Turning Red

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Turning Red]

I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. I love Pixar. And it's the usual stunning riot of visual imagery.

Set in Toronto, it's the story of young Meilin, a Canadian-Asian girl on the threshold of adolescence. She has one of those Tiger Moms that presses her to academic excellence and family duty. As a result, she's a totally admirable, straight-arrow, young lady. Alas, she's soon stricken with an unusual issue: she turns into a giant red panda when undergoing emotional stress. (And she's at an age where such stress happens a lot.)

Complicating things is the upcoming concert by the boy band "4*Town" that has the hearts of Meilin and her three besties a-throbbing. But unfortunately, the tickets are $200 a pop; that's in Canadian money I guess, but still pretty steep for kids. Gee, could they somehow turn that panda-transmogrification thing into a money-making opportunity? (Spoiler: yup.)

And (by the way), the panda thing (it's too nifty, really, to call it a "curse") is also a family trait. As Meilin soon discovers.

Well, I guess something along those lines happened, but I must admit I kind of dozed off toward the end. There's only so much 13-year-old girl perkiness and Asian family friction I can take at my age. Woke up to see that there was a happy ending, though!

Songs are also meh. Lin-Manuel Miranda was apparently uninvolved.

URLs du Jour


  • Well, of course it's not. John Hinderaker at Power Line assures us: It Isn’t Just Slow Joe. Based on this tweet from the Hill:


    This is a new contribution to economic theory that we could dub Pelosinomics: if only we increase government spending enough, we can eliminate the national debt!

    Recommended reading: Chapter 10 of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, entitled "Why the Worst Get on Top".

  • It's not just Critical Race Theory. Martin Gurri writes on The Identity Cult at City Journal. Without a single mention of CRT.

    Linking to a Sesame Street celebration of “Latinx culture,” Antonio García Martínez, sharpest wit on Twitter, wrote last fall: “One of the great mysteries is how every elite institution, from universities to corporations to media to even Sesame Street, all spontaneously coalesced on the same narrow set of values all of a sudden.”

    The set of values in question belongs to the cult of identity—a ramshackle creed that maintains, for example, that the term “Latinx” signifies an actual human group. Once the province of pretentious professors and their captive students, the cult has leaked out of the cannabis-scented halls of academia to infect an astonishing number of people in power. García Martínez is right. In the scope and rapidity of institutional embrace, nothing like it has transpired since the conversion of Constantine.

    The National Archives in Washington, D.C., today places warning labels on the Constitution, because reading it may induce unpleasant sensations in some identity groups. Universities like Princeton now publish “antiracist toolkits” to instruct the faithful on how to “move beyond diversity” and into identity heaven. Nike, which makes sneakers, demands of its customers: “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem with America. Don’t turn your back on racism.” The Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins, two time-honored sports franchises, for their identity sins have had their names stripped away. I could extend the list unto boredom—it would range from prestigious media institutions like the New York Times to local bodies like the San Francisco school board.

    Gurri's essay is good all the way through, and makes the point through omission: CRT isn't the only problem poisoning American institutions, and it may not (as such) be even the major problem.

  • For that matter, Donald Trump is no Thomas Dewey. In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby takes a senator to history class. Sorry, Tom Cotton: Trump is no Reagan. Yes, Senator Cotton claimed to have detected a "deeper continuity in the beliefs of our 40th and 45th presidents." Jeff says nay:

    The Gipper was a man of grace, civility, and dignity — the opposite of Trump, who has always confused bluster with strength and bragging with confidence. Reagan was widely read, deeply informed, and persuasive in sharing his views. (Anyone who doubts it should read the published collection of his writings, which shows a mind constantly at work.) It was during the Reagan ascendancy that the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced, with a touch of surprise: “Of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas.” Trump, by contrast, neither reads nor thinks, and the party he dominates is not associated with either thoughtfulness or innovation. In 2020, the Trumpified GOP didn’t even bother to produce a platform. Instead, it boiled its views down to a single principle: “The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump . . . and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

    What is salient in politics changes from era to era, of course. Many policies that exemplified Reaganism in the 1980s would have no application to the Trump era, and vice versa. But changing circumstances cannot paper over the profound differences between the two men.

    Take foreign policy. Reagan was the president who implemented a strategy to win the Cold War and deployed all his rhetorical power to weaken the moral standing of the Soviet Union. Trump was the president who repeatedly gushed over the world’s dictators, including Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin. It is fatuous to pretend that there is no choice to be made between the legacy of the Republican who saw America’s enemies headed for “the ash-heap of history” and the Republican who praises the “genius” and “savvy” of Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.

    Unfortunately, today's GOP seems uninterested in winning one for the Gipper.

  • Worst Sound of Music song parody ever. Kevin D. Williamson wonders: how do you solve A Problem Like Putin?

    Vladimir Putin is one man. How has it come to pass that a single man, the corrupt and banal ruler of a decadent and backward country, should be able to convulse the entire world, more or less on his own?

    There are analogous situations in private life. A screaming baby may be the least powerful person in a room, but he can dominate the room with his screams. A heckler can momentarily interrupt a performance and command the attention of a thousand people in a theater. Criminals often are weak men, but they can impose their will on others simply by being ready to violate laws and social rules.

    All voluntary constraints on power create advantages for those who do not accept such constraints — that is one of fascism’s genuine political insights and the reason fascists and fascist organizations reject constraints on power in principle. This is true both of the sort of fascist who calls himself a fascist and of the sort of fascist who calls himself a socialist (Lenin, Castro, etc.) and of the sort of fascist who spurns ideological language for vague promises of national greatness.

    I have observed in the past that either socialism is the unluckiest ideology in the history of politics — inexplicably being taken up by Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Mao, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, etc. — or there is something wrong with socialism. Which, of course, there is.

    KDW goes on to quote chapter and verse from (hey, what a coincidence) the same source I recommended above: "Why the Worst Get On Top".

  • Another dumb idea that never seems to go away. It was never a good idea, and Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center notes recent data that should make that even more clear: Remote work makes commuter rail even less viable

    A commuter rail line from New Hampshire to Boston would need increasing taxpayer subsidies to serve a shrinking number of riders, recent data on transit ridership and commuting patterns suggest. 

    Health concerns are not the only reason commuter rail ridership remains a fraction of its pre-pandemic levels. Work and commuting patterns have changed, leaving public transit systems — especially commuter rail — with massive, long-term revenue shortfalls and shrinking pools of potential riders.

    The New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s proposed “Capitol Corridor” commuter rail project would extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Boston-Lowell line to Manchester (and possibly to Concord). It would undertake this expansion, at a cost well north of a quarter of a billion dollars, just as remote work begins to reshape commuting patterns.

    Speaking of reshaped commuting patterns: a recent Antiplanner blog post relating to my old home town: 60 Desks for Every 100 Workers.

    Mutual of Omaha is building a new headquarters in downtown Omaha, which at first appears to be a revival of downtown fortunes. But the company has 4,000 employees in the Omaha area, and the new headquarters will have room for no more than 2,500 of them, as the rest are expected to work from home on any given day.

    Also see Philip Greenspun's plea for the neglected orphams of "reshaped commuting patterns": What happens to all of the Aeron and Steelcase chairs?

    I beg you, think of the children office furniture!

Unrequited Infatuations

Odyssey of a Rock and Roll Consigliere (A Cautionary Tale)

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I've been reading memoirs/biographies of various much admired musical talents for a few years now. E.g., Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Linda Rondstadt, Donald Fagen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Glen Campbell. Seems like a lot, but I average under one per year. I used to think that I'd get some insight into the wellsprings of musical genius, but I pretty much gave up on that. Common themes: hard work, innate talent, drugs, sex (often the cheating kind), dishonest management, etc.

This memoir by Stevie Van Zandt (aka, Miami Steve, Little Steven) memoir is very good. I'm pleasantly surprised. It's full of musical insights, inside scoops, great stories. Over a long career, Stevie has rubbed shoulders with just about everyone. (Back cover blurbs from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.)

But that's not all. As you (probably) know, Stevie (unexpectedly) became an actor, with a major supporting role in The Sopranos, and a starring role on the Netflix series Lillyhammer.

I was drawn to the because Stevie was an integral part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. He was also involved in the genesis of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, producing their first three albums, writing and performing as well. (He claims to have been the person who first dubbed John Lyon as "Southside". Thanks from a grateful nation.)

One of the fun parts of reading this book: getting my Amazon Echo to fill in the musical blanks. "Alexa, play 'I Don't Want To Go Home' by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul." Or "Alexa, play 'Jesus is the Rock That Keeps Me Rolling' by Darlene Love."

I was aware that Stevie's politics were left-wing. That's not to say that some of his activism wasn't worthy: he played a part in organizing musical opposition to South African apartheid. Other than that, it's been a mixed bag. Down in Nicaragua, Stevie was a big Danny Ortega and Rosario Murillo fan. And today, thanks to them, Nicaragua is ranked the least-free country in Central America. His political proposals (pp. 365-370) are pretty hopeless, mostly hot garbage. Example: "Elimination of 'Black Communities'". Black-on-black crime, racism, poverty will all disappear by moving everyone into "middle-class neighborhoods".

Sure, that'll work.

Apparently Stevie and Southside Johnny drifted apart over the years; there's not much about him in the latter part of the book. I'd really like to read his memoir.

Last Modified 2022-03-15 5:47 AM EDT