Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"No problem" at Dunn's River, Jamaica

No one over fifty, in my shape anyway, should climb up 900 feet of waterfalls, over rocks and through racing water. But two weeks ago, I did at Dunn’s River in Jamaica. I don’t know how many tourists the river guides take up the falls each day, but the whole experience is damn foolishness, that’s for sure. The photo of Deb and me was shot after we were soaking wet but shortly before I took a series of missteps on grassy boulders, into underwater holes, and was practically dragged up the last thirty feet of the falls.

An observation: the only requirement for being allowed to climb the falls was, besides payment, the wearing of water shoes or rubber-soled sandals. No helmets, no padding, no paperwork. And not a handrail in sight. This kind of nonsense simply isn’t allowed in the litigious, safety-conscious U.S.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

When empires bite the dust

I mentioned a few days ago that we’d been away on a trip. One of our stops was at the Mayan ruins at Tulum, on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was occupied, they say, from around 1200 A.D. until contact was made with the Spanish in the early 16th century. And one empire was essentially smashed by the other.

The archeological site is fantastic. The area’s gorgeous, with the ruins sitting about 40 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Iguanas are accommodating and pose for pictures.

Of course, I’ve long been fascinated with fallen empires. It’ll be interesting to see what Wall Street looks like in a couple hundred years.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Death from the skies!

This is the meal Debbie and I were served on our Continental Airlines flight Monday from Houston to San Francisco. Remarkably, this "pizza" looks exactly like the "cheeseburger" we were served nine days earlier on our Continental flight from SF to Houston. Yum!

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007 is alive and well

Deb and I have been gone for almost two weeks (more on that later). But while blowing through Houston last Sunday, visiting our friends Kevin and Jo, we made time to see Quantum of Solace during its big opening weekend. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I’m still convinced that Daniel Craig is the best 007 since Connery, that Judi Dench is brilliant as M, and that together, these two are magic. A few quickie thoughts about the movie.

First, this is not your daddy’s God & Country James Bond. This new, relaunched series is both anti-establishment and anti-imperialist. Bravo!

Second, Quantum’s nod to Goldfinger (you know the scene I’m talking about) was both staggering and inspired. Genius.

Finally, if Quantum is the new, 21st century version of Smersh or SPECTRE, that’s very cool. I’m dying to see where this plot thread goes.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Night and Fog and the State

“Even a peaceful landscape…even a meadow in harvest, with crows circling overhead and grass fires…even a road where cars and peasants and couples pass…even a resort village with a steeple and country fair…can lead to a concentration camp.” So begins the narration of the most devastating documentary film ever made.

Before Hollywood determined it takes at least three hours to effectively grapple with the Holocaust — a Schindler’s List or a Pianist, for example — long before, some four decades and more, there was Alain Renais’ 31-minute Night and Fog.

I first saw and was shattered by this remarkable short movie while in college in 1975. I’ve just seen Night and Fog a second time, because Criterion recently released a new digital restoration of it on DVD. And 28 years later, Renais’ film remains for me not only a chilling record of Hitler’s "final solution" but the most powerful cinematic indictment of the State I’ve ever seen.

[Read entire essay here]

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Toward a libertarian theory of class

Roderick T. Long’s “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Class,” which first appeared in Social Philosophy & Policy (Summer 1998), is finally available for download as a two-part PDF — here and here.

I think this is a seminal work in the ongoing struggle to build a hardcore radical Libertarian Left movement from three disparate strands — libertarian capitalism, libertarian socialism, and what Long calls “libertarian populism.” If you consider yourself a Libertarian Leftist, you should really read this. If you consider yourself a serious Libertarian Left activist, you should really study this thoroughly and add it to your intellectual arsenal.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wolf Blitzer visits Tatooine

As I watched Wolf Blitzer on CNN last night, I kept thinking, "Help me, Obiwan Kenobi, you're my only hope..." Besides the showy "Wow!" Factor, what function did this new election coverage technology serve?

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Heady post-election thoughts

Late last night, I realized that Barack Obama will not only be the first black U.S. president, he will also be the first president in my lifetime who's younger than me! Holy crap!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My apologies to Naomi Wolf

A few weeks ago, I didn’t have much good to say here about Naomi Wolf’s new Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. I called the book “a mixed and largely uninspired bag of left-centrist polemic against the usual suspects (Bush, Cheney, et al.), battle cry rhetoric, and sketchy advice on writing press releases, arranging town hall meetings, launching blogs, petitioning our masters and, of course, getting out the vote (especially after we dump that pesky ol’ Electoral College).” And of Wolf herself, I wrote that she’s “neither an out-of-the-box thinker nor particularly radical.”

Now I’m regretting that review. Not because I don’t stand by my assessment of the book, but because I was way too hard on Naomi Wolf, whose humility, insight, and integrity really shine in her podcast interview last week on “The Lew Rockwell Show.” This podcast is absolutely riveting. Wolf spends as much time asking Lew questions as he does questioning her. It’s a real give-and-take, a sharing of common ground that, I suspect, surprised Wolf. And it certainly seems to have delighted Lew, who in the course of 51 minutes opens Wolf’s “progressive” eyes to the realities of the State, the Federal Reserve, government schools, and so much more. More than once in the discussion, Wolf’s conventional left-center beliefs are obviously shaken and she confesses, “You’re so right. I’d never made that connection before.”

This extraordinary podcast is something you’ll want to download right here and copy onto CDs for your “progressive” friends and family. It’s a revelation. And I’ll look forward to seeing how some of Naomi Wolf’s “light bulb” moments during this interview are reflected in her future interviews and writings.

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Election Day 2008

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Still another guilty pleasure

Any list of the all-time worst movies based on comic book heroes will inevitably include the made-for-TV Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, first broadcast on Fox in 1998. Written by David S. Goyer and directed by Rod Hardy, the movie starred David Hasselhoff as Fury, Lisa Rinna as Val, and even had a guy playing a cryogenically suspended Baron Von Strucker. Visit the Internet Movie Database ( and you’ll see that the film has earned a 3.3 user rating (from a possible 10) and comments like “It couldn’t have sucked harder.” The movie definitely has a bad rep.

So here’s the deal: Best Buy now exclusively offers Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD on DVD. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

Granted, the movie’s not great. But after years of having kept my mouth shut, I’ve gotta finally come clean and confess that the Hasselhoff Nick Fury is a guilty pleasure of mine. Hasselhoff may not be today’s Fury (that’d be Samuel L. Jackson, of course), but he sure is the pre-Steranko Fury of 1965-66. Most of his lines sound like they were lifted straight out of the old Strange Tales stories. And Lisa Rinna isn’t much of an actress (although she’s been playing one for two decades), but she’s killer hot. Plus, even though the story’s pretty pedestrian (like most of those original stories from Strange Tales, incidentally), Hydra’s there, the SHIELD logo’s there, the latex jumpsuits are there, and the helicarrier’s there (and it looks damn good).

I watched Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD when it first aired ten years ago. I’ve seen it two or three times on cable since then. And I just picked up a DVD copy at Best Buy.

Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow night, instead of watching election returns?

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