Adding Up on Almost Every Count: The Accountant

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Similar to General Accounting Principles (GAP), if filmmakers follow General Filmmaking Principles (GFP) a movie can operate by the books and in most cases be successful both financially and as entertainment for its audience.

The Accountant is an exciting genre film that while not overtly appearing to do so – follows virtually all of the GFP. The Accountant is a Super-hero film for Adults that is not dragged down by all the branding, licensing, and cross-promotional baggage brought on by an association with D.C. or Marvel Comics.  Although it should be noted that I would like to receive an Official The Accountant Pocket Protector ™ and a Official The Accountant Anti-Tank Rifle ™ from Santa for Christmas.

From a checklist perspective, The Accountant has an intriguing base storyline and sub-plots that are added and well extended. The Accountant has primary and secondary characters who’s roles are well developed.  The Accountant has music and sound properly blended into the film.  The Accountant has excellent acting and direction.

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo, The Town) is outstanding as the lead character – Christian Wolff. Wolff has an affliction that our society has a hard-time diagnosing and understanding – let alone treating correctly.  Affleck exhibits the traits of this affliction with superb effect.  The filmmakers seize this affliction, embrace it, and weave it and its implications into The Accountant with the precision a bespoken suit-maker.

As with any good Super-Hero feature there are supporting roles – almost all well played in this film. There is the good-guy, good-guy-bad-guy, bad-guy-good-guy, conflicted-guy, observer-chaser-guy, at-risk-needs-protection-guy, and of course the role-becomes-obviously-clear-at-the-end-and-you-should-have-seen-it-coming-guy.  Guy in this definition is both male and female.

As with any Super-Hero film the story and characters should not be scrutinized too deeply or for very long – as it will lead to the uncovering of holes, gaps and worst off  – your loss of suspended disbelief.  So yes, the bad-guy is going to do something at the end that makes absolutely no sense and leads to their demise. However, the film The Accountant is bad-ass good entertainment and I would see it a 2nd time in theaters.

 

No Ride is Too Long if it Involves Jackson Browne

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Jackson Browne and Greg Leisz (right) at the Morrison Center in Boise.

Linda and I took in the Jackson Browne Acoustic Solo Performance in Boise on Thursday night October 13, 2016 at the Morrison Center in Boise, Idaho.  Both of us love his music and the acoustic format enhances the listening experience (at least for me) exponentially. Thursday’s concert was our 2nd of his current tour – as we attended a performance in Reno, Nevada in June as well.  Instead of playing solo, Browne is joined by long-time associate Greg Leisz – a wonderful and pleasant development.

It should be noted that with the exception of a run to the store (10 miles out and back), a trip to and or from our home in Idaho is by definition Destination Travel.  As most of you know first-hand our regular 154 mile (one way) commute to Boise includes traversing the 100 mile Camas Prairie section of the actual Oregon Trail (US 20).  After 30+ years, I remain enamored with this drive for which I never tire.  Historians tell me the current driving conditions and modes of transportation are materially safer and improved upon from the Oregon Trail’s hey-dey of 1873.

Linda and I have attended Browne concerts since the 1970’s and together since the 1980’s. Truth be revealed we have used Jackson Browne and his music as a means to travel for over three decades.  Need to see the family in Kansas City?  Plan it around a Browne concert! Want to take in a professional ball-game?  Is Jackson touring?  Yes, well let’s take in both.  Want to go to Winery?  Oh… Browne will be performing there was well!  Want to visit a city or region?  What a coincidence… Jackson will be performing their in a few months.  Music in a interesting setting? – Mississippi River Gambling, a former prison, music venues that are national historic sites, effectively a private party – hey why not with Jackson Browne!

One thing I am finding of interest is that the age of Browne’s audience at these concerts ranges from the 20’s to the 80’s – with Linda and I approaching the end of our 50’s.  That is a big spread.

Browne is the consummate first-person performer.  He connects to his audience with small reflective insights that feel personal and directed to you specifically.  Sure it is showmanship, but effective no less.  So when Browne makes fun of himself about the closeted nature life on the tour and how it was obliterated by the natural beauty of Idaho – to his absolute surprise – you take him at his word.

Browne is also a master of modifying the music to be performed based on the taste, inclination and request of the audience.  To use a sports metaphor, Browne almost always seems to be in the zone – even when he is tour weary – as he was in Boise.  So when Linda yells Fountain of Sorrow,  Browne actually turns his head, tilts it sideways in acknowledgement, smiles, changes instruments, and plays the requested song.  The beauty of this approach is that the concert goer gets the standard classics but also the album oriented songs of their choice.  On this night that includes Browne playing – at the request of someone in the crowd – The Naked Ride Home.  And therefore with Jackson Browne – for us at-least – no ride is too long.

A Thriller which Just Happens to be About a Disaster Film

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The film Deepwater Horizon is best categorized as a Thriller that coincidentally is about a disaster – not a Disaster Film.

The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Airport – these films are the standard bearers of Hollywood Disaster Films.  Thank goodness Deepwater Horizon is not a Disaster Film or we would be forced to see Helen Hayes sweetly encourage people to jump into the firery water.

Deepwater Horizon is a Thriller and a highly watchable one at-that. Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) and based on the New York Times reporting of the worst ecological event in our history, Deepwater Horizon stars Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Pain & Gain, Lone Survivor), Kurt Russell (Bone Tomahawk, Silkwood, Escape From New York), John Malkovich (Of Mice and Men, In The Line of Fire, Rounders), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) and Gina Rodriquez in her first principle role in a film.

Deepwater Horizon can be broken down into two acts. The first act sets up the situation and the second deals with the immediate implication of the disaster itself. The initial scenes of the main characters getting ready for their tour of duty are the weakest point in the film.  The dialog and settings are monochromatic and perfunctory.  One in particular, I found – quite frankly – to be gratuitous and not worthy of the rest of the film.

The best parts of the film are presented in detail and with relative accuracy during the build up to the disaster event.  The film does a superb job of taking the time to show in understandable terms, the huge and multi-varied challenges and pressure associated with a major exploration project.  These projects are big money and big risk. It could be argued that Deepwater Horizon is a bit long with the background and technical details of the project. However, this technical background and the revealing of humans operating under monetary, political, and the contractual pressure makes the actual disaster and its causes better understood.

The disaster on the Oil Rig is pretty devastating.  The challenges presented to the staff on the Oil Rig are formidable and presented with a manner that feels fairly believability.  The film closes rather quickly and does not fall victim to forcing too much preachiness down the viewers throat.  The real life heroes and villains and their updated story are presented in the credits.

Father Knows Best

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The film Blood Father is an interesting take on a dad protecting his daughter in her time of need. Blood Father is a taught, well acted, funny, ironic, somewhat bloody, and nicely paced thriller that takes 88 minutes start to finish.

Blood Father does not feel particularly original, but it also does not feel lamely derivative.  Why?  Blood Father is straight-shooter (literally) created by professionals who chose to make an independent feature.  Blood Father is written by Peter Craig (The Hunger Games Mockingjay 1&2, The Town) and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton) and directed by Jean-Fancois Richet (Assault on Precinct 13, Mesrine).  They know how to make films of this genre and send you home feeling you easily got your money’s worth.

Blood Father stars Mel Gibson (Mad Max, The Bounty, Forever Young, Lethal Weapon), Erin Moriarty (The Kings of Summer, True Detective, Captain Fantastic) and William H. Macy (The Cooler, Shameless).

Given Gibson’s off screen issues (the list is long and offends many) and his relationship with the Hollywood establishment (the list is equally as long and offends as many) Gibson could be characterized as persona non grata when it comes to major production releases.  So Blood Father is not a major Hollywood film.  However, this does not mean Gibson is no longer a capable actor (or Producer for that matter).  Quite to the contrary, Gibson is superb in Blood Father.  Link is an ex-convict, recovering alcoholic, living on the very edge of the grid of society who is estranged from his daughter and is simply trying to lay low and get to the next day on earth without incident.  This role is square in Gibson’s wheel-house.  Gibson as Link is clearly a character, but does not play the role as a chariacture.  Moriarty as Link’s daughter Lydia is highly convincing.  The script and Moriarty’s performance afford you the opportunity to completely dislike, give a second chance and then cheer for Lydia – all with good reason.  Gibson is often even better (in his role) when he has a partner as a sometime foil.  Blood Father and Moriarty fit the bill.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Because Blood Father is not a Major Hollywood release the Producers also made a deal with DirectTV/OnDemand to be purchased during its theatrical release.

Gibson narrates Blood Father in similar style as Payback (1999).

The Gibson produced Get The Gringo (2012) was one of my favorites of the year.

Forever Young is the highly watchable film co-starring Jamie – Lee Curtis, directed by Steve Miner, and written by JJ Abrams that showcases the other type of character Gibson plays to perfection – happy-go-lucky.

Steady at the Helm – Sully and the Number 35

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As a film Director Clint Eastwood chooses to be steady and follow conventional paths.  This approach has served him (as a Director) and us (as viewers) well. As an Actor Tom Hanks knows how to play the common-man under duress who ultimately possesses uncommon stamina, staying power and heroic traits.  Combine these two with the story of Chesley Sullenberger and you end up with a film almost all movie goers would say is engaging.

Sully includes a forced water-landing – not a crash according to Sullenberger – in its storyline, but the focus of the film lies elsewhere.  Screenwriter Tom Kormanicki (Prefect Stranger, Resistance) using the book Highest Duty by Sullenberger and the late Jeffrey Zazlow (60 Minutes), centers on the people and events associated with Sully before and after the crash. Kormanicki’s script creates a narrative and voice that is as steady as Eastwood’s directing and Hanks acting.  Sully presents second guessing and challenges to overcome – prior to and after the crash – both internal and external.  These aspects make for the creative drama in Sully.  Some you will expect to see revealed, others you might find surprising.  The result is a film that feels human.

Eastwood’s Directorial treatments as it relates to the female character have never been his strength.  Historically women are either weak and needy or wicked and conniving in almost all Eastwood directed films and it shows again in Sully. The terrific actress Laura Linney is portrayed as a monochromatic needy plot device.  This role and performance feel perfunctory in nature and almost plug and play in execution.

The record books show the air-event took 202 seconds from lift-off to forced landing and the rescue took 24 minutes.  There are 35 seconds of which will prove crucial on a number of fronts.  These 35 seconds are played to perfection in terms of movie timing and if you pay close attention depicted correctly to the second.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Traditionally if Eastwood skimps or lacks focus to detail on anything in a film – it is location and production values. This is not to say, Eastwood is Ed Wood Plan Nine from Outer-Space bad – but he aint’ the industry’s visionary and leader on this front. However, Sully is a pleasant surprise in this respect.  The aircraft, crash and rescue scenes in Sully are pretty compelling.

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The Cockpit scene in Plane Nine from Outer-Space uses the exact same shower-curtain my brother Roger had in his apartment while in college.

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My brother Dave says turn over the salad plate and coffee cup of 1950’s everyday china and you have the invasion scene in Plan Nine from Outer-Space.

I tip my hat to Clint on the 35 second thing.  Yet, I love films that have timed detonations or time/space sequences where in supposedly real-time film action the event takes longer (or shorter) than the countdown period or logical distance.  In other words the 10 minute countdown takes 45 minutes in supposedly real-time action on film or the one-mile run takes 11 seconds.  The record setter for creative license on this front?  The Fast & Furious 6.

I believe, the otherwise fabulous and over-the-top 13 minute and four second Russian Transport Airplane takeoff on the runway scene sets the industry standard.  The longest paved runway in the world is in China (3.4 miles in length) and the takeoff scene is not set at the runway in China.  However if you do the math, the runway in the film is almost 29 miles in length.  Talk about government project overruns?

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The 21 Lake Tour – 56 Hours Off Trail and 28,000 Vertical Feet

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Jeff Lubeck paddles on Warbonnet Lake.

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21 Lakes Route. Inset the Sawtooth Wilderness. Map © EB Phillips – all rights reserved. Overlay Jeff Lubeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Redfish Lake drainage in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) situated between the towns of Stanley, and Ketchum Idaho is a geologic masterpiece.  No doubt about it.

Most people call the south end of the lake and the first few miles of the trail on Redfish Lake Creek Shangri-la. Buttressed by Elephants Perch on the south and Braxon Peak on the north it is easy to understand the claim.

For the vast majority of day hikers – Flatrock Junction – the 3.75 mile one-way trip from the south end of the lake on the Redfish Creek trail is the farthest travel distance.  It is a wonderful thing to experience.

For the hearty hiker an additional leg – up the steep but exceptionally well constructed trail – to Alpine Lake and on to the Baron Divide encompassing 6.5 miles one-way – is worth every single ounce of energy.  The journey is memorable.

For the over-night trail oriented back-packer a superb trip is 18 mile round-trip to and from Cramer Lakes.  Complete this trip and you can look locals in the eye with a gentle nod of acknowledgment.

But Wait There is More…

However, these trips are is simply the start of the treasure to be found and enjoyed in this region of the Sawtooths.

For me and my regular teammates Chris and Sara Lundy of Sawtooth Mountain Guides we establish an additional level of adventure and fun is to be had by venturing off-trail and cross-country to the south and west of the aforementioned trail-bound trips.

This adventure takes 61 hours – of which only four hours and 7.5 miles will be be on-trail. It encompass 21 lakes, climbing three high elevation passes, covering three drainages and summiting Reward Peak. As an added part of the adventure the team floats on the three highest lakes in a Alpaca Raft.

The 21 Lake Tour represents the ninth photo-shoot the team has performed together over the past few years. The photo-shoot takes place from Thursday August 25th through Sunday August 29th. The photo-shoot starts and ends at the wonderful Redfish Lake Lodge.

The challenges on this photo-shoot are many. On the first day the smoke from the Pioneer Fire greets the team late in the day at Verita Pass (9,600) which requires crossing over a mile of large boulders at a steep angle from the Baron Creek drainage to the Warbonnet Lake Overlook followed by a 700 vertical foot descent on unstable scree to the lake.

On the afternoon of the 2nd day smoke greets the team as it reaches the Cony Lake and Cony Peak area. We confirm smoke at high elevation is not much fun.

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Sunrise from Cony Lake – Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

On the afternoon of the third day, the last 189 vertical feet to the top of Reward pass requires the teammates to follow each other in lock-step one step at a time on terrain that is best described as sand blasted to a fine grain with little to no foot grip.

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Lake Kathryn (near) and Redfish Lake (distance) from the summit of Reward Peak. Copyright – Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Each of the challenges mentioned above make for a colorful narrative but are easily outweighed in enjoyment by a factor of 100x given the remarkable beauty of the region with virtually no evidence of human impact. And truth be told – the challenges are not really all that tough in the first place.

A Story Rich in Irony about Lean Men in Lean Times: Hell or High Water

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The setting, characters and storyline for Hell or High Water directed by David MacKenzie (Starred Up) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make for a otherwise superb film.  It is a film where the viewer can easily become attached to good guys and bad guys.  Who is ultimately to be viewed as the good and bad is left to the viewer.  Regardless, the viewer understands the position and plight for all involved.

The magic of Hell or High Water is the richness by which every character’s role is presented – small or large.  Each seems to possess and reveal life’s contradictions.  Be it a bank teller who speaks her mind, a waitress who challenges the law, a lawyer helping ensure a plan is executed to perfection and completed with an exclamation point, or a lawman pretending to be an old-coot racist when his heart is really 180 degrees the other way.

In present day West Texas, the have-nots look tired from the day at-hand and life in general. While the have-nots of West Texas are not overtly complaining about their apparent hopelessness they do look to be trying to figure out how to tread-water until their time on earth runs out.

Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is one of the have-nots.  He too has wasted away into something of which he is not necessarily proud.  By nature Toby is a gentle person and considerate of others. He has never committed a crime or is a violent person. However, Toby cannot find steady work, is divorced, behind in child-support payments and about to lose his family’s property via a reverse-mortgage scam given his mother’s recent passing – for which he was her care-giver.  Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is Toby’s older brother.  Tanner stands in about the same spot, but arrived at it through violence and prison time.

Toby has asked his brother to assist him in a plan to square things for his children.  Toby has carefully thought this plan through and Tanner – who will do anything for his brother – knows exactly how to execute it.

The execution of the plan forces the introduction of Texas Rangers into the storyline. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are the team to apprehend the perpetrators.  This case is Hamilton’s last gig, and he wants to finish his career on a good note.

Thus begins the cat and mouse game between the Texas Rangers and the Howard Brothers.  Hell or High Water executes on all cylinders through to competition.  There is no Hollywood ending in Hell or High Water. Simply one that is very interesting.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

The look of the Cowboy and Cow Poke.

In the middle of last century, Hollywood’s version of Cowboys and Cow Pokes from the Old West feature men who are shorter and prettier than the women. Alan Ladd in Shane (1953) Montgomery Cliff in Red River (1948) best come to mind.  Terrific actors, damn handsome, and wearing the best cowboy outfit the Costume Department can produce. A few decades later, Hollywood’s version of present day Cowboys and Cow Pokes were taller, buff, full bodied and often shirtless – think Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.  Chris Pine as Toby Howard is lean, really lean and scruffy.  If you did not know otherwise you would think he was from West Texas.

Location, Location, Location.

Although set in West Texas, principle filming for Hell or High Water was in eastern New Mexico – Clovis, Portales, and Tucumcari.  I have spent a fare amount of time in this region.  The TV Series of the 1950’s Rawhide used similar locations.

Dropping into Born Lakes For A Visit

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One of the Born Lakes with Lonesome Peak in the background.

A hike to Fourth of July and Washington Lakes in the White Cloud Mountains is a relatively short and easy excursion.  It is only 1.75 miles to Fourth of July Lake from the trailhead with minimal elevation gain – a great hike for those that want to wean into trekking in the area.  Beyond and above these lakes lies Antz Basin and Born Lakes – situated in the newly designated Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness Area.  The Born Lakes are just a tick short of 4 miles from the trailhead.  The ascent from Fourth of July Lake junction (9,360 ft.) to the ridge-line (9,970 ft) is short and moderately strenuous.  The trail-bed is of high quality.  The descent into Antz Basin and Born Lakes is shorter and steeper – dropping 587 vertical feet rather quickly. Once in the basin it is a level trip to the lakes.  On this day clouds would gather in increasing levels of darkness but no measurable rain would occur and occasionally the sun would break through for dramatic effect.

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Antz Basin, Born Lakes and the headwaters of Warm Springs Creek in the Boulder White Cloud Wilderness – from the near the ridge-line at 9,970 feet elevation.

Lonesome Peak towers above the lakes to the north and east.  Lonesome lake sits just below the peak and is the last in the magnificent chain of 12 that start with Frog Lake.  The USFS staff says that about four people or less reach Lonesome Lake in any given year with even fewer attempting the Class 3 rock scramble to the summit.  Linda and I are in this small group of people.

Linda and I started the trip alone. However we came upon a gentleman who was part of what would ultimately become a team of volunteers from the Idaho Trails Association that planned on improving the trail in the basin over the next week.  The gentleman’s name is Steve Weston; who is also known as the In The Wild Chef.  Steve’s role was to rehab the trail and also prepare gourmet meals.  Steve’s book [In The Wild Chef: Recipes from Base Camp to Summit] has sold almost 60,000 copies.  We left Steve with the task of having to make Swedish Meatballs (from scratch) for 10 people.  Eight pack mules had already freighted in a good portion of the outfitting.  The 2nd set of mules were about an hour behind with the remainder of gear lead by Executive Director Jeff Halligan and another lead.

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Steve Weston & Linda Lubeck

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Top of the Ridge and Wilderness Border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off the top of the ridge and into the basin. Can you spot Linda Lubeck anywhere in this photo? Where is Linda Lubeck?

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Passing by on the way to the lake. Shae dog (off camera) greets the mules and horses.

 

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First pack on its way.

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Jeff Halligan with his horse and the 2nd pack.

Born Lakes Hike

The route

Fire Near The Cabin in Stanley

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The Dry Creek Fire west of Stanley, Idaho as it crosses State Highway 21 – © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck

While driving from our house in the Wood River Valley to our cabin in the Sawtooth Valley I noticed a large plume of smoke appear near the cabin. As I approached Stanley the plume of smoke got bigger and darker.  Angle and distance can always prove to be deceiving but the fire looked to be extremely close to where we live. As I turned left onto state highway 21 in Stanley a state trooper zoomed past me towards the fire.  I followed the patrol car directly.

The fire now looked to be only a couple of drainages from our cabin.  The patrol car – with me right behind – came upon the fire.  US Forest Service staff were running away from the fire towards patrol car.  It was a wild few minutes.  Our stopping point was a road that leads to my friend Gary O’Malley’s home.  Gary soon approached with everything he could collect from his home as the fire was moving swiftly in his direction.

The next few minutes, hours and days would prove to be hectic.  The story as it appears in the Idaho Mountain Express is located [here].

A Boost from Government or Other Institutions? I don’t need no stinking government or other institutions, I need dignity and freedom to create Betterment!!!

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So you think jobs creation by government, closely held capital available for investment, the grace of benevolent institutions or a single person who states they will serve you well is what makes the world a great place?  No so says Deidre Nansen McCloskey the conservative economist – a key person in the Milton Freeman Chicago School of Economics way of thinking – in her book Bourgeois Equality.

You can read the 650 pages of text and 137 pages of notes in the third installment by McCloskey in this line of thinking – like I did.  However, the bottom-line is that McCloskey proffers that if people are afforded basic human dignity (which has been the norm since 1840-ish) their insatiable appetite to better things (i.e., Betterment) is what has led to a 30-100 times improvement in quality of life.  It is the desire to improve (i.e., quicker, better, faster) that has allowed us to live a life with a remarkable standard of living (and also to take virtually everything that is part of our daily life for granted).

McCloskey is bold and brash. She is willing to critique (often harshly) the hypothesis posited by every well known economist and theorist.  I would pat McCloskey on the back but her hand is already there.  None-the-less Bourgeois Equality is great reading for a geek like me.

My only question for McCloskey?  Then why haven’t the Cubs won the World Series since 1906?