October 22, 2014

New Book Documents the Reality of Family Fragmentation: It is a Problem

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 Share on TumblrJonathan Last at The Weekly Standard has a review of a new book about the breakdown of the family. The first couple paragraphs tell how skewed moral values have become in America: You can tell a lot about a society by its taboos. Several weeks ago, America reeled when Adrian Peterson—the great NFL running back of his generation—was indicted on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” Peterson is alleged to have disciplined his son by “whooping” him—these are Peterson’s words, not mine—with a “switch.” The child, a 4-year-old boy, suffered cuts on his backside and …continue reading

New Book Documents the Reality of Family Fragmentation: It is a Problem

donnareed

 Share on TumblrJonathan Last at The Weekly Standard has a review of a new book about the breakdown of the family. The first couple paragraphs tell how skewed moral values have become in America: You can tell a lot about a society by its taboos. Several weeks ago, America reeled when Adrian Peterson—the great NFL running back of his generation—was indicted on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” Peterson is alleged to have disciplined his son by “whooping” him—these are Peterson’s words, not mine—with a “switch.” The child, a 4-year-old boy, suffered cuts on his backside and …continue reading

The Amazing Badness of ‘Scorpion’

These actors in episode 4 of 'Scorpion' seem as shocked as we are at its ridiculous story elements

 Share on TumblrThe new CBS-TV crime-drama series Scorpion is a clear attempt to refresh the cop show genre. Unfortunately, that laudable intention conflicts with the showmakers’ choice to play it safe by exaggerating aspects of the genre that conflict with the show’s premise. The premise is somewhat promising: a team of genius works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in solving complex problems involving high-tech threats. You may see a problem already: the “team of brilliant eccentrics fighting crime” is a staple of crime fiction since at least the inception of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and can be seen in …continue reading

Review: Simenon Adaptation Sustains Mystery in ‘La chambre bleue’ (‘The Blue Room’)

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 Share on TumblrThe new film The Blue Room is based on a Georges Simenon detective story (which I have not read), though his chief detective, Jules Maigret, makes no appearance. Julien Gahyde (Mathieu Amalric, who  is also director and co-scenarist), a married man with a young daughter, has an affair with Esther Despierre (Stephanie Cleau), the wife of a fairly well-to-do pharmacist.  Both their spouses wind up dead, Delphine Gahyde (Lea Drucker) was definitely poisoned, and the pharmacist (Olivier Mauvezin) possibly so. Hence there are two questions: whether the pharmacist was poisoned, and who was responsible for each poisoning, if there were …continue reading

‘Gracepoint’ a Worthy Remake of Ambitious British TV Crime Drama Series

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 Share on TumblrMy attitude toward genre fiction is that it’s best when the creator is satisfied to make genre fiction and doesn’t try to “transcend the genre.” In my experience, works that “transcend the genre” typically make a hash of the genre and substitute literary pretensions for authorial competence. The right approach, in my view, is for the author to respect the requirements of the genre while suffusing the narratives any wisdom, insight, and compassion he or she may possess. The latter, moreover, must be done naturally as the story requires, not by forcing one’s presumed brilliance upon the reader. Those …continue reading

A Book for October: Ellery Queen’s ‘The Egyptian Cross Mystery’

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 Share on TumblrOctober is, of course, a good month to read horror fiction, given the obvious connection to Halloween and all the obsession with death and violence associated with that holiday, which has become a season in our culture such that it rivals Christmas in its cultural impact. As I noted earlier this month, this month is a good time to familiarize or re-familiarize oneself with the superb, innovative gothic writings of Edgar Allan Poe, who truly can be said to have invented the modern gothic horror genre. Poe was also a master of, and really the inventor of, the …continue reading

City of Houston to Pastors: Your Views are No Longer Allowed

 Share on TumblrYesterday when I turned on my computer I saw this headline on Drudge:  “City subpoenas church pastors for sermons dealing with homosexuality…”  And much to my surprise this city is in the deep red state of Texas. Here is another piece I found on the situation. The city of Houston passed an equal rights ordinance, and local pastors opposed the law and conservative Christian activists sued the city.  In response: The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly …continue reading

HBO Streaming Announcement Is Good News for All Entertainment Consumers, Not Just HBO Watchers

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 Share on TumblrActing on plans reported here a month ago, entertainment channel HBO has decided to end its thirty-plus-year dependence on cable and satellite distributors, announcing it will offer an online streaming video service beginning next year. Following a trail blazed by Netflix, Amazon.com, Acorn Media, and others, HBO will offer the service without a cable subscription in an effort to reach the ten-million-plus broadband-only homes, a category that is increasing steadily. In his announcement, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Piepler said that the company had not yet decided what distribution method to use: partnering with a cable or Internet …continue reading

CW’s ‘The Flash’ Impresses with Unusual Avoidance of Gloom

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 Share on TumblrThe CW network has become something of a cottage industry for B-level (and C-level) superheroes, with shows such as Arrow, The 100, and The Originals. This fall they’ve added The Flash, based on the longtime DC comics series and presented as a spinoff from Arrow. Although The Flash doesn’t break any new ground in that regard, the show is watchable and is a bit unusual in avoiding the contemporary fashion of ostentatious gloominess. That little spark of idiosyncrasy may well have contributed to the ratings success of the premiere episode: it was the most-watched series premiere in CW Network history, racing …continue reading

Interview with (Fictional) Bestselling Mystery Writer Richard Castle

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 Share on TumblrThe ABC-TV series Castle (Mondays at 10 p.m. Eastern) features as co-protagonist a bestselling mystery novelist, Richard Castle, whose two mystery book series in the fictional world of Castle have the amusingly named protagonists Nikki Heat (an NYC cop) and Derrick Storm (a U.S. espionage agent). In an interesting act of promotion for the show and extension of the show’s marketing potential, several volumes in the two book series have been published under the byline of Richard Castle. I don’t know who writes the books, nor have I read any of them, but it’s an interesting cross-pollination effort. It was inevitable, then, …continue reading

The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief by George M. Marsden

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 Share on Tumblr This latest book by historian George M. Marsden is an insightful history and analysis of the discourse and concerns of U.S. public intellectuals during the 1950s.  In a certain sense, the1950s was a time of great national unity, because of the victory during the Second World War, the post-war prosperity, and the challenges of the cold war.  At  the same time,many of the “liberal” (i.e. center left) intellectuals were concerned about the health of the nation and the need for  national cohesion.  There was also great concern of a conformity that, it was thought, led to cultural inauthenticity, superficiality, …continue reading

‘Blue Bloods’ Jumps the Shark

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 Share on TumblrI write this post with a heavy heart. Blue Bloods has been one of our family’s favorite shows for the past several years. It is a family police drama and one of the few shows on TV that takes religion, the “traditional” family, and law and order seriously and respectfully. For conservatives like us, the show was a weekly oasis in a cultural landscape that is increasingly hostile to our values. But I acknowledge that we are on the “wrong side of history.” I’m sure that Karl Marx and our current president would no doubt agree wholeheartedly with that description. It …continue reading

The New Ghostbusters: ‘Hilarious Women’

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 Share on TumblrThe good news is that a new Ghostbusters film is finally looking likely: writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) announced on Wednesday that he has been engaged to write a Ghostbusters sequel with Katie Dippold (The Heat). Further good news is that the film will likely not star Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and the other remaining cast members of the 1980s films, as there is surely no way that they could recreate the humor and insouciance of the earlier films in the current dotage. (Cameos by the principles are likely, of course.) Possibly good news, though possibly not, is that the …continue reading

Syndicated ‘The Pinkertons’ Western Drama Series Presents History (Surprisingly) Fairly

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 Share on TumblrSet in the Great Plains region in the years immediately following the American Civil War/War Between the States, the new syndicated one-hour drama series The Pinkertons is reminiscent of TV Western shows from the 1950s, when that genre was the most popular in television. That is to say that The Pinkertons is interesting, entertaining, historically inclined, skillfully plotted, well-performed, and would benefit from a bigger shooting budget. The twenty-two-episode series features Angus McFayden (Braveheart, Turn) as Allan Pinkerton, the founder and head honcho of the legendary Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, which helped tame the U.S. frontier in the nineteenth century by providing …continue reading

“Touch of Evil”: Orson Welles’ Most Profound Film

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 Share on Tumblr Orson Welles will likely always be most remembered for his first film, “Citizen Kane” (1941).  It is excellent but, for my money, his most profound work is “Touch of Evil” (1958).  It is one of the greatest of film noir, a style which seems to have been the most natural for Welles.  Welles himself plays the leading character, Hank Quinlan, a sheriff of a U.S.-Mexico border town.  He is a capable  effective, corpulent lawman whose wife was murdered many years before.  Upright, civilized Mexican policeman Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) is vacationing in the town with his new American wife Susan (Janet Leigh).  …continue reading

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