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Friday, November 24, 2017

What has happened to you America?

Every time Trump says some moronic thing and people who actually know something about the economy or the government or international relations say it doesn't work like that. And his supporters say, we love him, he speaks for us. But what he says is stupid. And then his supporters cry and say "Don't call us stupid!" and I just think then stop applauding that stupidity. They aren't alternative facts. Most "illegal" immigrants are not actually Mexican rapists and it never actually trickles-down Insisting that it's not an apple doesn't make you misunderstood it makes you misinformed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kingsmen: Golden Circle really sucks

I only went to this movie because my kids were excited to see it. Wow, just too dumb for words.

So retro, but not in a good way. Every female character either sits behind a computer or is there for window dressing. (And one is actually murdered for having sex, like a 1970s horror film, or the third installment of Indiana Jones [that's obviously another commentary altogether].) My point, and I do have one, is: where is the ass kicking which we have come to expect from female good guys in today's film?

And such a waste of the monumental talents of Julianne Moore as the strangely passive drug king pin who frolics around a 1950s themed compound surrounded by the world's most ineffectual henchmen. She schemes, she cooks (!), and she watches events unfold on the screen of her laptop.

It very much has the feel of the Bond movies of the past, and I don't mean that as a compliment: the men race around (we're in London, we're in Kentucky, we're in Italy, we're in Cambodia), dodging bullets as if by magic, while the women wear sexy clothing and make goo-goo eyes at the big strong men. WTH? I have to rewatch Wonder Woman just to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

I appreciate a well placed F bomb as much as the next person, but this movie takes gratuitous swearing to unheard of levels. It's distracting, the way they shoehorn the F word into every scene. (Darling daughter tells me it's the hero's catch phrase . . . fer crying out loud, if that's not the laziest writing in movie history).

And the laws of physics do not apply to this universe, wherever it is. In the obligatory car chase that opens the film, a car smashes into a concrete barrier, but then pulls away without a scratch on the hood. A gondola spins and careens down a snowy slope, the trapped heroes walk away immediately after without any adverse reaction. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

I know it's escapism, but it's the worst possible kind. I really thought that we had entered a new era of action movies, with a more nuanced take on plots, character development, and relationships. This movie is a dinosaur. Bleh.

I gave the movie 2 stars (out of 10) - one for the weird but delightful presence of Elton John (HE gets to kick some bad guy ass!), and one for the weird anti anti-drug message and the mocking of a foolish, small-minded president.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Tom Price is out.
Ryan Zinke is in the cross hairs.
Trump looks like a dolt most days.
His approval ratings are continuing to slip.
Paul Ryan shelved that fucking silencer bill.
Tax reform bill is facing opposition.
Trump does nothing to push Congress on his agenda.
Mueller.

House passed a bill to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks.
Roy Moore is probably going to be a US Senator.
Some of the Supremes are fucking old.

Congress let CHIP funding expire.
Trump administration is undermining ACA.
Crazy white guy shot 58 people (a record!) for no apparent reason.
Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are wrecked.
Trump has 39 more months as president.

The left is doomed

I attended a "teach-in" about Charlottesville at SU tonight. Great speakers - a religion professor talked about refusing to compromise, a white woman talked about growing up in segregated Gainesville FL, a Jewish professor talked about the neo-Nazi resurgence in the US after Trump's election, a black "activist" professor talked about the "religon" of whiteness in America, and a gay professor talked about confronting fascists in NC. It was very inspirational. Then came the Q&A. It was all Jews suck because of Zionism and white people suck because they only hate Trump and they don't understand that black people have been fighting these issues for years and blacks should just go off on their own and fight since whites suck so badly. I ended up in complete despair. If only I had left when the original presentation ended. No wonder the Repugs are kicking our asses - we are too busy stabbing each other in the back while they roll over us and watch us recede in their rear view mirror.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tom's predictions were right

My friend Tom:

How I knew Trump would Win
By Tom Limoncelli

I’ve been predicting that HRC would lose since 2008. I felt that she her negatives were too high to win. In 2008 she ran a sloppy campaign. I could see she learned a lot from that, and adopted a much more thoughtful strategy in 2016, which made me optimistic. I supported Bernie in the primaries and Hilary in the national… but I kept saying that I didn’t think she could win. I became optimistic in the last weeks because of FiveThirtyEight and other sites, but I still felt that she would lose because:

1. HRC’s negatives were too high. Little else matters. The radical right had invested in damaging her reputation for 24 years. The constant mudslinging at her is pretty amazing… they figured out a way to make it profitable and therefore self-sustaining. See the documentary The Hunting of the President http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0391225/ (available on Netflix and elsewhere… it is based on the book by the same title). What makes matters worse: For HRC to create a campaign organization, she had to hire people that had developed the ability to ignore all the mud and conspiracy theories people have made up about HRC (because the conspiracy theories aren’t true) BUT to win the election they had to pay attention to all the shit people say about HRC. It is impossible to find people that both have become immune to something and fight it. Another way to say that is: If you build a team of people who all have a “core skill” of being oblivious to a bunch of BS, they aren’t going to be the people that can create a strategy that defends against that bunch of BS. You need to be in a bubble for self-preservation, but you need to know that the bubble exists.

2. Trump was playing a new game. DNC operatives are bad at fighting against new techniques. Trump was all about new campaign tactics. In fact, I would say this election was proof that “marketing beats campaigning”. Marketing tells people what they already know and like, and shows that the product meets a need that they want fulfilled. Campaigning explains why your policies are better. Before Trump entered the race, he had a staff person watch Fox News for months and catalog what topics were talked about the most. In the primary, he only talked about those topics. In other words, he talked about the things that Fox News had already invested millions of dollars and countless hours telling people “this is true”. So, Trump was telling people “this thing you know? I know it too and it’s true and that’s why you should vote for me.” Clinton was telling people “Here’s my policies… don’t you think they’d work well for you?”

3. HRC ignores Right Wing Radio. Right Wing Radio has spent 3 decades creating their own mythology about how the world works. It’s a false mythology, but once you start listening to it, you eventually buy into it. This mythology is all conspiracy theories and right-wing lies, but it if you listen enough it tells a complete story that explains everything… even if the reasons are “because I said so” or “because…. black people!” As a result, during the debates HRC said things that were 100% true and Trump said things that were the vocabulary and mythology from right-wing radio. Liberals walked away saying, “HRC had great answers!” but everyone else walked away saying, “Trump was speaking my language!” She didn’t win the debates… she said the things that the pundit class would understand but the rest of the country heart Trump.

People keep saying, “I like Trump because he says the things that other politicians don’t say.” Of course! Politicians are too smart to repeat crazy conspiracy theories in public, even if they believe those things. When Trump said those crazy things, they weren’t new ideas to people. Those people were responding, “Wow! Finally someone that says the truth that RWR has been telling me! I like him!” In fact, when Trump says those things it makes Republican politicians look like liars. That’s very powerful.

When I say “marketing beats campaigning” I also mean this: When I asked Trump supporters why they support Trump, they’d say things like “HRC is so negative. She just complains. Trump has actual solutions.” If you look at what HRC was saying, it was policies that would (for example) bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. However you have to understand the policy and draw that conclusion. Trumpw as just saying, “We’re going to bring back manufacturing!” and if someone asked “how?” he said, “BY BRINGING BACK MANUFACTURING.” Yes, that’s an empty promise with no policy to back it, but compared to what HRC was saying, she sounded negative and Trump had a solution: Bring back manufacturing! (Oh, if only it was that easy.)

Those are the reasons I’ve been spouting for a while. In the last 4-5 months I realized some new things:

(a) Trump is addressing a lot of new voters, and pollsters don’t poll those people. The number of Americans that vote is so tiny, than if you can get a few percent of non-voters to start voting (i.e. give them a reason), then that will be enough people to change an election. How do you get non-voters to start voting? You give them something exciting to vote for… a TV personality. Obama did this but addressed a different crowd.

(b) New battleground states: Pollsters weren’t experienced at polling those new states, so their info was invalid.

(c) FiveThirtyEight is a sum of other polls. Polls are only part of the picture. It misses new voters, people that lie to pollsters, and it misses things like the fact that there was a 50-to-1 ratio of Trump signs along the highway. That means something.

(d) The Koch brothers were silent. The pundits thought this meant they were staying out of this one. What it really mean is that they adopted a strategy of staying out of the spotlight. They were probably just as active in influencing things.

I felt like I’ve been saying these things, for years, but obviously I’m not someone that the campaigns listen to. I hate that I was right about Trump. I hate that “marketing beat campaigning”. I hate that the 49.9% of the U.S. that believes Fox News’s lie that “Obama has achieved nothing” have elected someone that is going to un-do all the advancements he has made.

What should we do in the future? We should pay more attention to the conspiracy theories spouting from right wing radio. We should also find ways to defund and disrupt it. Stop talking about the "media filters". Right-wing radio isn't a filter... it is a bull-horn. What's brilliant about it is that it is self-funding. The advertisements make it self-sustaining. We need to find out own bull-horn that is as effective and self-funding. Without doing that, the right-wing will always rule U.S. politics.

Tom

P.S. Disclaimer: I realized a lot of this during Trump’s primary run. Early in the primaries I had written that I thought Trump would pull out after a month or two because he was doing it as a PR stunt. However, once I saw what he was winning, I realized a lot of the things I’ve written about here. I was surprised that HRC and other pundits didn’t see it too.

Post election inspiration

And some inspiration:


Post election analysis

John Strout's photo.

Some of the best analysis that I read after the election:


5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win
michaelmoore.com


Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy is the talk of the political world right now. I didn't read the book, but I read an essay (or excerpt) from the author and my takeaway is that working class whites refuse to get an education and refuse to move away from towns with no economic viability and denigrate anyone who tries to improve their situation as getting "too big for their britches." So I feel like it's not Obama's fault or my fault (as an educated "elite") that these people's prospects aren't better!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Book trouble

I'm having a terrible time finding a book to love this year.  I've started and discarded at least 3 books since January. Part of the problem is YA novels that sound great, but disappoint.  (At this rate, I'm never going to meet my reading goal of 50 books this year - I think I've finished 4 books in the first 2 months of 2013.)


I put these dystopian/fantasy YA novels into 2 distinct categories.  The ones written pretty much exclusively for teenagers, with lots of angst, and teenager elements like mean girls and cafeteria pow wows, including The Predicteds, Die for Me (blatant Twilight knockoff), A Great and Terrible Beauty (strong title, weak book), and the one I'm struggling through right now, Adaptation (should be excellent, just based on the title).

Then there are the ones that appeal to a wider audience (in other words, adults), like The Hunger Games, Pure, Enclave, and Divergent. The latter category tend to hit the ground running and maintain that pace, while the former tend to be more meandering (coincidence, I don't think so).

SIDE NOTE: I would put books (series) like Uglies, Matched, Shatter Me, and Delirium somewhere in the middle of these two categories because they appeal to adults but the lean towards the teenagery in their character development and plot lines.

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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Misunderstanding the news

I had the most annoying experience tonight at a small party. One of the guests, whom I don't know well, dominated the conversation rather unforgivably, and said a lot of silly stuff besides (I can't imagine talking on and on for 10 or 15 minutes to [at!] a bunch of people, most of whom don't know me - news flash: that's not a conversation!)

Among other things, she said that Dennis Rodman has been sent to North Korea by the Obama administration. I hadn't paid much attention to the details of this story in the news, but that assertion kinda didn't pass the smell test. Of course, I looked it up as soon as I had the chance, and quite the opposite is true - the administration was less than thrilled with Rodman's impromptu diplomatic venture.

I thought it was interesting that she had concluded that (obviously, she doesn't pay close attention to the news - proving that old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing).  I suspect that a lot of casual observers (as opposed to news junkies like me) assumed the same thing.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Deadwood



As with Battlestar Galactica, I watched this series mostly over the winter break, when very little of interest is on regular TV (most shows are on extended hiatus).  I had been meaning to watch this series for years, for basically 3 reasons - it has a devoted cult following, it got strong critical acclaim, and Timothy Olyphant.


I had a hard time getting into this series - the first few episodes are uneven in tone and don't introduce the main characters as strongly as other beloved series like The Wire and Battlestar Galactica.  But about halfway into the first season, they seemed to sort out some of their difficulties, and I got more caught up.
There's a lot to like - the actors are wonderful and colorful. The evocation of the place and time is so authentic and fun. But I have a bunch of complaints.

Chief among them is the Seth-Alma relationship. Of course I'm a total shipper, but this relationship was such a cheat. They got the viewer completely invested in the couple and then rather abruptly tore them apart. That was, of course, rather inevitable (since Seth was married) and is pretty standard stuff in TV drama. My objection is that the two pretty much go their separate ways subsequently. There's a couple of tense scenes between Alma and Mrs Bullock, but that's about it. This just totally violates a cherished audience expectation - that the torn apart couple will openly yearn for each other and surreptitiously reunite amid much guilt. But not in Deadwood - Seth especially seems to make his peace with the new arrangement with a minimum of emotion. No fair! All I'm asking for is one furtive kiss a la Brokeback Mountain or even an agonized brushing of hands a la The Age of Innocence. C'mon - you can see how it's done in plenty of films - give us something!

Another complaint I had is that the show is just downright depressing. I had just finished watching all 5 seasons of The Wire, which I adored. That is not exactly a feel good series, but it somehow manages to strike a much better balance, with some humor and some hope. This series is pretty relentless. People are just murdered and murdered and murdered. And most of the characters seemed generally miserable. It might be accurate, but it's not that fun (for me) to watch. I especially disliked the way female characters were regularly killed.

Another frustration I had was the way they constantly introduced new characters. This is probably accurate, in a boom town, but there's no way a series can effectively juggle that many story lines. Again, I found that although The Wire introduced a number of new characters each season, they kept the main characters front and center, and managed a better balance overall.

Case in point is the character of Saul. He was so interesting, and John Hawkes is a wonderful actor. But other than a few scenes each season, the series did very little with him. He was often limited to reaction shots, which is just a criminal waste of the actor.

The bad guys got worse and worse as the series progressed. Al started out mean and cold, but developed  a much more nuanced persona, to the benefit of the series. But he was replaced by increasingly sociopathic, one-dimensional, evil cretins (first Cy and then Hearst). I thought the series would have been better if the bad guys had been more nuanced and therefore more complex and more interesting.

Of course the foul language went overboard. The series was famous for this - even though the "f" word was not widely used at the time, they included it to create the right scatological tone. But it was too much. And it wasn't just that word - it was pretty dirty in general. Of course cable shows think they have to go that way, because they can.  I was embarrassed more than once, knowing that the kids could overhear the show, even though they were in the other room.  Not just the endless use of "cocksucker" - several other colorful phrases got a serious workout as well.

And the language in general was a barrier. Some characters, especially Al, but others too, spoke in a convoluted style that could be fun, but just as often made an entire scene hard to understand. There were times when I really had no idea what was going on, between the myriad characters, sometimes convoluted plots, and impenetrable language; it could get kinda frustrating.

The series only ran for 3 seasons (cable seasons - 13 episodes per), but a fourth had been planned and unexpectedly never materialized, much to the consternation of fans. The final episode of Season 3 is definitely structured as a cliff hanger rather than a wrap-up. (Even though I knew this, it contributed to my general frustration.)

I really wanted to love this series, but instead I was left with pretty mixed feelings. The acting is wonderful and I look forward to seeing everyone in other shows and movies. But it won't stick in my head or heart the way that other series will.

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