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Klavan On The Culture

Monthly Archives: April 2012


Opinions are like a $50,000 government debt — in America, everyone has one. So we here at Klavan on the Culture are committed to going beyond mere bloviational opinionating to get you the sort of facts, insights, and interviews that only we can make up. In that spirit, today we bring you our exclusive interview with a man who rarely comes out of the shadows into the limelight: Neil Lister, the strategist behind the strategists for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

KOC: Mr. Lister, thank you for talking to me.

LISTER:  My pleasure.

KOC:  I’m going to be very blunt here. I don’t understand how the president can run on his record. In July of 2008, Mr. Obama called George W. Bush “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” for adding 4 trillion dollars to the national debt over 8 years. But in less than 4 years, Mr. Obama has added 5 trillion dollars to our debt and has proposed no reforms except a bogus tax on rich people which would accomplish virtually nothing. At the same time he keeps trying to buy off voters by offering things like student loan subsidies and other unfunded entitlements that would actually add to the debt.  How do you propose to address this issue?

LISTER: Well, the debt is a very serious problem, but by the same token, I think you have to agree that Mitt Romney drove for twelve hours with his dog in a crate on top of his car.

KOC: What?

LISTER: He’s been cited for cruelty by two different animal rights groups.

KOC: Well, okay, but, in his book Dreams From My Father, President Obama says he actually ate a dog!

LISTER: I don’t think we should be talking about dogs at a serious moment like this. Dogs are just a distraction.

KOC: Fine, let’s get back to the economy. Entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are projected to consume all tax revenues within thirty years. Social Security could be operating at a deficit within only two years. Congressman Paul Ryan has put forward a serious and politically courageous plan to address entitlement reform. What will be the president’s approach?

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Klavan & Whittle Go To The Movies

April 27th, 2012 - 7:52 am

This is the sort of vicious, uncivil and ill-considered attack on our political institutions that demeans our public discourse and weakens our president and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if my old Klavan on the Culture accomplice Justin Folk had a hand in this. I think I see his grimy fingerprints now!

I’m delighted to say that The Scarred Man, one of my earliest crime stories — and the first, I think, on which I put my own name (Andrew Klavan writing as Keith Peterson or something like that) is now available in e-book form at MysteriousPress.com. Although, as I recall, I published this book after my John Wells series, I actually wrote the first draft of it earlier. It was a book that solved a tremendous problem for me at the start of my career. I knew that I didn’t have a popular mind-set or sensibility, that my view of life was different from the one I saw in bestsellers, but I also knew that my talent was for writing suspense stories, the kind that are meant to reach a popular audience. I struggled with this a long time — until I read Wilkie Collins’s wonderful Victorian thriller, The Woman in White. Darker and sexier than a Dickens novel (although Dickens may have had a hand in writing it), The Woman in White proved to me that a thriller could be as rich and strange as any other novel, if you did it right. I wanted to translate some of that depth to the faster, tenser, terser American style. Shortly thereafter, I sat down and wrote The Scarred Man. It’s about a young man who falls madly in love with his boss’s daughter at Christmas time. All goes well, until he tells a Christmas ghost story — then she runs away, refusing ever to speak to him again. To win her back, he has to find out why — which turns out to be a dangerous business.

It’s an early effort, but still has some moments in it I’m proud of. And it’s still a fun read. You can buy it in all popular e-formats here.

Screw The Earth

April 23rd, 2012 - 12:00 am

The Earth - when it rocks!

Sunday was Earth Day, and in honor of the occasion, I’d like to say that as far as I’m concerned the Earth can go to hell.

The Earth — for those of you who may have fallen behind on your reading — is a piece of rock trapped in a slow death spiral into a cauldron of exploding plasma which, for lack of a better word, we’ll call the sun. Because that’s its name. There is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about this hunk of doomed space debris, and that is:  it happens to maintain the conditions necessary for supporting life. (The odds against this would be ridiculously impossible, by the way, if there were no God — so impossible that scientists have been forced to invent all kinds of silly multi-universe scenarios solely for the purpose of convincing themselves that there is no God. But that’s their problem, and neither here nor there.)

So the earth supports life.  Whoopee. And there is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about life — only one — and that is the mind of man.

“Holy cannoli, Klavan on the Culture,” you may be saying to yourself, or even out loud — because, let’s face it, you’re kind of an odd person — I mean, just look at you. Anyway, “Holy cannoli or even moley,” you may be saying, “how can you say the mind of man is the only interesting or worthwhile thing about life? What about the beauty of the running gazelle? The nobility of the flying eagle? The awesome awesomeness of the spacious skies above the amber waves running to the purple mountains above the fruited plains? And how about those glazed donuts with the yellow creme inside? I love those!”

First of all, stop talking so much, this is my blog. And b, there is no beauty, no nobility, no awesome awesomeness — not even the taste of a glazed donut — outside the human mind. The science is not yet settled, but reality itself may be in part a production of the human mind as there are some aspects of the world that don’t seem to resolve themselves until we observe them. But in any case, the gazelle would be fleet for nothing, the eagle would be a winged eating machine, the skies and the waves and the mountains would be dreams without the dreamer if man were not here to know them.

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TV Roundup

April 20th, 2012 - 5:00 am

Mm, mm, good...

As I’ve said ad nauseum now, it’s a golden age of television — the stuff on the small screen is much better than most of what’s on the big ones — and there’s nothing I like more than to sit down with an Obama Brand TV Dinner (see pic above), and watch me some home entertainment. Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been looking at.

Justified.  This is currently the best show on TV — the best one I’m watching anyway. For all I know, Mob Wives is Shakespearean. But in the eyes of this old crime writer, Justified is crime writing like it oughta be. The tough guy dialogue is sharp. The hillbilly characters are riveting. The deep Kentucky setting is fascinating. The scenes of violence are exceptionally well done: they’re genuinely tense and frightening. There’s a sort of running gag that the villains of the piece are almost universally stupid and ineffective — but that doesn’t stop them from being scary and threatening. You know they’re never going to make the big score, but that doesn’t mean they won’t kill you in the process of trying.

Great cast. Timothy Olyphant has elevated himself here from second rate movie hero to star. Walton Goggins, who was Shane on The Shield, is, within his range, as good as any actor alive. Nick Searcy should have more scenes; he’s hilarious. And Joelle Carter is expertly taking her character on its arc from beautiful loser to beautiful fearsome gangster, and have I mentioned she’s beautiful?

The seasonal storylines can be a little meandering, but all in all, this show is top-notch and keeps getting better.

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Thank You, Iowa Teens

April 18th, 2012 - 4:00 am

I’m delighted to report that The Last Thing I Remember — the first installment in my Homelanders series of thriller novels for young adults — has received the 2012 Iowa Teen Award. This award, sponsored by the Iowa Association of School Librarians/Iowa Library Association, goes to the author whose book receives the most votes from students in grades six through nine across the state of Iowa. Which means that unlike other awards given by committees, critics and colleagues, this one actually comes from the readership — a special pleasure. Not to mention the fact that I also get a golden apple. I love those and hope it remains fresh in the mail.  I believe the novel is also up for an award in Missouri and if I win there as well, I will actually have more delegates than Ron Paul.

By the way you can get all four of the Homelanders novels in a new single volume edition by simply clicking on the link.  And I hope you will.

Why Racism and Conservatism Don’t Mix

April 16th, 2012 - 4:00 am
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I think we should have a frank conversation about race…  because I always take my moral cues from second rate political hacks.

A week or so ago, National Review severed its connection with self-described “benign racist” writer John Derbyshire over a controversial column he wrote for Taki’s Magazine. Reading the commentary and comments about this event, I began to notice that the word racism is not well understood. Leftists, of course, feel that racism means “any uncomfortable facts spoken by a conservative.” Some conservatives seem to have been bullied into accepting that definition and go about on tiptoe speaking in hushed voices to avoid getting pilloried. Other conservatives, in angry rebellion against the bullying, seem to feel that whatever trash they want to talk about their fellow man is A-OK as long as some set of statistics gives them cover.

Personally, I’m a big fan of dictionaries in these situations since, for words to work properly, they have to have definitions. Thus, at the risk of great personal hernia, I have hoisted down my Webster’s Third New International Unabridged, circa 1976, which I keep around for when I want a definition untainted by political correctness or stupidity. But I repeat myself.

“Racism:  The assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others.”

Thus, as we see, it is not racist in itself to point out, say, that black people commit an inordinate amount of the violent crime in this country. (My terrific City Journal colleague Heather Mac Donald does this regularly and, far from thinking to fire her, her editors value her highly, as do I.) Facts are facts.

What is racist, however, according to Webster, is the belief that high crime rates among blacks — or any other psychocultural outcomes — are somehow biologically determined; that you can tell who will win or lose the game of Life by the color of his skin.

I do not believe you can be a true, thinking, coherent conservative and a philosophical racist at the same time. Here’s why:

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Video Game Review: Batman – Arkham City

April 13th, 2012 - 4:00 am

So this week here at Klavan on the Culture, we’ve discussed perfidious media perfidy and insidious racist racism, it’s time to move on to really important questions — like, “How’s the new Batman video game?” I’m glad you asked. Pretty darn good, actually. In fact, as vid-games based on cool superheroes go, I’d say this is pretty much as good as it gets. The first one in the series, Batman, Arkham Asylum, had originality going for it, which made it just that little bit better than the sequel in my originality-loving opinion. But really only just a little bit better. In both games, the controls are wonderfully direct and after a scene or two, you really get the feeling of what it’s like to dress up in a skin-tight bat suit and hang upside down from a gargoyle. I can vouch for this because I actually do this from time to time. But that’s another story and not really any of your business.

Arkham City is a bigger game than the first. The city of the title is vast. I’m not usually impressed by this sort of thing because it often means wandering around forever until you find the fun stuff. But the directional system here is better than that and you can move through the night streets quickly to your destination. As you progress through the story, the environment becomes more and more dangerous, which is very cool.  And by the end of it, when you’re outrunning helicopters, it’s a blast. There are also approximately a jazillion side missions placed throughout. I’m usually not much of a fan of side missions either because they generally just entail beating people up — a lot of button pushing which hurts my typing muscles. But some of these are pretty different and interesting — a big improvement over similarly structured games, like the Spider Man series.

Also, lifting this above all other similar titles, is Batman himself, who’s just, let’s face it, the best super hero ever. He’s not as powerful as Superman so he has to be smarter and tougher. Plus, while he’s dark and brooding, he’s not so dark as to be borderline psychopathic the way some of these new characters are. He’s fun to play, and as with Asylum, Arkham City really does allow you to inhabit the character. There are also free add-on Catwoman levels which seem to exist primarily for the purpose of allowing 12-year-old boys to manipulate a shapely cartoon woman for purposes of sexual excitement. As you can imagine, I enjoyed this immensely.

Anyway, nothing could be as good as the reviews said this game was, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely worthwhile. If you enjoyed Arkham Asylum, you won’t be disappointed. This is more of the same, and almost as good.

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On The Firing of John Derbyshire

April 11th, 2012 - 4:07 am

I love National Review — love the magazine, love the website, love the people there, love their work. And  I know that NR has to protect its brand name and is well within its rights to decide whose work it will publish and whose it won’t. Furthermore, all joking aside, (because I hate political correctness and I kid around about stuff like this a lot), I think racism is a kind of moral sickness. It’s an insult to God and self-destructive to boot.  It reminds me of that old definition of resentment:  ”It’s like taking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.”

And yet — and yet — for all that, I wish National Review hadn’t ended its association with John Derbyshire over Derbyshire’s openly racist article for Taki’s Magazine.

Two reasons I feel this way. The first and simpler one: Derbyshire is not a secret racist. He’s an avowed racist. He has been for years and years. Other writers at National Review have chided him for it, even yelled at him for it. But to fire him now has a touch of Inspector Renault to it. As in, “We’re shocked — shocked — to find racism coming from a racist!” It smacks of nervous CYA before the expected onslaughts of the left. Personally, I say to hell with the left. Leftism, even assuming its good intentions, has been more destructive to our black citizens than the bloody Klan. So let the left condemn us. They will anyway.

But secondly — more importantly — and more difficult to explain: I believe racism like Derbyshire’s deserves a full and free airing. It represents a strain of thought that exists on the right and is shared by some people of good will. I have friends who agree with Derbyshire. I have argued with them — loudly sometimes. But I don’t abandon them because I can see they aren’t motivated by hate. And Derbyshire does not seem to be speaking out of hate either. He’s not a person who thinks blacks (the main target of his racism) should be denied any rights or targeted for harm. He believes rather that science shows black people to be less intelligent and more prone to violence than whites. He believes that to deny the evidence of this is tantamount to a kind of creationism.

Now the most frequent word used to describe this opinion is “indefensible!” But Derbyshire does defend it, and he defends it very well. I find his arguments — to use one of his own words — “bracing,” in the same way I find it bracing to read good atheist arguments, even though I very strongly believe in God. What good do we achieve by silencing people like Derbyshire or demonizing them or excluding them? Isn’t that just the sort of Virtue Preening (“Look how non-racist I am!”) we expect from the left?  It seems to me it only serves to make racism kind of thrilling and forbidden — a secret philosophy that dare not be uttered. It gives it the aura of a hidden truth rather than a moral error. Instead of cries of “indefensible,” and “you’re fired,” I’d like to hear honest, well-informed voices argue back against Derbyshire. I think they would win the argument. If not, I’d like to be able to decide why not.

I don’t know Derbyshire. I was on a panel with him once and shook his hand, and I gave his racist book We Are Doomed a generally positive review in The New Criterion, though I disagreed with him. I understand he is having some health issues and I wish him well. And, as I say, I love the folks at National Review and understand they are well within their rights to act for the good of their brand.

Still, I wish they’d reconsider.

The Big Double Standard

April 9th, 2012 - 4:15 am

And Now The News...

Some of you may be bothered by the fact that NBC News lied and is now lying about its lies in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. As Breitbart.com reported while all the mainstream outlets except the Washington Post looked the other way, NBC News edited a tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call to make Zimmerman sound like a racist. A full description of the scurrilous edit is at the link.

When they were caught in their dishonesty, NBC News temporized. When they could no longer temporize, they scapegoated a single unnamed producer, firing him late on the Friday before Easter/Passover weekend so no one would notice. Then NBC News President Steve Capus released a statement to Reuters saying the deliberate editing of the tape to misrepresent the phone call was “a mistake and not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call.”

Some of you may read that statement and say to yourself, “Golly, Klavan on the Culture! How can Mr. Capus keep the word News in his title and not curl up in a ball of shame while tearing at his own flesh with his fingernails and begging God to forgive him for having sunk to depths of disingenuousness unimaginable to any real news person?” And some others of you may scratch your heads and wonder, “Gee! How come Andrew Breitbart was accused of dishonesty and racism when he posted edited videos of Shirley Sherrod, even though he attached a post explaining the edited context?” After which, you might add, “Crikey! Didn’t Breitbart respond to the accusations by making every piece of material in the Sherrod case readily available online?” And you might go on to remark, “Holy Moly, whatever a Moly is! Isn’t it kind of unfair that when NBC News actually has been dishonest and racist — and when they’ve responded to being caught in their dishonest racism by being even more dishonest — the news media doesn’t accuse them of anything at all but merely puts their collective fingers in their collective ears and whistles Dixie?”

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