Movie Review: “San Andreas”


Not thirty minutes into the story of San Andreas, a colossal skyscraper falls on my old girlfriend’s apartment house in West L.A. and then a tsunami sweeps it all away.  So – pretty good stuff!  I am giving this movie four-and-a-half stars out of five.  I withhold half a star for the scenes in which the actors have lines.

Thinking these thoughts so that my friends don’t need to.  TFB.

There is not Enough Absurdity in College Life

Happy, the Viking (400)

Usually at the end of the semester, especially in the spring semester, I dress up in costume, assume a character, and prank students in the corridors during the passing periods. In past years I have appeared as a Viking war-leader recruiting students for a raid on Kingston, Ontario, and as a Star Fleet Inspector-General on an evaluation tour of the satellite facility. My theory is that contemporary college life suffers from a dearth of absurdity. That is – it suffers from a dearth of the right kind of absurdity.  I want, naturally, to make up for the lack.

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Re-Post: Michael Powell’s I Know Where I’m Going (1945)

When, several semesters ago, my department chair asked me to teach the local version of the nowadays-pervasive “popular culture” course, I consented with some mild misgivings and, as I like to do, took a mostly historical approach to course-content. I have no investment in contemporary popular culture, the wretchedness of it striking me as consummate. My students, for their part, being morbidly, continuously immersed in contemporary popular culture, require no one to acquaint them with it. At least they require no one to tutor them in it directly, since it regrettably is their ubiquitous, hortatory guide, and their authoritative cue-giver, for all facets of life. But one might apprise them about the insipidity of existing mass-entertainment indirectly by putting it in contrast with the popular entertainments of the past, including the classic films that most of them have never seen and, more importantly, would never seek out on their own. One film that I showed to students was the Errol Flynn vehicle The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), directed by Michael Curtiz. Another one, not so well known as Robin Hood, was the Roger Livesey/Wendy Hiller vehicle I Know Where I’m Going (1945), directed by Michael Powell (1905 – 1990).

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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine, Governor, College Professor and Civil War officer. Chamberlain is probably best known for his defense of Little Round Top during the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, during which his unit, the Twentieth Maine, held off the Rebels with a surprise bayonet counterattack.

To honor his memory, American Thinker has published my essay on Chamberlain. My thesis is that Chamberlain’s unique greatness was his combination of toughness and sensitivity, and I seek to convey some of this greatness with a selection of quotes from his writings.

Supersizing the Whopper: Higher Ed in the Trenches

My old graduate-school office-mate “Ivar the Midwesterner,” who teaches at “a nondescript, mid-tier state college west of the Mississippi and east of the Left Coast,” has, for years, collected the wildest, most desperate student-improvisations from the final examination in his survey of the classics in translation.  Some entries in the following catalogue come from as long ago as ten years while others are of recent vintage.  Ivar writes that he started to insert sic where it seemed necessary, but soon grew sic of it.

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A Turn of the Worm

This won’t be the last turn of the worm, to be sure; but it is hard to see how he could twist himself up any further than this, without brasting all to flinders.

My wife and I were exploring Sonoma County this last weekend. It is a beautiful, hilly, forested redoubt, a difficult hour and a half north of San Francisco, and so spared the downside of American urban life, while at the same time blessed with abundant good cheeses, markets, restaurants, chocolates, beer, and the like – wines, too, of course, with gorgeous world-class vinyards on every side – and most importantly for yours truly, good coffee. We stopped at my favorite chain, Peets Coffee of Berkeley (Alfred Peet is the fellow who started the North American coffee craze with a little store in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, about forty years ago), with their glorious oaky smoky dark roasts, as dense and roborative as beef. My wife stopped in to the restroom, and returned with this photo:

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Repost: Ten Reasons to Legalize ILA

I originally published this post on my now-defunct blog Dispatches from the North in January of 2012.

  1. To reduce the prison population and ease police workloads. As of 2008, more than 175,000 Americans were behind bars for ILA. Statistics for other countries with anti-ILA laws are similar. Anti-ILA laws thus put a tremendous strain on both prisons and law enforcement, giving them less time and fewer resources to deal with other, more important problems, such as poverty and racism.
  2. To combat discrimination. In many countries, those who have been convicted of ILA are forbidden from voting or running for political office. Furthermore, tremendous social stigma is attached to ILA, reducing practitioners’ opportunities in housing and employment, among other things. Laws against ILA are also often used to legitimize institutional racism: In the United States, a disproportionate number of people convicted of ILA are Hispanic or African-American, and again, the statistics for other countries are similar. We believe that the legalization of ILA should be complemented with anti-discrimination laws, mandatory sensitivity training for police and public servants, and the introduction of an ILA History Month aimed at making society more inclusive of ILA and its practitioners. Continue reading