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Klavan On The Culture

New Ghost Stories for Halloween

October 29th, 2014 - 4:44 am

Here’s a find for my fellow ghost story lovers, just in time for Halloween. Wandering aimlessly about the internet, I stumbled on a British site called The Fiction Desk. They apparently run an annual ghost story competition and then publish the winners as an anthology. So okay, for eight bucks I’m game. I downloaded last year’s book — New Ghost Stories — to see if there was anything worth reading.

And yes, I’m delighted to report there very much is! The ghost story is hard to do and I’m a connoisseur and very particular. A good ghost story doesn’t horrify but is marked by a shudder at the crisis point and a fine long chill afterward. M.R. James did it routinely; E.F. Benson and E. A. Poe both did it spectacularly a few times; Stephen King is a modern master when he puts his mind to it. There are many others less well known, but my point is, it takes real skill to pull it off.

All the stories in this anthology are skillful. All are well written. Most are pretty spooky. Some are very good. One — Chalklands by Richard Smyth — is downright excellent: beautifully written, wonderfully imagined, expertly constructed — and it delivers a genuine long-lasting eerie scare.

I’ve read a lot — a lot — of anthologies that include the most famous living names in the genre. This anthology can stand up with any of them. I realize eight dollars isn’t chump change, but these lesser known writers could all use support. So if you have the coin and enjoy a good ghost story, this is a solid anthology and good bedtime reading for the 31st.

How the Left Hijacks Liberalism

October 26th, 2014 - 1:15 pm

This is not a liberal.

Many leftists seem to have confused their political opinions with their virtue. They may have disagreements among themselves from time to time, but if there’s one thing they know it’s that all those on the right are wicked. I wish I could share their conviction that everyone who disagrees with me politically is bad, but I know there are many good and decent people who vote Democrat.

The question is: Why? Why do they vote that way?

The modern Democrat Party is leftist. We know that leftism is bad for people. We know leftist welfare policies have destroyed the black family. We see how feminism turns women into weak, quivering, delicate creatures fearful of a word or gaze. We understand how multiculturalism empowers the most intolerant and violent of terrorist thugs. What is it that makes nice folks attach themselves to a political position that does so much damage?

I think it is because they are liberal and the left has hijacked liberalism.

I am a liberal myself. In fact, I became a conservative because I’m a liberal. Liberalism — the belief that individuals should be as free as possible in their thought, speech and action — is what my conservatism seeks to conserve. Nowadays I sometimes hear people describing this position as Classical Liberalism as if there were some new, improved, modern liberalism that had replaced it. Alas, not so!

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Reagan vs. Obama

October 24th, 2014 - 10:35 am

Ouchie. The Young America Foundation is releasing a crushing new series of videos that juxtaposes Ronald Reagan’s vision of America with the vision of the current crop of Democrats. Hint: It doesn’t end well for the Democrats. A Time for Choosing: The Next Generation would be painful to watch if the knuckleheads didn’t deserve it so very, very much.

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Small Miracles

October 22nd, 2014 - 3:00 am

Here’s a touching American legend from a new project called Small MiraclesIt features Judd Hirsch and some guy named Scott Klavan, no relation.  Or my brother.  One of those.

Knucklehead Row

October 19th, 2014 - 11:20 am

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Whatever its pretensions, whatever its claims, statism — progressivism, leftism, socialism — is based on the idea that a small elite intelligentsia can run your life better than you can. They know how to spend your money. They know how to educate your children. They know how to run your health care. They know how to protect you from yourself.

You do not have to talk to a statist very long before he will profess an intense dislike, distrust and even fear of ordinary people. Ordinary people spend money on what they want (TV’s restaurants and cars) rather than what the elite know they ought to want (aluminum foil climate change reversers). Ordinary people teach their children that God created the world rather than a random pattern of mathematic realities that came into being through another random pattern that came…  well, the elite know: it’s random patterns all the way down! Ordinary people will give jobs and business to those who earn them rather than those the elite, in their greater understanding, know are historically deserving because of past oppression. And so on.

Now, of course, with the very elite of the elite running the country, we find that — what do you know? — this statism dodge doesn’t really work all that well. And there are two reasons for this. The first is that the statist premise is wrong. In fact, ordinary people left at liberty to do as they will are actually better at running their lives and businesses and country than the geniuses in Washington. Central planning works great in the imaginations of the elite, but in the real world…  not so much.

And the second problem is that the elite are stupid. No, really. They’re educated and sophisticated and they dress well and speak well. They may even have high IQs. But in the immortal words of Forrest Gump’s mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.” And the elite are stupid.

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Is Christianity The Best Basis for Freedom?

October 17th, 2014 - 9:05 am

Great questions make for great conversations and PJTV member “Will Do Math For Food,” asked me and Bill Whittle an excellent question:  ”Is Christianity the Best Basis for Freedom?” Here’s the conversation:

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Stop the Hate!!!

October 15th, 2014 - 9:01 am

I can’t believe I said these things. I’m absolutely disgusted with myself.

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Did Critics Attack The Judge for Its Politics?

October 12th, 2014 - 11:43 am

I always get a bit suspicious when there’s a wide disparity between the critical reviews for a movie and the reactions of actual human beings. It quite often means the movie is favorable toward the concept of God or fails in some other way to toe the left-wing line. The critics, along with the outlets for which they work, are biased to the radical left and politics and religion distort their views.

At this writing, the new Robert Downey Jr/Robert Duvall drama The Judge has a critical rating of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes but a human rating of 81%. It also gets an excellent A-minus rating from Cinemascore, which gauges audience reaction. It’s doing only okay at the box office, but it’s up against Gone Girl, a blockbuster sucking up the air in the R-rated room. It may yet do better, and will almost certainly have a good life on DVD, streaming and the rest.

I’ve seen the film and liked it quite a lot. Maybe more of a B-plus than an A-minus. It features a fantastic cast in a solid family-courtroom drama. Both the wonderful Downey and the stupendous Duvall are working smack dab in their wheelhouses and Vincent D’Onofrio quietly turns in a slam-bang performance that nearly blows everyone else off the screen. The love, grief and anger of the central family are especially well imagined and written. One scene in a bathtub is close to classic. And the courtroom stuff works pretty well. If the whole thing fails to rise to the level of greatness (and very, very few films do), I suspect it’s because it fails to engage as honestly as it might have with its central theme, which is the balance of justice and mercy. If it had, it would have made some better decisions about its plot and characters toward the end. But that said, it’s a good and engrossing movie: over two hours, and entertaining every step of the way.

In a quick check of the reviews, I find Rolling Stone dismissed the film as “bilge”; the New York Times called it “a supershouty, macho-weepy… melodrama”; while Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times is honest and considered, praising the pleasures of the movie, especially the acting, while saying the film’s “vivid and volatile core is often undercut by a weakness for middle-of-the-road sentiment and a desire to be all things to all people.” There’s some truth to that.

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The Flipside

October 7th, 2014 - 9:04 am

Hey, this is cool. The Flipside is a new comedy show with a conservative edge just making its way into some cable spaces. The host, Michael Loftus, is a charming “American Wiseass,” to quote himself. And his guest on this episode is an absolute delight…  oh, all right, it’s me. But it’s fun stuff, worth watching:

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Paying Liberty Forward

October 6th, 2014 - 6:05 am

I’m proud to say my son Spencer has an absolutely beautiful op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times. Genuinely profound stuff:

I sometimes fear I am coming of age in a dying republic. Everywhere I turn the foundational values of America — open discourse, constitutional integrity, restricted government — seem to be eroding.

What’s a young constitutionalist to do? I study ancient history, so I know nothing lasts forever: Republics have fallen before. But when they do, republicans like me have to fight back. That fight matters even if it’s destined to fail.

Read the rest here. You really should.