Saturday, November 21, 2015

Never mind the facts, here's the Republicans

So Republicans, as well as more than a few Democrats, have taken their fear-mongering to another level after the Paris attacks. Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan claims that because of the terrible situation in Paris he wouldn't accept applications by Syrians for asylum in Michigan.

Gov. Richard Bentley of Alabama also claimed he wouldn't accept refugees because of safety concerns.

Pat McCrory of North Carolina the same.

Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas the same.

And so it goes for 26 of these bigoted Republican governors. Their supposed concern is that a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers. Never mind that there's a massive market for fake Syrian passports or that it's been determined that the passport was stolen or a fake. These Republican crybabies have seized on the passport found near one of suicide bomber's bodies to ratchet up the anti-Islamic hysteria.

Never mind that many smaller countries have accepted more asylum applications than the US.

Never mind that have killed more people in the US than Muslim terrorists have.

Never mind that policemen cited domestic terror as a much greater threat than the threat of extreme Islamic terrorists.

Never mind that refugees wishing to come to the US must be vetted first by the UN before also being vetted by the US, a process that takes 18-24 months.

No, never mind all that.

These Republican fuckwits have seen fit to try to outhate one another in pandering to the only sort of people too stupid to vote for anyone else.

The good thing, of course, is that Republican governors in states cited above can't prevent the settlement of Syrian refugees. The bad thing is all the publicity that their effort has garnered and the racial animus that they have stirred up. Because the waters have been muddied, the hatred will continue to fester and boil. Those waters will remain dark and murky and will ensure that regardless of the legality of the issue, President Obama and Democrats and Republicans of good faith will be pilloried for daring to stand up to the hatred and ignorance of Republican hate.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

How much airtime do Syrian deaths get?

So yesterday Paris was hit by a horrible terror attack. Once again, multiple simultaneous, co-ordinated attacks have taken the lives of many and have shocked westerners. Once again, terror has been visited on a cosmopolitan, idyllic, home of arts and culture. People can't believe that it happened and the images of distraught, traumatized victims and witnesses on the TV are jarring and horrifying. There is no justification for this slaughter and the perpetrators should rightly be condemned. There is no justifying what was done and the acts are those of cowards and hateful people.

All that said, the attackers apparently mentioned Iraq and Syria in negotiations at the Bataclan theater. Bin Laden, in his 2002 "Letter to America" stated that the September 11 attacks happened because of anger at the West for privileging the West over Islam and Islamic countries. The sense that Muslims and Muslim countries were the victims of racism and religious bigotry drove Bin Laden to engineer those horrific attacks.

However, the scale of the attack on Paris pales in comparison to the death toll in Syria. Estimates of the death toll in Syria range from 143,000 to 340,000. The low estimate (I hate to use the term "low estimate" with an estimate of over 143,000 deaths) means 83 people have died every day for 4.5 years. The higher estimate means 199 every single day for that same time period. More than a Paris massacre every single day for 4.5 years while the people of Paris or any other western town have gone about their lives, eating, drinking and being merry, in relative peace.

But yet how many people changed their Facebook profile to a Syrian flag? Where's the CNN wall-to-wall coverage of Syria? Where is the Saturday Night Live opening expressing sympathy for Syria?

Westerners hate to see deaths in their own streets, but those deaths Over There have been happening in much greater numbers and without proportionate attention, for a long time. Clearly as long as the victims are Muslim, the deaths are more tolerable.

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

When coaches attack

So I happened to see Brian Kelly of Notre Dame losing his shit toward one of his assistant coaches who was complaining about a call. Kelly's explanation for his physical attack (I don't know what else to call it) on assistant strength and conditioning coach David Grimes was that Grimes was going to get the team a 15 yard penalty and Kelly wasn't having that. This claim doesn't hold water because another coach was already intervening between Grimes and the official. While that coach is intervening, Kelly runs in, grabs Grimes by his jacket and then bunches up the jacket under Grimes' chin, and pushes it up, like he's about to hit him. It's a really ugly scene. If the US wasn't so authoritarian, this wouldn't be tolerated, but sadly, that is America today. College football head coaches are lionized and their knowledge of football gives them high status in the United States. I doubt there will be legal ramifications for Kelly but in a perfect world, there would be. Truly disgusting.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Some movie reviews: Boyhood, The Mission, Monsters Inc., The Breakfast Club

Boyhood - Richard Linklater, over the course of 12 years, tells the story of a boy growing up. Meeting with his cast each year for a few weeks each time, we see a kid and his relationships with his family, change. An innovative story-telling approach, Linklater relied on his memories and a general outline to frame each year's action. We see the star of the movie, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) starting in Kindergarten, having to suffer through an embarrassing hair cut in 4th grade, and dealing with peer pressure in high school. Seeing the actors grow older and seeing their characters develop is unlike anything I've ever seen. The kids' growth, both physically and character-wise, is the most amazing part of the movie. It feels so natural and organic. I really loved the movie. It is the least flashy and the most authentic-seeming film about childhood I've ever seen. Linklater's bold choice to commit to a 12 year production and the continued interest of two children is something that never would have happened in a Hollywood movie. Credit to him and his crew for remaining trend-making and original. I don't have kids, but I can't imagine that outside of real life, childhood can seen this real.

The Mission - Heroic, magnanimous men of the cloth, right? That's what you think if you believe this film. A gorgeously shot movie, it depicts the commitment of Jesuit priests to the Guarani natives of South America while Spain and Portugal fought for control over the land. There is some fine acting from Robert DeNiro, Ray McAnally, and Ronald Pickup, but Jeremy Irons seems overly detached and wooden. While the movie is gorgeously shot, the story is largely fictional. The priests followed the orders of the church and did not fight with the Guarani against Spain and Portugal. I enjoyed the film but given that the priests didn't stay heroically with the Guarani, I found it hard to get too excited over a film that is so flattering to them.

The Breakfast Club - Back into the heart of the '80s with this film. It is fabulously written and very well-acted by the whole Brat Pack cast. Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy are totally gnarly particularly noteworthy. It wouldn't work without a fantastic script and Hughes has painted a rich (if all-white) depiction of the cliquishness of high school in suburban Chicago. Dude.

Monsters Inc - Saw this movie again after seeing it initially in the theater and it holds up well as an entertaining movie for kids as well as a wise comment on the importance of laughter. Effortlessly stylish and fantastically voiced by John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Meg Tilly, and James Coburn, it is a film that doesn't set a paw wrong.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gabe Kapler?

So Don Mattingly is out as Dodger manager. That is great. I have wanted Mattingly out for a while and called for it just a few days ago. He couldn't get a $300 million dollar team to the World Series. He'd had a loaded team for years, and how many chances do you get? 5 years is enough. You have arguably the best pitcher in the league and you have some great bats and you can't get to World Series? So I'm REALLY glad he's out.

But now the talk is that Gabe Kapler will become the next manager. Gabe Kapler? A guy with no managerial experience? That Gabe Kapler? Really? There are tons of black managers out there who are viable candidates at the moment. At the moment there are almost no black managers in the game. There is only one Latino manager, Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves.

There are lots of black managers out there with experience and smarts.
  • What about Dusty Baker? Dusty Baker was recently cold-calling the Padres trying to get work. He's a proven, capable, experienced manager. He took the Giants to the World Series. He took the Cubs to the brink of the World Series. He's been a very successful manager.
  • What about Don Baylor? He's been a successful manager with the Rockies and Cubs.
  • What about Jerry Royster? He was always a hard-nosed, tough player, and he wanted to manage so much that he went overseas to manage! He's paid his dues as a coach and manager in the minors as well.
  • What about Ozzie Smith? He is a legend and beloved by baseball fans.
  • What about Ron Washington? He was a great manager for Texas and is well-respected.
  • Gary Pettis has been a coach for years now. Where's his chance?
  • Hal McRae who has been a manager and coach.
  • What about Eric Davis who had a great career and has interest in giving back to the game?
Then on the flip side, you have managers like Joe Girardi who walked into a bench coaching job the year after retiring, was manager of the Marlins two years later, and the year after that, in spite of a mediocre record as Marlins' manager, became the Yankees' manager.

Mike Matheny got a job working for the Cardinals in the front office after one year of retirement.

Brad Ausmus also got a managing job having had no prior coaching experience.

This is quite apart from the absence of Latinos in management positions. There are guys like Jose Oquendo and Sandy Alomar Jr. who have been out there for some time. Ozzie Guillen led the White Sox to a World Championship. Joey Cora and Alex Cora have earned the right for consideration as managers. Same goes for Carmelo Martinez

It seems a travesty that these younger white ex-players have leapfrogged many black and Latino players to get jobs. Baseball is doing a terrible job promoting diversity in management. There isn't even the requirement that MLB teams interview Latino or black candidates.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Movie review: "Her"

"Her" deals with possible future situations in which computers are so developed that people have satisfying, fully-committed relationships with them. I think that the premise of the film is intriguing, and I found that the first half of the movie, in which the relationship is less serious, was believable. I had a hard time believing in the depth of the relationship as it developed over the second half. The world as depicted in the movie seems almost current and I didn't believe that such a complex relationship with a computer was possible right now or in the next 25 years. Yes, the computer (Scarlett Johansson) is very smart and obviously scientists in the future, according to this movie, are able to program computers so well, that people engage in relationships with computers. I just found the depiction of this relationship to be implausible and I couldn't believe in the realization of such a film, at least not at this time. Perhaps I don't want to imagine the sort of loneliness that could propel Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) into a relationship with his computer. I suppose these sorts of relationships will be plausible, perhaps within 50 years. Obviously people have Siri on their iPhones and some robots are able to fulfill specific needs in peoples' lives. People value their electronic devices and I don't exclude myself from that group. I just don't like the idea of them as intimate partners. It's a development that doesn't sit well with me. The notion of the autonomy of a computer which understands you enough to submit your writing as a book proposal is disturbing to me. I found the idea of not having any sort of image of the partner disturbing also. The idea of going on picnics with another couple and having your computer girlfriend's voice piped in via the ear feed which practically implants her in your head, is also disturbing to me. Fortunately, I think we're quite a way from this occurring. I think that we will continue to allow computers into our lives more, but giving computers a lot of emotional depth to connect to the arbitrariness and complexities of humans seems a long way away. The premise is fascinating and the idea is intriguing. However, as someone who thinks that in spite of the promise and capacities of computers, there is no replacement for relationship with another human, I am profoundly depressed by this film. I never see the genie being put back in the bottle. Our electronic devices are more intrusive and more indistinguishable from the people who have the technology. The immersion continues apace with this film and it's certainly not a trend I like. Perhaps this movie is prescient, but I hope not.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Dad's been gone 6 months

Death is a hell of a thing. The death of a parent is terrible. I can't imagine losing a child or a spouse, before that person's time. Losing my Dad at 65 when his health hadn't been good for years is bad enough. Losing a spouse in an accident or a kid to a freak accident or some disease is unfathomable to me. Even though Dad and I were only in contact by phone the last 6 years, except for three lovely visits, the bond is still strong. What can I say? It hurts - six months later - a year later I'm sure, Dad will be missed. The permanence of death is so indisputable, unlike anything else in life where you realize that there is a chance, if you wait long enough, or make the right call, or fill in an appeal, or file some document, or know the right person, that your situation will change. Not death. I remember in P1 (1st grade for Americans), we had a thick door to our classroom that was very heavy and thick. One time it was slammed and the noise was very foreboding. Something about a door being slammed always sounds quite final. Anyway, that sense of finality is definitely what death feels like. It's cruel. There are no do-overs. So Dad, you're missed. Thankfully we had 14 years of getting along really well. I wish we had more, but we don't. You're missed Dad, you made the world a nicer place, and if more were like you, the world would be completely different. Love you.