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Thursday, December 31, 2009
 
Putting The Zeroes To Bed
Matt Yglesias is a serious comic book guy, and as the decade comes to a close, he isn't afraid to name names and take sides. And I respect that:

We had a lot of comic book adaptions in the zeros, and the best of them, contrary to what you might have heard, is Iron Man. I promise you that this is a better movie than The Dark Knight. Go back and watch them again if you don’t believe me. I’m not sure what’s led people to get confused about this—I think maybe people have decided that the use of a darker color pallet makes Dark Knight more serious, which is itself a lot sillier than using bright colors in your comic book adaptation. Dark Knight isn’t even as good as Batman Begins!
Okay, Matt makes some good points here.

There is no question that The Dark Knight was overrated. At the time of its release a lot of ink was spilled about the mythic, Shakespearean dynamic of the film's central conflict, but I found that sort of chatter embarrassing. This was, after all, a movie about a guy who dressed up like a bat fighting with a guy who dressed up like a clown.

Moreover, the Harry Dent / Two-Face subplot added so much weight to the narrative that the movie nearly collapsed .

While I agree that Iron Man was a delightful movie, it's easy to forget how much it owed to Sam Raimi's Spider Man, which captured perfectly the blend of mythology, action, personal angst and humor that defined Marvel comics in the Silver Age. Even so, to my mind Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was the best comic book adaptation of the decade; it made the entire Batman mythos plausible for the first time.

As long as we're on the subject -- and what the hell, everyone is doing it anyway -- here are my picks for the ten best movies of the decade, arranged in no particular order:

Mulholland Dr.

Amelie

The Man Who Wasn't There

Brick

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Prestige

Wonder Boys

The Incredibles

Downfall

And, to opine where Matt has opined before:

TV Series of the Decade: Mad Men

Band of the Decade: The Soviettes.

Now that I have slaked your thirst for my opinions, off with you! Go play in our shiny new decade.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009
 
Daddy, When Will The Tree Of Liberty Be Replenished With The Blood Of Tyrants?
Yes, Johnny, there is a sales tax. And John J. Miller is pretty steamed about it:

"They just took my money."

That's what my 8-year-old son said about the sales tax on the ride home from Borders a few minutes ago. He had a $10 gift card from Christmas, bought a Clone Wars book for $7.99, looked at the receipt, and wondered why he still didn't have a full $2.01 on it.

This is how conservatives are made.

Er, except that conservatives are always crying for the elimination of income taxes, estate taxes and capital gains taxes, to be replaced (when they concede the revenue must be replaced) with a simple regressive VAT.

So if John J. Miller Sr had his way, little John J Miller Jr's Clone Wars book would be hit with state and federal sales tax.

The point is, we can disagree about how taxes are levied, and at what rate, and what the tax money is used for. But in any society, taxes in one form or another are inevitable.

A sensible father would see this as a teaching moment, and could explain that while taxes aren't fun, they are the price for living in a civilized society; they pay for the police and the fire department and the streets and the sidewalks.

Instead, I imagine that Miller just told his kid that all taxation is theft. And that someday, no one will have to pay them.

That is how conservatives are made.


 
The Post Of Christmas Past
I found this Christmas-y post from a couple of years ago, and thought I'd share it with you again. I like to think of it as an "encore presentation", not a "rerun". Happy Christmas, Lost Citizens!


Today is December 29, the fifth day of Christmas, which runs to January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Our word Christmas is derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse or "Mass of Christ". It is neither the most important feast day on the Christian calendar nor the oldest. In fact, the day was apparently not officially recognized anywhere before the sixth century.

In the early days of the Church, celebrating the birthday of a divine being was considered a bit unseemly, the sort of thing the pagans did. And unlike Easter, there was no definitive date for Christ's birth anyway (in fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that "there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth".

At some point Christ's birthday got lumped in with the feast of the Epiphany, which the Eastern church celebrated in Early January. This is apparently because of a copying error in Luke 3:22 that crept into some ancient Greek manuscripts. Instead of the voice of God saying, Thou art my beloved son, in thee I am well pleased, the error changed the passage to Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee.

As the custom of celebrating Christ's birthday with Epiphany spread, the leaders of the Church were troubled that many Christians took part in the pagan custom of lighting candles on December 25, to commemorate the birthday of the Sun and celebrate the solstice. The Church wanted to make it clear that the only true Light was Christ. Therefore, the celebration of Christ's birth was moved from January 6 to December 25.

Even though the Epiphany (which roughly translates to appearance of the divine) was associated with Christ's baptism in the Eastern Church, the Western Church interpreted Epiphany differently. It was sometimes connected to the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus began his ministry, but it was more often linked to the arrival of the Magi to the infant Jesus. So today, tradition holds that Christ was born on the 25th and visited by the Magi on January 6.

And you thought you had to wait a long time to open your presents.

Hope you all have a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thanks for walking with us along the streets of the Lost City and for being willing to listen to the nutty guys shouting from the soap box.


Thursday, December 24, 2009
 
Andy McCarthy Has Come To Kick Ass And Chew Bubble Gum, And He's All Out Of Bubble Gum
So, a health care reform bill just passed the Senate in spite of Republican efforts to gum up the works every step of the way.

Well, so what. Big deal.

Enjoy your hollow victory while you can, Barack HUSSEIN Obama! Andy McCarthy is biding his time:

Though the point of mad-dash cash-for-cloture was to give the President his monumental "achievement" in time to brag about it in the State of the Union address, the administration realizes it won't happen — too much opposition in the House, too problematic on abortion, too much outrage in the country. So healthcare will be tabled until February, giving us all at least a month-and-a-half to find more of its buried treasures, ear-marks, mandates and power-grabs.

Not to mention more time for Andy to find evidence that Obama isn’t really an American citizen, and that Dreams From My Father was ghost-written by Bill Ayers.

Yep, with a razor-sharp legal mind like Andy McCarthy's on the case, I'm sure Obama is shaking in his boots.


Thursday, December 10, 2009
 
Nemo Sighting Near Bemidji?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard from the elusive Nemo, so imagine my surprise when I saw his picture plastered all over MPR’s news site this morning.

At least, I think that’s him. The face isn’t visible, but still, that is definitely how Nemo walks.

Seems a hunter up in Bemidji set up a game trail camera and Nemo just ambled along in front of it during the dead of night.

The wee small hours are, of course, Nemo’s favorite time to go out for a stroll. It isn't clear why he’s chosen the Bemidji area for his nocturnal walkabouts.

Not sure what’s up with the gorilla suit either, but I assume there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for that too.


Saturday, December 05, 2009
 
Memories Of The First Black President


During the 2008 presidential campaign, I happened upon an old paperback copy of Irving Wallace's novel The Man. I'd never read it, but remembered the film version and decided to give it a spin.

I got bogged down about halfway through and put the book aside. I'm a fairly tenacious reader but Wallace's writing has lots of long, arid stretches of exposition and in the end I got pushed out of the book.

A couple of weeks ago I picked it up again, and yesterday slogged on to the finish.

The Man, written in 1964, rests on a premise so improbable it almost reads like science fiction. As the book opens, both the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House are killed in a building collapse in West Germany. We learn that the country happens to be without a Vice President when this crisis occurs, the elected V.P. having recently died of a stroke (this was, of course, a few years before the 25th Amendment spelled out the rules for filling that particular vacancy).

Under this scenario, the Presidency falls not to the Secretary of State, as we might expect, but to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate -- Douglass Dilman, an undistinguished senator from New Hampshire. Dilman, we are told, was given the ceremonial Pro Tem post in order to appease northern liberals, although this is never really explained; traditionally the honor goes to the oldest, crustiest guy in the building.

Well, anyway. The kicker here is that Dilman is black, and because this is 1964, the country goes bonkers.

As soon as Dilman is ensconced in the White House the southern bigots and northern cynics begin laying plans to destroy him. Secretary of State Arthur Eaton feels the Presidency should have been his, and mint julepy Sen. Zeke Miller offers to help him to get Dillman out of the White House. Dilman, who'd spent his Senate career as a mealy-mouthed back-bencher, is expected to fold quickly, but rises to the occasion and shows his enemies that he's got the right stuff to be President.

Sprawled out over 800+ pages, Wallace's brand of lackluster melodrama wears thin. But The Man did spawn a decent little TV movie in 1972, with James Earl Jones portraying Dilman as a smart but somewhat melancholy guy who's been thrust into a world of trouble. Burgess Meredith played the Zeke Miller character with oily gusto, and he got one of the best lines in the Rod Serling-penned screenplay: The White House ain't near white enough for me tonight.

Wallace tried valiantly to imagine a black man leading the country, but his imagination failed him at times. The truth is that anyone placed in the Oval Office by such bizarre circumstances would be politically hamstrung right out of the gate. Make that person a black man in 1964 and the problems would be magnified a hundredfold.

The impeachment subplot tried to project the Senate trial of Andrew Johnson into the 20th century, and the result was essentially a courtroom drama, with teary-eyed witnesses trying to sway a jury of 100 Senators. As the Nixon impeachment hearings (and the Clinton impeachment trial) showed, dramatic emotional appeals were few and far between.

Rather, the task of the impeachment managers was not only to convince members of the House and Senate that their charges reached the threshold of "high crimes and misdemeanors" as specified in the Constitution, but that failing to remove the President left the Republic itself in grave danger.



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