It’s New Hampshire day; flinty residents of one of America’s narrowest states will chose the next leader of the free world today, if you believe the hype. I’m undecided. This being the age of Feeling, here's my emotional reaction to the candidates:

Fred Thompson has that Emperor Palpatine thing going on:

And I like that. Makes you want to say “yung SKYYY-wokkah,” does it? Hillary – well, I feel sorry for her, in a way, because her time in the sun seems to have coincided with the exact moment the electorate decided it was tired of being ruled by Boomers. If someone grew up accustomed the sound of mom burping the lid on some Tupperware, people don’t want to have anything to do with them. I

Huckabee: he makes me recoil, instinctively. Some of this has to do with his positions, but it’s mostly the particular flavor of his religiosity and the thickness of its application to his campaign. People who think he’s some Elmer Gantry-type who’ll run around tossing flag-wrapped Bibles into the crowd overstate the case, but still: he just strikes me as one of those fellows who’ll treat you with respect and friendship and good cheer, and you know he thinks you’re going to hell. No, that’s not fair, but there it is. I don’t think he’s a phony -  Bill Clinton was a phony, but he was such a genuine heartfelt phony it didn’t matter. Huckabee just rubs me the wrong way. Nothing more profound or irrational than that.

Mitt Romney? Super-brainy smart, a proven administrator, impeccably decent. In some parallel universe where good is bad and bad is good and James Bond serves Satan, Mitt Romney is Blofeld. He’s an admirable man in many ways. But my favorite finely-crafted piece of Stickley furniture is an admirable piece of wood in many ways, too. I cannot warm to Romney.

I like John McCain. He seems like the sort of guy you could have a beer with, right up to the moment where he smashes the bottle on the table and jams it in your face over something you said six years ago. I like Rudy Guiliani, partly because his second-term sex scandal would involve someone closer to Teri Hatcher’s age than Jamie Lynn Spears. But mostly because he is smart, agrees with me on enough things, and does not appear to have a heart ruled by sentiment. I do not want a National Dad or even a Cool Brother (double-meaning unintended) for the President; I want someone with JFK’s optimism, Roosevelt’s steel, Truman’s irascibility, and so forth.

But it’s all for naught if the Obamaboom continues, because he has the zeitgeist at his back and a sail the size of an IMAX screen.  People will vote for him because they want to be part of something larger, and that’s a rare and potent thing these days. Whether that’s a wise thing to do in perilous times depends on whether people think we’re living in perilous times, I suppose. We’ll see.

In the end, I think of the person I'd like to see behind the big desk the night the President addresses the nation after the nutwads pull off something big. It's certainly not Ron Paul. He'd probably bitch us out for starting it all by enraging the Barbary Pirates.


I watched “The Wire” – dour, wry, knotty, depressing, bracing, perfect as usual. It will end up being the most overpraised show worthy of overpraise in cable history, and will have 1/100th the impact of “The Sopranos,” which looks like a cartoon in comparison. Years from now we will view the A. J . subplots the same way we look at Wesley on the bridge of the Enterprise, piloting the ship.

Speaking of Star Trek: where was the news on that show? Did they eliminate news? Nothing happened? No one ever sat down and watched the news. My aborted Star Trek novel, “The Last Green World,” turned down for its unforgiveable first-person narrative, was written from the POV of a 24th century journalist. He wore a small camera around his ear; it communicated wirelessly with his contact lens, enabling him to control the picture by with his eyeballs and eyelids. A few years later, in Star Trek: Generations:

All of a sudden, the news media appeared in Trek, badgering Kirk. Then it disappeared. Were there no pop artists in the future? No movies to review, no tales of sectarian conflicts on Rigel 4? Come to think of it, you rarely saw anyone reading “Stars and Stripes” in WW2 movies, either. But still.

I don’t watch shoot ‘em up movies.  I’m not opposed to them; I’m just bored with the genre. The hip quips, the Tarantino mannerisms – is there a hitman out there today who doesn’t engage in existential contemplation while reloading? – the endless sadism, and the amount of disbelief one must suspend requires the engineering genius of Brunel. Our hero, who’s been shot sixteen times and had his leg sawed off at the hip, somehow manages to stand up, aim, improvise an ironic rejoinder that calls back something said in the first ten pages of the script, then shoots the bad guy 37 times. Feh. If you’ve seen “Hard Boiled” or “The Killer” by John Woo, you’ve seen them all. The former featured an endless gun battle in a hospital, where the hero managed to mil 14,023 bad guys with a single gun, reloading twice just to add a note of realism.

On the other hand: here’s a movie called “Shoot ‘Em Up,” the title of which would seem to indicate a playful jab at the conventions. It features Clive Owen, who is so tough his breakfast cereal has marshmallows shaped like Chuck Norris. The bad guy is Paul Giamatti, doing his part for the rumpled-nebbish-villain trend, and a welcome break from the icy soulless European. The girlfriend is Monica Belluci, who is apparently on the run from her English-language dialect coach; she plays a prostitute, which lets you know that nothing in this movie is supposed to resemble reality. Then there’s the plot: it’s pro-life, pro-family, anti-embryonic-research, and opposed to the hypocrisy of gun-control advocates. Really. Sort of. Trust me. But is it any good? It’s preposteruously good, for this sort of movie, mostly because it’s tightly directed, has a sense of humor, keeps the quippage to a minimum, is completely over the top, and – most important – it doesn’t revel in pain and sadism. That’s a curious thing to say about a movie with a body count in the low hundreds, but if you know the genre, you know what I mean.

The movie shows its colors early on when our hero has to concentrate on delivering a baby while pausing to shoot people who are running through doors on the other side of a vast warehouse, which is nearly impossible if you wear trifocals, unless you’re particularly adept at finding the sweet spot in your lens. After he kills everyone – and this is the sort of movie where the phrase “after he kills everyone” is used 14 times in the plot summary – he severs the umbilical cord. Does he bite it? That would be savage. Does he cut it with a knife? Well, he’s not the sort of fellow to carry a knife; he’s the sort to pick a knife from someone else’s pocket and throw it through a wall, bounce it off a pipe and hit three other guys. No, he shoots it. He shoots off the umbilical cord. OB-GUN, man. Then he spends the rest of the movie protecting the baby, which means he can't shoot with both hands like all the other action heroes. That qualifies as a disability nowadays.  

Later there’s a gun battle between guys who’ve jumped out of a plane. Around the time he hits the second guy with his first shot the movie starts to lose credibility, but you don’t really care. One of the reviews on imdb is titled "Perhaps the most shamelessly ridiculous film ever conceived," and it's a 9-star review. Says it all.

See you at! Oh: I finalized the new Bleat tonight. I think you’ll like it. You’d better, because it’s going to stick around; no more weekly redesigns.

Monthly, maybe. Trust me on this one. It’ll be cool.