Night of the Comet After All These Years

Night of the CometIn 1984, the low budget film Night of the Comet was released. It was kind of like Valley Girl meets Night of the Living Dead. But that might give you the wrong idea. For one thing, the female leads in this film are incredibly strong. And for another, there are surprisingly few zombies. Although they are the cool ones like we saw in Omega Man. They can talk and wear cool sunglasses.

The plot of Night of the Comet is pretty straightforward. There’s a comet that circles the sun every 65 million years. Get it? Well, if you don’t, the movie tells you: that was when the dinosaurs went extinct. (For the record: I’m pretty sure a comet with that long a period would be theoretically impossible, given it would have to reach into other solar systems.) But most people think this is a coincidence, and everyone comes out to party to see the comet. (For the record: I’m not going to critique any more of the science in this film.) And almost all of them die. Those that don’t get turned into zombies. And those who were shielded by lead or iron or something survive.

The main plot is about a group of scientists who screwed up and got exposed, and are now living off the blood of the survivors until they can create a cure. Or something. The details of the plot don’t much matter. Night of the Comet is really about sisters (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney) who have a very cool post-apocalypse. I saw the film at the time and I recall liking it, but not remembering much other than the ending when the cute boy drives up in a sports car, and the younger sister goes off with him, having a happy ending.

The film is silly but completely entertaining — exactly what it intends to be. It was written and directed by Thom Eberhardt. You probably know him for directing Captain Ron. I know him because he directed one of my favorite silly films, Without a Clue. His films have a tendency to be panned by critics — at least when they first come out. I think this is typical of critics who usually get caught up in what they think the film should be, rather than judging it on its own terms.

Of course, that wasn’t true of Night of the Comet. Eberhardt makes it so clear what he is doing that even film critics couldn’t miss it. And it’s a good thing. This is a film that deserved to be seen and deserves its cult status today. It is primarily a film about women. The three principal characters are the two sisters and Audrey White (Mary Woronov), the only one of the scientists who has a problem with killing people for their survival. In fact, if it weren’t for White’s actions, the sisters would have died and that would be that.

Night of the Comet is, in other words, the kind of film that conservatives would now claim was all PC. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, “Eberhardt wanted to explore the idea of strong female protagonists with his love of post-apocalyptic films set in empty cities.” At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from sexing the film up with a very revealing scene involving Maroney — and zombies! So maybe repressed conservatives would like it! Regardless, Night of the Comet is well worth checking out — even after all these years and even with all that early 80s music.

Night of the Comet Online

At least for now, there is a copy of the film online:

Party Differences and the RINO

RINOPaul Krugman wrote a really good column on Monday, How America Was Lost. I highly recommend reading it. But he wrote one thing that was not a reflection of the wider reality, “I still encounter people on the left (although never on the right) who claim that there’s no big difference between Republicans and Democrats.” I suspect this is an indication that Krugman hangs out with a wide range of liberal people, but only the most marginal of conservatives. Because it is simply not the truth that Republicans don’t make the case that the parties are the same. Um, is the RINO extinct?

What we’ve seen over the last seven years, if not a lot longer, is that conservative voters are not ideological; they are tribal. This is why Donald Trump is doing so well. These Republicans don’t care about policy, they care about chest thumping. And that is why they think there really is no difference between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Sure, the policies would be quite different. But they would both be standard issue establishment types who would treat the presidency as an office with a history and norms that ought to be followed. They are not, in other words, revolutionaries. (Note: I could make a case that Bush would, in fact, be a revolutionary and that his brother most definitely was.)

This all takes me back to 2011 when I was at the Sonoma County Fair and came upon the local booth for the Republican Party. And the biggest sign they had up was a “No RINO” sign. A RINO, of course, is a “Republican In Name Only.” This was the local GOP establishment and in a fairly liberal area: not just California, but one of the most liberal parts of California. You would think they would be interested in moderate Republicans. But no, they were holding the fort for the conservative revolution coming any day now.

If it appears to Krugman that Republicans don’t fall into the trap of thinking the two parties are the same, it is probably because the Republican Party has been so successful at banishing all RINO from being competitive for major offices.

Democrats have an equivalent term: DINO. But it appeared after and in response to RINO. But what it all means is that for Republicans, there really is “no big difference” between the vast majority of their candidates and the Democrats. That’s what purity is all about. This is why the Republican establishment brooks almost no variance from orthodoxy. It’s funny that people talk about how the establishment has lost control of the presidential race. Even the great Republican populist Donald Trump had to put out by far the most regressive tax plan in order to shore up his credentials.

If it appears to Krugman that Republicans don’t fall into the trap of thinking the two parties are the same, it is probably because the Republican Party has been so successful at banishing all RINO from being competitive for major offices. The conservative columnists at The New York Times would never claim that the Democrats and Republicans are the same. But we can’t go by that!

The more pure their party has become, the more paranoid the Republicans are about RINO in their midst. Last September, Free Republic published an article, John Boehner Caught Conspiring With Nancy Pelosi. It’s not a minor outlet. And the article tells us, “Functionally, there is absolutely no difference between Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.” Clearly, at least one columnist doesn’t get out enough.

And it’s funny that Krugman would think that it is only Democrats who think the parties are the same given that he has been so prominent in the Clinton-Sanders war. But maybe that’s what’s blinding him. He’s so worried about the Sanders supporters that he can’t see the wider reality. But if he thought about it, he’d see that what’s going on is just that the Democratic base is having a fight over whether the party will be liberal or slightly more liberal. Sanders isn’t demanding purity and he surly isn’t saying that Clinton is the same as Bush. And neither are any prominent Sanders supporters. I do wish people would stop basing reality on Twitter and Facebook arguments.

But here’s something that I run into all the time in arguing politics with conservatives. Because I’m pretty knowledgeable about this stuff and I’m not arguing with Greg Mankiw, I destroy conservatives in these arguments. And their fallback is always, “Well, they’re all the same!” When I was a libertarian, and I made my fine tuned arguments against liberals, they never ended by claiming, “Well, they’re all the same!” So among the extremists on both side, you will hear that there is no difference between the parties. But it’s primarily in the Republican Party where you will hear ordinary voters making that claim.

Of course, Democrats have recent history to remind them:

Afterword: Michelle Goldberg and the RINO

Note that Goldberg’s argument here is still largely wrong. This is a video that Democrats need to watch. But pretty much everything she says about Democrats is true of Republicans. It is not “a particular pathology of the left.”

Morning Music: Lonely at the Top

Randy Newman Live - Lonely at the TopWhen I first went to college, I discovered the album, Randy Newman Live. I loved it and most especially the song “Lonely at the Top.” There was something particularly wonderful and casual about it — just a man and his piano. It effected me in the same way that a lot of old blues does. I like the lack of production. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t like music production. It is just a kind of craftsmanship that is designed to hide the fact that the core art is soulless.

The album was recorded at The Bitter End. I remember in 1995, my girlfriend (eventually wife) took me to New York. She introduced me to all of these places that were mythical to me because of the music I had listened to — places like CBGB and The Bottom Line. (The Mudd Club had closed years earlier.) But what I most remember is walking into The Bitter End. That was it?! This tiny hole in the wall?! No wonder Randy Newman Live sounded so intimate; there probably weren’t more than 30 people in the audience. According to Wikipedia, it has a 230 person capacity. I find that hard to believe. Maybe you could get that many people in if you took out all the tables and people stood.

Frank Sinatra and “Lonely at the Top”

Anyway, Newman apparently wrote “Lonely at the Top” about and for Frank Sinatra. Not surprisingly, Sinatra refused to do the song — just as he refused to do any of Elvis Costello’s songs. I think it would be different today. In 1971, Sinatra certainly would have thought that he was making a fool of himself. Today, he would understand that it made him look cool and showed that he was in on the joke.

Of course, Elvis Costello really did admire Frank Sinatra. With “Lonely at the Top,” Randy Newman is firing straight at Sinatra, and I don’t really think he means it in a nice way. But it’s a damned funny song.

Anniversary Post: Kyoto Protocol and the End of Global Warming

Kyoto ProtocolOn this day in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol went into effect. And global warming was solved!

That image there on the left shows buy into the treaty. It was basically Europe. Of the advanced economies, the one really standout there is the United States — land of blind, home of the selfish.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was far more successful than the Kyoto Protocol because each country set its own targets. Here’s the interesting thing about all this: those countries that address climate change are going to find themselves rewarded economically. It’s funny to listen to the Republican wonderboy Marco Rubio talking about how he’s the future, when he is more stuck in the past than my 83 year old father.

But it looked like the Supreme Court was set to mess up even this recent agreement in Paris. And then Antonin Scalia went and did the best thing he ever did for the world: he died. You see, the current attack on Obama’s executive actions are in the DC Circuit Court. It has a majority of Democrat appointed judges. That means it will likely find for the administration. (Don’t ever let anyone tell you the courts aren’t political!) And that means that if it goes to the Supreme Court, it will get at most four votes against — a tie. And so the circuit court finding will hold. Thank you so much Justice Scalia!

Who Needs the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement?!

Of course, we are approximately 20 years too late to be doing the little that we are now doing. We are now just over half way through February here in California. Normal rainfall for this month is almost six inches. We’ve only gotten a tenth of an inch this month. And this was supposed to be the big El Niño year. I’m in a constant state of outrage over this. But what are you going to do? There is the fate of civilization and maybe even the species on the one hand. And then there are the short-term profits of already really rich people on the other. I supposed we don’t have to come down on the side of the rich. It’s just our habit.

So the Kyoto Protocol and all other efforts to do something about global warming be damned.