Jane Austen Was Not “Victorian”

By on 5.14.14 | 7:13AM

For most of history, Thomas Piketty explains, the return on the value of land has exceeded economic growth, which helps explain why Victorian characters like Mr. Darcy seem so effortlessly wealthy….So this is in almost every Victorian novel. From Jane Austen up through Anthony Trollope, you keep hearing about what kind of an income the prospective bride or groom has. And you don’t hear about a rate of return.

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George Will Destroys Hash Tag Activism

By on 5.12.14 | 5:01PM

Those of us who are annoyed by cheap acts of charity were once again rolling our eyes last week after the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls started trending on Twitter. Evidently the eighteen characters were supposed to free the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the heinous thugs of Boko Haram in a triumphant whirlwind of Internet self-congratulations. This hasn't happened yet, and it has a lot of us wondering where the hash-taggers were when Boko Haram slaughtered fifty-nine schoolboys back in February—or when militia wars destabilized the Central African Republic, or when Boko Haram and other terrorists decapitated Mali, or when ethnic cleansing exploded in post-Gaddafi Libya, or when 5.4 million people were killed in the Second Congo War, or...

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The Beer Spectator: Four Blogs Craft Beer Beginners Should Be Reading

By on 5.9.14 | 1:13PM

When I started drinking beer in college, I began a journey. Since that time, I have tried many different IPAs, lagers, and pale ales. I’ve had beer in South Africa, Turkey, Spain, and elsewhere.

My one goal in drinking beer is to savor the entire experience. It’s never just about the beer, but also the people you spend time with and the environment you're a part of.

Some of you may not enjoy craft beer. Some of you may want to explore more. Both are welcome here, and I will continue to inform those who want to read.

The blogs below are for those just starting on the craft beer path. I think these bloggers are some of the most accessible on the Internet. They post regularly, and are very informative.—Los Angeles beer blogger Sean writes short posts every day reviewing a variety of beers from California and the rest of the United States. Sean also comments on the L.A. beer community. His posts are very straightforward; make it a point to check in with him every couple of days.  

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Game of Thrones: The Iron Bank of Braavos Will Have Its Due

By on 5.5.14 | 4:38PM

“We all live in its shadow and almost none of us know it,” declared Tywin Lannister. He was speaking about the Iron Bank of Braavos, the largest independent bank in George R.R. Martin’s fictional world, and maybe the most powerful behind-the-scenes player in Game of Thrones. “You can’t run from them, you can’t cheat them, you can’t sway them with excuses.” The Iron Bank will have its due, and it has a mercenary force of debt collectors to hold clients accountable. The bank seems a fitting nemesis given the new irony of the Lannister house slogan: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

In these days of post-war, anemic financial recovery, power attracts death as honey attracts flies. First there was Robert Baratheon, then Ned Stark, Robb Stark, and now Joffrey Lannister. Thus Lord Baelish’s subtle power grabbing seems prudent. He thinks he has the strategic pawn to rule in the North—Sansa Stark—whom he believes is the last remaining Stark and thus the natural heir to the Northern throne.

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Does Donating Sperm Make You a Father?

By on 5.5.14 | 3:24PM

There is a fascinating story developing in the New York Times that centers on actor Jason Patric. Patric, who gained fame for various roles he played in the 90s and early 00s, agreed to become a sperm donor for an on-again, off-again girlfriend in 2009. Somewhat predictably, the relationship and arrangement went south, and now the mother is denying Patric's paternity claims:

For the last two years, Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber have been waging what has become one of the highest-profile custody fights in the country — one that scrambles a gender stereotype, raises the question of who should be considered a legal parent and challenges state laws that try to bring order to the Wild West of nonanonymous sperm donations...

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The Beer Spectator: Get Your Chai Out of My Beer

By on 5.3.14 | 11:58AM

What’s in my beer? Pretzel and raspberry? Isn’t chai a type of tea? Why does my beer taste like somebody accidentally dropped a Mound in it? 

These are just a few of the freakish brews in the “extreme beer” category.

Brewers can throw whatever they want into beer: herbs, spices, tree bark, chocolate, coffee. This is one of their great blessings: Beer is only restrained by our imagination.

But it's also a curse, as unrestrained innovation undermines the delectable elements of the permanent things. Those permanent things are water, barley, and hops. 

In reaching for extreme heights, brewers walk too close to the fermenting barrel’s edge. Eventually, they will drown in their pretzel water.

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Among the Intellectualoids

Plato’s Stepchildren

By 5.1.14

Here’s a puzzle: Rebecca Newberg Goldstein has released a very solid and well-received book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Half-dialogue, half-explanatory essay, practically every page has a citation that goes to one Platonic dialogue or another. And yet, the further I read, the more I missed Plato. Sure, there was a Plato on the page. But I didn’t recognize him—or the Greeks, for that matter, who seem reduced to a set of ideological stereotypes.

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Game of Thrones: All Men Must Die On-Screen

By on 4.30.14 | 11:02AM

The latest episode began with the death of slave masters and ended with the death of a baby. If Game of Thrones had a slogan aside from “Winter is coming,” it would be “Valar Morghulis: All men must die,” with the implied addendum, “and you must watch them die.”

The White Walkers are embodiments of an oncoming winter and death. Picture an army with Lord Voldemort’s face mixed with an unmasked Darth Vader postmortem. I thought they were going to eat the sacrificial baby dingo-style, but instead they converted it to one of their own via life-force-sucking communal voodoo action on a pedestal amidst an icy Stonehenge.

The books do not reveal what happens to Craster’s male babies left out as sacrifices in the middle of the night, making the end scene of episode four both frightening and enlightening. Yet it also points to a deeper trend of overdramatization and lazy showmanship in the Game of Thrones series.

“TV show viewers demand answers,” my friend explained. That's true. They have to know who killed Joffrey and what happened to Craster’s babies. It’s a different medium than the novel with different demands and expectations.

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Flick Story

Whither Dom Hemingway?

By 4.30.14

Richard Shepard's Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law as an aging felon and Richard E. Grant (yes) as his best friend, is a bizarre genre hybrid of gangster entertainment and family tearjerker. At first we seem to be solidly in lads'-night-out funland: splashy neon colors, head-butting and gut-punching, terrific music, wenching and boozing and unauthorized smoking. There are rivers of obscenity and wordy, actory speeches. (All of these are given to Law's titular Dom, which is a shame, since if anyone can speechify it's Richard E. Grant. The man is to monologues what piranhas are to luckless Amazonian fishermen.) The movie opens with an extended ode to Dom's, let's say, virility, and you think you know the kind of movie it's going to be.

But even in that opening scene, Law's face is so distorted and his voice so desperate that he seems genuinely deranged. The movie whipsaws the audience's sympathies: Dom is our POV character, but he's violently unstable and his idea of fun rapidly stops being yours.

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NBA To Free Speech: Drop Dead

By on 4.29.14 | 3:35PM

I just wanted to dash off some very quick, very angry thoughts about the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. As Aaron covered yesterday, while Sterling's comments were reprehensible, he has a checkered record when it comes to race relations. But in the final calculation, it really doesn't matter whether the guy is a racist or not. What is important are the troubling implications for free speech and civil society.

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