, I keep getting this phantom image of the
'random' cell-building proteins and their unexplained DNA which
resulted in life as we know it. And oddly enough, the starting point of
the neo-Darwinians is exactly the same as the starting point of this
phony reality show. Both require us to accept -- with a straight face
-- the premise that it's possible to start somewhere in the middle,
without examining first causes too closely, and simply believe in the
validity of the cause-and-effect chain subsequently played out. If it's plausible
from the point where we choose to begin following the story onward,
then there must be some truth, some enlightenment, some meaning in it.
I disagree. It's the nature of accidental bad metaphors that they
reflect back on their perpetrators and other antecedents. Because
sometimes the truth is embedded in their cock-eyed attempts at arguing
their stupidly specious and simplistic reductions of truth to machinery. What if the story of evolution is like the beginning of The Colony? A series of carefully
assembled agents and environments that are precisely aligned to
produce a planned result?
Unfair? Maybe. But I don't think so. It's the neo-Darwinians who are
rigidly haughty about insisting that they
get to determine the point at which we should start watching
their own reality show. Everything before their arbitrarily chosen pilot episode is irrelevant,
immaterial, and not their concern. I'm thinking even the producers of The Colony wouldn't take that hard
What do you think?
Monday, July 19, 2010
THE GAMES BEGIN AGAIN. I've been amused more than outraged by all
implicit and explicit criticism of the First Family's high-flown
lifestyle in the past week or two. Michelle's designer "oil spill"
dress. The long weekend in Maine after an exhortation to the rest of us
to go sit in the tar on gulf beaches. Most hilariously, the flap about
"BO-One," the dog jet that ferries Obama's Portuguese waterboy to the
vacation destination separately. In fact, I was going to do an
old-style InstaPunk entry featuring pictures of BO-One and its
interior, but I've been PhotoShopless for a while now, and I can't make
the freeware work without investing ten times the time. Okay, just one:
a shot of the BO-One Learjet on the tarmac.
know how it is. When you don't gotta go, you don't gotta go.
Till you've kept the crew and staff waiting long enough. Till you're
ready to go. Because you can always go on the plane. Your plane.
And one of the interior:
Nice use of the fuselage shape, don't
you think? Servants are
behind the doors -- scoopers, groomers, chefs, toy czars, etc.
Now I'm all tired out. Which is where
you come in. Today's story of sybaritic White House excess concerns
that dread day after a happy vacation is over. You don't feel like
plunging fully back into the old grind, so maybe you schedule a little
something to keep the holiday spirit alive for one more day. You or I
might go out to dinner, but the Obamas aren't that free. Here's what
they have slated for tonight.
During the administration of President
George W. Bush, news that Tony was to be heavily represented at a fete
in the East Room of the White House would have suggested a British
theme to the evening, with emissaries of then-Prime Minister Blair in
Times have changed. On Monday, the dignitaries hosted by President and
Mrs. Obama will bring their regards from Broadway, not 10 Downing
Street, while sharing talents that collectively have won them 11 Tony
The public is invited to watch -- eventually -- on "A Broadway
Celebration," which will be taped for broadcast Oct. 20 as an
installment in the PBS series, "In Performance at the White House."
The Tony-winning performers are actor-singers Nathan Lane (two Tonys),
Audra McDonald (four Tonys), Idina Menzel, Tonya Pinkins and Karen
Olivo (one each, for "Wicked," "Jelly's Last Jam" and "West Side
Story," respectively), and pianist Marvin Hamlisch, a Tony winner for
his score to "A Chorus Line." Working behind the scenes is Jerry
Mitchell, Tony-winning choreographer (for the 2004 revival of "La Cage
aux Folles"), who will guide 20 Washington, D.C., dance students in a
segment from "Hairspray," another show he choreographed....
Presumably, critics who slammed the president and first lady last year
for wasting taxpayer money when they flew to New York for dinner and a
Broadway show (August Wilson's drama "Joe Turner's Come and Gone")
won't complain about Broadway coming to them.
If he had a message for her, it
wasn't an intimate "I love you truly and deeply regardless of all that
has changed in our lives; it was "Look at how truly and deeply everyone
loves me -- and you by
I know this sounds harsh, and there will be those who protest, "What's
a President to do?" uh, plenty. If the American people had made the
disastrous mistake of electing me
president, I could think of a lot of ways of fulfilling the promise
Obama purportedly made to Michelle. I wouldn't be at all shy about the
expense. If it was just for her, I would make it all just for her. I
would bring New York and Broadway to the White House -- the restaurant
setting, the chefs, the waiters for a dinner for two. And I would
invite her favorite Broadway performers to put on a show just for the
two of us. Because a president can do that. They keep telling us he's
creative -- a writer, right? -- and it's the creative, personal touches
that melt a woman's heart. The mystery beforehand, the stopping of the
world's outside clock on her behalf, the total attention to pleasing
her for a change, to living up
to her: for example, I'd have worn a tie, probably a black tie. For the
one person who, more than any other, merits my determination to put my
best foot forward.
Far be it from me to lambaste the president for finally taking one of
my suggestions, at least in part. (I don't think he gets the intimate,
romantic "dinner for two" part yet, but we can always hope...) I'm not
mad or even disgruntled. I am
amused, though, as I said earlier. Maybe it's the Broadway setting, but
I keep thinking of
scenes from various show biz productions during the Great Depression.
The Joads are refugees running west in an old truck with a transmission
lubricated by sawdust while Cole Porter lights up the stage and screen
with frolicsome love songs about champagne and caviar. Maybe this is
what the people want from their president. They loved the high life of
Camelot they could never have afforded for themselves. Maybe all that's
important is knowing that the most important among us are still dining
importantly on plover's eggs served in 18th century English silver cups
Or is there maybe something a little nouveau and tactless about it?
Or a certain glaring fin du monde
brightness that's as sad (and ultimately tinny)
as it is ostentatiously sophisticated?
You tell me. (Finally. The POINT.) Are there any scenes from Broadway
or Hollywood from (or about) the Thirties (or whenever) that come to
your mind even
as you admire and adore the festivities of our glorious First Family?
Seek them out on YouTube or elsewhere and link them in Comments. (No posting of videos, please; they make Comments unreadable without lots of right-left scrolling.) We'll make a
post of the best ones. Anything Goes.*
*Within reason, that is. Really NOT looking for cheap yucks from Porgy and Bess or Cotton Comes to Harlem. I know the
regulars know better than that, but casual visitors need to know we
have standards here. This game is about fun, which we all need a dollop of
from time to time. Especially now.
Have at it. You don't have to explain if you don't want to. Just give
us a link and we'll
all take a look. Unless you've totally lost your sense of humor. Which
would be the saddest thing of all.
A perfect example of what we're looking for, courtesy of Guy:
Give us more. We're greedy and the archives are rich with material.
(HINT) Anybody ever seen Pocketful
The Book of Eli, Doc
Zero, and Me
Mortal Kombat in movie reviews.
Electricity versus Ice. When is cold too cold?
. It turns out that Doc Zero and I
reviewed The Book of Eli on
the same day, July 13th. He liked
it. I didn't.
Which is fine.
Reviewing is fighting inside a padded box. The box closes at quitting
time and everyone goes home happy and unscathed. Because we talk from
time to time, I sent him an email noting the coincidence, and he was
kind enough to reply. Thus:
Funny we both got to it about the same
time, especially since it's not a new movie. I was mostly
inspired to write because I saw "Book of Eli" back to back with "The
Road" and found the similarities intriguing.
I liked "Eli" much better than you did, but I didn't go into its
strengths or weaknesses as a *movie* that much, aside from our mutual
admiration for Denzel Washington's acting skills. If you watch
"Eli" again, knowing the Big Twist Ending, you admire him even
more. How much of his intense focus comes from his
blindness? Does he resist Mila Kunis so easily because he can't
see her? The movie-makers were using blindness and sight in a
metaphorical sense, playing with the idea that his physical blindness
allows Eli to see spiritual truth more clearly, but as you pointed out,
they don't get into the precise nature of that truth in any great
detail - no Scriptural quotes that don't directly relate to an
impending ass-kicking, for example.
Speaking strictly as a movie critic, I'd have to fault "Eli" for
dragging a bit in the middle, and I haven't liked Mila Kunis in
anything outside of "That 70s Show." She always looks profoundly
out of place, and comes off as too shallow to play a tormented survivor
of the blasted wasteland, although she seems on the verge of putting on
a more interesting performance right as the credits start rolling in
A lot of my commenters wondered about the plausibility of destroying
every Bible but one. It's a stretch, to be sure, but I would note
the movie implies most of the human population died in the war - it was
an even more thorough apocalypse than the one in "Road Warrior" - and
most of the buildings seem to have gone with them. Maybe a few
frenzied years would have been enough for a frenzied population of
survivors to burn most of the Bibles. Of course, we only suppose
Eli has the very last Bible because he believes it.
I was happy enough with the themes expressed in "Eli" to forgive its
omissions. The question of faith surviving beyond the physical
existence of the Bible is interesting, but I wonder if Eli himself
would say the book he carried was a focus and reminder. As new
printings circulate through the wasteland, the pages will help people
remember something they have forgotten, in the face of monstrous
physical evidence that life is brutal, meaningless, and doomed.
Having a Good Book to hold onto would help the survivors climb over an
awful lot of rubble.
Then, because I am beset by punk demons, I responded with some
lightning bolts. Not out of anger at him, but out of general
frustration. Maybe some of you will know where I was coming from.
(Let's hope he does too.)
"The movie-makers were using blindness
and sight in a metaphorical sense, playing with the idea that his
physical blindness allows Eli to see spiritual truth more clearly, but
as you pointed out, they don't get into the precise nature of that
truth in any great detail - no Scriptural quotes that don't directly
relate to an impending ass-kicking, for example."
uh, Only one scriptural quote period, and not from the KJB but the RSV.
No matter. People differ about movies. "You see "brightness" where I
see "bleached cinematography." At least we agree about Denzel.
But here's a question I've never been able to answer. Thought maybe two
heads might be better than one. Everything that's happening now is
insanity. Obama is a thoroughly incompetent president and all kinds of
things -- the global economy, American liberty, the balance of power
between thugs and impotent democracies -- are spinning wildly out of
control. Yet the TV pundits still chuckle and opine, lefty and righty
still treat each other civilly on the shows where screaming is not the
whole purpose, and the knowledgeable pundits (at NRO,
RealClearPolitics, WSJ, etc) still carry on their business as if
politics are always politics and this too shall pass (Let's grab a
drink together at the old watering hole afterwards, and btw, how's the
There's a new poll showing that Washington DC elites are completely out
of tune with the rest of the country. By and large they think
everything's sort of okay, which contributes to the sense of business
as usual even though usual isn't that good at the moment.
My question: How does one make the Internet scream?
This isn't even the most extreme thing I've done. I had a post I can't
find that is all about recognizing insanity from a standing position in
front of the bar, including the word 'insanity' repeatedly part of the
It's just not enough to explain,
John. It's about making people see 1938 AS it is happening, before the
obvious inevitable proceeds to its grim conclusion. That's not a
rational communication. It's a combined outcry of love and war. It's a
soul change, a soul wound that precipitates an adrenalin fight for life.
I'm not eschewing rationality. I'm saying it has to be wedded to more.
I don't give a rat's ass who thinks you and I saw what was happening
after it's already too late. I care about not letting it get to be too
That's why I'm (probably [maybe] unfairly) harsh towards the new media
pundits whose personal fortunes are rising in terms of fame and
attention while the fortunes of the nation sink. "Look at all my new
connections and colleagues. I'm being taken seriously..." Meanwhile the
whole rest of the country, outside the zone of beltway power, feels the
firmament imploding on their heads and they want to scream and not stop
screaming until the world wakes up.
That situation is not material for an essay but the lamentations of
Jeremiah. I feel like finding some way to explode the traditional
barriers. Your book is so booklike, something we can mull in the Book of Eli days to come. I see
your essays, which ARE incendiary in their icy logic, mistake me not,
as just today's entry, with
the yellow-star green headlines of the second string shoe-horned among
speculations about Mel Gibson's tape recordings and Lindsey Lohan's FU
fingernails, and I want to scream. Not singling you out. I'm just as
inflamed by the banter between Juan Williams and Chris Wallace on Fox
While the nation is BURNING DOWN.
Never mind, children. It's all just politics and all will go on as
before, only maybe more so.
The only thing that's 'as usual' is the molds into which we pour an
increasingly toxic raw material. But the molds are like last week's
molds, last year's molds, last decade's molds. They all look like some
variant or derivative of 60 Minutes,
even the New Media ones. What comes out looks the same but
its principal constituent is rycin, not Severaid bombast.
ARE YOU CONTENT? Really?
Thank you. I feel better now. I just had to yell at somebody, and
you're the shrewdest ear I know. I promise to try to stay calm and do
my duty as a blogger and a unit of the state.
Haven't heard back yet, but if I do, you'll all be the first to
know.(Well, he did give me
permission to print this, so he might
be listening if there's anything you want to add...)
anybody can find the "insanity" page, please let me know. IP is getting
so big even I can't find things I know I wrote.
do have a follow-on to
post. A pretty interesting one, I must say. But I
didn't want to get into it without a healing laugh in between. You
know. Life goes on. That sort of thing. As opposed to what I was
yelling at Doc Zero.
So Doc Zero did reply and made it clear he was willing to share his
thoughts with you. Here's what he had to say:
I had a bit more time to digest your
unanswerable question, while grinding my way through a hellish tech
support issue at work, and I still don't have an answer.
Sometimes I read the responses to something I've posted, and I feel
like I might have accomplished something. Other times, I hit the
Publish button two hours after a reasonable bedtime, and wonder what
the hell I'm doing.
I began blogging a few months into the Obama presidency, and watched
the endgame of the New Deal take shape a couple of decades ahead of
schedule. There are three ways this can play out:
1. A complete, hellish, systemic crash, followed by some kind of
2. Catastrophe averted after electoral successes, and wise governance,
in 2010 and 2012.
3. The United States slides into a greatly diminished, more or less
stable level of European misery.
I find #3 highly unlikely, because we're just too big to climb quietly
into our deathbed and begin decomposing. I'd call #1 or #2 more
likely on different days, as I process new information and my mood
shifts. Nevertheless, #2 is what I am resolved to work toward,
and I believe it IS possible. Since it's possible, I think we
should make it happen.
I don't know what the best way to get people on board would be.
You've touched upon the essence of the problem. What's happening
now is an outrage, a call to arms. I took a lot of heat from Mitt
Romney supporters after I dismissed him this weekend, and replied to
one of them by saying he didn't "oppose" ObamaCare, he criticized it...
and I think it's not so much a program to be criticized, as a crime to
Of course, if you ring the alarm bell too violently, you scare away
those precious "independents." The coalition to avoid catastrophe
will inevitably include people who might respond to reasoned
persuasion, but flee from a call to arms. And yet... how can you
soften the necessary message enough to make it digestible to the
disengaged, without losing all urgency, and becoming dishonest in the
When I was just a commenter at Hot Air, I suggested the urgency of
studying the term "fascism" and comparing it to what Obama was
saying. I eventually wrote a piece called "The Eff Word" on the
subject, which drew an angry, self-described communist into the comment
forum. He said that even discussing the topic was fear-mongering,
hyperbole, and of course racism. People recoil from the word, and
understandably so - it's a conceptual hand grenade that doesn't have a
safety pin. But... how do we avoid its tragedy if we refuse to
understand what it is, or pretend we don't see it when it's right in
front of us? And how do you ask that question of an "independent"
without sounding paranoid?
How do you effectively resist extremism without becoming an "extremist"
One of the Germans in "Valkyrie" asks the Tom Cruise character, "who do
you think you are, to stand against the momentum of history?"
That's what we're doing, you know. We're not putting our elbows
on the table with the Left and waiting for the whistle to blow on an
intellectual arm-wrestling match. We stand before a bloody,
rusted engine hurtling toward the edge of a cliff, with a century of
accumulated speed. The pendulum of history had already swung far
to the Left before we were born. A Constitution which
anticipated, and absolutely forbid, precisely this kind of ruinous
central control and unsustainable pandering has been twisted into a
machine that incubates it. The last remnants of the idea that our
highest laws should restrain the State have been torn away, and in the
name of the people it cares about, the State has become the implacable
enemy of everyone it doesn't.
My hope and faith rest with a great people who have NOT degenerated
beyond the capacity to reason. It's my job to find the words that
will reach them, or pass those words along to someone who can turn them
into music on the national stage. It will take some combination
of calligraphy, poetry, and trumpets to make this work. All of us
working together, writing in our different ways, may yet stumble upon
that combination before the hour grows too late.
We don't agree about everything, but you've got to admit the man can
write: "We're not putting our elbows on the table with the Left and
the whistle to blow on an intellectual arm-wrestling match. We stand
before a bloody, rusted engine hurtling toward the edge of a cliff,
with a century of accumulated speed."
But he's as frustrated as I am when all is said and done. There are are
no easy answers here, my hearties. I think we're in for a grim time.