The incomparable Noel Sheppard of the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters site is dealing with some scary health issues. That makes this an excellent time to consider the great work the guy does.
We are living at a time when our freedoms, our Constitution and our economic well-being are under attack by statists. This is not a rare occurrence. In fact, it’s a constant throughout history. Liberty is the exception not the rule. But after a century that proved the efficacy of free markets and free minds beyond a shadow of a doubt, a resurgence of these pests in the form of the disastrous Obama administration would not have been possible if it weren’t for the ideological corruption of the news media. In order to promote tyranny by their political allies, the vast Democrat majority of the American news media have now transformed themselves into professional liars — liars by omission and false emphasis as often as by commission, but liars nonetheless.
The American news media have become the enemy of the American people and of the American people’s power to self govern. Those who oppose the media are modern Minute Men battling an Empire of Lies. Noel Sheppard’s among the best of them.
Want to join an all-star cast of brilliant commentators — and me? Come to the Town and Gown Ballroom on the USC campus in downtown Los Angeles, Sunday, January 26th, at 6:30 PM, to celebrate the 200th Podcast of my friends at Ricochet. Podcast hosts Rob Long, Peter Robinson and James Lileks will be there to welcome Pat Sajak, Jonah Goldberg, Dennis Prager and your humble servant (among others) as we come together on stage to bring one of the best podcasts in Podcast Town to radiant life.
Tickets can and should be bought here for both the live show and the VIP reception afterward. (Rob Long said he’d let me into the reception if I didn’t mind serving drinks.) The address is 665 Exposition Boulevard, LA, CA 90089.
By the way, if you are not a member of Ricochet, you should be. It costs about as much as a good espresso, and it’s actually more stimulating.
So come and watch the show, attend the reception and say hi. I’d love to see you there.
In a surprise to liberal media outlets and no one else, the film Lone Survivor is cleaning up at the box office. This is a surprise to media lefties because, as the New York Times put it with near radiant gormlessness, “Moviegoers have stubbornly refused to care about war movies set in Afghanistan.” It apparently never occurred to the Times that stubborn moviegoers just didn’t want to see war movies like Lions for Lambs in which America was falsely made out to be the villain!
But the folks are showing up for this baby, even despite the occasional Pajama Boy critic whining into his cocoa about having to watch American heroes being heroic in the battle against Islamist bad guys. Reality makes their tartan singlets itchy, I guess.
Even PJBs who, like the Times‘ A.O. Scott, made sure to hint in their reviews at their ever-so-nuanced disapproval of patriotism, heroism and fighting bad guys have been forced to admit the movie’s central battle scene is powerful and effective. It’s a well-directed, gripping, intense tribute to the men who keep America safe for the movie critics who complain about them.
The picture, as you no doubt know, is director Peter Berg’s version of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s memoir of a good mission gone bad in Afghanistan. Luttrell and his fellow SEALs were sent out to kill a high-profile Islamist terrorist but were unfortunately spotted by two goatherds and a small boy. The Americans made the merciful but unwise decision to spare the civilians, who proceeded to betray their position to the Taliban. The title tells you what happened.
“A gun is just a tool. No better and no worse than any other tool, a shovel or an axe or a saddle or a stove or anything. Think of it always that way. A gun is as good — and as bad — as the man who carries it.” Shane, by Jack Schaefer, 1949.
No one could call me a gun nut. I go shooting with friends at most once or twice a year and, while I enjoy it, it doesn’t inspire the sort of obsession that grips me whenever I manage to get my hands on a fishing rod, which nowadays is less often. But as far as I’m concerned, the wisdom above from the best western novel I ever read (and reiterated in the famous 1953 film) doesn’t go far enough. A gun is not just a tool, it is the great democratic tool, the tool that put an end to knights in armor and gave (and gives) the little guy and gal a fighting chance against the powers that be.
The left claims it is determined to violate, if not end, the Second Amendment’s guarantee to our right to bear arms in the name of safety. “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them… ’Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in,’ I would have done it,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein after she and Bill Clinton managed to enact an “assault weapon” ban in 1994.
I love the Coen brothers when they tell stories. Fargo is one of my favorite crime films. Blood Simple was great. So were No Country for Old Menand the much-improved remake of True Grit. But when the Coens leave narrative behind and go all ironic and surrealistic on me, I got to admit: I don’t get it. I thought Barton Fink was a cool attitude in search of a movie. A Serious Man was soporific. And as for their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis— currently scoring a 93% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes with critics, a 75% with human beings — my general reaction was: Hanh?
It’s the story of a good-but-not-great folk singer (played by Oscar Isaac) in the folk singing heyday of the early ’60s. He wanders around Greenwich Village and other parts of New York being kind of an SOB to the other not-very-interesting people around him. Then he makes a pseudo-epic journey to Chicago to audition for a folk song guru. Then more stuff happens and the movie ends.
I guess the theme has something to do with the late, great Jacques Barzun’s theory that genius requires a city-full of lesser lights to bring it to fruition. That is, according to Barzun, the genius is nourished by a community of non-genius artists who lift him to greatness. The Coens are taking a moment to consider the journey of one of those other artists, a performer who will soon be rendered irrelevant by the rise of Bob Dylan. Attention must be paid to such a man, they seem to be saying. Not sure why.
The movie’s not boring, but it’s not very compelling either. And as always with this sort of Coen movie, I can’t help feeling the bros are living off irony and attitude instead of going to work making the sort of film they’re capable of. Having said that, I should add that several people I respect thought this was a great picture. And I myself respect the Coens’ work enough to think that maybe I missed something.
Here’s an entertainment find for lovers of Sci-Fi and the supernatural: Black Mirror, a British TV anthology series that is billed as a cross between Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected. That’s actually not a bad description. What it shares with TZ, at least, that so many imitators do not, are big ideas that are genuinely creative and original. Most of these ideas tend to center around current technology amped to the level of madness. The stories are often set in a world in which computers, cameras and screens increasingly stand between us and real life. Oddly but compellingly, the look of the stories is often retro, the jazziest tech offset by oldish cars and clothes.
The show is created, and often written, by Charlie Brooker. I never heard of him either, but apparently he’s some British guy and clearly a very talented one. I’ve now watched all of the six available episodes and most of them were very entertaining, spooky and thought-provoking.
Unfortunately, the first episode — The National Anthem — is the weakest of the bunch. It tries a little too hard to get our attention. It’s about the Prime Minister being blackmailed into screwing a pig on TV. I know — yawn, right? But it’s done well and the resolution is smart and insightful. Anyway, don’t let it put you off. After that, Brooker and his gang settle down and the stories are much less self-conscious, much more exciting. The second episode of the second three-show season, White Bear, is a small masterpiece: a piece of terrifying science fiction and a piece of slashing social satire at one and the same time. The episode before that, Be Right Back, is chilling and fine. The final episode of the available bunch, The Waldo Moment, isn’t as viscerally chilling as the others, but it’s as thoughtful a piece of political satire as you’re going to find on TV. Excellent stuff.
I got this for no extra charge through DirecTV’s Video on Demand. You can also buy the DVD set from Amazon. I’m sure it’ll be streamed elsewhere soon. If you’re a Twilight Zone fan, look for it. It’s really good.
City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald is one of the best reporters in the country, one of our most courageous writers and a consistently moral voice. Last year, she gave the Manhattan Institute’s prestigious Wriston Lecture and last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published an adaptation of that lecture under the headline “The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity.” A fuller version of this brilliant piece will be in CJ’s Winter number. Get your hands on it. Read it.
Heather Mac begins by noting that the leftist academic buffoons at UCLA no longer require that the university’s English majors read Shakespeare, Chaucer or Milton. They do, however, require these students take courses in leftist theories on gender, race, ethnicity and other meaningless subjects whose names I slept through.
In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”
In still other words, the people tasked with teaching our young about the past have drowned out the voices of the past with their own voices. Their own whiny, unwise, small-minded and bitter voices.
Heather’s article goes on to defend the study of humanities against these Philistines — or, to use the modern term, Palestinians — with a beautiful description of how the recovery of the works of the past sparked the Renaissance and more.
Saving Mr. Banks is the movie version of how the (apparently awful) P.L. Travers gave Walt Disney and his writers holy hell before she would allow them to turn her Mary Poppins novels into a film. It’s a sentimental re-invention of the true story, but it works. Sweet, good-natured, gentle and uplifting, the movie basically makes the argument that all of life should be rewritten as a Disney musical. There’s some truth to this, and the film gets at it.
As with so many films this year, the performances are unbelievably great. Emma Thompson humanizes Travers — no small thing, given her character. Colin Farrell is touching as her disastrously alcoholic father. And Paul Giamatti is absolutely wonderful in the role of her lovable chauffeur.
But after watching this and Captain Phillips in short order, I have to say: Tom Hanks may be the greatest actor/movie star of his generation. He takes the role of Walt Disney and goes right to the heart of the American self-made man. Upbeat but hardboiled, generous but also relentless, Hanks’ Disney has a deep understanding of the sources of his own success and he uses that understanding to bring others to success as well. Optimistic without being blind, he can reflect on his pain at the same time he celebrates his achievement. It may be fair to say the Disney Corporation is hagiographizing its founder here — okay. But Hanks does something so deep with the character it becomes a comment on America itself — a comment that is positive without being sentimental or dishonest. It’s a case of an American treasure portraying an American treasure.
I won’t argue that this is a great film, but it’s good heartfelt entertainment with wonderful performances. Nice holiday- or even post-holiday viewing.
Politically, it is difficult to end 2013 on a high note. I’m not enough of a Leninist to rejoice in the practical destruction of the left’s programs when I know it means suffering for fellow citizens losing health insurance, earnings and freedom. There’s an old saying I made up: “When a man is going to shoot himself in the foot, make sure he’s not standing on your throat.” It’s hard to do this when the man is the president of the United States. I suppose, in the bitterness of one’s heart, one could say, well, we re-elected this clown, we have no one to blame for all this but ourselves. But an even older saying that I also made up is: “In a democracy, we get what they deserve.” That is to say, many didn’t vote for this, many didn’t know any better and many are foolish, scared, or unintelligent and don’t really deserve what Barack and his cronies are doing to their country whether they voted for him or not. Gentle soul that I am, I wouldn’t even wish leftism on a leftist.
But excelsior! A new year now begins. Let us hope the collapse of the administration’s agenda brings just enough pain to teach a new generation the benefits of small government, free markets and the American way. Let us hope Obama’s well-deserved and self-constructed humiliation is evident enough to remind his once-worshipful followers to put not their trust in princes. Let us hope that the right can avoid the circular firing squad and make inroads in both houses at the midterm election. Let us hope we can begin to turn the big ship of this great state around.
For myself, I spent much of this year buried in the writing of a new novel for adults. I think it’s the best I ever wrote and I hope to see it released in 2014. My new series for young adults should also begin publication this year. I have to finish writing that series, but I also plan to turn more attention to non-fiction writing in 2014. I’ve missed doing satirical videos and have wanted to find a new and exciting venue for them: I believe I have. There’s also a bigger non-fiction piece I want to do and I should have the proposal for that finished shortly. So, God willing, I look forward to a year of cool, new and original stuff to create.
My resolutions: seek truth, speak truth, hate no one, fear nothing. Also, eat well and work out a lot.
We’ll see how I do! Happy New Year from Klavan on the Culture.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4
When, a year ago, then-incompetent-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implied to a Senate committee that it made no difference how or why Americans were murdered at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya in September 2012, she gave the impression that she was trying to cover up for her previous dishonesty in blaming the attack on some obscure video that insulted the beliefs of scabrous, wild-eyed, fanatical murderers. The woman who had lost her promised shot at the presidency to a dishonest neophyte Chicago radical had disgraced herself and betrayed our founding values by promising the father of a heroic SEAL killed in the attack that she would bring justice, not to those who had done the killing, but to the schmuck who’d made the obscure video ridiculing the small-minded, bigoted followers of an ideology currently responsible for a majority of the armed conflicts on earth.
Now — in what may be an effort to protect the presidential hopes of the woman who once tried to cover up her husband’s infidelities by lying about a vast conspiracy of her political opponents — the New York Times, a former newspaper, is reporting that yes, indeed, the well-planned September 11, 2012 al-Qaeda attack on the American consulate was not a well-planned al-Qaeda attack but was inspired by an obscure video that no one saw but which insulted those who believe in a vicious and despicable god and kill their fellow man in his name. The maker of the video was sent to prison under pressure from the White House. The killers of the Americans remain unpunished.
But my question to the New York Times is this: What difference does it make?
Either the incompetent Mrs. Clinton engaged in a shameful cover-up of the truth or she shamefully sold out our values for the values of murderous scum. If the attack was committed by terrorists and she knew it, she’s a liar. If the murderers killed because someone insulted their filthy and violent creed with a video, she’s a collaborator with evil. Disgusting in either case.
But thanks for playing, New York Times. Please try again.