February 25, 2007

Buzz Unbuilt

Virginia Postrel explains how I, and the other winner of her contest, came to receive useless swag instead of movie passes. Incidentally, I have no intention of paying to see Ghost Rider, which I hear is really bad. I'll probably catch it when it's on cable.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:18 PM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2007

Oscar Picks

My predictions:

Best Picture - The Departed

Best Actor - Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress - Helen Mirren, The Queen

Best Supporting Actor - Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Director - Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Original Screenplay - Little Miss Sunshine (Even though The Queen is more deserving)

Best Adapted Screenplay - The Departed

Best Cinematography - Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth

Best Documentary - An Inconvenient Truth (ugh)

Best Foreign Film - Pan's Labyrinth

Best Animated Feature - Cars

Best Score - Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal (It's Glass's third nomination; he seems due)

Best Song - "Listen" from Dreamgirls

UPDATE: I got 9 out of 14-- not too bad. Here are all the results.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2007

Speed Dating With a Union

My AmSpec column today is about the Democratic candidates' forum in Nevada yesterday, and the ghost of Barack Obama that haunted it.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2007

Box of Swag Received

Hey, maybe it wasn't the USPS's fault that I never got tickets to see a Ghost Rider preview; maybe Sony just got their wires crossed over what prizes to send. Still no tickets, but FedEx just dropped off a couple of Ghost Rider hats and wallets. Yeah, I know you can hardly contain your jealousy.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2007

Going Postal

Virginia Postrel scored some passes to screen Ghost Rider "a couple days before the release on Feb 16, 2007." She offered them to the two readers who wrote in with the best plea. I won.

As of today's mail, still no passes. And in conclusion, privatize the post office.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:56 PM | Comments (3)

Defending Ashlee Simpson's Honor

Well, someone has to do it. JeremyLott.com guestblogger Meghan Keane, noting the Milli Vanilli movie in the works, writes:

Ashlee Simpson got a second chance when she was caught lipsynching in 2004. Guess 1990 just wasn’t ready for the dreadlocked duo.
Simpson was lipsynching to her own voice; lots of pop stars do that from time to time. Milli Vanilli lipsynched to other peoples' voices. A critical difference, no?

Posted by John Tabin at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Psychoanalyzing the Public

Jeremy Lott thinks Dave Weigel was really smart to write this:

Americans never wanted to rebuild [Iraq]. They supported the war on the grounds that it would take out Saddam, get some revenge for 9/11 (don’t ask how), and make the world safer… somehow. They had hoped the Iraqis would take care of the rest themselves, being liberated from Saddam and all. Americans never wanted to spend money rebuilding the country, because Americans are constitutionally opposed to stuff like that. Majorities of Americans opposed the first big spending package, that $87 billion that John Kerry welded into a bazooka aimed at his foot.
To the extent that that's true, it's a symptom of the depressing shallowness of public opinion; if you supported the Iraq war and thought that toppling Saddam was all there was to it, you were pretty naive. (I realize you may also have been a DoD policymaker.) But I don't think opposition to the $87 billion package was simply a function of Americans not caring about helping foreigners. Rather, it was a consequence of one of the few poll questions that emphasized the cost of an expenditure rather than its goal. I guarantee that if you asked people about, say, an expanded health care entitlement, it would get more support than you asked people about spending some really big-sounding sum on health care.

Speaking of shallow public opinion, Reihan Salam identifies an interesting pattern in Democratic primaries. It seems that the distribution of candidates' supporters by income tracks less with expected ideology than with expected attention to politics. In 2004, Edwards was supposed to appeal to more-conservative "downscale" Democrats, while Kerry was supposed to appeal to more-liberal "upscale" Democrats. Almost the opposite happened. At the time, Noam Scheiber offered the plausible hypothesis that the upscale types paid closer attention, and thus questioned Kerry's electability. Says Reihan:

With that in mind, consider the latest from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, as reported by WMUR.
* Clinton runs strongest among lower income voters.

* Obama's strongest support from voters who have lived in New Hampshire for 11 to 20 years and voters earning between $75,000 and $100,000.

This could mean that Obama will catch up over time as less affluent, less educated voters catch up with the elite media - or that Obama would, despite his neopopulist tendencies, hemorrhage working-class votes in a general election.
Reihan has related observations about what the poll says about Edwards this time around, and about Giuliani.

Steve Sailer has a somewhat different theory about Obama's support: That he represents the way white people wish black people would act. As usual, Sailer doesn't put this quite as delicately as a more sensitive writer would, and it's overly reductionist to think that the racial dynamics explain everything about Obamamania. But racial dynamics certainly do play a role, and Sailer's description of those dynamics seems correct.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:43 PM | Comments (1)

Diagnosing Robbie

Gotta love tabloid alarmism. The Sun reports that Robbie Williams "is hooked on the powerful and controversial anti-depressant Seroxat."

That's absurd. Seroxat, known in the US as Paxil, is not a habit-forming drug. (It may cause withdrawal if it's discontinued without tapering off, but that's not the same thing.)

Paxil is most often prescribed for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but it doesn't sound like it's working all that well for Williams: "Robbie also revealed in the interview that he is plagued with anxiety and suffers regularly from attacks — especially before a tour." It might help to cut back on the caffeine and nicotine; according to The Sun, "daily he gets through an incredible 36 super-strength double espresso coffees, 60 Silk Cut cigarettes and around 20 cans of energy drink Red Bull." If those figures are close to accurate, it would probably be healthier to get back on cocaine.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:54 PM | Comments (2)

February 13, 2007

Ooh, I Know!

Someone found this blog today by Googling for "why didn't baltimore county closed [sic] schools today" -- there's snow on the ground, and everyone around here is terrified of snow, plus the forecast calls for ice. (The search turned up this post, which should have been useful since it links to the school-closing info page.) I can answer that question; my wife, who used to work for the school system, explained it to me. Since the icestorm is supposed to come in the afternoon, the schools just closed early rather than using up a snow day; if the kids eat lunch, it counts as a school day (if they close too many times, they have to make up days at the end of the year).

Posted by John Tabin at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2007

Of Winters and Discontents

I almost included this stylistic criticism of George Will's column in this AmSpecBlog post, but thought better of it. I have to say, though, that it kind of bothers me when a writer alludes to the opening line of Richard III in a way that depends on "the winter of our discontent" meaning something other than what it means in the play.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:24 AM | Comments (12)

February 05, 2007

Come Come Now, Mr. Barry

Ryan O'Neal has been arrested for assaulting his son with a handgun. I sort of thought he should be arrested after I sat through Barry Lyndon.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

February 04, 2007

Courting Conservatives

My AmSpec column for tomorrow, in which I follow Mitt Romney as he woos the right, is already posted.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:06 PM | Comments (2)

February 03, 2007

Finding The Best Food in Town

When traveling, if you're willing to go slightly out of your way, there's no reason to eat at P.F. Chang's, which isn't even the best Chinese food in America (head to Chinatown in Seattle or San Francisco for that), let alone the world. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, you can always find good eats on sites like 10Best.com. Most people don't care enough (or don't have enough time) to track down the really good stuff, which is what the convenient and reliable chains are there for, but if you really like food it's usually worth the effort. Great restaurants found on my last long drive: Eleven in Pittsburgh and Proof on Main in Louisville. (Billy's Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in Lexington is pretty good, too, but I've had better barbecue in the Carolinas.)

Of course, there are some places where the reputed best restaurants are disappointing. I'm looking at you, Toledo, Ohio.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)

Location of Money ≠ Location of Mouth

This thread ended kind of abruptly, didn't it?

Posted by John Tabin at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2007

Who's Labyrinth?

I don't quite understand why the English title of El Laberinto del Fauno -- literally The Labyrinth of the Faun -- is Pan's Labyrinth. The faun in the movie doesn't seem to specifically be Pan (or Faunus, his Roman-mythology counterpart). And it's not like no one knows what a faun is, after the box office splash that Chronicles of Narnia made.

Anyway, I really liked the movie. Given the setting -- Spain in 1944, where Francoists are still hunting Republican holdouts in the hinterlands five years after the "end" of the civil war -- it made me think about what would have happened if the Spanish Civil War went the other way. It's possible that Spain would have spent the mid-twentieth century like the rest of Western Europe, as a democracy with a socialist-dominated politics. On the other hand, it might very well have been a Soviet satellite; anti-Stalinist Republicans were often killed by their own side, after all. Given the political history of what James Bennett has refered to as the Hispanosphere, the Communist tyranny route seems somewhat more likely. This guy agrees, but with an interesting twist: "In sum, then, a Loyalist victory in the Spanish Civil War could have lost the Allies the Second World War."

Posted by John Tabin at 03:38 AM | Comments (0)