Saturday, August 23, 2014

Koontz’s Latest: Lyrical, Tragic, and Brilliant


 After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless. One of the many things I love about Dean Koontz is the breadth of his artistic pallet. Your average bestselling writer (and I …continue reading

Can the Romantic Drama Be Rescued?


 A popular film genre that has seldom received much respectful attention from critics and scholars is the romantic drama. Such “women’s films” were a mainstay during Hollywood’s golden age of the 1930s and ’40s, as female stars such as Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Joan Crawford, and Jane Wyman performed in a steady stream of such films, including classics or near-classics such as Camille, Jezebel, Romeo and Juliet, Dark Victory, Letter from an Unknown Woman, Magnificent Obsession, and All That Heaven Allows. Since the 1950s, however, the romantic drama has not fared well, and in recent years such films have been saddled …continue reading

The Origin of Specious Thinking: Public Schools


 Writing in Canon and Culture, Prof. Colin Garbarino of Houston Baptist University poses an interesting and accurate critique of the common notion that the nation’s colleges and universities indoctrinate a generally conservative or at least politically and culturally neutral incoming student population into advanced progressive leftism and political correctness. They do impose such an agenda, he notes, but the overwhelming majority of students they are indoctrinating have already heard and adopted its fundamental premises upon arrival. In other words, Garbarino argues, the colleges and universities are building on a foundation laid for years in the student’s life by the public education establishment and the …continue reading

Marathon Celebrates Quarter-Century of ‘The Simpsons’


 Fire up your DVR, and be prepared to make some tough choices: the FXX Network begins its Simpsons marathon tomorrow at 11 a.m. EDT, to mark the fact that the show will now be broadcast regularly on the channel after years of syndication on local broadcast TV stations (where it will continue to be shown as well). Soon to enter its 26th season of production, The Simpsons is obviously one of the most successful TV series of all time, earning loyal viewership over the years through its combination of wild humor and occasional heartfelt moments, plus characters and places audiences felt comfortable …continue reading

Don’t Fear the Data-Reaper?


 Two articles today show how the Internet economy tends to be like the overall economy but much, much faster. Innovation is faster, the rise of new companies is faster, and maturing and death of those firms is likewise faster than in the industrial and service sectors that preceded it and remain in place beside it. The incredibly rapid rise of sales of smartphone apps, for example, has topped out and is likely headed for a precipitous decline, the Financial Times reports: Almost a third of smartphone users do not download any apps for their devices in a typical month, according to a …continue reading

Pol Pot & Associates, LLP


  The stage setting for this latest play by Kathleen Akerley (who also directs it) is the inside of a rural house. It has many windows offering many perspectives.  All around it, the stage is black.  This is fitting  because the six residents have largely moved there to withdraw from the world for which they have distaste, perhaps even disdain,   They were all working at a law firm in an unidentified city. Two were lawyers, the rest performed other roles from office  manager to making photocopies. Now they do things like teach, fix automobiles, and perform acupuncture Their commune is based upon equality and a return …continue reading

Bogie, Bacall, and Communism

Actor Humphrey Bogart protests at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, as Lauren Bacall watches

 Paul Kengor, one of the top contemporary experts on the infiltration of the United States by Communists under the control or influence of the Soviet Union in the 1940s and ’50s, writes in today’s American Spectator a fascinating summary of Communist involvement among Hollywood actors during that period, which was real, pervasive, and which claimed Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as prominent and influential supporters for a time. Kengor writes, in part: The facts are that Lauren Bacall herself learned the truth about communism in Hollywood. She admitted to being badly duped by bad guys. She learned her lesson, even …continue reading

Why We Love Woody Allen


 Well, I can tell you why Christians love Woody Allen, being as I am one and I know this fondness among our kind isn’t unique to me. The title of a piece at Real Clear Religion gives us a hint: “Woody Allen’s Bleak Vision.” Which seems like a strange thing to consider lovable, but if you know Allen’s work and have an interest in metaphysical realities, you might be able to guess where I’m going with this. Woody Allen’s face gives away his general disposition about his worldview. It’s an amalgam of sad, perplexed and tired; you might say bleak. …continue reading

Pirog’s Thomas Prescott Novels: Good, and Getting Better

 Nick Pirog’s Thomas Prescott novels are worth reading just to watch a writer learning his craft. The first book in the series, Unforeseen, is even admitted by the author, in his introduction, to be a freshman effort. Still (I’m not sure why) he offers the Kindle edition without alteration. And yet … in spite of its faults I liked it enough to read the sequels, which show considerable progress and offer many rewards. At the start of Unforeseen, Thomas Prescott, former cop, former FBI consultant, and current criminology professor and millionaire, is living in Maine with his sister Lacy, an …continue reading

Despite Flaws, D’Souza Doc Is Interesting and Important


 Writing in the American Spectator, James Bowman finds some things to like about Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, America: Imagine the World Without Her, and some things to dislike as well. Bowman starts with the compliments: The exhortation in the title of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie — America: Imagine the World Without Her — suggests that it is going to be an exercise in what they call “counter-factual” history. In other words, imaginary history. History as it didn’t happen. And the opening of the film appears to bear this out, since we watch as an actor (John Koopman) portraying George Washington is shot and killed by a British …continue reading

The Tragic Implications of Comedian Robin Williams’s Suicide

Robin Williams

 The death by suicide of actor-comedian Robin Williams will undoubtedly set loose a torrent of fond remembrances of the man and his comedy. His influence on the nation’s culture was certainly significant, and he had a large following of fans in the United States and around the world. He made people laugh, and they appreciated it greatly. His manner of death fits with common cultural ideas about an alleged connection between genius and madness and notions of the underlying sadness often found in comedians. Williams’s struggle with addiction and reports of a lonely and unhappy childhood in a very wealthy family also accord with …continue reading

“Forget It, Morse; It’s Oxfordshire.”−’Endeavour’: Series Two, on PBS

Shawn Evans as police detective Endeavour Morse in 'Endeavour'

 Two years ago I quite favorably reviewed the pilot film for Endeavour, the 1960s-set prequel series to Inspector Morse (1987-2000), the trailblazing British cop show that was based on the much-admired crime novels of Colin Dexter and starred the late, great John Thaw (1942-2002). I also greatly enjoyed Series One of Endeavour, though somehow I failed to review it here. Series Two, however, I found ultimately disappointing, despite some very high points (episodes 2 and 3). My dissatisfaction with Series Two had nothing to do with the acting.Shaun Evans as the young Morse and Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday continue to impress, as do Anton Lesser as the martinet Chief Superintendent Bright and James …continue reading

Court Rebukes Doyle Heirs for Greed and Extortion

Would Doyle have not bothered to write the Sherlock Holmes books had he realized his heirs might lose their chance to extort fees from imitators 135 years later?

 In a long-overdue victory for common sense and freedom of expression, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must pay the legal fees incurred by author Leslie Klinger in successfully challenging the estate’s spurious claim of copyright protection for all of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and any subsequent stories by any author using the Holmes and Watson characters and other personae from the stories. The court rebuked the Doyle heirs as extortionists and praised Klinger for performing a public service by bringing them into court. The BBC reports: A US appeal court ruled …continue reading

Costner’s Self-Financed ‘Black and White’ Tackles Controversial Issues


 Kevin Costner’s new film, Black and White, appears destined to create much controversy, and possibly inspire some real thought among its audience. The Wrap describes Costner’s film as follows: “Black and White” centers on attorney Elliot Anderson (Costner), who’s raising his biracial granddaughter Eloise with his wife (their daughter died during childbirth). When his wife is killed in a car accident, the widower is drawn into a custody battle over the little girl, with her African-American grandmother Rowena (Spencer), who believes the child should be raised by her drug addicted, biological father. The Wrap story reports, unsurprisingly, that Costner could not find any Hollywood studio …continue reading

Homosexuals in America and the Power of Pop Culture


 Imagine ex-Tonight Show host Jay Leno going out on the street as he did many times, and interviewing average Americans about what they think the percentage of professed homosexuals is among the population. What do you think you would find?  If you and these average Americans are immersed in popular culture, as you and they likely are, you would probably guess anywhere from 10 to 30 percent or more. Sometimes it seems like homosexuals are actually the majority of the population! Ah the power of popular culture, our entertainment, sports, TV, movies, music, etc. to shape what we believe; it’s …continue reading