Tuesday, January 31, 2006

No Go Filibuster

Let me start off by saying,

Thank You Justice O'Connor for your service. I may not have agreed with you, but you have served honorably.


Congrats, Justice Alito may you serve with understanding and wisdom.

I also want to reiterate something here I said on the Wizbang Bomb Squad. The attitude and tenor of the activist Left has given an opening to Republican challengers of Senate Democrats of all stripes in the '06 races.

Those Democrats who supported filibustering Alito have shown how beholden they are to the Left, whose ideas the moderate voter increasingly reject.

Those Democrats who supported cloture are not going to receive networking or money from the activists and will face bruising primary campaigns. If you think the hatred directed at conservatives was bad, when they turn on their own it will be worse. Turncoat heretics are how they are being portrayed.

The dirt will be dug up and displayed for moderate voters to see and the voters will vote Republican if only because they do not want to be associated with hate filled crazies. Voters do not want to support officials who are endorsed by incoherent, obcenity spewing, foam-flecked paranoids.

For officials like Senator Cantwell, who had a bare majority vote last time, even in a state as blue as Washington, Leftists will be dealing the campaign a body blow that will be difficult to recover from.

Ed Whelen at NRO says this:

Kerry and Kennedy have turned the wrath of the Left against those 19 Democrats (nearly half the caucus) who voted for cloture. (Byron York quotes one angry, obscene diatribe from DailyKos.) I don’t see how this is going to help red-state Democrats. If only Kerry and Kennedy could have been uniters rather than dividers

Tracked at Don Surber's Tuesday's Best Posts

Monday, January 30, 2006

Squeak, Squeak

The Infant is a bit, um, spoiled. She woke up from a nap and after being fed and changed was put in her saucer. Besides the built in amusements on the saucer there are plenty of toys clipped onto it. I gave her sweet potato puffs and she ate them contentedly and played with her toys while I walked back and forth from the laundry room. She finished her puffs and refused all other edibles.

Jump, jump. She watched me pass with an armful of laundry, her eyes expectant.

I came back her way, arms empty. Jump, jump, giggle, coo. Her eyes turned accusing as I passed her by. Those arms were EMPTY mom.

I filled milk cups for the other kids, and refilled the endless request for more peanutbutter sandwiches.

Jump, Jump, JUMP. Mehhhhh. The warning. You only get one. Waaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

She jumps, she arches. I pass by with apple slices. The premptory cry becomes a full fledged shriek of anger. The back of her head gently taps a button on the saucer.

Squeak, squeak. The light squeak cuts through the din. Silence.

Jump. Arch. Squeak, squeak. A new game.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Challenger 20 years later

I was in 5th grade when the Challenger exploded. That year is one I remember with great clarity; not just the events, but the sounds, the scents, the sensations. I think the Challenger is one of the things that anchored everything about that year in my memory.

The class had gathered with two others to watch the launch being broadcast on a TV. Everyone was excited and chattering. There was someone sitting on my desk and another with their foot propped on the metal bar that connected the chair to the desk. The other fifth grade teacher went into the supply closet and raided the Twinkie stash Mr. P. kept on the top shelf. The teachers sipped coffee and ate Twinkies.

At last they began the countdown to launch, and the chattering quieted. We cheered as the shuttle launched and then fell silent whe
n it exploded. No one moved for a minute, we were all frozen in place, then the teacher who had snagged the Twinkies hurried forward and turned off the TV, her coffee slopping on Mr. P.'s desk. The other teachers gathered together their classes and went back to their classrooms, silent and sober.

Mr. P. was a cold and retentive man. That was one of two times I remember him showing much emotion. Even through my own shock I could see how stunned he was. He launched into a explanation of risk and the likelihood of an accident.

The Challenger accident was the thing in my kidhood that impressed on my mind the immediacy of death. I had been aware of death in a vague way, as something I knew in my mind. Challenger brought in to me in a visceral fashion. People died in front of my eyes, it wasn't a movie, it wasn't pretend; it didn't happen again until 15 years later on a sunny September day.

Round up at Michelle Malkin's.

Ox tail Soup

It has been cold and rainy here lately. It's rained everyday since Christmas. The rain is not steady anymore, but the wind has started. The wind kicks up a little bit more, a precursor to the spring wind storms that blow off the ocean. So we need something warm, something rich and cozy. Cue Oxtail Soup. It's mmmm, mmm meaty.

Oxtail Soup

3 pounds oxtail
1 large onion coarsely chopped
1 tbsp garlic minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef bouillon
1 tbsp vinegar
3 large carrots sliced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup wild rice

In the bottom of medium pot, brown oxtail pieces on all sides. Add onion and garlic, sautee until onion just begins to turn clear. Add boullion, vinegar, bay leaf, and 2 cups water. Cover and simmer about 2 hours. Add barley, rice and vegetables and simmer another 45 minutes or so until meat and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I always knew. Even as a young girl. It explains so much.
Your results:
You are Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man
You are a beautiful princess
with great strength of character.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Ht: Richmond

A Movement to Support

This I like. Of course, like any protest the winning side is evaluated by the protest babes that support it. Perhpas the relative coolness factor can also be taken into account. Hmm. Sean Connary, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, Samuel Jackson, Ewan MacGregor. Pretty good protest babes to me. (ht: Dave Barry)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mary Poppins

This week's movie: Mary Poppins (1964).

It had been a while since I had seen this movie, but I recently got the 40th Anniversary edition from Netflix. I love the book, and while the movie was charming there is something about the borderline creepiness, not-quite-safeness of Mary in the book that is quite enjoyable. There is a scene in the book where Michael gets up on the wrong side of the bed and decides he will be naughty all day. He sneaks Mary Poppins magic compass away from her and uses it to travel around the world. Without Mary though, the world is a daunting and frightful place. Instead of the friendly greetings he expected he finds:

They were rushing upon him from all our quarters of the room with their weapons raised above their heads, and, instead of looking kind and friendly as they had done that afternoon, they now seemed threatening and full of revenge. They were almost on top of him, their huge, terrible, angry faces looming nearer and nearer. He felt their hot breath on his face and saw their weapons tremble in their hands.

Later in the book we meet Mrs Corry (who is only lightly touched on in the movie), whose fingers snap off to become sweets and who is cruel to her large daughters. She is perhaps the only one Mary is deferential to. P.L. Travers, author of the book, wanted many things changed about the movie (removing the chalk drawing sequence or one) but Walt Disney refused. The compass sequence, mentioned above, was removed in preproduction.

Walt Disney was set on casting Julie Andrews after seeing her in a stage production of Camelot. In fact, it was her role of Mary Poppins which landed her the role of Maria in Sound of Music (1965). In The Sound of Musicals, a thoroughly enjoyable excursion through Rogers and Hammerstien movies, the anecdote is told. It seems there was some concern that Julie Andrews did not have a broad enough vocal range to portray Maria. To allay concerns, Disney let them get a peek of Mary Poppins, in the can but not yet released. They immediately called Andrews to offer her the role.

Anyway, the movie. Something I saw which I had never seen before. It is Bert, not Mary, who effects the needed change in Mr. Banks. Bert is able to understand that Mr. Banks is not stuffy to be stuffy, rather that he is weighted down with responsiblity and no longer knows how to let go of it for a time.

"Chim, Chim, Cheree" is my favorite song in the movie.

Beating Your Head Against the Wall

It got us a movie though.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Decision '08

Yes, yes it's much too early to be talking '08 candiates, well except for politicians, Patrick Ruffini, and well, Mark at Decision '08. Still, Island Passage and I are going to start a draft Ken Blackwell movement. We've been back and forth about who looks good, who's viable. No one really floats the boat. McCain? Rudy? Allen? Some of the people reading this blog are wondering if Allen is the first or last name of the candidate I'm talking about. No pizazz, no yeah baby moments.

Then Kathryn Lopez at NRO linked to this City Journal article. All I could think was: "I wish this guy could be our '08 candidate." From the article:

Ken Blackwell has so many people worried because he represents a new political calculus with the power to shake up American politics. For Blackwell is a fiscal and cultural conservative, a true heir of the Reagan revolution, who happens to be black, with the proven power to attract votes from across a startlingly wide spectrum of the electorate. Born in the projects of Cincinnati to a meat-packer who preached the work ethic and a nurse who read to him from the Bible every evening, Blackwell has rejected the victimology of many black activists and opted for a different path, championing school choice, opposing abortion, and staunchly advocating low taxes as a road to prosperity. The 57-year-old is equally comfortable preaching that platform to the black urban voters of Cincinnati as to the white German Americans in Ohio’s rural counties or to the state’s business community.


Heading into the 2006 elections, Blackwell is clearly on a roll. But as the election draws closer, he will have to deal with increasingly insistent accusations from within his own party that he is too conservative for Ohio, while Democrats, public-employee unions, and social-services advocacy groups try to paint him as an extremist. Indeed, already signs of how the campaign will play out are visible in the state’s mainstream press, which celebrated Blackwell’s early successes as an up-and-coming black politician but now increasingly dismisses him as outside the political mainstream.


“This is what happens to you when you are a politician like Ken, who is more interested in change than in playing along with the old-boy network,” says former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who enlisted Blackwell to serve on one of his advisory groups in the mid-1990s. “Ken Blackwell is a guy who pursues big ideas.”

We need someone to pursue big ideas. Assuming Mr. Blackwell, is successful this fall he will have two years executive experience as Governor. Young, dynamic, and charismatic he's what the right needs. Draft Ken!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Law and Order will be Lost

So the main part of this Breitbart article is about West Wing getting canceled. I say, who cares? It jumped the shark about season 2 or so. What grabbed my attention is the line up shuffle. They are pitting Law and Order agaist Lost??!! When Jerry Orbach died so did the last lingering interest I had towards L&O. Law and Order can not possibly compete with the mysterious island full of good looking men. (Naveen Andrews, I'm pointing at you. Please, please, please audition for Ammar in Lions of Al Rassan.) L&O is toast.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Link

New link on the ole blogroll. Alarm! - movies and tv stuff. Plus, Mr. Suderman has a great line I'm going to steal: "Narrowly escaping death-by-incoherent-plot in most every scene"
Isn't it grand?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Who is the Parent? You are!

I must confess, I have bought a themed product or two for my kids. Albertsons had Pirates of the Caribbean fruitsnacks on sale for a dollar a box. The Verbalist has a pirate groove going on with his toys so I bought a box. It was an impulse buy too, horrors! I bought boxes of cornflakes ad nauseum to collect UPCs for the Cinderella spoon set for my daughter and niece. If there is a Princess Jasmine on it chances are I have considered it's purchase. You noticed I was the one purchasing the goods, I am after all more flush than the preschoolers. I make the meals, I drive to the grocery store. I provide the children snack options, so I have no sympathy for this abdication of personal responsibility masquerading as a lawsuit.

It's not as if Spongebob is only slapped on sugary cereal and Pop Tarts. His inane grin graces products from bandages to chicken soup. Indeed, if the kids watch the cartoon mindlessly they are more apt to ask for a krab patty, the delicacy of choice for Spongebob and crew. It could be worse, Scooby Doo graces kid snacks and dog treats alike. What's next, some illiterate upset they fed dog biscuits to a three year old and suing Purina for their dumb mistake?

Here's a parenting tip for you: if your kid wants junk food with a cartoon character, and you want to indulge them, let them choose one. One. One will not ruin your kid. If they are ungrateful, they lose privilege for that one. Heck by the bandages or a pencil emblazoned with a cartoon character and circumvent the food issue altogther. The thing to remember here is you are the parent. You buy the groceries, you are in authority over your children. Sheesh.

Tracked at Michelle Malkin.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Yeps on the Steps

The WSJ has an article about Green Eggs and Ham, the best Seuss book written. For all the high flown meanings ascribed to the humble text, the real meaning is quite clear to a parent and child. Don't distain food you've never had because it looks funny. Sometimes a moral is just a moral.

Ad Critters

Via Don Surber comes the Forbes list of America's Most Loved Spokes-Creatures. The list includes such abominations as Poppin Fresh and the Snuggle Bear.

I know I am not alone in my loathing of Poppin Fresh and the Snuggle Bear. Poppin Fresh has the sinister giggle most closely associated Frank Booth. He is a dough boy happy to put his dough compatriots in an oven and then shove them into people's mouths. Then there is the Snuggle Bear who wipes his nose on your stack clean towels, under the auspices of smelling the freshness. Smarmy little bear boogers, great.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Layer Cake

No, not another recipe: our movie review of the week, Layer Cake (2004). This movie had a couple of attractions going in. First, it gives a good look at the new Bond, Daniel Craig. Second, it is a Matthew Vaughn movie, which I confess, I tend to like. (No, I have not seen Swept Away. I consider Breathless Mahoney the exception that proves the Madonna rule. I would never have watched Evita without the inclusion of Antonio Banderas, and yes, I fell asleep in Evita. Satisfied? No emails)

I knew it was going to be full of violence and extra full of cussing. I was right. Couple of cringe worthy scenes that were not graphic but evocative. I think the f bomb was there every third word or so. Kind of like a Tarantino flick, or a Sam Jackson movie, or a Tarantino movie starring Sam Jackson. I'm sure there is a cussing trifecta out there somewhere in movie land, but other than a script that was nothing but f bombs I am hard pressed to conceive of how they would pack it in.

The premise: Daniel Craig plays a drug dealer middle man. He is a business man and cocaine is his product. He's made a pile of green, wants to retire and gets roped into one last deal where everything goes horribly wrong.

Moral of the story: do business with drug dealers and criminals and bad things happen, no matter how cool you are. Daniel Craig is cool too. He is not very good looking, but he gives off the aura of coolness that James Bond is supposed to. I am less apprehensive about the new Bond than I was before.

In the course of the movie, Craig (whose character is nameless) is told to find the daughter of a the big time crime boss. He sets two of his associates on the job a couple of guys named Cody and Tiptoes. These guys stole the screen everytime they appeared. They didn't fit the movie stereotype "C" level badguys at all. They were not bumbling, funny in a sidekickish way, thuggish, junkie, slavish, or achille's heels. They were likeable guys but not fools. They were small fish in a pond full of sharks and were not looking to so anything but skirt by.

The romance was atypical too. The woman didn't play a big role, she didn't have an agenda, she doesn't sell out the main character. She just was. The director did not throw in a sex scene when there usually would be one, which was fine. We got the point, that they are hooked into each other.

All in all I liked it. A bad Dumbledore, an amoral Transporter Chief O'Brien, a satisfying end.

I Scream You Scream

One of the things I received at Christmas was an ice cream maker attatchment to my Kitchen Aid. I have made a few batches of ice cream and plan on making many more. I have yet to make my favorite, Rocky Road. Rest assured, I will make it the way God intended, with mini-marshmallows and almonds, not with marshmallow cream and walnuts. I also intend to try my hand at something I have only tasted a few times before but really enjoyed - Green Tea Ice Cream. Here is the recipe I intend to try:

Green Tea Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
1/2 a vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp dry green tea

Split vanilla bean and scrape the insides. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, half-and-half, and vanilla bean scrapings, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't scorch on the bottom. When the cream mixture reaches a fast simmer (do not let it boil), set aside for 12 minutes to let flavors marry. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the still-hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Remove it from the heat and add green tea incorportaing thoroughly. Strain and chill. Follow the directions of your ice cream maker to finish.

While you do not have to use it, most recipes call for maccha green tea powder, which I gather is a traditional Japanese green tea. I have had green tea ice cream made from Lotus Tea from Tazo and it was good, just try and use a quality green tea and powder it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Verbalist Turns Five

The Verbalist turned five a week ao and had a party on Saturday. It was cute and fun, with a tasty cake. Not a whole lot of story fodder, other than the fact that a Navy non-com officer couldn't figure out how to transform a Transformer from ambulance to robot. Good thing he has a daughter.

Trucks and Star Wars and Ninja Turtles. Ah boys.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Yes, oh Yes

Do I think the Outer Rim will hear? A very slim maybe. Dollars often speak louder than letters, but I will sign this. Would you?

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Little Gold Statues

Dana Stevens writes in Slate about reactions to Jon Stewart's new gig as Oscar host. She says:

What's most striking about the reaction to the academy's choice of Stewart as host is how intense, and how immediately political, it's become. It's hard to imagine such a sustained and feverish discussion of most other likely choices for the gig: Whoopi Goldberg? Ellen DeGeneres? Jay Leno? But apparently, to be a red-blooded American, you must have a strong opinion on Jon Stewart as Oscar host 2006.

Political, Stewart? I mean it's not like he's ever interviewed a politician. Oh wait, he has. It's not like he has admonished pundits for being partisan. Oh wait, he has. I am not particularly astonished that this has gotten immediately political. Everything is political it seems like these days, because everything is George Bush's fault, except when it's Cheney and Rove's fault. I'm not really picking at Ms. Steven's astonishment, what got my goat were her three catagories of reaction.

1. Yay! From the Jon-Stewart-walks-on-water school (which includes lefty bloggers and a lot of crushed out girls on LiveJournal), there is unalloyed celebration: Finally the academy does something right, he will make the show worth watching for the first time in years, etc.

2. Jon Stewart has sold out. The blogger Ron Mwangaguhunga, proprietor of the gossip site Le Corsair, accuses Stewart of "lounging at the Chateau Marmont with Scarlett Johannson" and asks why he isn't volunteering instead to host this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

3. The choice of Stewart is proof that Hollywood is a seething vortex of Bush-bashing liberals (read: Jews). The code for this viewpoint is the use of Stewart's real last name, Liebowitz, which he once told 60 Minutes he dropped because it sounded "too Hollywood." This joke has now been turned against its teller, as anti-Semitic knuckle-draggers attempt to "out" Stewart for the very Jewishness he's constantly alluding to on his own show.

So I toddled over and read the comments and find guess what? Maybe one or two allusions to the Liebowitz joke. So Ms. Steven's "read: Jews" commentary seems like more of a projection of stereotypes than anything else. Of the many, many, many liberal Hollywood bashing discussions I have read or heard among conservatives and conservative Christians, Jews are not a factor. Even in the criticisms of Spielberg's new movie Munich, a movie about Israeli Jews and terrorists!, the complaints are centered on leftist tropes rather than feverish concern about Hollywood based Jews. Conservatives shake thier heads over an equivalence drawn between terrorists killing atheletes and Moussad agents killing terrorists; not much attention is given to racial identity. Put another way, if Spielberg's heritage is clucked over, it is because most Christian conservatives hope that Jews realize they are not the enemy.

If I were to catagorize the comments I would thus:

1) Yay! Jon Stewart is the funniest thing ever.
2) Nothing can save the Oscars from thier slide to marginality because Hollywood is a pack of liberals (read: those who do not care about traditional societal building blocks like religion and marriage)
3) Conservatives are evil, Jon exposes those corrupt liars with biting wit.
4) Poor Jon, it's bound to be a difficult, thankless, tedious job.

I like the Daily Show. I find Stewart funny. Sometimes I sit and correct the "news" that issues from the desk while Dear Husband shakes his head. What I appreciate about Stewart and the Daily Show is that while they have a relentlessly leftist tilt to the show, they aknowlege it and still skewer sacred cows of the left. The "Coot" War last week between Ted Stevens (Coot-Alaska) and Robert Byrd (Coot-West Virginia), fabulous.

I hope Stewart revitalizes the Oscars. I hope that he is funny and takes great pot shots at such a self congradulatory industry. I will tune into his opening monologue, a good bet to be the most entertaining portion of the evening. I just will not hold my breath that it will remain funny. No reflection on Stewart, Hollywood continues to marginalize itself because it usually ignores or belittles those of us who place importance on religion and other traditional societal building blocks.

Now go check out Island Passage and thanks to James.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How To Marry A Millionaire

Movie review of the week, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). Lauren Bacall, Bette Grable and Marilyn Munroe, portray three models who hope to snare a big fish in the marriage mart. It is delightfully un-PC.

In the beginning of the movie Bacall has a wonderful line about why she wants to get married again after being burned by an ex, "of course I want to get married again it's the only thing in life." You'd never hear a strong female lead say that today. Bacall's character, Schatze is strong too. She's been burned by men who've lied and run out on her and she determines that she's going to look out not only for herself but a pal, Pola (Munroe). Schatze really has the best throw away lines in Millionaire. She gets in a jab at her real husband Humphrey Bogart.

"I've always liked older men... Look at that old fellow what's-his-name in The African Queen. Absolutely crazy about him."

Munroe, as Pola, is a fabulous ditz. She never wears her glasses, so as not to be perceived as unattractive, and forever is running into walls. She is very aptly called a "strudel" in admiring approbation by a wormy little man she eventually falls for. Pola brings into the scheme a friend Loco, played by Grable.

Loco is even ditzier than Pola. She goes off with a married man to his lodge in Maine, only to find out that it is a ski lodge and not a fraternal lodge where she can snare an unmarried man. Which brings us to my favorite exchange:

Pola: "You mean marry him?"

Schatze: "If you don't you haven't caught him, he's caught you."

Which pretty much sums it up right there, eh? Of course all three end up marrying for love and Schatze ends up with the richest man she could dream up. There is a notable role by William Powell as a fish Schazte tries to land. It was so odd seeing him without Myrna Loy at his side as the effervescent Nora. Guess it's time to order The Thin Man on Netflix.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Answer My Friends is Bloviating In the Wind

Where does Bush come up with these guys? (rhetorical question) Roberts did nothing but smile benignly thru his Senate Torture Session, and Alito has kept a look of deadpan alertness on his face throughout. You'd think he'd break into expression when his butt went completely numb. Give the poor guy a Soduku puzzle or something. You can only count digits of pi or play eye spy for so long.

UPDATE: Priceless! Prof. Bainbridge has it figured out. Wait! does that make Scalia Obi-Wan? or Darth Sidious?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Robe

I have been watching The Robe (1953), a sword and sandal epic. I love the book written by Lloyd C. Douglas. The plot revolves around the redemption of Marcellus, the Roman Centurian who crucified Jesus, won Jesus' clothes at dice, and his Greek slave, Demetrius. Marcellus is the son of an influential Senator. Marcellus' squeeze, Diana, is a brave and virtuous woman, whom Caligula lusts after, lots of grist for the mill. All good right?

The movie had two taglines. The first:
The first motion picture in CinemaScope--the modern miracle you see without glasses! The second: The Greatest Story of Love, Faith, and Overwhelming Spectacle! I'm sensing a theme here: come for the special effects - stay for the special effects. Still the movie has Caligula, Caligula! How bad can it be? You don't get much more villianous than that. The headliners: Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature. Here is where it goes wrong, oh so wrong.

Of the three, Jean Simmons turns in the best performance. We first see her rougishly taunting a sheepish Marcellus for not recognizing her. This scene establishes that despite his lecherous ways (he's shopping the slave market for a pair of voluptous, twin sisters - one gives excellent massages!), he just needs reaquaintence with his childhood friend to be completely reformed. Then Caligula minces in. Simmon's portrayal is light on the hand wringing and heavy on the "head burrowed on the hero's chest" and "cheek to cheek" action. That shot when the heroine grasps the hero's shoulders and rubs her cheek on his with a look of worry or anguish on her face. Diana is no shrinking violet, she fights for the man she loves.

Richard Burton as Marcellus starts out pretty strong. Lustful and swaggering is Burton's forte. Petruchio, Marc Antony, Henry VIII, even his Thomas a Becket (from the Jean Anouilh play and screenplay) has a veneer of lustful exuberence. Then he is driven mad, MAD!, by his actions in crucifying Jesus and the performance becomes painful. Marcellus is driven by guilt to inquire of everyone: "Where you out there?" The strained and guilty whisper of the book causes Burton to go wall eyed and sound like he's choking on a fishbone. Resisting the temptation to give him a hearty swat on the back and a drink of water must have been difficult for those surrounding him on the set.

Marcellus confronts the apostle Peter (whose gleaming white robes brought to mind Socratic conversations more than hard working fisherman and fugitive from Roman justice) with the revelation that he is the soldier who killed Jesus. Burton's body language and voice do not evoke shame, sorrow and defiance so much as the wooden akwardness of a social gaffe. When Marcellus tries to burn the Robe and it touches him, instead of a cry of soul wrenching terror we are treated to a strangling gasp more on par with a dousing in cold water.

Victor Mature falls just short. If Jean Simmons exemplifies heroine acting conventions, and Richard Burton's emotional projection seems out of sync with the scene or dialogue, then Mature had a golden opportunity to shine and responded with a vague glimmer. His character, Demetrius, seesaws between bitter rage and newfound gentleness. Mature's rage seems almost purely physical with no emotional depth. His dimple flashes in a grin as he pursues Burton around the room with Robe in hand, less gentle than more gleeful.

I am not really panning the movie, it is highly worth a view, especially if you really like the genre. It is just not on par with Ben Hur (1959) (few movies are) or Spartacus (1960), which is too bad because the book is great. Compared with the General Lew Wallace's longwindedness, Lloyd Douglas wrote a tidy story that fairly cracked along.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Alito's Confirmation

Mary Katherine Ham over at Hugh Hewitt's asks:

Is it just me or anyone else just not feeling the Alito fight?

I don't mean to say that I won't fight for him or that liberals won't have their claws in his robe even as he ascends the Supreme Court steps. Those things will happen.

I just mean I don't feel the fight. Before the John Roberts hearings, you could actually hear the buzz of opposition research all the way across the Potomac in my little corner of Northern Virginia. The city vibrated with the flipping-through of old papers, the creak of rusty file cabinets.

Not so much this time. I know it's happening, but I just can't feel it like last time.

And if I can't feel it 300 yards outside the District, I wonder if the American people can feel it at all. Most of my Beltway friends tell me I'm wrong about this-- that the Alito hearings really will be a rhetorical World War that will reach to the hearts of the American people.

I think I know the answer to this. It's all so predictable. The NARAL ads, Senator Kennedy's red faced blustering, the Daily Kos' diarist tirades - nothing new. You can only debunk so many disingenuous and factually incorrect doomsayings without feeling tired by the repetitiveness. There is no thrill shooting fish in a barrel.

Chief Justice Roberts was so squeeky clean that attackers were reduced to innuendo and snide comments on fashion. Harriet Myers was a political infight among conserviatives that got the blood up because there were actual arguements on both sides instead of paltry references to fascism. (I find it telling that the ad hominems among conservatives generally falls into Party drones, RINOs, and horror of horrors, "liberal" rather than fascist, ect.)

Miss Ham wants a good fight and only conservatives can seem to muster one on proposed Justices these days. Conservatives seem pretty happy with Judge Alito.

Cheese Knots

In winter weather I tend to eat alot more soup, stews, and pasta, so I am posting a delicious all purpose roll to go with them. Made these just the othe night to accompany spaghetti.

Cheese Knots

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm milk
1 Tbsp (brown) sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp butter
3 cups bread flour or AP flour
1/8 cup minced sweet yellow onion
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Activate yeast with milk and sugar then add remaining ingredients in order. Should form an elastic, slightly sticky dough ball. Let rise, punch down and then divide into rolls. Let rise again and then bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Don't overhandle. Sharp cheese gives you the best flavor especially when combined with the sweet onion; medium or mild cheddar just leave something wanting but can certainly be used. I also like to add poppy seeds if I have got them.

Shameless Promotion

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I'm going to try my hand at making Floam. (ht: Jonah Goldberg) The Kids have pestered about it for 2 years and 30 bucks is too much to pay. Experiment set for next week. Updates posted then.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Other Knees

THUMP! A crash in the other room.

"Mommm," comes a thin whine from the Muralist. "My other knee hurts."

I look at the portion of anatomy she is rubbing. "That's your bottom, sweetheart."

A puzzled look crosses her face, "But they bend my legs."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Steyn, Death, Demographics

I read this earlier in the Standard (I think) and it has since been put up at the WSJ. It's Mark Steyn on the demographics of the West. I touched on this tangentially in my post on the Children of Men and in my exchange with Island Passage about '08 prospects. Mr. Steyn starts out boldly:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.

The unsettling thing about this article is that Mr. Steyn is not a doomsayer. He rarely makes predictions that come to naught and is very good at looking at the big picture. I read that first paragraph and the snide part of my brain said: "ooooohhhhh, oooooooo, Doom!" in a faux ghost voice straight out of Scooby Doo. And yet and yet, Europe is in upheaval, they can not sustain native numbers, is it really so improbable that such a prediction is correct?

He continues:

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion. The problem is that secondary-impulse societies mistake their weaknesses for strengths--or, at any rate, virtues--and that's why they're proving so feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam.

Speaking of which, if we are at war--and half the American people and significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don't accept that proposition--than what exactly is the war about?

We know it's not really a "war on terror." Nor is it, at heart, a war against Islam, or even "radical Islam." The Muslim faith, whatever its merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us.

What is the enemy? Muliculturalism, or the cult of muliculturalism to the abandonment of our own culture; as seen by the banning of Piglet in offices in England, or a national flag in Scotland, or a newspaper testing to see if they can still run political cartoons featuring Allah. How long will gays or feminism (in any form muchless the strident, leftist womyn) or freedom of press or speech or religion last under Sharia? Such individuality, in the bounds of law, is our culture.

The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb. Take multiculturalism. The great thing about multiculturalism is that it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures--the capital of Bhutan, the principal exports of Malawi, who cares? All it requires is feeling good about other cultures. It's fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched native dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It's a quintessential piece of progressive humbug.

So according to Steyn, Islam and radical Islam is what is filling the void left behind because the West no longer prioritizes the "primary impulses" of national defense, faith, and reproduction. A few more excerpts. He looks at some hard numbers:

"Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans.

Of the increase in global population between 1970 and 2000, the developed world accounted for under 9% of it, while the Muslim world accounted for 26%. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30% of the world's population to just over 20%, the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to 20%.

Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.

Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.

Read the whole thing as they say. I think Radical Islam will burn itself out. Such an irrational and self destructing value mode can not hold the globe enthrall as much as it might like to. The questions become, how long will it take? How many people will it kill? What will be left in it's wake? Hugh Hewitt has a round up.

UPDATE: Reading through the other links I found an interesting solution proposed at Heliopause. All I have to say to it is: Huh.

UPDATE 2: Hewitt link fixed. Thanks.

Five Looms Near

The Verbalist is feverishly waiting for his fifth birthday, that magical birthday when he will be able to enjoy a myriad of endevours previously denied. School, allowance, pharoah to his sisters' Israelites, supervising the construction of lego monuments to his splendor. He is under the delusion that he will be able to drive after his fifth birthday. We got him a library card of his own, a milestone!

Yesterday we went to order his birthday cake at the local supermarket. The other local supermarket. Supermarket "S" (am I being coy enough?) has a bakery full of jolly people who hand out cookies to the kids everytime we walk by. The head baker offered me a job there once when the bakery I worked for when out of business. Yesterday, though, I was shopping in Supermarket "A" and decided I didn't want to make an extra stop so we went to order at thier bakery.

We stopped and the Verbalist began to browse through the big book of cake options. Hard choices had to be made: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spiderman? Spiderman fighting Doc Oct or Motorcycles? Earthmoving equiptment or a tank which transforms into Robot? It was the cammo frosting which sealed the deal.

"This one!" he said stabbing his finger at the tank.

"Are you ready?" asked a raspy voice. I turned and looked at the most apathetic looking individual I had seen in a while, a tired looking woman of indeterminate years. I scanned for the cigarette I knew should be hanging from her lip, finding none. I swear I saw the indent.

'Yes," I replied. "He wants this tank." The woman gazed at the page with a profoundly weary air.

"Hey!" she called to the chipper young lady frosting a cake behind the counter. "Do we have the ..." here she rattled off the order code for the tank," ...cake topper?"

"The robot tank?" chirped the Young Lady. "Sure it's part of larger package 7YE8234L98."

"Can you do Cammo frosting?" asked Rasper.


"Ok Kid," Rasper addresses my bouncing son, "what kind of cake do you want?"



"Chocolate! and I want chocolate frosting too!"

"You gotta have white frosting."

"Cammo! Cammo frosting!" I quickly interjected my eyes holding the Verbalist's until the dictatorial light faded.

"And the tank turns into a Robot!"

Monday, January 02, 2006


I don't generally make New Year's Resolutions. That is, I determine to make a change but don't neccesarily start January 1 nor do I kick myself if I mess up. However, here are some things I aim at changing or doing better this year:

1. Measure, then cut.
2. Yell less.
3. Pray more.
4. More vegetables, less chocolate.
5. Less self satisfaction, more self sacrificing. (Wait, isn't that number 4?)
6. Try two new artistic endeavours.
7. Finish the novel.
8. Sell the short stories.
9. Break 100,000 site hits.
10. Do good in secret.