February 28, 2005
Million Dollar Bore
In honor of The Academy's perennially bad taste, here's James Bowman's take from earlier this month:
To me, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby is just routine Hollywood product but with a much higher-than-usual schmaltz content.I didn't hate it quite as much as Bowman, but I did think it fell apart in the third act, where the "conflict"-- whether or not Frankie should pull the plug on Maggie-- became so ludicrously onesided. In this corner, a shining beacon of morality played by Morgan Freeman argues that to choose her death would be a final victory. And in this corner, a priest who has for most of the movie served as comic relief-- at one point losing patience and calling the protagonist a "fucking pagan" for persistently asking theological questions-- says that it'd be a terrible sin. Who will win? Edge of your seat, eh?
This is a dramatic objection, not a political one; I have no problem with euthanasia for consenting adults. But I agree with Bowman that it's more than a little odd that so many people are capable of denying that the film has any political content at all.
My favorite movie of the year, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, wasn't even nominated-- though Charlie Kaufman rightly scored a win for Best Screenplay. Of the Best Picture nominees, my favorite was Finding Neverland; I didn't see Ray but I'd be surprised if it changed my mind. And I can't for the life of me understand why the remarkable Metallica: Some Kind of Monster was completely overlooked for Best Documentary.
February 24, 2005
This is Sara -- my longtime girlfriend. In real life she's less blurry, and only rarely hides behind her hand.
I love her very much.
Note the shiny thing on her finger. That's the diamond ring I got for her today.
Sara is now my fiancée.
Life is good.
February 23, 2005
Jim Geraghty notes that the way newspapers ignore or bury good news makes them much less useful. Bill at INDC Journal writes that part of the problem is that readers seem to respond more to bad news-- hence the old saying that "if it bleeds, it leads."
One of Bill's commentors, Baron Bodissey of Gates of Vienna, writes:
Bill, mostly you'd be right there. But I bet that in 1986, say, on the front page of the Post (but below the fold) you'd be likely to find a headline like "Sandanistas Opening New Clinics in Remote Areas", with a picture of cute kid opening her mouth to say "Aahh" for the socialist doctor.Just for fun I did a Lexis search for "Sandinista" and "clinic" in major papers in 1986. Nothing on page A-1 of the Washington Post, but on page A-3 of the September 2, 1986 New York Times I did find this:
NICARAGUA CLINIC AMERICAN-MADEThe whole thing is beyond parody; I'd post it all but for fear of the Times's lawyers. Suffice it to say that the rest is mostly happy-faced fluff about the building of the clinic, and that the line quoted above about only having a "partial view" is the only glance toward balance in the article.
BYLINE: By STEPHEN KINZER, Special to the New York Times
DATELINE: NIQUINOHOMO, Nicaragua
For James Pfeiffer, a 26-year-old printer and contractor from Providence, R.I., spending two months helping to build a clinic in this poor town was a way ''to do something more than just protest.''
Mr. Pfeiffer and the more than 40 Providence-area residents who came with him to build the clinic here dislike the Reagan Administration's opposition to the Nicaraguan Government and they are showing their dissent in a practical way. Although thousands of Americans have traveled to Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista Government in one way or another, few have left as tangible a legacy as the group from Providence.
''I don''t like to have the feeling of always being against something,'' Mr. Pfeiffer said. ''Here was a chance for us to do something positive.''
At a modest ceremony dedicating the clinic recently, several of the volunteers said they would return to Rhode Island to speak favorably about the Sandinista Government.
''Our hearts are with the revolution,'' said Melinda Nielsen.
The volunteers from Providence have spent nearly all their time in Niquinohomo, an hour's drive from the capital, and several acknowledged that they had only a partial view of Nicaraguan life. They have not met with groups that consider themselves victims of Government persecution, for example.
''There are different shadings of support for the Sandinistas within our group,'' said Richard J. Walton, a writer from Warwick, R.I. ''We don't claim to know everything or even a lot about this country, but we've seen enough to convince us that it is not the totalitarian state that you hear about.''
Niquinohomo is a typical Nicaraguan town. Many residents farm small parcels of land nearby, and many live without electricity or running water. The town's principal claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Augusto Cesar Sandino, the guerrilla hero who fought the American occupation force in the 1920's and 1930's.
Although Niquinohomo is in a peaceful part of Nicaragua, the United States-backed insurgency remains active in other areas. The Government devotes about half its budget to defense, and there is little money to provide services in towns like this one.
Of course, there weren't any bloggers back then to raise a fuss. Small wonder that some old media types liked it better that way.
I look at the overwrought Draft Condi buzz in my latest AmSpec column.
February 16, 2005
Eric Alterman throws a tantrum and other adventures
Eric Alterman is in the midst of a massive hissy fit. That's nothing new, but this time I've been drawn into it. Cathy Young wrote a column arguing that Alterman has been making absurd excuses for Muslim anti-Semitism. Par for the course for Alterman, rather than amending his comments-- which did, in fact, make excuses for Muslim anti-Semitism-- he's declaring "war" and encouraging his readers to bombard Young and her editors with hatemail. (Young responded to Alterman's initial complaint about her column, though he has yet to acknowledge her response on his blog.)
Where do I come in? Well, in a gossipy post from 20 months ago, I recounted that Cathy Young praised Alterman at a party for defending John Fund against sleazy personal attacks. Thus, according to Alterman, she must hold a grudge. Young is "really not sure what Alterman's point is," and neither am I. Maybe it's the bit about a friend of Young's "speculating on what ulterior motives Alterman might have for acting decent in this instance"; if it'll calm any nerves, I'll add that I think Young's friend was kidding (I don't even remember the content of her theory anymore, so it couldn't have been all that serious). Or maybe it's the shocking revelation that, after he refused to offer a genuine apology for putting her on a list of reflexively pro-Israel commentators at a time when she had never written about Israel at all, Young thought Alterman was a jerk. It's "an assessment... that his latest antics have not changed"-- and one with which I must concur.
February 09, 2005
Democracy Marches On
I look at post-election Iraq in my latest AmSpec column.
February 04, 2005
Is It Just Me?
Am I blinded by AmSpec pride, or do David Hogberg's columns on Social Security reform constitute the best stuff out there on the topic? Here's the latest.
February 03, 2005
Cut the Fat
I call for more ruthless editing of State of the Union addresses in my latest AmSpec column.
February 01, 2005
About That Election
I don't have much to add on the wonderfulness of the Iraqi election that hasn't been covered in the past 48 hours. I offered a column on Sunday, but my editor suggested waiting a day so it wouldn't be doubled up with Jed Babbin's take. Last night I decided to delay more, until hard data on turnout and results become available. (I think most of the estimates and anecdotes have been pretty much used up, commentarywise.)
One thing I will note here, though, is the success of the security plan. I was far less surprised by the size of the turnout then by the relatively small number of dead voters. As Michael Novak put it:
[T]he tactic of three concentric rings of protection around each polling place---the Iraqi police at the core, the Iraqi National Guard in the middle ring, and the Coalition forces in the outer, third ring--turned out to be brilliant. The performance of those in the inner rings was professional, confident, courteous. They seemed to feel all the more confident for having the Coalition at their backs, ready to spring to their aid. Their own inner strength seemed to be doubled by that outer support. Their fortitude multiplied many-fold the range and capacities of the Americans. A well-conceived plan, gentlemen of the military and Iraqi leaders alike! Well done.
A caller from Mosul to the Friends of Democracy-sponsored forum on C-SPAN Sunday reported that voting picked up midday, when people realized that the insurgents weren't having much success at havoc-wreaking.
Well done, indeed.
Wikipedia can be edited by anyone; there is a good-sized core group for whom updating and improving the free online encyclopedia is a regular hobby. This has its upsides and its downsides. One downside is that saboteurs can mess with entries, and even if they're caught quickly (as they usually are), readers might be misled by an inaccurate entry or even erroneously dismiss out of hand the utility of the encyclopedia. One upside is that sabotage can be hilarious.
Tom Maguire notes a verbal gaffe in which John Kerry said he "delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia"-- which would be treason. Maguire links to the Wikipedia entry on the Khmer Rouge to illustrate his point. Instapundit linked to Maguire's post last night.
You guessed it: the Khmer Rouge entry got updated-- both in the text:
and in this captioned photo:
Full screenshot here.