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Klavan On The Culture

Monthly Archives: July 2012

My Take on “The Dark Knight Rises”

July 30th, 2012 - 7:13 am

My reaction to the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s excellent Dark Knight trilogy is in the Wall Street Journal today:

Murder is the opposite of art: destructive, impoverishing, nihilistic. To discuss the act of a killer as if it had some relevance to a work of culture is to usher the age-old enemy of mankind into one of his citadels. So I will pass over the massacre in an Aurora, Colo., theater in a silence respectful toward its victims.

But the film that was playing in that theater—”The Dark Knight Rises”—deserves to be loudly celebrated as a masterful and stunningly honest work of Western popular culture.

The movie is a bold apologia for free-market capitalism; a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street; and a tribute to those who find redemption in the harsh circumstances of their lives rather than allow those circumstances to mire them in resentment.

You can read the rest here.

Pure Joy: The Piano Guys

July 27th, 2012 - 7:18 am

One guy walks into a movie theater with a gun and sows tears and pain. Five guys surround a piano and turn a silly little pop song into three minutes of pure, unadulterated joy. Surely, the human soul is a mystery. And in those times when one can choose which side of the mystery to be on, I’m going with the Piano Guys. Watch this vid, then go to their site or YouTube channel and enjoy the rest. All of Me, which one of the Guys wrote, and A Thousand Years, from one of those Twilight movies, are my favorites but there are others just as good. I already bought their album on iTunes. Do thou likewise.

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Whatever Happened to T.E.D. Klein?

July 25th, 2012 - 7:30 am

Back in the 1980′s, when I was a starving young writer, there was a magazine called Twilight Zone, after the old Rod Serling TV Show. It had cheesy covers and a lot of shudder-making TZ fanboy stuff. But it also had a monthly selection of some of the best new and old fantasy/horror fiction available. (I first read Stephen King’s terrifying “The Raft” in TZ, though it may have been a reprint, I don’t know.) The magazine was edited by a guy named T.E.D. Klein.

I went in to the magazine offices once, looking for work. T.E.D. himself came out and sat with me in the lobby and spoke with me. He seemed a shy, intellectual type, five or ten years older than me. He was very kind and took a good deal of time with a dude who had literally walked in off the streets of Manhattan. I didn’t get a job, but I always appreciated his decency.

Klein went on to write several well-regarded horror stories of his own and a well-regarded novel called The Ceremonies, which came out around 1985. One of his spooky stories, The Events at Poroth Farm, is included in the American Library’s 2-volume anthology of Fantastic Tales edited by Peter Straub. I reread the story over the past weekend. It’s wonderful and scary as hell. (The pamphlet at the link costs over 200 bucks! but you can get the story in the H.P. Lovecraft mega-pack for .99 cents at the I-reader store.)

Klein was rumored to have another novel in the works but it never showed up. In fact, he wrote very little else after the ’80′s, as far as I can see. His Wikipedia entry says he suffered from writer’s block. He seems to still be alive. Does anyone know what he’s doing these days?


Cross-Posted at PJ Lifestyle

“Of that which we cannot speak,” the philosopher told us, “we must pass over in silence.”

As of this writing, twelve people are dead because of the theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado. One was a six-year-old child, Veronica. Three were young men who threw themselves over their girlfriends and saved their lives. There was an Air Force veteran. A devoted Dad. All of them were people who went out to enjoy the communal pleasure of a big movie opening, and should be at home right now, bragging about being the first on their block to see The Dark Knight Rises.

Of all the commentary that has followed this disaster, one remark by a public figure has struck me with its truth. The star of the film, Christian Bale, said in a statement, “Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.” Readers of this blog will know I don’t usually turn to movie actors to find wisdom, but Bale got it exactly right. I don’t understand. My heart goes out. Words cannot express. That is literally all one can rightly say.

And yet within minutes of the news first breaking, celebrated leftists, smelling in the blood of innocents some chance for political advantage, began to appropriate the corpses of their fellow citizens for soapboxes. ABC “newsman” Brian Ross slandered an innocent man in the hope of using the killings to perpetuate the media lie that the Tea Party movement is violent. Lefty politicians like Senator Frank Lautenberg and Mayor Michael Bloomberg began to beat the drum for anti-gun laws, despite the fact that Aurora already has stringent gun control. Brain-dead celebrities like Bill Maher and Cher found in the shattering grief of their neighbors a tremendous chance to insult America and Mitt Romney.

Does the ABC News team think a dead six year old is a prop for their disinformation campaign? Do Senator Lautenberg and Mayor Bloomberg think a community’s trauma is nothing more than a political opportunity? Do Bill Maher and Cher think anything? Do they know anything even exists outside the wonderlands of their own narcissism?

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The Bain/Bane Video I Never Made

July 19th, 2012 - 2:29 pm

Agh, I am kicking myself! I’m sure you’ve heard of this pseudo-controversy about Rush Limbaugh and the new Batman movie. Rush wondered out loud if the fact that the movie’s villain is named Bane was an attack on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital — and the Mainstream Media toadies immediately tried to make him sound like some kind of crazy man (because…  Hollywood would never attack a Republican?).  Anyway, as it turns out, Obama’s team was planning on spinning the film in exactly the way Rush said, so, as always, the Maha Rushdie got the last laugh on these heel-nipping clowns (and even mentioned yours truly in the process!).

But with all respect to El Rushbo, I was on this Bain/Bane stuff half a year ago! Back then, Justin Folk and I were experimenting with making some animated videos for the Manhattan Institute (they’re worth watching by the way). In February, I wrote one in which a comic book superhero Obama took on Bain Capital, represented by Batman’s evil Bane. The joke was that, in the end, the superhero Obama laid waste the nation while the “evil” Bane actually made things great.

Well, my script made us all laugh, but basically we decided the work involved in producing it was way beyond what any of us could afford to do, so I put it aside. Here’s the script — I don’t know if you can get the feel of it, since it’s very visual, but I offer it as evidence of my far-seeing wisdom. Since it’s, like, the only evidence I have.


Andrew Klavan:  The Manhattan Institute Presents:  Investment Thunderdome:  Obama vs Bain!

Hi, everyone, I’m City Journal contributing editor Andrew Klavan for the Manhattan Institute and I’m here today with an exciting adventure: Investment Thunderdome: Barack Obama Versus Bain Capital!

Barack Obama is on a mission to invest in America.

[Comic book graphic: Obama looking heroic with angel chord and admirers.]

AK: Bain Capital also wants to invest.

[Monstrous Bane from Batman]

Bain:  Baaane.

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Good Writing About Bad Times

July 18th, 2012 - 6:00 am

The lovely Chris Niles is a long-time and very dear friend of mine — and an extremely talented colleague as well. Recently, after 21 years of wedded something-or-other, Chris’s husband walked out on her. This, of course, was extremely bad news for Chris, but she’s making it sort of interesting for the rest of us with one of the best written blogs I’ve ever seen. The blog is called WHATSTHATYOUSAYMRSROBINSON and, largely through a series of character sketches, chronicles Chris’s completely unsavory and probably unwise attempts to deal with her heart-wrenching  situation. Well, as I say, she’s a friend of mine, so unsavory and unwise come with the territory. Here’s a sample:

The Jamaican. The worst flirt in the Western Hemisphere, hands down. Well over six feet tall, good looking, and with a voice like Barry White overdosed on Valium, the Jamaican is the mayor of my local bar. He likes the corner stool, next to the door, so he can ogle the women and size up the men.

The Jamaican’s sex appeal is weapons’ grade; this point cannot be over-emphasized. But, bless him, he doesn’t sit back and let his considerable physical assets do all the work. Did I mention that he’s the worst flirt in the Western Hemisphere? Hold onto that thought and imagine being steamrollered by charm.  You’re so steamrollered you cannot think straight; you can’t even remember your own name. Normally I have the resting heart rate of a coma victim. About three feet from the Jamaican it began doing a fairly solid impersonation of a jackhammer.

There didn’t seem to be any doubt that it went both ways. Perhaps it was the fact that he liked to sit so close to me our thighs touched. Or the time he put his hand to the clasp of my bra and said, grinning. “When I was 22 I could have got that off with one hand.”  For a few seconds—I was a little slow on the uptake because I was trying to recall my name—I thought he might actually do it.

If the above horrifies you, you can stay here with me — I couldn’t remove a bra with both hands and a power drill. But if you love good writing, sardonic humor and post-separation insanity, I really recommend this. It’s great stuff.

You know whom I’m beginning to like, respect and admire? Mitt Romney.

I know! We conservatives aren’t supposed to do that. We’re supposed to look askance at him as one of those hell-bound establishment moderates, a RINO in Reaganesque clothing. We’re supposed to bitch and moan about his lack of vision, his suspect credentials, his refusal to eat the children of illegal aliens for dinner (they are tasty). We’re supposed to complain that he hasn’t gotten specific enough about which federal workers he’s going to guillotine and is therefore not really committed to returning the government to its 1776 levels of spending as God and the founders intended. If we really want to strut our red cred, we’re even supposed to claim there’s no real difference between Romney and Obama — and we’re supposed to do it with a straight face, too.

But I’ve been watching the guy operate and I’m beginning to think a lot of that may be — how can I put this politely? — crap.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all good conservative stuff all right. In fact, it’s generally how we roll. As the brilliant Ann Coulter brilliantly pointed out in her brilliant book Demonic, “Most of the time, conservatives can barely tolerate their leaders. Republican presidents are lucky if their own party doesn’t move to impeach them.” She then goes on to prove her point by citing the ceaseless stream of criticism conservatives trained on Ronald Reagan when he was, you know, being the greatest conservative president of, like, ever. (Coulter, I should add, was an early Romney supporter and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t got a moderate cell in her whole stirring cellular makeup.)

But while conservative Mitt-crit is certainly in keeping with our characters, I’m starting to feel much of it isn’t actually true. For instance, I watched, listened to, and then read the transcript of Romney’s address to the left-wing NAACP last week. I thought it was an excellent speech, clear in its free market approach, as rich in specifics as it needed to be, and courageous in speaking truth to a hostile crowd. 

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[This post contains spoilers to Safe House and Three Days of the Condor.]

In Safe House, Denzel Washington plays a super-spy traitor on the run from a team of killers. In U.S. custody, he becomes the charge, enemy and mentor of as-spy-ring spy Ryan Reynolds. As crappy, mindless entertainment, the movie succeeds on all fronts: it’s entertaining, mindless and crappy. Its cast of high-level professional entertainers squeezes every drop of joy it can out of the ridiculously violent and predictable script. Denzel Washington must be able to play these sorts of characters in his sleep but, to his credit, he doesn’t; he’s classy enough to show up for the paying customers and do it right. After all, that’s part of what a movie star does — deliver his familiar personae well.

What makes the film really second rate though is the fact that it’s so incredibly derivative. “This isn’t so much a movie as a list of cliches,” as my pal Christopher Tookey wrote in Britain’s Daily Mail. It seems to lift scenes from every spy movie ever made. Stylistically, its main source is The Bourne Identity. Content-wise, it’s 1975′s dated-but-still-classy Three Days of the Condor — it’s virtually a remake, hold the class.

But just as interesting as the similarities between Safe House and Condor are the differences, the marks of thirty plus years. In both pictures, a low level CIA agent is isolated and on the run after his unit is brutally exterminated. In both pictures it turns out the bad guy is within the agency itself. In both pictures, the resolution includes our hero leaking the agency’s misdeeds to the world. In Condor, Robert Redford spreads the word through the New York Times, which was a newspaper in those days. In Safe House, Reynolds gives the info to CNN, from which I guess it then leaks out to a news agency and becomes public.

But here is what’s different.  Although Three Days of the Condor is a stridently left wing movie, its hero is a patriot. The stateless assassin on his trail tells him to abandon America and work only for pay: “It’s almost peaceful. No need to believe in either side, or any side. There is no cause. There’s only yourself.” But Redford replies mildly, “I was born in the United States. I miss it when I’m away too long.”

“A pity,” says the assassin.

“I don’t think so,” says Redford.

As love of country goes, it’s not much, but for sophisticates like the LA-New York set, it’s downright George M. Cohan.

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Glenn Beck and the Long TV Game

July 12th, 2012 - 7:33 am

A combination of trains, planes, automobiles and the fact that the sinister cabal that runs PJMedia has been updating the website to include subliminal suggestions designed to turn all readers into freedom-loving patriots has made it virtually impossible for me to blog this week. Even now, I’m writing in a hurry, so forgive me if I sound rushed. Tomorrow, I should have time to make some incredibly fascinating remarks about the film Safe House — incredibly fascinating to me at least! I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Meanwhile, consider two interesting TV stories out this week. One from Gallup via Breitbart’s Big Journalism on a poll showing Americans have lost confidence in TV News and are tuning out. This — no matter what anyone says — is because the vast majority of TV news distorts the facts to support statism and undermine American-style liberty. Why watch disinformation unless you happen to love having your leftist prejudices confirmed?

The other story, from page one of today’s Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall), is on a dust-up over the cost of cable TV now that Netflix, Amazon and Google are providing some relatively cheap video streaming.

Put these two stories together and what we learn is: the more TV options there are, the more viewers turn their backs on left wing liars. Huzzah.

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Cowboys and Indians and Honesty

July 9th, 2012 - 8:41 am

More honest than leftists, Pilgrim.

Traveling in New York — and blogging on the fly — I read an interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal this morning:  Newsday’s Daniel Akst reviewing Sincerity by R. Jay McGill Jr. — a book about how the idea of sincerity developed and whether honesty is good for society and, if so, how much.

The review put me in mind of the old John Wayne western Hondoa 70-minute long adaptation of a Louis L’amour novel, sort of a rip-off of  Shane but well worth while all the same. The thesis of the story is that Wayne, a friend of the Apaches, has learned their highly truthful ways and essentially has to learn to tell the “noble lie” in order to join white civilization. Wayne laments the death of the more honest Apache way: it was a good way, but its time has passed. Compare this with Fort Apache, also with the much-maligned-by-leftists Wayne, in which the Apaches, led by Cochise, come off as peaceful and reasonable people abused by dishonest US government agents and by Henry Fonda’s martinet cavalry leader.

In both these excellent films, we see a nuanced portrayal of Apaches and white men both. No one has a monopoly on decency. Red and white humans are both humans, given to corruption and war.

Now read these remarks by anthropologist Keith Basso in the Wikipedia entry for “Apaches:”

“Of the hundreds of peoples that lived and flourished in native North America, few have been so consistently misrepresented as the Apacheans of Arizona and New Mexico. Glorified by novelists, sensationalized by historians, and distorted beyond credulity by commercial film makers, the popular image of ‘the Apache’ — a brutish, terrifying semi-human bent upon wanton death and destruction — is almost entirely a product of irresponsible caricature and exaggeration.”

This is not to pick on Basso, who no doubt has examples at hand. But I do notice that with cowboys and Indians, as with men and women, the usual, generally leftist, attacks on old-time Hollywood simply don’t hold up. Hollywood Indians of the 40′s and 50′s were often portrayed as flawed humans under attack from other humans, equally flawed. Likewise, while feminists always complain that women in old films are either bad girls or good wives, I’d be willing to bet there are more hard driving, high powered career women in 40′s and 50′s films than there actually were in the 40′s and 50′s.

Compare this to films today, where “noble savages” are typically the victims of demonic white invaders and women are almost nothing like real women, but either ridiculously powerful warriors or unbelievably happy sluts.

Political correctness poisons everything it touches with dishonesty. But perhaps the honest ways of 40′s and 50′s  American films have come to an end like the ways of the Apache!