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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tonight's Blogger DJ Selection

Weather Report's moody and atmospheric, 'A Remark You Made', from their Heavy Weather album.

Bulger a Robin Hood ?

The Verizon homepage article on Whitey Bulger--by Denise Lavoie and Jay Linsday on Verizon--is entitled, 'Bulger described as Robin Hood, diabolical killer'.

Only the incurably naive would buy the former, for indisputably he was the latter. Whitey did not steal from the rich to give to the poor. Hell no. He stole from anyone, and kept the lion's share for himself. He was a 20th century plunderer whose ties to his corrupt FBI handler saved him from capture in the late 90's.

For chapter and verse on Whitey, read the riveting account penned by Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill in their book, Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why is the American League superior to the National League ?

Inquiring minds should read David Schoenfield's ESPN article, 'The AL is definitely the better league'.

Deftly dismantling the usual arguments (the DH rule gives the AL a big advantage ; the Yankees and Red Sox give the AL a big advantage, otherwise the leagues are even ; the AL has drafted better ; the AL signs all the big free agents), Schoenfield proposes the following explanations, excerpted below.

* * *

So, the AL is better because …

1. Better players.

OK, that’s obvious. But I think there’s a reason for this. The success of the Yankees and Red Sox pushes the rest of the American League to perform better and make smarter front-office moves. If you go into a season knowing it’s going to take 95 wins just to compete for the wild card, you have to make the right moves...

2. Bad front offices in the “rich” NL teams.

Who has spent the most in the NL in the past six years? The Mets, Cubs and Dodgers (and now the Phillies). Those first three have been three of the worst-run franchises of the decade...

3. Competition breeds talent.

If you play against better players, you tend to get better, correct? This is one issue that I’m not sure the NL can correct except with time and better player development. Playing the Astros and Cubs and Padres 30 games a year isn’t going to prepare you for the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays...

GREEN LANTERN Dim ?

That seems to be the critical consensus.

Noisy, overproduced, and thinly written, Green Lantern squanders an impressive budget and decades of comics mythology. - Rotten Tomatoes

Take me to your garage sale.
The bottom line: This is a comic-book movie. Fans of the Green Lantern (in his intergalactic story mode and not his earthbound TV series) will no doubt enjoy its visualizations and its references to details of the back story that escaped me. There's a whole lot going on. We don't really expect subtle acting or nuanced dialogue. We appreciate an effective villain. We demand one chaste kiss between hero and heroine, but no funny stuff. We enjoy spectacular visuals like the Green elders, who are immortal and apparently spend eternity balancing on top of towering pillars. "Green Lantern" delivers all of those things, and for what it's worth, I liked it more than "Thor." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
...“Green Lantern” is bad. This despite Mr. Reynolds’s dazzling dentistry, hard-body physique and earnest efforts, and the support of fine performers like Peter Sarsgaard (as Hector Hammond, a nutty professor turned baddie), Mark Strong (almost unrecognizable as the fuchsia-tinted Sinestro) and Angela Bassett (Doctor Waller, a government drone in mile-high heels). They, along with Blake Lively, who plays Carol Ferris, a pilot and aeronautics executive, and who’s miscast on both counts, look as if they’re working hard, and not only to keep a straight face. Only Mr. Sarsgaard, who invests his transformation with levity, earning grateful laughter, shoulders the lugubriosity well, rising above the scripted clich├ęs and dreary battles, featuring an alien enemy with a skull head and the body of a dryer-lint octopus.
In comics, the Green Lantern has been through blackest night but here he’s a typical DC Golden Age do-gooder, as unambiguous as when he was revived in the Silver Age 1959 and looked like Paul Newman. Mr. Reynolds isn’t wrong for the job; the movie is. One issue is tone and hitting the sweet spot between sincerity and self-awareness that can work for today and that made the first “Superman” movies fly in an age of post-Vietnam, post-Watergate cynicism. It’s also about finding a reason for superheroes beyond the box office, which leads to the question troubling every superhero movie in which the protagonist isn’t as twisted as Batman is now or as ironic as Iron Man: Is there still a place in American movies for square heroes? - Manohla Dargis, New York Times
I kept waiting... I had read the earlier reviews, which seemed to confirm all of the worst fears stretching back to last November.  But the hate never came.  Martin Campbell's Green Lantern is a deeply problematic comic book adventure, with structural and character development issues that should damn-well have felled the film.  But like its title character, it overcomes its own weaknesses and embraces its inherent flaws.  The picture has signs of tinkering and studio interference.  But it also has several fine action scenes, a strong visual style that feels like a living comic book, and arguably the best 3D conversion yet achieved in live-action.  Oh, and it also has Peter Sarsgaard, but more on that later.  I have no idea how Green Lantern purists will react, but the film as it is remains a weird combination of gee-whiz kid-friendly superhero antics and truly disturbing horror elements.  That the film is not quite the triumph we wanted may be tragic.  That the film as it stands works at all may qualify as a miracle. - Scott Mendelson, Huffington Post
 * * *

There is a way to deal with a superhero who is square, or better still, with a relatively ordinary, somewhat flawed human being required to hew to a super-human standard of virtue.

It's simple.

Show him struggling with that call to duty, to the point of suffering, if need be. Show him failing, succumbing to the temptations of power, and nearly forfeiting the ring. Show him not as the chosen one, but as a choice by accident. Show him trying to grasp the powers of the ring and at the same time deal with its moral imperatives by himself, in isolation from the great intergalactic brotherhood.

In essence, the protagonist would be modern man, a prosthetic deity (to use Freud's phrase) who faces life's hard choices in the apparent absence of God, but with no assurance that HE does not exist and is not watching.

Finally, splendid June weather...

It's perfect for the Culture Vulture to get caught up on his yard work (so says Mrs. C.V.) and tend to his roses (they're his when work is required).


Monday, June 13, 2011

A Bit of Housekeeping

I have added the Daily Hurriyet (Turkey) to the NATION WORLD MONEY section and discontinued blog pages 'Cinema Rx' and 'History and Historical Fiction' .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When is Green Bad ? When It Croaks a State's Economy, Like, Say, California's

That's basically the point Joel Kotkin's making in his Forbes article, California’s Green Jihad, excerpted below.

* * *

Californians are learning what ideological extremism can do to an economy. In the Islamic Republic, crazy theology leads to misallocating resources to support repression at home and terrorism abroad. In California, green zealots compel companies to shift their operations to states that are still interested in growing their economy — like Texas. The green regime is one reason why CEO Magazine has ranked California the worst business climate in the nation.

Some of these green policies often offer dubious benefits for the environment. For one thing, forcing California businesses to move to less energy-efficient states, or to developing countries like China, could have a negative impact overall since shifting production to Texas or China might lead to higher greenhouse gas production given California’s generally milder climate.   A depressed economy also threatens many worthy environmental programs, delaying necessary purchases of open space and forcing the closure of parks. These programs enhance life for the middle and working classes without damaging the overall econmy.

But people involved in the tangible, directly carbon-consuming parts of the economy — manufacturing, warehousing, energy and, most important, agriculture — are those who bear   the brunt of the green jihad [ ] . Farming has long been a field dominated by California, yet environmentalist pressures for cutbacks in agricultural water supplies have turned a quarter million acres of prime Central Valley farmland fallow, creating mass unemployment in many communities.

“California cannot have it both ways, a desire for economic growth yet still overregulating in the areas of labor, water, environment,” notes Dennis Donahue, a Democrat and mayor of Salinas, a large agricultural community south of San Jose. Himself a grower, Donahue sees agricultural in California being undermined by ever-tightening regulations, which have led some to expand their operations to other sections of the country, Mexico and even further afield.

Other key blue collar industries are also threatened, from international trade to manufacturing. Since before the recession California manufacturing has been on a decline.  Los Angeles, still the nation’s largest industrial area, has lost a remarkable one-fifth of its manufacturing employment since 2005.

Giulani Should Enter GOP Prez Race, ASAP

Despite the failure of his 2008 bid,  the former NYC mayor should run.

Why ?

First and most importantly, it would force the various political Hamlets out there immediately to quit or to enter the race.

Second, like him or no, RG would be one of the few adult candidates, and would make the GOP debates not only more interesting but of greater value to the primary voter.  I would expect him to make mincemeat of some of the weaker ones, and prompt their exit before they do any more damage to their own future, or the party's prospects in 2012.

Third, having to deal with a strong, well-known contender like RG would demonstrate how capable a candidate Mitt Romney, the current GOP front-runner really is.
  
So far, MR has failed to impress.  Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik opine in their piece, GOP 2012 Update: The Big Tease

Leading the first tier of contenders is former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA), who is an exceptionally weak frontrunner, perhaps the weakest GOP frontrunner since 1964, when the GOP rejected Nelson Rockefeller and other moderates in favor of Barry Goldwater. We all know how that one turned out. Romney has many problems: He is seen as a flip-flopper — a one-time moderate turned conservative warrior. Even worse, his signature accomplishment as Massachusetts governor was a health care plan that provided the model for President Obama’s plan, which is loathed by most Republican primary voters. That said, remember how John McCain supposedly was so disliked by the GOP base that he could never win the nomination? We all know how that one turned out, as well.
For contrasting local views on MR, check out two Boston Globe op-ed articles by Republican consultants, Dan Payne's Romney Can Win GOP Nomination  and Todd Domke's Can Romney win ? No: Voters want the real deal, not pandering and positioning.

For a potpourri of opinion, not necessarily impartial or informed, on Giulani in 2012, check out these comments in THE POLITICO's Arena.