Sunday, June 9, 2019

Creative writing

Movie critic Anthony Lane manages to link Elton John with Godzilla:

"In many respects, Godzilla is hard to distinguish from Elton John. Terrible temper? Check. Professional longevity? Check. Tireless vocal vigor? Check. They even share a fondness for baseball parks as suitable arenas for their skills; “Rocketman” re-creates Elton’s triumphant appearance at Dodger Stadium, in 1975, while “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” a new addition to the franchise, shows the title character slugging a rival predator at Fenway Park. For years, it’s true, the singer has beaten the beast in the costume stakes, since Godzilla prefers to function au naturel, with his dark-green skin, all wrinkled and ridged, lending him the look of a furious avocado. For the latest film, however, he grows more fashion-conscious, arranging for his dorsal plates to flash bright blue whenever he’s totally stoked. Once Elton John sees this movie, he will have to get himself a set of those."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

That new business model

They used to call tabloid newspapers like the one in the Raleigh metropolitan area "alternative weeklies." I'm not sure what they call them now, but I do have some thoughts about the new business model being touted by the progressive tabloid in my backyard.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Marcus on Shakespeare

David Marcus, writing in The Federalist, sheds some welcome light on William Shakespeare while defending him:

"One question Winkler brings up is worth exploring a bit: How did Shakespeare write women characters so effectively and honestly at a time when this was exceedingly rare? In today's intersectional age, it's easy to see why some would jump to the conclusion that a woman must have written these parts, but there is a simpler explanation. Shakespeare wrote better women characters than his contemporaries because he wrote better characters of every kind than did his contemporaries. Women, kings, soldiers, Jews, Moors, fairies, and a fountain of other characters flowed from his pen, all revealing a new style and substance in English writing.

How did Shakepeare do this? How was he able to create all of these characters with humor and speech so much more naturalistic than came from the other writers of the time? As is usually the case with the Bard, the clues are in the plays themselves."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Impactful reads this month

I like essayists who value history, and there's evidence of that in Why Federalist Paper Number Ten remains important and perceptive.

On the current events side of the ledger, Representative Devin Nunes explains the end of the Russian Collusion hoax.

Meanwhile, Brian Joondeph does a yeoman job of chronicling progressive overreach on abortion.

We're in Holy Week and sliding toward Easter (hence the "camouflaged rabbit" that I used as a hook for this blog entry). I was pleased to see Father Z share his take on the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral and how to respond to it properly. Thinking about that event in Paris, wildfire survivor Gerard Vanderleun chips in with a perceptive thought from G.K. Chesterton. Padre Pio would approve the tenor of that discussion, I think.

David Warren unleashes his dry wit to write about the problem with spiritualizing politics. But John Daniel Davidson doesn't need that reminder, because he has already taken the long view.

Anyone familiar with my own writing knows that language use and misuse is something I'm passionate about, so it was fun to find a kindred spirit in Stephanie's diagnosis of "communication disorders" on the American Left. Neo noticed some of the same behavior. I wondered about the apparent lapse in professional standards at a publishing house.

Lastly: Troll-bait headlines about what you can't do notwithstanding, it's a relief to know that you're never too old to learn how to play the guitar. In a related post, here are David Wallander's choices for "the best guitar solo in the history of recorded rock and roll music" -- because I agree with his trifecta of song solos played by Gilmour, Prince, and Knopfler. Happy reading! Happy listening!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Two thought-provoking quotes

"Because of a sclerotic left-wing education system, our youth have been indoctrinated in a simple-minded version of socialism for decades without knowing it. Meanwhile, the right has been extraordinarily lazy in confronting this, acting in a basically uneducated manner themselves. It 's almost criminal.

Ask your average college student who is history's greatest mass murderer and almost none of them would name Mao. They have no idea what the Great Leap Forward was when some thirty million Chinese were starved to death by the Chairman in the name of socialism or why that might have happened. One could go on with the history of megadeath from Stalin to Hitler to Pol Pot (who?) -- all socialists -- and get plenty of blank stares."
-- Roger Simon


"Anyone who is not a white person is a person of color.  This concept sets up the bifurcation of white people versus people of color.  This dichotomy easily abolishes individuality by lumping everyone together, both white and nonwhite.  This enables the Marxists — who originally would have attempted this with class struggle — to articulate the world in terms of racial inequality by making everyone either a person of color, who is victimized by a white society, or a white person, who either victimizes or at the very least benefits from a system that oppresses people of color."
-- Steven Kessler

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The verdict is in

But the "fix" is yet to be determined...

Shot: The Resistance is Everything They Accuse Trump of Being
Chaser: (Tucker Carlson, FOX Network): There is a Facist Threat to America

Perspective: Some things Bookworm thought about in a graveyard

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Small but worthwhile movies

Stumbled across some good movies lately. The list order here is subjective, approximately in order of their cinematic quality, but every film is worth watching, and each tackles larger issues than you might expect, with a certain grace.

The Straight Story (1999)  -- On family and simple wisdom
The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) -- Triumph over adversity in a culture not your own
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) -- How one person affects others
The Soloist (2009) -- The limits of genius
Io (2019) -- On duty and what it means
Minding the Gap (2018, documentary) -- On growing into young manhood today
Paddleton (2019) -- On friendship
Priceless (2016) -- Human trafficking as an all-too-common affront to dignity
Juanita (2019) -- The value of a shift in location and perspective

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A telling comparison

On the one hand, there's Thomas Lifson, Editor at American Thinker, well pleased with President Trump's speech yesterday to an enthusiastic crowd at Florida International University. Trump talked eloquently about the situation in Venezuela.

On the other hand, there are editors at Yahoo News, who included a hot take from Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro, reacting to the same speech by calling it "almost Nazi-style."

I watched the speech (which is on YouTube until someone there decides that too many people are triggered by it).

Guess what?

The speech was great, and not the least bit "Nazi-style" (whatever Maduro meant by that).

Our local NBC affiliate reprinted an Associated Press report about the speech under the headline "Trump pleads with Venezuela's military to back Guaido." In fairness, that was part of his speech, but you'd never know from the headline that President Trump was speaking from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness, and you'd never know that he also cataloged the evils of socialism with help from the First Lady and the mother of a police officer who was slain for political activity by Maduro's goons.

This, ladies and gentleman, is why the charge of "fake news" has such resonance. Most of the people in the media aren't even trying to hide their anti-conservative / pro-socialist biases any more.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

On bringing U.S. troops home

I submitted this original essay to American Spectator Online, which passed on the opportunity to publish it. The copy that went to them had lots of hyperlinks to buttress my points. Even without those links, however, I wanted to get the piece out there:

Exit Strategy

It was the second most refreshingly self-evident line in a State of the Union speech that had several rhetorical flourishes worth remembering, and for that reason in this culture, it was courageous. "Great nations do not fight endless wars," President Trump reminded us. The only truer thing he said while arguing from principle in his extended call to greatness was that "All children -- born and unborn -- are made in the holy image of God."

Both points deserve more thought than most politicians want to give them, but only the president's statement about wars triggered something other than predictable reactions from his opponents, and only that statement might also be viewed in ways unrelated to the shedding of American blood abroad.

Trump's enemies ignored the line, preferring to subject other parts of the SOTU to mendacious "fact-checking." Among his allies -- or at least those members of the Establishment not obviously hostile to his agenda -- Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen voiced civil but typical disagreement most eloquently. Thiessen wrote a column marinated in the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone that Beltway insiders and journalists still lean on for conversations about all things Trump, including the mental acuity of people who agree with him.

By District of Columbia standards, Thiessen is a fair-minded analyst rather than a Democrat with a byline. Nevertheless, as the author of a book that defends the morality of "enhanced interrogation techniques," Thiessen apparently considers himself a realist. Like former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned from that post over policy disagreements with President Trump, Thiessen traffics in what he calls "hard truths."

Those "hard truths" smell to me like the bat guano of conventional wisdom. "We don't get to decide unilaterally that the war [in Afghanistan] is over," Thiessen reasons, because "the enemy gets a vote." While implying that U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, he quotes from an intelligence assessment that was leaked to the New York Times, part of which claimed that "a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan would lead to an attack on the United States within two years."

Suppose for the sake of argument that the "fight jihadists over there rather than over here" cadre is right, and that bringing American troops home from places like Afghanistan and Syria would inevitably mean additional work for the bomb squads and SWAT teams of major metropolitan police forces in the United States. Wouldn't it still be more cost-effective to fight terrorists at home than to fight them abroad, and wouldn't we be more motivated on our own soil than we could possibly be while acting as ambassadors to a place that fellow Spectator contributor Doug Bandow calls "a nation in name only, ruled by the valley and the village"?

Other people understand the reliability of President Trump's instincts more than Thiessen does. For example, a mordantly funny post at the Babylon Bee this past December pretended to interview a disappointed soldier "who was looking forward to hanging out in Syria for another 20 [or] 30 years."

Apologists for the Deep State fail to mention that even a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria would not necessarily leave Islamists with an unfettered license for making mayhem at the expense of the "Great Satan." The Taliban commanders, unhinged mullahs, and terrorists who strayed too far from the intramural amusement of pronouncing death sentences on fellow travelers could still be harried by private military contractors, many of whom are veterans not long out of U.S. uniforms.

Some of the advisers who caution President Trump against a hasty withdrawal of military assets from Afghanistan and Syria are patriots with protective instincts. They've seen what failed states look like, or served long enough in government to want to atone for the inaction that cost American lives in Benghazi under the previous administration. But in marked contrast to the sunny encouragement coming from POTUS, they're tolerant of incompetence, and trying to make fear-based decisions for the rest of us.

The left-leaning editor of Politico, for example, grudgingly admits that the withdrawal moves that President Trump contemplates for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Syria "are not indefensible." He does not often compliment the man whom late-night TV comedians treat like an evil toddler, and his complaint is that withdrawal initiatives should be slow-walked, because "In a normal administration, a big move like [ordering U.S. forces home] would have taken place only after endless rounds of discussions at multiple levels of governments, arguments between agencies, and consultations with allies." But Trump announced his new policy in a Tweet, because he's not afraid of the communications platform where his fondness for superlatives has already been lampooned.

Here in the cheap seats, decisiveness is a feature, not a bug. "Normal" administrations have failed us: Is New York governor Andrew Cuomo's enthusiasm for infanticide normal? Is California governor Gavin Newsom's whimpering about a "manufactured crisis" on our southern border normal? Is it normal to extort money from politicians haunted by old yearbook photos, or sell classical liberal values to people shaped by the longstanding rivalry between Shi'ah and Sunni Muslim theologians? Let's instead stipulate that it's foolish to cede the terms of an argument to progressives.

And speaking of progressives: The women in white who were high-fiving each other and the air at the SOTU for the sake of a "diverse" Congress ought to recognize the merits of their colleagues across the aisle. True, President Trump's clarion call to "choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction" had a deliberately biblical echo that educated secularists might find discomfiting. But if he's right in saying that great nations do not fight endless wars, then his point would apply even in our so-called culture wars, where the Party of the Perpetually Aggrieved always finds something to complain about.

(End: 975 words)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

An informative footnote from Eric Dolin

"In writing this book I had to decide whether to use the term Indian or Native American when referring broadly to the native inhabitants of North America. I chose Indian in large part because many of the authors I admire use that term, and it is the term with which I am most comfortable. Thus, I was glad to read in David Hackett Fischer's book Champlain's Dream that when he asked a gathering of Indian leaders what they preferred to be called, they gave two answers. If one is referring to a specific nation, then they said that the name of the nation should be used, e.g., Mohawk. But if one is referring to 'all of them together,' then they said the term Indian 'was as good as any other,' and that 'they used it with pride.'

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ascribing too much to Rush

On the one hand, "God writes straight with crooked lines". On the other hand, leftists like to "retrofit history to their own ideology, rather than learning from history," as my friend Bookworm has observed.

I noticed a progressive crediting Rush Limbaugh with making Americans believe in God. Rush is a talented and hard-working, indeed pioneering, talk show host, but that seemed to me to be an example of progressive wish-casting, so I took issue with it (and related anti-Trumpian illogic) in fresh pixels at American Spectator Online.