The Dark Place

I enjoyed the film adaptation of Sergei Lukyanenko’s decade-old Russian fantasy novel Night Watch (Дневной дозор) last evening. Some great visual effects and a pretty good English-language dub (for people who don’t like to read subtitles), although the storyline’s a little disjointed. An intriguing take on the typical vampires-in-modern-times kind of story, as it’s set in Moscow.

But I really got a kick out of this excerpt from the original book’s review by Ron Charles of The Washington Post:

In each of the novel’s three sections, Anton struggles through a torturous crisis of faith that leads up to a climactic confrontation with the forces of Evil, only to realize in the final paragraphs that his boss, a Great Magician of the Light, has planned the whole thing as a decoy to distract everyone (including us) from some secret plan off-stage. The trick ending of the first section was fairly clever; the trick ending of the second section was a little annoying; and by the end of the third, I wanted to shove somebody’s magic wand up the Dark Place.

Humor Gone Feral

Over at Jack Bogdanski’s blog, he resurrects a video from a simpler time in Portland’s civic history. Last fall, to be precise, after Sam Adams had locked up the mayoral race, and was celebrating with fellow City Commissioner Randy Leonard and singer/reality-show personality Storm Large at the Candidates Gone Wild party:

Decent people, I warn you: it’s not safe for work. Indeed, it’s not even safe to look at if you just want to keep living here.

I have no problems (as many of the commenters at Jack Bog’s do) with the language or crudity of the video (although I don’t find those things funny in and of themselves) but what’s amazing about it to me is just how flatly unfunny the whole thing is.

The idea that public officials have to maintain some false sense of “dignity” is also a crock so far as I’m concerned, but you’d hope that they’d at least have the good sense to not participate in something that makes them (i.e. Randy Leonard) seem mentally deficient. (Couldn’t the “writer” come up with some synonyms for “hussy”?) Of course, Adams may have been in the restroom when the good sense was being passed out.

With all of the truly talented people in this town, you’d think that they could have come up with someone to expunge this line from the credits: “Written by Storm Large”.

Though it does all set one to speculating about next fall’s Candidates Gone Wild….

Recipe for Success

How reading fellow Reed College graduate Barbara Ehrenreich’s work can get you sent to Gitmo for seven years.

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the offending article – called How To Build An H-Bomb – was first published in a US satirical magazine and later placed on a series of websites.

Written by Barbara Ehrenreich, the publication’s food editor, Rolling Stone journalist Peter Biskind and scientist Michio Kaku, it claims that a nuclear weapon can be made ‘using a bicycle pump’ and with liquid uranium ‘poured into a bucket and swung round’.

Despite its clear satirical bent, the story led the CIA to accuse 30-year-old Mohamed, a caretaker, of plotting a dirty bomb attack, before subjecting him to its ‘extraordinary rendition programme’.

Ehrenreich’s take.

Everything Pink Is New Again

Mark Leibovich of The New York Times has discovered the latest phenomenon:

It seems that “socialist” has supplanted “liberal” as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as “Clinton” was in the 1990s and “Pelosi” is today.

I hate to burst Mr. Leibovich’s bubble, but Republicans calling anything that Herbert Hoover wouldn’t have approved of “socialist” is something they’ve never stopped harping on. Leibovich says “the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy,” but as it was in full flare during the 2004 election, with people like then-Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) decrying billionaire-by-marriage Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as “advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas” during a Bush/Cheney campaign press phone call (according to The Los Angeles Times), the reality is it never really went away. If Kerry had won, you can be sure the charge that he and the rest of the Democrats were socialists (I wish!) would have continued. Consider, for instance, this little gem from Tom Nugent at National Review Online, published just after Bush beat Kerry:

Capitalism Beats Socialism, Once Again

Here comes the bull market.

When Jackie Gleason played the character of Joe the Bartender, one of his famous lines was, “Mmmmmmm, how sweet it is!” For Republicans, the outcome of the 2004 national election couldn’t be any sweeter. Same for investors. The bull market in stocks is now likely to resume, and it should sustain for some time to come.

Why? Once again, capitalism triumphed over socialism.

The socialist crowd in America never gets it and never will: Tax-rate cuts are good for all Americans. The godfather of tax-rate cuts — Arthur Laffer — will tell you that tax-rate cuts are not meant for rich people; they are meant to increase the incentive for everyone to produce, invest, and save. Such an incentive applies to all human beings, including those who are not rich but want to be rich.

Seriously, just Google “‘John Kerry’ socialist”, and between articles in socialist publications discussing the 2004 election (and usually with some unkind words about Kerry), you’ll find much along the same line, including criticisms of Kerry for singing Woody Guthrie’s (socialist) anthem “This Land Is Your Land” and denunciations of Kerry for his support from the Socialist Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Zapatero.

It’s been there all along. Just because people like Mr. Leibovich haven’t noticed it before doesn’t make it new.

Of course, there are plenty of Democrats who quake at the thought of socialists under their beds, too.


Public pay toilets along the Malecón in Mazatlan on the last day of Carnaval (24 February). “Baños Limpios” — despite the natural assumption that it might be bathrooms for those with erectile dysfunction — means “Clean Bathrooms,” but the graphic is at war with the text.

For those of you who also haven’t been to Mexico in the past, oh, 35 years or so like Barbara and myself, the “$” is used there to denote pesos, which were trading between 13 and 14 to the US dollar last week, so “$5” was about forty cents. Of course, if you wanted to pay US$5 to pee, your money would probably have been accepted.


Trailer Park California, Av. Rafael Buelna, Mazatlan, Mexico

On Avenida Rafael Buelna in Mazatlan, Mexico. And The Eagles thought the hotel was bad….