» Hollywood, Interrupted

Ed Driscoll

Hollywood, Interrupted

“Last night’s interview with Bruce Jenner by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 turned out to be very revealing … in a much different way than many thought,” Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air. “By this time, a relentless series of media reports had made it quite clear that Jenner had embraced a transgender identity, at least privately. The big reveal turned out to be that Jenner also identifies as a conservative Republican:”

When Sawyer asked if Jenner cheered when Obama became the first president to even say the word “transgender” in a State of the Union address, the 65-year-old replied that he “would certainly give him credit for that.”

“But not to get political,” Jenner continued, “I’ve never been a big fan, I’m kind of more on the conservative side.”

“Are your a Republican?” Sawyer asked in response, to which Jenner replied, “Yeah! Is that a bad thing? I believe in the constitution.”

“Do you think that would be an unsettling thing for some people in the conservative wing of the party?” Sawyer asked.

“I’ve thought about that,” says Jenner, adding that neither political party has a monopoly on understanding.

“Tolerance? Not so much. Prior to the interview airing, progressives on Twitter offered lots of support for Jenner, and plenty of predictions about how conservatives would heap scorn on Jenner. After Jenner truly came out, their tone changed considerably, as Twitchy documented,” Ed adds.

Back in 2009, in the depths of ”We Are All Socialists Now” chest-thumping triumphalism of the Obama administration and their media operatives, former liberal turned conservative author Harry Stein wrote a book titled I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican, which documented the “tolerant” left’s reflexive knee-jerk freak out reaction when actually confronted by ideological diversity:

My favorite tale in this regard comes from a friend who lives in Park Slope. She reports creating level-red discomfort, when the talk on a recent evening turned to gay marriage. Everyone was for it, of course, including my friend. “But wouldn’t it bother you if your own children were gay?” she added, all innocent curiosity. “After all, isn’t it natural to want your kids to mirror your experience? To have a traditional marriage and raise children in the traditional way? I can’t think of anything that would make them more foreign.” She reports that, hearing this, the liberals around the table “got very flustered — because of course they feel exactly the same way. There was a long silence, and then someone said: ‘I would be much more upset if my kids were Republican,’ and that let everyone off the hook.

That same year, comedian Paul Rodriguez described a near identical experience:

I remember many years since, trying to contemplate the idea of joining the Grand Old Party, and I said I better run this through Mom. I said, “Ma, Dad, sit down, I want to talk to you.” Before I could go any further, they said, “Oh, my God, he’s gay. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) Ay, Dios mio, he’s gay.” I said, “No, no, no, Mom, I’m thinking of being a Republican.” She said, “I wish you were gay. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) Please look, what have we done?”

And right on cue:

If I could pick one tweet to symbolize the intolerance of the left, I might pick this one. pic.twitter.com/LdB01grg2P

— Ken Gardner (@kesgardner) April 25, 2015

Don’t ever change, reactionary leftists.

Lambert and Stamp: The Men Who Made The Who

April 25th, 2015 - 1:43 pm


In 1979, The Who, at the peak of their career, released the documentary summing up their career at that point, The Kids Are Alright. As veteran rock critic Dave Marsh wrote in his 1983 biography of the group, Before I Get Old, published to coincide with the band’s “first” farewell tour that year:

Kids is one of the most anarchic documentaries ever assembled, running two hours without a shred of narration and with not so much as a subtitle identifying characters or dates. Kids was the perfect cult item, and Who fans flocked to it. Hardly anyone else did, however, so even though it remained a staple of the midnight movie circuit, part of every kid’s introduction to the verities of the Rock of Ages, the film had little impact outside of the Who’s cult. The Kids Are Alright is, nevertheless, one of the great rock and roll movies, capturing all of the Who’s sass and humor and taking the wind out of the band’s pomposity at each and every opportunity.

Naturally, Keith Moon stole The Kids Are Alright, which became a summation of his career as the Who’s anarchic drummer, who passed away nine months before its release, choking on an overdose of the pills he was prescribed to battle his alcoholism.

This year, filmmaker James D. Cooper released Lambert and Stamp, a documentary about the Who’s first managers, a  film that can be thought of as the liner notes to The Kids Are Alright. If you’re a fan of the band, you owe it to yourself to see this film while it’s in the theaters (I saw it last night at a sparsely attended showing at the Camera 3 in San Jose), to get a sense of two men who did so much to shape the group in the 1960s. How much you know about the Who will shape how much you enjoy this new documentary, which is built around a lengthy series of interviews with Chris Stamp (1942-2012), the younger brother of veteran actor Terence Stamp (Superman II, Wall Street, The Limey), who also appears in the film, along with Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Daltrey’s wife Heather, and other Who insiders.

Instant Party

The Who were one of the most unlikeliest of bands; Pete Townshend, art school devotee and later follower of Sufi mystic and guru Meher Baba, was essentially the timekeeper of the group, even though he was the rhythm guitarist. Keith Moon’s anarchic surf-music-inspired drumming provided brilliant percussive colors; but keeping time was not his metier; he was not a man in search of a simple backbeat on the 2 and 4. With his fluid single-note runs, John Entwistle was in many ways the band’s lead guitarist, despite being the bassist. And Daltrey, the founder and nominally the frontman of the group, was forced to fight for attention as singer as his three innovative sidemen roared away alongside him. Somehow it worked — brilliantly — in spite of themselves.

Similarly, Lambert and Stamp were the most unlikeliest of rock managers. They hadn’t really planned to be managers at all. Kit Lambert (1935-1981) was the son of composer/conductor Constant Lambert, who sought to make a name for himself in the shadow of his famous father, who died, as Wikipedia notes, in 1951 “two days short of his forty-sixth birthday, of pneumonia and undiagnosed diabetes complicated by acute alcoholism.”

Britain didn’t legalize homosexuality until 1967; the upper-class Lambert was very much gay during that era. And the handsome, modish Stamp was equally aggressively heterosexual and working class, the son of a tugboat captain. The two originally didn’t want to be managers; after meeting while both were working at Shepperton  Studios in the early 1970s, they were looking for the perfect rock group to feature in a documentary on the exploding British rock scene in the wake of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, when they stumbled into the Railway Hotel in Harrow where the Who were playing Motown songs to an overpacked room crammed mostly with hundreds of young Mod men. As the documentary explains, Lambert and Stamp were instantly convinced they had found the perfect group for their film; the band was instantly convinced they were the authorities, about to close down the gig as a fire hazard. While they did shoot some early footage of the group, Lambert and Stamp decided instead they’d rather be Brian Epstein than filmmakers, and quickly began managing the group.

Keith Moon brilliantly summed up the tone of the two men in the early days in his 1972 Rolling Stone interview:

Kit Lambert came to see us playing at the Railway ‘Otel in ‘Arrow. We had a meeting. We didn’t like each other at first, really. Kit and Chris. They went ’round together. And they were . . . are . . . as incongruous a team as we are. You got Chris on one hand [goes into unintelligible East London cockney]: “Oh well, f**k it, jus, jus whack ‘im in-a ‘ead, ‘it ‘im in ee balls an’ all.” And Kit says [slipping into a proper Oxonian]: “Well, I don’t agree, Chris; the thing is . . . the whole thing needs to be thought out in damned fine detail.” These people were perfect for us, because there’s me, bouncing about, full of pills, full of everything I could get me ‘ands on . . . and there’s Pete, very serious, never laughed, always cool, a grass-’ead. I was working at about ten times the speed Pete was. And Kit and Chris were like the epitome of what we were.

Lambert was a brilliant ideas man; he shaped The Who’s image as sharply-dressed mods, encouraged Townshend and Moon’s guitar and drum smashing, and hired a graphic artist to design The Who’s iconic “Maximum R&B” poster (a copy of which is hanging behind me in my home office as I write this). Lambert also moved Townshend into Lambert’s flat in the posh Belgravia section of London, giving the band a veneer of success far beyond what they were earning as working musicians. Meanwhile Stamp was largely funding the band’s early days via his work as a second assistant director on the Kirk Douglas WWII movie, The Heroes of Telemark.

Lambert fueled Townshend’s composing skills, convincing him to link together several short, incomplete songs into one nine minute number in 1966 called “A Quick One,” which the two called “their mini-opera,” and which Townshend credits for inspiring some of the ideas on Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles’ landmark concept album the following year. That album would go on to inspire the Who’s double album “rock opera,” Tommy, released in 1969.

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“There’s a new movie called Ex Machina whose message can be summed up as ‘don’t fall in love with a robot,’” John Podhoretz writes in the Weekly Standard:

Nobody actually calls Ava, the titular machina of Ex Machina, a robot. That would not be cool, and the film’s writer-director Alex Garland wants Ex Machina to be cool, above all things. All but the opening two minutes and the final 30 seconds are set in a spectacular underground mansion that’s part Bond-villain lair, part Apple Store. (It was filmed at a resort in Norway that you’ve probably already toured from your couch during a World’s Hottest Hotels special on the Travel Channel.) She is the construct of a billionaire who is half Zuckerberg and half Jobs, an oddly sybaritic recluse played by the wonderful Oscar Isaac. He refers to Ava solely as an “A.I.,” because those two letters are cooler than Capek’s original five letters, and these days you can buy a robot with free shipping from Amazon Prime that looks like the 1970s memory game Simon and will attempt and fail to vacuum your floors. Who would want to spoon with a Roomba anyway?

But you can’t fool me. This A.I. may have a glowing translucent brain, but she’s also got titanium arms, things whirr and click when she moves, and she’s drop-dead gorgeous, so of course she’s a robot. She is played by the Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who will be in five other major movies this year, which is not surprising, because she speaks English beautifully and as a visual object she’s practically perfect in every way.

And this brings up the other thing. Let’s face it, the whole female-robot scenario is a deeply disturbing one, since it’s basically a creepy wish fulfillment about a woman with no personality who will do everything and anything a man tells her to.

Didn’t we all see this movie 30 years ago?

My work in the Time-Life Book Division was not exactly onerous, since the manuscript was in good shape and whenever one of the researchers asked me, “What is your authority for this statement,” I would look at her firmly and reply, “I am.” So while Man and Space progressed fairly smoothly thirty-two floors above the Avenue of the Americas, I had ample energy for moonlighting with Stanley Kubrick.

—Arthur C. Clarke on his visit to New York in 1964, which led to his co-writing a little super-8 home movie four years later called 2001: A Space Odyssey, as described in Clarke’s 1972 book, Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations.

But unless you actually invented the communications satellite and co-wrote a epoch-shattering movie with Stanley Kubrick, citing yourself as your own source of authority can lead to trouble if you hold yourself out as an objective journalist. At the Federalist today, Matthew Schmitz describes what can go wrong “When [the] Critics A Reporter Cites Are The Reporter:”

When it comes to reporting on contentious issues, perhaps no journalistic shortcut is more prone to misuse than the phrase “critics say.” Used well, it usually precedes a quotation from one of those critics that allows the reader to judge them in their own words. Used poorly, it becomes an opportunity for the writer to put words in the mouths of people he doesn’t like in order to discredit their position or insert his own view into the story. All of a sudden, “critics say” just what the reporter happens to think.

Usually, reporters are careful enough there’s no way to prove this has happened. Occasionally, they’re sloppy enough that we can see the editorializing at play

When the Critic Is the Reporter

Take a recent story written for Religion News Service by David Gibson on a donation from the Koch brothers to the Catholic University of America. Gibson gives ample space to the view of certain “critics”:

Critics of the CUA gift say it is ironic that the school would seek such massive support from a social liberal when Catholic charities are not allowed to take any money from any person or group that supports abortion rights or gay rights.

Curiously, he does not name any critics or offer any examples of that kind of argument. Why not? If critics said something, there should be critics to name and statements to quote. Did Gibson just make them up?

Well, no, as it happens. There is a critic who has made this exact point about CUA and Gibson has heard him do so. The week before he published his story on the Koch gift, Gibson participated in a debate where one critic had this to say:

For years, conservative Catholics have been arguing the very same thing: that CCHD, Catholic Charities, and Catholic social groups cannot take a dime from somebody who has even the remotest connection to the gay rights agenda or Planned Parenthood. This is like Planned Parenthood funding a Catholic bioethics center.

This is exactly the criticism that Gibson was referring to. It came in a public forum on a radio show that aired the day before his story was published. So why not quote the statement and name the critic?

Perhaps it is because the criticism was offered by Gibson himself. The unnamed and unquoted people in the story weren’t made up—they were the reporter himself. He is the critic who had something to say.

Some say this is a bad journalistic practice. And regarding the similar “some say” tic, a decade ago, Elizabeth Scalia dubbed it the journalistic cliche of the year:

My personal choice: “some say…” Used continually by Katie Couric, David Gregory and oh, basically anyone in the press who wanted to advance their own personal opinion or the general concensus of the fourth estate: “Some say President Bush is trying to undermine our civil liberties,” “Some say Iraq is a quagmire,” “Some say America is a world-bully,” “Some say if only the Kyoto treaty had been recognised…”

Just once, I would like to hear a politician come back with, “WHO says? WHO exactly SAYS, Katie, David, Tim, etc”

They’d never spill the true answer, though, “why, WE say, WE in the press!”

There’s a great clip of Margaret Thatcher pushing back against the “some say” cliche in 1980. I’d like to see more conservative politicians employ this when faced with a critique from a strawman named Mr. Somesay:

Related: “News media’s sloppy week,” Glenn Reynolds on their spectacular cluster-fark last week, though the headline could be recycled 52 times a year. It’s a Scooby Do Mystery Machine-size quandary as to why this keeps happening to the DNC-MSM!

11 years ago, I wrote an article titled “Hollywood Stasists vs. Valley Dynamists” for Tech Central Station, on the cold technological war between northern and southern California. But rather than using the dynamists and stasists terminology from Virginia Postrel’s 1999 book The Future and Its Enemies, perhaps I should have referred to both sides as the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, as all of the battles were being led by various factions of the left.

The left-leaning (sometimes very left-leaning and occasionally more than a little racialist) National Journal spots Marlon Perkins-style, “The Secret Republicans of Silicon Valley.” Longtime readers of PJM should find this passage quite familiar:

Rather than ruffle feathers—or worse—Republicans who work there often just keep quiet. Rich Tafel, who coaches tech companies in politics and policy, understands the dynamic. The founder of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, he’s had many Republicans in Silicon Valley confide to him their true political views.

“You just learn how to operate, if you will, in the closet as a Republican,” Tafel told National Journal. “You keep your viewpoints to yourself.”

One startup CEO who has worked in Silicon Valley for more than a decade says that while it’s popular to talk politics in the workplace, the underlying assumption is that everyone has similar views.

The CEO, who generally votes Republican and donates to GOP candidates—he spoke on background to conceal his right-leaning views—said that in 2012, “you wouldn’t want to say you’re voting for Romney in the election.” At the same time, openly expressing one’s support for Obama was “incredibly common.”

His opposition to raising the minimum wage is just one area where he diverges with most of his colleagues. “If you say something like, ‘We need a higher minimum wage,’ you don’t get critiqued,” he said. But he would never reveal his more conservative outlook on the matter.

“They can’t fathom that somebody disagrees with them,” he said. “And I disagree with them. So I’m not going to open up that box.”

Which our own Roger L. Simon described in the original title of his 2009 autobiography as “Blacklisting Myself:”

You see this new faith in practice at the average Hollywood story meeting. These are ritualized events and have been for the decades that I have participated in them. You wait an inordinately long time for your appointment, often longer than at a doctor’s office, but with nowhere near the legitimate excuse on the part of the executive keeping you waiting. They are definitely not in surgery. The intention is merely to confirm your lower place in the pecking order. (I have personal knowledge of an instance when John Huston and Jack Nicholson were kept cooling their heels in a tiny room by the now-forgotten head of ABC Motion Pictures for nearly two hours—I assume he didn’t realize they’d come to pitch him Prizzi’s Honor. Or maybe he did and this was a form of envy or vengeance.)

Once inside the executive’s office, the pecking order of talent and management thus confirmed, it’s instantly waved off in a burst of small talk and a call for the requisite mineral water—originally Perrier, now something more exotic like an obscure Welsh brand in a blue bottle whose unpronounceable name you can barely remember. But the small talk is what’s important. It usually revolves around the freeway traffic (a perpetual subject), the Lakers (depending on the year), and, over the last half-decade or more, a ritualized Bush bash. (What will they do without him?) Fucking Bush did this or that … Did you hear the stupid thing Chimpy the Idiot said? You didn’t even have to hear Bush referred to specifically— the word “idiot” sufficed. You knew. The subtext was that we were all together, part of the secret society, the world of those who know as opposed to those who don’t.

If you didn’t agree with this particular Weltanschauung, if you dissented from its orthodoxy just a tiny bit, you had but three choices: One, you could argue, in which case you would be almost certain to be dismissed as a fool, a warmonger, or a right-wing nut (all three, probably) and therefore have had little or no chance at the writing or directing job that brought you there. Two, you could shut up and ignore it (stay in the closet), in which case you felt like a coward and experienced (as I have) a dose of nausea straight out of Sartre. Three, you could stop going to the meetings altogether—you could, in effect, blacklist yourself.

I don’t know the size of that self-selected blacklist, but I suspect it’s substantial, though certainly not as large as the number of those in the closet. People have to make a living, after all, as in the days of the old blacklist. Only there are no “fronts,” as in the Woody Allen movie of the same name.

This happens with actors as well; Morgan Brittany, one of the former stars of Dallas who’s openly Republican, tells this story of appearing onstage with Ed Asner, who’s openly Stalinist:

Brittany told of building a friendship with actor Ed Asner, a sometimes activist for progressive causes, when the two starred in a stage-play together during the infamous Florida recount that put Republican George W. Bush in the White House over Democrat Al Gore. And she told how she lost Asner’s friendship due to politics.

“Every night he just loved me and came in and gave me a big hug,” she said. “Then one night he was going crazy about Gore and Bush and stealing the election. I’m backstage and I said, ‘Ed, chill, not everybody thinks the way you do’.”

“Well, where do I begin?” I swear. It was like a light switch,” she said. “He turned to me and said, ‘you’re not a Republican?’ I said, ‘yep.’ And he said, ‘I can’t even look at you. I can’t even talk to you’.”

“From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage,” she said. “This is what we’re dealing with. The intolerance of the left.”

Goodbye to all of that, says science fiction/fantasy novelist and frequent PJM contributor Sarah Hoyt in response to the socialist justice warriors overrunning that industry’s Hugo Awards, which we mentioned last week, creating what she calls, quite accurately, “The Architecture of Fear:”

Do consider how it would feel to come out of the closet and kick the mouse up and down main street, making him eat his Stalinist “guilt by association” cries.

I’m not going to force you.  I’m not going to out you.

But this Stalinist “I know everything you do and it’s all analyzed for deviationism” always leads to purges.  In SF/F those purges might mean not publishing traditional.  Or they might mean not winning awards.  Or getting kicked out of an organization.

But this type of mind-set is a cancer in the culture and sooner or later leads to gulags and graves.

I can’t push you and I won’t.  If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job.  I am not the keeper of your soul.

However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.

And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more.  I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own.  You have no power over me.  Not now, and not ever again.”

That’s all.  I just want you to think.

Now that the left are threatening to burn down Midwestern pizza parlors, and getting Silicon Valley CEOs fired for doubleplus ungood oldthink, you don’t see many commercials from them these days like this 1981 Amnesty International ad toasting freedom and celebrating speaking your conscience, huh?

Related: “How free speech became right wing:”

Essentially, the left needs to rediscover and reclaim its liberalism. Otherwise, the basic liberties of free thought and free expression will become the exclusive purview of the right.

But at least in America, the left declaring itself “liberal” was simultaneously a stolen base and a rebranding tactic in the early 1920s, after the Wilson administration demonstrated — the hard way — that free speech and “Progressivism” were mutually incompatible terms.

God only knows what they have against pizza, though — it’s Mussolini-approved!

The Drama of the Not So Gifted Children

April 9th, 2015 - 10:33 am

“When the drama surrounding the showing of a movie is more intense than the drama in the movie itself, something has gone wrong. Especially when a university of all places is involved,” Nick Gillespie writes at Reason:

Yesterday, Reason reported that the University of Michigan pulled a planned showing of the Oscar-winning movie American Sniper after students protested that the Clint Eastwood flick “not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim…rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

Michigian administrators responded by spiking the movie and replacing it with, no sh**, Paddington. Then they semi-relented and announced:

plans to show “American Sniper” in a separate location from the UMix program, in what it said would be “a forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection.”

Now comes news that, no, no, the university—generally regarded as one an outstanding academic institution—will now show American Sniper as planned.

As Gillespie writes, “in an era of trigger warnings and micro-aggressions, there comes to a time when, to paraphrase American Sniper director Clint Eastwood in a very different context, an institution’s got to know its limitations and start standing up for free speech and open intellectual inquiry.”

Don’t hold your breath, Nick. The number of university administrators left who actually believe in that are so small, they were profiled by Glenn Reynolds in his USA Today column this week. (OK, that’s likely an exaggeration, but still.)

Instead, for free speech and open intellectual inquiry, look to…the football coach:

I’m sure there are more than a few San Francisco residents who need therapy reading that the former 49ers coach is a fan of American Sniper. I wonder if the York family also reached for their collective smelling salts? Oh, and finally:

Update: Needless to say, the problematics in the story are endless


“Last Monday afternoon, Entertainment Weekly posted a story in its Books section with the ominous headline: ‘Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign,’” John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily notes in an article sardonically titled, “Another Great Moment in Mainstream Journalism:”

Within a few hours, the headline changed to: “Correction: Hugo Awards voting campaign sparks controversy.”

That’s some correction. So what happened?

Both versions of the EW story were about the annual Hugo Awards given out to science fiction and fantasy writers. In the original version, EW’s Isabella Biedenharn claimed that “misogynist groups lobbied to nominate only white males for the science fiction book awards,” urging their followers to “cast votes against female writers and writers of color.”

Turns out that the slate of authors recommended by one of the groups, at least, did include women and minorities. Several of them, in fact.

The group’s campaign, in fact, had nothing to do with women or minorities, but an effort “to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance (to be) nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards,” according to Larry Correia, who along with Brad Torgersen, started the “Sad Puppies” campaign to bring more ideological diversity to the Hugo nominations.

“I started this campaign a few years ago,” Correia wrote on his blog, “because I believed that the awards were politically biased and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned.”

But since the EW reporter didn’t bother to reach out to Correia, or anyone else involved, to check her facts, she apparently didn’t know this.

This story, like the now-completely discredited Rolling Stone “campus rape” article, shows the dangers of an increasingly biased mainstream news media.

In-between castigating Rolling Stone for its rape-obsessed debacle last year, we shouldn’t let the disgusting racialist meltdown by a once fairly milquetoast showbiz gossip publication like Entertainment Weekly go without exploring what caused it. But like Gamergate, the events leading up to it are a bit complex for anyone coming into the story cold. So first, some historical background.

Science fiction has always had both a left, totalitarian side, as well as a right, libertarian side. As Fred Siegel noted in his 2009 City Journal profile of H.G. Wells, whom he accurately dubbed “The Godfather of American Liberalism,” a title that reflects the two-edged sword the G-word has become in recent decades, Wells in both his fiction and non-fiction, was a driving proponent of sci-fi’s totalitarianism:

Well before Mussolini, still a revolutionary socialist in the early twentieth century, and at roughly the same time as Lenin, Wells—in the book that he called the “keystone to the main arch of my work”—gave up not only on democracy but on organized labor as a transformative force. All three men rejected what might be described as social democracy, that is, the attempt to use political means to redress the inadequacies of capitalism. Instead, each proposed a new class, a vanguard to carry forward a postcapitalist social order.

Wells’ writing not only inspired the title of that long-running (if now rather addle-brained) publication, the New Republic, along with the eugenic efforts of Marget Sanger and Planned Parenthood, but in more recent years, a best-selling critique of the left as well, Siegel writes:

By 1932, a frustrated Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

Unfortunately, Wells wasn’t kidding, John J. Miller wrote in 2005, after Steven Spielberg’s big budget version of the War of the Worlds (whose screenwriter declared the Martians were standing in for America’s Red States):

Wells, for his part, was often appallingly wrong. “Human history is in essence a history of ideas,” he once wrote. That may be, but Wells flirted with the worst ideas of his time. After interviewing Lenin, Wells called him “creative” and described communism as the best hope for reforming Russia. The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn’t intrigue him. “There is good in these Fascists,” he said of Italians in 1927. “There is something brave and well-meaning about them.” He despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions as “nonsense.” It was for views such as these that George Orwell delivered a blunt verdict in 1941: “Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany.”

On the flip-side, Robert Heinlein’s libertarian bent can be found throughout his work, making him hugely influential on the right, as the Ludwig von Mises Insitute noted in 2010:

During the ’50s and ’60s, Heinlein won four Hugo awards [fancy that -- Ed] for best science fiction novel of the year. In 1969, he joined Walter Cronkite on national television to offer commentary on the first manned moon landing in history. In 1975, he was named the first recipient of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in the field, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. By the time of his death in 1988, his nearly four dozen books — including novels and collections of short stories — had sold more than 40 million copies. And they haven’t stopped selling in the more than two decades that have gone by since then.”Isaac Asimov, who knew Heinlein from the mid-’30s on, was convinced that his personal political views were largely a function of the woman he was married to at the time.”

Why is all this important from the point of view of the libertarian tradition? Because, among the many hundreds of thousands of readers who made Robert A. Heinlein’s career in science fiction such a brilliant success were quite a few who later came to think of themselves as libertarians and to associate themselves, in one way or another, with the organized libertarian movement. Not a few of these would be happy to tell you that it was by reading Heinlein’s stories and novels that they discovered libertarian ideas and became persuaded of their power and truth.

In the early 1970s, according to a survey undertaken at the time by SIL, the Society for Individual Liberty, one libertarian activist in six had been led to libertarianism by reading the novels and short stories of Robert A. Heinlein.

For decades, the two sides of science fiction co-existed in somewhat uneasy fashion. (Yes, I know that’s an enormous simplification, but I’m trying to get this post back to April of 2015. Bear with me.) But as with first academia, then journalism, then Hollywood, and more recently with even seemingly apolitical video games, whenever the left gets a foothold, their primary goal is to bar any other points of view, and that includes science fiction as well, as Robert Tracinski writes at the Federalist:

By now, we know the basic ingredients of a typical skirmish in Culture War 4.0. It goes something like this: a) a leftist claque starts loudly pushing the “correct” Culture War position onto b) a field previously considered fun, innocuous, apolitical, purely personal, or recreational, and c) accusing anyone who opposes them of being a racist, sexist, bigot who relies on oppressive “privilege” to push everyone else down, while these claims are d) backed up by a biased press that swallows the line of attack uncritically and repeats it.

Any of that sound familiar? It’s just daily life for anyone on the Right, and it’s slowly becoming daily life for everybody else. Ask Comet Guy.

The innocuous field in which the personal is suddenly discovered to be very political might be fashion, music, toys, sports, or sex, not to mention weddings, flowers, cake-baking, and pizza.

Or video games. Or science fiction.

Which explains the latest, wide new front of the Great Social Justice War: Gamergate and its latest outgrowth, the battle over the Hugo Awards, a prestigious annual fiction award for science fiction and fantasy writers.

Read on for Tracinski’s details of how the Hugo, for decades sci-fi’s equivalent of the Oscar and Emmy, was awarded. Basically, anyone who pays a $40 annual membership is free to vote.

That’s far too democratic a process for those who want to keep the proverbial “wrong element” out of the genre — and by wrong element, I mean anyone who isn’t a full-on raving socialist justice warrior. I mean, anyone like you or me:

A few years back, conservative science-fiction author Larry Correia noticed that left-leaning participants at Worldcon were engaged in a whispering campaign against one of his nominated books because of his political views. Many of them had not even read his novels. They opposed him, not because of the quality of his work, but because of who he was. In effect, the Left was enforcing a blacklist in which no right-leaning science fiction writer can be allowed to win awards.

All of which sounds drearily familiar. Believe me, when you’re in my line of work, you don’t expect to win any of the mainstream awards, either. They just don’t give those things to people like us. It’s a part of our professional life that most writers on the right have just given up on. And maybe we shouldn’t have.

To counteract the voting bias, Correia organized a campaign called “Sad Puppies”—because, he explains, “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” Which gives you a small sampling of the kind of goofy, irreverent humor with which the campaign has been conducted. The idea was simply to suggest a slate of authors Correia thought were likely to be overlooked or slighted because of their views—and to counteract that effect by lobbying in their favor.

His goal wasn’t even to win, but just to bring attention to the issue.

Naturally, in response, “they did what the Left always does: they smeared everyone who disagrees with them as racists.”

Click over to Tracinski’s post for the rest. On the one hand, we’re all “draftees in the new Culture War,” Tracinski writes. In other words, you may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in you — to paraphrase a quote long attributed to one the earliest socialist justice warriors. (And used by Tracinski late last year in response to the SJW’s meltdown over a real-life rocket scientist’s shirt. On the other though, “From our perspective as draftees in the new Culture War, the 2015 Hugo Awards lay out the pattern for a successful counter-attack.”

Faster, please — as my colleague Micheal Ledeen likes to say about bringing regime change to totalitarian institutions.

Martin Short has been taking some flak for “cyber-bullying” for his demented plastic surgeon character on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix series causing “dermatologist to the stars” Dr. Fredric Brandt to commit suicide.   As New York magazine notes, “This is a common trajectory in stories about suicide: After someone kills himself, those who are left behind tend to focus on the precipitating event when there seems to be one one — a job loss, for example, or an incident of cyberbullying. It’s a dramatic way of looking at tragedies that supplies a simple explanation for them:”

But precipitating events are the easiest stories for outsiders — including journalists — to understand, and they’re also more interesting (especially, perhaps, when they involve popular TV shows), so they get “blown up,” continued Peck. “I remember all the media stories over the years — [someone] ‘killed themselves because of financial setbacks,’ that kind of thing,” he said. But it’s much more likely that such a suicide is the culmination of years of struggle caused by a variety of factors. “Your distressor is the thing that we see, but it doesn’t mean it’s the cause,” said Harkavy-Friedman.

There is an undeniable randomness to suicide: There are people who would have killed themselves had they not found the right treatment at the right time; and there are victims, perhaps including Brandt, who might have been able to hold on longer if they had found treatment, or more effective treatment. The best anyone can do, faced with a phenomenon this complex, is try to understand the patterns that do exist within it. “I wish this were more like physics,where we had a formula and could plug everything in,” said Tishler. “But unfortunately we do not.”

Spot-on. Though, to append my comments to Florida talk radio host Dan Maduri during an interview today, it’s interesting that those on the left who are exonerating Short for the random chance of his satiric characterization apparently pushing a depressed surgeon over the edge weren’t anywhere near as willing to excuse Sarah Palin for her routine political clip art in January of 2011.

Even when it was obvious that the apolitical nutter who shot Gabrielle Giffords and over a dozen others never even saw them.  And yes, that includes New York magazine, eager to score cheap partisan points by browbeating Palin, back in January of 2011.

“Hate Network CNN Wants Disgraced Brian Williams to Replace Piers Morgan,” John Nolte’s headline screams at Big Journalism — and given how many times Nolte’s used the phrase “Hate Network CNN” over the past couple of weeks, CNN, must love having that phrase becoming increasingly associated with them. Hopefully they understand though, that’s the price you pay for transforming a news channel into a platform for socialist justice warriors.

But I digress:

According to a lengthy Vanity Fair article that examines the ongoing credibility implosion at NBC News, CNN Chief Jeff Zucker used his left-wing cable news network to “fan the flames” of the Brian Williams scandal in the hopes that it would further his scheme to eventually hire the disgraced anchor:

The most Machiavellian scenario, floated by an NBC partisan, is that Jeff Zucker, whose distaste for Comcast executives is well known, has fanned the flames of controversy so that he can eventually snare Williams for CNN—not as a newsman but as the long-sought replacement for Larry King. “That’s the perfect solution,” a source says. “Zucker gets a star, and Brian gets the talk show he always wanted.”

This is a nice way for Vanity Fair to button up the story of Williams, a news anchor who reportedly wanted to replace Jay Leno and David Letterman. Apparently, Williams primary desire is to be America’s Raconteur — which is a nice to describe a man accused of serial-lying for years to puff himself up.

The move to CNN, however, would also make sense for CNN — a network also in journalistic decline since the arrival of Zucker. CNN’s serial fabrications, outright lies, the fabrication of evidence against George Zimmerman, the fomenting of mob violence in Ferguson, the lies about the religious freedom bills in Indiana and Arkansas, would make the network a perfect soft-landing spot for a disgraced Brian Williams.

I agree — and I called this as one of Williams’ options back in February.

Also, this quote from the Vanity Fair story is umm, interesting:

Turness and the other executives who had gotten involved quickly became frustrated, as they would remain for days, with Williams’s inability to explain himself. “He couldn’t say the words ‘I lied,’ ” recalls one NBC insider. “We could not force his mouth to form the words ‘I lied.’ He couldn’t explain what had happened. [He said,] ‘Did something happen to [my] head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head?’ He just didn’t know. We just didn’t know. We had no clear sense what had happened. We got the best [apology] we could get.”

Williams isn’t the first NBC anchor about whom some have speculated if a brain tumor might be the cause of some of his more curious statements.

Finally, exclusive video of Williams attempting to explain himself to the NBC brass!

Earlier Today: NBC & Brian Williams: Worst Assumptions Confirmed By Insiders.

Adventures in the Skin Trade

April 6th, 2015 - 7:00 pm
NY: Solving Kids' Cancer Annual Spring Celebration

Dr. Fredric Brandt, at fundraiser held at 583 Park Avenue, NYC in May of 2014. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)

When you begin to deconstruct the above photo in light of today’s headlines, it yields a multitude of insights into a left-leaning celebrity culture gone horribly wrong.

Currently making the rounds at the New York Post’s Page Six celebrity gossip section, and the often equally gossipy London Daily Mail, is a cautionary tale of the limits of wealth, medical experimentation, pop culture narcissism, and arguably satire as well. “Famed dermatologist to the stars hanged himself aged 65 at his Miami mansion after being left ‘devastated’ by comparisons to Martin Short’s doctor character in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Short’s Netflix series, the Daily Mail reported yesterday:

Cosmetic surgeon Dr Fredric Brandt hanged himself on Sunday at his Miami mansion.

Miami Herald columnist Lesley Abravanel told Daily Mail Online exclusively that sources close to Dr Brandt said he had hanged himself.

The City of Miami Police Department confirmed that Dr Brandt’s death was a suicide by hanging on Monday.

Abravanel said Brandt, 65, was ‘devastated’ recently over rumors comparing him to a character on the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

The London Telegraph adds that Brandt “was an American dermatologist known as ‘the Baron of Botox’ who owed his exhaustive knowledge of fillers to repeated experiments on himself”:

Working out of clinics in Manhattan and Miami, Brandt pioneered a look that has been dubbed the “New New Face”, attributed to the likes of Madonna and Demi Moore. A carefully calibrated regime of Botox, collagen and Restylane injections created a plump, youthful appearance that disparaging beauty critics likened to a baby’s. Brandt specialised in a procedure called the “Y-lift”, which involved the injection of filler into the area just below the cheekbones.

* * * * * * *

After graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick in 1971, Brandt went on to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, where he toyed with various specialities before settling on dermatology. He completed his residency at the University of Miami in 1981 and set up his private practice there, branching out to a New York office in 1998. Eight years later he expanded the Florida clinic to include the Dermatology Research Institute, which currently has more than 200 patients involved in clinical studies of muscle relaxants and dermal fillers.

Brandt’s “celeb clients included Madonna, Kelly Ripa and Stephanie Seymour,” MSN reports, along with Allure magazine editor in chief Linda Wells and many others.

“Brandt also admittedly used himself as a guinea pig,” Yahoo notes:

 “I’ve been kind of a pioneer in pushing the limits to see how things work and what the look would be,” Dr. Brandt told the New York Times. “Would I change anything I’ve done? I might not have used as much Botox, because you don’t want to look quite as frozen.”

Occasionally, expensive plastic surgery, diet, and an intense exercise regimen can produce amazing results. Christie Brinkley, at age 61, looks fantastic. But far more often, we’ve all seen the photos of Hollywood actresses “of a certain age” with waxworks skin and collagen-stuffed lips who more closely resemble Janice, the lead singer for the Muppets’ Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rock group, than actually anything remotely human. And more recently, Bruce Jenner has made all of the gossip sites, as he seems to determined to transform himself from aging Olympic superstar to the second coming of Michael Jackson to…well, who knows where his surgical experiments will ultimately lead?

Or as the New York Times noted last year in its profile of Brandt:

To visit La Grenouille, Le Cirque, the Four Seasons or the Core club, or to travel the benefit circuit in New York and Los Angeles, is undoubtedly to encounter a Brandt creation, a person whose skin is smooth and yet not freakishly taut, whose cheeks possess the firm curvature of a wheel of Edam, whose unblemished flesh calls to mind a Jumeau bisque doll, a baby’s bottom or, perhaps, Madonna.

* * * * * * *

Over a recent lunch of grilled salmon and sparkling water at La Lunchonette in Chelsea, Dr. Brandt remarked that his goal was to “restore a face to harmony.” As strong winter sunlight streamed through a window, he instinctively moved to the shadows, shielding his pale skin. “I approach each face with a visual perception, an artistic perception and a medical perception,” he said.

When Garren Defazio, the hairdresser who gave Farrah Fawcett her wings, cropped Victoria Beckham’s hair into a pixie and turned Madonna into a blonde, first saw Dr. Brandt 14 years ago, it was because, as he explained by phone from London, when you are surrounded all day by a mirror or cameras, there is a certain business imperative to look fresh.

“Fred wants everyone to be fresh,” Mr. Defazio said. “You’ve got to remember that he’s perfecting his patients. That’s his fantasy, himself.”

Back in 2011, Adam Carolla had a brilliant metaphor for the current state of plastic surgery. In one of his podcasts, he described the technique, along with Botox and other surgical/medical techniques, as currently going through the same experimental phase as digital special effects went through in 1990s Hollywood, i.e., some outstanding examples when it all works, and plenty of weirdness when it doesn’t. Like CGI in Hollywood, there’s no doubt, in the coming decades, plastic surgery and its spin-offs will become even more seamless and difficult to detect — and even more ubiquitous.

But in the meantime, the quest for eternal youth, combined with, as Diana West dubbed it in 2007, The Death of the Grown-Up, continues to produce some head-shaking results, even amongst those who perform the procedures on celebrities, and should have enough sense to know that they’re going too far.

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Spielberg’s List

April 3rd, 2015 - 4:00 pm

In Tablet magazine, journalist David Samuels begins his interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men (whose final run debuts this Sunday) by asking him, “You’re one of those Los Angeles Jews, right?” Weiner proceeds to explore growing up in 1980s-era L.A. about which he tells Samuels, “I lived in a world of the white power elite of Los Angeles where there was a lot of sexism and anti-Semitism, and I was in their homes, observing,” and would later form the basis of much of Mad Men’s office politics. At the end of the article, Samuels says to Weiner, “So, here’s my story about L.A. Jews. I promise you’re going to like it.”

As usual with an interview, Samuels, who had been asking the questions up until this point is in bold, and Weiner, the subject of the interview is formatted in plain text. But here’s where things get weird, when Samuels tells Weiner, “Twenty years ago, I was staying at a friend’s house and her dad was a personage of whatever note among California architects, and he had a dinner party, and the person sitting to my right was John Milius, who wrote Apocalypse Now, and—”

I know John!

Right. I was like this is so cool, right? John Milius!!

Yeah, John’s the coolest.

He was so cool. And so he told me a cool story. At some point he was like, “You’re from New York, are you Jewish?” I was like, “Yeah I’m Jewish.” He’s like, “I got a good story for you. You know that I went to film school with Steven Spielberg, right? We’re friends.” I was like, “All right.”

He says, “So, one day I got a call.” This is sometime in the late ’80s, 1990s, something like that. So he got a call and it’s Spielberg, and he says “John, you’ve got to come over right away.”

You should ask John about being an L.A. Jew. He’s another one, he grew up in Bel Air. Anyway, go ahead. He says, “You gotta come over.”

He said, “ ‘You gotta come over right away.’ I said, ‘Is something wrong?’ He said, ‘Just come over, come over.’ And so I said, ‘OK.’ So, I get in my car and I drive up to the Spielberg mansion and I’m going through the gate, I parked the car, Steven comes to the door himself, and he’s like, ‘Come in here, John. I’ve got to show you something.’ And so I got in with Steven and we go in his living room and there are books all over the living room, dozens of books, like Time-Life books, open to these photographs of the ghettos and the gas chambers and whatever else. And he says, ‘John, did you know that they killed 6 MILLION Jews during the Second World War?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Did you know that they had gas chambers where they gassed Jews to DEATH.’ And I said, ‘Yes, Steven. I knew that.’ ”

I was so stunned, for a moment, and then I was like, “No, that’s bullshit.” And Milius said, “No, no, no, that really happened. Steven discovered the Holocaust when he was in his late 30s. He had no idea it happened.”

That is a great story. And I take your point. Meanwhile, his mother owns a kosher restaurant in Los Angeles, so it definitely must have come up.

His parents knew about it, for sure. But he was a suburban prodigy. Then he was doing Jaws, he was doing Close Encounters, E.T., he didn’t have time for much history until he was older. Plus it was California in the ’70s and ’80s. So it does make sense.

You know what, that’s amazing.

So, is that a story about Los Angeles Jews?

He’s from Arizona, he went to college in California but he’s not a Los Angeles Jew. So it’s not that. It’s hard to explain it, but it’s missing a little bit of the spiciness. I honestly think that we blend a little bit better, for better or worse. We pass a little bit better because it’s so casual out there.

As Peter Biskind wrote in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Spielberg was notorious amongst his fellow young Turks of the 1970s for his comparative naivete when compared to a crowd that fancied themselves the second coming of Orson Welles and  Francois Truffaut. On the flip-side, that naivete is also what led to his superstardom and fortune: they wanted to  make Art to appeal to their fellow self-styled elites, he was making popcorn movies for the masses. And while Milius is a hugely expansive raconteur and teller of tall tales (his bio movie on Netflix is loads of fun and highly recommended), I don’t think he’d lie about this — besides, who would make it up?

So as John Podhoretz asks on Twitter, is it possible this is true? That when Spielberg was directing Raiders of the Lost Ark and its hordes of cartoon Nazis, he didn’t know about the Holocaust? That someone who went to high school in the early 1960s wouldn’t know about the Holocaust?!

If so, chalk it up once again to Malcolm Muggeridge’s Law: there’s no way a satirist can improve upon real life for its pure absurdity.

“Executives in the newsroom at NBC were left red-faced after scrambling their news teams to report on the story of a naked man abseiling down from Buckingham Palace — without realising it was a clip from their own show,” The Royals, starring Elizabeth Hurley, which airs on E!, owned by NBC-Universal:

And as part of the filming, producers staged what was made to look like a man escaping from a Buckingham Palace window. The shaky mobile phone footage was uploaded onto YouTube and quickly went viral. News reporters from NBC News were then asked to call Buckingham Palace press office and ask whether the footage was genuine.

The cleverly-edited clip, entitled “Crazy Buckingham Palace naked man video!!!”, has been watched over 1.7 million times.

“It was a genius press campaign and it tricked even NBC News,” said a staff member on The Royals.

Which seems appropriate from a karma perspective, considering the lengths NBC will go to trick its own audience.

(Unless the whole thing is a ginned-up publicity stunt to get the show’s brand name out into social media, of course.)


We’ll get to Trevor Noah and Salon’s 180-degree pivot on him in just a moment, but first some context. Since the days of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, to first Vietnam and then the Iraq War, all the way to 2008 when Hillary was a “big f***ing whore” and her supporters racists to 2015, when Hillary is the left’s savior, self-described “Progressives” have been known for their remarkable ability to cast-off their current morals and perform dramatic slashing Tony Hawk-style mid-air 180 degree pivots whenever it’s politically expedient (see also: Oceania versus East Asia/Eurasia). But they rarely happen as quickly as Salon’s 24-hour inversion on Trevor Noah, Viacom’s designated replacement for corporate spokesman Jon Stewart (nee Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz). It was learned — apparently after he landed the gig — that Noah has or had a remarkable tendency to drop lurid anti-Semitic “jokes” on Twitter. The result being the leftwing mob waking itself into action last night on Twitter, and Salon’s flip-flop illustrated above. As Ace of Spades co-blogger Jeff tweets, “Seriously, this is the most beautiful two-day juxtaposition ever.”

At NRO, Kevin D. Williamson charts “Mr. Noah and the Flood.” Beyond Salon being “always offended about something,” (Salon and the New York Times have daily completions to see who can hit the fainting couch first and hardest) “Why didn’t Comedy Central apply strict scrutiny here? There are a few answers to that question that are obvious — but not if you are inside the progressive cultural bubble. Those being:”

1. Comedy Central knows that Jon Stewart’s viewers are cheap dates. They are not very bright, and they are not very interested in the world around them. The function of The Daily Show is to flatter the prejudices of a certain segment of largely white and middle-aged metropolitan liberals. Daily Show viewers are not interested in original insight — indeed, the utterance of an original thought or the indulgence of an unpredictable angle of analysis would undermine the entire structure of the program. Daily Show viewers tune in so that they can be made to feel clever for continuing to believe the things they already believe. There is no reason to believe that Noah is going to fail to deliver those exceedingly modest goods.

2. Comedy Central was probably counting on the usual double standard, which is, generally, a safe bet. When a couple of nobody RNC staffers ran up a $2,000 bill at a lesbian-bondage-themed strip club — it is a big tent, after all! — that was a national story, with Jon Stewart providing a Muppet reenactment. (Really.) Bill Clinton parties with Jeff Epstein on Pedophile Island? A strange quiet falls upon the land. If Rush Limbaugh had joked about running over Jewish children with his German car, there would be a presidential speech on the matter in the works.

Will Noah survive? Of course he will. And that’s not a bad thing, actually:


Not to mention, what Viacom’s hiring decision implies regarding their current forecast for after 2016 as well.

Update: Brilliant headline on the Comedy Central kerfuffle from Mark Steyn: “There’s Noah Business Like Shoah Business:”

Anyway, passing through Britain only a few days ago, I got back after dinner and thought I’d watch ten minutes of TV before turning in. Unfortunately, it was the BBC’s annual “Comic Relief” fundraiser, a long night of leaden jests and forced jollity, in the midst of which up popped Mr Noah:

[Click over for video -- Ed]

He talked about a recent flight from South Africa to the United States, where immigration officials asked him whether he’d come into contact with Ebola – notwithstanding that South Africa is nowhere near Ebola-stricken West Africa. As Mr Noah joked:

I don’t really blame them – ’cause look, the truth is most Americans don’t know much about South Africa…

Well, they don’t know much about Africa as a whole…

Well, most of them don’t know much about anything…

Whether that’s true of Americans it’s certainly true of the “Daily Show” audience. I suspect once this awkward little sizeist-Jew thing is smoothed over that he’ll confine himself to the old reliables — the stupidity of Palin, the stupidity of Cruz, the stupidity of [Your Republican Here] — that will keep Jon Stewart liberals splitting their sides for the next half-decade.

Clapter really is the best medicine.

Dog Bites Manischewitz

March 27th, 2015 - 12:33 pm

“I find it inconceivable that The New Yorker would have run this piece if it didn’t have Lena Dunham or some other bold-face-name in the byline. Titled, ‘Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?’ it’s a pop-quiz for the reader to guess whether she’s talking about her dog or, that’s right, her Jewish boyfriend,” Jonah Goldberg writes:

The folks at Truth Revolt are in high dudgeon about its anti-Semitism. And it’s true that Jew/dog comparisons are often best avoided. I mean did she need to make jokes about how Jews and/or dogs don’t tip? Get it? Jews are famously cheap and dogs don’t use currency for goods and services! Ha! Also male Jews and/or dogs are hairy. Drop the mic on that one, girl.Still, I don’t think she was going for anti-Semitism, though she’ll happily pocket the edginess that accusation brings. Rather, like so much of what Dunham does, it reeks of self-indulgence. She clearly think it’s very clever. But as a piece of writing it’s remarkably un-clever. It’s not terrible. It’s more like a solid B in a college-writing seminar.

It’s also, as the follower of Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon commented on Twitter, a rip-off, unintentional or not of a Big Bang Theory skit:

As Tony Roberts’ character said in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, “Homage? No, we just stole the idea outright!”

Update: “Is Lena Dunham upset that the only Jewish men ever attracted to her might have had glaucoma?” Heh.

As Always, Life Imitates Arthur C. Clarke

March 25th, 2015 - 7:29 pm


“DAWN OF THE DIGITAL ACTOR — STUDIOS SCAN BODIES,” the headline atop the Drudge Report screamed this morning, linking to this Hollywood Reporter article on Fast & Furious 7, and the filmmakers’ efforts to digitally replace star Paul Walker, who died (in grimly ironic fashion, alas) in a sports car accident midway during the production of the film:

No actor is indispensable. That is the blunt lesson from the fact that Universal Pictures was able to complete its April 3 tentpole, Furious 7, following star Paul Walker’s death in a November 2013 car accident about halfway through the shoot. Beyond saying that brothers Cody and Caleb stood in for Walker and that director James Wan culled footage of Walker from the earlier films, Universal declines to discuss which tricks were employed to breathe life into Walker’s character. But sources say Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital was asked to complete the sensitive and arduous task of reanimating Walker for Furious 7, and its cutting-edge work points toward a future where most actors can be re-created seam­lessly if needed. (The company declined to com­ment on its specific contributions.)

Read on in the Hollywood Reporter for additional examples of Hollywood reanimating deceased actors. One man who wouldn’t be at all surprised at these techniques is the late Arthur C. Clarke, as we’ll explore right after the digital page break.

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The Woody and Bill Show

March 25th, 2015 - 12:20 pm

In “The Cosby Mysteries” at Commentary, TV producer and Ricochet.com frontman Rob Long, whose show business debut involved being a producer on the other big NBC Thursday night comedy series, has a fun review of Mark Whitaker’s hagiographic profile of Bill Cosby, which apparently went to the printers just as numerous allegations concerning its subject were beginning to hit the fan. Rob begins his review by placing himself in the hot tub of a zillionare fellow TV producer, and proceeds from there:

The reason we were in the hot tub in the first place was that we had all gone for a chilly swim in the Pacific Ocean just steps away from the bleached-wood deck that abutted the sprawling mansion the man owned. And the reason he owned that multimillion dollar piece of real estate was that his method for getting very rich running television comedies was foolproof.

Except for this: The trick to making a lot of money in television comedy is, first, your show has to be a hit. Nothing pays quite as well as a hit comedy. And the trick to comedy, as everyone knows, is timing.

For most of his astonishingly successful half-century in show business, Bill Cosby was in the right place at the right time. He emerged onto the comedy scene in the early 1960s, when the audience taste in comedy was moving from the tuxedo’ed nightclub comic to the storytelling style Cosby pioneered. By the middle of the decade, when American television audiences were eager for racially integrated casts, he co-starred with Robert Culp in a hit action-adventure show, I Spy. In the 1970s, he reaped a financial bonanza as one of the most sought-after commercial pitchmen in the country. And, in 1984, The Cosby Show premiered on the last-place television network, NBC, to ratings so celestial that they actually saved the network from collapse. In comedy, in business, in the culture, Bill Cosby was a master of timing.

Not so lucky, though, is his official biographer, Mark Whitaker, whose Cosby: His Life and Times was published last autumn directly into the teeth of the more than 30 rape accusations that have dogged the 77-year-old comedian. The book is a tedious and mostly slavish rehash of the ups and downs of Cosby’s amazing and trailblazing career in show business. We get snapshots of his early life, his teachers, his first halting experiments with stand-up comedy. We get endlessly detailed—and eye-glazingly boring—anecdotes about his early television series. We are told stories, pointlessly, about which hotel he and Culp, his I Spy co-star, decamped to in Tokyo during a trip to Japan. We are told stories about ponderous lectures he gave to his friends, his imperial (though always civilized) interactions with the writers and producers of his hit television shows, his struggles with fatherhood, his devotion to his wife.

When the sticky issue of Cosby’s infidelity forces its way into the narrative, it’s always cast in the past tense. He and his wife, Camille, are forever “working harder on their marriage.” They are said to have “moved on.” Cosby is described many times as “cutting back on his womanizing ways.” When he is accused, publicly, of fathering a child out of wedlock, his wife says: “All personal negative issues between Bill and me were resolved years ago. We are a united couple.”

In other words, Whitaker’s book manages to make sex and infidelity uninteresting, which is in its way quite an accomplishment—especially because in the wake of allegations that Cosby drugged and then raped more than two dozen women since the late 1960s, it’s fair to say that sex and infidelity are very big parts of Cosby’s Life and Times.

It’s impossible to know whether Whittaker’s humorless and respectful biography would hold any interest at all were it not for the reader’s own constant interpolation of the rape allegations, of which more seem to emerge every day. From the moment I started reading the book until a few days later when I reached the final page, at least two more women had announced to the press that Cosby had lured them to a private space—usually with the offer of career help or acting lessons—drugged them senseless, and then raped them.

The timing of Whittaker’s book reminds me very much of the timing of Eric Lax’s hagiography of Woody Allen, which was debuted in 1991; and to help promote the tome, a lengthy excerpt was featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine section, along with a photo of Woody and Mia on the cover. The combined effect seemed to confirm Woody and Mia’s status as the King and Queen of Manhattan glitterati. But note the excerpt’s lede:

“It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids,” Woody Allen often used to say. “Any fool can do it.”

Shortly thereafter, the words Soon-Yi became just as big of a household name. Much more on Woody making the headlines (via Mariel Hemingway) after the page break.

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Elsewhere at Time-Warner-CNN-HBO, “On behalf of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to HBO,” Kevin D. Williamson quips at NRO on “Utopia’s Jailers:”

HBO has a series called Togetherness, a comedy about foundering middle-aged hipsters in Los Angeles, which has turned its attention to the issue of charter schools, and the writers have committed the unforgivable cultural sin of being not entirely hostile to the prospect. The ritual denunciations are under way.

Joshua Liebner, who lives in Eagle Rock, the Los Angeles neighborhood in which the show is set, is among those shouting “J’accuse!” in HBO’s direction, abominating the “white privilege and entitlement and, yes, racism and classism” that surely must be motivating charter-school families who have the audacity to go about “defining what constitutes ‘good’ for them,” and acting on it, as though they were in charge of their own lives and responsible for their own children. “Charter-school dogma has made it to the Big Time,” Liebner complains.

* * * * * *

“Let’s ban private schools,” Gawker cheerily suggests. Writing in that esteemed journal, John Cook argues that “there’s a simple solution to the public-schools crisis.” If people make choices that complicate the Left’s agenda, then ban those choices: “Make Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama’s children go to public schools,” Cook writes. “From a purely strategic and practical standpoint, it would be much easier to resolve the schools crisis if the futures of America’s wealthiest and most powerful children were at stake.”

The Left’s heart is still in East Berlin: If people want to leave your utopia and have the means to do so, then build a wall. If they climb over the wall — as millions of low-income parents with children in private schools (very commonly Catholic schools) do — then build a higher wall. If they keep climbing – and they will — then there are always alternatives.

Homeschooling? That’s basically a crime against humanity so far as our so-called liberal friends are concerned.

And while Gawker wants to ban private schools, Salon wants to ban both privately-owned news media and an independent film system, and the New Republic Christmas tree lights. (No, really.)

By the way, as Williamson writes, “The Democrats haven’t got that Pink Floyd song quite right — in their version, the chorus goes: ‘You don’t need no education.’”

Of course, like the president, it’s lyricist’s chief obsession is banning Israel.

Me? When it comes to education, I’d just like to ban serial liars.

Related: “I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back…The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.”

Chop off your hands, you say?

This request, is of course, highly problematic, not to mention likely racist:

Fake magazines created as background props for Ridley Scott’s epochal 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, set in 2019:

Real magazine available on newsstands in 2015:

So how far behind are Pris, Zora, and Rachel?

“I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.”

Stalinist and banjo player Pete Seeger, during a 1995 interview with the New York Times.

“When people have the power to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.”

—Meryl Streep’s “Chief Elder” character in The Giver.

Now out on DVD and Blu-Ray is The Giver, an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s hugely influential 1993 young-adult dystopian novel, which inspired The Hunger Games and other cautionary futuristic tales. Starring Jeff Bridges in the film’s title role, Meryl Streep, newcomer Brenton Thwaites, and blink and you’ll miss her Taylor Swift, it’s a film that conservatives and libertarians should take to heart and advise all of their friends to see, to understand what lurks at the bottom of an otherwise cheery, friendly and seemingly carefree nanny state. (Spoilers abound in this article. You’ve been warned.)

“Don’t Immanentize the Eschaton” was a bumper sticker phrase that was very popular among the early readers of National Review magazine in the 1960s.  Coined in the previous decade by conservative sociologist Eric Voegelin, and popularized by William F. Buckley, the phrase warned that the goal of creating Heaven on Earth, a goal that ties together virtually all leftwing ideologies, from National Socialists in Germany to International Socialists in the Soviet Union and China to the Fabian Socialists of England to Democratic socialists in America, was invariably going to (a) end in failure and (b) very likely end with lots people loaded into boxcars on their way to becoming dead bodies.

And yet, crafting Heaven on Earth remains the goal of the left to this very day. Whether they’re based in Los Angeles or London, most actors and filmmakers have politics somewhere to the left of Mao. As James Lileks once joked, “Maybe directors like dictators because they understand the desire to have final cut.” So I’m always intrigued whenever a bunch of left-leaning filmmakers get together to produce a cautionary tale of a futuristic socialist dystopia, and I like to ask myself, what we’re they thinking they were filming?

I’ve read that the cast and crew of 1984 thought that they were taking a clever shot at Margaret Thatcher, never mind that the subjects of Orwell’s groundbreaking dystopia were dominated by an ideology he dubbed “Ingsoc,” short for English Socialism, Soviet-style Communism with a British accent. The following year, Terry Gilliam directed his similarly themed film Brazil, focusing on another slightly futuristic out-of-control socialist bureaucracy with a penchant for kidnapping, torture and murder. But then last year, Gilliam told an interviewer that Republicans “will always be a fungus and if I was running the country I would take them out and shoot them frankly, but that’s something else [laughs],” ret-conning his 1985 film from a warning into a how-to guide. Since 2012, Obama-fan Donald Sutherland has starred as the murderous President Coriolanus Snow in the Hunger Games franchise, despite doing his bit to usher in a real-life totalitarian government in Vietnam through his appearances alongside Jane Fonda in their infamous F.T.A. tour of US Army bases in 1971.

Hot on the heels of the success of the Obama-era Hunger Games franchise, last year, the Weinstein Company, not exactly known for its libertarian politics, released The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, and directed by Phillip Noyce, whose previous films include 1989’s Dead Calm and the Tom Clancy adaptations starring Harrison Ford, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

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Nora Ephron, writing at the Huffington Post in April of 2008 noted that she had the ever-so-mildest disagreement with the worldview of Hillary Clinton’s core Democrat voters during the Pennsylvania primary:

This is an election about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women. And when I say people, I don’t mean people, I mean white men. How ironic is this? After all this time, after all these stupid articles about how powerless white men are and how they can’t even get into college because of overachieving women and affirmative action and mean lady teachers who expected them to sit still in the third grade even though they were all suffering from terminal attention deficit disorder — after all this, they turn out (surprise!) to have all the power. (As they always did, by the way; I hope you didn’t believe any of those articles.)

To put it bluntly, the next president will be elected by them: the outcome of Tuesday’s primary will depend on whether they go for Hillary or Obama, and the outcome of the general election will depend on whether enough of them vote for McCain. A lot of them will: white men cannot be relied on, as all of us know who have spent a lifetime dating them. And McCain is a compelling candidate, particularly because of the Torture Thing. As for the Democratic hope that McCain’s temper will be a problem, don’t bet on it. A lot of white men have terrible tempers, and what’s more, they think it’s normal.

If Hillary pulls it out in Pennsylvania, and she could, and if she follows it up in Indiana, she can make a credible case that she deserves to be the candidate; these last primaries will show which of the two Democratic candidates is better at overcoming the bias of a vast chunk of the population that has never in its history had to vote for anyone but a candidate who could have been their father or their brother or their son, and who has never had to think of the president of the United States as anyone other than someone they might have been had circumstances been just slightly different.

Hillary’s case is not an attractive one, because what she’ll essentially be saying (and has been saying, although very carefully) is that she can attract more racist white male voters than Obama can. Nonetheless, and as I said, she has a case.

Hey, don’t ask me why Democrats wrote such vitriol about Hillary in 2008, but as with Obama’s own attacks on her back then, it’s worth remembering how badly they dumped on her for being such a flawed candidate.

Unfortunately, Ephron, a mult-italented novelist, screenwriter and director (at least before her racialist crackup in the above post) died in 2012, but I’m sure we’ll have lots more examples of Democrats who trashed Hillary and her supporters in 2008 as bitter clingers, and these days declare