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December 21, 2011 - December 14, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011


The Girl with the Dragon Subtitles

Too many words. About everything. The music is overwrought too.

SOMETIMES I REVIEW.... They're about to release a movie called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring the Brit stick named Daniel Craig. Doesn't give me much hope for its success. I've never seen an actor with less emotional range, including Finns I've reviewed in the past. His James Bond is sullen, humorless, and downright dreary. His subsequent Cowboys & Aliens effort cements him as a diminutive Brit version of Schwarzenegger's terminator, with a method acting tic or two offered up as evidence of empathy. If I were casting Hamlet, I'd pick Jason Stathem and even Vin Diesel over Daniel Craig for the eponymous role because of their greater capacity to connect emotionally with audiences. Are we clear?

But with all the hype I've seen for this movie, I finally broke one of my semi-cardinal rules and watched the Swedish original of which the Daniel Craig vehicle is a remake. The semi-cardinal rule has to do with subtitles. I don't like reading movies. Although the lady of the house has succeeded in getting me to watch subtitled Russian and German film classics, which has led to other abominations against my popcorn movie soul. I never do it for fun, but this time it was a calculation. There are now three of these movies featuring the same characters. and if they've convinced Hollywood to take a chance on doing something different, maybe there's something worth watching.

The good news? There is. The bad news? Hollywood -- even with abundant Brit help -- has no chance of doing it as well as the Swedes. The most extreme violence in this very dark movie is sexual, something Hollywood can't render truthfully or objectively, but only coyly and leeringly, or politically. It's central in this case, however. Rendered in Scandinavian terms, coldly and without blinking. And with very few words.

Same goes for the movie as a whole. I've seen the Daniel Craig trailer, which speaks the world to me. They're trying unusually hard to do a faithful remake, but even in the scene fragments they show, they feel compelled to explain and verbalize what the original merely shows without remark. And by casting a ham like Christopher Plummer in the pivotal plot role, we're guaranteed more scenery chewing than the original eschews so effectively.

Oh. Did I forget to tantalize you? Here's the teaser. A disgraced journalist is sentenced to a term in prison because he's been found guilty of criminal libel. He has six months before he has to begin serving his sentence. A mysterious third party hires a security firm to investigate him. An eccentric researcher (i.e., paid hacker) at that firm does the investigation and concludes that he was set up. The attorney who heard her conclusions arranges a meeting between the journalist and a tycoon who is harboring a secret sorrow. The beloved niece he regarded as a daughter disappeared in the 1960s without a trace. He suspects members of his own family, several of whom had Nazi ties during WWII. Now approaching death, he wants the mystery solved.

Meanwhile we learn that the eccentric researcher has a criminal past, a history of violence, and is on parole. A new parole officer begins to harass her sexually while she continues to follow the fate of the journalist she believes was set up.

So, yes, the journalist and the mysterious hacker do ultimately join forces to pursue the solution of a forty-year-old maybe crime, and there are twists and turns, and more twists, and additional turns, and emotional complications, and more violence, murder, and, of course, more turns and twists. Almost all of which are delivered to us in such matter-of-fact terms that some loony-tunes casting director got the wrong idea that a dead carp like Daniel Craig would be perfect for the male lead.

I don't see how he can be. The two key roles in this movie -- which is incredibly suspenseful and absorbing -- are complicated, contradictory characters. The journalist is both strong and weak. He's a bulldog in his profession but baffled and in denial about how to handle direct assaults on his person. The girl with the dragon tattoo is similarly afflicted, but neither an opposite nor a complement. She's a kind of perpendicular. As a hacker she's a relentless and thorough problem solver, driven not by ethics but outrage and obsession. Attacked in person, she is an archetypal and, when necessary, lethal Nemesis. But where the journalist is emotionally vulnerable, she wears an iron carapace of cold. Their work as a team is sometimes brilliantly effective and sometime tone deaf, on both sides.

Can Hollywood do justice to this? Can Daniel Craig? I doubt it. Let's not forget that Swedes know something about playwriting. Where Brits always think more words are the answer, Swedes think fewer are a better answer. There's a scene in the trailer up top which is, once again, very close to the original. Where Daniel Craig says "Put some clothes on. Get rid of your girlfriend," the Swedish version contains no such Brit ordering about. The dragon girl is already clothed, the journalist observes the girlfriend exiting the bedroom and asks if there is any coffee. Everybody, including us, knows what has been seen and WHY IT ISN'T IMPORTANT. Why the dragon girl eventually comes to trust him.

I actually appreciated the subtitles. So much is unsaid, unspoken, that it becomes easy to imagine the entire movie as a set of interior monologues for which subtitles are a graceful necessity.

I've avoided spoilers. If you can find a way (Netflix, etc), see the Swedish version.



Pretty sure you'll be as enthralled as I was.

P.S. On the other hand, here's what Americans do well:


Gina Carano. The Girl with the American Flag Tattoo.

Can't wait.





Some Personal Business

I'm only grimacing because I'm holding the damn camera
at arm's length. Can't explain the scratches. I'm thinking
Raebert detected the scent of Cheeto and licked the lens.

SHE OBJECTED TO THE PIC. So Lady Laird didn't like my Egotistical Senile Old Fool portrait. She seems to think it's insulting to her for some reason. Why I'm correcting the record. Thus, your very own photographic portrait of InstaPunk.

Of course, I never have only one agenda. FINE ARTIST is threatening (see Comments) to do a portrait of me when he loses his bet about Ron Paul. But I won't be sitting for any portrait sitting. Other artists have worked from photos. So can he. I suggest something along the lines of a St. Nuke version of the above:


I have an iPhone, my PhotoShop back... What stands
 in the way of my boundless self-aggrandizing ego? Zip.

Or, maybe, after all these years, I thought I should finally introduce myself, so you could finally put a face to my annoying voice.

You're welcome but not obligated to send me pictures in return.




Friday, December 16, 2011


Egotistical senile old fool?

Took this self-portrait with my iPhone and the Camera+ App!
With the edit function I was able to minimize the forehead
wrinkles and bulging eyes. What do you think? Handsome?


TOUCHED A NERVE IN THE COMMENTS. Apparently, our formerly courteous Chevalier ("Still one of the best blogs on the web, period. At least when the Punkfather is flat out wrong, he argues his case with grace and style.") has had a major change of heart:

You egotistical senile old fool.

The rest of us were watching Gingrich when he was booted from Congress on multiple ethics charges [ED. NOT TRUE] by Conservatives, when his multiple ex-wives say not just that they don't like him because of the divorce but that he's a lying, evil SOB [GOSSIP], when he was buddying up with Liberal Democrats for the past decade plus [UNLIKE PERRY, ROMNEY & HUNTSMAN], supporting all of the LibDem causes [ALL? REALLY?], and when he was getting million-dollar payoffs from LibDem pet institutions [NOT HAPPY ABOUT THAT ONE EITHER. ANYMORE THAN I AM ABOUT ROMNEYCARE OR PAULISTA DISARMAMENT]. Where the heck were you? [RIGHT HERE, PAL. LONG BEFORE YOU. I ALSO SAW HIM DEMOLISH BILL BUCKLEY IN A FORMAL DEBATE ABOUT THE PANAMA CANAL TREATY. WHERE WERE YOU? DIDN'T SEE YOU.][HE'S A FUCKING POLITICIAN. NEVER DENIED IT.]

You must be losing your mind. And apparently so willing to swallow a big load of Newt that you're citing Newt's own boy as "proof" that Newt is a conservative who can get things done. That's a real comfort, one lying, unethical SOB on the payroll of another lying, unethical SOB. Great!

"We've never seen a Republican campaign like this before?" Are you freaking kidding me? We saw this campaign in 2008! And Obama beat the squishy "friends across the aisle" RINO that time, too!

When you're ready to pull your head out of your behind and present an argument based on reality, maybe I'll come back here. But until then, goodbye. It's too bad you're so ready to sell out all of your principles and good sense because Newt jammed some lingo down your throat. Go buy some Vaseline buddy, you're about to get plowed. [A CONCLUDING QUESTION: YOU SEEM PREOCCUPIED WITH HOMOSEXUAL IMAGERY. HAVE YOU SHARED THIS WITH THE OTHER 'CHEVALIERS' IN YOUR TROUPE? MAYBE IT WOULD REDUCE THE LEVEL OF YOUR HYSTERIA...? JUST A THOUGHT.]

Egotistical. Senile. Old. Fool. Hmmmm. I'm thinking about it............ uh, no. Except for the egotistical part, which all writers have to be if you think about it. We do tend to place some stock in what we have to say. Mostly, what I said in the offending post was 1) Since everyone's piling on Newt, maybe you should expose yourselves to a dissenting view, and 2) Watch the most significant debate yet and make up your own minds. I even encouraged readers to disregard the personal opinions I'd expressed. If that's enough to drive anybody away, so be it. You've made up your mind. Maybe that's a good thing even if I don't think it's the right thing. Go in peace. (I may have a little more to say about this comment later, but all in good time, though I'll note that it is possible to forfeit the "grace and style" privilege here. You wouldn't enjoy it if I got really angry.)

Now for the comment that may deserve some specific response. Skinny Devil responded:

RL said:

"Everyone for Bachmann, Perry, Paul, or Santorum is already conceding the election. Everyone for Romney is making a totally irrational bet that he will perform better as president than he did as governor of Massachusetts."

I must have missed that. Exactly what Bachmann, Perry, Paul, & Santorum supporters think their guy will lose to Obama?

My 2 cents (which won't even buy a cup of coffee anymore, so...) is that Santorum would get killed by Obama, Perry might lose to Obama, but Bachmann or Paul (or even the sadly forgotten Huntsman) would destroy Obama.

Obama is one-term unless republicans TOTALLY drop the ball.

Skinny's two cents may be as good as mine, but it's not as if I haven't shared my reasoning about the "Little Four" before. (Do a name search.) Still, I'm willing to update it based on current information, including last night's debate. Which I'll do after I address Skinny's final sentence.

Obama is incompetent at everything but winning elections. But don't ever discount how good he is at that. He'll have about a billion dollars to spend distorting, smearing, destroying the credentials of his Republican opponent. He'll have the mainstream media on his side from first to last, and even the mounting scandals of his administration will not be brought to light by the major media outlets. The major network debate formats will be designed to make him look presidential and his opponent insignificant or worse. Many polls currently show that a plurality of voters still blame George W. Bush and the Republicans more than they blame Obama for the continuing economic morass, other polls show that the MSM's smear job on the Tea Party has been effective, and all MSM coverage from now on should be considered Obama campaign publicity: From August to November 2012, daily headlines from Europe and the middle east can and will be spun to make him seem the victim of forces beyond anyone's control, no matter what terrible things happen. (In the 1980 election, the Dem line was that the presidency was too hard a job for anyone, hence all the putrid results; it might have worked except that the media hated Carter's smug Christian self-righteousness.) Scare the voters enough and they will reelect Obama in self-defense.

Obama is not Carter. He starts somewhere between 10 and 12 points ahead at the ballot box, which is like starting a football game for the national championship up by two touchdowns. It's absolutely not true that "Obama is one-term unless republicans TOTALLY drop the ball." On the contrary, Republicans have to do everything right to boot Obama out of office.

Where does that leave us with the "Little Four"? I'm sympathetic to the argument that a true conservative could win, but it would take a Reagan, and not one of these candidates is a Reagan or anywhere near it.

Bachmann. She's smart, attractive, and at times articulate. She also got in some good shots against Gingrich last night (until she overplayed her hand). But she has weaknesses that will be used like hammers against her in a general election, and she has a tendency to start playing the sexism card when hammers are flying around. ("I'm a serious candidate! Stop dissing me!") Not good. Her staff is second-rate; they prepare her with scripted talking points (frequently dumb) that she lacks the spontaneity to make seem her own and doesn't know when to let go of -- the "Newt Romney" bit, for example. But they do not prepare her with sound information. She made the mistake last night of citing "Politifact" as proof that her charges against Newt in the prior debate were accurate. Politifact responded with an immediate denial, citing her well under .500 batting average on facts they'd previously researched from her and her campaign. The Oral Roberts degree is a problem. Her insistence on making abortion opposition a major part of her campaign is a problem. The laugh potential of a husband who believes homosexuality can be "cured" is a problem. The fact that so much of her base and financial support comes from the Tea Party is a problem.

I grant you her supporters may think she can win. But imagine all the ways Obama will run against her. Against Sarah Palin Lite. Against Oral Roberts University. Against her mechanical public performances (Stepford wife?). Against her probably closeted-and-denying-it gay husband. Against that racist Tea Party connection. Against her weak grasp of the facts on any given subject. And there will come a time when she will wilt under a kind of pressure she hasn't yet had the wit to foresee, or we'd have heard her real voice emerge from the rote campaign rhetoric as we have with Palin.

Santorum. Even you concede he's toast. So apparently it doesn't matter all that much to you if a candidate's supporters think he can win...

Paul. Michelle Bachmann absolutely cleaned his clock in last night's debate. He was left spluttering and unable to finish his own sentences during their exchange on Iran. Look up the clip. Speaking of "egotistical senile old fools..." No Republican can win the presidency without the support of old-fashioned national security Republicans. They will stay home. Discount me all you will on this. But they're a population of mature and older voters who remember the Cold War and the dangers of the world, and whom the Republican Party absolutely counts on to vote. If they stay home, all is lost: that's the two touchdowns the Republicans won't be able to make up.

Worse, Paul's supporters are his own worst enemy, which would become clear if he actually became the candidate. They torch every criticism, every expression of opposition, and they can mount internet campaigns against their targets that are guaranteed to turn off casual supporters by revealing the lockstep fanaticism of their, uh, movement. And btw, if the MSM is presently downplaying or omitting reportage of Paul's past newsletters, which flirt with everything from anti-semitism to Trutherism to racism, do NOT expect that not to become the centerpiece of an Obama campaign against him. They'd looooove to run against Ron Paul because he makes Obama's troubled relations with Israel and Jewish voters look good by comparison.

Perry. The N-Word rock. The N-Word rock. The N-Word rock. 24/7 on every TV station in the country. Was there anything else? Oh, yeah, maybe a few more things. Another Texas governor. Oh how Obama would love to run against George W. Bush one more time. And all the better if the latest incarnation of GW is the kind of Texas oaf who thinks the United States was founded in the 1600s. And, me, I can't help thinking -- and dreading -- the world-shattering October Surprise that's probably already safely under lock-and-key.

Huntsman. Good luck with that. I've nothing much against him but the fact that nobody knows who he is. Maybe he's great. Didn't show me much last night... I guess he better get going if he's going to be president.

Why I think Romney and Gingrich have the best chance to win. And I do think we can win.

I'll close by circling back to the Chevalier's scorn about my characterization of this election. He said:

"We've never seen a Republican campaign like this before?" Are you freaking kidding me? We saw this campaign in 2008! And Obama beat the squishy "friends across the aisle" RINO that time, too!

No. I'm not freaking kidding you. It's not 2008 because Obama is an incumbent, for one thing. And for another thing, the fact that Independents are looking for a good excuse to vote against Obama this time when last time they were already in the bag before the campaign ever started. Yet, in the face of this, the off-putting internecine nastiness on our side of the fence, long before the first primary vote has occurred, is striking. Interestingly, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg felt compelled today to respond to some "chevaliers" who launched bitter attacks against the NR editorial which conspicuously did NOT endorse Gingrich yesterday. I'm going to quote him some and let you be the judge of any relevance it has to our discussions here:

I recognize that feelings are running hot about NR’s editorial. I have no desire to lend support to some of the overheated charges being hurled at NR — including from some of our longtime friends. So I will simply say that I don’t see perfectly eye-to-eye with it myself. But that’s often the case with NR editorials. Indeed, it’s the nature of editorials. Perhaps because I know and respect my colleagues, I see no need to attack their motives nor would it occur to me to question their commitment to conservative principles. Did we get this one wrong? It’s perfectly reasonable for some to think so. It’s certainly happened before. Indeed some of the criticisms strike me as entirely fair — why not just endorse Romney if it’s a two man race? Why even consider Huntsman? etc — and there are fair rebuttals to them as well. I will let the editorial speak for itself in that regard.

Now on to some of the unfair, hyperbolic and just plain weird charges.

First of all, what is with this complaint that we are trying to “dictate” who people vote for? I don’t get it. We are, as always, an opinion magazine sharing our opinion. It is not binding... In 1980, WFB kept the magazine from endorsing Reagan (Bill loved the Gipper but had grave concerns about his age). We endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, for many of the same reasons some of our biggest detractors today did — to stop John McCain.

As I suggested above, some critics of our editorial fault us for not outright endorsing Romney, others complain that we endorse him too much. If you’re a committed opponent of Romney — or a committed fan –  those are all fair gripes. But some of our friends should at least consider the possibility that such nuances reflect both internal differences as well as the messiness of political reality. A conservative,  James Burnham argued in the debates over endorsing Nixon in 1960, “has to set his course within the frame of reality.” Burnham supported endorsing Nixon on the grounds that the real enemies were supporters of Kennedy. Frank Meyer, meanwhile,  argued that endorsing Nixon would be a surrender to the Eisenhower liberalism the magazine had been criticizing for years. Bill found arguments on both sides compelling. So what did he do? He punted, endorsing no one.  “National Review,” he wrote, “was not founded to make practical politics. Our job is to think, and write.”...

Bill Buckley, like the magazine he founded, has always tried to balance the ideal with the practical, the perfect with the doable. I do not speak for my colleagues, but I’m confident than none of them believe the current crop of candidates is ideal. If we did, we would have written a very different editorial. All of us — you, me, everybody — are trying to chart our way through rougher waters than we would like, with candidates for the captain’s chair that leave us unsure.

When have I suggested here that you not make up your own minds? I just like to add grist to the mill. And if that fills you with bile, then I'd ask why. Because like Jonah, I'm equally concerned about "candidates for the captain’s chair that leave us unsure." And like the rest of you, I'm just trying to navigate my way through it.




Thursday, December 15, 2011


So WATCH the
debate tonight...


Obama awaits...

IF I'M SO WRONG, PROVE IT... Do you want it to be about TV ads and smears and contextless sound bites and snarky personal accusations? There aren't many professional politicians I'd want to associate with. My dad once dreamed that he was back in Hurricane Hazel, which bowed the front door of his house, and then there was a knock on that door. It was Harry Truman seeking sanctuary. In the dream my dad didn't let him in.

I'm amused by all the expert observers who know more about Newt than I do. Thing is, I was paying close attention when he was Speaker of the House. Guess what. He did more for our side than anyone else in the current list of candidates has ever done. The score isn't even close. But the true believers know better, of course. Here's something for you to consider before tonight: what one of his House staffers, Tony Blankley, has to say:

Almost all political commentators agree on one thing: The Republican presidential campaign is unlike any we have experienced. It is not a campaign of steady trends and continuities, but rather of emotional reversals and discontinuities. Perhaps this is so because the past three or four years have been a shocking time of discontinuities and reversals for America. Really, America has been bewildered, shocked and disoriented since Sept. 11, 2001. The economic collapse and the unprecedentedly statist policies of the past three years have just compounded the anxiety. The rise of China, the fall of Europe and the chaos in the Middle East has been startling in their swiftness - and the lack of American leadership as these dramatic events unfold is sending a shudder throughout the world.

We don’t know what to make of events. We have not been convinced that either President George W. Bush or incumbent President Obama have had a clue about how to make things right.

The GOP primary voters reflect this helter-skelter search for leadership. I predict that when the general electorate is engaged in the election campaign next year, the independents and some Democrats will reflect the same desperate confusion and search for the right kind of leadership for these treacherous times. But what kind of candidate is most likely to be able to make sense of the terrible events and forces that weigh down our country, be capable of vividly describing our plight and what needs to be done and convince the public that he has the intelligence, courage, experience and sheer will to force events favorably to America’s historic interests and needs?

As I have chosen to phrase that question, the question answers itself. It is the GOP candidate currently at the top of the polls, my former boss, Newt Gingrich.

But most Washington politicians don’t see it that way. They see a conventional close election - not a bold, historic lunge by the voters to save the country. They suggest Mitt Romney may be best positioned to stitch together a safe campaign that noses out President Obama by a point or two, or comes up short by a point or two. He might be that candidate.

Thus, Mr. Romney received the endorsement of the GOP political types - congressmen and former congressmen. Now they are doubling down on their early bet and are out telling reporters that Newt was never much of a leader and never got much done.

Curious. I remember most of them enthusiastically following his leadership year after year as Republican whip from 1989 to 1994. It was the most successful congressional opposition movement since Benjamin Disraeli formed the modern Conservative Party in Britain in the mid-19th century. And after the GOP took back the House for the first time in 40 years (and the Senate, too, by the way), Newt’s four years as speaker proved to be the most productive, legislative congressional years since at least 1965 to 67, and they were led by Lyndon B. Johnson from the White House. Working against - and with - Democratic President Bill Clinton, we passed into law most of the Contract With America, welfare reform, telecommunications reform (which ushered in the modern cellphone and Internet age) and the first balanced budget since before the Vietnam War, and we cut taxes and lowered unemployment to less than 5 percent.

Just who the heck do all these professional political wizards think managed all that?

There's more. Read it.

Then think about the contradictions in your own positions. Everyone for Bachmann, Perry, Paul, or Santorum is already conceding the election. Everyone for Romney is making a totally irrational bet that he will perform better as president than he did as governor of Massachussetts. Bad bet. It's the only major elected office he's ever held, but not for want of trying. How long has he been running for president?

You can't have it both ways. If you're determined to lose, then go with the guy who won't look like a monotone marionette (Bachmann), a (way) dumbed-down version of GW, a hectoring old woman who can't ever look anybody straight in the eyes (Paul), or a defeated senator who has been successfully caricatured as paranoid about outbreaks of polygamy and bestiality. Go with the guy who can at least make a fight of it and bloody his opponent even if the decision goes against him..

If you're determined to win, you have another bet to make -- between the tortoise and the hare. Romney is the tortoise, and maybe safer if things were normal, but will the electorate really punch a ballot for Bill Slowsky when the whole world is disintegrating?


Yeah, they've been married for a long time... I'm impressed.

Here's the rub. Things are going to get worse. Europe is imploding, the middle east is tipping into chaos, and even the Chinese economy is slowing down. There is going to be another recession. Is Slowsky the answer? Maybe. But none of the so-called remaining conservative candidates is. Ron Paul doesn't even acknowledge the relevance of Europe and the middle east. Bachmann can't speak without a canned set of talking points from her handlers. Perry doesn't know when the constitution was signed or what it says. And Santorum can't ever blip the polls above zero.

The situation in 2012 may very well be ripe for the sudden turn of opinion that put Reagan in office, whatever the polls say now. Does anyone in the heartland know or care about the definition of the words "nimble" and "agile"? If you don't, maybe you should.

But when it came to fundamental conservative principles and the political strategies necessary to protect them, Newt saw the threats to them and never wavered. I was amused to see Gov. John Sununu, President George H. W. Bush’s chief of staff and a current Romney supporter, criticize Newt last week.

I remember back in 1990, just after Newt had become GOP whip, when Mr. Bush, urged on by Mr. Sununu, was about to break his campaign pledge and raise taxes, which eventually cost him his re-election bid against Mr. Clinton. It was Newt who opposed it. In fact, Marlin Fitzwater, the loyal and shrewd White House press secretary, and no fan of Newt’s at the time, later wrote in his memoirs, “As it turned out, one of the few people on the Republican team who understood this trap [the Democrats demanded Bush raise taxes as the political price to reduce the deficit] was Newt Gingrich. … Newt had … recommended a different course of action: Abandon the budget negotiations [with Democrats], keep the tax pledge, insist that Congress cut spending, and make a political fight out of it. It’s clear now that we should have followed his advice.”

But forget all that. Whoever goes up against Obama really should be able to make the other Republican candidates look lesser. So watch the damn debate.

I promise I will. Brett Baer will be there. Neil Cavuto. Megyn Kelley. and Chris Wallace. I'm thinking they won't be throwing softballs.

And then comes the general election.



Who do you cast in the role of Bugs Bunny against the Obama coyote genius? Are you sure?




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