Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gingrich vs. Anarchism

David Friedman – son of Milton, father of Patri – speaks at the Junto tomorrow night (Thur., Dec. 1 at 7:30pm).  He’s the dean of anarcho-capitalism, the philosophy that aims to privatize all governmental functions until government ceases to exist. 

That’s the philosophical faction to which I belong, though I’m so easy-going I can be satisfied with mere budget cuts and deregulation...which never occur.  Please attend and meet perhaps the best-suited man in the world to answer questions like, “How could defense be privatized?”  Or, for beginners: “But, like, if there were a bunch of different post offices, wouldn’t like the mail go all in different directions and everything would explode and people would kill each other like in the Middle Ages?”

One “an-cap,” as my young co-ideologues apparently call themselves nowadays, says he plans to wear a bowler hat to the Friedman speech so that he can be found by other an-caps who want to make their numbers known, in contrast to the more-mainstream, vaguely-free-market “asshats” he says he fears will attend.

The current Republican primary race features no full-blown an-cap, but Ron Paul comes close, and even New York Times’ Gail Collins says “You can’t totally dislike” him, which may be as close to an endorsement as we can hope for from the Times.

Meanwhile, Gingrich is surging in GOP voter polls – perhaps deservedly, given his intelligence, command of the issues, and ability to speak to all the major Republican factions, from the Tea Partiers I’ve seen him address downtown to the Catholics (to whose ranks he’s converted), not to mention those who still fondly remember the decentralizing impulses behind the Contract with America.

And you know I’m a fusionist. 

If the primaries end with Gingrich solidly first and Ron Paul a surprise second, I will just have to hope that the rebellious Paul faction of voters scares Gingrich into dropping his usual arrogant, authoritarian-yet-market-friendly pronouncements and instead saying slightly more radical things like, “Look, it’s perfectly simple: If you want to return to a society of innovation and freedom, Worshington, DC should be shut down altogether and fifty new countries allowed to experiment.  That’s just common sense.”  

If he doesn’t start a nuclear war, he may yet accomplish great things and help save the nation from economic oblivion.  Oh, for the 90s, when nothing Newt did seemed to raise the stakes quite so high.

I will cope by largely ignoring politics for the rest of December after tomorrow’s Friedman speech but at the same time ramping up the Brooklyn Forum events for an opening show in January – and watching the January 3 Iowa caucus for pleasant surprises (or more of the usual anxiety).  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Selections of the Month: The Renaissance, Luddites, ACSH, and Elf Girl

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the actual Luddite riots – which, it is worth recalling, were not inspired by a conservative aversion to technological progress but by ostensibly pro-worker forces wanting to prevent competition from mechanization.  That sort of thinking is with us still, especially among unions – though present in subtler form among, for instance, those who take the financial crisis as evidence regulators should forbid all novel financial instruments (or among left-anarchist David Graeber fans who want to abolish currency – but more about him in a future entry).

I have been mocked over the years for being pro-tech in principle yet slow to adopt technology in practice, only this year getting broadband Internet at home, cable TV, Facebook, Twitter, and a cell phone, believe it or not, but, like a chimpanzee suddenly returned to the wild, except in reverse, I seem to have taken to them quite naturally and now have 400+ “friends” (almost all of them actual friends, too), 350+ followers (not necessarily actually followers, alas), and a bloody trail of 1,200+ tweets (none of which implies I’m switching to Google+).

To commemorate the grim 200th Luddite anniversary, though: here are ten notable texts related to the ongoing tension between progress and preservation of the ancient ways:

1. Four years from this month is the fictional date on which the Replicants from Blade Runner are supposedly activated – a reminder that when Ridley Scott does his planned Blade Runner prequel in 2014, it might be cool if instead of setting it vaguely in “the future” he just set it in the present, with all the postmodern and metafictional implications that would bring.  Just try to depict our world, as much as is possible, as logically of a piece with the high-tech, computerized, postmodern, dystopian, biotech-filled fictional 2019 of the original film (and maybe throw in some excuse for overnight transformation such as a revolution in nanotech, I suppose).

2. Similarly, I think the time may have come to reinvent the cyberpunk subgenre of sci-fi (big in the 90s and usually depicting near-future implications of media and computer tech) so that it is now a “retro” genre like steampunk but depicting a higher-tech version of the 1990s instead of a higher-tech version of the Victorian era.  That should confuse the future people but good.

3. Wearing elf ears and lacing one’s performance art and comedic essays with references to magic is certainly one way of harkening back to an imagined more-idyllic past – and, done ironically, that’s an element of one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, the memoir Elf Girl by my acquaintance Rev. Jen. 

About two years younger than I am, Rev. Jen in some ways sounds typical of the Gen Xers I’ve known in media circles here in NYC, except most of the others don’t have the gumption to brush themselves off after, say, art school professors dismiss their stop-motion animation films about Metallica-loving unicorns with mullets, or audiences boo their performance as fart-noise-makers wearing feces-shaped costumes, and say: I don’t need the stuffy art world’s approval because I’m going to go create my own alternate universe where art is fun and sometimes juvenile (fittingly, Hole’s lyrics “I don’t really miss God, but I sure miss Santa Claus” from “Gutless” are her opening epigram) and all my friends are in my movies and I have a Chihuahua named Rev. Jen Jr. that sort of looks like me and notoriously copious amounts of beer (and some psychedelics) are consumed and there’s occasional nudity and my apartment is turned into a Troll Museum full of plastic trolls to which I charge tourists admission.

But this, in effect, is Rev. Jen’s message to the art world elite (I’m paraphrasing), and as a bar-event-hosting man with a comic book collection, naturally I agree.  You can’t blame Gen X for wanting its art playful.  We came of age with videos like this (and I think Jen herself directed this rock video about New York by her friend Moby, with fitting guest vocals by Debbie Harry).  The more I think about it, the funnier it is that I pitted the happily-trashy Rev. Jen against the classy and poised novelist Katherine Taylor in a Lolita Bar debate a few years ago (much as I adore them both). 

Rev. Jen (who just mail-ordered her ordination, by the way) manages to be very funny by just being very uncomplicatedly concrete and matter of fact but about very odd things, such as her roommate not being impressed by the painting she did of a kitten riding a unicorn and later physically attacking her and giving her brain damage.  And she does it all without being too downbeat, pretentious, or unwarrantedly philosophical.  If you read this, you’ll also get cameos by notorious New York eccentrics who Jen’s dated, including activist, mayoral candidate, and mayor-annoyer Chris Brodeur (who once wrote me a letter calling me a “tomatohead” and apparently is sometimes far harder to deal with) and mysteriously non-aging punk filmmaker Nick Zedd. 

In the end, you’ll fall in love with Rev. Jen as well, even if you’re frightened that being around her might mean a police raid or drunken brawl of some sort is imminent.  And she’s friends with that guy who danced insanely behind Bob Dylan at a performance with the words “SOY BOMB” written on his torso. 

4. And that logically brings us to the Renaissance:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Animal Spirits

One of the items I noticed in my parents’ basement on Thanksgiving, rescued from the old farmhouse in which my mother grew up, is the Ouija board from 1920 seen nearby, startling in its juxtaposition of such mystical symbols as the Star of David and the swastika.  Together with the phrase “AU REVOIR,” they gave away the fact that either (A) the board is older than World War II, (B) it is a disturbing artifact from Vichy France, or (C) my parents are in the Thule Society (the occult organization from which the Nazi Party arose) and I need to get out of the basement before it’s too late.

I assure you, though, that there is peace not only between humans but between species in the Seavey household, as can be seen by the (non-mystical) juxtaposition of Salty the cat with Mac the Scottie in photo #2.  Are the animals nonetheless oppressed by their status as pets, you ask?  If that topic intrigues you, you might enjoy the online-audio debate on animal rights between two of my fellow libertarians, Jesse Gilchrist Forgione and Drew Rush, on Thur., Dec. 8 during the 8-10pm block on ThinkingLiberty, hosted by Tennyson McCalla [UPDATE: Debate rescheduled, alas].

Speaking of animals and the supernatural: you know that photo of a heroic dog in (or rather, near) a sunbeam that some people were recently enthusing about online?  Before they decide that God was shining a light on a (presumably soulless) hero, they really ought to consider the fact that the world is filled with photos of things in sunbeams: rocks, criminals, pieces of dung, dead cats, etc.


The animals I’m most interested in this month, though, are the Muppets, and here’s an old, brief video of them doing joke screen tests for the role of Yoda.  If their new movie isn’t your thing, though, the same day saw the release of a slightly more “serious” film, A Dangerous Method, about Carl Jung and his mentor Sigmund Freud feuding over a crazy woman with a daddy complex who craves punishment – though I am by no means calling such women more mature than Kermit and company.  There is far too much tolerance for craziness in this society, and someone depicted as villainous and heartless will likely say as much in that film (and be right).

Another alternative to the Muppets, one I’ve praised before, is this catchy little puppet-filled video from the band MeWithoutYou, “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie,” a model perhaps for how all kids could be turned into hipsters if raised properly (instead of being beaten and featured in David Cronenberg movies). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for Failure

If it had all gone smoothly – if the Congressional Join Select Committee had come up with an ostensibly wise compromise on the deficit that pleased both sides, some mix of tax increases and budget cuts – they could (if they were really thinking) not only have announced it with pride to the world but could easily have spun it as a “We listened to you, America” moment that might have helped them save face with both the Occupy Wall Street crowd (who’d appreciate seeing the rich taxed) and the Tea Party (who, like me, just want some damn spending cuts).

But the last thing I really want is the public getting the false impression that government can make tough decisions and reach reasonable compromises.  There are things we should want to see fail, among them:

The Super Committee.  Three cheers for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts – though those are really only enough cuts for a year, not spread out over a decade, as Ron Paul has rightly noted.  I would love to see him now emerge as the one plausible spokescandidate for real cuts and real fiscal discipline – and if he added a more optimistic note about what free individuals can privately accomplish once freed from spending, taxes, and regulation, he might handle this episode as artfully as he did the Occupiers who tried to “mic check” him.  (I’m actually quite pleased that the Super Committee was too boring to really attract the kind of attention that turns political developments into “must succeed” causes for the political establishment.)

Occupy Wall Street.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Like Ron Paul, I sympathize with their anguish and agree with some of their points.  But the silliness of some of their socialistic, redistributionist thinking is well captured in a parody protest noted by Dorian Davis.  (I notice one prominent OWS arrestee, Cornel West, having earlier left Harvard, is now leaving Princeton for NYC’s own Union Theological Seminary, another reminder that the twin evils of pro-government and pro-religion sentiment are in fact closely related – anxiety about a world without a central planner.)

The euro and the EU.  The former because more competing currencies are a good thing (and the best check on inflation absent some unvarying peg such as gold – and it is the unvarying peg that checks inflation that matters in currency debates, not the inherent or use value of gold, it’s important to remember).  The latter because competing governments are also an improvement over one central one (as UK MEP Farage angrily reminded the European Parliament recently, to the visible amusement of the Italian member, as Katherine Taylor notes – not that Italy, where people barely know how to wait in line let alone govern, is in a great position to judge, despite having the right idea about coffee).

Unity, solidarity, and a central government.  George Carlin, as was often the case, comes perilously close to the truth about the advantages of letting people go their separate ways in this stand-up bit about how to get rid of the government

The Whole Damn System.  Even NPR notes the growing influence of Ayn Rand on Capitol Hill.  Sooner or later, ideas have consequences.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Republican Candidate Rankings Redux

All right, in the only poll that matters – Todd’s opinion – there has been a radical shake-up in the prospects for the various Republican presidential candidates.

After Saturday’s Focus on the Family faux-Thanksgiving-table debate among six candidates – a debate widely expected (by me) to allow Gingrich to shine – a poll (of me) instead shows all the candidates who participated in the debate (except Ron Paul) being shunted to the bottom of the (Todd) preference rankings, helping to vault non-participants Johnson, Huntsman, and Romney into slots 2 through 4.

But since I’m sticking to my not-voting-for-Romney vow, I think that now logically/ordinally eliminates six candidates altogether, leaving me with these options:

1. Conspiracy guy (who’s at about 10% in primary polls)

2. Pot guy (closer to 0%)

3. Ambassador guy (about 1%)

4. New Englander (amused though I am by the FunnyorDie parody depicting Romney saying he’ll be our next president because he’s neither insane nor black)

5. Harassment-accusations guy

6. Dumb guy

7. Religion lady (with very ex-gay-seeming husband, disturbing since I also find her attractive)

8. Lobbyist (though he is the one closest in girth to Christie or Taft)

9. Santorum

(10. Leftist-corporatist incumbent)

Let’s hear it for the southwest, then, eh?  (Maybe that’d at least be a good vice-presidential regional balance for New England, if it comes to that – though Huntsman would never be picked as a balance for another Mormon presidential candidate – and there were at least two before them, by the way: a feminist anarchist in 1980 and Joseph Smith himself, who was lynched during his campaign.)

By contrast, I find my patience with Gingrich’s combo of ego and authoritarianism growing thin – and it doesn’t help that he plans to start spewing executive orders (of which I thought we were wary these days) on day one, with suggestions for still more being solicited from the public (fun!).  Then again, at least he doesn’t have “good and bad days” like a faltering crazy aunt, the way some of his rivals do.  Maybe that’ll be enough to make him the nominee.

The trickier question then becomes whether to vote Libertarian Party if the LP candidate were someone as serious as Paul or Johnson.  I think principle would oblige me to do so, come what may electoral-consequences-wise.  If the LP picks no one stellar, though – and the GOP doesn’t pick Paul – I’m likely to just skip voting for president this year.  In short (given Johnson and Huntsman’s dismal poll numbers): it’s become Paul or bust for me.

And believe me, I’d prefer to just have a GOP candidate who appealed to all center/right factions without making so many people nervous. 

In fact, it annoys me when some conservatives (not Paul) talk about the importance of moving beyond Reagan idolization.  This may sound paradoxical, but while I have no problem with people criticizing Reagan – even very harshly – any conservatives who suggest not honoring that coalition-building man rub me the wrong way, especially if they condescendingly imply they’d do a superior job.  By all means try, though.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My GOP Candidate Preferences, OWS Thoughts, and Tea Party Calculations

 •Even though a new poll shows (in order of descending popularity) Gingrich, Romney, Cain, and Paul forming the top half of the Republican field, it may be worth listing the candidates in (rough) order of my preference, revealing a bit of my thinking in the process:

1. the conspiracy theorist who helps spread the libertarian message

2. the pot guy

3. the one accused of sexual harassment

4. the dumb guy

5. the batty religious lady

6. the smart corporatist lobbyist

7. the Santorum

8. the Democratic-administration ambassador to China

9. the flip-flopping faux-conservative from New England

I can fully understand smart-seeming Gingrich and Romney now being atop the polls – encouraging evidence, really, that my fellow registered Republicans do care about intellect – but it’s unfortunate that this almost inevitably (for over two centuries now, really) means they lean more technocratic than market-ideological, despite what the left might tell you about them.  They are faring best, and they are the least likely to excite us market ideologues, alas (still, it could be worse: Huckabee).

•Looking beyond this election cycle, though, it is likely that we’ll see politics subtly reshaped by both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (the latter seen above in pics I took a few days before the OWSter from Zuccotti Park, though one shows protesters literally playing in traffic near Union Square – playing accordion, that is).  A bigger emphasis on economics is probably a good thing.  I’ll try to stick to that point rather than petty hygiene issues when chatting with the NY Salon people tonight at a dinner discussion of the OWS phenomenon (armed as well with the tiny few pages of David Graeber’s Debt I’ve now read). 

I imagine most of the diners will be far more sympathetic to OWS than I am, but they might agree that it’s best dinner is on the Upper West Side and thus less likely to be disrupted by the massive OWS protest planned today for downtown (on the two-month anniversary of the Occupation, mere days after the tent city was destroyed).  Those smelly hippies are right to condemn government-bank collusion, but they had better not cause me to spill my wine.

•Actually, I’m not really a full-fledged social conservative, though

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Religion, Skeletor, Muppets, Robots, Dogs, Duran Duran, and Anarchy

My friend Michael Malice (a) admits that he aspired to be a supervillain when he was young (so he should be pleased I saw Skeletor at a Halloween party recently, as seen above), (b) shares my fascination with Ayn Rand devotees (such as Yaron Brook, seen in the nearby photo with Malice when we visited FEE recently), and (c) once remarked that the Chrysler Building is such an impressive human achievement, you look at it and just know there is no God. 

That’s funny – and I’m an atheist – but I have nonetheless tried to extend various olive branches to the religiony folk over the years – with varying degrees of success, as I was reminded just the other day when I noticed that some dimwit Anglican priest (and blogger) in Lexington, SC named James Gibson declared me “political jerk of the year” last year, even though what provoked him was my on-air defense of monogamy, kindness, and morality (and a lot of other things I didn’t even get into) against an aggressive underminer of these things who just happens (of course) to be from a sect similar to Gibson’s. 

I genuinely worry for his flock if his judgment is this poor and his partisan allegiances this much stronger than his moral discernment.

Nonetheless, despite the numerous examples I have been confronted with of secularists behaving well and religious people behaving like ghouls (and looking forward to their moral Get Out of Jail Free card from Jesus, while the rest of us make an actual effort to be good people), I am willing to concede the possibility that if you really crunched the numbers (I’ve looked, and I swear they’re pretty ambiguous), we might find that religious people (or indirectly religion-influenced people, which is an important qualifier) behave better than non-believers. 

That’s a different question, after all, than whether God exists (the answer is no, except in the laughably limited sense that I must also “keep an open/agnostic mind” about unicorns or tiny talking bears living inside the Moon, etc.).  It’s also a question you can see Dinesh D’Souza and others debate live online at 6:45 Eastern at this link, in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. 

Sociologists and evolutionary psychologists have offered theories about why religion might be morally/socially useful (as did Freud and Marx and Nietzsche in their different ways), but I have a two-part suspicion – not sufficient to make religion seem a socially-necessary thing but reason enough to examine its good points instead of simply ditching it and replacing it “with nothing.”

Basically – and I fully admit this is mere speculation:

1. I can’t help noticing how prominent parent imagery is in talk of gods.  And zoologists will tell you that “taming” is often a matter of keeping animals in a youthful state, since there are instinctive limits to youthful aggression that do not exist in adults.  Dogs, famously, are similar in many ways to wolf puppies – with all the adorable deference to pack leaders that entails.  Humans, likewise, have been described as a “self-taming” species.  For all our wars, most of the time we behave gently compared to many other species and (from what the paleontological evidence suggests) our own murderous ancestors. 

And maybe thinking there’s a parent watching is a good way to get people to behave not just like proper citizens or thoughtful moral agents but literally like young siblings. 

2. Furthermore, even for the loners out there, thinking of

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Trio of Music-Related Items for Your Christmas List

•There’s a new Kurt Loder book out today – a collection of movie reviews called The Good, the Bad, and the Godawful by the Reason-affiliated veteran of MTV News.  (Full disclosure: I bump into Loder occasionally at libertarian events now, have written for Reason, used to work for the publisher St. Martin’s Press, and am more or less in love with the former MTV VJ Kennedy, but nothing ever impairs my objectivity anyway.)

•On a stranger and more overtly music-oriented note, there is also technically a new Sandy Denny album out this week, or at least unreleased lyrics by the deceased folk rocker are being performed by still-living singer Thea Gilmore.  Sandy Denny as a voice from the past makes a certain sense, since she was sort of faux-medieval (and was brought to my attention by a traditionalist non-hippie who was one of the participants in last night’s inaugural gathering of the relaunched America’s Future Foundation NYC, in fact).  It’s not too late to use Sandy Denny in the end credits of a Tolkien movie (the Hobbit films are out in 2012 and 2013, and I bet Kurt Loder will like them).

•Not quite a mashup of the living and dead – but odd – is the Metallica + Lou Reed project called Lulu.  A friend of mine says he respects both halves of Lulu for risking this experiment at this stage in their careers, with each having so much cred to imperil in rather different musical subcultures – but says he prefers Megadeth anyway.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Spirit of the 90s Is Alive on C-SPAN!

•I have no idea whether Cain will weather the sexual harassment stories, but he actually did a fine job in the debate – more of a friendly, mutually-supportive chat – with Newt Gingrich on C-SPAN over the weekend.  When the two of them start talking about deregulation and interchanging words like “enterprise” and “empowerment,” it’s enough to make you feel as if Jack Kemp is still alive and that whole Bush thing never happened.  Sigh.

Maybe Cain is basically an econ-oriented libertarian and – dangerous though this could prove – just never gives much thought to either foreign policy or abortion.  He’d better start doing so pronto, but that’d be better than him simply being insane, obviously.  (Most of the GOP candidates are at least a bit nuts, aren’t they?  What sane person runs for office, though?) 

By the way, in addition to being a businessman, impromptu singer, joker, quasi-libertarian, fuzzy-reasoner, minister, and guy with spotty foreign policy knowledge, he was also a mathematician specializing in ballistics for the Navy when he was a young man.  Math?  Theology?  Libertarian tendencies?  It would almost be odd if he didn’t say something strange once in a while.  (Maybe he’s even the systematizing but socially inept type Evan Isaac has dubbed an “Aspergo-capitalist.”)

•Ultimately, the GOP nomination will probably come down to who wins the four January primaries and thus has early momentum, I suppose, and though Romney clearly dominates NH, Cain now leads him in SC by 33-23 and – get this – leads him in Iowa 30-15 (!?!).  They’re tied in FL. 

(Iowa also went big for Obama back in 2008, with conservative voters even switching parties to vote for him – in a 96% white state, which is interesting.  Janeane Garofalo or someone will probably find a way to rationalize that white people just want to see black people fighting each other.  Boxing?  Need I say more?  You’re listening to Air America.  No, wait.  You’re not.)

•As I mentioned at FEE this weekend and am happy to explain again tonight at McGee’s (RSVP to Chadwick[at] if you want to join that group’s gathering there from 6:30-9:30), this year I might have to jump ship and vote Libertarian Party again, though, in the unlikely event Ron Paul switches parties again – and I think if he took Jesse Ventura up on his offer to have Ventura as his LP running mate, he might get extra publicity and end up being a serious spoiler.  Do something to make it a less tempting option, GOP – do something to make it a less tempting option. 

Actually, since Paul (as people perhaps forget) endorsed the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin in 2008 and has expressed some sympathy for both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street – and since Ventura came from the Reform Party – perhaps the ideal outcome next year would be a Paul/Ventura Republican-Libertarian-Constitution-Reform(-Tea-Occupy) ticket, surely America’s best hope for overcoming factional divisions. 

I also offer the New York Post the following headline, free of charge, for when the Occupiers finally get removed from Zuccotti Park: “OWSted!!”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cain & Gingrich, Epstein & Cato, FEE & Rand, AFF & NYC!

Even by this blog’s standards, here’s a big dose of libertarianism:

•Hey, V for Vendetta mask-wearers: remember, remember that on the Fifth of November (this Saturday), Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich will debate one-on-one (on C-SPAN at 8pm Eastern).  Gingrich, now at #3 in the GOP-voter polls, can’t come out of the bout at #1 – but maybe he can finish off a faltering Cain and position himself as #2, behind Romney. 

Gingrich is the perfect person to administer the knock-out blow to Cain, since Gingrich can fight the entire battle on the wholesome ground of technocratic know-how, without ever mentioning Cain’s sex-harassment problems (indeed, Gingrich, now on his third marriage, has as little incentive to focus on sex scandals as Romney has to focus on religious controversy). 

Cain is almost delusionally fuzzy on details, whereas Gingrich, say what you will about him, is as wonk-detail-oriented as Bill Clinton.  He would do well to remind people that the 90s were as much the Gingrich Decade as the Clinton Decade.  If Romney wins (and refuses to pick radical Ron Paul as his running mate), he could do worse than Gingrich.

•At the moment, you can (roughly) divide the nine relevant GOP candidates into three tiers of three candidates each, with mushy pragmatists currently at the top in terms of popularity, as often seems to be the case (Cain, Romney, Gingrich); then the Tea Partiers, who, to put it mildly, aren’t proving quite as charming to the masses as some of us were hoping, in the middle (Paul, Perry, Bachmann); and the competent-yet-constituentless dudes at the bottom (Santorum, Huntsman, Johnson). 

If I had to pick a favorite from each tier, they’d be: Gingrich, Paul, and Johnson.  (I would also vote for historian Paul Johnson if he were eligible.)  My guess is it’ll effectively be over by the end of January’s primaries, with Romney sitting pretty, but there are still an astonishing seven more GOP debates scheduled for 2011, so there’s still time for ALL SORTS OF WEIRD THINGS TO HAPPEN. 

(Will one of my friends with connections to Ron Paul for God’s sake teach him how to do diplomatic outreach to his own party sometime in the next few weeks, what with, you know, the fate of the republic hanging in the balance and all?)

•Saturday (on Channel 13 in New York) also brings the 4pm airing of a recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate in which libertarians Richard Epstein and Dan Mitchell got trounced (according to the audience vote, anyway) by defenders of Obama’s jobs bill [CORRECTION: The Epstein et al broadcast has moved to Sat., Nov. 12 at 4pm].  I’m sure I’ll prefer them nonetheless.  On the bright side, Mitchell’s colleagues at the Cato Institute now have a blog on which they can explain free-market positions in greater detail: behold

•I’ll DVR the debates while heading off to the big,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Immortals vs. Titans

Tarsem Singh’s film Immortals out next week depicts the mythological Titans threatening to return and take control back from the Olympian Gods – which will also be the plot of the Clash of the Titans sequel in March (Wrath of the Titans).  You’d think the Clash people, who knew the Tarsem film was coming before they finalized plans for their sequel, would want to avoid looking redundant.

Well, the world lived with both Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont, I suppose.

I don’t know to what extent, if any, Tarsem’s Immortals will read as a conscious stylistic “response” to 300 (it’s the same producers, so I wouldn't expect it to openly mock 300), but Tarsem would be an interesting man to do such a retort.  He grew up in a Muslim family that fled Iran after its Islamic Revolution to live in Bollywood-loving India.  He must have mixed feelings about 300’s cool-looking and colorful but almost neocon depiction of the Muslim horde [CORRECTION: Persian horde metaphorically tied to the Muslim threat in Miller's symbology] as irrational, anti-freedom, and literally inhuman (300 creator Frank Miller’s recent graphic novel Holy Terror is explicitly and directly about al Qaeda, by the way).

Tarsem also directed the beautiful The Fall and the underrated The Cell, the latter with J. Lo inside the surreal mind of a serial killer, which was sort of like if Baz Luhrmann directed an X-Files episode.  And, of course, he gave us the video for “Losing My Religion” by the late, lamented R.E.M.

And his romanticized look at mythic ancients arrives the same month as the 200th anniversary of the actual historical Luddites, by the way.  I for one will not give up on the future – and I’ve heard the film has some almost steampunk-like anachronistic tech elements itself (as did the fun, mannered, and freaky Steampunk Haunted House I went to on the Lower East Side last night).

P.S. For combining the forward-looking and the retrograde, it’s hard to beat the Renaissance, so more about that in a few weeks, in the form of Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.