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In for the Long Haul

[ 15 ] January 7, 2008 |

CNN’s got a story up claiming that Edwards is in for the long haul — no matter what, he’s claiming he’ll stay in ’til the convention. Judging by the photo that accompanies the CNN story (with JE’s shirttails hangin’ out) and by the results in Iowa, it looks like it might be a long haul.

Notwithstanding, judging also by Edwards’ performance in the debate last night, seems to me like Edwards might be running to be Obama’s veep candidate. Or something like that.

New Hampshire predictions? Thoughts on how long Edwards will actually stay in if New Hampshire is a mess?

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"Imagine getting stuck on a ski lift with Dr. Phil for nearly two hours. "

[ 4 ] January 6, 2008 |

Clicking through Orr’s top-10 list I saw his review of Guy Ritchie’s Revolver. I didn’t really investigate it other than skimming what seems to be the charitably lukewarm NYT review; even knowing nothing about it having been on the shelf for two years, seeing the horrifying credit “written by Luc Besson” was enough to keep me well away from the theater. And hence, I had no idea that it turns out to be a pretentiously-cut gangster movie overlaid extensively with…reams of pretentious New Age horseshit. Without meaning it as a joke. It seems to fall into the category of “almost but not quite bad enough to warrant Netflixing”:

Gradually, one begins to suspect that this movie thinks it has Something Important to Say and, unfortunately, it does. (A spoiler follows, though trust me, this is something you’ll want to know before deciding to shell out your eight bucks.) As the film progresses, Green’s homily-spouting voiceover becomes ever more intrusive before ultimately blossoming into a full-blown attack of schizophrenia in which he bickers, Gollum-like, with his own dark side in a stopped elevator. The lesson, you see, is that his only real enemy is his ego, and not the fellow with the gun waiting outside the elevator to kill him.

And, indeed, when the doors open the anticipated showdown is less climax than coda, as the newly enlightened Green strolls right past his would-be assailant, who is paralyzed by his own insecurities. For viewers thick (or incredulous) enough not to get the message, Ritchie helpfully provides, as the credits roll, a series of brief psycho-spiritual testimonials in which luminaries such as Leonard Jacobson and Deepak Chopra explain, “The ego is the worst confidence trickster, because we don’t see it.”

Wow–so it’s sort of Smoking Aces meets Johnathan Livingston Seagull, in dead earnest. And the sad thing is, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was pretty entertaining, although certainly one can see many signs of potential for unimaginable wankery in it.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Dadiani

[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

In 1184, the Lord High Steward of Georgia was given, for his troubles and services, a small duchy on the Black Sea. Duke Vardan II Dadiani ruled Mingrelia, an area of about 3500 square kilometers, for 29 years before passing it on to his son. For the next seven hundred years, Vardan’s descendants would, with one or two exceptions, rule Mingrelia. During this time Mingrelia (and the rest of Georgia) endured occupation by the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Persians, and eventually the Russians. In 1671, the French adventurer Jean Chardin visited Mingrelia (then a Christian island among Persian and Turkish dominated lands), and described a wretched peasantry ruled over by an arrogant nobility.

In the 18th century Russia began to pursue control over Georgia in earnest. Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1801, but Mingrelia and a few other small states held out until 1803. The Dadiani continued to rule Mingrelia as hereditary princes until 1867, when they abdicated in return for various favors associated with Russian nobility. Many of the Dadiani served in the Russian Army, one losing his legs in the Russo-Japanese War.

In 1899, the wretched Mingrelian peasantry produced a boy named Lavrentiy Beria. In March 1917, young Beria joined the Bolsheviks, just as the wretched peasantry (and wretched workers, and wretched everyone else) decided to settle the score with the arrogant Imperial Russian nobility. The head of House Dadiani at the time was Nicholas II Dadiani, Gentlemen of the Bedchamber to the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. Prince Nicholas II, like Emperor Nicholas II, did not prosper after the Revolution; he survived his Emperor by eight months, dying in a Bolshevik prison hospital in March 1919. It is unlikely that Beria, then working in Azerbaijian, ever met Prince Nicholas II, but he made his career through leading the repression of the Georgian national uprising of 1924, which included Mingrelia.

Prince Nicholas II’s sister, Salomea, escaped to France with her husband and her four children. Although the husband shot himself in 1924, Salomea survived until 1961. One of her sons joined the French Resistance, and was murdered by the Gestapo in 1944. He received a posthumous Order of the Great Patriotic War of the USSR. Alexander, her second son, survived the war and had a son who eventually relocated to the United States. Prince Sergei Valerianovich Obolensky was born in New Haven, CT in 1956, and is, as far as I can tell, the heir to the Duchy of Mingrelia.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia has regained its independence. Several quasi-states within Georgia have aspirations towards independence, including Mingrelia, whose people are linguistically distinct from other Georgians. However, these aspirations have never reached the level of those in Abkhazia or other breakaway regions, and in any case it seems unlikely that the Mingrelians would seek out an heir whose family gave up the throne 140 years ago. As such, prospects for a return to the throne appear extremely grim.

Trivia: What deposed monarch has made intermarriage one of the central planks of his restoration campaign platform?

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The Ending

[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

The first two hours of There Will Be Blood are unassailably outstanding; if you don’t think it’s one of the best American pictures of recent years I don’t know what to say other than that tastes differ (i.e. mine is good.) Not only is Day-Lewis exceptional as always, he has a director with an eye to match. The ending will be much more divisive even among people who otherwise admire the film; see, for example Christopher Orr. But, granting that I loved the pretentious-on-paper Raging Bull homage that concluded Boogie Nights and don’t even dislike the plague-of-frogs ending of Magnolia, like Yglesias I didn’t find it particularly objectionable. There is a powerful internal logic to the last sequence; more than anything, Plainview can’t accept abjection, and his revenge makes sense (although I need to see it again before being sure about the bowling-alley sequence.) I did think that the penultimate scene was by far the weakest in the picture; it went on to long and the twist is an overused one. But it’s a trivial weakness given the overall virtues of the film. And it’s a nice recovery for Anderson; although both Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love had significant virtues (the latter actually holds up better for me) he hasn’t been this fully in command of his exceptional talent since Boogie Nights. I can’t wait for his next one.

UPDATE: Interesting thoughts from Glenn Kenny.

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But It’s Everybody’s Fault!

[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

A good point by Nick Confessore — when “centrists” call to get “beyond partisanship” and find “real solutions to our problems,” they’re generally Democrats who know that 1)it’s cool to hate Democrats and 2)the both parties are always equally to blame for everything no matter who controls the relevant veto points.

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"A diamond bullet right through my forehead"

[ 21 ] January 6, 2008 |

If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cuddle up on a drugged Glenn Beck’s chest while he gurgled cryptic aphorisms about health care and compassion, consider this vlog a belated holiday gift.

Between hits of oxy, Beck suggests that his surgery gave him the opportunity to reassess the nation’s health care system — thoughts he vows to share with his seven or eight viewers on Monday’s show. I won’t be watching, but I’d be surprised if Beck didn’t remind the world once again that Hillary Clinton’s health care proposals are worse than Hitler’s.

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McCain Tongue Bath Watch

[ 36 ] January 6, 2008 |

Mark Halperin awarding the GOP debate to St. McCain:

To his advantage, he stayed above the fray…

Whoa, whoa, whoa…so he “stayed above the fray”…while he was relentlessly insulting Mitt Romney? What the hell? What’s even funnier is that Halperin goes on to use McCain’s getting in the fray as another point in his favor:

Seemed to relish his engagement with Romney over immigration, slipping in a sharp jab over his rival’s fortune, and got in another zinger by twisting Romney’s message of change into a glib attack on the governor’s flipflopping history.

Only on the Straight Talkitude Express can somome stay “above the fray” while cutting his opponents to shreds with timely zingers! God, if McCain wins this is going to be a painful 10 months.

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[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

Whew, looked like the Racist Nicknames had it in the bag there for a bit, especially after Hasselbeck responded to the missed chip-shot by throwing another awful pass (admittedly, I must have missed the rule change that now permits receivers to be tackled before the arrival of the ball, but you can’t throw that into double coverage), but it turned around quickly. Not that I’m counting on anything yet…

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Quiz Time

[ 23 ] January 5, 2008 |

Via Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory, there’s this addicting geography quiz that I can’t stop playing. First time through, I reached the 11th level but have been unable to duplicate my initial success. For some reason, even though I realize they don’t really measure anything terribly substantial, exercises like this stress me out. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing this incorporated into the next several primary debates.

It goes without saying, of course, that I have better things to do. But I’m shooting for a guilt-free 2008, so who the hell cares?

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NFL Playoff Picks

[ 42 ] January 5, 2008 |

Guaranteed between 0-100% accurate!

  • Washington v. Seattle. The Seahawks are a little tough to evaluate because their schedule was so bad, but since they’ve won 3 playoff games in two years I’m not terribly worried about it. I know the Redskins are motivated by tragedy, but it’s hard to win in Seattle and I think Seattle’s pass rush will turn the 36 year-old Cinderella back into a pumpkin. Seattle (-3)
  • Jacksonville v. Pittsburgh. I’m strongly disposed to take any points the Steelers are getting at Heinz, and generally reject “momentum” (cf. above.) In this case, however, the momentum has a good reason; the Steelers seem to be pulling fans out of the stands to play on their offensive line, which is going to be a serious problem against the Jags. And Gerrard has quietly turned in an outstanding season. Jacksonville (-2 1/2)
  • Giants v. Tampa Bay. Giants fans seem really confident about this, for reasons that escape me. I don’t read much into the Giants’ small-sample road record this year, and still think it will be tough to win a playoff game on the road. And it’s not just that Jeff Garcia is a much better QB even at 37 than Eli “But I’m Related To Famous Quarterbacks! Really!” Manning, but that Tampa Bay’s secondary will largely take away Manning’s one NFL skill (his ability to throw a deep ball) and demands low-mistake, precision passing (which is a problem because Manning doesn’t have that game.) Tampa (-3)
  • Tennessee v. San Diego. Straight up, I think the talent differential between the teams is beyond the reach of even Norv Turner to fuck up. But I think the Titan defense will make this a little closer than most people expect. Tennessee (+10)
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Don’t Take My Word For It

[ 0 ] January 5, 2008 |

The Clinton campaign is arguing that Obama is too “progressive” for their tastes, with a little too much background in community activism. Indeed. Obama just doesn’t have the Joementum! for Mark Penn, Union Buster.

A couple points in response to this thread:

  • Archpundit has a response to questions about the difficulty of getting the interrogation videotaping bill passed here: “It was fought tooth and nail Kevin. The cops and prosecutors were adamantly against it for some time including the Democratic Cook County Prosecutor. I swore reform was dead after the commutations, Obama pulled it off. It was an incredible sight. The end result was truly amazing. The police groups hated the idea and they hated racial profiling legislation — he passed both without angering them, but by working with them, listening, and showing good faith. I never thought it would pass with Democratic State’s Attorneys opposing it, strongly even — but he pulled everyone along and did it pretty quickly.”
  • I agree wholeheartedly that Obama isn’t “the second coming of JFK.” If you’re looking in increase the chances of a presidency with negligible, center-right domestic policy achievements combined with an ruinously idiotic war, Clinton’s your candidate (although, really, the comparison is unfair to her as well.)
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It’s the Other Way

[ 0 ] January 5, 2008 |

I assume that most people have seen the season 5 premiere On Demand; if you haven’t, please do so now. After watching the entire series On Demand over the course of the past four months, I now feel like an ordinary loser, having to sit around and wait for new episodes to turn up.

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