I guess Kimmel joined the staff of the Washington Post at some point. Who cares about this, honestly? I actually like that late night has largely dropped the everybody’s a bum-level political commentary. It’s sort of weird that it was ever the standard–probably the malign influence of Jay Leno, honestly. I recently watched the second-to-last episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and it was notable in that he made roughly 700 Dan Quayle jokes–and not just gently ribbing ones either–but didn’t take even a single shot at Clinton or Gore. Leno obviously more than made up for that in time. But I really do look for evidence of this imperative for partisan balance in the news media and I can’t really find much of it prior to the early 1990s, even in the more trivial sectors.

I can’t say I watch late night talk shows regularly anymore, but I think it’s actually pretty great that Colbert is wiping the floor with Jimmy Fallon. It was fun for awhile that Fallon was just copying every trick from British chat shows–they’re generally much more entertaining than American ones!–but then he tugged Trump’s hair. Also Colbert is much funnier and a better broadcaster, and actually understands what he’s talking about. It is kind of weird that political commentary has long been a part of these shows but if you’re going to do it, you might as well take it seriously. Good for Kimmel for also doing that.

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Lev filed this under:  

Congrats, Senator!

Pretty sweet victory, though the universal forces seeing fit to make 2017 into a bizarro parallel of 2009 really are just a little on the nose, aren’t they?

Also, it probably shouldn’t have been such a big surprise considering that Roy Moore struggled a lot to win his second stint on the Alabama Supreme Court against a Democrat with no support. Lots of normal Republicans do not like Roy Moore. Still figured it more likely than not that he’d win, though. I’m glad to be wrong!

Also, one would hope that Jones is the beginning of a process whereby Democrats put message first from now on. Jones had the right message and his strategy flowed from it. Change will be hard but Jones and many of the Democrats who won last month in Virginia did this, so there’s some hope I guess.

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I keep thinking about how elites seem to be completely clueless about how normal people think and behave. I think it really does come down to how the meritocracy functions. Long story short, self-discovery, learning about the world and learning about people are things that don’t really fit in with the hyper-ultra-overcommitted scheduling that those folks seem to prefer. You really do need to clear your mind sometimes to let this stuff happen to you because it’s not something you can power through, it happens on its own accord. It’s something from a book hitting you a few days after you finish it when you’re doing laundry. It’s a realization coming to the fore on a significant anniversary. Obviously you have to set aside time to read books that aren’t geared to immediately help your career, but you also have to have time to just let your brain sort itself out and make these connections. You really do have to “waste time” in order to be an actually well-rounded human, instead of a “well-rounded” human in the meritocracy sense, which essentially means that you overcommit to a bunch of different things, not just one or two.

This is what I find sad about the meritocracy, but also frustrating. It is plausibly the seed of a social revolution a couple years down the road.

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The conventional wisdom is that anybody who wins a presidential election is a political genius but are they really? Winning a general election is much more about the fundamentals than anything else, political scientists have very solid models for this that even worked in 2016 (there was just limited data in some states, not outright contradictory data). You can suck and still win that if the fundamentals are right. Winning a primary is much more difficult and political scientists don’t really have very solid models for that, but it’s difficult mainly because it’s always sort of a clusterfuck. You’re asking voters to make a political decision with the most pertinent piece of information–party affiliation–rendered irrelevant. It’s a hard decision to make, and it’s not uncommon for them to turn on fairly fluky stuff. The Dean Scream. Jimmy Carter’s entire campaign. Nixonian spin that Muskie cried once. Whatever the hell was going on in 2016. You can usually make some sense out of it in retrospect but the reality is that nominations turn on things that are fairly random, which is why it really is up to party elites to winnow out people who are flat-out unacceptable (as Republicans largely declined to do with Trump).

So it’s entirely possible you get the combination of someone whose shtick catches fire at just the right time to lead to a fluke wave into a nomination, and then wins the presidency based on favorable fundamentals. Well, more than possible, it’s happened more than once, even before the modern presidential system. But considering who won last year, you clearly don’t have to be a genius of any sort to get to the White House. If Trump were a genius (or even just sorta good), he could have splintered Democrats off the bat by giving Schumer and Pelosi the infrastructure bill they wanted. If he were even moderately good at this, he’d issue a veto threat against anything resembling the Republicans’ ripoff tax bill. Because it’s also a bill that lets Democrats run against him like they ran against Mittens.

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Honestly I’m still not sure I have much to say about this. Democrats regularly purge their sex offender politicians and Republicans don’t because Democrats do not believe that they are so inherently virtuous that they are above basic morality and Republicans do believe that. Perhaps not all, but enough do. I’m not sure how you really explain Donald Trump, let alone Roy Moore, or even their atrocity of a tax plan, without this. People are so amazed that Trump has such lofty numbers among evangelicals but really, why wouldn’t he? As Moore shows even more clearly, these are people who are singlemindedly obsessed with how awful liberals are to such an extent that a single “whatabout” red herring is enough for them to forget any reservations and support a pedophile who also has insane views about society, religion, et al. There simply isn’t a parallel there.

FWIW I do view Roy Moore supporters as moral degenerates but not out of any inherent quality, simply because of what they do.

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Bill Clinton really cared about Israel-Palestine, and so did George Bush Sr. George W. Bush didn’t. I mean, there were buzzwords like “roadmap” and “Annapolis,” but unlike his daddy he didn’t want to ruffle any Israeli feathers. I think Obama cared somewhat but he also wasn’t willing to ruffle any Israeli feathers until he was practically out the door, which kind of made any progress there impossible. Trump seems to care in an abstract sense as some kind of big deal to be made that would redound glory to himself, though of course he doesn’t really care about peace. The amazing (and stupid) thing is that he doesn’t seem to think that giving free major concessions to one side is going to harm the negotiations in any way. I mean, if he didn’t give a shit he could just say nothing about it, but he talks about it a lot. Does he really think he can do both? The Art of the Deal, I suppose.

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I can’t even comprehend how shitty this game must be.

The Plot: James Kirk, uneasy with retirement, decides to go out on the maiden voyage of the brand-new Enterprise-B. The ship almost gets destroyed by an energy ribbon and Kirk apparently dies saving it. Meanwhile Seventy-eight years later, the Enterprise-D finds a survivor of a Klingon raid who also happens to have been one of the people Kirk saved who is obsessed with that same ribbon, which it turns out is the gateway to The Nexus. Picard gets into The Nexus through the back door and enlists one James Kirk to help him out. Together they save the day, and Kirk dies in a not terribly-befitting way (though the original conception of his death was a lot worse):

What Works: Usually for a screenplay written by more than one person, it’s not easy to figure out who wrote what. But with this one (and also, to an extent, with First Contact), it’s almost comically easy, and not just because some parts are shit and others aren’t (though mainly that). Generations doesn’t benefit from the team-up of Brannon Braga and Ron Moore. It’s a team-up that on paper could have worked but in reality doesn’t: both have different strengths but rather than complementing each other they sort of clash. Yes, this is part of “what works” in that Moore’s scenes largely do. Picard’s scene with Troi where he talks about his family dying, for example, is so Moore-ian that the only thing missing is an honorable, beaten-down warrior to get the entire package. Picard’s scene with Data in Stellar Cartography is also Moore-ian and quite good. Some of the exchanges between Picard and Soran are interesting too. In essence, a lot of the stuff about death and what it means to be human is good, in isolation at least.

I actually like how the Enterprise looks in this movie. Sue me. It looks cool and cinematic.

What Doesn’t Work: Oh good lord.

Star Trek Generations is a movie that simply couldn’t have been good, not with the basic framework and concepts it was playing with. I actually do not think that is true of a lot of the other lesser movies in the series. But man alive is it true for this one. The real problem here is the lack of a strong theme. As I stated, there are some strong individual moments, and there might have been a way to tie in the destruction of the Enterprise-D and Kirk’s death into a theme of mortality. But honestly we’ve kind of been there, done that with this series. Kirk’s mortality was examined pretty thoroughly in The Wrath Of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, i.e., the prior movie in the series. Actually killing him off after all that seems kind of pointless. More than kind of, in fact. It seems perverse to me to have a character have a triumph over age in one movie and then just kill him off in the next.

The thing is, even if we buy this as a movie about morality, why the fuck are we dealing with Data’s emotion chip? Or spending countless minutes with the Duras sisters? And then there’s the Nexus, which strikes me as one of the worst takes on heaven ever put to screen. It’s really just Adam Sandler’s Click, only with a spare Guinan in place of a remote control. The real problem with this to me is that giving people control of what they see in this way just kills the illusion, not to mention that it populates characters that are not living, contradicting the person’s memory. It takes no time at all for Picard to piece it together. Admittedly, it’s very hard to envision heaven, but positing it as a souped-up DVD player is really unimaginative. There’s probably some similar version of this concept that could have been fine but it’s not this one. I’ll give Patrick Stewart credit for selling it as best he can, but this just doesn’t work. Nor does Kirk’s beat of being tempted by the Nexus. It’s so pointless to simply redo life experiences in a shifting timeframe that bears no relationship to actual reality. It really gets the fantasy all wrong.

I don’t really want to talk about the awfulness of Data’s comic relief in this. It’s just really unfunny and bad for the character. Having the ending be an action setpiece, though, really begins what was so wrong about the Berman-era movies. The climax of The Undiscovered Country had a ship-to-ship fight and then a little gunplay, but really the heart of it was Kirk’s emotional epiphany and renewed optimism. With this movie, the climax really just is all explosions and punches. They devote half an hour to all of this, more if you include the “original” version of events, before history is changed.

This movie doesn’t often get included as a Wrath Of Khan ripoff but if you think about it, it really is. Picard is having an crisis over his mortality, Kirk sets him straight before sacrificing himself, then Picard’s gone through it at the end a little older and wiser. Supposedly. The emotional beats are, largely, the same. But the emotional resonance is seriously not there. There’s no David, no real concrete thing he’s gained from the process. The speech about time at the end of the film to Riker just kind of feels hollow and unearned as a result. Kirk at the end of Khan seems to have pivoted into a different phase of his life. They want us to think that this happened to Picard, but it didn’t. And, also, Kirk didn’t really mean anything to him personally, and neither did Soran. This really is the beginning of the dreaded formula.

Also, Malcolm McDowell totally phones it in as Soran. The moment where Picard comes at him with the Borg thing is the one moment where I feel he really is dialed into the character, otherwise, not so much. Still, this is probably on the higher end of projects that McDowell took after his prime era.

Also too, the score is wholly unmemorable. The Berman era truly is upon us.

Legacy: Well, it was so poor that it gave us the first Plinkett review, so that’s something. Mostly it’s just forgotten. No doubt it has its fans, but I’ve never met one.

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No.

It’s weird and I don’t get it. George H.W. Bush’s reputation increased during the Dubya era but it basically went from “meh” to “meh-plus” which is fine. It’s about where he belongs, I have no issue with that. But to go from “George W. Bush was the worst president ever” to “I guess he was fine” among Democrats is really, really weird. I get that people really, really hate Trump in a way that redefines the curve, which is fair enough, but what is there suddenly to like about Bush, to the extent that he gets majority-favorable ratings from Democrats on polls now? I mean, most of the things that liberals fear Trump doing–using a terror attack to suspend civil liberties, crashing the economy, getting us involved in a disastrous war of choice–are all things that George W. Bush actually did. He set up the template for a bad Republican president that we’re now worried Trump will follow, which he fully hasn’t yet. It’s true that Dubya wasn’t a rampant misogynist or an open bigot toward multiple nationalities like Trump, but he was also really dumb and had massive character flaws that rendered him unfit to be president. And people who are mad about the Republican tactics over the tax bill (as they should be!) are forgetting that Bush Republicans fired the Senate Parliamentarian when he told them what they didn’t want to hear on taxes, violated House norms to pass Medicare D, outright bribed a guy on the House floor and did a mid-decade redistricting of Texas in their favor just ’cause they could. And much more besides. I mean, perhaps Trump, Ryan and McConnell will get there one day, but that’s a lot of really horrible shit that has yet to come close to being lived up to. Do we really want to reduce all that to a guy who talked funny and spoke sort of respectfully about groups that he didn’t do shit for?

TL;DR Bush nostalgics, stop it. Republicans were bad then, and they’re bad now. And frankly, the scariest ones are the ones who would easily have fit in with the Bush people, like H.R. McMaster.

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