Kubo and the Two Strings

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Would it be ungenerous to say this is the kind of movie Pixar doesn't seem to want to make any more? Probably. But I'll add another data point when Finding Dory shows up this week.

The opening scene is chilling as a young woman on a flimsy boat battles a raging storm and is washed up, barely alive, on a beach. A cry from a nearby pile of flotsam (or is it jetsam) reveals… Kubo! A baby down to one eye. It's clear that they've just barely escaped a perilous situation.

Skip forward a few years. Kubo and his mother live in a hidden cave above a small town of friendly folk. Mom is near-catatonic, and Kubo makes ends meet by showing off his magical origami talents to throngs in the town's marketplace. But (of course) one night he disobeys Mom's strict rule to get back to the cave before nightfall. And (of course) disaster strikes.

This sets Kubo off on a mission of revenge. He's accompanied by a monkey, mystically generated from an old talisman. And (eventually) a samurai warrior created from a beetle. Perils abound and (slight spoiler) there's eventual victory, but it's bittersweet at best.

Highly recommended. I know it sounds grim from my description, but there's a lot of funny stuff along the way too. Best movie I've seen so far this year. (Heh.)

URLs du Jour


Finally managed to put up my new Futurama calendar. <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> Only January, and it's already much better than last year's lazy effort. I think this is a good omen.

  • Reason's Nick Gillespie quotes the Washington Post's Moscow Bureau Chief David Filipov: "Russia is not the Soviet Union, this is not the Cold War, and Moscow is not looking for world domination." Gillespie relates Filipov's views to:

    For the American press and many partisans, one of Donald Trump's very gravest sins is his "bromance" with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It's a sure sign of The Donald's stupidness, ignorance, naiveity, or flat-out lack of any moral seriousness that he seems to be OK with the Russians grabbing Crimea, edging its way into Ukraine, helping an even-bigger POS, Bashar al Assad, in Syria, and even "hacking" an election (or maybe not).

    I'd work the causality the other way: MSM partisans hate Trump so much that that hatred overwhelms their normal biases.

    I do hope, however, that David Filipov is not this century's Walter Duranty.

    More about Russia in a bit, but first…

  • Fake news is all over these days. For example, at the New York Times, where one Susan Dynarski's Upshot column is headlined: "Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It".

    Skeptics drilled down into the actual evidence for that claim. And what do you know?

    [T]he more accurate summary would be “About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t”

    Hm. Maybe Susan Dynarski is this century's Walter Duranty.

  • And speaking of MSM fake news: I've been fascinated by the debunking of the WaPo's "Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid" story. At Forbes, Kalev Leetaru writes at how the story "evolved", nearly hour by hour, as the original sky-is-falling yarn fell apart. The newspaper, as Leetaru tells it, has been memory-holing its blunders as much as possible, and has been mostly opaque in describing how it got things so wrong.

    [P]erhaps most intriguing is that, as with the Santa Claus story, the Post did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding how it conducts fact checking for its stories. This marks twice in a row that the Post has chosen not to respond in any fashion to my requests for more detail on its fact checking processes. Given the present atmosphere in which trust in media is in freefall and mainstream outlets like the Post are positioning themselves as the answer to “fake news” it certainly does not advance trust in the media when a newspaper will not even provide the most cursory of insight into how it checks its facts.

    Leetaru's brutal analysis is good as far as it goes, but misses what is (for me) the obvious chain of causation: (a) the WaPo is heavily invested in delegitimizing Trump; (b) part of that effort involves painting the Russkies as dangerous, nefarious super-cyber-hackers that threw the election Trump's way; and so (c) when something appeared that seemed to further bolster that narrative, the paper jumped on it like a trout at a May-fly.

  • Which brings us, naturally enough, to the much-ballyhooed "election hacking" that the Obama Administration blames on Russia and Putin. But, according to Power Line's John Hinderaker: the "Evidence For Russian Involvement in DNC Hack is Nonexistent". Not just weak, mind you: nonexistent.

    Hinderaker's argument is plausible and compelling (he refers to the same Wordfence analysis we referred to on New Year's Day); so is his conclusion:

    Nevertheless, the Democratic Party operatives who masquerade as reporters in the U.S. have uncritically swallowed the administration’s line, and are hectoring Donald Trump and his aides to admit that Vladimir Putin was responsible for “hacking the election.”

  • Pun Salad loves the Constitution to death, but as Tyler Cowen points out, the so-called Emoluments Clause is getting a hard look, because (guess what) anti-Trumpers see it as a possible line of attack. But it's far from clear what it covers, and how it might be enforced.

    But what I really wanted to quote is Cowen's final sentence:

    I would gladly learn more about this topic, and I am afraid that this year I am about to.

    That's so true about so many things.

  • Patterico looks at " Check Your Privilege Cards: Yet One More Way To Smugly Say, 'I Am Better Than You'". I've never embedded an Instagram before, let's see if it works…

    Wow, I'm hitting seven out of seven there. (Assuming you're generous with the "Christian" and "Able-bodied" items.)

  • And I just finished up reading the January 2017 issue of Reason and noted this quote in their "From the Archives" feature.

    If education is truly valued, why do we allow the state to become involved?

    That's Manny Klausner from their January 1977 issue, forty years ago. How long will it take for more people to realize that there's no good answer to that question?