Improve the web with Nofollow Reciprocity.

Two hundred posts! I think that merits a little reflection and reminiscence.

This blog has been an ever-shifting beast since it started, neither fish nor fowl:  I’m as likely to be writing about pop culture one day as about politics the next. I think taken as a whole, though, the selection of subjects says something about me and how I see the world. (And perhaps also about my readers: the niche-fandom posts tend to attract far more hits than the political ones, which may indicate a preference for superficial topics or, more charitably, may just indicate that the latter posts are lost in a sea of better-known political sites.)

Part of what this wide range of interests says, I imagine, is that I’m not particularly settled in life; that I’m always looking for the next thing to occupy my attention. And the thought arises that perhaps this isn’t just true of me; that in some ways it’s emblematic of my generation. The idea is bubbling up lately (if not for the first time) that Generation X is facing its own unique variety of midlife crisis. I certainly wouldn’t claim to offer the voice of a generation—indeed, the very concept of having a “voice of a generation” can’t really be discussed in a GenX context without using quotation marks to signal the overt irony—but I do think it’s interesting to look at where we stand at what’s quaintly called “midlife.”

For instance…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments 14 Comments »

Up front: I liked it.

Sunday’s final episode of Lost, that is… a show I’ve been watching with fascination for five years now. (No, not six… I missed S1 when it aired, but got hooked by the DVDs.)

That’s not to say that I found it completely satisfying, especially on an intellectual level. But clearly the show was shooting for emotional catharsis in the finale, more than anything else, and on those terms it succeeded very effectively. It was true to the characters we’ve come to know and care about, hitting emotional beats that almost brought tears to my eyes more than once. And it didn’t do that by resorting to cheap sentimentality; it was well-earned sentiment. As a viewer, one had to have been following along with these characters through years of travail, had to understand who they were, what they’d experienced, what kind of redemption they’d been seeking, in order for those moments to work. When everything is weighed in the balance, I think that this will go down as one of the most ambitious, and artistically successful, shows in television history.

[Spoilers below.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Comments 15 Comments »

David Brooks, throughout his long history as a pundit, consistently seems to love drawing sweeping generalizations from just a handful of anecdotal examples. Sometimes even just one. In his latest column, he’s resorted to using an imaginary one.

Brooks retells the fable of the ant and the grasshopper through an imaginary middle-American voter he calls “Ben.” Ben is the ant. Ben came from a broken home, but “worked hard” and got “decent grades” and went to a couple of mediocre colleges to study hotel management, in which field he’s worked for the past 20 years, only to find himself increasingly disenchanted with America’s political culture… in a fashion, Brooks imagines, that’s manifested in last Tuesday’s primary results, in which incumbents of both parties got a drubbing. (IMHO a well-deserved one; I was delighted to see Joe Sestak take down Arlen Specter, to see Bill Halter force Blanche Lincoln into a runoff. Even Rand Paul’s victory in Kentucky bodes well from certain angles. And the victory in PA-12’s special election, where Mark Critz (D) defeated Tim Burns (R) in a district that actually swung for McCain in ‘08, was a pleasant surprise that confounded lots of pundits.)

But since Brooks is making up the example to suit his predetermined thesis, he gets to ignore inconvenient realities. His little fable elides quiet a few along the way, some of them rather significant…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Comments 6 Comments »

The critical reaction to the new movie Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe in the title role, has been decidedly mixed. It averages a mere 45% from critics compiled on RottenTomatoes.com, many of whom seem to have been cribbing from the same notes. They complain of the movie’s 140-minute length (apparently gleaned from a press kit rather than their own watches; the actual running time is just 130); they complain that the climactic beach battle evokes Saving Private Ryan; they complain that it’s an origin story seemingly designed to set up a “franchise”; most often, they complain that it’s not Errol Flynn, that it’s too short on swashbuckling merriment, that “the Robin Hood of myth and moviedom is for the most part AWOL,” as WaPo’s Michael O’Sullivan puts it.

Much of this carping seems to me not just wrong but fundamentally misguided. I’m a huge and unapologetic fan of Flynn’s classic 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, but that movie’s already been made, and it’s out there on disc for anyone who wants to enjoy it again. This film isn’t an attempt to remake that, or the much more forgettable 1991 Kevin Costner version of the story, or any of the other literally dozens of film and TV adaptations to which the Robin Hood legends have been subjected. It’s not trying to give viewers the same old cereal in a new box. It’s trying to come up with a new take, a story different enough to be worth telling. In large part it succeeds, and taken on its own terms, it’s a heartily enjoyable film.

Neither the creative revisionism nor its success should be a surprise. Ridley Scott is the director who gave us such films as Blade Runner and the classic Thelma & Louise, not to mention—in previous work with Crowe—Gladiator, American Gangster, and Body of Lies. As for Crowe, those three films alone demonstrate his phenomenal range as an actor (nearly as much of a chameleon as Edward Norton), even without looking at his work in other roles as diverse as L.A. Confidential, his Oscar-nominated turn in The Insider, and his incredibly layered performance in the otherwise mediocre A Beautiful Mind. Both men are prolific, but neither is known for doing retreads of familiar work. Teamed with Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter behind L.A. Confidential and the recent and unjustly neglected Green Zone, Scott and Crowe have turned out a Robin Hood that does not attempt to cater, as Kenneth Turan observes, to “those expecting traditional Robin Hood satisfactions.” It’s more history than Hollywood—or at least a well-balanced compromise between the two.

[Spoilers ahead.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Comments 13 Comments »

Why? Why does a presidential administration that came into office on the diligent labor and fervent hopes of progressives continue to send progressives the message that it doesn’t need them, indeed that it doesn’t even care what they think, that their principles and passions are nothing more than chips to be bargained away as evidence of the White House’s “post-partisan” cred?

Today Barack Obama announced that his nominee to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court will be Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General, former Dean of Harvard Law. After much debate and speculation in the press and online, the decision isn’t really a surprise. It is, however, a major disappointment.

A Supreme Court vacancy is always a huge opportunity, and my personal hopes for Obama’s choice when this one arose could be summed up in just three words: please be bold. I had hoped that with (as it were) strategist David Axelrod whispering in one ear (recently fairly outspoken about the pointlessness of seeking cooperation from the right) and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel whispering in the other (advocating triangulation and expediency, valuing power over principle as ever), for a change Obama might recapture the spirit that animated his campaign and decide that, if the GOP is determined to give him a fight, he’ll make it one with stakes worth winning.

But once again, he didn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments 10 Comments »

Just a quick observation prompted by events in recent weeks. These events are unrelated, yet they form a pattern. Together, they put Washington on the hot seat and shine a spotlight on its (questionable) ability to act in the public interest.

Specifically, if…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments 8 Comments »

Either way, it’s definitely disturbing, and (a term I don’t often use) un-American.

What is? The fact that the Obama White House has ordered the CIA to assassinate an American citizen, wherever and whenever he may be found. A man who’s been charged with no crime, much less convicted of one.

The ostensible reason? “Terrorism,” of course.

That this is absolutely unconscionable and inexcusable should go without saying. But apparently it doesn’t, since people I know to be smart, thoughtful liberals have been making excuses for it. So let’s talk about it for a bit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments 8 Comments »

As of this week, I can happily announce that I’ve accepted an offer from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) to pursue a Ph.D in Public Policy, complete with four years of guaranteed funding and a research assistantship. SPEA is the #3 public policy school in the nation according to the U.S. News rankings (right behind Syracuse’s Maxwell School, and tied with Harvard’s Kennedy School).

A doctorate is something I’d considered for many years, but I’d hesitated to take the plunge. But the job market had been showing me no love, and last year I decided to get serious about the idea and apply to some graduate programs. I kept this close the vest until now, being unsure how it would turn out. But now it’s real, and I’m doing it, and hoping this will let me shape the kind of personally fulfilling, intellectually stimulating career I’ve always wanted. In August I’ll be relocating to Bloomington, Indiana. With any luck, in five years I’ll have more letters after my name and a junior faculty position somewhere.

But man, let me tell you, getting even this far was not easy, and it came surprisingly close to not happening at all…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments 14 Comments »

As the health care reform debate enters what appears to be the home stretch (albeit not for the first time), what Washington is offering us (the citizenry) boils down to a choice between bad and worse. The legislation now under consideration, both the Senate bill and the slight variation on same presented as “Obama’s bill,” is the end result of a process that has methodically stripped away almost everything that made this reform effort worth undertaking in the first place. They’ve thrown out the baby and kept the bathwater.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 10 Comments »

At last, the grand finale! Over the course of several previous installments (all linked below), diligent effort and careful reasoning have allowed us to structure a timeline of all 60 cases in the Sherlock Holmes canon, to a degree of precision of at least a month or season and a likely year even for the most ambiguous of them. I have endeavored throughout to honor (rather than contradict) whatever chronological information Watson gave us to work with, and in only one instance (WIST’s reference to 1892) was this flatly impossible. The results illuminate a number of fascinating relationships among the cases as they progress over time.

However, there is more to Watson’s writings than just the chronicled cases (and for that matter, there is more to the life of Holmes and his biographer than just the writings). Watson alludes from time to time to other cases he had recorded in his notes but which for various reasons he never chose to put in print—many of which are mentioned with enough chronological information to allow one to place them in the timeline. (These tantalizing untold tales have inspired many a latter-day author, some of whom claim to have discovered lost notes or manuscripts in Watson’s own hand, and some of whose works ring with a sense of authenticity… but there is no way to prove them authentic, and it would be foolhardy to accept them as legitimate. The Canon is what Dr. Watson allowed to have published under the auspices of his agent, Dr. Conan Doyle, no more and no less. And the sad fact is that the vaults of Cox & Co. Bank at Charing Cross, wherein Watson in his later years preserved the “battered tin dispatch box” that held his papers (as he described in THOR), was destroyed by the London Blitz during World War II. No further reminiscences from Watson’s pen shall ever be forthcoming, so as to unrevealed details all we can do is speculate… which can, however, be fun in its own right.)

This, then, is the entire chronology of the career of Sherlock Holmes, as worked out in earlier installments, supplemented here with additional notes and observations on unchronicled cases and other pertinent matters of historical context:

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments 46 Comments »

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline
This blog has been fine-tuned by 7 WordPress Tweaks