The Dog is Dead But the Tail Still Wags

Twenty years ago, P.J. O’Rourke quipped that he was going to use that title for the next Christopher Hitchens book. I think it’s time. I saw his shambling performance on The Daily Show and Sullivan links to a HuffPo review of his new book.

I haven’t read the book, but the HuffPo comments and Hitch’s rambling assertions have gotten me in the mood to rumble. There is an ongoing backlash against fundamentalism among certain parts of our culture. Not content with simply doing away with the mythological aspects of religion, they now have to denounce religion itself as an evil. The very title of Hitch’s book is that religion poisons everything. And the comments in support this view, the diatribes I’ve been reading lately by people like Douglas Adams and Richard Dawkins and even the little commenters on HuffPo support this view. Religion is bad. It never does anything good. Humanity would be better off without it.

This is utter total ignorant arrogant bullshit.

Continue reading The Dog is Dead But the Tail Still Wags

Summer Preview

For some reason, I am very unimpressed with the bevy of sequels we will have this summer.

  • Spiderman 3 is unlikely to draw me. I was not terrible impressed with the first two movies. They were good, but I didn’t WOW! over them like everyone else. In general, I’m not that big a fan of superhero movies. Superman Returns left me cold as well. I liked Batman Begins however.
  • Shrek The Third fills me with dread. The first two movies were good. Not $400 million good, but good. But I have a feeling this is going to be where the franchise jumps the shark, especially given the turnover in writing staff. Look at the credits of the writers of Shrek the Third and shudder.
  • The same goes for Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which I think will be where franchise finishes. Like Spiderman and Shrek, I don’t understand why people are so smitten with the franchise. The movies are good, but they’re not Indiana Jones good.
  • Ocean’s Thirteen? I didn’t even bother with Ocean’s Twelve. Hell, Ocean’s 11 was only decent — one of those actor cafe’ clatche movies that critics like a lot more than audiences.
  • Fantastic Four II. I’d sooner watch Fantastic Floor.
  • Evan Almighty. Morgan Freeman can’t be that pressed for work, can he? Still, Steve Carrell could breath some life into this. Or not.
  • Live Free or Die Hard. Every Gen-Xer is going to be dying to see this movie. And I predict that, by the end, every Gen-Xer will wish he were dead. Why must Hollywood resurrect another dead franchise? There have got to be 50 scripts out there languishing in development hell that would be better. Give someone new a chance!!! Anyway, the first movie is an action classic. And they have declined in quality since. I expect that trend to continue. Just the title grates.
  • Ratatouille. I just re-watched The Incredibles and I have every confidence that Brad Bird and Pixar will produce another winner.
  • Transformers. We’re now discovering something worse than Baby Boomer nostalgia: Gen-X nostalgia.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Since the book was very good, I expect a good movie. So far, the franchise has not disappointed.
  • The Simpsons Movie. Despite myself, I am looking forward to this. I have a feeling they are going to entertain the hell out of us. Shrek will make more money, but either this or Ratatouille will be the better film. After languishing for many years, The Simpsons has been noticeably better of late. I predict this will translate well to the big screen.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum. Who cares. We’ve got Daniel Craig playing the genuine article. I have a theory that the books of Robert Ludlum improve when they are made into movies. I can’t prove this since I’ve never gotten more than twenty pages into one without falling asleep and waking up with Fleming.
  • Rush Hour 3. Hopefully, this cinematic abortion will put the fork in the franchise.
  • Notice something? Only one of the movies I’m optimistic about is a sequel and even that one (Order of the Phoenix) is more of an ongoing saga than a straight sequel. I almost always prefer new stories to sequels. Especially when said sequel is not really necessary in the first place (I’m looking at you, Matrix).

    On a related note, my brother and I were discussing the next Star Trek film, which is rumored to be a prequel. I’m curious. Can anyone think of a prequel that has not sucked? I can think of a handful. Revenge of the Sith. The prequel half of Godfather II. I’m not counting franchise reboots like Batman Begins or Casino Royale. Even with books, it’s hard to think of a prequel that doesn’t suck.

    I think there are a few reasons for this:

  • Narrative restraint. We know where the story has to go. So not only is suspense or mystery blown, but the characters are confined. They become more like historical figures than people with freedom of choice. This is a big reason why the Star Wars prequel struggled – because they had to force Annikan to fall to the Dark Side, rather than letting it naturally develop out of his character.
  • Cute Continuity. The tendency to populate the stories with foolish, stupid and unnecessary connections to the original, e.g., having Chewbacca in Sith for no good reason at all. Fans cheer. The rest snooze.
  • Nothing new. You’re not tramping out new narrative ground. You’re simply telling something in detail that we already know of in general. And often, the general picture is better than the specific one. My friend Robert pointed out that the fundamental problem with the Star War prequel was that we already had a backstory. We didn’t need a second one.
  • Most of the exceptions people come out with will prove the rule. The Horatio Hornblower series is written backward, but there is very little narrative constraint. Hornblower’s backstory is only hinted at in Beat to Quarters. And the Silmarillion has its moments but (a) it’s not a novel in the traditional sense; (b) all the stories in it were at least sketched out in detail before Lord of the Rings was published. But I’m looking over bookshelves right now and the few prequels on it — the Foundation series, the Dune series, don’t work terribly well.

    Anyway, I boldy predict that Star Trek XI will suck like no Trek has sucked before. Now that is a franchise that needs a fork stuck in it. Several.

    The Choice Wars

    Read John Stossel’s account of the school choice wars.

    There are few political powers more ruthless, more vicious than the teacher’s unions. These are nothing but pure power brokers who hide behind innocent children and hard-working teachers to advance their agenda. In a way, they remind me of Bush’s supporters — his few remaining supporters — who insist that any disagreement with their agenda is not “supporting the troops”. Big Education insists that any attempt to change our broken education system is “anti-education”, “anti-teacher” or “anti-children”.

    We are not talking about a bunch of teachers sitting around singing Kumbaya. We are talking about one of the most powerful and ruthless special interests in the nation. They have long had the gloves off when it comes to attacking their political opponents. It’s time we took the gloves off too.