Monday, July 24, 2017

John Lukacs, The Duel

At Amazon, John Lukacs, The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler.

Movie Studios Won't Make Many More Films Like 'Dunkirk'

Or, maybe they will.

Perhaps the astonishing Christopher Nolan epic convinces producers to invest in more magisterial movies such as this.

But see Megan McArdle, at Bloomberg, "'Dunkirk' and the Great Films That Won't Be Made":

Studios' big productions are so expensive that they are rarely risky. Or interesting.

I was perhaps unreasonably excited to see "Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the evacuation of British forces from a French beach during World War II. The historical event on which it is based is astonishing: unable to get enough warships close to the beach to load their fleeing troops, the British government mobilized a flotilla of small private craft, which ultimately helped evacuate more than 330,000 soldiers ahead of the German army. I was eager to see what one of my favorite directors would do with the story.

He did not disappoint. This nearly flawless film put me on the edge of my seat for two hours. It is the best thing I’ve seen about war since the stunning opening of "Saving Private Ryan" -- and Nolan, bless him, is not prey to Steven Spielberg’s compulsion to mar his creations by slopping them over with speechy goo.

As with all of Nolan’s films, it’s emotionally distant from its characters. Cillian Murphy plays an officer credited only as “Shivering Soldier,” and none of the characters have much in the way of backstory or goals, other than survival. Matt Zoller Seitz calls it an “Ant Farm Picture,” a portrait of society in which individuals are almost incidental. That’s rather the point.

A lesser director would have given in to the temptation to make this a story about the righteous crusade against the Germans, men fighting other men, but Nolan shows us a world in which the enemy is a plane, a torpedo, the water and the flying bullets, and men are reduced to little more than their rage to live.

The result is less a war film than a disaster movie. An exquisite disaster movie. I didn’t expect such a vivid and visceral illustration of how quickly a ship can sink, or just how difficult it is to hit a target in the sky. I left the theater almost too overwhelmed to talk.

Having recovered, I began to wonder why we can’t have more pictures like "Dunkirk." The easy answer is, of course, that there is only one Christopher Nolan, and only so many people willing to give him $150 million to spend putting thousands of extras and some World War II-era ordnance onto a French beach. But the easy answer is incomplete.

It is getting rarer for a genius like Nolan to be given substantial sums of money to put their vision on the screen. Instead, the substantial sums go to “franchise films.” The pursuit of blockbuster movies is becoming less of an act of creation, and more an exercise in brand management. Franchises generate box office revenue, merchandising revenue and what economists call option value: "Furious 7" does not simply bring ticket revenue for the studio, but also the ability to make more revenue through Fast and Furious Episodes 8, 9, 10 and onward to "The Fast and the Furious 987."

Naturally, such valuable properties cannot be left to the quirky whims of some individual; studios have intervened more and more heavily to ensure that no director goes too far off the rails. As with other markets where mass franchises have taken over, the result is a sort of flattening of the available quality: There aren’t so many truly awful blockbusters being made anymore, but there aren’t so many truly great ones either. Indeed, there aren’t so many big movies being made at all, because studios find it much more attractive to rake in cash off of a predictable comic book film with a big global audience than to make risky bets on greatness.

In some ways it looks like a return to the studio system of yore, with its factory-like control over every aspect of production. But in the old days, the studios were mostly making lots of cheap films fast. The studios could afford to permit a little more variance, a little more creativity and serendipity, because the bets were reasonably small, and even an oddball picture might find an audience somewhere. But if the old studio system was a well diversified industry placing lots of bets -- the cinematic equivalent of an index fund -- the modern system is looking more and more like a hedge fund taking a few giant positions. When all the bets are potential firm-killers, the investment committee is going to want to oversee every detail, leaving less room for genius to emerge, much less thrive.

One reason "Dunkirk" is such a joy is that here is a film in which the deadening hand of the committee is nowhere evident...
More.

Walter Lord, The Miracle of Dunkirk

At Amazon, Walter Lord, The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo.

Max Hastings, Inferno

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, Max Hastings, Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945.

Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945.

Shop Today's Deals

At Amazon, Today's Deals. New deals. Every day. Shop our Deal of the Day, Lightning Deals and more daily deals and limited-time sales.

Plus, Shop Gourmet Food.

More, Large Beach Towel, Pool Towel, in Cabana Stripe - (Variety, 4 pack, 30x60 inches) - Cotton - by Utopia Towel.

And, Deals in Office Products.

More still, AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card Shredder with Pullout Basket.

Here, Mountain House Just In Case...Essential Bucket.

Also, OfficeThink Laminated Jumbo Organizing Calendar, Huge 36-Inch by 48-Inch Size, Extra Large Date Boxes, Easy Erase PET Film, Never Folded, Bonus 8 Jumbo Tacks, 5 Markers, 1 Eraser Included.

BONUS: Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War.

Far-Left Democrats Attempt 'Better Deal' Rebranding

This is so stupid.

The Democrats don't care about the white working-class. It's a far-left identity-driven party now. Even Bernie Sanders is out of sorts with large segments of the Democrats' radical base.

This is showboating for the elections.

At the New York Times, via Memeorandum, Chuck Schumer, "A Better Deal for American Workers."

And at Scared Monkey, via Memeorandum, "Democrats Launch Economic Agenda Ahead of 2018 Campaign … Better Deal, More like a RAW DEAL":
After getting thoroughly whipped in the 2018 elections and proving no message to the American people except “resist” Trump, Democrats now claim they are going to launch a new economic agenda ahead of the 2018 midterm elections called … a Better Deal. WOW, did they stay up all night thinking about this one? Who honestly thinks that Democrats believe or will provide this so-called “better deal?” This is just a lame attempt by Democrats to lie to the blue collar, working, middle class of America, naming in the blue-wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that they lost in 2016. This is yet another attempt by Democrats to try and show that they have not become the Socialist party. With the stock market at all-time highs and jobs being created under Donald Trump, what are they talking about, a better deal? All the lame GOP controlled House and Senate has to do is pass real tax reform and the economy will heat up like never before.

The Democrats have long forgot the hard working, blue collar workers of America and they know it. No cute lie is going to work now. This is a completely contrived attempt to fool voters into thinking the Democrats actually side with workers. So to understand the Democrats, are they saying that the 8 years of Obama was an economic failure? Maybe Democrats should not have passed so may regulations that destroyed business.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will unveil a broad economic agenda Monday, hoping to unite the disparate wings of their caucuses and win back working-class voters who fled the party last year.

The party’s messaging strategy is the culmination of months of internal meetings and polling after a disappointing 2016 election that left Democrats reeling and many complaining they had no message to offer the public other than being against President Donald Trump.

“The number one thing that we did wrong is we didn’t tell people what we stood for,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

To fill that void, Democrats are adding pitches aimed at battling corporate overreach to an economic platform that already includes a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and paid family leave. Party leaders are also proposing a new independent agency to oversee prescription drug prices similar to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as well as an independent “competition advocate” that would police corporate mergers.
More at Pirate's Cove, "Dems Settle On New Slogan: 'A Better Deal' Or Something."

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

At Amazon, William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jennifer Delacruz's Cloud-Cover and Thunderstorms Forecast

That monsoonal moisture's really tripping up the weather to the south.

I was in all day reading, so not to big of an effect on me. But this is bizarre.

Here's the lovely Ms. Jennifer, for ABC News 10 San Diego:



Keleigh Sperry Red Bikini In Miami

At London's Daily Mail, "Making a splash! Miles Teller's model girlfriend Keleigh Sperry stuns in patterned bikini as she cools off in Miami."

Kevin Wilson, Blood and Fears

At Amazon, Kevin Wilson, Blood and Fears: How America's Bomber Boys of the 8th Air Force Saved World War II.

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Well, I must say that's a good skill to have, heh.

At Amazon, Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.

I've Finished American War

That's why blogging's been light today.

I watched some baseball and finished reading this book.

At Amazon, Omar El Akkad, American War: A Novel.

I'd definitely recommend the book. It's a fairly quick read, for one thing. But mostly I find the premise of the novel --- a new civil war in this country --- extremely fascinating. Akkad's a good writer, and while some of the personal story-lines were too long and detailed for me, they do tend to link back nicely together in subsequent episodes. There's no loose ends. Some initial details are left out, though, or I skimmed over them in my reading. For example, the Southwest United States is now a Mexican protectorate --- basically, exactly what the radical leftists Reconquista types are always agitating about. But there's no discussion of a war with Mexico, where the U.S. gives back the land. Also, the leftist ontology of the entire book will turn off some conservatives. The new "American war" --- which takes place in 2075 --- is the result of the North being taking over by radical environmentalists who ban fossil fuels. Climate change has left parts of the country underwater by this time, like all of Florida. Even the most hardcore leftist climate alarmists don't make such preposterous arguments, however. We're talking hundreds of years from now before the very worst effects of the doomsday climate scenarios would come into effect. Florida's not going to be washed into the sea 55 years from now.

Still, readers will identify with the rebels in the South, especially the main character Sarat, who becomes an assassin after both her parents are killed. Akkad's to be praised for his realism throughout. And while the book makes the Southern rebels extremely sympathetic, in reviews I've read critics have identified with the North, even going so far as demonizing Sarat's character. That's not how I read it all. I read this as if it could be me. I could be fighting against the North as if I was fighting against all that's evil in the world. And since I see this country currently breaking up --- we're in a cold civil war now --- it's easy to become invested in the outcome in the book.

But that's all I'll say, since I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

Check out the book, at Amazon.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Palestinian Mountain of Hate

Following-up, "Omar al-Abed, Hamas-Allied Terrorist, Murders Three Israelis in Jihad Knife Attack in West Bank's Halamish Settlement (VIDEO)."

From Liel Leibovitz, at the Tablet, "How the Noble Sanctuary, sacred to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, was transformed into a megaphone for bigotry, murder, and genocide":
Tens of thousands of faithful Muslims pack Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque every week. Things have been particularly tense in the holy site this week, after Palestinian terrorists murdered two Israeli police officers last Friday. Israel responded by putting up metal detectors, an act that led thousands of Palestinians to riot and assualt Israeli soldiers with rocks, bottles, and clubs.

What could make folks gathered for prayer so rowdy? Listen in on some of the mosque’s sermons, and the answer becomes painfully obvious.

“The Israelites,” roared Khaled al-Mughrabi, one of al-Aqsa’s top preachers, in the summer of 2015, “have a holiday, Passover. Every holiday, each group would look for a small child. They would kidnap the child, steal him, and put him inside a barrel, called ‘the barrel of nails.’ They would put the small child inside the barrel, and his body would be pierced by the nails. At the bottom of the barrel they would put a faucet, and that faucet would run with the boy’s blood. This is because Satan demanded of them, in return to doing everything they want, that they eat bread kneaded with the blood of children.”

When they’re not ritually slaughtering babes, Mughrabi said on other occasions, the Jews have a full agenda of evil: they’re the real culprits behind the 9/11 attacks, are planning to take over the world, and are actual blood-drinking vampires, which is why the industry they control, Hollywood, loves making so many movies about the Jew Dracula.

Not to be outdone, Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, is fond of using the mosque to talk about one of his favorite topics, the Holocaust. Which, to hear the renowned sheikh tell it, never happened. “Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer,” he told an interviewer. “Let’s stop with this fairytale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity. It is not my fault if Hitler hated Jews, indeed they were hated a little everywhere.”
 Still more, but you get the idea.

Omar al-Abed, Hamas-Allied Terrorist, Murders Three Israelis in Jihad Knife Attack in West Bank's Halamish Settlement (VIDEO)

This is horrific.

It's reminiscent of the massacre of the Israeli Fogel family by a so-called "Palestinian" terrorist in 2011.

At Israel National News, "Halamish terrorist identified with Hamas: Before carrying out murderous attack in Halamish, terrorist wrote on Facebook: There's no life after what you see at Al-Aqsa."

And at Ynet, "Palestinian terrorist murders three family members during Shabbat dinner: A terrorist infiltrated a house in a settlement in the West Bank and stabbed its occupants who were having a Shabbat dinner; he murdered a 70-year-old grandfather and his son and daughter, in their thirties; the grandmother, aged 68, was badly wounded; he was then neutralized":
The attack took place when about 10 members of the family sat for a Shabbat dinner. When the terrorist burst into the house, the wife of the son who died hid the children in a room, and from there she called the police and screamed that there was a terrorist in the house who was stabbing the occupants.

A neighbor of the family—an IDF Oketz Unit soldier—heard their screams, rushed to the scene and shot the terrorist, moderately wounding him.


More at the Times of Israel, "Terror at Halamish: When a family’s Shabbat celebration turned into a bloody massacre."

And from the IDF on Twitter, "Warning: Graphic Content - This is the scene of the Sabbath massacre which killed 3 Israelis and wounded 1 other," and "Before killing 3 Israelis and wounding a 4th tonight in a heinous act of terror, the terrorist posted this message on Facebook."

Also, "While Israelis mourn the death of 3 Israelis killed in last night's massacre, Palestinians in Gaza took to the streets to celebrate."

Nicole Kidman for LOVE Magazine

Well, since I was trolling around looking for Ms. Emily photos, I came across this.

At LOVE, "'I thought about this shoot afterwards. I was like, what was I doing!?' THE Nicole Kidman for #LOVE18."

More, "LOVE 18: Nicole Kidman by Carin Backoff and Sally Lyndley."

And at the Express U.K., "Nicole Kidman, 50, flashes NIPPLES in red hot skintight swimsuit for sexy LOVE cover."

Still more, at IBD Times, "Nicole Kidman stuns fans by flaunting nipples in a sexy red swimsuit: 'She gets better with age'."

Emily Ratajkowski by Patrick Demarchelier for LOVE Magazine

On Instagram here.

And at London's Daily Mail, "Emily Ratajkowski shocks fans as she poses completely naked for LOVE Magazine."

It's not "shocking," actually. It's just what she does.

Here too, at the Scottish Sun, "Emily Ratajkowski poses completely NAKED for LOVE magazine."

Also at Drunken Stepfather, "RAT COW TITS AND OTHER TITS BECAUSE TITS FOR LOVE MAGAZINE OF THE DAY."

Gregory D. Miller, The Shadow of the Past

At Amazon, Gregory D. Miller, The Shadow of the Past: Reputation and Military Alliances before the First World War.

Protesters Crash Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' News Conference (VIDEO)

At iOWNTHEWORLD Report, "“Bye Bye, Betsy!” Minneapolis: Chaos Erupts As Protesters Disrupt Mayor Hodges’s News Conference."



Also, at Pamela's, "VIDEO: Protests ERUPT: DEMAND MAYOR BETSY HODGES’ RESIGNATION, shut down press conference."

It’s All Russia, Russia and Trump, Trump -— All the Time

From Matthew Vadum, at FrontPage Magazine, "Mueller Expands His Probe Again":
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is yet again expanding the scope of his off-the-rails investigation into the Left’s wacky Russian electoral collusion conspiracy theory by examining financial transactions even vaguely related to Russia involving President Trump’s businesses and those of his associates, Bloomberg News reports.

Honest observers recognize that with the election of Donald Trump, the longtime Russophiles of the morally flexible Left flipped on their traditional friends in Moscow faster than you can say Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or Operation Barbarossa. Ignoring its own history of rampant seditious collaboration with Russia, the Left has now managed to convince many that any past or present connection a Republican has or had to Russia, however trivial, is somehow now retroactively evidence of treason against the United States.

There is still no evidence that Trump covered up a crime, or even that there was an underlying crime to be concealed but that hasn’t stopped the Left’s witch-hunt from growing and the goalposts from being shifted.

Remember that it was just a month ago as the bizarre collusion allegations got stuck in the mud that Mueller expanded his investigation to include allegations that Trump tried to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9. The claim is that Trump did this to end Comey’s investigation into National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s ties to Russia. Of course, as Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz has pointed out repeatedly, the president has authority under the Constitution to fire the FBI director for any reason or no reason at all. Comey himself has freely acknowledged he served at the pleasure of the president.

That said, “FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008,” Bloomberg reported an anonymous source saying.

The report continues, elaborating that:
Mueller’s team is looking at the Trump SoHo hotel condominium development, which was a licensing deal with Bayrock Capital LLC. In 2010, the former finance director of Bayrock filed a lawsuit claiming the firm structured transactions in fraudulent ways to evade taxes. Bayrock was a key source of capital for Trump projects, including Trump SoHo.

The 2013 Miss Universe pageant is of interest because a prominent Moscow developer, Aras Agalarov, paid $20 million to bring the beauty spectacle there. About a third of that sum went to Trump in the form of a licensing fee, according to Forbes magazine. At the event, Trump met Herman Gref, chief executive of Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank PJSC. Agalarov’s son, Emin, helped broker a meeting last year between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer [i.e. Natalia Veselnitskaya] who was said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

Another significant financial transaction involved a Palm Beach, Florida, estate Trump purchased in 2004 for $41 million, after its previous owner lost it in bankruptcy. In March of 2008, after the real-estate bubble had begun losing air, Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the property for $95 million.

As part of their investigation, Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas to banks and filed requests for bank records to foreign lenders under mutual legal-assistance treaties, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.
In addition, a federal money-laundering probe of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reportedly been subsumed into the larger investigation headed by Mueller. Mueller’s office is also reportedly looking at Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s tenure as vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus and at presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s efforts to obtain financing for his family’s real estate investments.

Newt Gingrich said yesterday that Mueller “has so many conflicts of interest it’s almost an absurdity,” but all of this seems above-board to Bloomberg.

“The Justice Department’s May 17 order to Mueller,” the media outlet reports, “instructs him to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign’ as well as ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,’ suggesting a relatively broad mandate.”

Trump lawyer John Dowd disagrees. He said examining the president’s business dealings should be out-of-bounds for Mueller.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he told Bloomberg in an email.

Meanwhile, the Left is digging in its heels.

In a defamatory, overheated column, the buffoonish purveyor of partisan drivel Jonathan Chait claims:
New reports in the Washington Post and New York Times are clear signals that Trump is contemplating steps – firing Mueller or issuing mass pardons – that would seem to go beyond the pale. Except Trump’s entire career is beyond the pale, and in his time on the political stage, the unthinkable has become thinkable with regularity.
Chait pontificates that:
Trump’s actions are best understood in the context of the overwhelming likelihood he, his family members, and at least some of his associates are guilty of serious crimes. The investigation might not produce proof of criminal collusion with Russia’s illegal hacking of Democratic emails. (Though reasonable grounds for suspicion already exists in abundance.)
Except there is no “overwhelming likelihood” that Trump, his family members, or associates are “guilty of serious crimes,” at least not based on publicly available evidence. Chait is engaging in pure speculation precisely because there is no proof of wrongdoing.

Chait shrieks that Trump’s New York Times interview this week and other news reports citing unidentified sources are proof that the president is a threat to the republic. “The ominous threats emanating from the White House are an administration mobilizing for war against the rule of law,” he wrote.

But what did Trump actually tell the Old Gray Lady?

"I have done nothing wrong,” he said. “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.”

One interviewer asked the president, "Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?" Another then chimed in with, "Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?"

Trump responded, probably correctly, with “I would say yeah. I would say yes."

"Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is?" an interviewer asked.

"I can't answer that question because I don't think it's going to happen," Trump replied.

It is horrifying to Chait that Trump is daring to defend himself in an interview.

Then there is that anonymously-sourced Washington Post article that claims Trump is considering firing Mueller and issuing mass-pardons – kind of like when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) unilaterally re-enfranchised felons by the hundreds of thousands to help Hillary Clinton during the last election cycle – in order to put himself and those close to him above the law.

It’s the kind of juicy, implausible story that the “Democracy Dies in Darkness” crowd has been known for since Trump was elected. The claim that the president’s legal team is examining the backgrounds of Team Mueller – as these attorneys are perfectly entitled to do – is much more plausible, though, according to Chait, such actions mark Trump as a budding dictator.

As left-wingers like Chait see it, the president isn’t allowed to defend himself from scurrilous, malicious allegations when he’s a Republican.

Confusing matters is the fact that the straight-shooting president delivered an extraordinarily unusual public flogging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, upbraiding him behind enemy lines in the New York Times interview. Trump said it was a mistake for Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe and that he may not have nominated him for the post if he had known beforehand that the attorney general would make the recusal decision.

It is true that with the benefit of hindsight, Sessions’ recusal, hailed at the time by the media and the rest of the Left as a noble, unifying gesture after a very, very nasty, hard-fought election, now looks boneheaded. Sessions is a good man and an outstanding public servant but he may have been in too much of a hurry to be liked by the Washington swamp. Appointing a special counsel calmed the Left down only briefly. Appeasing the radicals of today’s Democratic Party doesn’t work.

Although the unusual rebuke of Sessions may suggest the former Alabama senator’s days at the Justice Department may be numbered, White House Deputy Press

Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday the president “still has confidence” in Sessions despite the high-profile criticism...
Still more.

Mary Habeck, Storm of Steel

At Amazon, Mary Habeck, Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919–1939.