October 6, 2007

Bob Marley was white!

Here's something I never thought of before. Although Jamaica was an English colony, the "one-drop rule" works the opposite way there than it does here -- some white blood makes you white. (I suppose this was because Jamaica was a Spanish colony until 1655, and kept the Latin perspective on racial classification.) So, the most famous Jamaican ever, Bob Marley, who had a white father and black mother, was more or less considered white in Jamaica.

Marley's ex-bandmate, Peter Tosh, used to complain about this. Wikipedia says: "Tosh became bitter about the success of his ex-bandmate, at one point claiming that the only reason Marley was so successful was that his father was white ..."

Sorry, Peter, but I think the real reason was because Bob wrote better tunes than you did.

I remember walking out of a Tosh show at the Roxy in the late 1970s, and the club put on the English group 10cc's pop reggae hit "Dreadlock Holiday," and thinking to myself, "I know Tosh is supposed to be Mr. Authentic Roots Rock Reggae and all that, but this piece of fluff is catchier than anything in his whole show."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

Finally, an excerpt from a review of a new movie (and a formidable one, too), from the October 22, 2007 issue of The American Conservative:

No movie illustrates film folks' infatuation with the written word more than the accurate, intelligent, and magnificent-looking, yet unentertaining art Western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," in which Brad Pitt plays the celebrated outlaw and Casey Affleck (Ben's brother) is the sniveling young protégé who shot him in the back of the head in 1882. Writer-director Andrew Dominik has filmed the most faithful adaptation imaginable of Ron Hansen's eloquent and obsessively researched but interminable 1983 historical novel. In Hansen's vast portrait of the "old, weird America," we learn, for example, that Jesse was 5'8" and 155 pounds while his battle-axe mother was 6'0" and 228 pounds.

Dominik's impressive but dolorous effort about the Missouri murderers seems modeled on Terrence Malick's remarkable 1973 movie "Badlands" recounting Charles Starkweather's nearby 1959 crime spree. Unfortunately, its dirge-like pacing makes it more reminiscent of Malick's excruciatingly slow 2005 version of the Pocahontas tale, "The New World."

Still, while Malick was stuck with the pseudo-star Colin Farrell to play Captain John Smith, Dominik at least has a genuine matinee idol to portray his American legend. I suspect that Brad Pitt's career goal has always been to become a respected character actor like, say, Paul Giamatti. But cruel nature has condemned him to be a famous leading man. So he's best cast as a glamorous psychopath, such as Tyler Durden in "Fight Club," Achilles in "Troy," and now as the intuitive, mercurial gunman Jesse James. ...

A few days after Jesse James's death, Oscar Wilde visited his house in St. Joseph, which was being pulled apart by "relic hunters." He marveled, "The Americans are certainly great hero worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes," which hasn't changed much in our age of The Sopranos and gangsta rap.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 5, 2007


Continuing my series of reviews of the cinematic dregs of 2001 (I had already posted my reviews of the well-known movies of 2001 -- such as Black Hawk Down, Shrek, and Training Day -- years ago, but hadn't gotten around to these flicks, here's "Evolution:"

June 7, 2001 (UPI) -- "Evolution" is an enjoyable enough alien-invasion comedy thriller that kept the preview audience laughing. It also scored well on the Mrs. Sailer Scream-O-Meter, as my wife unleashed three piercing shrieks into my right eardrum.

"Evolution's" DNA traces back to "Men in Black," "Independence Day," "Tremors," "The Andromeda Strain," "The Blob," and countless other hits. Its script occasionally evolves past its market-tested ancestors, but these mutations don't make much sense.

Not that director Ivan Reitman (of "Ghostbusters" fame) cares. He just keeps eliciting from the audience Big Yucks - both amused and nauseated. In fact, the romantic kiss at the end, as the innards of the exploded monster rain down on the osculating lovers, is one of the yuckiest in years.

So, forget logic - but not your Pepto-Bismol - and you'll have a fun time.

David Duchovny (of TV's "The X Files") and Orlando Jones (of various 7-Up commercials) portray science teachers at a community college in the scenic boondocks of Northern Arizona. They discover that a newly crashed meteorite is oozing blue goo. Duchovny takes a sample back to his office, where it begins rapidly evolving into ever more complex and dangerous creatures.

In contrast to Duchovny's worrywart extraterrestrial examiner on "X Files," here his alien investigator is nonchalant to the point of being a menace to the human race.

In this kind of movie, our rebellious, multicultural scientist heroes are supposed to repeatedly warn the Evil-Middle-Aged-White-Male-Authority-Figures of the dangers posed by the aliens (or Great White Shark, volcano, killer bees, or whatever). But, the Authority Figures, for Evil-Middle-Aged-White-Male reasons, always ignore them until it's almost too late.

In "Evolution," however, Duchovny and Jones play arrogant, mercenary idiots who try to keep their world-imperiling discovery secret so they won't have any competition for the Nobel Prize.

When the U.S. Army general bad guy arrives, he intelligently slams a containment dome over the meteorite and seizes the good guys' samples. Our heroes then take the Army to court to get their genocidal germs back!

Obviously, this plot line is a dead end. So, halfway through the movie, with no attempt at explanation, the good guys simply reverse course 180 degrees and become the shotgun-packing alien hunters we expected all along.

The performances by Duchovny and Jones reflect a degree of commitment to communicating raw emotional truth seldom seen since the last installment of the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope "Road" movies. In a performance reminiscent of Der Bingle when he was late for a tee-time at Lakeside, Duchovny, a former Yale Ph.D. candidate, convincingly persuades us that he finds the movie intellectually unworthy of him.

The manic Bob Hope part goes to Jones, the wide-eyed black comic best known for his commercials as the clueless Marketing Guy promoting the unfortunately phrased slogan "Make 7-Up Yours." When a big alien bug invades his colon, Jones gets to show off more of his patented brand of sphincterocentric comedy. Just as the wateriness of "The Perfect Storm" induced long lines for movie theatre urinals, you'll want to skip "Evolution" if you are suffering any intestinal discomfort.

Rounding out the cast, Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore (last seen in "Hannibal") plays the Beautiful Lady Scientist, a role that apparently hasn't evolved much since 1954's "Creature from the Black Lagoon."

The most interesting question about "Evolution" is whether the title will turn off the large fraction of the population that claims not to believe in evolution.

Of course, "Evolution's" brand of evolution has nothing to do with Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. Instead, the movie offers a supercharged version of 18th Century naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck's conjecture that giraffes have long necks because their ancestors stretched their necks trying to reach higher leaves. In "Evolution," the space monsters struggle to adapt to life on earth, then give birth to babies more fit to survive than themselves. According to Darwin, though, parental effort doesn't cause evolution. Instead, organisms lucky enough to be born with favorable traits leave more descendents, who tend to inherit those useful features.

In a recent Gallup Poll, 47% agreed that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

Yet, how seriously that 47% take this strict form of Creationism when they aren't answering opinion polls isn't clear. While the Institute for Creation Research denounced "Jurassic Park's" dinosaurs as "propaganda for evolution," it's unlikely their logic will hurt "Jurassic Park III's" opening weekend grosses next month.

Evolution only strikes out with the public when its more fanatical backers force it into a mano-a-mano death match against the Almighty. Most Americans seem willing to accept evolution as long as they can believe in something besides evolution. Similarly, many moviegoers will be able to tolerate "Evolution" because they know that "Evolution," thank God, isn't all that's out there.

Rated PG-13 for toilet and sex humor.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Tom Wolfe's tribute to Tom Jefferson

From one Virginian to another (in The Atlantic):

Fortunately for America, as Jefferson saw it, British aristocracy had never taken root here in the colonies. Most British toffs didn’t have the faintest urge to depart their country estates and London clubs, their coaches-and-four, their tailors, valets, butlers, ballrooms, peruke-makers, and neck-cloth launderers for a wilderness full of painted bow-and-arrow-bearing aborigines … and no desirable women, unless one were a rather twisted toff who had a thing for granola girls with honest calves and forearms and hands thick as a blacksmith’s from hoeing the corn and black-eyed peas. From the very beginning of his political career, Jefferson was determined to make sure no aristocracy, European- or American-born, would ever be established here. Aristocracy literally means rule by the best, but he knew the proper word was plutocracy, rule by the rich, in this case big landowners who maintained their lordly, demigodly, hereditary rank only by passing their estates down generation after generation—intact—courtesy of the law of entail and the right of primogeniture. As soon as the Revolution was won, Jefferson launched a successful campaign to abolish both. Too bad he couldn’t have lived another hundred years to see just how efficient his strategy was. In America, rare is the plutocrat whose family wields power and influence beyond the second generation. One need only think of the Vanderbilts, Goulds, Astors, Carnegies, and Mellons. Where are they now? On the letterheads of charitable solicitations, at best. They don’t even rise to the eminence of gossip-column boldface any longer. The rare ones have been the Bushes, who have wielded power—a lot of it—into the third generation, and the Rockefellers, who have made it into the fourth … by a thread, the thread being Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. But the odds are 2-to-5—you’ll have to bet $5 to win $2—that within 10 years the last, best hope of even these exceptional families’ next generations will be to start climbing the white cliffs of the disease-charity letterheads.

Jefferson created a radically new frame of mind. In a thousand different ways he obliterated the symbols and deferential manners that comprise aristocracy’s cardiovascular system. Led by Jefferson, America became a country in which every sign of aristocratic pretensions was systematically uprooted and destroyed. The round table where the Merrys [the stuffy English ambassador and his wife] suffered their intolerable humiliation? It has been recorded that Jefferson insisted on round tables for dining because they had no head and no foot, removing any trace of the aristocratic European custom of silently ranking dinner guests by how close to the head of the table they sat. “That certain class” does not exist here psychologically.

Jefferson’s pell-mell gave America a mind-set that has never varied. In 1862, 36 years after Jefferson’s death, the government began the process of settling our vast, largely uninhabited western territories. Under the terms of the Homestead Act, they gave it away by inviting people, anybody, to head out into the open country and claim any plot they liked—Gloriously pell-mell! First come, first served! Each plot was 160 acres, and it was yours, free! By the time of the first Oklahoma Land Rush, in 1889, it had become a literal pell-mell—a confused, disorderly, headlong rush. People lined up on the border of the territory and rushed out into all that free real estate at the sound of a starter gun. Europeans regarded this as more lunacy on the part of … these Americans … squandering a stupendous national asset in this childish way on a random mob of nobodies. They could not conceive of the possibility that this might prove to be, in fact, a remarkably stable way of settling the West, of turning settlers into homeowners with a huge stake in making the land productive … or that it might result, as the British historian Paul Johnson contends, in “the immense benefits of having a free market in land—something which had never before occurred at any time, anywhere in the world.” So long as you had made certain required improvements, after five years you could sell all or part of your 160 acres to other people, any other people. It’s hard to be absolutely sure, but where else in the world could ordinary citizens go out and just like that—how much you want for it?—buy themselves a piece of land?

The notion that cheap land and high wages are the essence of the American Advantage goes back even farther than Jefferson, to at least Ben Franklin's 1751 essay "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Back to Bosnia with Oscar-winning "No Man's Land"

Here's my old review of "No Man's Land," which went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2001:

Dec. 6, 2001 (UPI) -- Is America ready for back-to-back Bosnian civil war movies? Trapped with Owen Wilson last week "Behind Enemy Lines," we're now stuck between enemy lines in "No Man's Land," a self-assured art-house tragedy masquerading as an absurdist satire.

Awarded "Best Screenplay" at Cannes, about a quarter of the script is in English. The rest is in subtitled Serbo-Croatian or French. The trilingual dialogue isn't really that brilliant, but the plot is well-crafted.

Still, most American moviegoers probably feel that a little Bosnia goes a long ways, thank you very much. Despite all the video razzmatazz of "Behind Enemy Lines," its slushy Balkan mountains seemed an especially dismal place to die. If I'm going to stick my nose into tribal vendettas, let it be under gleaming blue skies, as in "Lawrence of Arabia" or "The Man Who Would Be King."

Fortunately, rookie Bosnian writer-director Danis Tanovic sets "No Man's Land" in a rolling meadow on the loveliest day of June 1993. Obeying Aristotle's advice to unify time, place, and action, Tanovic's script is better suited for the stage, but his low-budget movie looks surprisingly inviting on screen.

The premise is set up with the care and artificiality of a chess problem. A relief platoon of secular Muslims blunders past its own trenches and is ripped apart by dug-in Serbs. One bleeding Muslim in a Rolling Stones t-shirt dives into an abandoned trench between the two armies.

Two Serb soldiers crawl out to investigate. While the Muslim survivor hides, the Serbs find a Muslim corpse. The vile older Serb places a Bouncing Betty mine under the body, setting it to explode when he's lifted up for burial.

The Muslim guns down the old soldier. He wounds the harmless-looking new recruit, but decides to spare him.

The two enemies soon realize that neither can escape without being shot by the opposing army.

The boobytrapped Muslim lying on the mine turns out to be alive. The only thing wrong with him is that if he gets up, he goes boom.

The foes slowly realize that it would be in everybody's interest to cooperate. (Strikingly, Tanovic, an anti-religious Muslim, makes the Serb slightly more sympathetic.)

"No Man's Land" has been winning rave reviews for exposing the "absurdity of war." So, I assumed I knew what was coming next from all the American movies with similar themes. The enemies would realize their common humanity; ask, "Can't we all just get along;" and devise a tension-filled but clever way to save the man on the mine.

This being a Bosnian film, however, everything instead goes wrong. While UN peacekeepers and the global media look on fecklessly, the two soldiers' truce repeatedly breaks down. Fear leads to a pre-emptive attack, which generates revenge assaults. Ultimately, the man on the mine is left laying there as all the Western European gawkers give up and go back to the Holiday Inn for a press conference.

After the screening, I asked the handsome and cocky young auteur if he'd ever dreamed up a way to get the poor jerk off the mine. "No way, it's impossible," Tanovic snapped, perhaps irritated that yet another literal-minded American had failed to grasp that the boobytrap was an absurdist symbol, not some vulgar practical problem like the one Mel Gibson faced in rescuing Danny Glover from the exploding toilet in "Lethal Weapon 2."

In contrast to Eastern European intellectuals, however, American audiences like a man with a plan. I'm sure James Cameron couldn't help but think up a dozen solutions. Heck, even I figured out something worth trying: Cut the front of the soldier's clothes open and stake them down hard to the ground to maintain the pressure on the mine while he gets up.

Indeed, "No Man's Land," works best as an allegory not about the absurdity of war, but about its brutal logic. Like the two fighters, Balkan ethnic groups slaughter each other for depressingly understandable reasons. Until Americans comprehend their logic, however, all our can-do practicality won't be able to help these unhappy peoples.

In Bosnia, hate can be hard to avoid. Imagine that in 1943 your Croatian neighbors had murdered your uncle and stolen his farm. Memories fade, but real estate is forever. Picture the killer's son, enjoying your land, now.

Yet, when authority is up for grabs, fear can be as deadly as vengeance. Assume your house was seized by your grandfather from the Muslims he killed in 1912. Their descendents might try to take it back. Wouldn't it be safer to strike them first?

"No Man's Land" miniaturizes this kind of appalling history. Still, only a "Godfather II"-style multi-generation epic could help Americans fully understand the Balkans tragedy. Perhaps someday, the promising Tanovic will be ready for that.

"No Man's Land" is opening in New York City on Friday, and expanding over the next two weeks. Rated "R" for a reasonable amount of blood and a lot of Serbo-Croatian bad words.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Not fair

Pundit Virginia Postrel, who saved Dr. Sally Satel's life in 2006 by donating one of her kidneys, now has breast cancer and just started chemotherapy. Fortunately, there is a new monoclonal antibody called Herceptin that she will be receiving in addition to chemo.

Virginia also has a new article in November issue of The Atlantic

A Tale of Two Town Houses

Real estate may be as important as religion in explaining the infamous gap between red and blue states.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The White Guy Gap gets some publicity

From The Politico, here's an essay by the author of the new book The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma.

Dems must woo white men to win
By: David Paul Kuhn
October 4, 2007 09:27 AM EST

The 2008 election offers the most diverse array of presidential candidates in history. But this rainbow campaign will hinge on the most durable reality of American politics: White men matter most.

Every election cycle, a new slice of the electorate — suburban mothers, churchgoing Hispanics, bicycling Norwegians — comes into vogue as reporters and analysts study the polls and try to divine new secrets about who wins and why in American politics.

The truth is that the most important factor shaping the 2008 election will almost certainly be the same one that has been the most important in presidential elections for the past 40 years: the flight of white male voters away from the Democratic Party.

The hostility of this group to Democrats and their perceived values is so pervasive that even many people who make their living in politics scarcely remark on it. But it is the main reason the election 13 months from now is virtually certain to be close — even though on issues from the war to health care, Democrats likely will be competing with more favorable tail winds than they have enjoyed for years.

The “gender gap” has been a fixture in discussions about American politics since the early Reagan years. But it is usually cast as a matter of women being turned off by Republicans. By far the greater part of this gap, however, comes from the high number of white men — who make up about 36 percent of the electorate — who refuse to even consider voting Democratic.

In 2000, exit polling showed white women backed George W. Bush over Al Gore by 3 percentage points, but white men backed him by 27 percentage points. Four years later, with John F. Kerry carrying the Democratic banner, the margin was 26 points.

The Bush years have echoed with what-if questions: What if the votes in Florida had been counted differently in 2000, if Ralph Nader had not run or if Gore had been able to carry his home state? What if Kerry had responded more deftly to the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004?

A more powerful what-if is to imagine that Democratic nominees had succeeded in narrowing the white male gap to even the low 20s instead of the mid-20s. Both Kerry and Gore would have won easily.

In 2008, Democrats are assembling behind a front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, with singular problems among white males.

Back in 2005, I wrote in VDARE.com:

I suspect that liberals are now paying the price for decades of insulting white men. White males make up about one third of the population, but the problem with white guys, from a liberal perspective, is that they happen to be the people who get most of the big things done in this country. That's just unfair, no, that's downright evil of them.

Now, white men are probably the most tolerant and forbearing of any American group—they've been raised to take it like a man—but they are also only human. So, when they finally do get mad, they are a formidable force.

And, increasingly, the Republican Party has become a covert exercise in identity politics for white men. A peculiarly ineffectual exercise because of the Republican determination to camouflage this fact by promoting policies that obviously do white men no good.

Because white men are, on average, the best team players, the best organizers, and the best managers in America, the Republicans are now consistently beating the Democrats in the blocking and tackling departments of politics, even when the Democrats are closer to objectively correct on issues like the Bush Administration lying the country into the War in Error. The GOP can draw on more—and more motivated—white male talent. ...

There's nothing unnatural about the people who keep the country running wanting to have a large say in running the country. The problem, though, is that white male identity politics is the self-love that dares not speak its name.

So, many Republican white men studiously avoid endorsing policies that would actually help white male Republicans, such as immigration restrictions. They are too intimidated by fears of being accused of bias in favor of themselves. Of course, every other group in America is free to be flagrantly biased in favor of its own members' welfare, but white males aren't allowed that freedom.

So, instead, Republican white men meekly accept their leaders' Invade-the-World-Invite-the-World policies to show how unprejudiced, how self-sacrificing they are. They send their sons to die in Iraq so that some medieval anti-American Ayatollah can win an election. Bush and Rove push affirmative action at colleges and flooding the country with immigrants to prove that their party isn't really what it obviously is: the white guy's party.

October 4, 2007

Best Presidential Anecdote Ever (and, oh yeah, my review of "Someone Like You")

One reason I'm posting these previously unavailable old movie reviews is because at the very start of my reviewing career I used up a lot of my best material, including the story of President Coolidge and the Rooster:

Mar. 28, 2001 (UPI) -- Ashley Judd's pleasant new romantic comedy "Someone Like You" may have the most forgettable title in movie history. The invaluable Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) lists 136 other flicks that begin with "Someone," "Something," or "Some." Feeling like the amnesiac hero of the new thriller "Memento," I took the movie's ad with me to the multiplex to help me remember its name (which is borrowed from an obscure Van Morrison song). Yet, I still ended up mumbling, "I want to see 'Someone Like It Hot to Watch Over Me,' or, uh, something."

This confusion is unfortunate because, judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the preview audience, a lot of women would enjoy it, if they could remember what it's called. Men, however, will tend to find the film, while short and painless, to be as forgettable as its title.

Abraham Lincoln summed up Ashley Judd's performance perfectly when he said: That's the kind of thing you'll like if you like that kind of thing. In return for your box office dollar, the perky Judd definitely delivers one whopping load of acting. She shows off every facial expression imaginable, with the possible exception of seasickness. Her performance is like that of a non-pathological Callista Flockhart.

Best known for being the sister of country singer Wynona Judd, starring in "Double Jeopardy," and wearing an embarrassingly short dress to the 1998 Oscars, Ashley Judd is soon to turn 33. She seems to be maturing from sex kitten into the kind of actress that appeals far more strongly to women than to men.

That's a smart career move. You can become a big star in your twenties by driving the opposite sex wild, but you can't stay one in your thirties without getting your own sex to identify with you.

The weird thing about the unmemorable name "Someone Like You" is that the movie is based on a recent novel with a far more distinctive and explanatory title, "Animal Husbandry." Judd portrays a New York single woman who is devastated by being dumped by a potential husband (played by Greg Kinnear). So, she turns to sociobiological studies of the mating habits of cattle to develop a better understanding of the human male animal. (This sounds frightfully highbrow, but, trust me, it's not.)

After reading a science article about how bulls don't want to mate with the same cow twice, our spunky heroine develops her Old Cow-New Cow theory. This postulates that Kinnear discarded her because she had become his Old Cow and he was driven by biological urges to search for a New Cow. She writes an article outlining her theory, which the movie treats as if it were the most original idea since Darwin. When published, it electrifies the women of America.

In reality, of course, the Old Cow theory is Old News. Biologists call the typical male beast's desire for variety in mating partners the "Coolidge Effect," after a legendary visit to a government research farm by President Calvin Coolidge and the First Lady. Taken on separate tours, Mrs. Coolidge supposedly asked the chicken coop keeper how many times a day the rooster would perform his amorous duties. Informed that the rooster rose to the occasion dozens of times daily, the First Lady said, "Please tell that to the President."

When Coolidge arrived, he was duly informed. In reply, he asked whether it was with the same hen each time.

"Oh no, Mr. President, a different one each time."

Nodding slowly, Coolidge said, "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

Perhaps the producers of "Someone Like You" should have hired Silent Cal to freshen up the jokes in the script. The preview audience let out its biggest laugh when Judd's best friend Marisa Tomei tells her not to fret over Kinnear's betrayal because "Time wounds all heels." That venerable line probably slayed them during the Van Buren Administration.

When this film comes out on video, it might be fun to gather your friends and play a game in which you stop the tape at random places, and then see who can predict the next line. Expect high scores.

Certainly, nobody will fail to guess which man the brunette Judd ends up with. The blondish Kinnear doesn't stand a chance next to the raffishly dark-haired Hugh Jackman. In Hollywood movies, the leading lady is seldom darker than her man. Notice how even Jennifer Lopez is getting blonder with each movie.

Jackman is an Australian actor best known for playing Wolverine in last summer's "X-Men." Here, he is Judd's lady-killer coworker who buys his condoms by the gross. Jackman puts on an American accent, but wisely lets a little of his highly masculine Australian accent slip through. That ploys works for Mel Gibson, and it works well for Jackman, too.

In the end, Judd rejects her own theory, on the grounds that "quadrupeds aren't bipeds." Yet, the sociobiologists may have the last laugh over the plot, since they argue that much of what we call the War Between the Sexes is really a War Within the Sexes. Kinnear's behavior turns out not to be driven by novelty after all. He merely left Judd and returned to his old girlfriend, played by Ellen Barkin. But that revelation makes Judd dislike him even more, since it shows Kinnear preferred another woman to her.

At the fade out, Judd falls into the manly arms of Jackman, who really has been living out the New Cow lifestyle. Yet, his years of promiscuity make him all the more desirable to her, since snagging his love means she's triumphed over all the other women he dumped.

"Someone Like You" is rated PG-13 for moderately bad language, sexual themes, and one not very explicit love scene; no nudity or violence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"Don't mention The Lobby"

One of the funnier aspect of the furious denunciations of Mearsheimer and Walt's article and book on the power of The Israel Lobby is that professional ethnic activists all admire the consummate skill with which Jewish organizations wield their vast -- yet unmentionable -- power. (Well, to be precise, the lobbies mention how powerful they are all the time. But nobody else is supposed to mention it.)

Back in 2000, I interviewed Armenian, Arab, and Turkish lobbyists for a UPI article ("Arab and Armenian Immigrants Gain Clout") on how immigration was complicating American foreign policy by introducing new ethnic lobbies with ties to new Old Countries. Each of the Middle Eastern lobbyists expressed intense professional admiration for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. They all hoped to become AIPAC when their lobbies grew up.

Now, the NYT has an article on Asian Indians:

In Jews, Indian-Americans See a Role Model in Activism

By Neela Banerjee

When Anil Godhwani and his brother, Gautam, looked into creating a community center for Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley, they turned to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco as a model.

When the Hindu American Foundation began, it looked to groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for guidance with its advocacy and lobbying efforts.

Indian-Americans, who now number 2.4 million in this country, are turning to American Jews as role models and partners in areas like establishing community centers, advocating on civil rights issues and lobbying Congress.

Indians often say they see a version of themselves and what they hope to be in the experience of Jews in American politics: a small minority that has succeeded in combating prejudice and building political clout.

Sanjay Puri, the chairman of the U.S. India Political Action Committee, said: “What the Jewish community has achieved politically is tremendous, and members of Congress definitely pay a lot of attention to issues that are important to them. We will use our own model to get to where we want, but we have used them as a benchmark.”

One instance of Indians following the example of Jews occurred last year when Indian-American groups, including associations of doctors and hotel owners, banded together with political activists to win passage of the United States-India Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Act, which allows New Delhi to buy fuel, reactors and other technology to expand its civilian nuclear program.

Pro-immigration Republicans are constantly surprised when new immigrant elites turn out to be liberal Democrats. For example, in September, the Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced "Political bias at America's biggest Spanish-language TV network." The sheer ingratitude of Univision, after all the WSJ editorial page had done to boost their profits by importing more viewers to watch Sabado Gigante!

But this pro-Democratic leaning among immigrant elites shouldn't surprise anybody, because all professional ethnics model themselves upon the two heavyweight champion ethnic lobbies, the blacks and the Jews, who both vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Please allow me to harp on this again

Looking at my UPI article of October 23, 2000, "Arab and Armenian Immigrants Gain Clout," I noticed something that you might think would have been considered relevant after 9/11, less than a year later, but simply never ever has entered the public conversation:

To gratify Arab-American voters in the swing state of Michigan, in the October 11th Presidential debate Republican nominee George W. Bush called for weakening two counter-terrorism policies. "Arab-Americans are [racially] profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that," Governor Bush said. "My friend, Sen. Spence Abraham [the Arab-American Republic Senator from Michigan], is pushing a law to make sure that . . . Arab-Americans are treated with real respect."

Although Governor Bush conflated two issues, Arab Americans appreciated the gesture. According to a spokesperson for a leading Arab-American organization, their highest domestic priority is the repeal of the "secret evidence" section of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act. To prevent terrorist gangs from murdering U.S. government secret informants, this law allows the government to provide evidence from unidentified moles in the immigration hearings of foreigners suspected of terrorist links. The government has deported or detained a number of Arabs hoping to immigrate to the U.S. due to testimony by witnesses they were never allowed to confront.

Similarly, people of Arab descent are stopped and searched at airports more often than many other ethnic groups. This is because the secret "profiles" given security workers advising them whom to watch most closely are believed to refer to the fact that a disproportionate number of hijackers and bombers have been Arabs.

The day after Governor Bush's remarks, 17 American sailors died in a terrorist attack in the Arab nation of Yemen. The bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, however, did not stop Vice President Al Gore from echoing Bush's calls to end these two anti-terrorist techniques in a meeting with Arab-American leaders on October 14th. Ironically, on October 20th an Egyptian-born immigrant Ali A. Mohamed plead guilty in Federal District Court to helping Osama Bin Laden plan the 1998 bombing of the America Embassy in Kenya. ...

The success of Arab-Americans this year in rallying heavyweight politicians against "secret evidence" may mark a turning point in the long, previously one-sided political struggle between Arabs and Jews in the U.S. Arab-Americans seem to be on the verge of wining on an issue opposed by leading Jewish powerhouses. On May 23, the Anti-Defamation League gave testimony before Congress, co-signed by the American Jewish Congress and B'nai B'rith, in favor of keeping some version of secret evidence.

There is some room for compromise on secret evidence and airport profiling. A Jewish counter-terrorism researcher suggested, for example, that airport security personnel should be trained to be more courteous. Nonetheless, anti-terrorism policy remains essentially a zero-sum contest between Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans. The stronger the measures, the more innocent Arabs who will be harassed. The weaker the measures, the more Jews who are threatened by political violence.

Besides their ever-increasing numbers, Arab-Americans are gaining power because they've now mastered the traditional liberal Jewish vocabulary that elevates what might seem like practical clashes in power politics into tests of moral principle. On secret evidence and airport profiling, Arab lobbies have put Jewish organizations in the uncomfortable position of championing law and order over civil liberties, racial equality, and immigrants' rights.

The Bush Administration conducted a study in June 2001 to ascertain whether airport personnel had stopped subjecting Arabs to more security scrutiny.

We now know that the airport ticket agent who checked in Mohammed Atta on the morning of 9/11/2001 said to himself, as he told Oprah in 2005:

"I got an instant chill when I looked at [Atta]. I got this grip in my stomach and then, of course, I gave myself a political correct slap."

Michael Touhey told a reporter:

Then Tuohey went through an internal debate that still haunts him.

"I said to myself, 'If this guy doesn't look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does.' Then I gave myself a mental slap, because in this day and age, it's not nice to say things like this," he said. "You've checked in hundreds of Arabs and Hindus and Sikhs, and you've never done that. I felt kind of embarrassed."

It wasn't just Atta's demeanor that caught Tuohey's attention.

"When I looked at their tickets, they had first-class, one-way tickets - $2,500 tickets. Very unusual," he said. "I guess they're not coming back. Maybe this is the end of their trip."

Indeed, it was.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 3, 2007

"The Brothers"

Another old movie review from the dustiest corner of my cyberattic:

Mar. 23, 2001 (UPI) -- The success of "Waiting to Exhale" revealed there was a sizable market for movies about upper middle class African American women frustrated by the difficulty of finding and hanging onto black men who make at least as much money as they do. The new romantic comedy-drama "The Brothers" shows us the flip side of this demographic imbalance.

Life is sweet for four affluent black men who enjoy an abundance of willing women, black and white. Yet, when the handsomest of the four announces he's settling down and getting married, his friends have to reconsider whether that old joke - Why buy the cow when you can get all milk you want through the fence? - offers a fully satisfying philosophy of life.

Much of the movie consists of good-looking guys talking to each other about their relationships with women. Female viewers seem to love this kind of stuff. In soap operas, men are always having heart to heart talks about the women in their lives - "So, Josh, how are things between you and Heather?" - although not on any actual planet in the known universe.

Ladies, I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but what men really talk about when they're alone together is whether they should switch to those new solid core golf balls.

So, I don't think the men of America are going to turn out in droves for a movie with no explosions, nudity, guns, or even much rap music on the soundtrack. (It's a mild "R" for a lot of raunchy conversations. There's one fight, kartoon karate-style.) Still, the fellows who get dragged by their women to see "The Brothers" are probably going to enjoy themselves more than they expected. The heart-to-hearts chats are intermingled with enough quite funny comedy scenes to keep most guys from sneaking out of the theatre to see if "Exit Wounds" is playing somewhere else in the multiplex.

Stand up comic D.L. Hughley (star of UPN's "The Hughleys" sit-com) provides excellent comic relief as the short married guy amidst all the tall, dark, and handsome bachelors. A very funny Tamala Jones plays his wife. She's got a round face with bulging round eyes, perfect for her role as a sort of black Betty Boop.

Comedian Bill Bellamy portrays the only one of the friends who has had to rise up out of the ghetto. He's given up on black women because he believes white women are less feisty, more happy to make him a sandwich without a lot of backtalk. Being from the old school, he fears that all this talk of settling down will break the "the brothers" apart.

Soap opera star Shemar Moore ("The Young & The Restless") is the ex-man about town who wants his friends to support his decision to marry. Moore, who closely resembles the L.A. Lakers forward and part-time actor Rick Fox, is an extraordinarily good-looking man of mixed black and white descent. In the looks department, he must have lucked into getting the best genes from both races.

Morris Chestnut (the groom in "The Best Man," another black yuppie comedy-drama, and the tragic high school football star in "Boyz N the Hood") radiates huge waves of sincerity and earnestness in the most important role as the good-hearted pediatrician from a wealthy family who feels guilty over breaking so many women's hearts.

Movies like "Hannibal" that portray the glamour of evil can certainly do well at the box office. Yet, there also can be a glamour to goodness. Chestnut embodies that in his character: a wealthy, striking-looking man who could have as many women as he wants, but instead wants to do the right thing by just one woman.

Gary Hardwick, who wrote and directed "The Brothers," is an impressive man. Born into a working class family of 12 children, he made himself a lawyer, stand-up comic, and published novelist before trying his hand at filmmaking.

"The Brothers" is representative of a welcome mini-genre of non-violent movies about wealthy blacks in love and lust. It stretches at least as far back as Eddie Murphy's delightful "Boomerang" from 1992.

Non-blacks watching these "buppie" movies, however, may not understand why the male characters tend to have the upper hand in romance. In the black middle class mating market, the supply and demand balance is sharply skewed in favor of men. Today, there are simply far more black middle class single women than there are eligible black bachelors. For example, in graduate schools, black women outnumber black men by 80%.

Also, marriages to white women drain off a small but noticeable fraction of the most successful black men. According to the 1990 Census, a black man was 2.5 times more likely to be married to a white woman than a black woman was likely to be married to a white man.

That's why the only fight in "The Brothers" is between a beautiful black lady judge who is stalking Bellamy because he had dumped her and Bellamy's new blonde girlfriend. By the time the happy ending rolls around, however, a reformed Bellamy has learned to pass up blondes in favor of hitting only on black women. A movie with a white cast that took a similar stand against interracial dating would be barbecued alive, of course. Yet, considering the demographic odds they must endure, it's hard to criticize the black women who will cheer this scene.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


The vast sums being accumulated by elite private and public universities are quite amazing. Here's an excerpt from Lynne Munson of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity's testimony to Congress:

Some of the most outsized endowments are at elite institutions. Yale has $2.8 million in the bank per undergraduate. But, on average, independent schools with endowments larger than a billion have $432,422 in their endowment per full-time student. And plenty of public schools also have impressive endowment-to-student statistics. The University of Virginia and the University of Michigan bank $322,000 and $150,000 per undergraduate, respectively. And even though the 9-campus University of Texas system currently enrolls just under 150,000 undergraduates, its massive $13 billion endowment contains $90,000 for each student.

What the data shows is that endowment wealth is everywhere—except in the hands of the students who need it today. Last year endowments increased 17.7% on average—those larger than a billion increased 18.4%. Yet, despite double-digit increases stretching back a decade or more —endowment spending is at a nearly all-time low of 4.2%--down from 5.1% in 1994, 6.5% in 1982, and 5.2% in 1975.

Milton Friedman said that colleges serve three purposes: education, research, and monument-erection.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Robert De Niro in "15 Minutes"

Here's yet another one of my 2001 movie reviews for UPI that had disappeared, like the movies themselves, down the old memory hole

Mar. 8, 2001 (UPI) -- A brutally violent crime movie that accuses tabloid TV of encouraging crime by showing brutal violence obviously has a bit of a credibility problem. The only way such a film can escape blatant hypocrisy is to play the whole thing as a cynical, self-condemning satire. Unfortunately, "15 Minutes" (from New Line Cinema and rightfully rated "R" for foul language, toplessness, and way too much violence), while less repulsive than Oliver Stone's similar "Natural Born Killers," is drenched in both blood and sanctimony.

Director John Herzfeld's script also seems dated. It portrays a crime spree in which a Czech thug slices up New Yorkers while his movie-mad Russian sidekick videotapes him. The bad guys then sell their snuff film to a despicable trash TV host played by Kelsey Grammar, who delivers a convincing portrayal of a weasel in heat.

Upon his arrest, the killer Czech points out that you'd have to be crazy to let your buddy videotape your murders. So, a judge declares him incompetent to stand trial and dispatches him to a country club mental home. Fortunately, in the climactic gun battle, the vengeful good guy shoots straighter. So, this reality series starring the bad Czech is cancelled.

Herzfeld's scenario was clearly influenced by criminals who beat the rap by claiming to be victims, such as John Hinckley, OJ, Lorena Bobbit, and the Menendez Brothers. In 1987, this theme would have been prophetic. In 1994, it would have been timely enough to justify its populist pretensions of being a vigilante fantasy in the tradition of "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish." In 2001, though, we've heard it all before.

Yet, before Herzfeld begins slathering on the sermons and clichés, "15 Minutes" starts out promisingly. Amusing scenes introduce us to the fine cast.

"15 Minutes" begins at JFK airport. An immigration officer questions two European tourists played by Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov. You don't have to be Pat Buchanan to sense that the Statue of Liberty wasn't meant to welcome these two to America.

Roden, a Czech stage actor, has the kind of Central European face that Hollywood loves to hate. He looks like a U-Boat captain gone bad.

Taktarov, who was a former Ultimate Fight Champion, has the perfect mug for the role of the Hollywood-loving Russian criminal who really wants to direct. He's handsome in a rather endearing, almost childishly innocent way. Yet, the left half of his face is alarmingly out of whack with the right half.

Meanwhile, square-jawed Edward Burns, the triple-threat star/director/writer of the 1995 low-budget surprise "The Brothers McMullen," appears as a straight-arrow New York City arson investigator. He's accosted in Central Park by a mugger played by David Alan Grier, the entertainingly prissy black comic from TV's "DAG" and "In Living Color." You would think that any movie that casts Grier as a knife-wielding street criminal couldn't take itself too seriously, right?

Burns quickly disarms Grier and, in order to rush off to a fire, handcuffs him to a tree. Before Burns can get back, a predatory bag lady steals Grier's trousers. Later, the mugger appears on TV pompously accusing the Boy Scout-pure Burns of violating his civil rights.

Burns makes a perfectly adequate action hero, although the script doesn't let him do much besides display his natural knack for Irish glumness. If more proven talents such as Brad Pitt, currently floundering in "The Mexican," continue to turn down traditional good guy roles, Burns may have a solid career ahead of him as a leading man.

To catch the Eurotrash killers, Burns teams up with Robert De Niro's media savvy homicide detective. De Niro frequently appears on Grammar's tabloid show. We later discover, however, that he uses his celebrity for the honorable purpose of helping him get the cooperation he needs to catch crooks. This undermines the moral of the movie, but at least it allows De Niro to give young Burns some avuncular mentoring.

Herzfeld introduces De Niro in a bravura scene. An underwater camera peers up through a basin full of ice cubes. Suddenly, the great man's head plunges into the frigid bath as he struggles to sober up. It's a funny homage to De Niro's celebrated scene pounding his head against the prison wall in 1980's "Raging Bull."

Later, De Niro spends a lot of time talking to himself in a mirror, rather like Travis Bickle, anti-hero of "Taxi Driver," another film that certainly influenced "15 Minutes." Here, though, De Niro is merely getting ready to propose to his girlfriend in a touching episode. (She's played by the lovely star of the "Providence" TV series, Melina Kanakaredes, who is the Platonic ideal of a Greek beauty.)

Although critics generally consider De Niro the greatest acting artist of his generation, he's always struck me as John Wayne for Guys Who Went to Grad School. Of course, since most reviewers are males with post-grad educations, while most viewers are not, De Niro's critical acclaim has always exceeded his box office clout.

De Niro seldom disappears into a role like Alec Guinness or Gary Oldman. Instead, like The Duke, he brings tremendous craftsmanship to the old-fashioned movie star's job of playing endless variations on himself.

The pleasure of watching De Niro is largely that of seeing a truly superior individual try out different occupations that no doubt he would have been a success at if he hadn't gone into acting. The premise of practically any De Niro movie is: What if fate had made Bobby De Niro a detective? Or a boxer? Gangster? Psycho killer?

Dr. Samuel Johnson defended this idea that a first-rate man could have been a winner in any one of many different fields by saying, "Sir, the man who has vigor may walk to the North as well as to the South, to the East as well as to the West." De Niro's vigor, intelligence, work ethic, charisma, and force of will allows him to persuade us that he would have made one hell of a detective, boxer, gangster, or psycho killer.

Director Herzfeld's best film was "Don King: Only in America," an ironic HBO biopic about boxing's grandiloquent promoter and lovable con man. If Herzfeld had made "15 Minutes" similarly sardonic, rather than pseudo-solemn and self-righteous, this movie wouldn't have ended up being so much less than the sum of its considerable parts.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Slight Gay Way

In case you needed any more evidence for the principal reason musical theater isn't the great white way of American popular culture anymore, here's an LA Times article about an upcoming musical entitled "Most Wanted." It's about "the life of Andrew Cunanan, an alluring, chameleonic party boy from the San Diego gay-bar scene. In 1997, he went on an unexplained, 2 1/2 -month cross-country killing spree, climaxing in his infamy-sealing trophy killing of fashion designer Gianni Versace."

What red-blooded American wouldn't want to see a musical about Andrew Cunanan?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 2, 2007

Anita Hill all over again

Looking back, 1991-1995 seems like one of those eras (such as the late 1960s or 1917-1920) when America was undergoing a national nervous breakdown. Nothing symbolizes the free-floating hysteria of the era better than the vast brouhaha that erupted in October 1991 over Anita Hill's charges that Clarence Thomas ... uh ... well, it's hard to remember precisely what it was that so obsessed the nation at the time, but the essence of her complaint was that he had implied, in so many words, that he was a man and she was a woman.

This led to The Year of the Woman (as the media declared the 1992 election year to be) that Bill and Hillary Clinton surfed into the White House. Which was pretty funny, considering what ol' Bill had been up to down in Arkansas, but nobody got the joke at the time. (I must say, though, that I did write an article in December 1992, "A Specter Is Haunting the Clinton Presidency," forecasting that the incoming Clinton Administration would be put in mortal peril by a sexual harassment charge made by an Arkansas state employee. But nobody would publish it.)

If only Clarence had married Anita instead of that white woman, all this might have been avoided!

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

At the time, I thought the craziness of the era was related to the recently completed war, just as WWI unleashed a lot of nuttiness. But, in retrospect, it seems more directly to be CNN's fault.

Before Desert Storm, so few people watched CNN that the Ricola cough drop company was able to use its tiny ad budget to buy a huge number of spots on CNN for its commercial of three Swissmen in lederhosen on top of an alp blowing giant Swiss horns. By the time the war was over, however, all of America not only had heard of Ricola cough drops but were heartily sick of the thought of them.

The war in Jan-Feb 1991 alerted people to the fact that there was this cable channel that broadcast news 24 hours per day. People started glancing at the TV news all day long. Of course, once the war was over, there really wasn't anything all that important to fill the vast 24 hour news hole, but they had to put something on, so why not testimony about various scandals? It was pretty close to free. And the public assumed that because it was on TV all the time, it had to be important.

The Golden Age of Cable News lasted from Anita Hill to the OJ Simpson trial in 1995, after which people started to realize that they were wasting their time.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"American Outlaws" - Jesse James Week at iSteve

Having just watched and read "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," I thought it time to post on the web my August 2001 review for UPI of the last Jesse James movie, the very different "American Outlaws."

"American Outlaws" - a good-humored retelling of the Jesse James legend - is another of 2001's long string of movies that fall in between not-so-hot and not-so-bad. It is in the grand tradition of the cowboy Western. In other words, "American Outlaws" is completely unoriginal, but at least it steals from good films like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

After defeating more heavily armed Union bluecoats in a final skirmish of the Civil War, Quantrill's Raiders, a Confederate guerilla army, disband. The handsome James brothers and their cousins, the Younger brothers, head home to their Missouri Ozark farms. There, they find the Federal Army and the Pinkerton Detective Agency in league with a carpetbagging Northern railroad intent on stealing their land.

And besides, as Cole Younger points out, the war showed them that raiding and killing was a lot more exciting than plowing. So, off our heroes ride to wreak vengeance on the Union's trains and banks, aided by the local farmers with whom they prudently share their loot.

High school boys will enjoy the bang-bang boom-boom action. Their dates will be all aquiver over the cute young desperadoes. As Jesse, dark-eyed Colin Farrell ("Tigerland") lives up to at least some of the hype that says he's Hollywood's Next Big Thing. As Cole Younger, curly-haired Scott Caan delivers a fine impression of his father, James Caan.

Upper middle class parents probably won't mind taking their older kids to "American Outlaws." It's a mild PG-13, with only a few barnyard expletives. The scenes of Jesse courting his future wife Zerelda are quite innocent and rather charming.

On the other hand, if you live in a tough neighborhood where being a gun-totin' outlaw might strike your son as a promising career path, watch out. Much of America's culture war is fought between downscale conservative parents who rightly want a more moralistic society to help them raise their at-risk children versus upscale liberal parents who rightly assume that pop cultures' amoral examples probably won't ruin their expensively sheltered kids.

Grownups will find Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates' performance as the James boys' Jesus-loving Yankee-hating Ma to be terrific (as usual), but too brief. In contrast, Timothy Dalton (a former James Bond) has a potentially meaty role as Jesse's nemesis, the legendary Allen Pinkerton who ran Abraham Lincoln's spy service. The swashbuckling Shakespearean actor provides a formidable presence, until he opens his mouth. Then, the distinctly sub-Shakespearean dialogue leaves him merely chewing the scenery.

Although the moviemakers cheerfully admit that they filmed the romanticized legend rather than the facts, "American Outlaws" is remarkably close to honest about how much Jesse James' crime spree was motivated by his hatred of the victorious Union.

Most historical movies these days feature implausible minority characters, such as the perplexing appearance of Morgan Freeman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." In contrast, "American Outlaws" shows no blacks at all, even though the real-life James family owned four slaves. The presence of ex-slaves in the movie would have raised doubts about the purity of our heroes' Confederate cause. In fact, the James Gang boasts the only nonwhite character in the film, Comanche Tom, who, oddly enough, did indeed integrate the real-life band of brigands.

This kind of pro-Confederate costume drama was common until the Civil Rights era, when the slaves' point of view finally began to be considered. In the last few years, this trend has gone much farther as the great and the good have set about to demonize the Confederate Battle Flag and other symbols of white Southerners' pride in their rebel ancestors. "American Outlaws" might be betting that the growing Southern backlash will pay off at the box office.

Or, the filmmakers may have had to portray Jesse as a heroic Confederate freedom fighter because otherwise he would appear to be just a vicious crook. In reality, he was both. The best aspect of "American Outlaws" is that it's fairly perceptive about how murky is the line between guerilla and gangster.

The Sicilian Mafia, for example, probably grew out of patriotic underground resistance to French invaders. Further, our former friends in the Kosovo Liberation Army are today trying to dismantle our ally Macedonia in order to monopolize in a wider domain the venerable Albanian specialties of smuggling, fencing, and pimping. Perhaps if our State Department could have watched "American Outlaws" before deciding to go to war on behalf of the KLA "freedom fighters" in 1999, they wouldn't have been so cruelly disillusioned in 2001 when the KLA turned out to be just another James Gang.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Brad's Back and Julia's Got Him in "The Mexican"

I recently finished my review of Brad Pitt in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" for an upcoming issue of The American Conservative. So, here's my first ever review for UPI from February 2001: "The Mexican" starring Brad and Julia Roberts. Like a number of my 2001 reviews of obscure movies, this hasn't been available online for years, so that vaguely aching cavity in your soul can now be filled. Or, at least, you can read far enough into it to answer the question "Which one is playing a Mexican?"

Julia Roberts is currently the most bankable star in Hollywood and Brad Pitt is number seven, according to researcher James Ulmer's "Hot List." So, a movie pairing them can't go wrong. Right?


DreamWorks' "The Mexican" (rated R for bad language and some violence) has a certain preposterous charm. Set your expectations low enough and you might well find it amusing. Be forewarned, though, that it is not so much a "Brad's Back and Julia's Got Him!" extravaganza as two modestly budgeted mini-movies. The two giga-stars play a live-in couple whose wobbly romance requires constant group therapy sessions. A complicated plot about gangsters, however, limits their time on-screen together to just the beginning and end of the film. They share one kiss, but most of their few scenes with each other consist of Roberts lambasting Pitt for his incompetence and insensitivity to her many needs.

Pitt's half of the movie consists of him bumbling about the dusty Mexican countryside trying to retrieve for his crime lord boss a legendary handmade pistol called "The Mexican." It's reminiscent of the Steve Martin-Chevy Chase-Martin Short comedy "Three Amigos." Only not as funny. And with a less logical plot. Still, there are at least as many of everybody's favorite Mexican movie stereotypes: burros, banditos, crooked federales, gila monsters, and a drunken fiesta with peons firing their guns in the air. "The Mexican," like so many "edgy" indie-style movies of the post-Tarantino era, climaxes with all the characters holding guns on each other in a Mexican Standoff.

Meanwhile, Roberts is off in her own little movie on the road to Las Vegas. Her half is a sort of cross between "Pulp Fiction" and the upcoming "Bridget Jones" comedy about thirtyish single women who read too many self-help books about relationships. A hired killer kidnaps Roberts in order to hold her hostage. He wants to make sure Pitt doesn't run off with the valuable pistol. Within an hour of her being dragged screaming from a shopping mall food court, however, she and her abductor are happily chattering about why men are so selfish.

James Gandolfini, star of "The Sopranos," takes on the John Travolta role as the hefty hit man with the heart of gold. Gandolfini plays the same surprisingly introspective professional murderer as he does on his HBO hit. Only, here he is supposed to be gay.

Granted, the notion of a gay Mafia gunman is pretty stupid, but it's no more knuckleheaded than the rest of the plot. The real problem with making Gandolfini gay, though, is that it drains all sexual tension from his many scenes with Roberts.

Both Pitt and Roberts took huge pay cuts to star in this $35 million dollar film. It's not clear what attracted them. Scriptwriter J.H. Wyman delivers a lot of smiles but few big laughs. Director Gore Verbinski, whose only previous credit was the kid's movie "Mouse Hunt," is competent enough, although he lets this piece of fluff run twenty minutes too long. Yet, even within the genre of flippant crime capers, "The Mexican" is more forgettable than even Pitt's last movie, Guy Ritchie's "Snatch."

Strangely enough, Verbinski repaid his leading lady's financial sacrifice by not covering up her worsening cosmetic flaws. In "The Mexican," Roberts looks every one of her 33 years.

Roberts' reputation as a tremendous beauty has always been somewhat puzzling, since she closely resembles her big brother Eric Roberts. In awe of his acting talent, Hollywood kept casting Eric in high profile movies in the mid-Eighties. Yet, they kept finding that audiences just couldn't stand the sight of him. His odd facial structure eventually exiled him to straight-to-video projects.

Julia was fortunate to become a hugely popular leading lady at age 22 in "Pretty Woman." At that age, her youth and vivacity compensated for her less than classic features. Her remarkably wide mouth merely made her look more human and friendly than other screen goddesses.

Unfortunately, her face is unlikely to age as well as, say, Catherine Deneuve's. So, Roberts might have taken on this role as Pitt's nagging girlfriend as a quickie practice session. She'll have to play a lot more of this kind of character lead role as her beauty fades.

In contrast to Roberts, who has gotten as much as anyone could have hoped from her looks and talent, Pitt is one of Hollywood's great underachievers. Despite his typical $20 million salary, he hasn't starred in a $100 domestic grossing hit since "Se7en" in 1995. He looks like the young Robert Redford. Yet, Pitt often chooses roles more suited for Steve Buscemi, the famously homely character actor from "Fargo."

In "Snatch," Pitt excelled in a supporting role as a brown-haired bare-knuckle boxer with an incomprehensible Irish Traveller accent. In "The Mexican," he's back to playing a blonde-haired doofus of a leading man, but he can't rise above the blandness of the script.

Pitt seems stuck midway between the career strategies of his contemporaries Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp. Cruise carefully picks big budget matinee idol vehicles and huffs and puffs them into giant media events. Depp, in contrast, works constantly in oddball character lead roles, often for the benignly twisted director Tim Burton. Some of Depp's movies disappear instantly. A few of his gambles, though, such as the wonderful "Ed Wood," turn out memorably.

At age 37, it's hardly too late for Pitt to make more use of his many gifts. First, though, he has to decide what he wants to be when he grows up.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Request for high school football insights

Last week, I was trying to explain American high school football to three incredulous English intellectuals, and this vast but curious phenomenon struck me as a good topic to give the Sailer Treatment to in an article. So, I'm appealing to you all for interesting ideas about high school football -- please comment or email me.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Are they nuts? The State of California's Algebra I standard

In Robert Heinlein's sci-fi novels, one of the recurrent features (besides nudism) is that the hero is typically a math prodigy. I was reminded of this when reading that the State of California, like most states in recent decades, has put a lot of effort into coming up with "academic content" standards to delineate precisely what each public school student will learn. In fact, teachers are supposed to write the Standards on the classroom whiteboards so that the students can make sure that the teachers aren't slacking off and leaving out anything that is officially mandated.

Unfortunately, the mathematicians who made up the California Mathematics Content Standards seemed to assume that the young people of California are characters from Heinlein novels.

Here, for example, is the very first of the 25 items in California's Algebra I content standard (to put that into perspective, LA public schools students must pass Algebra I, Geometry, and, beginning this fall, Algebra II to graduate from high school). This is what California 8th or 9th graders are supposed to learn on roughly the day after Labor Day when they first begin Algebra I. (Although in many cases, they are 10th, 11th, or 12th graders who are trying to pass Algebra I for up to the fourth time.)

1.0 Students identify and use the arithmetic properties of subsets of integers and rational, irrational, and real numbers, including closure properties for the four basic arithmetic operations where applicable:

Now, I'm sure most of you are saying, well, ho-hum, of course everybody knows the closure properties for the four basic arithmetic operations. And how can students move on to studying Abelian closure without being introduce as soon as possible to simple closure?

Unfortunately, I'm not a Heinlein character, so to be honest, my eyes glazed over when I read that standard. With some effort, I've finally managed to focus upon what the words are, so I've been able to move on to trying to find out through Google what they mean.

Dr. Anthony at Math Forum says:

The idea of 'closure' is actually very simple. If you add together
two whole numbers, you will always get another whole number. If you
multiply two whole numbers, you will get a whole number as a result.
So we say that whole numbers (integers) are 'closed' under the
operations of addition and multiplication.

What about division? Well 12 divided by 2 is 6, which is a whole
number, so in this case we get a whole number result. But 12 divided
by 5 = 2 and 2/5, so now we have moved out of the field of whole
numbers. If we divide two whole numbers we cannot guarantee that the
result will still be a whole number. So the set of whole numbers is
not closed under the operation of division.

Positive whole numbers are closed under addition - you always get a
positive whole number in the result. But they are not closed under
subtraction, since, for example, 4 - 9 = -5 and -5 is not a positive
whole number.

To decide whether a set of numbers is closed under some operation or
other, look for cases where the result is no longer in the set you
started with.

In the case of real numbers, which include positive, negative,
fractional, and irrational (like sqrt(2)) numbers, the operations of
addition, multiplication, division and subtraction are all closed (apart
from division by zero which is not defined). But taking square roots is
not closed because if, for example, we try sqrt(-5), we no longer get a
real number as a result. In fact, we have moved into the realm of
complex numbers.

Well, that's rather interesting ... but is this level of abstraction appropriate for the first thing taught to public schools students? In the Los Angeles Unified School District, less than one out of ten students will score 500 or higher on the SAT math test. What about the other 90+%?

I suspect that the mathematicians who dreamed up these standards wish that they had been taught like this in high school. They wouldn't have been so bored if their courses had been geared at a much higher level of abstraction.

So, this is how they get their revenge on the assistant football coach who bored them so badly when he taught them Algebra I -- by making him try to explain, on a hot day in early September, the closure properties of the irrational numbers to high school freshmen who add and subtract on their fingers.

It's just another little victory in the endless war the right half of the bell curve is waging so successfully on the left half.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Old movie review: Warren Beatty in "Town & Country"

Here's another of my long-lost (and, admittedly, little-missed) UPI movie reviews from 2001:

Town & Country

April 26, 2001

In one episode of "The Simpsons," long-suffering Marge throws an elegant dinner party. Attempting to start a sophisticated conversation, she asks, "Did anyone see that new Woodsy Allen movie?"

Her neighbor Ned Flanders replies: "You know, I like his films except for that nervous fellow that's always in them."

"Town & Country," an amusing new sex farce starring Warren Beatty ("Splendor in the Grass"), Diane Keaton ("The Godfather"), Goldie Hawn ("Cactus Flower"), and Gary Shandling (HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show"), would definitely satisfy Ned's needs for a Woody Allen movie that didn't actually involve Woody Allen in any way.

"Town & Country" recycles most of the elements that have become so familiar in the dozen or so remakes of "Annie Hall" that Allen has churned out. Keaton, veteran of eight Allen movies, is only the most obvious connection. "Town & Country" reproduces precisely Allen's fantasy world of Manhattan married couples with artsy jobs that pay implausibly well, yet also allow them time to spend their days sitting or strolling in fashionable locations while worrying over their adulteries.

Like Allen's movies, "Town & Country" emphasizes the "adult" in adultery. Beatty is now 64, Keaton and Hawn are both 55, while the stripling Shandling is 51. Granted, handsome Warren Beatty makes a somewhat less creepy romantic lead than the 65-year-old Woody Allen would. Yet, somehow, I doubt that the public has been yearning to see a movie with two moderately explicit sex scenes between Beatty and Hawn (total age: 119).

Beatty, Keaton, and Hawn have been movie stars for a combined 101 years. Although people play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with this cast a mere Three Degrees ought to suffice to connect with just about anybody in Hollywood history, even, say, Jean Harlow, who died in 1937. (Beatty to Vivien Leigh in 1961's "Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" to Clark Gable in 1939's "Gone With the Wind" to Harlow in 1932's "Red Dust.").

Hawn is shot so she looks eerily like the same sex kitten who go-go danced on "Laugh-In" in 1968. In contrast, the gracefully aging Keaton seems much more at ease with being over fifty.

One big difference between "Town & Country" and Allen's movies is that the frugal and superbly organized Woody could have made it for 10% of the $80 million or whatever this film, which has been in production on and off since 1998, cost.

Not surprisingly, this protracted pregnancy has attracted negative buzz in Hollywood as horrible as that attending "Heaven's Gate" or "Titanic." Interestingly, "Town & Country" turns out be neither a classic catastrophe nor a historic hit. Instead, after all the agony, it's just a nice little picture that some people will find funny and some won't.

Many rumors claim that the final budget reached $120 million. Yet, when gossip columnist Liz Smith printed that number and implied that Beatty's demands for control was to blame, Beatty's lawyer Bert Fields extracted a retraction from her. Still - and please don't sue me for this, Mr. Fields - but I've got to believe that when brutish, brooding French legend Gerard Depardieu had to drop out of the cast after a motorcycle accident, and Beatty's pal Shandling took his place, a certain amount of expensive reworking must have been required in the script.

Like "Seinfeld," Shandling's "Larry Sanders" demonstrated that a truly great sit-com doesn't require much of an actor in the title role. Here, Shandling plays a rich antique dealer who is Hawn's husband and Beatty's best friend. Early on, the movie reveals that he is gay. While Shandling has a rather gay-looking face, the highly heterosexual comic isn't a talented enough actor to suggest any other signs of sexual ambiguity. In fact, Shandling's interpretation of his role seems to equate "gay" with "happy." Shandling just plays Larry Sanders, but with a more upbeat mood.

Still, despite lacking in acting skills, Shandling gets most of the laughs in the first half of the movie. Is this because all the various screenwriters who took a whack at the script couldn't come up with any gags for the other characters? Or did the three famous movie stars simply not read their lines as well Shandling?

In the second half, as the movie turns from a mild comedy of manners into an absurd farce, Beatty finally starts earning his pay.

Beatty must be an extraordinarily charismatic man in person. That's the only way I can explain how he has managed to seduce so many women, producers, critics, and even political journalists, who took his trial balloons about running for President last year half-seriously. Yet, the public has been much less impressed than the insiders by what Beatty's actually put up on the screen over the last 40 years, as his many expensive flops attest. ("Ishtar," anybody?) Beatty's a perfectly adequate generic leading man, but hardly more memorable than a Jeff Bridges or a Dennis Quaid.

Fortunately, the contrast between Beatty's megalomaniacal self-regard and the ridiculous embarrassments that his character must put up with adds much to the appeal of the film. If you'd enjoy seeing a man who is convinced that he's Presidential timber dressing up in a polar bear suit to please Jenna Elfman or being chased around by a shotgun-wielding Charlton Heston, then "Town & Country" is your movie. (The NRA president has a great time playing a deranged patrician out to gun down Beatty for sleeping with his "precious princess" daughter, Andie MacDowell.)

The British are generally much better at plot-driven farces than Americans are. Our mainstream Jewish-American comic tradition relies less for laughs on absurd but logical situations and more on one-liners. ("Seinfeld" was the great American exception.) Rather than bring in waves of Hollywood gag-writers to try to come up with gag-lines that not even the pompous Beatty could foul up, the producers should have hired in the first place a top British farceur like Alan Ayckbourne. He could have constructed a plot that would have subjected the legend-in-his-own-mind leading man to nonstop indignities. Now, that might almost have been worth $120 million … oops, forgive me, Mr. Fields, I meant $80 million. Don't sue. Please!

"Town & Country" is rated "R" for sex scenes and bad language. No nudity or violence.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

My old movie reviews: Johnny Depp in 'Blow"

I discovered a bunch of movie reviews on my hard disk that I wrote for UPI in 2001 that don't appear anywhere on the Internet. I can't say that there unavailability has been any great loss for the intellectual life of humanity, but, in the interest of completeness, I guess I'll try posting some of them from time to time here.


April 2, 2001

Johnny Depp doesn't look like a typical Hollywood leading man. He has instead the gaunt, high-cheekboned face of a classic rock star, such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith or Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

In fact, Depp moved to Hollywood originally to try for a recording contract, but a terrific gift for acting launched him on a different career. For the next decade and a half, though, he lived the rock star lifestyle. The gossip columns were full of his arrests and romantic bust-ups.

Since his French pop star girlfriend presented him with a daughter two years ago, however, Depp has repeatedly proclaimed that his baby has finally given him a reason to live. (Memo to Mr. Depp: If you love your daughter as much as you say you do, you might consider marrying her mom.)

It's easy to guess why Depp chose to play George Jung in "Blow," the quasi-true story of a small town Massachusetts kid who pioneered the aerial smuggling of marijuana in the late Sixties and of cocaine in the late Seventies. As a middleman for the Medellin Cartel, Jung made, literally, a boatload of money. One of "Blow's" funnier scenes shows him and his Colombian partner trying to find an empty spot in their yacht where can they cram yet another brown paper bag full of cash.

Not surprisingly, Jung went on to blow not only his money, his health, and his freedom (he's locked away until 2015), but also the love of his daughter. Making this movie no doubt served as a useful reminder to Depp of the potential price of going back to his old ways.

"Blow" is a well-made, entertaining comedy-drama, although not as memorable as two earlier cocaine wholesaler epics, "Goodfellas" and "Scarface." At the preview, the mostly Baby Boomer audience, apparently nostalgic for their dope-smoking younger days, enjoyed the early scenes' Cheech & Chong-style humor about laughable potheads. A few sniffled over the sentimental and sad ending.

Artistically, however, "Blow" was less than an inspired choice for Depp, normally our most venturesome big star. Critics are praising Depp for portraying Jung not as a scumbag, but as a likeable guy. Of course, Jung actually was a scumbag who made about $100 million by helping to ruin countless lives.

And making characters seem appealing and easy to identify with is what movie stars do for a living. It's no stretch at all for Depp to lend some of his Seventies rock star-style glamour to a Seventies drug dealer. As the real Jung fondly recalled in an interview with PBS, "Basically, I was no different than a rock star or a movie star. I was a coke star."

In contrast, in 1994's "Ed Wood," Depp played the most incompetent movie director ever, somehow making lovable and fascinating an El Dorko of titanic proportions. Now, that was acting.

Further, the script rejiggered Jung's life story to make him seem more sympathetic. We see an on-the-wagon Jung nobly saving his Colombian guests and his coke fiend wife (played by Spanish spitfire Penelope Cruz) by telling cops that the pound of cocaine they found in his house was for his "personal use only." We don't hear about how the real Jung ratted on his ex-partner to save himself from the slammer.

"Blow" also portrays Jung as a nonviolent type, who flashes a gun but once, and that turns out to be unloaded. Yeah, right. Outlaws who can't call on the police to protect their boatloads of cash must carry guns. Otherwise, they get dead fast.

Now that "Traffic" is inspiring calls for decriminalizing drugs, Americans need to understand that for the government to merely take a hands-off approach toward drug dealing would do little to cut down on the drug trade's pervasive violence. To remove the need for the private armies, the police would have to take over their job of protecting cocaine dealers. Somehow, I doubt we are ready to do that.

As the recent dot.com bubble showed, Americans are infatuated with starting their own businesses. Yet, for some reason, Hollywood doesn't cater to that interest by making movies about entrepreneurs, unless they are gangsters like Jung.

Surprisingly, the movie doesn't deliver the pleasure of watching a capable businessman do a hard job well. Instead, "Blow" portrays the early days of the international drug business as a bonanza where even someone as amateurish as Jung could prosper.

When trying to bring in 110 pounds of Colombian cocaine in false-bottomed suitcases, Jung shows up at the U.S. Customs desk with shoulder-length hair, looking like he shaved in the dark, and decked out in a leisure suit that would have been a little too obvious even for a drug dealer on "Starsky & Hutch."

Later, Jung deposits all his loot in a Panamanian bank owned by dictator Manuel Noriega, only to find out when he tries to withdraw it, that Senor Noriega was not the trustworthiest of bankers.

The movie claims that Jung's big competitive advantage was that he knew the identity of the top cocaine retailer in America, who is played by Paul Reubens. It's a little hard to be impressed with an industry where the Mr. Big is the former Pee-Wee Herman.

In this, "Blow" resembles "Boogie Nights," which depicted people in the porn business as so cerebrally-challenged that Burt Reynolds could credibly portray its visionary genius.

Yet, the obtuseness of most of the characters makes "Blow" more realistic than the typical Hollywood movie about supposed criminal masterminds. Generally, people become crooks only if they have a hard time anticipating the dire consequences of their career choice. For example, an IQ measured at a slightly above average 110 made John Gotti, the "Teflon Don," a mental giant among mobsters.

At the end, Jung reflects, "My ambition far exceeded my talent." "Blow" has the opposite problem. It unleashes a lot of talent upon an unworthy subject.

"Blow" is rated "R" for glamorizing drugs and for bad language. It's rather mild in the sex and violence departments.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer