Saturday, December 6, 2014

And now, some free movies and shows on Hulu. (Added: a few on Crackle.)

As with my Amazon list, I'll be revising this post, probably dozens of times.

An asterisk means "leaving Hulu soon," or "soon you'll have to pay to watch this," I'm not sure which.

MOVIES

COMEDY
Bread & Tulips (Italian title Pane e Tulipani): sweet Italian ensemble comedy about an unappreciated housewife
EDtv (on Crackle): Romantic comedy about a genial nobody tapped to star in a reality show; delightful lead performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jenna Elfman
*Gregory's Girl: Charming story of an Australian teen with a crush
Hopscotch: Witty, nimble 1980 espionage caper starring the great Walter Matthau
Songwriter (on Crackle): Wryly funny story of a country-music star working to rebuild his career and personal life; written by Bud Shrake, and starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson

DRAMA
Into Temptation: A priest (Jeremy Sisto) searches for a despairing confessant; intelligent and sensitive
Monsieur Lazhar: In Montreal, an immigrant finds work teaching a class of traumatized children
Queen to Play (French title Joueuse): French film about an unfulfilled wife (Sandrine Bonnaire) who develops an interest in chess
The Treatment: Smart romantic comedy-drama from the novel by Daniel Menaker; with a great supporting role for, and performance by, Ian Holm
Whale Rider: A gifted Maori girl strives to win her grandfather's respect; based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera

SCIFI/FANTASY
Extracted: A trapped scientist seeks a way out; low-budget scifi, thoughtful and well-made
The Man From Earth: stagy but intriguing, about a man with a hidden past

THRILLER/SUSPENSE/ACTION
Charade: Witty, elegant romantic suspense starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl Who Played With Fire / The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: Swedish thriller-trilogy about a brilliant, troubled hacker (Noomi Rapace) and a journalist; the first installment contains a harrowing rape scene, so gird yourself

DOCUMENTARIES
Fat Head: Entertaining, non-technical look at how carbohydrates became the center of the American diet, and why they shouldn't be
Hoop Dreams: Compelling study of two Chicago high-school basketball players
Mel Brooks: Make a Noise: Celebrates the irrepressible filmmaker's career
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?: Bio of the pop musician; of most interest to fans and musicians
Word Wars: Four Scrabble players prepare for the national championship; glad I saw it, but it made me stop playing because I want never to care that much about a game

PEOPLE WHOSE TASTES OVERLAP WITH MINE LIKE MORE THAN I
This Is Spinal Tap: Beloved "rockumentary" (the movie that popularized the term) about a heavy-metal band in decline

TV

(Hulu adds and removes episodes often, and because the company's goal is to have you sign up for not-free Hulu Plus, they may tantalize by keeping a show's final season behind the paywall.)

COMEDY
The Man Show: With the support of an enthusiastically drunk, almost-wholly-male studio audience, Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel wage a valiant war against the Oprahization of America; skip the fifth and sixth seasons, which have different hosts
Mystery Science Theater 3000: A man and two robots mock bad movies; for those old enough to understand the cultural references (1999 and earlier), silly fun
QI: Tension-free, relatively highbrow British game show featuring comedians as contestants; hosted by Stephen Fry, who's ideal

SCIFI/FANTASY
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer (only the third season available now): Teenage girl and her friends fight supernatural evil; smart, funny, scary, with depth that the deliberately silly title belies
Eli Stone (only the first two of three seasons available): A San Francisco lawyer (Jonny Lee Miller) starts having visions; includes the occasional bit of regrettable do-gooderism, but generally smart and playful
*Life on Mars (the first of two seasons is available free, but not for long): Riveting, hallucinatory UK series about a modern-day cop who finds himself in 1973; fantastic cast led by John Simm and Philip Glenister

THRILLER/SUSPENSE/ACTION
Damages (on Crackle): Beautifully constructed show about a young lawyer and her brilliant, ruthless boss (Emmy winner Glenn Close); I've watched only the first three seasons (excellent, very good, decent)
Kidnapped (on Crackle): A specialist (Jeremy Sisto) works to recover the son of a wealthy family
Murder One: Two homicide cases, each lasting a season, recounted from the perspective of the defense; slick 1990s suspense from producer Steven Bochco

SERIES THAT END ABRUPTLY
(a frustration factor; view at your own risk)
Battleground: Terrific documentary-style series about a Senate campaign in Wisconsin; deserved at least a second season
Day Break: An LAPD detective (Taye Diggs) keeps reliving the same day; the final episode gives a degree of closure
ENDGAMƎ: A Russian chess grandmaster (Shawn Doyle, superb) living in a Canadian hotel moonlights as a consulting detective; highly engaging
*Firefly: Simply great scifi/Western hybrid; maybe the most-lamented cancellation of the century
Ringer: A woman (Sarah Michelle Gellar) steps into her twin's life; not deep, but suspenseful and well-plotted, for the one season it aired
*Spy (only the first two of three seasons available): Frequently hilarious nonsense about an inadvertent secret agent (a brilliant Darren Boyd) and his precocious son
(added) Tim Allen: Men Are Pigs: Good standup from the future Home Improvement / Last Man Standing star

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Herewith, some movies and shows I like currently streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

(I'll be tweaking this post, fixing errors, rephrasing, possibly recategorizing.)

An asterisk means "leaving Amazon Prime soon."

MOVIES

COMEDY
Airplane!: Hilarious disaster-movie spoof; loads of gags, most of which work, more or less
Amelie: Whimsical French romance starring Audrey Tautou, who couldn't be bettered
*The Big Chill: Talky 1985 comedy-drama about a group of '60s college friends reunited at a funeral; terrific ensemble cast
Broadcast News: Polished comedy-drama about the tv news industry circa 1987; Holly Hunter is brilliant in the lead role
Clueless: Entertaining high-school story loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma and starring a completely adorable Alicia Silverstone
Galaxy Quest: Affectionate satire of Star Trek and its ilk
Gregory's Girl: Charming story of an Australian teen with a crush
Heaven Can Wait: Fantasy about a pro quarterback (Warren Beatty) who dies before his time
Kentucky Fried Movie: Often-raunchy, scattershot collection of skits, some very funny, all absurd; the first movie from the team behind Airplane! and Top Secret!
The Late Shift: The Leno-Letterman battle for The Tonight Show; no idea how accurate, but entertaining
*Love and Death: Very funny Woody Allen farce set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars
*Manhattan: Witty, urbane Woody Allen film from 1979
The Vagina Monologues: Kidding.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory: Fantastic 1971 musical adaptation (songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley) of Roald Dahl's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; much better than Tim Burton's not-bad 2005 version

DRAMA
Adventureland: Coming-of-age tale set in 1987 Pittsburgh; with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart
The Book and the Rose: Sweet short romance
The Cider House Rules: A young man (Tobey Maguire) raised in an orphanage finds his way in the world; from the John Irving novel
The Eclipse: A romantic triangle (Ciarán Hinds, Iben Hjejle, Aidan Quinn) with supernatural flourishes
Good Will Hunting: Flawed but enjoyable, about a combative genius (Matt Damon) and the therapist (Robin Williams) who helps him
Look Both Ways: Bittersweet, creatively directed Australian romance
Mansfield Park: Adaptation, somewhat stylized, of the Jane Austen novel; criticized for departing in tone from the source, but works well on its own terms
Mostly Martha (original title Bella Martha): Warm German film about a perfectionist chef whose life takes a complicating swerve
*The Purple Rose Of Cairo: Poignant Woody Allen fantasy set in the Great Depression
Queen to Play (French title Joueuse): French film about an unfulfilled wife (Sandrine Bonnaire) who develops an interest in chess
Rounders: Gripping, about a poker-playing law student in a bind; stars Matt Damon
*Searching for Bobby Fischer: Sports-prodigy movie, with chess the sport
Shakespeare In Love: Witty imagining of the playwright's early career and great romance
Shall We Dance? (Japanese title Shall We Dansu?): Wistful Japanese film, about an office worker who finds a bit of beauty
Sling Blade: Suspenseful drama starring writer/director Billy Bob Thornton as a simple man with a violent history
The Station Agent: Mostly quiet story of a solitary man (Peter Dinklage) who moves to a small town
You Can Count On Me: Beautifully observed small-town story, with unsurpassable lead performances by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo

SCIFI/FANTASY
*Marvel’s The Avengers: Terrific adaptation of the comic-book series
World War Z (Unrated): Fighting the zombie apocalypse; with an impressive Brad Pitt

THRILLER/SUSPENSE/ACTION
The Boys from Brazil: Thriller about a conspiracy with roots in Nazi Germany; starring Laurence Olivier and, in a rare villainous turn, Gregory Peck
District B13: A cop and a vigilante take on a gang in a Paris banlieue; not much story, but action galore and phenomenal stuntwork
The Firm: Excellent adaptation of the John Grisham novel; in the lead role, Tom Cruise holds his own among a stellar cast
Jack Reacher: Solid suspense, with a strong performance from Tom Cruise as the protagonist of Lee Child's hugely popular (and overrated) mystery series; features some welcome ferocity, and brilliant support from Robert Duvall
Three Days of the Condor: A CIA analyst on the run; superb work by Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway

DOCUMENTARIES
Fat Head: Entertaining, non-technical look at how carbohydrates became the center of the American diet, and why they shouldn't be
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart - A Film About Wilco: The making of an album by a critically acclaimed, conflicted band; of most interest to musicians and Wilco fans
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?: Bio of the pop musician; again, of most interest to fans and musicians

I DON'T REMEMBER WELL BUT I REMEMBER LIKING
*Annie Hall: Woody Allen comedy about a neurotic New Yorker and the woman he falls in love with
*Bananas: Early Woody Allen farce about a New Yorker who winds up running a small Latin American country
The Big Kahuna: Drama of three salesmen (Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli) at a convention; a lot more interesting than it sounds
*Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask): Early, hit-and-miss Woody Allen farce with little connection to the book of the same name
*The Ghost and The Darkness: Solid adventure story set in late-19th-century Africa
Jennifer 8: Decent suspense about a cop on the trail of a serial killer; starring Andy Garcia
*Kramer vs. Kramer: A divorced father (Dustin Hoffman) and his young son; won the Oscar for Best Picture
The Lost City: A Cuban family in the era of revolution; starring and directed by Andy Garcia
Manhattan Murder Mystery: A middle-aged couple (Diane Keaton, cowriter/director Woody Allen) investigate the death of a neighbor; comedy with some suspense
*The Miracle Worker: Teacher Anne Sullivan takes on Helen Keller; blessedly unsentimental, with Oscar-winning performances from Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke
Quartet / Encore: Two short-film collections based on stories by Somerset Maugham; thoughtful, literate entertainment
*September: Ensemble drama written and directed by Woody Allen; panned by critics on release, but I much preferred it to his acclaimed Interiors
*Sleeper: Low-budget scifi farce from Woody Allen
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold: Taut Cold War tale, from the John le Carré novel

PEOPLE WHOSE TASTES OVERLAP WITH MINE LIKE MORE THAN I
*Breaking Away: An underachiever (Dennis Christopher) in a university town contemplates life after high school; with a thrilling bicycle race (really)
The Conversation: Claustrophobic suspense starring Gene Hackman
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: A jokester (Matthew Broderick) cuts school with his girlfriend and best friend; peaks with "Twist and Shout," but if you watch the whole thing, stay past the closing credits
The Graduate: Classic '60s comedy-drama starring Dustin Hoffman as the directionless title character
*House of Games: A psychiatrist (Lindsay Crouse) gets in over her head; twisty, misanthropic suspense from writer/director David Mamet
Serpico: Al Pacino in an acclaimed performance as a corruption-fighting cop
This Is Spinal Tap: Beloved "rockumentary" (the movie that popularized the term) about a heavy-metal band in decline

TV

DRAMA
Any Human Heart: A man's life, from boyhood to old age; insightful drama based on the novel by William Boyd
Bleak House: Superb eight-part BBC adaptation of the Dickens novel (which I haven't read)
Collision: A police detective (Douglas Henshall) unravels a multi-car accident and its aftermath
Cranford: Austenesque story of rural mid-19th-century England; I recommend watching the first season and pretending the second never happened
Downton Abbey: Lush, beloved UK period series about a titled family and their servants
The Good Wife: Sharp CBS series about a lawyer who returns to work following her politician husband's downfall; the whole cast, headed by Julianna Margulies, is excellent
Pride and Prejudice: Beautiful adaptation of the Jane Austen novel; Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth lead a tremendous cast

SCIFI/FANTASY
Angel: Spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; not quite as good, but if you like Buffy you'll probably like this
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Teenage girl and her friends fight supernatural evil; smart, funny, scary, with depth that the deliberately silly title belies
Doctor Who (also Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor / Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: The Day of the Doctor / Doctor Who: The David Tennant Specials / Doctor Who - Matt Smith Specials): Top-class escapist scifi from the BBC; special praise for "Blink," episode 11 of season 3, possibly my favorite episode of tv
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The best of the Star Trek series (including the original), largely though not solely thanks to Patrick Stewart's magnificent performance as Captain Jean-Luc Picard; improves a lot starting with Season 3
Star Trek: Voyager: Second-best Star Trek series (yes, fighting words), mainly because Kate Mulgrew makes the only convincing captain other than Patrick Stewart
Torchwood: Horror-flavored spinoff of Doctor Who; as inventive as the source, but less playful

THRILLER/SUSPENSE/ACTION
24 (also 24: Redemption / 24: Live Another Day): Gripping suspense about an expert counterterrorism agent (Kiefer Sutherland); for me, gets good starting with Season 4
Masterpiece: Inspector Lewis: Spinoff of the long-running British detective series Inspector Morse; I prefer it to the original, largely because of the friendship between Kevin Whately's working-class Lewis and Laurence Fox's Cambridge-educated D. S. Hathaway
Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour / Endeavour: Another Inspector Morse spinoff, this one set in the '60s, with Shaun Evans as the young Morse; as with Inspector Lewis, I prefer it to the source
Numb3rs: A mathematician works with his FBI-agent brother; implausible premise but likable, with winning performances by David Krumholtz, Rob Morrow and Judd Hirsch

I LIKE BUT WITH SERIOUS RESERVATIONS
Justified: A U. S. Marshal in Kentucky; beautifully made, with a great cast led by the stellar Timothy Olyphant, but very violent
The Last Enemy: Paranoid UK thriller starring the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch; fanatical fans of his won't be disappointed
The State Within: Conspiracy thriller starring a terrific Jason Isaacs as UK Ambassador to the US
The X-Files (series) / The X-Files (movie): Two FBI agents (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson) investigate unexplained phenomena; ambitious and clever, but I like only a few episodes enough to recommend, among them "Clyde Bruckman," "The Goldberg Variation" and the two-parter "Dreamland" and "Dreamland II"

I DON'T REMEMBER WELL BUT I REMEMBER LIKING
Wives and Daughters: Effective BBC adaptation of a Victorian novel

SERIES THAT END ABRUPTLY
(frustration factor; view at your own risk)
Alphas: A group of mutants guided by a non-mutant psychologist; in a great cast, Ryan Cartwright is especially good
Better Off Ted: Very funny farce set at the headquarters of a heartless multinational corporation
Carnivale: Creepy fantasy centered on a Depression-era traveling carnival
Dollhouse: Near-future scifi with an apocalyptic undertone
Firefly: Scifi/Western hybrid, and simply great; maybe the most-lamented cancellation of the century
In Treatment (only one season on Prime): A psychiatrist (Gabriel Byrne) and his patients; five storylines, of which "Sophie" is by far my favorite
Lie to Me: Better-than-average drama of a microexpressions expert (Tim Roth) and his team
Vegas: Pretty good drama set in the 1960s, with Dennis Quaid a reluctant sheriff and Michael Chiklis an ambitious mobster
Veronica Mars: A high-school detective; intelligent, inventive and tough, with a superb Kristen Bell
Zen: Sleek British cop show set in Italy, starring Rufus Sewell

(Added: For those without Amazon Prime—and those with, why not; I watch 'em—some free movies and shows on Hulu and Crackle.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Lazy"

In 2012 Randy Newman posted an anti-Romney-voter song, "I'm Dreaming" ("of a white President . . ."). It deserved a response, and no one else supplied one, so I wrote a song, "Lazy," and started recording it.

Meanwhile, a ruckus arose over the word "lazy" (despite). I worried my song might hurt Romney's chances a tiny bit, so I shelved it.

I still liked it though, and this year decided to finish recording it in my bumbling fashion. The events that prompted the song are old news, but since it's more about a type of leftist than about an election, I think—hope—it's not entirely stale.

Anyway, here it is, a musical answer twenty-six months later.

Added: Free mp3, in case anyone wants.

Election comin' in November
Polls say it's gonna be tight
In this corner, my guy Barack
In that one, somebody white
For those with brains the choice is easy
I made mine long ago
Mister Rom-i-ney is the nominee for the GOP
That's all I need to know

'Cause I'm lazy
Yes I'm lazy
I do as little thinkin' as I can
I'm a rich ole liberal
A lazy-minded man

Well, a number of years back
When I was in my prime
All the right people were on the Left
It was a special time
That's when I joined the Democrats
I've cast my votes with pride
And I've never understood the arguments against us, but then
I've never really tried

'Cause I'm lazy
Flat bone-lazy
I just assume I'm on the side of truth
And I'm too lazy to question
The judgments of my youth

Allen West
Mia Love
Janice Rogers Brown
A bunch of Uncle Toms
And Aunt Jemimas
Who want to keep real black folks down
(I've read articles on black folks)

Republicans talkin' unemployment
"Forty-four months around eight percent"
They try to make it sound so scary
And point fingers at the President
But you can't blame Obama
It was Dubya drove us into a tree
How do I know? Bill Clinton said so
That's good enough for me

'Cause I'm lazy
Fat-fried lazy
I'll trust the Big Dog any day
Sure, he's a womanizin' liar
But it's the lazy way
And I like livin' lazy
So lazy's how I'll stay

(Song and sound recording copyright 2014 Michael Greenspan)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's my week for discovering that I've been quoted by writers I respect: first Kathy Shaidle, then Mark Steyn, now John Derbyshire. Unfortunately for my ego, Derbyshire, whom I admire tremendously, took issue with my expressed opinion, which is only fair, given that I'd taken issue with his.

In his podcast two weeks ago, Derbyshire called Bob Dylan a genius. I sent Derbyshire a regrettably terse email, part of which he quotes in his most recent podcast (section 07):

In 2006 you asked why we no longer produce fine poets like John Betjeman. The answer is, it's your fault. Not just yours of course, but you're an unindicted co-conspirator. You can't call Bob Dylan a genius and expect poets to struggle for excellence.

Derbyshire's reply (also in the podcast):

Actually, I can. I make no claims for Dylan as a poet. I have three shelves of poetry books here in my study, total length about twelve feet, and not one book of Dylan lyrics. If there is one, I have no plan to buy it. The guy is a singer-songwriter, and that's his genius. He created a sound, a style, no-one had ever heard before. You think that's easy?

But Dylan created neither the sound nor the style (though an English twenty-year-old in 1965 likely couldn't have known that). His reputation-founding work was deeply derivative. Listen to Jack Elliott performing Woody Guthrie's "Talking Columbia Blues" in the mid-1950s:

Raise the vocal pitch, tune the guitar and tighten the harmonica part, and you have early Dylan.

Dylan may have come to personify the idea of the singer-songwriter, and he helped develop and popularize the sound, but he didn't originate it. Clever, charismatic, influential, yes; genre-inventing, no.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This New York Times report on Sweden's and Norway's differing attitudes toward Middle Eastern refugees ("Sweden has taken an open-door approach to people fleeing the conflict, accepting more Syrians than any other European country"; Norway is far less welcoming) provides a fascinating window into leftist beliefs.

“‘We are the moral guardians of the world. . . . We are righteous.’” Crikey, what self-regard. Are Swedes typically so arrogant?

“Norway . . . has . . . several decades of experience with immigration. Yet Norway is not encouraging asylum-seekers.” Love “Yet.” Ever consider that perhaps it should be “Thus”?

“In Sweden, a closely patrolled pro-immigration ‘consensus’ has sustained extraordinarily liberal policies while placing a virtual taboo on questions about the social and economic costs.” Distilled modern leftism: forcibly and hurriedly transform the national character, and prohibit discussion.

“[B]ecause of all the social, health, housing and welfare benefits mandated by the state, supporting a single refugee in Norway costs $125,000. . . . He asked voters to ‘open their hearts’ to Syrian refugees, even though the escalating cost of supporting them would preclude further welfare benefits for Swedes. The comment caused an outcry — not because it seemed to favor refugees over Swedes, but simply for suggesting that refugee policy needed to be considered on economic grounds.” Fiscally unsustainable, nationally suicidal.

“The Swedes, she said, ‘are extremely liberal toward immigration, but they have a very authoritarian attitude toward debate about it.’” Again, pure leftism: reckless, dogmatic, expensive, and intolerant of dissent.

“[T]he Breivik massacre — the 2011 killing of 77 people by an extreme right-wing Islamophobe”: Breivik is no “Islamophobe”; he committed the murders, and professed fanatical anti-immigrant sentiments, in order to discredit opposition to Muslims.

“For Norway and other wealthy countries, helping as many refugees as possible in the Middle East may make better economic sense than welcoming them on their own soil. But that approach risks conveying the message that the West doesn’t really want Syrians in its midst.” Heaven forbid. Only an immoral culture would eschew an inundation of Syrians.

Fascinating. And tragic.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The DiploMad, from 9/11/14:

Islam is a rotten house which holds hundreds of millions of unhappy souls within its walls. To defeat the Islamic Jihadis requires constant pressure, attack, counterattack. . . . The Islamists must be resisted and defeated constantly and wherever they attack in the hope that eventually forces within Islam will rise up against the Jihadis and that a process of enlightenment will take hold in that now brutal and totalitarian creed.

. . . The so-called "crazies," "radicals," "fringe," in fact, form the core of Islam. An almost unbroken record of 1400 years of mass murder, enslavement, and misery speak to the truth about Islam.

A former State Department official, Ray Maxwell, charges that allies of Hillary Clinton's worked to hide information damaging to Clinton. Another State-Dept.-official-turned-whistleblower argues for taking Maxwell's claims seriously:

Is Maxwell a disgruntled employee with an agenda? Possibly, but whistleblowers act on conscience, not revenge; the cost is too high for that, and in this day revenge is available much cheaper via a leak or as an unnamed source. Going public and disgruntlement often coincide but are not necessarily causally connected. Knowing the right thing to do is easier than summoning the courage and aligning one’s life to step up and do it.

Three aphorisms from George Will's latest column:

[G]overnments are generally confident that their constituents need to be improved by spending the constituents’ money.

* * *

[P]rogressivism’s default assumption . . . is that disinterested government has only the interests of “the people” at heart.

* * *

Progressivism . . . is all about bringing to bear on society the fabulous expertise of a disinterested clerisy.

J. Christian Adams's post on Catalist, a database he calls "the left’s machinery for fundamentally transforming America," is hugely important.

Catalist allows Democrats to locate and "microtarget" far-left voters unlikely to cast ballots. Such voters, he writes, are much easier and cheaper to persuade than are independents or moderates:

Obama won reelection because he drove deeper into his ideological base than any Democrat ever had. His campaign largely ignored the middle and instead used Catalist data to wring out nearly every possible far-left vote they could.

Adams explains Catalist's structure:

[T]he data feeding the central Catalist database are coming from a wide swath of sources. Public records, pollsters, campaigns, non-profits, activist groups, unions, parties, commercial data — scores and scores of sources are feeding the central database data.

For example, when an environmental group does neighborhood door knocking for cash, the results of those contacts are fed into Catalist.

You have your own individual voter file in Catalist. Everyone does. Under that file might be a massive amount of information about you — more than probably exists in any other database in the world.

. . . Each group working with Catalist feeds the central database. Different groups have different types of data about you. Some data relate to economics. Other data relate to politics. [The sources of data] all work in unison to fill the database with a massive amount of information about every American — and all of it is perfectly legal.

. . . Catalist provides much more sophisticated and much more granular data about subsets of Americans. The degree of granularity was never possible before Catalist, and Republicans have nothing to match it, for now.

I hope the GOP are working on their own version. Else come 2016 we may find ourselves saddled with a president who makes Obama look centrist.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I started a small Twitter fight last week. Jim Geraghty, whom I generally admire hugely, mentioned he'd be appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher. I wrote,

You can understand why my diplomatic career never took off.

Had this happened ten years ago I'd have felt more frustration than disgust: "How can he not see how loathsome Maher is?" But Maher's been around so long now that there's no chance of ignorance or obliviousness on Geraghty's part, and no excuse for his, or any other serious conservative's, going on Maher's show.

Geraghty retweeted my tactful observation, I presume as mockery. It drew this response from another tweeter:

I answered,

Geraghty wrote,

I answered,

Geraghty's tweet brought in Charles Cooke, another NRO writer I like. He wrote,

I answered,

Should a conservative talk politics with an honorable leftist? Anytime, anywhere. With a dishonorable leftist? Only on neutral turf, i.e., not on a tv show the leftist controls.

Later I tweeted twice to add detail, then decided a post was called for. This is it.

Finally, let me offer an illustration of why no thoughtful person should take Maher seriously, much less pay court to him. I'm sure Geraghty knows about this.

On 2 May 2010 Maher appeared on This Week and made a fool of himself:

Here was a talking point Maher had prepared, and not only was it drastically wrong, but Brazil's story also shows the impracticality of Maher's push against fossil fuels. In all, he fumbled about as badly as possible.

How did he respond? As anyone who's paid even a little attention to him would expect: cravenly, dishonestly and vindictively. On the next episode of Real Time he delved into a serious mathematical error George Will had made more than a year earlier:

I was on, I was in D.C. this weekend, and I did This Week. I did not realize that there are shows like this on in the morning. And Sunday, they were very nice to me. George Will obviously had it out for me and doesn't like me. That's okay. That's not mutual. I've been a fan of George Will and reading, I'm just a sucker for good writing. He knows how to write, he's an excellent prose stylist[.]

I mean, you know, sometimes a guy can be full of s***, but he writes well. And, you know, he got me on something technical. I said Brazil got off the oil and we could too. We were talking about the oil spill. And yes, Brazil did not exactly get off the oil, but after the '70s, the spirit of what I said was correct. After the '70s oil crisis, they tried a lot harder than we do, and like half their cars now run on, on synth-fuel, ethanol.

Okay, what I was remembering was there was an ad out here in 2006 for Prop 87, which was for us to get off oil, and Bill Clinton did the ad. And Bill Clinton said in the ad, "Imagine if we can stop being dependent on foreign oil. Brazil did it. If Brazil can do it, so can California." Now, I'm sure the conservatives are saying, "Well, yeah, there's one mushy-headed liberal listening to another mushy-headed liberal and getting your facts wrong."

Well, okay, so we didn't get it exactly right. But, you know what? The bigger question is why haven't we actually gotten off the oil. And part of the reason is because of global-warming deniers like George Will. And he knows better. He knows better and he uses facts, or parts of facts, way more erroneous than I did. In one of his columns, he said, "According to the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea levels now equal those of 1979." Well, there is no Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois, but there are climate scientists, and they said, "We don't know where Mr. Will is getting his information. Our data shows that in February '79, global sea ice was 16.79 million square kilometers, and in 2009 it was 15.45, a decrease in sea ice the area the size of Texas, California, Oklahoma combined.”

. . . Well, these aren't views, these are misshapen facts.

And the audience, naturally, goes wild.

Cowardly: Maher makes this speech on his own show, where he dominates, rather than in a forum where he might be challenged.
Dishonest: He claims to bear no malice toward Will and even to admire him, yet says that Will "had it out for" him and terms Will "full of s***" and a global-warming denier.
Hypocritical: He calls his own mistake "technical"—"Brazil did not exactly get off the oil"—when it's in fact devastating to his argument; meanwhile, Will's mistake, which is real (maybe he confused Antarctic and worldwide sea-ice levels) but not decisive, is "way more erroneous" than Maher's, as well as "misshapen," by which I think he means purposefully distorted.

Maher's a spiteful intellectual lightweight, and whatever effect Geraghty's guest appearance had on his own stature, it elevated Maher's. Geraghty's much, much too good for this. His involvement demeaned him and, more important, conservatism.

I hope Geraghty's book is a great success, and that someday he's ashamed of what he did to promote it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Funny, I don't recall them playing up the "We're working with a huge corporation" angle in the '90s. From a cover story on Pearl Jam in SPIN’s Oct. 2009 issue, soon after the band signed a distribution deal with Target:

“Target just seemed like the best partner for us right now,” Ament explains. “They’re hipper. They have a huge philanthropy side.” . . .

[T]here is a certain karmic irony in the notion that a band that gave corporate America the finger so hard for so long might finally be softening. . . . I ask if they’re worried about a backlash.

“Oh sure,” Ament says. “Especially the way the media can put it out there. We’re gonna get lumped in with the Eagles, with AC/DC. But it’s totally different. And people say, ‘Oh, Pearl Jam are working with this corporation’—f*** that! We were on Sony for 20 years.”

(No asterisks in original.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Don Boudreaux makes a solid argument against open immigration. He writes* (emphasis added),

the blame for poor-countries’ relatively higher death rates due to weather belongs not on rich countries for relying upon market-driven industrialization but, rather, on the poor countries themselves for refusing do so.

Makes sense. It’s not our fault, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it, in this case by sending money as compensation.

Let’s substitute a few words:

the blame for poor-countries’ relatively higher poverty rates due to inefficient economies belongs not on rich countries for relying upon free markets but, rather, on the poor countries themselves for refusing do so.

Also makes sense. And again, it’s not our fault, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it, in this case by admitting large numbers of immigrants whose presence would lower wages and reduce employment for the poorest Americans, and the cost of whose use of government services would exceed the tax revenues they’d supply.

Well done, Prof. Boudreaux.

*Stylistic errors in original.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From an interview of Charles Murray by Ginni Thomas; transcribed section starts at about 7:00 in Part 2.

I have four children who are really smart, who love their dad—they're not rebelling against me—who are hardworking and embody all the virtues, who would not think of voting for a Republican. And it's not that they're ideological Democrats. They think of Republicans as being gay-hating, abortion-hating religious fanatics.

. . . It is not that they are actively pro-choice or actively pro-gay-marriage. Here's what's gone on. And you know what, it's gone on with me too. Abortion's a terrible thing. I would hate for one of my children to have an abortion; my children would hate—that would be something they would do only under the gravest of reasons. But they also don't want the government to make it illegal for people to make that choice. They want it to be, and I want it to be, a really, profoundly morally weighted choice where, boy, you do it, you'd better have a really good reason. Like the health of the mother.

But this—with gay marriage . . . My wife and I over the course of the last decade have several gay friends who are living in couples in committed relationships that have been going on for years, and when we are around them . . . they look like marriages. I mean, they have all the qualities of a good marriage. And so, am I really nervous about messing with an institution as fundamental as marriage? You bet your life I am. Have I come to see these relationships as one which are deserving of my respect as loving, caring relationship? Yeah, I also think that.

So in all of these issues, I guess I want to say to social conservatives, I am not trying to persuade you to adopt my view. But I am telling you that there are millions of people out there who on fiscal issues, on issues of limiting the power of government, on leaving people free to live their lives as they see fit in the ways that conservatives believe—they're with you on all of those issues, and you're never gonna get 'em to vote for people who espouse limited government and restoring Constitution and the rest of 'em, unless you are willing to say, Okay, we're gonna put the social issues on the back burner and try to work out the social issues through the culture as opposed to the political process. That's asking a lot, but I guess I am saying, until that happens conservatives are—no, Republicans are gonna have a very hard time reaching a very important part of the electorate that would be sympathetic to them otherwise.

But one of your founding virtues was marriage.

Yup.

So connect those dots. I mean, why can't people who are engaged in what social conservatives view as immoral behavior call it something else? It's been two thousand years.

I've—you know, I'm so sympathetic to that, and . . . I think the train has left the station. I am not sure how it happened; I have—can think of very few issues—well, abortion is another one—issues on which everybody thought one way was right fifty years ago, and, you know, a whole—now that's just swung in this huge way. I can't explain to you why it has; I will join you in the front ranks of saying, You've got to quit demonizing people who hold views that until a few decades ago were what everybody thought. But on something like gay marriage, I don't think that there's much to be done politically anymore. Those who see this as being deeply immoral: That is a position with a long and respectable history; do you want to have the politics of the country enmeshed in that? Or, as you think of your priorities, are you also really upset about a Constitution which is no longer being interpreted as the Founders intended, a country that was so exceptional in terms of its freedom as now being destroyed? Maybe that priority should have first priority, I'm saying to people.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Two good short posts from Craig Newmark, on a bit of federally financed spending and the need for flexibility of approach in different areas.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 5/20/09, by Malcolm K. Sparrow, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government:

The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We just don't know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are staggering sums of money to waste. . . .

The rule for criminals is simple: if you want to steal from Medicare, or Medicaid, or any other health care insurance program, learn to bill your lies correctly. Then, for the most part, your claims will be paid in full and on time, without a hiccup, by a computer, and with no human involvement at all. . . .

For any invisible problem, effective control begins with valid measurement. For health care fraud, control breaks down at this very first hurdle. No-one knows quite how bad the situation has become, and industry practices seem to reflect a broad reluctance to find out. . . .

One fundamental truth of the fraud-control business is this: fraud works best when claims-processing works perfectly.

The health care industry still acts as if it imagines that process-accuracy is the cornerstone of effective fraud control. In fact, process-accuracy (with the transparency and predictability it produces) is a large part of what makes health care payment systems such attractive targets for fraud.

Friday, September 6, 2013

At PJ Lifestyle, Kyle Smith recently recommended five lesser-seen comedies streaming on Netflix.* In similar spirit, here's a list of movies and series on Netflix that I like and that may have escaped some subscribers' notice.

COMEDIES
Dean Spanley: hugely enjoyable comedy-fantasy set in early 20th-century London; I saw it knowing nothing about it beforehand, which was the ideal way
The Treatment: smart romantic comedy-drama from 2006
Waking Ned Devine: whimsical story set in rural Ireland
Hopscotch: witty, twisty espionage caper released in 1980, starring the great Walter Matthau
Bread & Tulips (Italian title Pane e Tulipani): sweet ensemble comedy about an unappreciated housewife
Next Stop Wonderland: a bright, emotionally guarded woman seeks love; superb performance by Hope Davis
The Very Thought of You: cleverly structured, winning romantic comedy
Shall We Dance? (Japanese title Shall We Dansu?): charming and wistful, about an office worker who finds a bit of beauty
Can't Hardly Wait: a high school graduation party and its aftermath; PG-13, with lots of familiar faces
Gregory's Girl: low-key, warm-hearted Australian movie from 1981

DRAMAS
The Boxer: powerful story of Northern Ireland starring an astoundingly good Daniel Day-Lewis; released in 1997
Queen to Play (French title Joueuse): an unfulfilled woman develops an unexpected interest
Behind the Lines (original UK title Regeneration): soldiers, among them poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, in a Scottish psychiatric hospital during WWI
Look Both Ways: poignant, imaginative Australian romance
Page Eight: my favorite spy film of at least the past decade; produced for the BBC
Grand Canyon: intersecting lives in 1990s Los Angeles
Margin Call: one tense day at an investment firm; excellent ensemble acting, with Kevin Spacey a standout
Happy Accidents: indie is-he-or-isn't-he-crazy love story

TV SERIES / MINISERIES
Bleak House (2005 version): exceptional BBC adaptation of a Dickens novel I haven't read
The Silence: gritty British suspense focused on a deaf girl and her police detective uncle
Medium: long-running series about a psychic; maybe too commercially successful to belong on this list, but I think some people who’ve never tried it would like it
Better Off Ted: very funny big-business-centered farce
Miss Marple (1980s series starring Joan Hickson): the best portrayal of Agatha Christie's second most famous detective; I like episodes 1-3 in Season 1 and episode 3 in Season 2
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: smart, funny, scary, with depth that the deliberately silly title belies
Angel: spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; if Buffy deserves five stars, and it does, Angel deserves four
The Good Guys: cop-show spoof costarring a relentlessly hilarious Bradley Whitford
Damages: I’ve seen only the first two seasons, which are intricately plotted, beautifully acted tales of ruthlessness
Wire in the Blood: a psychologist helps catch serial killers; features my all-time favorite tv detective, played by the unsurpassable Robson Green

Series still airing
Longmire: modern-day Western on A&E; Robert Taylor is perfect in the title role
Burn Notice: a discredited spy works to rebuild his reputation; series concludes this year on USA
Sherlock: BBC series sets Holmes and Watson in present-day London; star Benedict Cumberbatch might be the best Holmes ever
Continuum: slight but enjoyable SyFy time-travel series
Doctor Who: top-class escapist scifi from the BBC; special praise for "Blink," episode 11 of season 3
Torchwood: spinoff of Doctor Who; grimmer than the source, but inventive and worth watching

Series that end abruptly
(a frustration factor with these; view at your own risk)
Firefly: brilliant scifi/Western mashup
Awake: terrific lead performance by Jason Isaacs in a hallucinatory cop show
Touch: appealing drama with scifi/mystical elements, centered on a gifted boy
Dollhouse: gripping scifi with an apocalyptic arc
Terriers: a pair of resourceful, low-rent detectives in Ocean Beach, CA; first-rate writing, acting, directing

SCIFI/FANTASY
Serenity: follows and in some ways completes the storyline of Firefly
The Man From Earth: stagy but intriguing, about a man with a hidden past
Super 8: strange goings-on in a factory town in 1979; tense and touching, with a stellar group of kid actors
The Forgotten: a woman struggles to accept her son’s death in a plane crash
Donnie Darko: trippy and mysterious, but it all makes sense by the end, I think

THRILLERS
The Gift: paranormal-tinged whodunit with an exceptional cast led by Cate Blanchett and featuring an impressive Keanu Reeves
Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition: three three-hour Swedish movies starring Noomi Rapace, who’s consistently fascinating to watch; includes a few scenes of disturbing violence

DOCUMENTARIES
The Thin Blue Line: a murder in Texas; masterfully directed by Errol Morris

*link via Instapundit

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

David Pryce-Jones: "It is always morbidly fascinating when someone famous makes an idiot of himself, as Professor Stephen Hawking has just done."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Impressive column by Utah senator Mike Lee:

It would be wrong to view the controversy over the IRS scandal as a typical Republican vs. Democrat squabble. . . .

This has nothing to do with what party is in power. . . . [Americans] should understand that it is a fight between Washington and everyone else. . . .

At its core, the IRS scandal is not the result of one political party attacking another. It is the inevitable consequence of a federal government that has gotten too big and too expensive to control. The federal government’s massive bureaucracy is inherently dysfunctional, corrupt, intolerant, and incompetent — regardless of who is in charge. These are not random incidents perpetrated by bad actors. They are systemic features of the $4 trillion enterprise known as the federal government.

Some more senators like Lee and this country might have a fighting fiscal chance.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Excellent column by Charles Murray on the Jason Richwine controversy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Glenn Reynolds favors "a flat tax or a national sales tax" in place of our current system. In 2004 Bruce Bartlett explained why the latter won't work, and in 2011 Ramesh Ponnuru argued that the former is "the fool’s gold of conservative politics." The goal should be to shrink government; then either approach would become feasible.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crime of the (nineteenth) century.

The photographer was a pioneering criminologist whose innovations included the mug shot.

(Via Neatorama.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The years rule us all.

(later) Some comments from the photographer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Norman Podhoretz reflects on his controversial essay "My Negro Problem—and Ours," published fifty years ago:

[James Baldwin] was very much mistaken if he thought that I felt even the slightest degree of guilt toward him or toward Negroes in general. How could I, when I had grown up in a slum neighborhood where it was the Negro kids who persecuted us whites and not the other way around?

I then proceeded to tell him a few stories about my childhood encounters with black thugs of my own age and about the resentment and bitterness and even hatred with which this experience had left me. It had also left me, I said, with an irritable attitude toward all the sentimental nonsense that was being propagated about integration by whites who knew nothing about blacks and by blacks who imagined that all their problems would be solved by living next door to whites.

* * *

[T]he almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism as the root of all racial evils has been nothing short of calamitous.

* * *

In 1963, the stories I told about my own childhood experience of such thuggery and aggression were very shocking to most white liberals. In their eyes, blacks were all long-suffering and noble victims of the kind who had become familiar through the struggles of the civil-rights movement in the South—the “heroic period” of the movement, as one of its most heroic leaders, Bayard Rustin, called it. Although none of my white critics denied the truthfulness of the stories I told, they themselves could hardly imagine being afraid of blacks when their first-hand acquaintance with them was limited to nannies and cleaning women.

Today, it is still other blacks who are most often the victims of black crime, but black-on-white violence is much more common than it was in 1963, so that many whites could now top my stories with worse. And yet even today, few of them would be willing to speak truthfully in public about their entirely rational fear of black violence and black crime. Doing so remains dangerous to one’s reputation. . . .

* * *

[R]elations between the races have deteriorated. Gone on the whole are the interracial friendships and the interracial political alliances that were quite common 50 years ago. In their place we have the nearly impassable gulfs of suspicion and hostility. . . .

* * *

I was wrong to think that miscegenation could ever result in the elimination of color-consciousness. . . .

[W]hat settled the matter once and for all for me was what has happened since the election to the presidency of a pure product of miscegenation. For the ascension of Barack Obama from out of nowhere to the White House has if anything heightened the American consciousness of color. Worse yet, instead of putting an end to the compulsive insistence on the racism of American society, it has given this obsession a new lease on life. Thus, any and every criticism of Obama’s policies is now ascribed to racist motivations, and any and every little incident involving the mistreatment—or the alleged mistreatment—of a black is seized upon and blown up into another proof that racism remains rampant, if largely hidden, in American society.

* * *

Today the root cause of all the ills that plague the black community is the astounding proportion of black babies born out of wedlock who grow up without fathers, and who are doomed to do badly in school, to get into trouble on the streets, and to wind up in jail. Efforts have been made to blame even this tragic state of affairs on white racism, but they all founder on the simple fact that in 1963, when white racism was by any measure far more pervasive than it is today, only about 23 percent of births among black women were illegitimate, whereas the number is now fast approaching 75 percent.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Six-year-old drummer Avery plays "Hot For Teacher" at home and live with Brad Paisley, who does an impressive EVH.
Good advice from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to his younger self.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

From Jim Geraghty, a sensible question (emphasis in original):

The world has always had angry young men, and for generations they've found various outlets for it — booze, women, rock and roll, drugs, gangs, sports, driving cars and motorcycles too fast, you name it. For some small but significant number of young men in today's society — Muslim and non-Muslim, immigrant and native-born — none of those other quasi-traditional outlets is sufficient.

And maybe the big question, to be aimed at everybody from the black-clad teen who writes of slaughtering his classmates in his diary and sends threatening letters to school, to the angry young Islamist men fantasizing of inflicting bloodshed upon us infidels, to the kids who wear black masks and smash windows at Occupy protests . . . what the hell do you have to be so angry about? You live in a country and an era of unprecedented technological innovation, better public health, lower crime, less discrimination, than ever before. Probably 90 percent of the world's people would trade places with you in an instant, and even at your worst, you're living a life better than that of 99.99 percent of all people in human history. There's no draft. No one owns you. People endure troubles a hundred times worse than yours, and soldier on. Your life is what you make it.

What, your life isn't like what you see on MTV's Cribs, showcasing the luxurious homes of wealthy music stars and athletes?

And for any immigrant who's feeling anti-American . . . leave. We don't need you. You wanted to come here.

In today's Morning Jolt.

(If you aren't subscribing to NRO's newsletters, you're missing a lot of good free commentary.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dan Wilson on cowriting "Someone Like You." (Spotify.) A bad song, but the article's interesting.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jonathan V. Last: "Bitcoin is the first piece of computer technology to pose a fundamental challenge to the nation-state."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Does SPIN magazine block readers' substantive criticisms?

A couple of days ago SPIN posted an article deriding politicians' objections to Beyoncé and Jay-Z's recent visit to Cuba. The writer, Marc Hogan, singles out Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL—the article is titled "Beyonce and Jay-Z's Cuban Vacation Fuels Republicans' Latest Crooked Crusade"). Hogan notes that "Ros-Lehtinen opposed South African leader Nelson Mandela's visit to Florida in 1990," and concludes that "she's not exactly been a defender of human rights in all instances." He adds, "It's not clear what Mandela might've done to upset South Florida lawmakers."

I submitted a comment. A day later the comment hadn't appeared, so I submitted it again. (Only five words were mine, so I had no trouble reconstructing it.) It still hasn't shown up. Here's what I wrote:

"It's not clear what Mandela might've done to upset South Florida lawmakers."

http://biography.yourdictionary.com/ileana-ros-lehtinen

"While there seemed to be a near unanimous outpouring of praise for Mandela and his efforts to end apartheid (racial segregation) in his native country, Ros-Lehtinen felt she could not honor a man who had not only publicly embraced such advocates of violent revolution as the Palestine Liberation Organization's Yasser Arafat and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, but who also was on record as a strong supporter of Castro. She pointed out that Cuban Americans longing for a return to democracy in their country of origin could not forget that members of Mandela's African National Congress had received military training on Cuban soil."

The world's a complicated place.

Maybe SPIN had good reason to reject my comment. If so, I'd like to know it. (For the kind of opinion SPIN is happy to post, see comments three through five here, as long as you don't mind obscenity.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Andrew Ferguson in Commentary (sub. req.):

The president today can afford to ignore mainstream White House reporters to a degree unimaginable just 10 years ago. The Internet and the public’s growing reliance on it for news allow Obama and his press office not merely to make news but to package it, too: If you haven’t seen the Internet TV show West Wing Week, in which the president’s staff chronicles his activities day by day, you’re missing a treat. Not since Nicolae Ceausescu has a world leader spent so much time surrounded by adorable children.

More important, through the Internet the president has access to a universe of fanboys—blogging and tweeting around the clock—who don’t even require marching orders before they double-time it into battle. Bob Woodward can tell you all about them. In late February, the well-known and often idolized Watergate reporter wrote a damaging op-ed in the Post, refuting the president’s careful denial of his own role in bringing on the sequester. Woodward even went on Fox News to drive the point home.

The White House press office issued a limp denial, but it was the fanboys who leapt into action. One of them, a blogger called Josh Marshall, compared Woodward to one of the crackpots who think Obama was born in Africa. Another blogger from Time magazine portrayed him as a befuddled has-been. “Bob Woodward is senile,” said another. Salon magazine’s tweeter insisted: “Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him.” The blizzard of tweets and posts had the intended effect of burying Woodward’s original accusation. The story was no longer whether the president’s version of events surrounding the sequester was honest or even accurate. The story was, bizarrely, Woodward himself: his character, his politics, his sanity.

Commentary's (excellent) blog is here.

West Wing Week is painful.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

My song blog, underheard, has a new home and a Twitter feed. Long may they last.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Excellent article on pitch correction and the pop-music industry.
All one’s work might have been better done; but this is the sort of reflection a worker must put aside courageously if he doesn’t mean every one of his conceptions to remain for ever a private vision, an evanescent reverie.
Joseph Conrad, “Author’s Note” to A Set of Six

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

David Pryce-Jones's blog is one of the gems of the Internet. His latest post, on Iraq, is even better than his usual.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A nice tribute: the Mary Higgins Clark Award, named for the mystery writer and sponsored by her publisher:

The winner is selected . . . for the book most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition, according to the following guidelines set forth by Ms. Clark:

  • The protagonist is a very nice young woman, 27-38 or so, whose life is suddenly invaded. She is not looking for trouble - she is doing exactly what she should be doing and something cuts across her bow (as in ship).
  • She solves her problem by her own courage and intelligence.
  • She's in an interesting job.
  • She's self-made - independent - has primarily good family relationships.
  • No on-scene violence.
  • No four-letter words or explicit sex scenes.

This year's nominees, along with everyone else up for an Edgar, are listed here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Excellent interview of Daniel Pipes. I hope he's right that "modern Islamism . . . will not last as a world-threatening force for more than a few decades."
Jim Geraghty explains our reluctance to intervene in Syria. Leftists of the world, take a bow. (I'm glad we're staying out, for now at least.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lots of Dave Barry: in the New York Times, a video interview, and a recent column. All good, especially the Times piece, in which, I'm happy to see, he names P. G. Wodehouse as one of his favorite writers. If you like Barry and you're unfamiliar with Wodehouse, try My Man Jeeves, available free at Project Gutenberg.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

This would make me stop watching Glee, if I watched.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Richard Blanco's poem for Obama's second inauguration is awful: exploitatively maudlin ("the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain / the empty desks of twenty children marked absent / today, and forever"); ostentatiously humble ("or ring-up groceries as my mother did / for twenty years, so I could write this poem," "hands / as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane / so my brother and I could have books and shoes"); saccharinely multicultural ("saying: hello, shalom, / buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días / . . . spoken into one wind carrying our lives / without prejudice"); and more. Much more. Elizabeth Alexander's poem four years ago was bad; this one's worse.

Later: Mark Steyn refers to Blanco as "that poet from hell."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maybe someone else has written this, but I haven't seen it. The reason for the large proportion of white men in Obama's proposed Cabinet is simple: he'd rather order white men around than women or minority men. (Link via Instapundit.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dave Barry's annual "Year in Review" column is a useful indicator of the state of the nation. When things are good, it's hilarious; in more troublous times, as now, not so much. Still a few laughs.
Jonathan Last on "Japan’s disfigured age structure."
Nicely sardonic, on some of Obamacare's consequences.
Thorium reactors advance. Mostly in China rather than here, unfortunately, but at least it's happening.
Jay Nordlinger defends Mitt Romney, rightly and well.