Sunday, February 28, 2021

COVID-19 death rates compared

United States COVID-19 death rates—total deaths thus far over total population:
512,000/325,000,000 = 0.00157538461, or almost 0.16%

South Korea COVID-19 death rates—total deaths thus far over total population:
1,600/52,000,000 = 0.00003076923, or about 0.003%

The US death rate, by the above reckoning, is 53 times higher than it is in South Korea. The United Kingdom, by the way, and apropos of nothing, is apparently reporting zero deaths from regular flu over the past year. That smells like bullshit to me.



seen during today's walk

When I walked to Bundang before, I mentioned seeing two bizarre sights:  some mysterious runes painted onto a Jersey barrier, and the deliberately misspelled graffito "They cake is a lie."  Well, behold the runes (click image to enlarge):

And here's "They cake is a lie." Note how, in some cases, the "y" is an afterthought:






GK Chesterton's un-Christian sentiment

Un-Christian, but I agree with it:

More politicians should be hanged.



go visit Kevin's Walk 5

Today's walk to Bundang turned out to be just a one-way trip.  I'm not too sorry I quit halfway through; 17.5K turned out to be just the right distance, I guess; I was plenty tired, my feet were achy, and I was starting to feel the beginnings of a blister on my left sole.  

I'm home now, and I've just written up a post over at Kevin's Walk 5 about how I plan to proceed for the big walk later this year.  Give the blog a visit if you want.



Cuomo... going down in flames?

Styx on Andrew Cuomo's Hindenburg moment:





walk update

[This, too, is a scheduled post.]

I headed out very late for this walk, and I'm trying to decide whether to cut it short by stopping at Bundang and taking the subway back.  If I walk the entire 35K, I won't be finishing until very late at night.  I'll get back to you with a decision.



from PowerLine's Week in Pictures

[NB:  This is a scheduled post.]














a good post from Instapundit

[This is a scheduled post.  I'm out walking.]

I don't normally credit Ed Driscoll, one of the co-bloggers at Instapundit, with good posts, but this post was good enough to quote here in its entirety:

WHY IMMIGRANTS FAVOR THE MELTING POT OVER MULTICULTURALISM: What Multiculturalism Has Wrought. The elevation of every world culture as “equally meritorious” has created a deep inequality in our own.

Upon arriving in America, Binh immediately found differences. “When I first got [to America] in 2009, I was waiting for the bus. A police officer stopped by and asked if I needed a ride home. Today I realized I should have said yes,” Binh says. “This country is so generous, and they are so welcoming. I do not see the racism in white people. I hang out with rednecks. I feel like liberal media has been pushing a strong image about America. I am more welcome here in the U.S. than in my own country.”

Taking in more than 1 million legal immigrants every year requires a culture of racial tolerance and a belief that in many parts of the world seems almost unnatural: that a complete stranger should be welcomed, because he or she has the potential to contribute something meaningful to the United State. This is what Binh means when he says that America is a generous country.

Ironically, to advance multiculturalism and deny American exceptionalism is to strike at the foundations of what makes America so appealing to immigrants the world over. What message should we be sending minority and immigrant youth growing up in a society where they don’t look like most people? Do we tell them that the American dream can be theirs, too, if they adopt our common language and a strong work ethic? Or that assimilation is fruitless, that this country will always reject them, and that they must never surrender the slightest bit of their culture?

Read the whole thing by clicking over, and mentally match this up with my post about the female North Korean solider who defected, came to America, and discovered she had been taught nothing but lies.

One comment beneath Driscoll's post:

This goes a long way toward explaining why immigrants who have done it the legal way are among those most opposed to illegal immigration.

If it were true that all cultures are equal, there would be no desire to immigrate.  The left loves to paint itself as pro-immigrant, but notice how lefties routinely and stubbornly ignore the testimonies of the immigrants who have come to the States to escape poverty, bad economic policy, and oppression.  I hear that some Chinese immigrants are now speaking out against "woke" PC culture, saying they didn't come to America to re-experience a Cultural Revolution.  I'm sure that sentiment is shared by any number of Cubans.  "Worker's paradise"—right.



Saturday, February 27, 2021

I ordered the large

Dinner ended up not being American breakfast.

Yeah, it's huge.  Sue me. It's also the only meal of the day.



Hollywood economics, Chinese politics

The Czech Republic to the rescue!  This country teaches the world (especially retarded Hollywood) how to conduct business during a pandemic:

China has eliminated poverty? Welcome to Xi Xinping's newest big, fat lie:





does Taco Bell have a new, disruptive service paradigm?





CaranoWatch continues

The fallout from Gina Carano's firing continues.

To be clear, Rosario Dawson has not been fired from the Star Wars universe quite yet, but there's a chance that she might be if she fails to shake the "transphobe" label.  Above, Mannix repeats the common wisdom that the left eats its own.  It's true.  Rosario Dawson is a dyed-in-the-wool leftie social-justice warrior (SJW), and that doesn't exempt her from leftist hate.

Now imagine Kathleen Kennedy as Hitler:





tomorrow, we slog

It's a bright, beautiful, warm day out, and tomorrow's going to be the same.  I'll be doing a 35K hike to Bundang and back tomorrow.  Today, I'm chowin' down on a homemade Amurrican-style breffus.  For dinner.  Because that's how I roll.  I'll also have some news about my big walk later this year.  That news will appear on my Kevin's Walk 5 blog, but I'll put up a quick note here to alert readers when the KW5 post goes up.



some images

This tweet didn't age well: 

Trump understood the Middle East's psychology, and no war erupted.  Then there's this:

The next two are via Bill Keezer:


If you're convinced the US is a racist, fascist hellhole, then leave.



Friday, February 26, 2021

"Dallas Buyers Club": review

If we think of AIDS as a pandemic of sorts, then I can say that I lived through that crisis when I was a kid.  I didn't gain awareness of AIDS as a widespread problem until I was in junior high, which is when everyone started jokingly accusing each other having AIDS.  The early 1980s were a bad time to be effeminate-looking or otherwise delicate-looking if you were a guy:  the term "faggot" was being thrown around with abandon back then, and everybody knew that AIDS was exclusively a "faggot" thing.  We now know better, and I'd like to think that the nation's collective homophobia has simmered down to some degree.  We now know that heterosexuals can be infected by HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.  We also understand AIDS well enough that modern treatment regimens can keep the condition from becoming a death sentence.  A lot has changed since the 80s.

2013's "Dallas Buyers Club" (sic:  no possessive apostrophe) takes us back to that unenlightened period of American history.  Directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club" begins in roughly 1985, with electrician/rodeo fan Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) finding out he has HIV, which he probably contracted via unprotected sex with a needle-using drug addict.  Woodroof is told his T-cell count is scarily low, and he has thirty days to live; in denial, he rages at the doctors, but then he cools down and begins to read about AIDS and its treatment.  A new drug called AZT is being used in human trials.  Aggressively promoted by its manufacturer Avonex and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AZT seems to be the only game in town.  The medical trials involve giving half the patients sugar-pill placebos, with the other half receiving the actual drug.  This doesn't satisfy Woodroof, who crosses the border into Mexico seeking alternatives.  There, he meets the disgraced Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne, unrecognizable) and discovers that AZT in large doses is essentially a poison that kills all the tissue it touches.  Vass puts Woodroof on a regimen of nutritional supplements, DDC, and Peptide T, a non-toxic protein.  Woodroof, incredibly, begins improving, and an idea is born:  why not ship these meds across the border and sell them to AIDS patients?

Woodroof encounters problems with the US government along the way to starting up his under-the-table business.  The FDA eventually makes unapproved drugs illegal, and as Woodroof's "Dallas Buyers Club" business flourishes, the IRS swoops in to audit him.  Woodroof acquires a business partner:  a trans woman named Rayon (Leto) who proves to have good money-management skills and a knack for finding clients in the gay/trans community.  Woodroof, who comes from a good-ol'-boy culture in which even the slightest sign of delicacy means being branded a "fuckin' faggot," is leery of Rayon at first, but he comes to trust her and even to view her as a friend.  Rayon's Achilles heel, however, is her cocaine addiction, which gets in the way of her own ongoing AIDS treatment.

I doubt I'm spoiling things when I say that, in the 1980s and early 90s, an AIDS diagnosis was indeed a death sentence, so there's only one way this story can end for Ron Woodroof.  But that's one of the major themes of "Dallas Buyers Club":  when faced with the sure prospect of death, what do you do?  As the character Red says in "The Shawshank Redemption," you get busy livin', or you get busy dyin'.  Ron Woodroof—sex addict, drinker, drug-user, and AIDS victim—chooses the former, belatedly imbuing his heretofore-wastrel life with real meaning.

Viewed through a cultural/political lens, "Dallas Buyers Club" has something for everyone of every political persuasion.  Woodroof's transformation from homophobic bigot to a close friend of Rayon the trans woman makes for a touching character arc that will appeal to the liberal end of the spectrum.  Meanwhile, Woodroof's unbridled capitalism and his hatred of the sluggish, ponderous, clumsy federal government—which can't approve good medication fast enough for thousands of dying patients—will appeal to the right side of the political/cultural aisle.

How much of the story is true, though?  I did a bit of research, and one of the first things I discovered was that Woodruff may not have been the raging homophobe he appeared to be during the first third of the film.  He may, in fact, have been bisexual himself, although testimonies conflict on this point.  As to whether AZT was and is the out-and-out poison that Woodroof believed it to be, well, this seems to be false.  AZT is still prescribed today as part of an AIDS treatment regimen, but doctors have since learned that AZT works best in very small doses, and alongside other meds.  Peptide T and DDC have also been shown to have dangerous side effects.  It's rarely wise to go against the experts when it comes to medication.  The movie also completely glosses over the fact that Woodroof was married several times (we only ever see him as a swinging single), and that he had a daughter.

So if "Dallas Buyers Club" can't be trusted to get the science right, and if it can't be trusted to get Woodroof's biography right, then how should we view the movie?  Is it a fable?  Is it some kind of morality play?  Is it that most pretentious of genres, the character study?  At a guess, it's probably the latter.  But consider:  the Dallas Buyers Club did exist; Ron Woodroof was a real person, and he was operating in rebellion against the US federal government.  To that extent, we've got a David-versus-Goliath situation, and maybe that's enough of a framework to hang a story on.  The characters of Rayon and sympathetic researcher Dr. Eve Saks (Garner) are both fictional, but if the movie's central message is about living and not merely surviving, then we should step back and let art do its thing, conveying a message straight to the heart.

The principal actors, especially McConaughey and Leto, do an incredible job.  Both men lost 47 and 30 pounds, respectively, for their roles as AIDS victims, and they both acted their hearts out.  (Both ended up winning Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, among other prizes.)  Leto, per his reputation, never once broke character during the 25-or-so days of filming.  (I've sung Leto's praises before; see my review of "Blade Runner 2049.")  McConaughey is a natural at conveying the desperation of a dying man who suddenly reorients his life because he wants to live.  Ron Woodroof, who had initially been given thirty days to live, died seven years after his AIDS diagnosis, having lived a full life, and having spared hundreds, perhaps thousands, of AIDS patients from early deaths.

Jean-Marc Vallée deserves credit for telling his story unsentimentally, in a style that Vallée himself describes as being close to that of a documentary.  Music during the movie is mostly diegetic (i.e., the music you hear is part of the universe in which the story is being told, so the characters are also hearing the music), but there are fleeting moments during which an actual soundtrack comes to the fore, and when it does, the melody is spare and tasteful.  The cinematography evokes a somewhat sepia-toned, broken down, 1980s-era Texas—a bit dusty, a bit forlorn, which is consistent with the rejection Woodroof suffers when his friends and coworkers discover he has AIDS and automatically assume he's a homosexual.  The movie manages to stir the emotions without reaching for overwrought treacle, and while we know what sad, inevitable arc Ron Woodroof's story must follow, I'd still say that the film ends on a life-affirming note.  Ron Woodroof didn't merely survive; he lived.

Watch "Dallas Buyers Club" with my enthusiastic blessing.  Know that it's very much a work of fiction that happens to incorporate some historical elements into its story, and that the historicity of the story isn't the fundamental point.  The point, Dear Reader, is 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



the "eating while black" hoax

Some idiots can't help themselves.  Despite several scandals in which race-baiting hoaxers have been caught (think:  the Jussie Smollett mugging hoax), some people continue to attempt these stupid shenanigans.  A recent example only now making the news:  in 2018, a young female student at Smith College named Oumou Kanoute claimed to have been harassed by university staff while eating in a campus cafeteria.  The staffer apparently told Kanoute the cafeteria was closed, and she interpreted this as a racist act.  Later on, a law firm conducted an investigation into the matter and concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.  Too little, too late, however:  by that point, the staffer who had approached Kanoute was suffering severe stress, another staffer had been forced from his job, and on-campus workers were obliged to undergo racial-sensitivity training.  Read more about the stupid incident here.  If there were any justice, Kanoute would be expelled from Smith College and sued for both libel and slander (her attacks were both written and verbal, so she committed both acts).

For a brief period, I dreamed of getting a doctorate and teaching at a university for the rest of my life.  Ever since I got a good whiff of the rot that's spreading in American college campuses, though, that dream has shriveled and died.  Campuses, these days, are well-manicured cesspools of PoMo/Marxist sludge, inculcating students into an unjustifiable grievance culture and creating a generation of pussy-ass beggars who demand everything while offering nothing.  So much for "ask not what your country can do for you"; so much for "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Smith College's motto is Audacity, Agency, Authenticity.  Audacity means daring and implies courage.  Agency connotes self-empowerment, i.e., you are free to act and therefore not a victim.  Authenticity calls to mind honesty, integrity, and sincerity.  These are all excellent, worthy virtues, and I applaud the college's choice of them.  Oumou Kanoute, by contrast, has shown herself to be a liar and a coward who thinks of herself as a victim.  She is the exact opposite of what Smith College supposedly stands for, and what's worse:  the college's administration probably stands with her.  See why I'll never be a college professor?

Fuck academe.



must-see video: spread this far and wide

Pas de machines à voter, et pas de vote par correspondance!

No voting machines, and no mail-in voting!

Where is this policy in force?  In France!



(NB:  I had to use a VPN to visit the site and watch the video on my phone, but on my office computer, no VPN was necessary.  Your mileage may vary.  Just a heads-up.)



let the warmongering begin: Biden orders airstrikes in Syria

The left kept accusing Donald Trump of being a warmonger, but to my knowledge, he ordered only two strikes, both more or less surgical:  one in Syria, and one in Iraq specifically to kill Iranian General Soleimani.  Trump started no new wars, and he was on his way to major draw-downs in various theaters.  Is Biden riffing off the Trump playbook with his order to conduct a surgical airstrike inside Syria against Iran-backed militia, or is the ancient Democrat starting to reveal his inner warmonger?  

Alt-media talking heads warned and warned that Clinton-era Democrats tend to be hawkish, a stark contrast with Donald Trump's largely dove-ish international policy.  The pundits that I listen to have repeatedly predicted that Biden & Co. would drag us back into global conflicts; Styx, in particular, has noted that neocons and neolibs are basically the same, especially in terms of international policy and their cavalier attitudes toward military action.

So let's see what happens.  Will Biden start pumping US troops back into Syria in what will eventually balloon into a much larger campaign, or is he trying to do what Trump did, i.e., use a surgical strike to make a point that he hopes won't need to be repeated?  (Biden's order was in response to a February 15 attack that injured several Americans.)

Since the changeover from Trump to Biden, Iran has begun demanding "reparations" for the Trump-era measures levied against it.  Biden was vice president when Barack Obama sent Iran literal cargo pallets of cash, so it wouldn't surprise me were Biden to knuckle under to Iranian pressure.  But again, we'll see.

UPDATE:  check out this Instapundit post, which lays out Biden's hypocrisy (although personally, I'd wait until Biden gets us deeper, militarily, into Middle Eastern conflict before declaring him a hypocrite on this score).


Thursday, February 25, 2021

plucked from online

I can hear some people crying "Disanalogy!" about the above joke.  But is it?  Really?

You may recall that US Representative Eric Swalwell (California, 15th District) is infamous for farting on camera and banging a Chinese spy named Fang Fang.  US politicians need to stop being suckers when it comes to the Chinese.  And I know a lot of white guys suffer from "yellow fever," but trust me:  due diligence will save you both hassle and heartache.



video smorgasbord

Biden's old and a pushover, and the world knows it:

Biden's town-hall performance sucked balls:

Comedian Ryan Long gives us... progressive superheroes!





an NK defector talks about her experience in America

Imagine being so utterly wrong about America and having the courage to admit how wrong you are.  Now compare that sort of courage to the cowardly, stupid, stubborn, and delusional behavior of the American left.  

Here's a North Korean officer who defected from North Korea, came to America, and discovered firsthand that everything she had learned about our country was a lie.  Now think about the lies that the American left tells itself in a gutless effort to block out the truth.

Pay special attention to what the lady says at 7:27.  The American left—the extreme wing of it, anyway—would like to make us into North Korea:  weak, starving, and ineffective.  What would this former North Korean soldier say about America's current leftward lurch?




joke seen on YouTube: McGregor the Irishman

It's like that joke about the old Irishman crying in a bar. 

He says: "You see this bar? I built this bar with my own bare hands. I cut down every tree and made the lumber myself. I toiled away through the wind and cold, but do they call me McGregor the bar builder? No." 

He continued: "Do you see that stone wall out there? I built that wall with my own bare hands. I found every stone and placed them just right through the rain and the mud, but do they call me McGregor the wall builder? No.

"Do ya see that pier out there on the lake? I built that pier with my own bare hands, driving each piling deep into the ground so that it would last a lifetime. Do they call me McGregor the pier builder? No." 

"But ya fuck one goat..."

(credit:  a comment seen under a YouTube video)



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

yesterday's lunch and dessert

My US coworker's pro-chef wife came through yet again, gifting us troops with an udong/odaeng soup, two types of California roll, and a lemon pound cake that featured crumbled pistachios instead of the more classic poppy seeds.




It was all quite good, and I admit I stuffed myself.



2 more via Bill




more vindication

An article from the religion blog Word on Fire goes into more detail than I did about the postmodernist roots of the current wokeism.  This article, too, puts Nietzsche at the root of the problem, then it mentions Jacques Derrida but focuses primarily on Michel Foucault and his discourses on power.  Here's a link (courtesy of Instapundit):

"Wokeism" in France:  The Chickens Coming Home to Roost.

The author uses the proverbial karmic chickens as his metaphor; in my own piece, I used the Cylons of "Battlestar Galactica."  Same difference, really:  something insidious is created; it leaves home, grows and festers, then comes back home with a vengeance.*  Some excerpts from the above-linked article:

I will confess that one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in the last several months was occasioned by a recent article in The New York Times by Norimitsu Onishi. In this lengthy piece, the author tells us that the current political and cultural leadership in France, very much including President Emmanuel Macron, is alarmed at the rise of “American-style woke ideology,” which is effectively undermining French society and fomenting violence. Why, you are wondering, would this produce laughter? Well, what we call “woke” thinking in our American context was almost totally imported from French intellectuals who flourished in the second half of the twentieth century. One thinks of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and perhaps especially of Michel Foucault. The thinking that was originally shared in Parisian coffeehouses eventually made its way into the university system of Europe and then, especially in the seventies and eighties of the last century, into the world of American higher education. Finally, in very recent years, much of this thinking has poured out onto the streets in the form of “wokeism.” In the measure that it is threatening French society—as indeed I think it is—the phrase “the chickens have come home to roost” springs rather readily to mind.

In order to make this plain, I should like to concentrate on the one French theorist that has had the greatest impact on the formation of the “woke” mentality—namely, Michel Foucault. When I commenced my doctoral studies in Paris in 1989, just five years after Foucault’s death, the philosopher’s owlish face looked out from every bookstore window in the city. It was simply impossible to avoid him. Foucault is perhaps best characterized as a twentieth-century disciple of the influential German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche. Famously declaring that God is dead, Nietzsche denied the objectivity of epistemic or moral truth and saw human life as a ruthless power struggle. Decrying Christianity as a “slave morality,” the pathetic attempt of the weak to shame the strong, Nietzsche called for the Übermensch (the over-man or the super-man) to assert his will to power. In a universe void of objective moral values, the Übermensch is to embody his own values and to declare his dominance.

Foucault thoroughly embraced Nietzsche’s atheism and hence denied any objective grounding to moral values. Instead, he interpreted these, whether espoused by Church or secular society, as the means by which powerful people maintained themselves in positions of power. Like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Foucault was, accordingly, a master of suspicion, an unmasker of what he took to be pretentious claims to truth. He unfolded his Nietzschean project in a series of massively influential books from the sixties and seventies: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish. In all of these texts, he engaged in what he called an intellectual archeology, digging underneath the present consensus on matters such as the nature of madness, sexual morality, the legitimacy of incarceration, etc. in order to show that in previous ages, people entertained very different ideas in all of these arenas. The upshot of this move was to demonstrate that what appeared to be objective moral principles and high-sounding language were, in fact, the ever-shifting games played by the powerful.

Now the legion of Foucault’s disciples in the Western academy continued this archeological project after their master’s death, looking especially into issues of colonialism, gender, homosexuality, and race. And what they found in all these areas, unsurprisingly, was a Nietzschean power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. Once awakened to this reality (woke), they endeavored to foment confrontation between the powerless and the powerful, and here the influence of Marx cannot be overlooked; indeed, one of Foucault’s greatest mentors was the French Marxist Louis Althusser. Appeals to order, social norms, objective ethical values should be swept aside, for they are but a camouflage for the real social dynamics. Vive la revolution! I trust that much of this is sadly familiar to any American who endured the worst of 2020’s social upheaval.

I've repeatedly said that, despite postmodernism's protestations to the contrary, postmodernist thinking is allied with Marxism; the two strains of thought naturally go together, and the evidence of their alliance is easy enough to dig up: just look at any humanities department in any American university these days, and you'll find that the people quoting Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, etc., are the same people offering Marxist critiques of modern capitalism.  The two philosophies—PoMo and Marxism—are united inside a single head and seem to coexist quite harmoniously.  That's the undeniable empirical truth.

If an organization like Black Lives Matter follows the Nietzschean path of "foment[ing] confrontation between the powerless and the powerful," then it should come as no surprise when the leaders of BLM proclaim themselves to be "trained Marxists."  PoMo and Marxist worldviews share a natural affinity.

If I had my dictatorial way, I'd take an axe to the very roots of all PoMo, which has become a cancer that has metastasized throughout American culture over the past half-century or so.  Alas, it may be too late to do anything about the problem.  Only a violent spasm of revolution or counter-revolution will burn out the sickness, and even then, much of it will survive and regrow.  The fight never ends.

__________

*I can already hear my more nitpicky commenters asking, "Are chickens insidious, and do they grow and fester and come back home with a vengeance?"  Fools.  These are karmic chickens, so of course they're insidious, and of course they fester.

Or weren't you paying attention?



blue states = beggar states

Stephen Moore:  The Blue States Are Now the Beggar States.

Excerpt:

Last week, I visited South Florida for four days, and what a shock: Everything was open. The beaches, the hotels, the restaurants (with some sensible safety and [social-distancing] restrictions). The classrooms are full.

The other strange thing about being in Florida was that people were happy. They were playing tennis and golf. They were going to work and getting on with their lives. Florida is a Republican, can-do kind of place.

Then, there is New York. Manhattan is a morose and deserted place to be. It's as if it's boarded up. People are living their lives afraid. They are depressed, which makes the whole place depressing.

In Southern California, I experienced the same dreariness. And it wasn't the weather, which was warm and sunny. Restaurants were closed or highly restricted. Stores were sparsely attended, and people were generally grimacing and standoffish. They yelp in horror if you take off your mask, even for a moment.

Yet through it all, there is almost no evidence that lockdowns, business closures, stay-at-home orders[,] and other strategies have reduced the infection rates or death rates from the virus. To take just one prominent example, open Florida has had a lower death rate (adjusted for the age distribution of the population) than closed-down California and New York. Even President Joe Biden's crackerjack health officials can't explain that one.

 

Fifty states experimented with responses to the virus, and the verdict is in: The big blue states got crushed. The highest unemployment states are Hawaii, Nevada, California, Colorado, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Connecticut. On average, the blue states have 2 percentage points lower unemployment, which means millions of more jobless citizens. Their revenues have collapsed with businesses closed down.

The part I highlighted is confusing to me; 2 percentage points' lower unemployment strikes me as a good thing:  millions fewer jobless citizens, not millions more.  Am I misreading this?  I mean, if I see that the country as a whole has a 4% unemployment rate, versus five years ago, when the figure was 8%, I'm going to think that that's an improvement.  Am I wrong?

Anyway, the article's larger point is that you're better off in a red state than in a blue state.  No disagreement here.  I imagine that Texas, despite the current deep-freeze and the green-energy-related crisis, is still doing better for itself than most blue states.


 

Tim Pool on fact-checking and the lying mainstream media

 If you're still consuming mainstream media, you're a sucker.





Tuesday, February 23, 2021

four via Bill







the skin analogy

A post at Instapundit went thus:

WOULDN’T IT BE SIMPLER FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO DISSOLVE THE PEOPLE AND ELECT ANOTHER? Former Trump administration senior adviser Stephen Miller: Biden’s Immigration Plan Would “Erase America’s Nationhood.”
 
Flashback: “Labour wanted mass immigration to make UK more multicultural, says former adviser. Labour threw open Britain’s borders to mass immigration to help socially engineer a ‘truly multicultural’ country, a former Government adviser has revealed.”

The comments below the post showcased all manner of viewpoints.  I added this comment:

My go-to analogy:  human skin.  A secure border, like skin, regulates influx and outflow, keeping a reasonable, healthy equilibrium.  Remove that shield, and everything pours in unregulated, including plenty of pathogens.  So to the open-borders people, I say:  if you don't believe in secure borders, you don't believe in the need for your own skin.  Take a potato peeler and peel your skin off.  Follow your convictions and stop being hypocrites.



a taste of your own goddamn medicine

Remember, during the Trump era, when many "woke" businesses self-righteously refused to serve people wearing MAGA hats?  Well, turnabout is fair play, and an ammunition company has decided to refuse service to Biden voters.  Fucking good, I say.  More companies should go this route:  it would be the total opposite of "get woke, go broke":  much of the larger population would get behind such a move!  Tim Pool interviews Michigan-based Fenix Ammunition co-owner Justin Nazaroff:

Some choice comments below the video:

Not only are they not selling to Biden voters, but they are directing them to the information that explains why.  I love this.

Leftist:  "They are a private company, and they can deny service to whomever they want."
Also leftist: "Why do you deny service? It's not fair!" 

His recollection of his conversation with that woman just proves what I've said for years: "Liberalism is a mental disorder." 

“There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts, a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading, a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero

 Funny how the “but muh private company” argument goes out the window when a leftist gets inconvenienced.

Why would Biden voters want ammo? They don't even want rights. 

Can we stop selling food to major cities for just 2 years? 

Why would we sell ammo to the people who we are trying to defend ourselves from in the first place? 

Well, I would say they've shot themselves in the foot, but they've got no ammo to do that now.

I've said it before:  if the current cold civil war ever turns hot, the side that's been quietly buying all the guns will be the one that wins.  Lefties, you've been warned.



Monday, February 22, 2021

sultry dog has seductive eyes

My friend John McCrarey has been "adopted" by a neighborhood dog called Buday.  John showed a recent picture of her in his latest blog post, and she's definitely got those hypnotic, seductive bedroom eyes.  I can see why John is under her spell.  Look here:

And below—still alluring, wouldn't you say?






French-language placement-test question

When I was a senior in high school, I got a 5 on the French AP test, i.e., the highest possible score.  I eventually decided to go to Georgetown University, but because GU was and still is an Ivy League wannabe institution, the School of Languages and Linguistics (a.k.a. "SLL" or "LingLang") had its own placement test to see what level of French I'd place into.  So on the appointed day, I sat in a room with over a hundred other students from all over the country (all over the world, really) and took the GU French-language placement test to see where, in the curriculum, I would end up as my starting point.

It was made clear to us, before the test, that French learners who weren't that advanced would have to go through the usual basic training, i.e., language labs and all that crap.  I made a face at this; the prospect of being relegated to language-lab work wasn't very pleasant, and I guess that that was a motivator to do well on the placement test.

Below is an example of a typical question on the multiple-choice test.  The test requires you to figure out, through context, what the appropriate answer is (i.e., what should go in the blank), but it also tests your spelling ability by offering you a range of choices, each with X number of blanks, one per letter.  French verbs change form for any number of reasons; in the past tense, they often have to agree with the person and number of the subject, although there are exceptions.  The question below is a tricky one:

Ils _____ au téléphone hier soir.
a. __ __       __ __ __ __ __ __ __
b. __ __        __ __ __ __         __ __ __ __ __
c. __ __         __ __ __ __         __ __ __ __ __ __
d. __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Let's examine why the above question is tricky.  First, if you know French, you may already have guessed that the correct verb is parler (to speak, to talk).  Further, you may have guessed that hier soir (yesterday evening, last evening) means the verb needs to be in the past tense.  That's an important clue.  Even further, you'll have noted the subject Ils (they), which is masculine plural, and which implies that the verb in question is not just parler but the reflexive se parler (to speak to oneself, to speak to each other):  at least two people are talking to each other.  You may also have learned that reflexive verbs are conjugated in the past tense with the auxiliary être (to be), and être verbs normally follow rules of participial agreement (masc./fem., sing./pl.).  BUT!  Here's the trick:  in the case of parler, the verb takes the dative (i.e., the indirect-object case), not the accusative ("I speak to him," not "I speak him"), and the dative case means no agreement!

Having taken all the above into consideration, you visualize in your mind what the answer choices are.  They look like this:

Ils _____ au téléphone hier soir.
a. se parlent
b. se sont parlé
c. se sont parlés
d. parlent

The answer can't be (a) because that's the present tense.  The answer can't be (c) because (c) shows participial agreement (note the extra "s" at the end of parlés to indicate the masculine plural), and we've already said that parler takes the dative, so there's no agreement.  The answer can't be (d) because, first, that's not a reflexive verb (there's no reflexive pronoun se there), and second, that's the present tense.  Therefore, the correct answer must be (b), se sont parlé.  It checks all the right boxes.

Tricky, tricky.

So, during the arduous placement test, I had to slog through a slew of questions like the one above, and much to my delight, I finished the test a half hour before anyone else did.  Not only that, but when I got my results back, I discovered that I had managed to place into junior-year-level French, which meant no language labs!  Part of me took the situation for granted:  back in high-school French class, I used to finish quizzes and tests twice or three times faster than the next person to finish.  It was a gift; it was a talent, and it gave me god-level status in the French classroom (if nowhere else).

But Georgetown isn't the kind of place where a somewhat-talented student can walk around with a swelled head for very long.  I soon discovered that junior-year-level French meant that classes were all 100% in French, and classes often had very talented students, some of whom were native speakers, and some of whom were Americans who happened to function in French at a very high level.  It was humbling to be sitting alongside people who were genuine beasts when it came to speaking, reading, and writing French, and to know that many of these students also spoke other languages just as fluently.  One thing I prize about the GU experience is that I had a chance to meet and work with some truly talented classmates.  Out in the real world, I've heard people blithely say, "Oh, yeah; I speak four languages"—and then I discover that their proficiency level is shit.  But when someone from Georgetown would say "I speak four languages," you could be sure that that person actually spoke all four languages fluently.  When someone claims to speak a foreign language, my standards are very high.

I don't have much occasion to use French here in South Korea.  I do read French-language news online, and I correspond with my French host family every now and then, but that's about the extent of my practice.  I really ought to do more; there is, in fact un quartier français (a French district) here in Seoul.  I've visited it once or twice, but now, with the mental burden of my scholastic debt gone, I ought to plan more trips out to Seorae Village, buy myself a baguette and some hot chocolate, and speaka zee Fraintch with the locals.



utopia = hell

From FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education):





Sunday, February 21, 2021

four memes (PowerLine Weekend in Pictures)

Facts should never get in the way of science!

Dear AOC:

We are doomed as a species:

A chart to make things clear:



Saturday, February 20, 2021

oh, my

I think this is by Sabo, the rightie street artist (seen at Instapundit):




Styx: as predicted, the left's warmongering comes to the surface

The alt-media warned and warned and warned of this. Did anyone listen?




vindication

I've come across what appears to be a libertarian-leaning YouTube channel called FEE, or the Foundation for Economic Education.  It's got a bias, being pro-free-market, pro-capitalist, and very much against any sort of central-planning paradigm, be it communism, socialism, chavismo/madurismo, Kimism, or whatever.  I've watched a few FEE videos, now, and I'm generally on board with almost everything the video-makers say.  There aren't enough econ-related YouTube channels that defend capitalism these days; the magazine The Economist has its own YouTube presence, but it's obvious that The Economist has been infected with the wokeness virus.

Anyway, FEE puts together slick, fairly well-made videos that present good, logical arguments for their point of view.  One video in particular struck me, though, because it essentially rehashed everything I've recently written about the pernicious influence of postmodernism and Marxism on American culture (see here and here).  Unfortunately, the video in question has been age-restricted on YouTube, and it can't be embedded here (were I to embed the vid, you'd click and be sent back to YouTube), so all I can offer you is a link.  The link will take you to the 5:33 mark in the video, which is where the discussion on PoMo and Marxism begins.  If you want, you're free to back up and watch the video from the beginning, which I'd actually recommend.  I assume the age-restriction is another example of Big Tech censorship:  we can't have people learning about why leftist economic paradigms are bad, now, can we.



Friday, February 19, 2021

the ultimate flow chart

Because some low-IQ folks have trouble understanding cause and effect:




why Gina Carano really got fired

A good Substack article here on Gina Carano's firing.  The essential part:

“I don’t know what people at Disney personally believe or don’t believe with regard to politics, but as a corporate entity, they want to stay as trouble-free as possible. And anything that’s going to offend the left is a problem,” says crisis PR rep Juda Engelmayer. “I have clients who are making an extraordinary effort to post what the social left wants to see.”

You must fellate the left, or else.

Be sure to read the whole article because it describes a sentiment that, more and more, I'm gravitating toward:  fight fire with fire.  And as the author says:  up to now, we've been playing nice.  The left, because it projects, doesn't see it that way.  It sees nothing but violence-promotion and hate-mongering emanating from the right.  This is all fiction, of course—a risible delusion:  it's the left that not only promotes violence and hate, but engages in it.  I keep saying that it's only a matter of time before the giant is awakened, and the left will then discover what it means to provoke a sleeping giant.

(Credit goes to Sarah Hoyt for linking to the Substack article.)



bad governance is everywhere

This video made me squirm, but it's an important one to watch if you're against the abuse of police powers:

I'm still not convinced that Andrew Cuomo will pay for the mass murder of over 15,000 elderly people in New York, but I'm glad the press is all over him for the moment:





seen elsewhere

From Instapundit:

Below, via Bill Keezer:

Smart people are kinda dumb.



Ave, Charles!

Charles writes an interesting essay on the tyranny of genre.  People get into fights all the time over genre, taxonomy, classification, or however else you want to describe the parsing of phenomena.  Look at my tussle with my buddy Mike and my brother Sean over the term "grilled cheese."  As Charles notes, it's the edge cases that can be troublesome; Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, called this the "platypus problem."  

When I'm wearing my film-critic hat, I occasionally encounter movies that seem to straddle genres; this is sometimes a pleasant experience and sometimes an unpleasant one for reasons that Charles notes in his essay.  I may have observed, long ago, that certain Korean movies vary wildly in tone and genre; "YMCA Yagu Danji," a dramedy about the introduction of baseball to occupied Korea, is one such film—first comic, then tragic as the story's focus moves from the tentative beginnings of Korean baseball to the larger context of the Japanese occupation.  The shift in tone is jarring for those expecting the story to be comic until the end.  The American superhero film "Hancock," starring Will Smith, undergoes a similar shift in tone and genre (two concepts that often seem linked in film and literature), starting off as a zany comedy, then becoming something much darker and more serious by the end.  A more recent example, among movies I've reviewed, is "The Hunt," which combines elements from the action, thriller, satire, comedy, and horror genres.  Platypi abound.

Anyway, give Charles's educational, edifying essay a read.  It might make you (or me) think twice before you (or I) facilely pigeonhole something in an effort to make sense of it.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

ululate...?

Rush Limbaugh has died, having lost his battle with lung cancer.  Wikipedia:

Limbaugh, a cigar and former cigarette smoker, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer on January 20, 2020, after first experiencing shortness of breath on January 12; he had previously questioned the link between smoking and cancer deaths, arguing that smokers were not at any greater risk than people who "eat carrots."

Limbaugh was a month over 70.

My apologies to Limbaugh's many fans, but I found him loud, obnoxious, and boorish.  I may have agreed with him on certain policy issues, but I found Limbaugh to be the worst sort of representative of and advocate for the conservative viewpoint.  Loudmouths like Rush, Ann Coulter, and Bill O'Reilly did and do much to damage the conservative cause.

I'm also not convinced that Rush made a lot of sense.  I never sat through a single one of his radio broadcasts, but at the behest of certain online commentators whom I trust, I did click over, once or twice, to read transcripts of those broadcasts.  And Good Lord, it was like wading through word salad.  I'm not saying the transcripts were utterly incoherent, but the meandering, often-unstructured way Limbaugh put his thoughts together struck me as... well, in need of extreme editing.

Rush died of lung cancer, apparently not believing there was any correlation between smoking and lung cancer.  So if you're a fan of Rush, well... smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Tim Pool on Rush's departure from this plane of existence:

I don't gloat about Limbaugh's death, but to be frank, I don't mourn the man, either.



mass-murderer Andrew Cuomo is finally being investigated

Here:

JUSTICE FOR DEAD GRANNIES: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo under investigation for nursing home deaths.

Related: U.S. attorney, FBI investigating Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths: In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.

UPDATE: The first link above, at ABC News, has gone dead for some reason. Here’s the Albany Times-Union story it appears to have been based on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a different ABC News link to what appears to be the same story.

Links going dead, eh?  Coincidence, or the leftie media defending its own?  After all the avid dick-sucking Cuomo received for his "superb" leadership during the pandemic, it's too late for him to recant, apologize, or otherwise admit wrongdoing:  he's a legend in his own mind, as Dirty Harry might say.  I'd love to see Cuomo either go to jail or burn in hell, but I suspect that true justice will not be forthcoming.  Why?  Because righties, unlike lefties, don't burn neighborhoods down when they get angry, and it's the fear of the leftist mob that will keep the judiciary from administering proper justice.  Too bad we can't rustle up a posse and have ourselves a proper gubernatorial lynching.  The murderer deserves death, and even the Democrats are coming around to the idea that Cuomo is massively guilty.  The only real consequence that Cuomo will suffer, alas, is the destruction of his 2024 presidential aspirations.  What a small price to pay for fifteen thousand deaths.

ADDENDUM:  I saw this comment at Instapundit:

Cuomo under investigation? Why would they do that?

For a very good reason. The best way to exonerate somebody is to pretend to investigate him, followed by a "nothing to see here; go back to sleep" nothingburger.

After all, it worked for Hillary.

It kind of worked for Hillary, but it deflated her chances of winning the presidency.



is "The Mandalorian" now doomed?

The scuttlebutt, which I'd started hearing some weeks ago, is that actor Pedro Pascal, the star of "The Mandalorian," has been getting antsy.  According to one rumor, he's unhappy with playing a constantly helmeted individual; he'd like to show his face more often.  According to another rumor, Pascal has accepted a starring role in the HBO series "The Last of Us," a TV show based on the post-apocalyptic video game of the same name.  The rumors have only intensified since then, and it looks as though Pedro Pascal is definitely going to be leaving "The Mandalorian."  The timing is interesting, given that Disney only just fired fellow co-star Gina Carano from the Lucasfilm series because she had written a slew of tweets deemed politically incorrect.  Supporters of Carano immediately brought up the fact that Pedro Pascal had tweeted that the US and Nazi Germany were morally equivalent for putting kids into cages.  (I discussed that incident here.)

As much as I like and respect Pascal for his acting ability and easy charisma, I have zero sympathy for him regarding his supposed complaints.  Surely he knew, before he signed on to "The Mandalorian," that his character would be wearing a face-covering helmet almost the entire time.  That's got to be a sweaty, miserable experience for any actor (and I've heard many complaints from actors who have to wear masks, helmets, and molded-latex coverings about what a chore it is to be buried under a costume all day, every day, for months at a time), but the dude signed on, anyway.  Some are accusing Pascal of having a massive ego:  he wants the world to see his face.  I don't read it that way; I suspect he is legitimately miserable because he has to wear that damn helmet all the time.  Ego might play a role—almost all actors have massive egos—but I doubt it plays that much of a role in this particular case.  But as I said, Pascal knew beforehand what he was getting into.  (And all of this assumes that the rumors about Pascal's complaints are true.)

Anyway, awesome YouTube ranter Mannix is on the case.  The two videos embedded below both deal with Pedro Pascal in some way:


The way Mannix frames the issue, it sounds as if Disney knew Pascal's departure was coming, and that's why, according to Mannix, Luke Skywalker was placed at the end of Season 2:  the story's arc had been about the Mandalorian's attempt to get little Grogu back to "his own kind," i.e., back to Force-sensitive Jedi who could train him, so Season 2 basically ends with the Mandalorian having completed his quest:  Luke saves the day and takes little Grogu with him to be trained, presumably at Luke's new Jedi academy.  That's one reason why I wrote in yesterday's series review that I felt this was a good point at which to divorce from Disney Plus.  While "The Mandalorian" still has some loose ends that haven't been tied up, and while the series hints at the arrival of yet more Star Wars-related spinoff series (they're following the Marvel model of series proliferation, which might not end well, given how all the Marvel-Netflix series ended up being canceled), the main thrust of the plot has been fulfilled:  Grogu is now where he belongs.

Mannix also surmises that Pascal might view Gina Carano's departure as cover for his own:  he could, in theory, leave "The Mandalorian" in a show of solidarity with Carano.  I don't buy that, though:  Pascal is a dyed-in-the-wool leftie, so I have to wonder how much solidarity he actually feels with Carano.  It's possible, I suppose, that Pascal is the rare type of leftist who also seriously advocates for free speech, including speech he disagrees with.  If so, then good for him, but color me skeptical.

One way or another, "The Mandalorian" appears less and less likely to have a third season.  I feel sorry for Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, who put a lot of work into the series.  I feel sorry for the fine co-stars who brought their talents to a very well-written story.  But all it takes is one stupid incident to ruin everything for everyone, and it was Disney's "woke" stupidity that led to the firing of Gina Carano, and to the current mess the company is in.  Not that I expect the Mouse to care all that much:  Disney is the Empire, after all, awash in cash and supported by millions of equally "woke" fans.  I can't call the whole thing a waste, but it really is a shame that the show probably won't go forward... unless, as Mannix suggests, major roles get recast.

UPDATE:  this three-day-old Inside the Magic article reassures us that Pedro Pascal is not leaving "The Mandalorian."  Not only that, but he has voiced support for co-star Gina Carano on more than one occasion.  (This article affirms that Pascal and Carano are, in fact, friends.)  If that's true, then my respect for the man goes up a notch.  If he's pro-free speech and not part of the Cancel Cunt Club, then that's a mark in his favor.  Other articles say that Pascal's work schedule will prioritize "The Last of Us," but he will still work on "The Mandalorian," possibly by having stuntmen replace him in the armor while he provides voiceover material remotely.  Talk about phoning in a performance.  Not that any of this matters to those of us who've quit Disney:  we'll have to find a way to watch Season 3 without handing more money over to the Evil Rodent.



fatten the curve!





Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"The Mandalorian," Seasons 1 and 2: review

I approach this review of Disney-Lucasfilm's "The Mandalorian" with very mixed feelings.  Right off the bat, I can affirm that the series is extremely entertaining, especially if you're an old-school Star Wars fan.  At the same time, Disney—the parent company—has enslaved itself to the "woke" agenda, and this has resulted in the firing of "Mandalorian" star Gina Carano, who plays former Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune on the show.  Carano had made a series of perfectly harmless tweets that were deemed extremely offensive by the perpetually oversensitive, perpetually outraged mob of wokeristas, and now she's gone.  The Mouse, ever mindful of its masters, knuckled under to the mob's pressure to "cancel" Carano, calling her opinions "abhorrent."  The result, though, has been a mass exodus from the Disney Plus streaming service as people supporting Carano—a strong feminist abandoned, ironically, by the feminist left—have elected to forsake Disney.  Now that I've binge-watched the first two (and so far only) seasons of "The Mandalorian," I've just joined the exodus myself.  I have mixed feelings because I'd love to watch a third season, but I'm not going to give my money to an organization—Disney—that stifles the free speech of its employees.

For the moment, though, we'll try to put aside the politics and concentrate on the show itself, judging "The Mandalorian" on its own merits and not worrying about the politics of the studio executives, the actors, and the filmmakers.

Created by Jon Favreau—the miracle-working actor/director who breathed life into what we all now call the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) thanks to his 2008 film "Iron Man"—2019's "The Mandalorian" is the story of a bounty hunter who was found by and adopted into Mandalorian culture.  Mandalorians are a warrior people who have subdivided into several sects, some of which are religiously fundamentalist; our protagonist, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), is a wanderer tracking quarry for money in a post-Empire era.  As both a Mandalorian and a bounty hunter, he follows two codes:  the Mandalorian Code and the Code of the Bounty Hunters' Guild.  The series takes place about five years after the destruction of the second Death Star (in "Return of the Jedi"); a New Republic has formed in the Core systems of the galaxy, taking the place of the corrupt Old Republic.  The Jedi Order has been shattered and scattered; only prominent Jedi like Luke Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano (a character introduced in the "Clone Wars" animated series; she's technically an ex-Jedi) remain.  The Empire, meanwhile, still exists in a patchwork manner, with various fleet admirals and other warlords still loyal to the idea of an Empire, and to its future restoration.  While the Core systems remain fairly developed and civilized, the planets of the Outer Rim are much more like the Wild West of legend—a haven for criminals and other outlaws.

The basic thrust of the first two seasons is that Din Djarin is given the mission of finding and capturing or killing a powerful little creature that is the same mysterious species as that of Jedi master Yoda.  The Mandalorian learns from an Imperial client (Werner Herzog!) that the creature is fifty years old, but the Imperial offers little else to go on.  When the Mandalorian finds the creature, he discovers that it's still a toddler despite being fifty—cooing and engaging in all the familiar forms of cute and naughty behavior that we associate with toddlers.  The one major difference is that this toddler, like Yoda, is extremely strong in the Force, which is why it's being hunted.  Din Djarin becomes concerned about what will befall the child once he hands it over; he is advised not to ask questions by the local head of the Bounty Hunters' Guild, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers):  concern for what happens after a bounty is caught and paid for is a violation of the Code.  Djarin goes against the Code, though, when he realizes the child is likely to come to harm, and he rescues it from Imperial clutches.  This move pits Djarin against his fellow bounty hunters as well as against the remnants of the Imperial forces, and from that moment on, the Mandalorian is on the run.

The series plays out as a combination of a long story arc and many episodic side-stories.  Some viewers and critics have complained that this makes the series formulaic:  the Mando (as he's nicknamed) gets stranded somewhere and must help some people with some problem before he can move on his way.  The series has a lot in common with 1970s TV series involving wandering do-gooders, such as "Kung Fu" or "The Incredible Hulk."  But the Mando's wanderings often lead him in circles:  there are repeat visits to planets like Nevarro and Tatooine, mainly because these are places where the Mando can get his battered ship, the Razor Crest, repaired.  While I think these criticisms are at least somewhat legitimate, the circular nature of the Mando's wanderings allows for some very interesting world-building—the sort of thing associated with the Star Wars novels of the so-called Expanded Universe.  We learn a lot more about Jawa and Sandpeople culture, for example; we finally get to see the fabled krayt dragon (spoken of in the novelized version of Star Wars, but never mentioned by name in the movies); we see what an IG-series assassin droid is capable of doing, and we learn that Imperial stormtroopers might be terrible shots, but they're human after all.

Some characters in the series are given interesting arcs.  Greef Karga comes immediately to mind:  he's an old but still frosty warrior who now heads up at least one chapter of the Bounty Hunters' Guild; he's seen it all, and his morals have eroded as a result.  But a moment of miraculous healing, courtesy of the Force-powerful alien child, changes his outlook entirely, and he finds his honor again.  Former Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune (Gina Carano) also evolves a bit over the course of the series:  she's a hard-bitten, battle-hardened soldier who lost everyone she loved when her home planet of Alderaan was destroyed by the Empire, but over time, she develops a friendship with the Mandalorian and a soft spot for the alien child.  That child, whose name we discover is Grogu, doesn't exactly change over time, but we learn more and more about him and his mystic powers, all of which line up with miracles we've seen other Jedi and Sith perform:  flinging objects and creatures around telekinetically, healing the injured, Force-choking certain victims, and engaging in mind-to-mind communication.

"The Mandalorian" scored some big-name actors to play crucial roles.  Werner Herzog, an acclaimed actor-director in his own right, plays the first Imperial officer who tries to get hold of Grogu.  Giancarlo Esposito (who played Gus Fring in "Breaking Bad") plays Moff Gideon, the calm, deadly Imperial commander who also wants Grogu for his high M-count (we all assume that "M" stands for "midichlorian," the tiny, living particles inside one's cells that allow communion with the Force).  Nick Nolte voices Kuiil, the wise old Ugnaught who helps the Mando on several occasions.  Taika Waititi, another talented actor-director (he helmed "Thor: Ragnarok"), humorously voices the assassin droid IG-11.  Ming-na Wen is the assassin Fennec Shand; comedian Bill Burr plays former Imperial sharpshooter Migs Mayfeld;  "Battlestar Galactica" veteran Katee Sackhoff is fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze; Rosario Dawson is ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano (student of the pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker, she left the Jedi Order after being falsely accused of wrongdoing); and amazingly, Temuera Morrison was convinced to play the role of universally feared bounty hunter Boba Fett—who turns out to be a much more complex and honorable man than the movies ever hinted at.  I'm particularly glad that Morrison got on board:  it was cringe-inducingly horrible to watch him play the roles of various clone troopers in the prequel trilogy, saying little more than, "Yes, sir!  Right away!"  I saw Morrison's groveling role in the prequels as an incredible, maybe even sinful, waste of acting talent, which is why I think Morrison must have been a very good sport to sign back on board any project with George Lucas's name attached to it.*  And it's all worked out for the best:  Boba Fett is now an amazing character; we get hints of him in early episodes, but when he makes a full-on appearance, he's a holy terror on the battlefield.  (Trivia:  Morrison has said, in interviews, that he helped develop Boba Fett's fighting style by incorporating elements of Maori haka—which includes plenty of martial postures—into Fett's moves.)

The people behind the camera were also quite impressive.  Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of "Apollo 13" director Ron) very perceptively directed two fine episodes:  "Sanctuary" and "The Heiress."  Carl Weathers proved he was capable of directing exciting action sequences when he helmed the episode "The Siege."  Dave Filoni, who was previously known for his excellent work on the "Clone Wars" animated series, directed "The Gunslinger" and "The Jedi" (in which fan favorite Ahsoka Tano makes her first live-action appearance thanks to actress Rosario Dawson).  Filoni is also a co-showrunner with Jon Favreau; they are the two biggest creative influences behind "The Mandalorian."  Favreau directed Season 2's opener, "The Marshal," which features the mighty krayt dragon, a tough creature that requires two enemy communities to band together to take it down.  Action-loving Robert Rodriguez directed "The Tragedy," which features the triumphal return of Boba Fett as well as the tragic loss of a much-beloved (albeit abiotic) character.

There are times when the Western-ish feel of "The Mandalorian" reminds the viewer of an old favorite:  the Joss Whedon TV series "Firefly," which also featured a galaxy in the throes of political conflict, with most of its action occurring out on the galactic periphery.  But while Nathan Fillion's Captain Mal might be a roguish Han Solo figure, Pedro Pascal's Din Djarin leans more toward the Clint Eastwood Nameless Gunfighter side of the heroic spectrum.  Djarin isn't quite as invulnerable as Nameless, however:  the show is at pains not to make him into some sort of unrealistically super-competent Gary Stu (the male equivalent of a Mary Sue), so we see him getting his ass handed to him on many occasions.  Djarin often needs help from those around him to complete his appointed tasks, and there are moments when other characters save him from death.  The Mandalorian is neither infallible nor invincible, and this is most obvious when he encounters two Jedi whose powers and skills so far outstrip his own as to leave him utterly humbled.

It may be for that reason that the Jedi are used very sparingly in this series.  A bit like how Darth Vader doesn't get to cut loose in full-on beast mode until the very end of "Rogue One," we don't meet our two Jedi until rather late in the game:  Ahsoka Tano in Episode 5 of Season 2, and Luke Skywalker (digitally de-aged) in Episode 8, which is the Season 2 finale.  "The Mandalorian" is more about the struggles of the regular people caught in the middle of much larger forces, and that too makes for an interesting parallel with "Firefly."  Over-powered characters like the Jedi yank the show's equilibrium too far to the side; when the Jedi dominate the storyline, a more humble protagonist like Din Djarin tends to get written out of his own show.  Luckily, Filoni and Favreau handled both Ahsoka Tano and Luke Skywalker very well, all while respecting the other, less-powerful characters.

Let's take a step back and talk about the show as a whole—its character development, its tone, its world-building, as well as the musical soundtrack, cinematography, and special effects.  Jon Favreau has written three-fourths of the episodes himself, and his love for the Star Wars franchise shines through.  Favreau actually cares about this universe, and while directors like JJ Abrams may claim to love Star Wars, it's not obvious that they understand Star Wars.  To that end, Favreau made sure to bring Dave Filoni on board, and that was a brilliant strategic move:  Filoni had full reign in the world of "Clone Wars," and he has shown time and again that he understands George Lucas's original vision far better than chumps like Rian Johnson (who directed the super-controversial, super-divisive "The Last Jedi").  Together, Favreau and Filoni have crafted fully developed characters with meaningful arcs and distinctive personalities that fit well with the environments in which we find them.  Even minor characters and creatures feel dimensional, like the raging ice-cave spiders seen in the episode "The Passenger."  Jawas and Sandpeople are built out into something more meaningful:  far from being flat characters, these beings have their own languages and cultures and worldviews.  Kuiil the Ugnaught shows us that Ugnaughts are more than just scurrying minions working in the carbon-freezing chamber of Bespin's Cloud City.  Even the evil characters like Werner Herzog's Imperial officer and Giancarlo Esposito's Moff Gideon are given clear motivations.  Herzog's character, in particular, gives a significant speech about how things along the Outer Rim have turned to chaos since the fall of the Empire.  It's an excellent moment that hints at the moral complexity of this fictional universe.

As for the show's tone:  Filoni and Favreau are obviously going for a space-Western kind of feel, and they're not too politically correct about it.  The show doesn't shrink from the notion that, when chaos abounds, death is everywhere.  I'm trying to think of a single episode that doesn't feature a battlefield littered with dozens of corpses.  This isn't a 1980s-era "The A-Team," where bullets are sprayed everywhere, and no one ever gets hurt.  In "The Mandalorian," people get shot in the head, ripped apart by explosions, and eaten by monsters.  Good guys die alongside bad guys.  Boba Fett proves he knows how to use the Sandpeople's gaffi stick; the result is smashed-in Imperial skulls.  Grogu, the alien toddler, gobbles down the eggs of a frog-like passenger, effectively killing off a chunk of her brood.  Grogu's appetite was played for laughs, but some angry fans saw nothing funny in Grogu's murderous gluttony, and they wrote in to complain.  As far as I know, those complaints have been ignored, and Grogu—whom all the fans were calling "Baby Yoda" until Ahsoka Tano revealed his real name—is still the show's most popular and adored character.  The unrepentantly un-PC tone of the show is one of its draws, which makes the firing of Gina Carano all the more painful.

World-building is a function of screenwriting, and the show does a fine job of fleshing out known worlds like Tatooine while introducing us to new worlds like Nevarro, Trask, and Sorgan.  The lengthy, episodic format of the show allows for this sort of detailed development.  In the spirit of the original Star Wars films, these worlds all feature one predominant climate:  a desert planet, a swamp planet, a sea planet, a lava-veined rocky planet, etc.  We get a taste of several local bar cultures; we visit one Asian-themed planet ruled by a cruel magistrate (played by Bruce Lee's goddaughter Diana Lee Inosanto) who hates her own citizens; we witness the many forms that trade and currency can take in the Outer Rim territories.  The Mando himself is shown to have his share of hangups:  he can't stand droids, and his Mandalorian code forbids him from removing his helmet and revealing his face in front of other living beings.  The series respects the fictional universe's cultural diversity, although English is the lingua franca.  That said, there are plenty of characters who refuse to speak English; sometimes, their dialogue is subtitled; sometimes, it isn't.  In terms of language, several choice lines are repeated often throughout the series:  "This is the Way," which is intoned by Mandalorians as an affirmation of their Creed; "I have spoken," which is often uttered by Kuiil the Ugnaught; and "Dank farrik!", which is this series's version of "Goddammit."  Other colorful expressions include "a skank in the scud pie," this universe's way of saying "a fly in the ointment" or "a monkey wrench in the works"; and "the Quacta calling the Stifling slimy," i.e., "the pot calling the kettle black."  There's the derisive term "Imps," which means "Imperials."  Lastly, there's the Mando's idiosyncratic use of the word "quest" as a passive-voice verb:  "I've been quested with bringing this child to its own kind."  To be quested with a task, then, is to be charged with a task that will require one to go on a quest.  Everywhere you look in this series, there's world-building afoot.  The writers have woven a rich tapestry for adventure.

The show's musical soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson, however, leaves me a bit befuddled.  A lot of people love it, but I'm not completely on board.  I can see that Göransson, like fellow movie composer Basil Poledouris ("Conan the Barbarian," "Starship Troopers"), doesn't do subtle, and he likes to keep the mood as upbeat as possible.  His tha-tha-thump soundtrack for "The Mandalorian" is meant to evoke the sound of a horse's gallop, reinforcing the plucky, spaghetti-Western vibe of the show.  I suppose my problem is that I'm attached to John Williams's stylings, but one could easily make the argument that Williams's music is more appropriate for the epic swords-and-sorcery adventures featured in the movies.  "The Mandalorian" is basically a TV show, so its themes ought to be scaled down, with only occasional attempts at the grandiose.  Suffice it to say that, even after two whole seasons, I'm still getting used to Göransson's musical aesthetic.

By contrast, the movie's lush cinematography and obviously expensive special effects generally blow me away.  The imagery (and the sound design!) most assuredly evokes the Star Wars of my youth, but it's also obvious that we've evolved far, far beyond the SFX that were cutting-edge in the late 1970s.  CGI blends fairly smoothly with practical effects; Grogu himself is evidence of that:  he's an animatronic muppet enhanced by CGI.  The planetary landscapes are filled with detail; the series is already famous for some very iconic imagery.  The episode "The Marshal," in which the Mandalorian must help a group of townspeople and a tribe of Sandpeople defeat a local krayt dragon, stands out in my mind as a special-effects achievement on the order of anything done by Peter Jackson and his Weta Workshop team of SFX wizards.  Each episode of "The Mandalorian"—and most of the episodes have a very short run time from about 25 to 47 minutes—costs about $15 million to make.  With 16 episodes under his belt, Favreau has already spent $120 million, which is the lower-end cost of a big-budget, effects-heavy movie these days.  Given the show's look, this is money well spent.

The action sequences and fight choreography featured in the series are generally well filmed—clear and coherent, with little to no annoying shaky-cam.  There are, in fact, moments when I've felt the fight choreography has been a little too stiff and rehearsed-looking, but this is a minor complaint.  The Star Wars universe generally tries to avoid having characters fight in ways that are immediately recognizable as this or that martial art (Darth Maul stands out as the only real exception; actor Ray Park is trained in various styles of kung fu), but you'll get your fair share of knees, elbows, side kicks, front kicks, and roundhouse kicks.  For my money, the show's best fight-related moment didn't involve any Jedi or Mandalorian flashiness:  it was Carl Weathers as Greef Karga doing an amazing whip-around 180 quick-draw to shoot two enemies behind him.  I think I actually sat up straighter when I saw that move:  it was that impressive, and it was possibly the best tribute to old-school Westerns in the whole series.

Does "The Mandalorian" deliver when viewed as a whole?  I'd say yes, and resoundingly so.  I found the series to be very binge-watchable; as others have noted, Filoni and Favreau have successfully recaptured the spirit of the old Star Wars universe from before it was taken away from George Lucas's direct control and placed into the clutches of people like Kathleen Kennedy—people who seem to think that preaching the "woke" agenda is more important than telling a great story.  It saddens me that I won't be following the further adventures of these colorful characters beyond Season 2 (unless Amazon Prime Video is somehow given the rights to sell the series on its own platform), but maybe this is the right place to leave the story.  While I hesitate to support Disney itself, I do recommend "The Mandalorian" as an excellent, entertaining bit of sci-fi adventure.  Figure out how to watch it on the sly if you can.

This is the Way.

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*You could argue that Morrison had the chance to sink his teeth into the prequel-trilogy role of Jango Fett, the genetic template for the clone troopers, but you'll also recall that poor Jango was easily defeated by Jedi Master Mace Windu in an embarrassingly one-sided fight in "Attack of the Clones."  Boba Fett was the "unaltered" (i.e., allowed to mature at a normal human rate) clone gifted to Jango Fett.  This was in honor of Jango's services to the alien Kaminoans whose cloning facility mass-produced a gigantic army of force-grown clones for use by the Old Republic as a means to fight the droid-loving Separatists.  Only much later was it discovered that both sides of the war were being orchestrated by Darth Sidious, a.k.a. Senator (and then Emperor) Palpatine.