October 26, 2011 - October 19, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Wristcutters: A Love Story. Four stars. And it has Tom
that five stars.
MELTDOWN. So Netflix stock is plunging because the company tried to
separate its DVD business from its streaming business. Seemed
reasonable to me, but customers are revolting. Thing is, there's no
limit on the streaming business. You can watch whatever you want, in
any quantity, without incurring additional charges. And there's good
stuff there. So why should streaming be a permanently free add-on to the DVD mail service, which is routinely excellent on its own?
Why I'm recommending three streaming movies I don't think you'll find anywhere
else, at least not easily. What links them? They're all brilliantly
conceived and all have some kind of Christian connection without a
particle of preachiness. A contrarian type of person could interpret
all three as satires. What of? That would be in the eye of the
beholder, wouldn't it?
Wristcutters is the trailer up
top. As dark as dark can be but maybe not completely. I'll say no more
except 'watch it.'
The Troll Hunter is the third
subtitled Scandinavian movie I've recommended here. (The first two were
in the Dusk (Finnish) and The Sea
(Icelandic.)) This one's a Norwegian documentary, sort of. As deadpan serious as the first two. You'll laugh
your ass off.
The Last Exorcism is another
documentary. It follows a phony evangelical exorcist who is determined
to expose his own frauds before retiring to a career in real estate.
Don't watch any other trailers and don't read up on the film. Watch it
cold. It's very well done. (And please respect the right of other
readers to do the same...)
Some other time, I may get into the various other offerings of Netflix
streaming, which are profuse. But start with these.
Don't want you Tom Waits fans tearing your hair out. Here's the
studio version of the link in the caption.
Does that cheer you up? Me too. It's kind of the 21st Century rendition
of Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World. If you know
what I mean. The pace and the voice are similar. Only the words are a
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
just gotta hate him, right?
OLD NEWS ISN'T GOOD NEWS. Some sites call this an open thread. I
don't. I call it directed discussion. I deliberately withhold my
personal opinion to make you spout yours. It's a leap of faith. A trio
of stories some of you can be counted on to care about, even if they're
not front page news.
The first I could subtitle "Calling Lake!" New
info on the Global
For the clueless or cynical diehards
who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.
The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom
the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard
Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California,
Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted
by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered
shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the
record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.
“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street
Muller and his fellow researchers examined an enormous data set of
observed temperatures from monitoring stations around the world and
concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius
— or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s.
This agrees with the increase estimated by the United Nations-sponsored
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Muller’s figures also
conform with the estimates of those British and American researchers
whose catty e-mails were the basis for the alleged “Climategate”
scandal, which was never a scandal in the first place.
The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick”
graph — showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once
snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.”
Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical.
Muller found that skeptics are wrong when they claim that a “heat
island” effect from urbanization is skewing average temperature
readings; monitoring instruments in rural areas show rapid warming,
too. He found that skeptics are wrong to base their arguments on the
fact that records from some sites seem to indicate a cooling trend,
since records from at least twice as many sites clearly indicate
warming. And he found that skeptics are wrong to accuse climate
scientists of cherry-picking the data, since the readings that are
often omitted — because they are judged unreliable — show the same
If you're not interested in discussing AGW, there's a vigorous pundit
debate underway about Herman Cain. Richard
Miniter thinks he could win:
Forget the eye-rolling. Let’s look at
the numbers. Herman Cain is ahead of Romney in virtually all of the
polls conducted in the past two weeks. In both Iowa and nation-wide
Cain leads Romney by 30% to 22%,according to Public Policy Polling, a
respected pollster. Meanwhile the latest NBC-Marist poll puts Cain
ahead of Romney in South Carolina by 30%-26%, and shows Cain and Romney
neck-and-neck in Florida. Cain leads in Ohio by 15%, and in Hawaii by
12%. Only in New Hampshire does Romney stubbornly hold a solid
double-digit lead (15%).
Still, Cain could finish a strong second in New Hampshire. Cain is the
second choice of Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum voters, polls
show. If some or all of them are out by the time New Hampshire
Republicans go to the polls, Cain will benefit. Only Huntsman voters
would shift to Romney...
If Cain can survive the sudden media attention, his support among Tea
Partiers will solidify and grow. Once he won the Florida Straw Poll, he
suddenly seemed electable to Tea Partiers. So he caught an updraft and
is now the front-runner. He will stay there until the Tea Party loses
confidence in him (and possibly elevates Gingrich).
Cain has a compelling Horatio Alger story, a warm sense of humor and
sharply defined ideology. The media might call him just a “pizza guy.”
They called Reagan just an actor.
And the Reagan analogy is coming up, again and again. The New
Republic’s Walter Shapiro wrote: “…Cain is certainly not an extremist
out of the Robertson and Buchanan playbooks. He is a cheerful
conservative in the Ronald Reagan mold.”
Steyn is reluctantly determined to sound like a grownup:
Don’t get me wrong, I like Herman Cain.
I like “Imagine There’s No Pizza”: It would be the greatest
presidential campaign song since “Tippecanoe And Tyler, Too.” I like
his sunny disposition: Mien can be determinative — it’s why Rick
Santorum is right on almost everything, and going nowhere. I like
Cain’s electrified fence gags, on the general principle that no sane
person should climb into the straitjackets of the politically correct
And yet, and yet. . . . The foreign policy, hostage-trading, abortion
stuff is becoming more difficult to ignore. I don’t think Charles
Krauthammer’s assertion that Cain’s “winging it” fully explains it, nor
does the Pundette’s that he is “incoherent.” Cain’s boast that he can’t
name the president of Beki-beki-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan gets closer to
it. It’s a cute line, notwithstanding that parochial braggadocio is
easier to carry off when you’re a soaring hyperpower rather than a
multi-trillion-dollar sinkhole whose citizens’ future is increasingly
mortgaged to foreigners of one degree of unsavoriness or another.
But the ’stan shtick is a glimpse of the greater truth – that there are
whole areas of public policy in which he simply has no interest. None.
You ask him a question and from the recesses of his mind swim up
half-recalled phrases from some panel discussion he caught once long
ago, and he hopes he grabs the conservative line (“I’m proud to stand
by Israel,” “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” “life begins at
conception,” whatever) but just as often he doesn’t (with Gretchen
Carlson this morning: “No, abortion should not be a part of the
His fans say he’s being set up with “Gotcha” questions. But these
aren’t the Hoogivsastans way out on the fringe of the public policy
map. They’re the first stops on the central thruway of American
politics, and have been for most of Cain’s adult life. And it’s
becoming harder to avoid the obvious truth that he hasn’t given them a
And for those who are fatigued with the political horserace, I have a
third line of controversy. Tim
After Tebow's first start of the season on Sunday, the debate
remains open for all but the most fanatical in either camp.
The Floridian combines a Johnny Unitas throwback hairstyle with a
running back's physique, a winning smile and a take-home-to-Mom
politeness, all wrapped up with home-schooled Christian values.
That makes him a marketing and branding dream for the Denver
Broncos, the NFL, television and all manner of sponsors.
But there are those who think he might prove to be the NFL's version
of Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova -- popular, attractive and
talented but not cut out for the weekly grind of the professional
For three quarters of the game at the Miami Dolphins, the critics
appeared right. Tebow's passing was poor, he needed too much time to
read situations and he just never looked comfortable.
Then, with time running out, he took the game by the scruff of the
neck and the Tebow that had delighted fans of the 2008 Florida Gators
national championship winning team -- brimming with confidence and
willing to improvise -- re-emerged and won the game for his team...
The key phrase is "fanatical." Which I think is more on one side than
the other. I used to like Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network, a shrewd and
well spoken ex-player/commentator. But his recent commentary on two
players has made me suspect that his football insights are compromised
by deep cultural biases. He has a tendency to jeer at particular
players, regardless of their performances. First with Ryan Fitzpatrick,
whom Dukes apparently cannot forgive for having gone to Harvard. He
notoriously called Fitzpatick a "seat-warmer" for whatever real
quarterback the Bills would ultimately draft. Then, after an overlong suspenseful buildup, he sarcastically
claimed he was on the the Fitzpatrick bandwagon (with an option to jump
off) when the Bills went 4-0 early this season.
On Sunday he surpassed himself. Commenting over the highlights of the
Broncos' last minute come from behind victory over the Dolphins, he was
over the top in attributing every part of the comeback to Tebow --
Tebow with the onside kick, Tebow with the kick recovery, Tebow with
the game-winning field goal. It was nasty, and it was obviously
personal. At every turn, he compared Tebow's prior failures in the game to the
performance of Aaron Rodgers, as if not being Aaron Rodgers right now
were proof of a youngster's inborn incompetence.
Compare this with the way so many ex-players, including Dukes, have
treated the return of Michael Vick. He made a mistake. He paid his
debt to society. He deserves a second chance.
So.... uh.... why doesn't Tebow even deserve a first chance? What, uh, mistake has he made? He hasn't
slaughtered dogs? He hasn't killed someone in a DUI accident? He hasn't
committed a drug/gun/domestic abuse felony? No. He's a Christian
missionary who actually seems to live his faith. He's derided as a virgin. What a creep. No wonder he
has to be ridiculed in his first ever NFL start.
Exceptions in the punditry class, to be fair, have included Chris
Berman, who defended Tebow against a scornful ESPN crew, and Terry
Bradshaw, who early in the season acknowledged an NFL prejudice against
unconventional talents and -- based on the fledgling exploits of Cam
Newton, who was also supposed to be a Tebow-like bust -- promised to
open his mind to the possibilities of youngsters.
But when it comes to Tebow, I think there's more going on, and I don't
think it's all about football.
As I say: Your Turn. Do these three stories have something in common? Your call. But if you
can't get fired up about any one of them, that would be on you.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Who forgot about
Beth Phoenix... er... Newt Gingrich?
CIRCLE? So Romney and Perry are slapping at one another like
jealous cheerleaders. Great. Romney was wanting Anderson Cooper (?)
to save him from his Rick Perry confrontation. He was almost stamping
his feet. Rick Perry was in the mode of "I'll say no every time you say
yeah" and "I'lll say yeah every time you say no. And your Mormon mother
wears army boots." Presidential. Right. Bunch of girls gouging each
other with their fingernails.
They think they're carving up the Republican electorate. Herman Cain
thinks he's mopping up the blood they spill between them. How can we be
in this much of a mess? The president is a disaster. All we need is a
credible candidate. But Romney's a liar. Perry's a dunce. (Even I can't stand that mush-mouthed
Texas twang...) Cain's an amateur in a year when, let's face it,
amateurs aren't exactly what the electorate wants.
Which leaves us where we were four years ago. With the only
man who can be absolutely counted on to annihilate Obama in the
Boy, am I depressed.
How to Win
(N at all SFW)
We keep forgetting the "Government by the people" part of the arrangement.
. Ah. The irony. The man who won the Nobel Peace
Prize before he'd been president even a few months has precious few
accomplishments to brag about. Domestically, he's turned a recession
into what looks to be an FDR-style generational depression. In foreign
policy, he's concluded no peace treaties of any kind and has succeeded
in pissing off such long-term allies as the U.K., Germany, and Israel.
So what's his claim to fame? He's managed to engineer the violent
deaths of three leaders of the muslim world he kowtowed to in his
apologetic "outreach" to Islam: Bin Laden, Awlaki, and Qaddafi.
And some members of his own party are hopping mad about his kill order
on Awlaki because he was an
American and absolutely in line with the Democrats on matters of
foreign policy. How could Hating America First be a killing offense?
It wouldn't be so funny if he had any
other foreign policy successes. But he doesn't. Just last week, the
Germans told him to piss off and mess out of the E.U.'s ongoing
financial meltdown. "Like we need your
advice, Mr. Deficit...) And we understand the Mexicans are very
understanding about the Fast & Furious program that killed one
Border Patrol agent and 200 Mexicans.
Iranians do appreciate the fact that his sanctions against
an intended act of war on U.S. soil amount to holding their man-purse
in the teacher's drawer until the end of the day's classes.
But with all the sixties nostalgia that's going on, we can't help
thinking of the old chant outside the Johnson White House: ""Hey, hey,
LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?"
Hey, hey, BHO! How many hits are still to go?
No wonder the Republican party leadership is too nervous to point out
that the jobs bill is exclusively about government jobs. I mean, drones
work just as well over the Maryland suburbs as they do over Afghanistan.
We won't know for sure until he announces that his 2012 campaign slogan
is, "I'll be back."
With a pronunciation of the letter "a" that matches
his pronunciation of "Pakistan."
A new survey shows that Americans
overwhelmingly support the self-styled Occupy Wall Street protests that
not only have disrupted life in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington
and cities and towns across the U.S. and in other nations. Some 59
percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the
protesters, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree; 10
percent of those surveyed didn’t know or refused to answer...
When it comes to the question of how to pay for the Democratic jobs
bill, most respondents were more than willing to place a special burden
on the wealthy. Those surveyed were asked about a possible 5 percent
surtax on those earning more than $1 million annually... A
whopping 68 percent of adults support the Democratic surtax to pay for
the cost of their jobs plan. Only 27 percent opposed the tax, while 5
percent didn’t know. Men and women split almost identically on the
issue, and black non-Hispanics were more supportive of the surtax than
white non-Hispanics, with 84 percent supporting the idea...
Throughout the fall, the United Technologies/National Journal
Congressional Connection Poll has revealed an electorate that’s
extremely critical of Congress and wary of embracing any particular
policy prescription for getting the American economy growing more
briskly. The millionaire’s surtax has cut through the clutter. Although
it may not be surprising that 90 percent of Democrats support this
Democratic proposal, it’s notable that 71 percent of independents do
and even 37 percent of Republicans like this kind of a tax increase.
When it comes to those Wall Street protests, there’s also a populist
streak: Remarkably, nearly one-third of Republicans --31 percent --
completely or mostly agree with their aims. The sour economy has
sparked some class resentments in unexpected places, it seems. Those
stirrings are unlikely to come to fruition in this divided Congress,
but there’s no indication they’re going away anytime soon.
All those idiot friends and acquaintances of yours whom you blithely
assume have at least some
idea of what's going on don't know anything at all.
Get to work. Do the unthinkable. Talk to them. About politics. The
country you save may be your own.
Serendicity again. Found this critique
of the National Journal poll. No big deal. But then, this afternoon, I
received an honest-to-God local polling call myself about our upcoming
county elections. It was the push poll to end all push polls. Clearly
slanderous statements about the Republican candidates for freeholder
were read off, followed by the bland question, "Does this make you
more, or less, likely to vote for this person?" Even the pollster began
to laugh when I interrupted him to finish the next intended slander by
accusing the Republican of abusing his Pomeranian in the front yard of
his palatial home. At the end, he thanked me for "not blowing up at me
like the lady I talked to last did." I told him it wasn't his fault. At
least he has a job. I guess he'd like to keep it.