A Mind That Suits
What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 :::
I watch THE VOICE online, so one day late, and last night I saw the first episode where singers choose their own song and then their "coaches" choose between two that he or she pits against each other at the last minute. I don't like the way it is going, but from here on out, voting is by viewers. Adam has craftily whittled his team down to several different styles. He paired off similar singers so that he would not choose too many of the same kind, so he has a range for when the viewers start weighing in. I also have to admit that some singers I liked chose much poppier songs to start impressing those same viewers, so Adam is fighting against his own artists' desire to be popular and I don't like the music as much.
Funnier by far is Cee-Lo's obvious delight in having discovered the first openly gay Country star. You should have seen his eyebrows shoot right over this bald head, though, when the kid told him he was going to sing Dolly Parton's immortal Jolene. ("He talks about you in his sleep/There's nothing I can do to keep/From crying when he calls your name, Jolene"). I suspect he thought it would be an Adam Lambert type, "Everybody knows, wink, wink" kind of thing. Not with this kid. And, boy, did that kid make it is own.
He should have known when he picked him. The kid, name of Cody (just to prove I grew up Down South), said he liked to give his audience a "little of the bam-bam" to go with his singing.
To say that ultra-traditional, ultra-gentlemanly Blake Shelton was speechless after Jolene is an understatement. He told the other singer he had not done as well "you opened the dorr for Cody."
Speaking of which, that statement was politely "code-y."
Then he told Cody that he had never heard him sing so well.
When it came to Cee-Lo's moment to decide after hearing the other judges's comments, he echoed Shelton's comments, but added his own entertainer angle. he told the other singer that Cody was more "out of the box," which made my jazz guitarist housemate and I burst out in laughter. Everything about this kid is kind of code-y.
Give Cee-Lo credit: he said the choice of song was "bold<' but that wouldn't be enough.
It will be like everything about "official" Nashville country music, not the traditional kind I like: a little behind pop culture, a little tamer. Adam Lambert came in second on Idol, then went public and at the Video Music Awards put on a full-throttle gay B&D extravaganza that turned off everyone and sent him back to the drawing board. As a headline in The Onion once put it, "Gay Pride parade sets back gay/straight relations 50 years."
Cody will do dance numbers and sing sad songs about "his man" and that will be that.
Approve or disapprove? It's just the way it is. I've been in the arts and entertainment for 42 years, took one look at Cody and said, "Wonder if his proud, beaming papa has figured it out?' The kid is a natural entertainer.
The other kid in the competition will be back.He is only 16.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 1:54 PM
Monday, October 08, 2012 :::
Cast your mind back to 2000: four or five days before the
election, a party hack local judge in Maine passed on the record of George W.
Bush’s DUI arrest, which he had denied ever took place.
Immediately, the vast majority of undecided voters swung to
However, exit polling showed that the revelation in fact was
not the deciding factor for those voters.
My belief from the time has not changed: it was not the DUI, which happened when he
was actively drinking. Rather, it
confirmed whatever DIFFERENT doubt people had.
Inexperienced? A pro
would have gotten out in front very early on that one.
Privileged playboy living off the family forture? Check.
“I can’t explain it; I just don’t like the guy.” Double check.
Because this is how I think the debates are playing out. Consider intangibles: “smartest man ever to
be president,” “greatest orator of all time,” “a man too good for us.”
Supporters of Barack Obama remain convinced he is the
smartest man ever to be President. Most other people no long think that. The debate
began some time ago, but focus groups of independent voters settled on “in over
his head.” That covers a lot of ground
without saying he is just not as smart as the hype has it. Really smart people can be unsuited for their
Plus, people cut him a lot of slack for being a nice person.
Barack Obama has never been held to account for the numerous
times he has contradicted himself or simply gotten things wrong---“57 states”. Away went any impression of omniscience in
the first debate.
Which leaves us with the nice guy.
But massive leaks from the Obama campaign indicate that they
intend to go all Chicago style.
It really hasn't worked. Numerous
allegations against Romney in ads turn out not to have been, shall we say,
overburdened with truthfulness. If they
pull out anything like that, Romney has shown himself equal to it. Plus, he is justly—let me repeat that, justly—proud
of his work at Bain. There is no example
of his having directed the stripping of assets from a going concern, and he
turned around a bunch of others and gave people MORE jobs. If the Left thinks Romney is contemptible,
lots of people find that contempt undeserved.
Plus, it turns out they like it when Romney
drops his reserve.
There’s “the 47%,” but that goes against “you didn’t
build that,” so it becomes a shouting match. Whatever, Obama would be tossing out his nice guy
Then we get to the foreign policy debate, and what does he
have to say? Our traditional allies
consider him irrelevant, and so do our enemies.
Vladimir Putin skips summits. The President appears on the View--forget that, went out of his way to show contempt for a leader who faces a decision which may cause a general war for the Middle East, right or wrong.
Good will? Reset? “Missed” by the Acolyte Press were the many images of Barack Obama being
burned in effigy throughout the Middle East following the 9/11 Anniversary Attacks a few
And then there is that trip to Los Vegas DURING the attacks.
So if they stick with the “attack dog” plan, if they REALLY
think Americans will rally to their contempt, they are really, really mistaken.
Add to that the President’s failure to ever—ever—move the
needle of public opinion with a speech and the continuous jokes across the
spectrum about how he loves to talk, and all of his intangibles evaporate.
So he will be left, like George W. Bush, with people
thinking of what they dislike.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 3:12 PM
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 :::
Click Your Heels Together Three Times And Repeat:
I Have No Idea What I Am Talking About.
A Mind That Suits is finally free to turn his mind to the 2024 Presidential race.
All the ones between 2012 and then have received their full complements of pundits, prognosticators, and know-it-alls, so he thought he would get his two cents in now before 2024 is sold out.
Billy, who was just elected to the city council of 2 ½ Corners, West Dakota, after serving all four year in the Tumbleweed-on-the-Road-to-Nowhere High School student government, looks good, even though it will be necessary to amend the Constitution because he won’t be 35 by 2024.
Hey, it worked for Michael Bloomberg.
Seriously, it is time to stop making "serious" predictions about what will happen in 2012. Mitch Daniels went from ideal candidate to flawed-candidate-with-family-baggage to the dream-that-slipped-away, all while his national name recognition was still below 10 percent. Not favorable ratings; name recognition.
Many have run the numbers from corresponding points in previous cycles to see who the received wisdom had picked as winners. Remember the epic battle between Mitt Romney and Hilary Clinton in 2008? This is all silliness.
That doesn’t stop folks.
No, A Mind That Suits wants to make rather deeper point.
One really needs to keep 1992 in mind. Memories of Bill Clinton center almost exclusively on what are remembered (falsely) as uniformly good economic times and what are now considered (correctly) Bill Clinton’s amazing survival skills.
Focus on that for a moment: survival skills.
When you look back at the list of candidates for the Democratic nomination in 1992, the first thing you notice is that everyone you think of as a serious rival to Clinton is not on the list. Babbitt, Gephardt, Cuomo---nowhere to be found. They had presumably been dissuaded by the overwhelming popularity of the incumbent, George H.W. Bush.
So Clinton was smart enough to see an opening and romped, right? Well, no.
Bill Clinton gave himself the nickname “the Comeback Kid” because he had done so spectacularly badly in the first couple of primaries. He swept Super Tuesday, but had to continue to slug it out—with Jerry Brown and former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusett????
Governor Moonbean and a one term senator of no consequence whatsoever.
When A Mind That Suits was a wee slip of a lad working in the U.S. Senate, Tsongas was held in such low esteem by his fellow Democratic Senators that they wouldn’t talk to him even if they were on the same elevator with him.
Brown was churning ahead in New York until he broached the idea of naming Jesse Jackson as his running mate, thus losing the Jewish vote, which, in NY Democratic circles, is rather a big deal.
Bill Clinton still did not have a smooth ride, primarily because of so many self-inflicted problems. George Stephanopoulos even admitted that he thought any other person would have dropped out.
But he did not, and the rest is history.
People close to him in his first term, such as Stephanopoulos and Leno Panetta, made it very clear later: for the first three years Bill Clinton had no idea what he was doing. Right after he was elected, he held a pointless televised seminar on the economy to try and figure out what do do. He kept holding seminars after he was sworn in.
More precisely, he held endless meetings where no decision was made. One time, according to Bob Woodward (not, A Mind That Suits is well aware, the most reliable source), when Bill Clinton turned to Al Gore and asked what he should do, Gore blurted out, “Get with G—D-----d program, Bill.”
It was not until the Oklahoma City Bombing in April, 1995, according to those same aides, that Clinton found his connection with the American people, that quivering lower lip and reassuring fist pump, the "Mr. I-feel-your-pain” who became so familiar.
Then the Republicans foolishly broke off negotiations over the budget when they had hardly started, precipitating a government shutdown.
Bill Clinton had found his stride.
So, tell A Mind That Suits, tell us all: how can you judge the prospects of say, a governor from a small southern state with a middling record who hasn’t done well in preliminary heats?
Jimmy Carter said exactly two things worth remembering. One was that the main difference between his life as president and his life before was that he no longer met anyone who hadn’t bathed recently.
He also said that the only preparation for being President was running for President.
That’s the lesson for the day.
An added thought:
No one who was the creature of his staff has been elected President in the modern era. Anyone who says that simply does not understand what it takes to become President.
Ronald Reagan read his cue cards when the subject was of no special importance to him. When his staff got into an argument over taxes in front of him and forgot he was there, he ripped a pen so hard that the holder went flying across the Oval Office. Speechless with rage, he wrote “no new taxes” on a piece of paper and handed it to a humbled and astounded James Baker. It takes a lot to humble and astound Jim Baker, by the way.
Panicked State Department cables followed Air Force One across the Atlantic to make sure that Reagan never said, “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.” He said it.
Two stories from very different Presidents.
Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., is now primarily known as the father of lots of consequential children, but he himself was a piece of work.
It’s probably not unfair to say that he was something of a war profiteer in World War I. As General Manager of Bethlehem Steel, he got mighty chummy with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, one Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Nope, no chance for snagging juicy government contracts there.
He then wreaked havoc Hollywood, forging the legendary RKO studios through mergers and racking up another fortune. He used as a slush fund the bank account of his mistress, mega-star screen siren Gloria Swanson. When he left town, he left her penniless. She should never have been carrying on with a married man, and she was still big enough to make some of it back, but still…
During Prohibition, he tied up seemingly worthless contracts with British distillers for imports to the US, thus ensuring himself another fortune when Prohibition was lifted. No one has ever been able to disprove rumors that he had been profiting from liquore imports before that, by bootlegging, of course.
When it came time to create a Securities and Exchange Commission to try and keep Wall Street under control, his old friend Franklin Roosevelt tapped Papa Joe, on the grounds that such an accomplished crook would know how to regulate other crooks.
Seeking the ultimate sign that the grandson of refugees form the Potato Famine had made it, he sought to be and was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James. He did a singularly awful job. Displaying personal cowardice and a publicly defeatist attitude in the face of Nazi aggression, he became a serious liability to nearly everyone.
When he was back in the States to take a vacation, Roosevelt asked him to postpone joining his family because he wanted his advice.
Kennedy rearranged his plans.
Then Roosevelt fired him.
And Karl Rove, the man who “created” George W. Bush?
Rove had left an open invitation for the President to join him at his church. One day, Bush went.
At the end of the service, he pulled Rove aside, told him “You’ve gotten too hot,” and fired him.
That’s the kind of man who becomes President.
That's the kind of man who will be elected in 2012.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:35 PM
Friday, July 29, 2011 :::
The estimable Jay Nordlinger over at National Review Online got on one of his hobby horses this morning. While protesting often that he is what is known as a descriptivist in language--meaning rules follw use--and not a prescriptivist--meaing rules governing use--he nontheless thinks we should all mispronounce a few select words on his say-so.
One is forte, meaning strong-suit, which all dictionaries say should be pronounced something like "fortay," as in the Italian musical direction. He says it should be pronounced "fort," because that it the way the French pronounce it, except they don't. The final "e" is pronounced in French, ever so softly. A Mind That Suits doubts that that has been the preferred pronunciation for many centuries, and even the Oxford English Dictionary, arbiter of Standard English Pronunciation (the "Received" Pronunciation) back in the Old Blighty has it pronounced the same way as the English upper classes say "forty."
This morning, he quotes a friend who says that "fillet" should be pronounced by analogy with "wallet" and "mallet." True enough, the English upper classes do that. But A Mind That Suits has spent many years in fine dining in the United States, and he can assure you he has only heard it pronounced that way by electricians and mechanics, who have a special meaning for it. Chefs all say "fill-AY."
So A Mind That Suits got the idea to address this peculiar fixation of Mr. Nordlinger's. Please keep in mind Mr. Nordlinger's friend on "fillet" and "mallet."
Dear Mr. Nordlinger:
Sherbet and sorbet are both derivatives of the Arabic word for fruit juice. If you look in the cookbooks of James Beard, you will see that they were once used interchangeably, even if the stress and pronunciation followed different patterns. However, in modern parlance, sherbet has come to mean "frozen fruit juice + cream," and it often spelled sherbert, and sorbet has come to "frozen fruit juice with no cream." A useful distinction, and so it has become permanent.
So, too, fillet. I hear fillet with a "t" only in contexts that have nothing to do with flesh. So, "fill-AY" means "flesh with no bones;" "FILL-it" means something technical. A useful distinction, and so it has become permanent.
(I do not think Americans use it for headband, it's original meaning.)
"FILL-it" is the uniform pronuncation for all meanings in the Received Pronunciation, an entirely artificial dialect whose arbiters are the Oxford English Dictionary and the BBC pronunciation guide.
We, however, speak American English.
If your friend is such a literary genius, where did he get the idea that English pronunciation should be uniform? There's mallet and fillet in the RP, for instance: totally different values for "e."
For the record, from the OED: /ˈmalᵻt/ vs. /ˈfɪlɪt/
As that example shows, even in the RP, the variations provide enough to plough through for the arm-chair linguist.
Oh, and explain to us again: why do we have to say "fort" when we mean "forte?" Because the French do? Shouldn't we, perforce, use the French pronunciation for fillet? Or did something get lost in translation?
It's particualrly confusing, as the French do not say "fort;" they say "forte," just, you know, the way French people pronounce it. And even the OED says that the final "e" in the English word forte must be pronounced.
A while later, A Mind That Suits, that little scamp, added this note:
A Much Simpler Question
Dear Mr. Nordlinger:
If you say that "fillet" should be pronounced like "mallet" and "wallet," should "ballet" rhyme with "mallet" or "wallet," and, if it should rhyme with "mallet," how would one distinguish between "ballet" and "ballot?"
Leaves us simple folk all confused.
A Mind That Suits
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 4:26 PM
Monday, July 25, 2011 :::
One has to defer to David Pryce-Jones, and James Taranto rightly highlights his thoughts over at the indispensible Best of the Web Today. A Mind That Suits adds some further thoughts at the end.
One quick thought, and then a longer reflection:
When, in April, 1999, two disaffected students opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 13 people and wounding 24 more, most people were rightly horrified. Yet there was a drumbeat on the left that the whole thing was understandable, because--this is no joke--the school had an overenthusiastic booster club. A leftwing friend snarled in contempt that the victims were "horrible people," and a whole book was manufactured pushing that thesis, one that was uniformly rejected by most people who went to school there. Of course, they could have had false-consciousness.
When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a Congresswoman, politcal rhetoric that he never read or expressed support for was blamed.
When Anders Breivik set off a bomb and then appeared on an island and killed nearly 100 children, a religion he barely seems to have subscribed to was blamed.
If that makes sense to you--that two killers were understandable, and two were not--you are ideologically and utterly unconcerned with any of the people who got killed, and that is wrong.
Now, for the longer reflection:
One wishes that such things were not so predictable, but they have become that way.
First, let us remember one inescapable truth: according to those who study such things, somewhere between two and five percent of the population is mentally disturbed in some serious way.
That is a lot of people.
And then let us remember one of the few valuable observations on society made by Albert Einstein, whose capacious brain was at its best when it was occupied with matters far from the world of politics and morals. Technological advance, he observed correctly, is like putting an axe into the hands of a madman.
The horrors inflicted in tiny Norway by one of her own sons appear to be quite sui generis in their origins. What emerges from glimpses of his 1500 page “manifesto” is that he was remarkably adept at English, the kind of thing that merely reinforces the opinion of A Mind That Suits, who has taught the English language for many years, that teaching English is neither intrinsically good or bad.
After that, the killer is clearly obsessed with the inroads Islam has made in Norwegian society. But let us not forget that he killed nearly 100 Norwegians. If there is some rational connection between his obsessions and his violence, he would have killed a different set of people.
Or one would think. (For an alternative view, see David Pryce-Jones's interpretation.)
Yet once again—this is the predictable part--the intellectual elite has rushed to a judgment that the barbarians are at the gate and the lunatics are running the asylum.
Because the killer identified himself on his Facebook page as Christian and conservative, that became the first cause célèbre, as it were. Except that, as with Jared Lee Loughner, his list of self-confessed influences is rather broad. Actually, it is extremely latitudinarian, including, apparently, every Anglo-Saxon proponent of the rule of law as a guarantee of societal harmony and advancement, including the anti-violence and anti-revolutionary Edmund Burke.
The list of books, we are told, ran to forty-nine pages. If it turns out to be nothing more than an autodidact’s list of every important book ever written on politics, A Mind That Suits will be very surprised. The killer is apparently smart enough to have actually read them all, which would make him different than some other killers with delusions of grandeur.
As for the Christian part, he seems to have desired that all religious groups in the West unite to fight Muslim immigration. He was himself a Free Mason, and any Catholic, which A Mind That Suits unapologetically is, must perforce view him as sympathetic to syncretic paganism. Protestants will be more comfortable saying that he is probably a pan-theistic Deist or leans that way. This means that there is usually no impediment to a Mason’s belonging to most Protestant churches, except the fundamentalist ones, whose views on Freemasonry are identical to those of the Papal Magisterium, uncomfortable as that might make them.
Which means that the killer cannot be any kind of Christian fundamentalist.
Ah, well, details.
Now that the explanation seems to have settled on as firm a ground as can be found in this sociopath’s mind—his anti-Muslim obsession—the 100 dead Norwegian children are quickly being forgotten as accusations fly on that issue.
A Mind That Suits was reminded of three serious situations in which a large segment of the population felt that there was a serious problem that needed a drastic cure: opposition to the ex cathedra imposition of the most liberal abortion regime in the West by the Supreme Court, the need to protect women from domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and exploding crime rates following, again, capricious Supreme Court rulings.
In each case, the overwhelming majority of concerned citizens took advantage of their rights to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances and ultimately had an impact---against crime most notably, against abortion least successfully. But all had some success.
Despite extremists on their side. For abortionists, it was clinic bombers who took life illegally in the name of defending life. For sex crimes, it was instigators of 'date rape' hysteria on campus and the
'recovered memory movement' who ruined lives through false accusations. Against crime, it was vigilantes.
And some---many?—now wish to discredit people who are worried about how well Muslims will fit into a liberal society, and they will point to Anders Bleivik.
A Mind That Suits is always against people who say that a problem shouldn’t be mentioned so it will go away. During the Cold War, this took a strange twist: if you knew any actual facts about life inside the Soviet Union, you would be said to favor nuclear war. Presumably, pointing out real differences would lead to war, in this way of thinking, so just say both sides are the same—cf., Dr Seuss—and all will be well in the garden.
In the case of Islam, A Mind That Suits is of the firm belief that everyone should study what Islam actually says. Only by truly understanding Islam can there be hope of any progress in navigating the waters in which we find ourselves. He has occasionally made a serious study, and found it endlessly fascinating.
But the sociopaths of the world—the Jared Lee Loughners and the Anders Breiviks of the world—are a separate issue. They need to be disarmed and locked up before they do any more harm.
If that is possible. Which it isn’t. So prepare for more as—pace Albert Einstein—more madmen get more advanced axes.
In Peter Jackson's magnificent but flawed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf finds out that Saruman wants the One Ring for himself, he accuses Saruman of leaving the path of reason and going "the way of madness," or words to that effect. This is the modern, therapeutic mindset speaking. In the book, Gandalf tells the allies assembled at the Council of Elrond that Saruman has yielded to the temptation of evil, which was closer to the truth. Nowhere in the book (or the movie) does Saruman act insane. He acts evilly.
David Pryce-Jones, in an insightful and disturbing discussion of the massacre in Norway entitled More Dangerous Than Insane . To put it shortly, he takes the line that Gandalf does in the books. (See a meditation on the enduring wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien in a previous post.)
Dr. Pryce-Jones cites the comprehensive and methodical nature of the "manifesto" and the attacks themselves. That itself is not dispositive, because plenty of crazy people are methodical. Not all mass murderers kill themselves when they are caught. And there is the complete inconsistency of the works the murderer cites and of his ideas.
And yet, and yet...
Goethe commented that if one wanted to drive a young man insane, one need only set him to study the works of Hegel. Hegel does indeed frequently make connections that make sense only to himself. At one point, he declares that the most morally significant relationship in all of literature is between a brother and sister in Greek mythology. The English translation of his most frightening work, the Phenomenology of Power (or of Right--the German is conveniently slippery), has large sections of paraphrasing, so incomprehensible is the German.
Hegel inspired much Continental political thought over the last two hundred years.
Dr. Pryce-Jones makes briefly a point made at length this morning by Bruce Bawer, a minor official of the George H.W. Bush administration who is famous in this country for having published a conservative defense of gay marriage. He decamped to Norway, if memory serves, because he felt that gays were more accepted there. He has argued at book length that if the elites cannot address the problems posed by the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate, then violence will ensue.
It must also be remembered that the European governing elites have never cottoned to democracy. Their heads of state may in most cases by appointed, in some elected, and their heads of government are all elected. But it simply cannot be said that they govern democratically. Most egregiously, the public accepts the idea of closer cooperation, but not union, and at every step the EU Constitution (The Lisbon "Treaty") has been rammed down their throats. As Dr. Pryce-Jones himself has pointed out, the European parliament building is designed with its back to the general public. Europeans have been docile because they have been paid off and the United States has done all the heavy lifting militarily.
Or just any lifting recently, as outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said bluntly to the NATO governing body. And do not be surprised, he added, if the people of the US decide the alliance has no meaning any more.
So if the peoples of Europe are disenfranchised by their own leaders, and the US is no longer willing to defend nations that will not defend themselves, is there anything in European history to indicate that her peoples themselves cotton to actual democracy, or will they be tempted yet again by their unique gift to political theory, totalitarian socialism.
Albert Einstein, quoted above, was very sympathetic to socialism, as many scientists seem to be, despite the fact that nothing about socialism is scientific. He failed to see that totalitarian socialism is his worst fear, the "madman with the technologically advanced axe" writ large.
The Norwegian assassin still seems to be a lone operator. But has he jumpstarted something, as he clearly desires? Dr. Pryce-Jones cites Hitler's failed "Beerhall Putsch," which ended in his humiliation and imprisonment.
And transformation into a folk hero.
Hitler was no doubt insane. Joachim Fest's magisterial biography of Hitler is filled with days when he obsessed on suicide, only to be dissuaded by the likes of the execrable Cosima Wagner, Richard's daughter.
The term "Beerhall Putsch" is an Anglo-Saxon bit of condescension, forgetting what beerhalls are in Bavarian culture. It is about as serious as Charlie Chaplin's attempt to humiliate Hitler by making fun of him in The Great Dictator. Yeah, Charlie, that stopped him cold.
Bavaria was in 1923 still in the throes of civil insurrection following Germany's defeat. An emergency "commissioner" had been appointed to impose order, and he was speaking in the hall, which was filled with government leaders and politically minded citizens. Hitler thought he could ride a wave of popular rage straight to Berlin.
He did, in 1933. In 1934, he won an election (and he would have without Nazi shenanigans). Not only did he win it, but the overwhelming majority of Germans voted for Revolutionary Socialism, of either the German Workers or the International Workers variety. There were not many truly democratic candidates in that election, and fewer were elected.
And when the Germans got to Norway, many Norwegian joined the storied Norwegian resistance, while the Swedes just sat idly by. What is forgotten is that many Norwegians joined the Nazis and fought for them in other countries.
Will the Norwegian madman become the legend on which new horrors are based? European elites will have to address that issue.
Or are we reaching a new level in a much larger historical shift?
Because of Hegel's baleful influence, the great philosopher of science (and critic of phony political science) Karl Popper said that nearly all German theoretical writing of the last 200 years was useless.
The exception was Nietzsche, who did indeed write clearly, all too clearly. Because European governing elites had become completely unmoored from any morals, he said, we would see "strange brotherhoods of men" arise to fight with each other. So far, so prescient: competing versions of revolutionary socialism. Educated people remember that, though America's own elites seem to forget it.
But, Nietzsche continued, exactly because of technological advances, the 21st Century would be so much more--so much grander, so much more violent. Perhaps, he said, it would become the fate of the average person to just be something to be fought over.
One thinks of American drones, developed to defend democracy, in the hands of Anders Breivik's admirers, and one shudders.
Not a fun day, but a hat tip to longtime, tolerant friend James on the "clearly, all too clearly."
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:16 PM
Friday, April 29, 2011 :::
A Toast to
Well, TiVo and the internet.
Why? Because all those American women of the new-fangled type can go to work refreshed, confident that the circles under their eyes won't announce that in fact they got up at a ridiculous hour to watch the Big Event.
Analyses of these things seem silly. One European monarch commented many years ago that the way the 20th Century was going, there would ultimately be just five kings left: The King of Great Britain and the four in the deck of cards. It didn't quite turn out that way, but how many people need to be reminded that Scandavian countries all have monarchs? Despite the rantings and ravings of all sorts, including conservative American patriots, Her Majesty's loyal subjects are content to stay just that: subject, and loyal. Support for abolition hovers just above negligible, and that is their affair.
Here in the States, where so many women feign indifference, one is reminded of a poll before the nuptials of William's father and mother: American women were fascinated, but only 14% wanted to take Diana's place. In the event, that was a fairly wise estimation of that particular situation. As to the general desirability of being married to a prince,a lovely leftish lass of A Mind That Suits' acquaintance put it neatly: "We want the royal wedding, and not much else."
A Mind That Suits believes that such things are quite genetic, and everything, everything, indicates that the female half of the species dreams of a Knight in Shining Armor. It has been said a thousand times that James Cameron's brilliant Titanic was the greatest date movie ever made because it was a romance wrapped in an adventure story, which gives the Knight a chance to die for the Maiden in distress. So A Mind That Suits is fact sure that nearly every female he knows will have a comprehensive set of opinions about the whole affair, which they will only summarize for any annoying male who dares to ask. Their girlfriends will savor every delicious moment as they rehash it away from the ears of indifferent or contemptuous guys.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 9:37 AM
Thursday, April 28, 2011 :::
The Wisdom of
Life is somewhat sorting out for A Mind That Suits, but new problems arise.
In that, nothing is much different for him than it is for everyone else. He is always reminded at such junctures of a well-worn quote from Judy Garland. One famous Jack or other from the time--Parr or Lemon--found her on Rodeo Drive looking like the million dollars she didn't have on the very day that it was announced that her house had been repossessed. When whichever Jack it was asked her how she could look so good, she replied, "If there is one thing I have learned in life, it's that behind every cloud there's another cloud."
And here follows one of those leaps that so mystify the friends of A Mind That Suits.
Long ago readers of A Mind That Suits will remember that he came upon The Lord of the Rings rather late in life, after the second installment of Peter Jackson's wonderful (if not exactly loyal) film adaptation. At the time, this stunned one of his favorite people, Ranger Bill, who was his first ever boss, back when he was a wee slip of a college sophomore. Ranger Bill, who has long defended the borders of this Shire we call the United States, doing intellectual battle with the most sordid sorts of fools, was one of the first Americans to write about The Lord of the Rings when it was published in the US.
However, it was not the first time that Ranger Bill had experienced this strange lateness. His own first boss, who also toiled in the defense of what is true and just, heaped scorn on the idea of the book, until he finally decided to find out why Ranger Bill could possibly like it. Said boss immediately succumbed.
And, after a similarly long resistance, so did A Mind That Suits.
Having recently reached the end of a lengthy battle, he started a journey through Middle Earth to recharge the juices when another long brewing trouble boiled over.
Now, A Mind That Suits had long before taken to referring to any truly troublesome individual as "one of life's Gollums." Recently, he was forced to confront a person who appeared to be an actual Gollum, down to talking about A Mind That Suits in the third person as if he could not hear what was going on and continually complaining about how unfair life was, and how awful A Mind That Suits was.
A Mind That Suits had not known this was possible, but he sure knows it now.
Also, the hissing. Did anyone out there know that people actually hiss at people they dislike? A Mind That Suits didn't, but he sure knows it now.
He has had to completely change his assessment of the great artistry of J.R.R. Tolkien. Golllum had seemed to be an embodiment of what could happen when a person so internalized self-obsession that it completely ate them up.
Now, it seems that J.R.R. Tolkien must have known a person who was in fact so completely eaten up. When the twelve year gestation of The Lord of the Rings was finally over and they got a good look at the issue, perhaps the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College at Oxford, where Tolkien taught, looked at each other and said, "Well, he certainly got old Pemberton-Smythly-Pirbright down to a T."
This is not, it should be stressed, a happy discovery for A Mind That Suits. In discussing it with Ranger Bill, his thoughts crystallized thus:
What A Mind That Suits loves about The Lord of the Rings is that it keeps giving him insights into life.
What he hates about life is that it keeps giving him insights into The Lord of The Rings.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 1:30 PM
Monday, April 11, 2011 :::
Sidney Lumet, RIP
A Mind That Suits is busy planning bigger things, for himself and for the memory of his beloved uncle, the great political novelist, Allen Drury.
So he will return to blogging shortly, he promises. Or threatens.
Today, however, he would like to doff his hat in honor of his favorite film director not named Spielberg or Hitchcock, and that would be Sidney Lumet. Mr. Lumet was proud of the fact that he could direct the defining gritty police drama (Serpico), a romance (Lovin' Molly), a lush whodunnit (Murder on the Orient Express), the bleak and uncategorizable (Dog Day Afternoon), a social satire that nearly swept the Oscars,(Network), and an adaptation of one of the most famous stage dramas of the 20th Century (Equus).
Within 4 years.
With no uniform style. Not a shot, not an angle, not a color---not a frame---was common to those six films.
However, no fewer than five did indeed have one thing in common: brilliance. If one bears in mind the most memorable thing that Mr. Lumet ever said about "the business"--So many movies are bad because most movies should never have been made--five great films in four years is beyond remarkable.
So Lovin' Molly was a complete failure, by all accounts. No halfway with Sidney Lumet, one concludes.
OK, the movie with which Network competed most directdly at the Oscars, Rocky, was a great movie. But was it better than Network? Was its director, John G. Avildsen, (another "OK:" suppress that "who?")better than Sidney Lumet?
Once, as a youngster, A Mind That Suits was interested to stumble upon a Ukrainian community center in lower Manhattan, though he could hardly, at that age, have told you what a Ukrainian was. (He has since learned a great deal about Ukrainians. Many of his favorite former students were Ukrainian.)
He was thrilled later--much later--to learn that said community center was where Mr.Lumet rehearsed nearly all his films. He learned that during the first of many times that he read Mr. Lumet's memoir/how-to-guide, Making Movies
In his typically fitting tribute to Mr. Lumet, the great Roger Ebert comments, "If you care to read only one book about the steps in the making of a film, make it that one. There is not a boast in it, not a word of idle puffery. It is all about the work."
A Mind That Suits offers a hearty "hear, hear" in large part, but dares to disagree in one very large detail. True enough, it is perhaps the finest book about the process of making movies ever written. However, though Mr. Lumet may not have made an overt boast, pride shines clearly throughout the book over the one thing common to all his films. What could that be? If you didn't know going into the theater that it was a Sidney Lumet movie, you could never tell by watching it. That "no uniform style" style of his; he was entirely, and entirely justifiably, proud of that.
As all cinephiles must, A Mind That Suits here defers to Mr. Ebert to say that which needs to be said about Sidney Lumet.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:20 PM
Thursday, March 31, 2011 :::
A Mind That Suits has always wonered who Gloria Mundi was. Moreover, why should we be interested in her transit, and why what was wrong with the spelling?
Well, yes, A Mind That Suits confesses to having read a lot of P.G. Wodehouse in his day, and Bertie at his dimmest might have wondered thus.
But the hoary old phrase about the glory of the world came to mind as he took what was perhaps his last turn around the once mighty Borders at 18th and L in Washington, the very heart of Gucci Gulch. What is amazing is how quickly the glory has transited. This was one of the first megabookstores, back when the strategy seemed to be to have one per large metropolitan area, which surely would have worked.
Ah, but the expansion of Borders was the brainchild of someone at Kmart, which itself began a self-defeating superexpansion in the 1990s. Both companies--which eventually split--completely Starbucksized themselves. But people can always be tempted by that extra cup of coffee. That extra book--well, you only have to have shelfspace for one cup of coffee at a time.
People talk of the demise of the book. A Mind That Suits actually ordered five books on Amazon before he stopped into Borders. It's not "the book" that is going; it's one extremely dumb corporate strategy.
So Borders was a bright, shooting star of one stop cultural self-improvement in downtown DC for only 15 years, and soon it will be gone.
Certainly, nearly all of the good books are gone. The initial 20% off sale meant that all those Kenneth Cole-shod lawyers could scoop up a lot of things they were planning on buying, leaving those of us who waited for the 60% off sales to pick through the detritus. That, in turn, vividly illustrated a more enduring truth about bookselling: 10 or 20 percent of the books that are published sell enough to pay for the other 80 to 90, depending on how one counts. Few people in publishing have a sense of what book will sell, so publishers publish a lot.
That said, A Mind That Suits did pick up a spiffing picture book on tanks, the few collections by worthwhile poets that were left, and one of those illustrated reference books by a firm (HH) that copies the excellent DK format. This one was "The Complete Illustrated History of the Aztec and Maya." A Mind That Suits finds those cultures fascinating, and the romanticism of their admirers peculiar.
This book is --thank heavens for small favors--honestly romantic. A Mind That Suits did not know that those oddly shaped reclining statues have flat hats on so the still beating hearts of human sacrificial victims could be offered to the god represented--emphasis on the lower case "g." But what seems to thrill the writer is how "The relationship between the fields and the clouds, the land and the sky, the earth and the rain, is of prime importance."
The relationship of one human being to another, not so much.
The author continues,"Even the demand for sacrificial human blood by Huitzilopochtil and other deities was driven by the desire to guarantee the fertility of the earth....This religious understanding was given symbolic form in sacrifices to the Aztec spring and vegetation god Zipe Totec, whose victims were often shot with arrows rather than despatched (note: after, presumably, they had previously been spatched) by another method of sacrifice. They were tied to frames and as the blood flowed from their wounds, it dripped on to a stone that symbolically stood for the thirsty earth..."
Of course, there are less gruesome ways of feeding the thirsty (and hungry) earth, involving irrigation, crop rotation, and manure. But, you see, that is very rightbrained, and not holistic. So much better to view everything as One. That way, no particular parts--those pesky other human beings--carry too much weight.
It seems to A Mind That Suits--an unapologetic Roman Catholic--that they could have kept far more human beings alive and quite well fed if they had simply used the heads that God (upper case) gave them, separated the plants from the earth when using those heads, and figured out the best food for the plants--what they were really concerned about, though they did not know it. In fact, they managed to live in one of the most fertile places in the world and not know where little plants come from. (Little babies, they thought, came from subjugated tribes, or at least pubescent teenagers did.)
They also didn't figure out the wheel.
However, they were all one with the world and all that.
A Mind That Suits is glad he has the sumptuously illustrated book, with a text that both informs about ancient cultures and current multiculturalists. He is glad indeed all that can be had between two covers for only $5, and sad indeeder that it won't be for much longer...at least, not at 18th and L Streets NW, Washington, DC 20006.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 6:26 PM
Saturday, March 26, 2011 :::
A Great People
And A Once Great People,
Now Rendered Silly.
A Mind That Suits has had a busy two weeks, including preparation for an audition, but his mind has never been far from his blog and its loyal reader.
He realizes that his last post took a somewhat cock-eyed view of the still fresh Japanese earthquake, commenting on how tragedies bring out the deepest part of a nation's character. Still thinking that the worst had probably played out, he commented on the infallible Japanese instinct for snapping pictures, which seems an odd thing to comment on, but, really, that is very Japanese.
At the remove of two weeks, A Mind That Suits would like to point out how well that Japanese character has helped during weeks of unending horror and grinding hardship.
Throughout, the Japanese have acted in a very Japanese way, in the best sense. There are aspects of the Japanese character he does not find sympathetic--do not be surprised if, after the dust has settled and any acts of malfeasance or irresponsibility are uncovered, there are not consequent suicides--but the storied stoicism stands them here in good stead. There can be no doubt that everyone is doing what they need to do, and it is stunning that there has been no civil disobedience.
A Mind That Suits will have something more to say about that soon.
However, he logged on for another reason, and that is to report that, far away from NorthEastern Japan, a bunch of very privileged people were acting like the spoiled children they probably are. Please scroll down to the child with the poster: "cut my homework, not my school." If that doesn't sum up the socialist mentality...
Progressive websites here published lists of things like "the 10 most disgusting Tea Party posters," with special honors going to children holding signs written for them that say, "Don't spend my future."
At least the children of Tea Partiers will know that their parents did their best to defend them and save a future for them.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 4:16 PM
Friday, March 11, 2011 :::
A Couple of Quick Thoughts
There Will Always Be A Japan
Of course, the thoughts and prayers of all people of good will go out to the poor people of coastal Japan, who suffered a horrendous earthquake this morning, the 6th largest in recorded history.
Tragedy, however, not only brings out the best and worst in people, it brings out the deepest parts of their character. The earthquake did that, in one way familiar to anyone who has seen Japanese tourists.
Among many videos making the rounds is one of some businessmen in the middle of a meeting. When the earthquake strikes, about half the people do what most people do, which is panic. For those who have never been in an earthquake, they are doubly upsetting because they hit your inner ear, so you are swimming while the ground beneath you rolls. One man made it under a desk, flimsy but a rational option. One man sat stock still and held a piece of paper over his head, which would have done nothing to ensure his survival, but which did ensure that he will delight millions of giggly children the world over for days, perhaps months, to come.
The other half? They whipped out their cameras, leaned against the wall, and pressed "on," including the fellow who shot the video. He apparently stood in the middle of the room and attempted a circular pan. It worked about as well as could be expected, which adds to the drama of the tape.
If sleaze happens and there is no one there to report it, is it still sleaze?
A woman that no one remembers except lifetime subscribers to People has published a book about her lengthy friendship (and some time romance) with the late JFK, Jr., from prep school through college and into early adulthood. JFK, Jr, if the reader will recall, died proving that Papa Joe Kennedy was wrong: the normal rules in fact do apply to Kennedys. In the younger John's case, it's the one about not piloting a plane into a storm that one is not qualified to fly through, particularly if qualified pilots have all declined the opportunity.
Proving that some dreams never die, no matter what disproofs have offered themselves throughout the years, the reviewer in Entertainment Weekly concedes that the authoress is "a beautiful writer," but "one has to wonder" why she wrote the book "now." (Quick guess here: a publisher finally bought it.) It does offer a "glimpse" into "the most fiercely private family" (you read that right), but it feels "invasive" and "smacks of cheap sensationalism."
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:01 PM
Friday, February 25, 2011 :::
One Overlooked Fact
Plus, A Thought for the Weekend
It is breathtaking that the battle has spread so quickly. The mere introduction of President Obama's legislative program almost instantly sparked the Tea Party movement, which has simply gone from strength to strength. When they brought revolution through the means the Constitution mandates--elections--the Left showed instantly what it thought about those mandates, and started breaking both the spirit and the letter of the law willy-nilly.
And The Great Issue of the Next Decade--the state of public education--is on us, now.
There is only one thing that A Mind That Suits would add: Conservative commentators seem unwilling to state an obvious fact, when stating it would help their case instantly.
Much has been made about how public employees are paid as against private sector salaries, but either won't or can't.
It's the "employer contribution" to a worker's benefits.
In the private sector, the worker contributes 100 percent toward their benefits. Read that again: 100 percent.
But, but, but..."I only pay 50%, 40%, whatever..." No, you don't. When an employer takes you on, it calculates the total cost of employing you. Add up everything your pay stub: that's how the corporation sees your payments. The names given to each little slot on the form are just annoying accounting fictions, mandated by law.
The reason this works--the reason that socialism still seems plausible--is that people really think that corporarations are drawing on some vast reserve of gold coins in a safe behind the boss's desk, that it is part of some static thing called "wealth" that is kept from workers. The fact is that a business creates wealth through managing its assets to engage in trade, and at the end of each year it needs to show at least a 5% profit, or it goes under.
How much do public sector employees pay in to their benefits? Zero. Nothing. Nada. Their salary is fixed by some standard to make it look reasonable when compared to the private sector, and then the benefits are added on. In the case of public employers, they really do draw from a cash reserve--taxes and borrowing, which is taxing people later--and just hand it to the employees. No one is creating wealth. They just redistribute it.
Is there anyway to rectify the situation? Not really. Which is one more reason why public unions should not have easy access to the public vaults.
Thought for the Weekend
A Mind That Suits had a formal portrait taken, for the first time in decades, by a long time friend, a professioanl photographer. He would not hesitate to recommend his friend's services to one and all, but, alas, the friend's website is currently down, perhaps because it is February and the fees have not been rolling in.
In any case, he is much pleased with the results. His photographer friend was whipping through PhotoShop, eliminating what few flaws there are in the awesome visage that is A Mind That Suits, when he commented, "The camera never lies."
"Yeah," commented A Mind That Suits, "but the software does."
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 8:31 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 :::
Can We Export Height?
The internet has improved life in one way, and that is supplying us with lists of superlative objects and accomlpishments, complete with pictures and references. Well, people supply us with the lists, just as people supply us with the internet, but the internet makes the lists possible and widely available.
In any case, today brought a fun list from Bing of the world's tallest whatevers, which of course had to include the mighty California Redwood. There, one was told that "it can't be denied that the Sequoia Sempivirens, or California Redwood, is a source of great height."
This caused A Mind That Suits to wonder, "What, exactly, is a 'source of great height?'" Was there a Fr. Paez to share the honor of discovering it with a Sir Richard Burton? Would Ponce de Leon, despairing of finding the Fountain of Youth, have settled for a few extra inches, centimeters not having been invented then? How is height extracted? Can it be bottled? Does Northern California produce enough of it to be exported? What are the estimated reserves? What other sources are there to great height?
Ah, the worlds of wonder opened by the internet...
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 5:10 PM
Monday, February 21, 2011 :::
Thought for the Day
The modern male generally falls into two types: those who use those "baby changing stations" as shelves, and those who don't.
The first are driven by a rational fear of letting anything other than the soles of their shoes touch the floor of a men's room.
The second are driven by an utterly irrational fear that some male some time actually used it to changea baby.
Well, there is a third type: the ones who keep hand sanitizer at the ready at all times, because, really, you never should let anything other than the soles of your shoes touch the floor of any men's room, and there is the vaguest chance that some guy will have to use a "baby changing station" to change a baby, although one can increase one's chances of avoiding that by staying away from a liberal church or some place with the words "community" or "center" in its name.
A Mind That Suits has seen this strange occurrence perhaps four times since those things appeared, andhe has always lived in "progressive" neighborhoods.
A Mind That Suits carries hand sanitizer everywhere.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 1:01 PM
Sunday, February 20, 2011 :::
I Loved, Loved, Loved
There were two ways to begin this essay, so A Mind That Suits has chosen all three.
A Mind That Suits found himself sitting at his usual Sunday morning perch, a barstool at his local Ruby Tuesday, downing a seafood omelet with soda water on the side and laughing at the shenanigans of the young staff who barely made it into work. He was watching Fareed Zakaria when the single gentleman to his left blurted out, “Are things that serious?” To which A Mind That Suits responded, “I am afraid so.”
Indeed, he commented to long-time internet friend James, who runs The Best of the Web Today over at that other website every educated layman goes to for news and commentary, the Wall Street Journal, that, with Egypt, the budget, Planned Parenthood, and, now, the Apocalypse in Madison, things to make fun of are in rather short supply.
Faced with an accusation of being negative from a reader during the Blitz in London, the great George Orwell said he liked praising things, when there was anything to praise, but “the fact is we live in times when causes for rejoicing are not numerous.” He said that as preface to a charming essay on the roses one could buy cheaply before the war at Woolworth’s, the English equivalent of Kresge’s before it became K-mart and nearly went out of business.
A Mind That Suits has many things to say about Madison, the most cheerful being that the unions have found a way for everyone to focus on how ridiculous their contracts are. But he would here like to take a page from the great Orwell, and spend a moment praising something, or rather, someone: the great Roger Ebert.
A Mind That Suits is very fond of movies, but he is not a movie person, the way movie people describe themselves. He would lose at a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but never tires of his favorite films, Saving Private Ryan and Lawrence of Arabia topping the list. But he does keep up with the movie industry, both as a matter of personal interest and financial interest.
There are lots of movie reviewers, but only a handful from whom A Mind That Suits has turned to for a real education. The list makes clear that A Mind That Suits is not in the Spring of Life, as there are some younger reviewers who are quite good. But these have repaid careful reading many times over.
Stanley Kauffman has written for The New Republic for 53 years, since 1958,but remembers seeing Fred Astaire’s last Broadway show, some time in the 1920’s (when, admittedly, he must have been very young indeed.)
Pauline Kael wrote memorable reviews, of course, but one had to sort of brace oneself before settling in, as her work had that over-indulgent length afforded writers for the New Yorker in its heyday. Still, her reputation is well-deserved.
John Simon of the National Review was never less than fascinating—a true master of his second language—but not for nothing did his critics reach for the cheapest and laziest adjective to hurl at Germans. A Mind That Suits can hardly think of anyone else he read as a wee slip of lad simply so it would sharpen his skills at disagreeing with someone. It wasn’t just Simon’s snarling anti-Ameicansim—though one wonders why the fiercely patriotic William F. Buckley, Jr., hired him—nor the fact that he wore his erudition heavily. No, one profited from reading Mr. Simon as an object lesson in the kind of personality traits one should discourage in oneself.
Then there is Mr. Ebert. A Mind That Suits, having first become acquainted with Mr. Ebert on TV, used to go to a Roger Ebert print review half expecting a screed filled with bile and sarcasm. The thing is, he almost never found it, and now he knows what to expect.
Despite the crusty exterior, Mr. Ebert seems to have an absolute inability to be unfair. He determinedly reviews each movie on its own terms, and so will not, say, pair a Muppet movie with a nihilistic German allegory involving an necrophiliac elephant, the way John Simon would have. (Mr. Simon would have found a way to say that the elephant had something to teach infantile Americans. He called a collection of reviews of European films Something to Declare. Clever title, but one only has to declare valuables. That about says it all. The same title was used, by the way, for a collection of lesbian travel writing.)
That is another endearing thing about Mr. Ebert: though clearly a leftist, he is thoroughly comfortable in his American skin. It would be probably impossible to find a sentence he wrote after the age of 30 which even hinted at some mystical superiority of European films.
Moreover, Mr. Ebert is the kind of person who improves with age. He finally found true love, in the person of a prominent trial lawyer (so she’s tough), and he has borne a nearly unbearable illness with grace and wit.
Put all that together, and what you get from Mr. Ebert are enjoyable fair-minded reviews that convince you to skip a lot of movies for the simple reason that, as the great director Sidney Lumet put it, most movies should never have been made. One never wastes one's time reading Mr. Ebert, however.
Boy, does that man know movies.
And boy, can he write. The most famously difficult thing in criticism is to explain why something is good. Mr. Ebert, perhaps frustrated that he spent so much time being fair to movies that did not repay the compliment, began a series of essays on what he calls simply The Great Movies. Those reviews now number 300, and every one repays careful scrutiny. One learns how every detail of the film craft contributes to a masterpiece.
By the time he builds to this line—“Of all the movies I have seen, (The Third Man) most completely embodies the romance of going to a movie”—you just know he is right, you know why, and you have an uncontrollable urge to log in to Netflix and stream The Third Man onto your desktop.
Which is exactly what A Mind That Suits did.
Mr. Ebert was right. And A Mind That Suits knows why.
He is also capable of writing this lovely line, which, one must remember, was inspired by a trial attorney: “You don’t just find true love; you team up with somebody and build it from the ground up.”
But that lovely line came in one of those rare things, a truly scathing Ebert review.
He hates, you see, the Hollywood myth of true love dropping into your lap, as it were. Even though it is the experience of A Mind That Suits that some people do indeed find true love at first sight, the blessed souls, Mr. Ebert is by and large correct: those who set out to find true love are often bitterly disappointed, and the movies that acknowledge that are usually better.
But the flip side of Mr. Ebert’s fair-mindedness is that when a movie really deserves it, he gives it everything it deserves. Poor things.
The scandal surrounding Michael Cimino’s career ending flop Heaven’s Gate has somewhat receded, and there are those who maintain that its reputation as the biggest film disaster of all time is unearned.
Roger Ebert would not be among those who maintain that. His review commences: We begin with a fundamental question: Why is Heaven’s Gate so painful and unpleasant to look at? I’m not referring to its content, but to its actual visual texture. This is one of the ugliest films I have ever seen.
By the time you get to the end of that review, you know that Heaven’s Gate fully earned the reputation that it has, you know why, and you are certain that Mr. Ebert is right.
And now A Mind That Suits has reached the end of this little appreciation, and finds he has an opening unused. He was going to talk about bathroom books, and the need to have a well-chosen shelf full of them.
No, not those kinds of books. He means books that have worthwhile things to read in short chunks. The best tend to be books of quotations—especially books of quotations from idiots, such as Rock Confidential, compiled by Coral Amende, which embodies all that Frank Zappa meant when he said that rock interviews were written by people who can’t write about people who can’t talk for people who can’t read. But—to cut to the chase—it is just as good to have a well-written book full of deft writing. Mr. Ebert got the idea to put his rare completely negative reviews into book form, and so we have I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, published in 2000 (To show how rarely such reviews come from Mr. Ebert’s pen, the book spans 30 years.)
To give his readers a taste, A Mind That Suits here provides a sampling, more or less chosen at random. Actually,that's not exactly right: he found so many pithy quotable comments he just gave up the game.
He will comment however, that the book provides an example of what William F. Buckley said on being asked to write an introduction for a Doonesbury compilation: when daily offerings are read in one sitting, one notices things that one might not have if each piece was read as it was first published.
In the case of this book, it is clear that what drives Mr. Ebert nuts is a bad script. He might praise the cinematography and acting in a good movie, but in bad one—well, it’s the thought that counts
At the end A Mind That Suits includes what is, without question, the most "inside babeball" put-down he has ever read.
On Jim Carrey’s Ace Venture: Pet Detective:
The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura’s weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can’t understand you.
On Alligator, written by John Sayles”
The alligator is smart enough to travel all over the city without being seen…You would not think it would be that easy for a forty-foot alligator to sneak around incognito, but then, New Yorkers are awfully blasé.
On a Richard Dreyfuss movie that would explain why we don’t hear about Richard Dreyfuss anymore:
Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time.
On some movie or other:
He’s the kind of lawyer ambulances chase.
On Jungle 2 Jungle, a Tim Allen vehicle.
The plot…has been removed from a French film. The operation is a failure, and the patient dies.
(He was even harder on the French film.)
On Frozen Assets (never heard of it either):
If I were more of a hero, I would spend the next couple of weeks breaking into theaters where this movie is being shown and leading the audience to safety.
On a Billy Crystal/Robin Williams vehicle:
Father’s Day is a feature-length sitcom with too much sit and not enough com.
On Hard Rain, a disaster/crime flick:
By the time we arrive at the actual story, I am essentially watching a documentary about wet actors at work.
The following could apply to a lot of this guy’s movies:
When Roman Polanski makes a bad movie, he does it with a certain thoroughness.
And now, for the pièce de résistance.
There is abroad on the face of the earth a creature named Rex Reed, who aspired at one point to be Oscar Wilde, but who settled for being a film reviewer, in which capacity he revealed himself to be a gossip writer. His reviews primarily discuss whom he loathes and whom he would like to sleep with--at least they did when he was famous. That was when Women’s Wear Daily was not primarily about women’s wear, but the grasping society mavens who wore the dresses. Mr. Reed was both their arbiter, and pet poodle.
He is a type that has been with us at least since La Rochefoucauld, but Mr. Reed was really made possible by mass media. Ultimately, there came to be so many of him—he is easily reproducible—that they had to come up with a phrase—"the pretentious, anti-American Euroweenie." The condition is much worse in Mr. Reed’s case, because he is not actually European.
Now, in all honesty, A Mind That Suits gets his prejudice in part from his beloved mother, a stringer for WWD, and his beloved uncle, the reporter and novelist. They both knew him personally, and couldn’t stand him.
But they were not alone. Indeed, the one time A Mind That Suits found the heavy erudition of John Simon useful was when Mr. Simon unleashed a withering review of a collection of Rex Reed’s reviews. The attack provided far more heat than light, but it did prove—if it needed proving—that in a battle between an educated, pretentious anti-American Euroweenie and an illiterate, pretentious anti-American Euroweenie, the educated one will win hands down.
Mr. Ebert chose the high road. In one review, he slips in a story about Mr. Reed. Here, Mr. Ebert shows his mastery. The entire story is told simply—about a man caught in a misunderstanding, with no scolding of the reader for not getting the inside joke.
For his real audience, however, the true cinéphiles who frequent Cannes and live and die by the Cahiers du Cinéma, he delivers a coup de grâce that is beautiful in its economy.
From a review of a film called Nomads:
That reminds me of a classic story from the Cannes Film Festival a few years back, when Rex Reed got an engraved invitation in French. The only word he could read was “Eskimo.”
For the rest of the story, read Mr. Ebert’s full review.
A Mind That Suits may have misled the unsuspecting reader. Alas, the copy he is reading of I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie will not be taking its place on the bathroom shelf. It belongs to American University, and they have already notified him that they want it back.
However, Mr. Ebert decided to commit a new compilation of negative reviews. A Mind That Suits found it remaindered on Amazon, and his copy now has pride of place in a certain stack of honored books.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 4:36 PM