Really happy to see my friend Steve Malzberg back on the air, this time at Newsmax TV. He’s smart and quick and clear-eyed — but I did my best to drag him down to my level:
What a great week for comedy! There was President Selfie taking an Obama with hot Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt at the funeral of Nelson Mandela while Mrs. O put on her wait-till-I-get-you-home face:
Then there was this Zelig clown pretending to provide the signing for the deaf behind the funeral speakers when he apparently had absolutely no clue how to sign and was only faking it:
And last but not least, there was this delightful picture posted by Governor Chris Christie’s people. I think they should use it in his upcoming presidential campaign with the slogan: ”What’s round and soft and fun to squeeze? Chris Christie!”
It was Horace Walpole who said, “The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.” But that can’t be right. I haven’t had a thought in years and half the time I’m in stitches.
As a non-Catholic fan of the last two popes — one a hero, one a genius — I’ve been following with interest the controversy over the new pope’s first exhortation. Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium sparked a firestorm with its criticism of free markets and “trickle down theories,” and its apparent call for the state to take action against them. The great Rush Limbaugh confessed himself “befuddled” by the message which sounded to him like “pure Marxism,” and Breitbart’s Big Peace site had a post headlined, “Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control.” In response, Peggy Noonan wrote what I thought was one of her weaker columns defending the pope as a non-economist and saying, “I don’t think he’s saying be a leftist but something more revolutionary and fundamental: Be a saint. Be better, kinder, more serious and loving, and help create systems that reflect good, kind, loving people.” I much preferred the touchingly ferocious and loyal post from Rebecca Hamilton at Patheos, “If You’re Looking for Me, You’ll Find Me Standing With the Pope.” She lets go with both barrels at commentators on the left and right who try to tailor Catholicism to fit their political point of view:
These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.
Best of all, by my lights, was the scholarly Michael Novak’s piece “Agreeing With Pope Francis,” over at NRO. Novak points out that the original Spanish of the pope’s message is more nuanced than the English translation, and that Francis’s South American experience might have given him a different view of capitalism than he would have gotten here in the states. Novak feels that what the pope means is that capitalism alone won’t help the poor without restraints of both law and conscience.
A hilarious lead in Great Britain’s socialist newspaper The Guardian reads: ”It has picked up almost universally positive reviews and is being tipped for Oscars glory next year. Now Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity has begun to pick up praise from a surprising source – Christian critics who say the 3D space spectacular celebrates the presence of God in the universe.”
What is hilarious about this is the word “surprising.” Who, after watching this picture, could fail to see that it celebrates the presence of God in the universe? Oh yeah! Socialists — who also can’t see that the universe celebrates the presence of God in the universe!
Life intervened and I didn’t get to see Gravity in a theater. And after being told that it could only be fully enjoyed in 3D, I was reluctant to watch the screener DVD. Ultimately, though, I felt I ought to know what was in such a popular flick, so I turned it on. And I thought it was terrific, 3D or 2: innovative, minimalist, sincere. A good old-fashioned adventure with heart. A two-handed play with special effects, its cast, characters and plot stripped to the bone. And it’s ironic that a film that depends so little on human presences onscreen should be one of the most humane movies of the year. But Gravity works because its filmmakers understand that in the vast emptiness of space the human heart is the only oasis, and in the vast emptiness of the human heart God is the only center of, you guessed it, gravity.
The plot’s so small, I won’t give anything away. But it’s also so outspoken in its point of view that it’s difficult to miss the point. Anyone who can’t see that this is a story about the Love that dies for us and returns to save us and give us abundant life is so blind… well, he should be working for The Guardian.
A sort of transcript (I don’t think it’s exact) of my radio interview with Kent Covington of World Magazine Radio’s show The World & Everything in It has now been posted online. Aside from discussing my new young adult thriller Nightmare City, Kent and I talked about whether a change in the culture may be on the way. An excerpt:
Kent: Now, you are an unabashed conservative. There aren’t an awful lot of you, as a percentage of the whole, in Hollywood. Are conservative ideas getting any more sunlight in Hollywood these days?
Klavan: I think there’s some. I think something is happening in the intellectual sphere that is going to trickle down into Hollywood very soon. I’m starting to read a lot of academic books that are starting to question some of the assumptions that have undergone this current age and some of the mistakes that we’ve made. The assumptions of relativism, that all cultures are equally valid. All morality is equally valid. The assumptions of materialism. I think those things are coming under question at the very highest level of thought. One of the things we’re seeing that’s really interesting—and a lot of media is trying not to take notice of this trend—is that religion, which by default was always believed to be a populist thing, is becoming a very elite thing. Religion is spreading among the intellectual class, the upper classes, and is really under fire in the lower/middle class. So the more education people have right now, the more likely they are to be religious, which is a really interesting phenomenon. If what I think is going to happen happens—that we’re going to have an intellectual revival of religion— that’s going to change a lot of stuff. It makes a difference whether we’re ‘meat puppets’ as someone once put it, or whether we’re children of God. You start to think about things differently.
You can read the whole thing here.
I watched this film over the Thanksgiving weekend and the more I think about it, the more I think its approach to its subject is kind of remarkable.
Kill Your Darlings is based on the true story of a murder that took place at the inception of the Beat literary movement. It stars former Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe as the poet Allen Ginsberg and details how, as a student at Columbia University, Ginsberg came under the sway of his charismatic fellow student Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan. With William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), the group conceived the idea of the New Vision, which ultimately produced Ginsberg’s famous neo-Whitmanesque poem Howl, Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Kerouac’s On the Road.
But before all that happened, Carr stabbed then drowned his sometime lover David Kammerer (played by Dexter’s excellent Michael Hall), claiming Kammerer had attempted to sexually assault him. Because of a law that gave special dispensation to straight men under attack by homosexuals, Carr got off with a light sentence and went on to a long career with United Press International. I will refrain from making any comments about the kind of people who go into mainstream journalism. The facts speak for themselves — or would, if there weren’t mainstream journalists to cover them up!
We have a tradition in my house that Christmas music is not allowed until the Macy’s Santa (who is, after all, Santa) arrives at Times Square. Actually, my wife created this tradition. Myself, I’m like one of those cheesy Christmas all-year stores and would gladly start decking the halls somewhere in June. But in any case, the time has arrived and so here’s an amazing piece by a wonderful new a cappella group called the Pentatonix. All, incredibly, accomplished with nothing but the human voice. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Blessings on you and your house.
My pal Steve Malzberg, now hosting a show on Newsmax TV, scored big this week with an interview with leftist journalist Mark Halperin — co-author of Game Change, and the former ABC News political director who once sent a memo directing reporters to be biased in their coverage of the Bush-Kerry election. Halperin admitted that Obamacare includes death panels — committees of bureaucrats who will decide when your life is no longer of value to the state. Here’s a transcript via Media Research Center:
MALZBERG, HOST: A lot of people said you weren’t going to be able to keep your health care, but also they focused on the death panels, which will be coming, call them what you will, rationing, is part of it…
HALPERIN: No, I agree, and that’s going to be a huge issue, and that’s something else on which the president was not fully forthcoming and straightforward.
MALZBERG: So, you believe there will be rationing, a.k.a. death panels?
HALPERIN: It’s built into the plan. It’s not like a guess or like a judgment. That’s going to be part of how costs are controlled.
Later, Halperin backtracked, but he was clearly just being mealy-mouthed. He was right the first time. The panels are in the act.
Now, I wrote about the inevitability of this in 2009 in the Wall Street Journal. In an op-ed entitled “The Panel,” I imagined a future victim of the ObamaCare State:
It begins to occur to you that this is how you are going to die: by the fiat of fatuous ideologues—that is to say, by the considered judgment of a government committee. They are going to snuff you out and never lose a minute’s sleep over it, because it’s only fair, after all.
That logic is implacable too. Free people can treat each other justly, but they can’t make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end.
I only remind the reader of this because of the reaction I got at the time. You can get the gist of it by reading some of the comments on the WSJ site in which I’m accused of writing “fiction,” “science fiction,” and of being a paranoid schizophrenic, among other things.
So I would now like all those who made such comments — online and in my email — to imagine my response. And, ala Obama, let me suggest you spend Thanksgiving dinner breaking it to Grandma that the Hopey-Changey One thinks it’s time she stop being such a burden…
My friend and City Journal colleague Myron Magnet has delivered an absolutely terrific new book for history buffs and lovers of America. It’s called The Founders at Home and it’s a wonderfully retold tale of the intellectual underpinnings of the nation’s founding, with a special eye toward what the founders’ houses had to say about their ideals.
I’ve been reading portions of this book as they were published in City Journal, but the book includes lots of new material. And, as I expect from Myron, the writing is graceful and the scholarship and thinking are profound:
A key reason the Revolution succeeded was its strictly limited scope. The Founders sought only liberty, not equality or fraternity. They aimed to make a political revolution, not a social or economic one, and they didn’t seethe with an Old-World intensity of social rancor or class rage… Because democratic self-government requires a special kind of culture — one that fosters self-reliant selves — the Protestantism of the Founding Fathers also helped the Revolution succeed. Their Protestant worldview placed an intense value on the individual — his conscience, the state of his soul, his understanding of Scripture, his personal relation to God, his salvation. It was an easy step for them to assume that, as each man was endowed by his Creator with an immortal soul immediately related to God, so he was similarly endowed with rights that are “not the Donation of Law,” as Constitution signer William Livingston put it, but “prior to all political Institution,” and “resulting from the Nature of Man.”
You don’t need me to tell you that the work of these past giants is under threat from the intellectual pygmies who command the political heights today. A book like this isn’t just a delight, it’s also a bulwark against the ignorance and misinformation that leaders like Barack Obama encourage and on which they depend.
Great Christmas gift, truly. A 35 dollar list price, but only around 22 bucks from Amazon. It’s about 17 dollars on Kindle but, in my opinion, the beautifully produced hardcover is well worth the extra fin. This one you’ll want to keep on your shelf.
You probably don’t know the name Lee Habeeb — which, according to Lee Habeeb, is the way he likes it. Habeeb is in the business of making other people famous, conservative radio talk show hosts in particular. He was the co-creator of the Laura Ingraham Show and is now a high-level executive at Salem Radio Network, where he oversees the work of radio greats like Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and a host of other hosts. Habeeb also writes excellent columns for NRO, as well as other venues.
I’ve spoken with Habeeb on the phone many times. For a while, he even had me as a regular culture commentator on the Mike Gallagher Show, which was a lot of fun. But I met him face to face for the first time at this year’s Restoration Weekend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Habeeb was on the pop culture panel with me and while, of course, I was far more charming and attractive, he actually had something more startling and original to say.
The way these culture panels usually work, I and other creatives plead desperately for support for the arts with conservatives who generally wandered in by mistake while looking for the panel on the Apocalyptic Muslim Menace or whatever. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only just. My usual spiel: there’s a gray list in effect against conservatives in both the movie and publishing businesses and it allows leftists to use the arts to lie about us and themselves. We need to counter this with think tanks, grants, awards and review venues that support artists like me who frequently get nailed by left-wing censors — those who have been self-appointed to protect a helpless public from ideas and stories that counter the party line.
When I’ve finished this thankless and generally useless tirade (complete with pictures of my wife and children trudging homeless through the snow), I try to end on an upbeat note by pointing out that YouTube, e-books and independent movie funding are giving conservatives fresh voices in a newly democratized field.