Barry Rubin, a great strategic thinker and cartographer of the emerging post-American world, died today in Tel Aviv. I read him regularly and cited him in After America re the collectively insane urge of almost everyone Nidal Hasan encountered as he wafted upwards through the US Army to look the other way and not see what was staring them in the face:
As the writer Barry Rubin pointed out, Major Hasan was the first mass murderer in US history to give a PowerPoint presentation outlining the rationale for the crime he was about to commit. And he gave it to a roomful of fellow army psychiatrists and doctors - some of whom glanced queasily at their colleagues, but none of whom actually spoke up. And, when the question of whether then Captain Hasan was, in fact, "psychotic", the policy committee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center worried "how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents".
I remember when I read Rubin's line about the PowerPoint presentation. Many of us had been groping in the same direction, but he was the one who came up with the perfect, piercing image for the madness that was going on. He did that a lot, right up to the end. Rest in peace.
Rest in peace also, Philip Seymour Hoffman, found dead yesterday on the floor of his apartment with a needle in his arm. Scaramouche says she liked him because he "looked like a regular shlub". I know what she means - he was a big shambling guy in a Hollywood of insipid cookie-cutter child-men - but I liked him not because he was "regular" but because he was irregular. He didn't look like a "movie star", he looked like himself - in the way that Edward G Robinson looked like Edward G Robinson. His girth was versatile: He stood out in The Talented Mr Ripley because, paradoxically, he looked like he belonged in the story - unlike Matt Damon. It was a confident, Ivy League, American-abroad Grand-Tour-sized girth. But then watch him in The Ides Of March, the George Clooney pic from a year or two back about the machinations of political staffers on a presidential campaign. It's a different kind of girth - harrassed, clammy, too many long days and late nights and hurriedly grabbed cheeseburgers.
He was a terrific actor, always watchable even in misconceived rubbish (Pirate Radio). Kathy Shaidle calls his death "a sad reminder that your addiction is always waiting quietly, in that dark corner, to pounce again. It's never 'gone'." He could have played Rob Ford in the biopic, but in this case, pace Marx, comedy repeated itself as tragedy. The details of his death - the attendant paraphernalia - has a sad and pathetic quality, in the proper sense of that word. He was in a different league from the similarly self-detonating Heath Ledger, whose performance as the Joker I found almost unwatchable. Hoffman was a rare and great talent, but, if you die young, you have to have done enough. And, for all those great supporting roles, he didn't leave quite enough behind: It's hard to imagine Turner Classic Movies 20 or 30 years down the road programming a day-long retrospective. And that too is a tragedy.
In the midst of death there is life - or there is until Al Gore shows up. The former vice-president took part in one of those interminable Davos snoozefests on climate change. There were the usual not so subtle hints to get in line: "We need," he said, "to put a price on denial in politics." From my own experience, the price - at least in terms of legal bills - is already quite steep, but no doubt more can be done. Gore's other big idea was a call for "fertility management" in the Third World - ie, he wants rich white people to ensure that blacks breed less. Is there nothing environmentalism can't make respectable?
Finally, on a rather glum start to the week, after heroin overdoses and Al Gore eugenics programs, the blogger and world-renowned ovine-fornication specialist M J Murphy (Big City Lib) has wandered out of the sheep pasture and spotted up in the clouds a fabulous silver lining:
Is Mark Steyn Doing A Slo-Mo Double Endo Into The Snow Fence Of Failure?