Unfinished essays and spontaneous eruptions on radical politics and popular culture
Thursday, January 19, 2006
See you next month!
I’m taking a break from blogging, emailing, and all other forms of writing for the next 17 days. Deb and I are off to Hawaii, one week in Maui followed by another in Kaua’i. And unless we decide at the very last minute to pack one of the laptops, you’ll find nothing new posted here until Monday, February 6.
Some snorkeling is planned. Some hiking. Maybe some kayaking. The usual touristy stuff. And a lot of relaxing. I’ll be taking along some Escape Pod and Spaceship Radio podcasts, as I mentioned a few days ago, plus a handful of lectures downloaded from Mises.org. And I’m sure I’ll be doing some reading; I plan to pack, at the very least, Only Child by Andrew Vachss (which I began reading this morning), At the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs (which I’ve been meaning to reread since the tenth grade), and James Bovard’s new one, Attention Deficit Democracy (which I’ll review here eventually).
This is my first vacation of any real length (excluding a few days here and there in places like Big Sur, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Carmel) since 1998, when we spent a month in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.
See you early next month. I’m sure the revolution will proceed just dandy without me until then.
I confess. Until now, I haven’t even touched a copy of Murray Rothbard’s two-volume History of Economic Thought. First, it’s been out of print for quite some time and impossible to find. Second, it cost $200 or more to own a copy. So I’ve contented myself by reading and re-reading Murray’s other books.
Well, the Mises Institute has now released an affordable edition of the Rothbard masterwork. Just 45 bucks! Hooray! Roderick Long says, “While I have some quarrels with a few of Rothbard’s interpretations (I think he’s a bit rough on Plotinus and Adam Smith, for instance), this history is a treasure; Rothbard explores vast reaches of intellectual history that most accounts of economic thought ignore completely (lots of material on the Scholastics and the French liberals, a lengthy section on Molinari, etc.), and does so in his usual lively and engaging manner. If you think a thousand-plus-page history of economics can’t be an exciting page-turner, think again.”
LMI also has made available audio recordings of six highly entertaining and educational Rothbard lectures that dipped heavily into the research that was to make up a third volume on Marx, the Austrians, and up through Hayek.
Order the two-volume History here. Order the lectures here.
I plan to place my order promptly upon my return from Hawaii. More on that later.
Brad Spangler, bless his radical little soul, has made available online Samuel Edward Konkin III's unique, Left Libertarian, agorist spin on the history of the modern libertarian movement. Even a Konkinite like myself can take issue with some of this, but it's great reading. Find it here.
Agorists and other Left Libertarians should note the formation of a new national organization of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and plans to hold the first SDS national convention in 37 years sometime next summer. And it seems that there may be outreach to anti-statist right-wingers. Paul Buhle, a founding member of the new SDS, writes:
“[T]his is the time. The vacuum is there. The imperial crisis is escalating, without any sign of resolution. Most important, millions of college students have no particular political orientation and little understanding. Some of the best, most effective SDSers grew up as young Republicans, anti-staters who might have been called ‘libertarians’ if the word had been popular, young people from Texas, Oklahoma, rural parts of the Midwest...and of course, joined with them, the descendents of Jewish (as well as other) leftwingers from generations past. Experiences of every background counted. And today, students of all backgrounds can be shown the need to mobilize, to help prevent the ongoing devastation of our world, to help empower the lowly as students learn to empower themselves, and to set out a vision of a really democratic society.”
A Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) is also being created to provide non-students an opportunity to struggle for participatory democracy in the larger society.
“I believe that in the period since the demise of the Soviet Union, both the radicals and moderates among the left have been subconsciously seeking a new radical creed to orient themselves upon to replace Marxism.
“I’m a radical libertarian, an anarchist specifically and most specifically an Agorist. I believe that radical libertarians, such as myself, will be most effective when they overcome any lingering right wing cultural contamination of their libertarian views and embrace their inherent radicalism — which is most at home on the left. For as the radicals go, so do the moderates grudgingly follow in small steps. ...
“It’s time for libertarians to stop fighting the left and take up the challenge of leading the left.”
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me this morning when I heard that Loompanics Unlimited is closing its doors. I’ve been buying books regularly from Mike Hoy for 24 of Loompanics’ 30 years in the mail order biz. There was no more reliable source for “underground” and “dangerous” books than Hoy. Loompanics published a lot of essential radical volumes, too — including most of Claire Wolfe’s books. And no one published a more entertaining catalog than Hoy. Goddammit!
Marxist Problem: The revolutionary class appears to work against its own interest; the proletariat support reactionary politicians.
Agorist Solution: The Counter-Economic class cannot work against its interests as long as it is acting counter-economically. Those supporting statists politically have internal psychological problems without doubt, but as a class, these acts dampen the weakening of the State marginally. (Someone who earns $60,000 tax-free and contributes up to $3000 politically is a net revolutionary by several thousand dollars, several hundred percent!)
Marxist Problem: “Revolutionary” States keep “selling out” to reaction.
Agorist Solution: There are no such states. Resistance to all states at all times is supported.
Marxist Problem: Revolutionary parties often betray the victimized class before taking power.
Agorist Solution: There are no such parties; resistance to all parties at all times is supported.
Marxist Problem: Little objective relief can be accomplished by reformist action. (Agorists agree!) Therefore, one must await the revolution to destroy the system. Until then, revolutionary activities are premature and “adventurist.” Still, the productive class remains victimized until the class reaches consciousness as a whole.
Agorist Solution: Each individual may liberate himself immediately. Incentives for supporting collective action are built in and grow as the self-conscious counter-economy (agora) grows.
Marxist Problem: The class line blurs with time — against prediction.
Agorist Solution: Class lines sharpen with time — as predicted.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked here briefly about how much fun I was having with The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons, a set of three DVDs I received as a Christmas gift. Well, I had such a great time that I rushed to Best Buy and purchased a complementary set, The Dick Cavett Show: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, two discs containing two complete Cavett shows from fall 1971 and a third show from May 1972. What’s remarkable about watching these programs for the first time since I was in high school is how much of them I genuinely recall: John’s constant wordplay (“Ella Fitzgerald, my dear Watson”), his obvious affection for Yoko, their deportation concerns, their performances with Elephant’s Memory (Sometime in New York City was almost ready for release), and how Cavett guest Shirley MacLaine (campaigning doggedly at the time for Senator George McGovern’s presidential nomination) enthusiastically hugged Yoko after hearing her screeching (but somehow charming) performance of “We’re All Water.” This is all fantastic stuff, and now I can revisit it occasionally, like old home movies. Isn’t the DVD explosion great?
Is podcasting the wave of the future? Probably not. But it's fun as hell. If you're a big science fiction fan like me, you really shouldn't miss Escape Pod, a sci-fi podcast magazine that broadcasts (and makes its MP3 downloads available) very faithfully every Thursday. Each week, these fellows offer excellent readings of brand new sci-fi stories...and there's seldom a clinker. Also terrific is Spaceship Radio, which presents weekly podcasts of public domain sci-fi radio plays from the 1940s and '50s, written by some of the real legends of the genre. Every episode is prefaced with a short talk about the contemporary science that surrounds the subject of the drama. I'm downloading the archives of both of these sites for our two-week trip to Hawaii (more on the trip later).
By the way, both these sites are free...but be kind enough to send 'em a few bucks via PayPal if you use their services as extensively as I do.
Roderick T. Long, president of the Molinari Institute, editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies, and thoughtful Left Libertarian blogger, has issued a call for submissions to The Industrial Radical, a magazine of radical libertarian political and social analysis scheduled for launch later this year. The Industrial Radical, Roderick stresses, is a popular magazine, not an academic journal, and it welcomes “a diversity of perspectives, whether you dance to the music of F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Benjamin Tucker, Henry George, or Emma Goldman.” Check the link above to get specific submissions guidelines. This sounds like a valuable and — dare I say? — exciting project from the Molinari Institute.
By the way, Comrade Long frequently performs delightful Photoshop tricks (or whatever it is you’d call them), giving a truly anarcho spin to everything he touches. This picture of Supergirl turned Anarchy Lass is just one example. Keep your eye on his blog; the link is in the sidebar on your right.
While you're waiting anxiously for the March 17 release of the movie adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, which promises to be the freedom film of 2006, why not download a few of the nifty desktops available at the official website? Very cool.
[This concludes a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.]
“Towards the other end of the spectrum [from statists] are full-time counter-economists,” SEK3 explained. “They reject government offerings and disregard State regulations. If they report an income, it is a tiny proportion of what they actually earn; if they file a report, it’s highly misleading but plausible. Their occupations are fulfilling demand that the State strives to suppress or exterminate. They not only act freely, but often heroically.”
Just as the superstatists understand the State’s workings and use it consciously, there exist those at the counter-economic end of the spectrum who understand the pure libertarian consistency and morality of their acts; these are the agorists. “Against the Power Elite is the anti-power elite — the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre (or New Libertarian Alliance),” Konkin wrote.
But what of the “middle class” on the spectrum? What of those who mix commission of some counter-economic acts (black spots) with some statist acts (white spots), their lives summed up by grayness? Konkin described the middle-class this way:
“To the statists, they are the victims, the herds of cattle to be slaughtered and sheep to be sheared. To the Agorists, they are the external marketplace, to receive nearly everything in trade — but trust.
“And some day they shall either take control of their lives and polarize one way or the other, or fail to do so and shall stagnate in the statist swamp or be borne away on the winds of revolutionary change.”
Konkin offered a scenario, using agorist class theory, to illustrate the difference between a limited-government libertarian and an agorist:
“Consider the individual standing at the corner of the street. He can see two sides of the building behind him as he prepares to cross the street. He is hailed and turns around to see an acquaintance from the local libertarian club approaching in one direction. The latter advocates ‘working through the system’ and is an armed government agent. Walking along the other side of the building is another acquaintance, same age, gender, degree of closeness and so on, who is a practicing counter-economist. She also may be armed and is undoubtedly carrying the very kind of contraband the State’s agent is empowered to act on. Seeing you, the first individual waves and confirms she indeed has the illegal product — and is about to run into the ‘libertarian statist’ at the corner. Both are slightly distracted, looking at you.
“The situation is not likely to happen too often but it’s quite possible. Only the removal of ‘complicating factors’ is contrived. If you fail to act, the counter-economist will be taken by surprise and arrested or killed. If she is warned, she may — at this last-minute — elect to defend herself before flight and thus injure the agent. You are aware of this and must act now — or fail to act.
“The agorist may take some pains to cover his warning so that he will not get involved in a crossfire, but he will act. The socialist has a problem if the State agent works for a socialist state. Even the ‘libertarian’ has a problem. Let’s make it really rough: the State agent contributes heavily to the local ‘libertarian’ club or party (for whatever reasons; many such people are known to this author). The counter-economist refuses to participate except socially to the group. For whose benefit would the ‘political libertarian’ act?
“Such choices will increase in frequency when the State increases repression or the agorists increase their resistance. Both are likely in the near future.
Today marks the eleventh anniversary of Murray Rothbard’s death. It might be appropriate for those of us trying to build a new Left Libertarian movement to reflect on Murray’s passion for justice, truth, and getting things done no matter the cost. This remarkable passage from a letter by Murray was reprinted in An Enemy of the State, Justin Raimondo’s biography of the great man:
“When I was a young libertarian starting out, I was advised by Leonard Read: ‘Only be critical of bad measures, not of the people advocating them.’ It’s OK to criticize government regulation, but not the people advocating them. One big trouble with that is that then people remain ignorant of the ruling class, and the fact that Big Business often pushes regulatory measures to cartelize the system, so I went ahead and named names. ...
“Then, when I became an anarchist, I was advised, similarly, ‘Forget this anarchist stuff. It will injure your career, and ruin your scholarly image as a laissez-faire Austrian.’ I of course didn’t follow that perfectly accurate advice. Then, come the late 1950s, I was advised by friends: ‘For god’s-sakes, forget this peace crap. Stick to economics, that’s your scholarly area anyway. Everybody’s against this peace stuff, and it will kill your scholarly image, and ruin you with the conservative movement.’ Which of course is exactly what happened. And then: ‘Don’t attack [ChicagoSchool economist Milton] Friedman directly. Just push Austrianism.’ And ‘don’t push Austrianism too hard, so you can be part of one big free-market economics family.’
“... I’m sure that if...I had been ‘careful,’ and followed wise advice, I would now be basking in lots of money, prestige, and ambiance. ...
“Why did I consistently take the wrong course? I like to think that the main reason is one that moved me a great deal when I read about it in [Torsten] Garlund’s life of the great Swedish ‘Austrian’ economist, Knut Wicksel. Wicksel was asked: ‘Here you are, a great economist, and yet you’re getting yourself always into trouble, and ruining your scholarly image, because of all the crazy radical things you’re doing.’ (For example, Wicksel was put in jail for a while for advocating repeal of anti-birth control laws.) ... And Wicksel answered simply: ‘Because nobody else was doing it.’
“For me that summed it up. If there had been lots of libertarians who were anarchists, lots who were antiwar, lots who named names of the ruling elite, lots attacking...Friedman, etc., I might not have made all these choices, figuring that these important tasks were being well taken care of anyway, so I may as well concentrate on my own ‘positioning.’ But at each step I looked around and saw indeed that nobody else was doing it. So therefore it was up to me.”
[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.]
What is meant when a person or group or people are called objectively statist? To agorists, the term is used for those who emulate the State by murdering, stealing, defrauding, raping, and assaulting. “These ‘red marketeers’ (dealing in blood, not gold or trade goods),” SEK3 explained, “are best looked upon as degenerate factions of the ruling class, in contention with the State’s police as the Cowboys fight the Yankees, the Morgans fight the Rothchilds or the Rockefellers, and the Soviet statists fight the American statists.” These “red marketeers,” say agorists, are criminals.
At the same time, all so-called (by the State) “criminals” (or criminal acts) that do not involve initiation of violence or the threat of it (coercion) are counter-economic. Since they run counter to the interests (real or perceived) of the State, and are usually productive, they are forbidden by the State. They are, therefore, objectively agorist and thus objectively revolutionary.
“Agorist class theory has the best of both positions: a sharp class line and a graduated spectrum. Individuals are complex and confused. An individual may commit some Counter-Economic acts and some statist ones; nonetheless, each act is either Counter-Economic or statist. People (and groups of people) can be classified along a spectrum as to the predominance of agorism over statism. Yet at each given moment, one can view an action, judge it immediately, and take concrete counter-action or supportive action, if desired.”
What about motivation, awareness, consciousness of actions and their consequences, and professions of agreement? They are irrelevant; agorists judge one solely by one’s acts. And one is responsible for fully restoring one’s victims to the pre-aggression state of being for each and every act (see New Libertarian Manifesto, chapter 2). Konkin explains:
“Regular, repeated patterns of aggression make one a habitual criminal — a statist (or ‘pure statist’). These people earn no wealth and have no property. Their loot is forfeit to revolutionary agorists as agents of the victims. The pure statist subclass includes all political officeholders, police, military, civil service, grantholders and subsidy receivers. There is a special subclass of the pure statists who not only accept plunder and enforce or maintain the machinery of the State but actually direct and control it. In ‘socialist’ countries, these are the top officeholders of the governing political party who usually (though not always) have top government offices. In the ‘capitalist’ countries, these superstatists seldom appear in government positions, preferring to control directly the wealth of their state-interfaced corporations, usually banks, energy monopolists and army suppliers. Here we find the Power Elite, Higher Circles, Invisible Government, Ruling Class and Insider Conspiracy that other ideological groupings have detected and identified.”
[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]
Two formidable blocks have prevented even the radical libertarians from offering a comprehensive class model to compete with essentially dead Marxist alternatives. The first block is a “culture lag,” most notably in the U.S., where talking about classes is perceived as “offensive” and “impolite.” As SEK3 remarked, “Only rightist kooks and commies talk about ruling classes and class structures.”
The second roadblock is simply the limitation of libertarian theory. With the exception of agorists, even most radical libertarians see a political solution to statism. Wrote Konkin:
“In building political coalitions to seize the apex of State control, it pays not to look too closely at the class interests of your backers and temporary allies. ...
“This limitation can be understood in another way. When libertarian ideologues attack alleged libertarians for not freeing themselves of State institutions, State subsidies, or actual State jobs, they reply ‘tu quoque.’ That is, how can the ‘purist’ libertarians enjoy the supposed benefits of State roads, monopolized postal delivery and even municipal sidewalks and then accuse those wearing a Libertarian label of selling out by getting elected to office, accepting tax-collected salaries and wielding actual political power — on the way to ‘withering away’ the State, no doubt.
“Agorists have had no such problem with a distinction, nor do they find any disjunction between means and ends. Furthermore, the simple premises of agorist class theory lead quickly to sharp judgments about the moral nature (in libertarian theory) and practical nature of any individual’s human action. That is, agorists have a comprehensive class theory ready to supplant the Marxist paradigm which also avoids the flaws in semi-libertarian half-hearted theory and its attendant compromises. As to be expected, it begins with Counter-Economics.”
Agorist Class Theory
Murray Rothbard took Franz Oppenheimer’s distinction between the political means of gaining wealth (State theft) and the economic means (production) and then portrayed them as Power vs. Market (in his book Power and Market). Unfortunately, most libertarians haven’t applied Rothbard’s concept completely and thoroughly. Explained Konkin:
“Since many libertarians arrived at anarchy from the limited-government, classical liberal position, they retain a sort of three-cornered concept of struggle: the State at one apex, ‘real’ criminals at a second, and innocent society at a third. Those who commit victimless crimes, in the minarchist view, may often be put in the criminal class not for their non-crime victimless act but for avoiding trial by the State and remaining at large. Again, some anarchists have yet to entirely free themselves from this liberal statist hangover.
“Remember, the liberal statists want to restrain the State to increase the production of the host to maximize eventual parasitism. They ‘control their appetites’ but continue the system of plunder. The recent political example of supply-side economics starkly illustrates the basic statist nature of such ideas: the tax rate is lowered in order to encourage greater economic production and thus a greater total tax collection in the long run.”
Likewise, “free-enterprise” conservatives, and “libertarian” minarchists call for retention of the State, however restricted or restrained. They are the enemy of the agorists, the free market, and complete liberty. They fall on the statist side of the class line. “The libertarian rhetoric they offer,” Konkin wrote, “may be ‘turned’ or continued to consistency in winning over confused and marginal potential converts — but they offer no material substance for freedom. That is, they are objectively statists.”
JFK conspiracy buffs (among whom I include myself) might be intrigued by a new film by German director Wilfried Huismann titled Rendezvous with Death. The movie was shown to journalists in Berlin yesterday, but I don’t have details about a U.S. release date.
It seems the film is based on interviews with former Cuban secret agents, U.S. officials, and a Russian intelligence source, plus research in Mexican security archives. Huismann claims that Cuba was behind the Kennedy assassination, supplying Oswald with money and support.
Among those interviewed in the film is Laurence Keenan, 81, a former FBI agent who was sent to Mexico City immediately after November 22, 1963 to investigate a possible Cuban connection. He says he was recalled after just three days and that the probe was stopped. “This was perhaps the worst investigation the FBI was ever involved in,” he says. “I realized that I was used. I felt ashamed. We missed a moment in history.” Keenan adds that he’s convinced Lyndon Johnson blocked further investigative efforts.
Also interviewed in the film is former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who was a U.S. military advisor in 1963.
The possibility of a Cuban connection to the JFK assassination isn’t a new idea. But this movie might be something to keep an eye out for.
I’m delighted by news that Jon Stewart, host of the only TV news program worth watching (Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”), will host the 78th Annual Academy Awards on March 5. After several years of absolutely horrible hosts — Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, and Chris Rock — the Oscars have finally found a host who (1) is a class act and (2) can bring the show the satiric and cynical edge it needs. Stewart is probably as close to a Hollywood “outsider” as you can get. For the first time in years, I’m actually looking forward to the Academy Awards.
Three days into the new year, and finally, here’s my Top 10 for 2005. Everybody else’s been doing it for the past week, so why not me? The only reason it’s taken me this long to post is, first, I’ve been suffering through a lingering, end-of-the-year cold, and second, repeated power outages here on the central California coast have kept me offline quite a bit. We had a literal gale yesterday. Eucalyptus trees fell around us like dominoes. Sheesh.
Anyway, about the list...
It’s not a movie list. Or a book list. These are ten things I thought were particularly cool this past year, and I offer them in no particular order.
Serenity (the movie and DVD). Isn’t this on just about every radical libertarian’s Top 10 list right now? I still think it’s a damn miracle the movie ever got a green light at all, based as it is on a failed TV series that barely lasted a half-season. But I’m delighted it did. I saw Serenity on the Big Screen four times in two weeks, and I took all my closest friends to see it. I even converted five of ’em to full-blown Browncoat status. The DVD release, by the way, contains a full-feature, one-man commentary by creator-writer-director Joss Whedon, and it ranks among the most interesting and entertaining I’ve ever heard.
The Black Arrow, by Vin Suprynowicz. Last summer, I said that 2005 was the Year of the Libertarian Novel. It was, and Suprynowicz led the pack. Take Atlas Shrugged, then substitute the 60-page John Galt speech with digestible “sound bites,” add a dash of rock ’n roll, plenty of sex, scores of commando raids, lots of resistance action, mix in Batman and Kill Bill, and you’ve got The Black Arrow. It’s the best libertarian novel since Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier.
Les Klinger’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels. This slipcased third and final hardcover volume — containing the Conan Doyle novels A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear — completes Klinger’s scholarly masterwork and brings an end to the biggest Sherlockian event since William S. Baring-Gould issued his classic Annotated in 1967. The book’s annotations are thoughtful and valuable, and it features the most beautiful reproductions of the original magazine illustrations I’ve ever seen.
The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons. This DVD collection was a Christmas gift from my sister Nancy, something I didn’t know existed and probably wouldn’t have bought for myself if I had. I broke the shrink wrap one night last week at ; at , I dragged myself into bed, with two full discs remaining to view. There are wonderful memories here. The set presents appearances on ABC’s old Dick Cavett Show by Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills (the day after Woodstock, in August 1969); Paul Simon (1974); David Bowie (1974); Sly & the Family Stone (1970); Stevie Wonder (1970); George Harrison and Ravi Shankar (soon after the Bangladesh concert in 1971); and three separate 1970 appearances by Janis Joplin. What’s best is that these are full shows, not just clips, so you get to watch Cavett interview people like Alain Delon, Gloria Swanson, Debbie Reynolds, Elsa Lanchester, and Anthony Burgess, as well. Cavett introduces each show with 2005 remarks. A real treat! Thanks, Nance!
Absolute Batman: Hush. This is the 12-issue, 2002-2003 Batman mini-series by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee, collected in an oversized, hardcover, slipcased edition. It includes issue-by-issue commentary by and an interview with Loeb and Lee, plus pages and pages of sketches, cover art, and other goodies. Frank Miller’s rendition of the Dark Knight remains my favorite, but Hush ranks right up there as a stunning and epic graphic novel. And nobody draws Catwoman sexier than Lee...nobody!
Batman Begins. As long as I’m already talking Batman, lemme just plug this item in. I loved the two Tim Burton films. I thought they couldn’t be beat. Then Batman Begins opened last summer. Christopher Nolan knocked this one outta the ballpark. For the time being, at least until a sequel arrives, this is the definitive celluloid Batman. It kicks ass.
Frank Miller’s SinCity (Recut, Extended, Unrated). Frank Miller was disillusioned by Hollywood when he produced the six SinCity graphic novels (and umpteen short stories). “Here’s something you can’t do in a movie,” he thought. Then Robert Rodriguez convinced him otherwise and roped Miller into a co-director’s chair. The movie adaptation of Sin City (incorporating three novels and one short story) opened in theaters last April. It was groundbreaking. It was like nothing ever before captured on film...the grittiest, ultimate film noir. A near-barebones DVD was released last August. I hope you skipped it, because this new two-disc package is awesome. It features the theatrical release (with feature-length commentaries from Rodriguez, Miller, and “special guest director” Quentin Tarantino) and then breaks the film into its parts — four separate mini-movies, complete with Milleresque title cards and extra footage. All that plus many, many interesting featurettes, interviews, bloopers, trailers, timelines, and even the complete Sin City graphic novel The Hard Goodbye. I’ve been playing with this set off-and-on for the past two weeks. I’m not done yet.
Life Expectancy, by Dean Koontz. Every year, Koontz bangs out a novel or two. This one was actually released in late 2004, but I didn’t get to it until last spring, and it blew me away (like most of his stuff does). It’s a suspense thriller about a pastry chef and his family and how they’re terrorized for more than three decades by homicidal circus clowns and aerialists. It’s also about God, faith, determination, love, and real Evil. Life Expectancy is very poignant. It’s full of wisdom. And it made me laugh my ass off. This novel doesn’t make one false step. Not one. I urge you to read it. And prepare to be enchanted.
Veronica Mars. It was the best thing on TV last year. It’s still the best thing on TV. Rent the first season on DVD. Extraordinary writing, and the cast is top-notch.
The Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left. If you visit this blog’s sidebar, you’ll find entrance to the “official” Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left, set up several months ago by Tom Knapp. But there are also plenty of unofficial blogs in the growing network of leftish and indispensable libertarians in This Movement of Ours. I’m thankful for every cotton-pickin’, subversive one of ’em.