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Movie Review: 12 Strong

This is a good war movie with moments approaching greatness. If you’ve enjoyed Thank You for Your Service, 13 Hours, American Sniper and other movies about the nonstop, unending U.S. military response to the Islamic jihad slaughter on September 11, 2001, you’re likely to appreciate 12 Strong for its pointed depiction of American heroism.

I figured this would be a proper, which is to say relatively straightforward and unfiltered, dramatization from its setup scenes. 12 Strong rightly begins in 1993, when Moslem terrorists first attacked the Twin Towers. Then, to other acts of war on America in 1998 and 2000. So, right off, there’s at least an attempt to provide pretext to the story of 12 heroes who volunteered to deliver America’s first post-9/11 military retaliation, which is one of the few the U.S. got exactly right.

To underscore this unequivocal rightness, the Army team’s single-minded captain (Chris Hemsworth, Thor: Ragnarok) asks the helicopter pilot after the pilot tells him that the aircraft is descending over northern Afghanistan: “On purpose?!” The captain’s short, urgently repeated demand signals the caliber of soldier about to disembark and confront the guerrilla Islamic terrorist state. The band of men do not just listen, obey and follow orders: they make crucial distinctions, take command and act with swift thought and precision, leaving nothing to the aims — and sloth and errors — of others, including those in their own army.

The captain’s leadership is based on study, clarity and reason. From camping his men at an allied Afghan base 40 miles from their terrorist center target to leading the horse soldiers’ charge toward the enemy’s worst weapon, Hemsworth’s captain examines every angle, nuance and trajectory necessary to achieve his goal. Director Nicolai Fuglsig shows fidelity to the essential facts of this hard-fought, extraordinary and, yes, glorious military victory. He doesn’t adorn the movie or characters with frenzied or slow-motion moments of blood splattering and bombs exploding. There’s no showboating. There’s the hard work and grit of men fighting to avenge their country and defend their lives, fortunes and future.

The men include the silent loner (Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight) who becomes the fixation of an Afghan boy. And his opposite, an expressive fighter who once taught history (Michael Pena, Lions for Lambs, The Lucky Ones). Or the team’s chief warrant officer and voice of reason (Michael Shannon, Mud, The Shape of Water). Some of the 12 Strong have wives, some have kids, and most have gripes and doubts, though 12 Strong stays on track and avoids war movie cliches. They all trained for war in the Middle East and they all want nothing less than victory. 12 Strong does not deal with the fact that Bush, Obama (and, so far, Trump) equivocated, appeased and never came close to wiping out states that sponsor Islamic terrorists let alone declaring, waging and winning the war the enemy started.

The Jerry Bruckheimer (and scads of others) produced film, co-written by Peter Craig and Ted Tally and based on the book by Doug Stanton, does, however, allude to U.S. military incompetence. So-called smart bombs fall on the wrong coordinates. There’s an implication about friendly fire (remember Pat Tillman). And then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s bravado, which would thrust America into an unwinnable war in Iraq, gets an apparently and deservedly fact-based dig.

12 Strong focuses, though, mostly on what it takes to render the deadly counterstrike to 9/11. From the Northern Alliance faction leader skillfully portrayed by Navid Negahban to the sharp colonel incisively portrayed by William Fichtner, the team earns and keeps the support of superiors and natives alike to trudge through the passes and trails of the Taliban-run country. Without neutralizing moral judgment on Islam, the religion which motivates the enemy, 12 Strong puts the campaign in clear perspective. Females are slaughtered like American infidels, simply for seeking knowledge. “God is great!” goes the familiar death call as the U.S. first applies its antiquated rules of engagement (which got worse after this campaign). So don’t expect the now-incessant and tired evasion of any mention of what makes the enemy evil. A murderous mullah speaks the truth about his religion.

Also, don’t expect evasion of what makes Americans good. Though 12 Strong is a good, not great, war movie depicting soldiers in a particularly grueling combat, and I do wonder whether the team declined to wear helmets throughout the battles and trek, the two-hour film lets its heroes shine.

Thankfully lacking vulgarity, and with a stirring gallop to answer the Flight 93 passengers’ call to arms, “Let’s Roll”, 12 Strong is the inspiring tale of the twelve soldiers who rolled. They did it weeks after America was attacked in New York City and Washington, DC.  They did in weeks what experts projected would take two years. This combat picture shows that twelve men rolled with the thunderous strength and purpose that America and Americans deserved. It pretty much ended there. It hasn’t happened since. 12 Strong demonstrates with power and skill that this victory did happen.

Movie Review: Phantom Thread

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark, brooding horror-comedy Phantom Thread lets you in on its essential theme in the opening shots. Drawings and pictures of elegant women’s clothes from when women wore clothes that accentuate the female figure appear. Then, comes a preview of the point of the movie: a musical note (well, what the audience is supposed to discern as a musical note, anyway) which becomes a loud, irritating audio distortion which can only be described as noise.

Sonic assault fits the darkly comic, ponderous soap opera film. Phantom Thread invites you for its sumptuous designs and treats you to dastardly deconstruction. All this while masquerading as an important movie with something important to show and say about the artisan and his creations, romantic relationships and life. “It’s comforting to think that the dead are watching over us,” one character says as plainly as possible in this frank exercise in depicting an eccentric fashion designer’s days and nights.

This is as profound as Phantom Thread gets.

The lead character, a designer named Reynolds Woodcock, is portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Lincoln, The Last of the Mohicans) in his first role since 2012’s surprisingly good Lincoln. It’s also his re-teaming with Anderson, with whom he worked on the similarly campy and utterly empty 2007 diatribe against capitalism, There Will Be Blood. This time, Anderson (Magnolia) carefully lays out his case against the creator in finer strokes.

The result is as cutting and comical as that other film, intentionally or not. Day-Lewis, in what he says is his final movie performance, is toned down, letting co-stars and the movie’s other central parts — costumes, score, cinematography — shine. And they do, they really do. Pictures from the back of a car traveling to an idyllic hotel overlooking the waterfront take the audience into a new and inviting world of dressmaking and design. The dresses, threading and stitching are lavishly featured in 70mm. Jonny Greenwood’s mostly nonstop musical score distracts from the nothingness as intended. Vicky Krieps (A Most Wanted Man) as a clumsy, young waitress half Woodcock’s age delivers an even performance, portraying a woman who turns good fortune into a wicked, conniving and manipulative act of sadism. Lesley Manville (Mr. Turner) stands out as the designer’s arch accomplice.

Though it touches on sexual perversion and what it means to take advantage of a delusional man of ability putting woman on a pedestal, which might have made an interesting cultural and character study, ultimately Phantom Thread is putting us on. The put-on starts with Woodcock’s syrupy come-on lines to the waif — he removes her red lipstick on a creepy first date with “now, there’s the real you” and later has her caked in red lipstick for fashion modeling — and cascades down from there. Factor Woodcock’s seriously disturbing mother complex into this puzzle, too, and midway through Phantom Thread, you start to wonder if this is another remake of Psycho. But Kriep’s waif, who apparently has no family and nothing else to do, schemes her way to fulfilling the masochist’s unspoken fantasy.

Costumes, transitions and pacing are fine. Harriet Sansom Harris (Bebe on Frasier) does a wonderful turn as a patroness of the arts in a pivotal plot point. Scenes of Woodcock at work, which means thinking, drawing and dressmaking, are well done. A running joke about his intolerance for distraction lightens the mood. But, from the nubile waif’s early reference to the sixtysomething designer as a boy to the final scenes of complicity in sado-masochism as Anderson’s view of romantic love, Phantom Thread‘s master-pupil depiction too pertly delivers its vacant point that, in the end, everyone gets all dressed up with no where to go.

Movie Review: The Post

The Post manufactures its own spin on the true story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, thousands of copied top secret pages disclosing the U.S. government’s systematic deception over the Vietnam War, to fit what redounds to a feminist perspective. This drama by Steven Spielberg (E.T.) may be the first major post-sexual harassment claims hysteria movie, given its director’s stature, though the proto-feminism of Star Wars: The Last Jedi arguably merits that distinction. If you can stand this shift, which tilts the movie’s plot, performances and theme, The Post capably depicts brave and decent acts of journalism.

But The Post is not Mr. Spielberg’s best work and, unlike the dignified Lincoln or like his tunnel-visioned Bridge of Spies or his dismal Munich, it lacks crucial context and essential dramatic points. As Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Meryl Streep is, as usual, overly mannered, this time to distraction. Her Graham is less like a real human being and more like Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Kramer Vs. Kramer, Into the Woods), all facial tics, fidgeting and halting, breathy playacting. It’s one of her worst performances and that’s saying something because Streep is already the most overestimated actress of our time. Tom Hanks (Sully, Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan), on the other hand, in the less showy role, performs as well as can be expected as Kennedy crony and Post editor Ben Bradlee. Hanks is largely confined to what amounts to impersonation, a few mini-speeches and gruff concern, hobnobbing and consternation. Both leading actors give the net impression with this script that this is not at all how Graham’s and Bradlee’s decision-making and conferences over publishing the historic papers really happened.

An opening ambush scene in the wet jungles of Vietnam provides the only hint at what ought to drive any serious movie about Daniel Ellsberg’s act of defiance against the government to reveal shocking truths about what the military and executive branch knew was a futile, unwinnable war in Indochina. But other than tossed in references to soldiers, the heft of what values were at stake in 1971 are never sufficiently dramatized to the necessary degree.

What’s left is a sometimes stagy, sometimes skillful, newspaper suspense about the urgency of exercising the right to free speech (in this case, defying the status quo with the free press). The Post scores its best scenes when depicting the incestuous connection between members of the press and government officials, an incestuous link which climaxed under the Obama administration, the presidency which most closely resembles the Nixon presidency depicted here, not just because of the readily apparent parallels with Obama’s stubborn, anti-American, horrifying persecution of journalists, Apple and the heroic Edward Snowden.

Streep’s Graham is rarely shrewd or intelligent, which strikes me as far from the truth. For a widow who inherits her wealth, she chiefly spends most of her time plagued by self-doubt, which makes her sudden, abrupt decision to publish the papers seem more strikingly random and emotional, at least as portrayed by Streep. Her defining characteristic is her comfort with cronyism, complete with parties and lunches with big shots such as the former secretary of defense (Bruce Greenwood, Eight Below) most responsible for the highly irrational Vietnam War quagmire. Graham’s best line — “it’s my company” — goes completely unearned on The Post‘s terms. There’s not a single moment or scene in which she shows real interest in the creative byproduct of her newspaper, let alone making money from it.

Details of the tense hours leading to the article’s publication provide some of The Post‘s most compelling drama, though it’s muted by the focus on Graham, which takes up most of the screen time. Long takes of dogged research and lawyering at Bradlee’s home, where his wife and kid serve sandwiches and lemonade (reducing Sarah Paulson to wifely, if empathetic, sisterhood), sustain interest in these makeshift smoke-filled rooms. But newsroom scenes are dreadfully dull and uninspired, as if Mr. Spielberg consciously avoids comparison to All the President’s Men and other newspaper-driven movie classics. The Washington Post‘s competition with the New York Times similarly gets drifted (read the truth of the Pentagon Papers publication, including the Times‘ great Abe Rosenthal, here) in the Bradlee-Graham vs. old boy network paradigm shift.

The Post is not a bad movie. There’s a plot, benign characters with a sense of purpose and clear progression. But what drives the tale of reporting the Pentagon Papers in defiance of the state and the recent history of a whistleblower and those who amplified his whistling are too obviously and conveniently — and much too histrionically — downsized and revised to depict what should be spine-chilling drama. And isn’t.

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

For a flash of lush, bright and melodic, poetic pop romanticism, nix the season’s Star Wars mumbo jumbo and opt for entertaining escapism stocked with good-looking idealists singing, dancing and performing in Fox’s gorgeous and spectacular The Greatest Showman. This is the season’s tonic of cheerful optimism to offset the dark, mediocre, macabre movies this fall and winter.

The songs, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, 2016’s best movie, La La Land), whose songwriting gets better with every project, power and occasionally outshine the story with percussive, propulsive music. Strong melodies, more meaningful and memorable than the songs in Coco and Moana, serve the material, though the smooth staging takes getting used to. So, it’s best to arrive early, sit back and go with it. This is a simple story about a man who wants to put on a show and make audiences happy, so don’t expect religion, ghosts, monsters and hardship, loss and misery lurking beneath the surface.

It’s neither as polished and tight as La La Land nor as brilliant as the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals, such as Oklahoma!, South Pacific and The Sound of Music, though philosophically The Greatest Showman, written by Bill Condon and Jenny Bicks, is as unabashedly romantic as Oklahoma! This alone makes the movie a remarkable achievement in today’s rotten culture. It’s enough to make you want to forgive the fast-moving film its artificiality, flaws and lack of characterization. Circus performers, animal acts and other plot details get short shrift. Someone in the circus sings a reference to a clown but I didn’t see a single clown in the show.

But what a show. The screen bursts with color, light and striking visual scenes of song, dance and action. This idealized version of P.T. Barnum’s life is a marvelous depiction of early 20th century America and, like a repudiation of The Shape of Water, Americanism. Director Michael Gracey has a grand, lavish and cinematic sensibility. His filming of Michelle Williams as Mrs. Barnum is a wonder from every angle. The same goes for his scenes of Zendaya’s acrobatic tease of love interest Zac Efron (New Year’s EveHigh School Musical, Charlie St. Cloud) in an interracial romantic subplot, which works despite an obvious age gap. Efron’s return to the musical is both a departure from his glut of dumb hunk movie roles and something of a reminder of his natural song and dance talent. His duet with leading man Hugh Jackman (Prisoners) as Barnum, “The Other Side”, is magnificent.

“Comfort is the enemy of progress,” Barnum counters Efron’s wealthy producer character, persuading him to trade as a partner in the burgeoning circus and The Greatest Showman‘s assets include an affirmative pairing of same sex business partners, for a change, leading to one of the film’s most emotional moments. The portrayal of the entrepreneur as an undaunted artist and businessman, i.e., the showman, is a throwback to Hollywood’s classic self-made man and the movie’s shockingly innocent, savvy and realistic in this regard.

For example, Barnum’s collection of circus performers, who invite the audience to get their freak on, climaxing in the Best Song-ready anthem “This Is Me”, rally to remind the audience of the risks of facing the muckraking media and the mob. The terrific ensemble, with its bearded lady, tattooed muscleman, dwarf and other “oddities”, also demonstrates the downsides of Barnum’s publicity campaigns. With this much gritty urban conflict, as New York City’s nasty early 20th century types object to Barnum’s self-proclaimed American museum, a euphemism for the movie’s and Barnum’s assimilationism, The Greatest Showman recalls Rent by Chris Columbus, minus Rent‘s anti-capitalist digs.

Yet this Bohemian-spirited The Greatest Showman is no misanthrope and the movie showcases more, giving the audience romanticized trains, cityscapes, opera houses, ballroom dancing, if not nearly enough tightrope walking, horses, lions and elephants. See Barnum come to visit Queen Victoria. See the young lovers roll in the sawdust. See the wife and kids in soft, subdued pink and blue lament of the circus life. When a play for respectability nearly derails Barnum’s goals, themed to the lovely (if not operatic) “Never Enough”, constant inner conflict becomes universal for anyone who’s never been good enough or who never stops wanting more of the good.

The show must go on, goes the cliche. In this dazzling, fabulous and flawed musical, the show stays centered and shines. I can’t stop humming the songs and seeing this movie makes me want to see The Greatest Showman one more time. That’s, as the saying goes, entertainment. Strictly for the closet romantics who’ve ever dreamed of running away to join the show and master and experience the joy of showmanship.

Year in Review: 2017

This year was mixed for me, though I’ve made progress. I know that I’m grateful for the best readers, clients and partners. Though this blog is an informal repository for my thoughts, I covered essential movies, ideas and cultural points this year and I managed to find, explore and examine the good, even the best. But 2017 was the year of the purge, as I argued here, when men of ability, skill and reason, such as studio executive Harvey Weinstein, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Judge Alex Kozinski, were, whatever their alleged crimes and flaws, prejudged, smeared and maligned due to a surge of groupthink based on faith in egalitarianism. This year, it became harder to find the good.

The year began with the death of a talented actress who embodied goodness, tact and restraint, Mary Tyler Moore. MTM was the best. An effort to restore one of Richard Neutra’s most cherished buildings gained my attention for an article published on the Los Angeles Times site. I did an exclusive interview with the writer and director of last winter’s feel-good box office hit Hidden Figures and I previewed a literary study of famous authors’ words and writing patterns, all of which I wrote about here.

The Neutra article lead to an in-depth interview with the architect’s son on the eve of his 90th birthday. I posted about my time with Dion Neutra and other exclusive interviews (i.e., a new head of the Ayn Rand Institute and Lasse Hallstrom on his cinematic tribute to man’s best friend, A Dog’s Purpose) which I covered here. The interracial horror comedy, Get Out, merited a positive — not a rave — review. I reviewed the Oscars, probably for the last time.

Battlestar Galactica‘s original Captain Apollo, Richard Hatch, died this year. Hatch, whom I had met when I was a boy and, again, for an interview as an adult, was a passionate actor and a kind and decent man. Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran released new albums with melody and soul. Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News over claims of sexual impropriety, major media news which started a disturbing trend. I had already warned against jumping to conclusions over claims spread fast and wide via social media when I wrote some time ago about NBC News penalizing anchorman Brian Williams. I returned to the topic again in 2017 to forewarn that mass hysteria over Harvey Weinstein could spread far and fast, too, and not for the good.

Sadly, this is exactly what happened. Prejudice, jumping to conclusions and injustice compounds.

This year, I posted detailed reviews here about the LA TimesFestival of Books and Turner Classic Movies’ Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, which paid homage to TCM host Robert Osborne, who also died this year. I miss Robert O. every time I watch classic movies on TCM.

Unfortunately, cancer was caught again in Olivia Newton-John, who exudes strength, confidence and grace as she keeps recording, performing and healing. Anyone with cancer, or who loves one with this disease, should know about Olivia’s efforts, artistry and example. I wrote Southern California stories for the Los Angeles Times’ local editions on a new center for studying Los Angeles at Occidental College, a new leader in Ayn Rand’s philosophical movement and the shopping center targeted by the Hillside Stranglers, which I linked to and bundled here. I added a number of articles to my backlog, including three previously published articles on Walt Disney’s Bambi, taught my night classes on media and writing and a summer media series for seniors in the park, and posted a 30th anniversary review of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, a review of his classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and a 40th anniversary review of the filmmaker’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

In politics and government, Republicans and the president failed to repeal ObamaCare, so I criticized so-called free market intellectuals for not stepping in to help. To back it up, I offered a detailed proposal in a piece published on Capitalism Magazine about forming a proper starting point in seven steps to exit this monstrous health care law (read it here).

Christopher Nolan’s war movie, Dunkirk, was the year’s first serious best movie contender. I was also impressed with books, new and out of print, which I reviewed in detail: Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty, The Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, biographies of a Soviet spy for Josef Stalin and George W. Bush, Bush, and broadcast journalist Harry Reasoner’s memoirs, Before the Colors Fade.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of my favorite novel, Atlas Shrugged, so I posted my thoughts and a remembrance of my first reading here. I attended some events at an annual conference dedicated to studying and applying its author’s philosophy, the Objectivist Conference (OCON), where I found need for improvement and a reason to celebrate. I wrote about OCON here.

Pittsburgh is the setting for an extraordinary new television series, This Is Us, which I reviewed and recommend, especially for families and those with middle class values. More so for those dealing with cancer, bigotry and alcoholism. I also reviewed and appreciate Wonder Woman (the new Thor sequel, too) but the comics genre is fading. In the absence of great new romanticist works, I prefer the fresh and more subtle humor and thematically more realistic and uplifting stories in depictions such as This Is Us. Sundance TV’s gripping and intelligent microseries Cold Blooded aired this year, too, in what ought to become a new sub-genre of non-fictional true crime programming: a whole perspective which accounts for the lives of the victims.

This summer’s murder in Charlottesville, too, left widespread damage in its wake, and not just from the so-called alt-right or the so-called antifa movements on right and left. The Charlottesville protest was premeditated, coordinated, attacked and, in the aftermath of the president’s ignorant response and the often ignorant reaction to his response, silenced many reasonable Americans into not talking about politics, ideas or dissent about any serious topic. I think this self-imposed suppression of one’s thoughts, writings and speech is a grave mistake. What the West needs now is a more, not less, frequent and persistent exercise of speech.

On the blog, I posted several firsts in 2017. I decided to create a Christmas gift guide on the blog, which turns 10 years old next year. Read my first review of an Alfred Hitchcock movie here. Read my first reviews of Ernst Lubitsch films here and here. I took on the topic of technology’s aggregation — in news and in movie reviews — and I was the first to warn against a rising voice for theocracy, Roy Moore, and on the proper principle.

For the first time, I posted reviews of LA stage productions: The Rainmaker and Driving Miss Daisy. Both of these plays had long ago been adapted for the screen, the latter as Oscar’s Best Picture winner for 1989 (the subtly integrationist movie could never win in today’s lynch mob atmosphere). Other adaptations or revivals this year, besides Thor and Wonder Woman movies, include an entertaining screen version of Stephen King’s novel, It, which is the year’s most unanticipated box office success, Denis Villenueve’s Blade Runner 2049, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour and the Dionysian Call Me By Your Name.

That last film, like Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, does not depict a love story, contrary to its raving critics’ assertions. Like 2016’s Moonlight, which initiated this trend of overestimating moodily immersive movies of style more than substance, the visually striking or appealing movies lack depth and/or coherence. The same is true of another of 2017’s hit movies, Disney/Pixar’s animated Coco, and this year’s entry in the annual Star Wars debut, The Last Jedi.

Better, deeper movies this year focus on the individual of superior ability: the biting and judgmental (as against pre-judgmental), I, Tonya; the enjoyable Battle of the Sexes; the poignant Thank You for Your Service and the story of the young, principled lawyer who would become a judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall. Note that each of these films essentially dramatizes known, fact-based events in reality, i.e., naturalism. The more the faith, feelings and fantasy-based movies advance in the culture, the more pressing the need for great works of romantic-realist fiction.

2017 closes with the demise of the American male, amid the deaths of rock’s Tom Petty and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, as a byproduct of clustered, disconnected accusations from an often nameless, faceless clan of claimants that break silence (and contracts) to come forth via publicity campaign, not in a judicial court assuring due process. The movement’s name is similarly flawed and amorphous: Me, Too.

For this year’s Me, Too-ing, few noticed that one of the year’s most popular cultural products, a mediocre Star Wars movie, is made possible by Hollywood’s most powerful woman, Kathleen Kennedy, who originated one of the year’s most ominous cultural acts. Kennedy, who runs Lucasfilm for Disney (currently subsuming Fox), called for creation of a new commission to establish work standards, on the condition that the standards be established by (her words, not mine) college professors, feminists and activists.

In fact, Hollywood’s powerful new women’s group, the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, is in formation. The commission has designated its leader — law professor Anita Hill, who long ago accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment, assertions which were never charged, litigated or substantiated — and the new order for anti-sexual, anti-male rules of engagement is currently underway. Pressure on government to enact rules against speech, conduct and sex in the workplace (and everywhere else) is likely to expand, not contract.

Meanwhile, in lieu of catastrophic threats from jihadist states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the proper role of government — defense, a judicial system, police — shrinks while the state’s improper role expands. For instance, the cost of government-controlled medicine, i.e., ObamaCare-compliant health plans, rises while access and quality of health care plummets. In the past 72 hours, government-controlled lights went out in America’s busiest airport and a government-run train derailed with deadly wreckage in the West. Soon, what you say and do at work could be regulated or influenced by a commission run by a law professor at Brandeis University — an institution which silenced an author who’s a feminist for speaking out against Islamic terrorism — or a government agency, crony or subsidiary.

So, those who think different and speak up face these and other obstacles in the year ahead, which means 2017 ends as a year in which disaster and darkness looms while silence spreads. More and faster than ever, as Ayn Rand forecast over 60 years ago, we are running out of time to save ourselves. This culture of fantasy and faith must be challenged, opposed and countered. This writer does everything I can do to offer tools, stories and fuel for the journey ahead.