Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Watch This Space

A new web publication from ISI, First Principles, is now online. Let me be among the first to offer my congratulations. It will be among my daily reading.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Notes

The March issue of Chronicles will have my review of Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President by Stephen Hayes. That issue will be on newsstands and in mailboxes in about three weeks. I'll give you the first sentence and let you wait for the rest. "By now it should be clear to all but the most loyal Republicans that the government of the United States is controlled by madmen."

Next up is Print Is Dead: Books in our Digital Age by digital/new media fanatic Jeff Gomez. His argument can be boiled down to, "IPOD! IPOD! IPOD!" If Gomez represents the best that digital world has to offer, Gutenberg's invention should hang around for another 500 years or so.

Back to the Drawing Board . . .

Glen Dean is concerned about what might happen to the Republican party in the coming months. "A nomination of John McCain will destroy the Republican Party. The same can be said of a Huckabee nomination."

I think it's overly dramatic to talk about "destroy[ing]" the GOP, but they are trouble this year no matter who they nominate. Their problem is that the program of the party, known as "conservatism" has been put in to practice to the extent it can, and been found wanting. If they don't go back to the drawing board and find something different, they had better be prepared to for some time in the political wilderness.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New From ISI

I received a spring/summer catalog from ISI Books today. As always, they have plenty of interesting titles but the two that stood out to me are God, Man, & Hollywood: Politically Incorrect Cinema from the Birth of a Nation to the Passion of the Christ by Mark Royden Winchell and a reprint of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, by Justin Raimondo.

I've enjoyed Winchell's writing in Chronicles and other publications for years and look forward to his book. Raimondo's book has a new introduction by George W. Carey and critical essays by Scott Richert of Chronicles and David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It should make a good companion book to Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, which will be out this spring.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Crunchy Bombs

In the midst of a Washington Post article about the prospects for conservatives in 2008, Jonah Goldberg drops this little stink bomb:
Many of the younger conservative policy mavens and intellectuals have also become steadily less enamored of free markets and limited government. . . "Crunchy conservatism," the brainchild of Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, is also a cri de coeur against mainstream conservatism. And both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a "different kind of Republican" because he was a "compassionate conservative" -- a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like.

I not only read, but reviewed Crunchy Cons for Chronicles. It's been a while, but I can't remember anything about it that "derive[s] from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a 'different kind of Republican.'" Fortunately, Jeremy Beer has published a perceptive review of Dreher's book in the University Bookman. He neglected to note any similarity to compassionate conservatism and instead writes that, "Dreher . . . seems to have discovered the half-forgotten canon of traditionalist thought (especially the work of Russell Kirk) and its contemporary expositors (especially Lukacs, Wendell Berry, and Alasdair MacIntyre)."

Beer also wisely puts the much abused term "free markets" in quotes. If one grants that conservative intellectuals actually favor such a policy, conservative politicians and probably 99% of Ameicans don't. I'm not even sure what it means anymore.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 in Review

Some of you may have noticed that I took a brief, two month, vaction from blogging. I just got bored and disgusted with saying the same things over and over again. I took the absence of cards, letters and emails to mean that my readers are too distraught to go on.

I mark my return to a (hopefully) more frequent schedule of blogging by recording my thoughts on the year past in several areas.

I became a member of the National Book Critics Circle in 2007, and a couple of weeks ago I submitted my first nominations for its annual awards. Here are the nominations I made in the general nonfiction category:
1 Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben. I reviewed this for Metro Pulse a few months back.
2 Elites for Peace: The Senate and the Vietnam War, 1964-1968, by Gary Stone. I also reviewed this title in The American Conservative.
3 The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by Mearsheimer and Walt. Move along, nothing to see here.
4Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery. Here's a brief review from Bookforum.

I haven't seen enough movies this year to make a top ten or even a top five list. My friend Jesse Walker annully makes several ten best lists from a decade ago and going back in time (eg. this year he is doing, 1997, 1987, etc.). Instead, I will list a few notable films from previous years that I saw for the first time in 2007.

1 The Jazz Singer(1927). This classic first "talking picture" is actually mostly still silent.

2 42nd Street, Footlight Parade , Gold Diggers of 1933. This trio of Warner Brothers backstage musicals, all from 1933, have similar plots and cast, but the real star in both cases is the outlandish choreography of Busby Berkeley.

3 One, Two, Three (1961). An outstanding Billy Wilder comedy starring the the great James Cagney, who moves at about a hundred miles an Hour in the second half of the film.

4 Ghost World (2001). "I can't relate to 99 per cent of humanity."

Person of the Year

Rightwingers whined when Time magazine chose Vladimir Putin instead of their favored candidate, David Petraeus. I would pick either of Time's runner ups -- Al Gore and J.K. Rowling -- over Petraeus. But consider the merits of Ron Paul, who has raised a boat load of money in his quixotic presidential campaign and threatens to upset the apple cart in the Republican party. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a couple of primaries and caucuses this year.

UPDATE: I almost forgot to mention the entertainment phenomenon of the year in 2007 -- the return of several former writers and cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy form the Film Crew. Their premise is that an unseen Charlie's Angelsesque boss assigns bad movies for them to provide DVD commentaries. I've seen a couple that they have done and they are pretty good. Joel Hodgson and several others have started Cinematic Titanic. I have seen their product yet, but I have high hopes. I commented on the regional nature of MST3K here.