Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

By John Ruberry

Earlier this month the second season of the Luxembourgish crime drama Capitani began streaming on Netflix. 

In the first season, set in 2019, the titular character, gruff and laconic police detective Luc Capitani (Luc Schiltz) arrives in the fictional small northern Luxembourg of town of Manscheid to investigate the murder of an identical twin teen girl. Similar to British crime series Broadchurch, Luc Capitani is confronted by clannish locals who are harboring secrets. Capitani meets an old flame in Manscheid, Carla Pereira (Brigitte Urhausen)–her presence might have been the real reason for his visit to the village.

The following paragraphs contain a Season One spoiler. 

At the end of Episode 12, after solving the case of the murdered twin, Capitani is arrested for the murder of a drug lord that happened years earlier, a crime in which Pereira is entangled in. At the start of Season Two, after serving eighteen months in prison, he is released due to lack of evidence.

Capitani is now working as a private detective in Luxembourg City. A sex worker, Bianca Petrova (Lydia Indjova), calls him to look into the disappearance of another prostitute. Capitani quicky finds her body in a park. It turns out the sex worker hired Capitani at the request of the owner of what is called here a cabaret, but in reality it is a strip club and a brothel. That proprietor is Valentina Draga (Edita Malovcic). After the murder of another prostitute, the owner of a competing cabaret, Gibbes Koenig (André Jung), reaches out to Draga. Each of them has an ambitious son, respectively Dominik Draga (Adrien Papritz) and Arthur Koenig (Tommy Schlesser), who are seeking to expand their operations.

And business is poor. This is the first television series that I have viewed that has incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into its plot. The lockdowns have been devastating to the cabarets and those two sons look to narcotics to make up the difference. Drugs in Luxembourg City are sold openly on the streets by Nigerian immigrants–much in the manner that I’ve witnessed on the West Side of Chicago–while under surveillance of two cops, Elsa Ley (Sophie Mousel), who was Capitani’s unofficial partner in Manscheid, and Toni Scholtes (Philippe Thelen). One of those drug dealers, Lucky Onu (Edson Anibal), is in Luxembourg not to peddle narcotics, but to find his sister, Grace (Jennifer Heylen), another sex worker.

Similar to Clint Eastwood’s character in A Fistful Of Dollars, a work that was based on the Akiro Kurosawa film Yojimbo, Capitani works both sides of the brothel competition. And he hasn’t completely broken ties with the Luxembourg Police. There’s a third angle being played, Capitani is regularly speaking with a senior police official, Pascale Cojocaru (Larisa Faber).

If you enjoy Nordic noir movies and television shows–as I do–you’ll like Capitani. There is no Netflix wokism here, the performances are captivating, and the cinematography succeeds by capturing views of beauty and squalor in Luxembourg City. And the plot keeps you guessing enough to make things interesting. Both seasons have twelve episodes, with each entry lasting around 30 minutes.

Both seasons of Capitani are currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for nudity, violence, drug use, obscene language, and sex. You can watch in the original Luxembourgish with subtitles, although there is much English dialogue here, or in dubbed English.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I have been a huge fan of Thomas Sowell for more than a decade.  I consider him to be a teacher and a mentor, even though I have never met him.  No author was more responsible for my philosophical awakening, which transformed me from a radical leftists to a hardcore Libertarian.

My expectations were tremendously high before I opened the cover of this book, which is a collection of essays.  This great work greatly exceeded my expectations because all of the essays, particularly the title essay, were full of knowledge that completely redefined how I saw the world.  I am an extremely well read history fanatic.  This book contained a wealth of knowledge that was new to me.

For this review I will concentrate on two of the six essays and let quotes from these two essays form the bulk of this article.

Thomas Sowell’s explanation for the cause of the economic, academic, and social disparities between blacks and whites was something most of us, including me, never considered.

The following quotes are from the article Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

External explanations of black-white differences — discrimination or poverty, for example—seem to many to be more amenable to public policy than internal explanations such as culture. Those with this point of view tend to resist cultural explanations but there is yet another reason why some resist understanding the counterproductive effects of an anachronistic culture: Alternative explanations of economic and social lags provide a more satisfying ability to blame all such lags on the sins of others, such as racism or discrimination. Equally important, such external explanations require no painful internal changes in the black population but leave all changes to whites, who are seen as needing to be harangued, threatened, or otherwise forced to change.  In short, prevailing explanations provide an alibi for those who lag—and an alibi is for many an enormously valuable asset that they are unlikely to give up easily

With blacks as with whites, the redneck culture has been a less achieving culture. Moreover, that culture has affected a higher proportion of the black population than of the white population, since only about one-third of all whites lived in the antebellum South, while nine-tenths of all blacks did.”

The burgeoning of the American welfare state in the second half of the twentieth century and the declining effectiveness of the American criminal justice system at the same time allowed borrowed and counterproductive cultural traits to continue and flourish among those blacks who had not yet moved beyond that culture, thereby prolonging the life of a chaotic, counterproductive, dangerous, and self-destructive subculture in many urban ghettos.

White liberals, instead of comparing what has happened to the black family since the liberal welfare state policies of the 1960s were put into practice, compare black families to white families and conclude that the higher rates of broken homes and unwed motherhood among blacks are due to “a legacy of slavery.” But why the large-scale disintegration of the black family should have begun a hundred years after slavery is left unexplained. Whatever the situation of the black family relative to the white family, in the past or the present, it is clear that broken homes were far more common among blacks at the end of the twentieth century than they were in the middle of that century or at the beginning of that century —even though blacks at the beginning of the twentieth century were just one generation out of slavery. The widespread and casual abandonment of their children, and of the women who bore them, by black fathers in the ghettos of the late twentieth century was in fact a painfully ironic contrast with what had happened in the immediate aftermath of slavery a hundred years earlier, when observers in the South reported desperate efforts of freed blacks to find family members who had been separated from them during the era of slavery.

These lengthy quotes are just a tiny fraction of this well documented article.  Sowell traces the history of the Redneck culture from the wild areas of Northern England and Scotland, which was transported by white immigrants to the Southern United States.  He documents the extreme negative effects this culture had on whites and blacks.  Also documented in great detail are the drastic improvements blacks experienced when escaping this destructive culture and how white liberals have made it difficult for blacks to escape.

The next series of quotes are from the article The Real History of Slavery.

It takes no more research than a trip to almost any public library or college to show the incredibly lopsided coverage of slavery in the United States or in the Western Hemisphere, as compared to the meager writings on even larger number of Africans enslaved in the Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa, not to mention the vast numbers of Europeans also enslaved in centuries past in the Islamic world and within Europe itself. At least a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500 to 1800, and some Europeans slaves were still being sold on the auction blocks in the Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States.

From a narrow perspective, the lesson that some draw from the history of slavery, automatically conceived of as the enslavement of blacks by whites, is that white people were or are uniquely evil. Against the broader background of world history, however, a very different lesson might be that no people of any color can be trusted with unbridled power over any other people, for such power has been grossly abused by whatever race, class, or political authority has held that power, whether under ancient despotism or modern totalitarianism, as well as under serfdom, slavery, or other forms of oppression

What was peculiar about the West was not that it participated in the worldwide evil of slavery, but that it later abolished that evil, not only in Western societies but also in other societies subject to Western control or influence. This was possible only because the anti-slavery movement coincided with an era in which Western power and hegemony were at their zenith, so that it was essentially European imperialism which ended slavery. This idea might seem shocking, not because it does not fit the facts, but because it does not fit the prevailing vision of our time

For most of human history, and for nearly all of the non-Western world prior to Western contact, freedom was, and for many still remains, anything but an obvious or desirable goal. Other values and ideals were, or are, of far greater importance to them—values such as the pursuit of glory, honor, and power for oneself or one’s family and clan, nationalism and imperial grandeur, militarism and valor in warfare, filial piety, the harmony of heaven and earth, the spreading of the “true faith,” nirvana, hedonism, altruism, justice, equality, material progress—the list is endless. But almost never, outside the context of Western culture and its influence, has it included freedom. Indeed, non-Western peoples have thought so little about freedom that most human languages did not even possess a word for the concept before contact with the West

I most highly recommend this book to everyone.  It is extremely informative and also a very entertaining read. All quotes are copied directly from this webpage: Black Rednecks and White Liberals Quotes by Thomas Sowell (goodreads.com)

By John Ruberry

Earlier this month Season Six of the BBC gangster drama, Peaky Blinders, began streaming on Netflix.

The show centers on a Birmingham Romani organized crime family, the Shelbys, and the leader of that gang, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). He’s a World War I veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, who manages to build a business empire, while getting elected to Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

This will be the final season of Peaky Blinders, although a movie is said to be in the works.

The next two paragraphs contain some Season 5 and 6 spoilers.

During Season 5 a new major character, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), a Birmingham member of Parliament like Tommy Shelby, is introduced. He’s the founder of a British fascist party–and Mosley was a real person. Shelby’s relationship with Mosley is complicated, which fits the show as the plot lines are anything but simplistic. Shelby’s plot to assassinate Mosley–the real Oswald died of natural causes in 1980–is foiled by the Irish Republican Army. The IRA kills the would-be assassin and other member of the Peaky Blinders, the “muscle” end of the Shelby operation.

While Tommy is the leader of the gang, his aunt, Elizabeth Pollyanna “Polly” Shelby Gray (Helen McCrory), was the glue of the enterprise, formally known as Shelby Family Limited. But McCrory died at 52 of lung cancer in 2021, just as production of this season started. Other than Tommy Shelby, Aunt Polly was the most important character in Peaky Blinders. Her off-screen death was a tough blow for the show. To compensate, the role of Tommy’s sister, Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle), is elevated, but Rundle is placed in an impossible position. Meanwhile, Polly’s son, Michael Gray (Finn Cole), holds Tommy responsible for Polly’s murder.

Also back in Season 5, another new character Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), Michael’s wife, makes her debut. We learn in the new season that Gina is the niece of South Boston gangster Jack Nelson (James Frecheville). He’s a not-too-thinly disguised characterization of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. Like the patriarch of the Kennedy dynasty, Nelson has anti-Semitic and fascist leanings. Calm down my liberal friends, it’s true about Kennedy. With Prohibition over, Tommy and Nelson hope to offset the end of it by smuggling opium into Boston. 

Mosley has a new lover, Lady Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson). She declares herself to Ada, in cruder terms, as a bisexual but she also has her eyes on Tommy. The real Mitfort was the first cousin of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine. Unless this plotline is being saved for the Peaky Blinders movie, I am stupefied why this angle wasn’t developed into the storyline. The future wartime leader, amazingly is portrayed by three actors over the six seasons, makes a cameo appearance in Season 6. 

Season 5 ends and Season 6 begins with Tommy wallowing in mud. And mud is fitting metaphor for this season, while good, falls short of the greatness of Peaky Blinders, although I didn’t care for the Russian diversion in Season 3. The final episode of this last season, nearly 90 minutes long, is the best, as Tommy’s older brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson), emerges somewhat from his alcohol and drug induced haze as the Shelbys face a two-front war. A third front of sorts is there too as Tommy’s marriage with Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) faces challenges. 

In regard to Nelson, Season 6 would have been much more interesting if instead Joseph P. Kennedy was the Boston foil for Tommy.

Surprisingly, while the show continues with a dark and gothic soundtrack, the unofficial theme song, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” is sadly missing. But arguably the worst song Bob Dylan ever recorded, “All The Tired Horses,” covered by Lisa O’Neill, is included.

All six seasons of Peaky Blinders are currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for nudity, drug use, foul language, and violence. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

When one looks back the great artists–and I dislike this term–of the classic rock era of the mid-1960s thru the early 1970s, the usual big names to come to mind, the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan. 

One name–and he just released his 43rd studio album last week–is generally overlooked. And that artist is Van Morrison, also known as Van the Man and the Belfast Cowboy. Oh sure, he’s recorded some memorable hits, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” along with “Moondance” and “Have I Told You Lately.” Before Morrison’s first album, Blowin’ Your Mind, was released in 1967, he was the frontman for Them. That band’s anthemic “Gloria” deservedly appears on many best-ever song lists. 

But Morrison isn’t a much of a self-promoter–he doesn’t do many interviews and he’s not the best media conversationalist–even though Van the Man’s lyrics are generally eloquent and articulate. 

Two years ago Morrison began attracting media attention for his impassioned opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns, which, during the height of them, prevented Van, who turns 77 this summer, from performing live.

Morrison just concluded a short USA tour, a British tour begins Monday. 

In 2020, Morrison released three anti-lockdown songs, “Born to Be Free” and “As I Walked Out,” as well as “No More Lockdown.” That same year Eric Clapton recorded a Morrison-penned anti-lockdown song, “Stand and Deliver.” Clapton, who celebrated his 77th birthday in March, was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. Hey, no reasonable person believes COVID is un-catchable. 

Those anti-lockdown songs led Northern Ireland’s health minister, Robin Swann, to write a Rolling Stone op-ed attacking Morrison, where Swann declared, “Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous.”

Last year in Belfast, after four of his concerts were cancelled, Morrison led a “Robin Swann is very dangerous” chant at a banquet. Because of the chant, Swann sued Morrison.

Which brings us to “Dangerous,” the opening track of Morrison’s brand-new album, What’s It Gonna Take?

Somebody said I was dangerous
I said something bad, but it must’ve been good
Somebody said I was dangerous
I must be getting close to the truth, alright, alright

But Morrison isn’t done with lockdowns, as the first ten songs of this 15-song effort attack COVID-19 restrictions on varying levels.

On the title track, Morrison opines,

Politicians don’t represent the people
Government doesn’t represent us at all
Government takes and ruins all our business
Big tax about to take it all.

In life, I’ve learned that sometimes life is just blah blah blah. Really, because that’s another great tune here, entitled of course, “Sometimes It’s Just Blah Blah Blah.”

How do you like the new normal?
Tell me, how is that going for you?
How did you overcome the restrictions?
How do you handle the news?
Do you still think the government’s not lying to you?
Oh, has the penny dropped yet?
Seems there’s no way out of this impasse
Is it something we’ll live to regret?

What’s It Gonna Take? is absolutely an essential musical release but I suspect it will be savaged by the critics, most of whom are liberals. Morrison’s prior collection, a double album, Latest Record Project, Volume 1, also blew the whistle on lockdown restrictions, as well as social media–quite obviously so on the song “Why Are You On Facebook?” It’s a good album, albeit a bit long, but still far better than the swill that passes as 21st century music. And the critics for the most part hated that Latest Record Project, Volume 1.

As recently as 2017 Morrison described himself as apolitical. Clearly, at least in regards to COVID lockdowns and government overreach, he is now a strident libertarian. 

Rock music, with few exceptions, hasn’t been the soundtrack of rebellion for decades. It’s ironic that the most rebellious rocker today–or perhaps he’s a bluesman?–is a man in his late 70s, the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison.

Here’s one final brilliant lyrical excerpt from Van’s latest album, this time from “Damage and Recovery.”

Snowflakes hiding in their houses
Most of us need to get right back to work
Money doesn’t grow on trees
Jobs don’t thrive on barren ground
Narrow-minded politics
So-called social scientist tricks
Telling lies, they’re meant to be
Watching morons on TV.

There are a couple of references to “Gates,” as in Bill Gates, a COVID-alarmist. A couple of weeks ago, the Microsoft founder and self-appointed virus expert said about COVID-19, “We didn’t understand that it’s a fairly low fatality rate and that it’s a disease mainly in the elderly, kind of like flu is, although a bit different than that.”

Wow. Two years ago, if someone posted that sentence on Facebook or Twitter, they’d probably have their accounts suspended.

Morrison was right in 2020 about lockdowns and Gates was wrong.

There’s a little bit of Van Morrison in all of us. There’s a lot of Van Morrison in all thinking people.

What’s It Gonna Take? is available for download on iTunes and for purchase in the CD format on Amazon, where, as of this writing, the reviews are fairly good. And you can buy it or stream it from the Van Morrison official website.

UPDATE May 31, 2022:

Yesterday multiple United Kingdom news outlets reported that Morrison has turned the tables on Robin Swann. He’s suing the Northern Ireland health minister.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit, he’s married to Mrs. Marathon Pundit. Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately” plays on their wedding video.