The Toronto Raptors Earned This

Congratulations to The Toronto Raptors on an incredible season. This NBA postseason was genuinely thrilling for the first time in years, and I enjoyed every second.

When Kawhi was first traded I was initially critical. Trading the face of the franchise for a guy who could bolt to Los Angeles the next year seemed like a mistake. However, you have to credit Masai Uriji for taking a huge risk. Kawhi bought in immediately to the Raptors program, and made the trade worth it.

I also cannot say enough about Kawhi Leonard’s leadership. Watching him off the court, his stoicism seems off-putting. Who would want to play with this guy? Does he have fun on the weekends? Whatever impression that may give off, that combination of calmness and tenacity inspires his teammates to be their best selves. His attitude and self-belief sets an example for everyone to follow. In the past, going down to the Magic 1-0, being down to the Sixers 2-1, would have all been reasons for the Raptors to cave. His unflappability is what this team needed, and Kawhi has helped them emulate that attitude. That installment of belief into this team is the defining difference between the Raptors of past years and the Raptors of this year. Kawhi deserves all of the credit in the world for that.

Leonard’s future remains unclear as my beloved Clippers seem to be in his sights. While I would love him to be a member of my team, I can totally understand why he would want to stay. He has an entire country behind him, and is in a winning situation. Regardless, I am incredibly happy for Toronto and I am happy to see them be crowned champions.

Burning, Widows, & Elizabeth Warren

Burning – One of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, Burning has a quiet rage stemming throughout. It operates in subtleties, in many ways akin with Korean culture. It manages to carry weight without expressing it full stop. It is a good movie, but its story failed to really connect with me. It has some great performances and a story that cuts deep. It takes too long to develop, and really lost me at points. I enjoyed its undertones and deep seated anger, but I wish it was more polished. 7.5/10

Widows While this movie is technically a heist movie, it does so much more than just create some simple fun. It is a film full of anger and grief, where people are forced to become robbers because of their situation. This film is not for the faint of heart. Complex and brutal, it expertly combine thrills with genuine emotion and social issues. The script from Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn is absolutely brilliant and tough. Unfortunately, this movie is a bit too complicated and compact. This would be better as a television series, where each thread and plot could be exploited. Unfortunately the limited time frame is a constraint on this movie’s potential. 8.5/10

In short, where Sanders seeks to steer capitalism toward socialism, Warren is bent on saving capitalism for all—and from itself.

The Bulwark, a site dedicated to Anti-Trump conservatives, is one of the most interesting sites to read right now. This Bulwark article discusses Elizabeth Warren’s importance in this election, an area which I had never really considered. Warren’s proposals are radical, from free college to massive increases in childcare. However, her ability to create so many policy proposals in such a short time span, have left others playing catch-up.

To hear about her importance from a conservative publication is particularly striking, especially considering how much she differs from conservative thought. Her proposals in many ways stem in the opposite direction from what many on the right hope to obtain from capitalism. Yet what this article recognizes is the importance of specificity. Her proposals create genuine conversations, where most candidates are merely running on an idealized version of what they would “like” to see for the country and themselves. While I may not vote for Warren in the end, her candidacy is still very important and I am glad that it is being treated that way.

Get Out, Widows, & IGOR

Get Out – Jordan Peele’s first film I had avoided because I was afraid. I am really disappointed that I did, as this film is not focused on being scary. Rather it is focused on its social commentary, a welcome relief. The beginning build up is slow but incredibly well done, as it keeps us engaged with what will happen next. The finale is a bit over the top, and the story itself goes a bit overboard. That does not take away from what this film accomplishes, as it manages to be a fun and engaging horror with commentary to make it unique. Jordan Peele is a man of the pop culture moment, and it is understandable why this film elevated his status. 7.5/10

Widows – This was a film I wanted to see last year but unfortunately was unable to. This movie does a terrific job at being tight and ratcheting up emotion without using too much dialogue. It is also a unique Heist movie, as it forces characters into a heist rather than make them willful participants. It gives a heist film plenty of emotional weight, making it that much more rewarding than I expected. It also tells an incredibly complex story, but one that is deeply satisfying. My biggest complaint is that its tightness works against the film, as it is simply too complicated to compress. Complicated plots lead to subplots which lead to more subplots. I wish there were more time to really explore this but it simply runs out of time. This would have made for a terrific TV miniseries, but instead it is a very good movie, one still worth seeing even if it can be a bit confusing. 8/10

This album is so pretty, confident, and considered that you wonder why he named it IGOR. Tyler, the Creator’s not a freak or a goblin or a monster anymore.

I love Tyler, The Creator and with his release of his new album IGOR he begins to reshape his style after coming out of the closet on Flower Boy. His maturity is beginning to show, which is a much appreciated step since his days with Odd Future. One of my favorite parts of this album is how he plays with different gender roles, and attempts to craft a new persona. Particularly the music video for the song “Earfquake,” shows him playing with stereotypes and ideas that are brilliant.

However, I still wish he had an edge, and I miss it on this album. It is still a great project full of terrific songs, but it is about their artistic quality and less about Tyler’s emotions. Tyler’s emotions are what I find the most captivating, and that is sorely lacking on IGOR Part of what attracted me to Tyler was his deep-seated anger, and how he dealt with it.  In my favorite album of his, Wolf, he brilliantly fluctuated between anger and appreciation, struggling to put his feelings into music.  This album feels earned after the success and sincerity of Flower Boy, and I am glad that he has begun to figure out how to be happiest. I just miss some of the edge that got him famous in the first place, and I wish it was more present here.  

Tottenham Hotspur is going to the Champions League Final!

I have had some time now to process the moment that brought me to tears today. Tottenham have been having a tough season, struggling with a tired and beaten down squad. Yet at the beginning of today Tottenham found themselves still with a chance to advance to a Champions League Final, which would be a remarkable feat for Mauricio Pochettino and his Spurs.

When the game first started Ajax quickly got out to a lead making the aggregate deficit seem impossibly large. At the end of the first half, the score on aggregate was 3-0. It seemed insurmountable. Yet, the second half seemed to give Tottenham more life, and they quickly pounced on the opportunity. Lucas Moura found the back of the net twice in four minutes, changing the complexion of the game. After those two goals however, Tottenham seemed destined to lose. Everything was close but not quite going in. Then in the last minute of stoppage time, Lucas Moura pulled out the sweetest of finishes to complete his hat trick and advance to the Champions League Final on away goals.

How lucky we are to be entertained by such brilliance. Liverpool yesterday did the impossible, and today Tottenham did something even more spectacular. It is hard to put into words just how gratifying this is. This Pochettino team has been the best Tottenham Squad in recent memory, and yet have not been able to get near a trophy. Now they are just one win away from the biggest trophy in Europe. 

Ajax deserve all the credit in the world for there performance throughout this season. They are an incredibly talented and gifted young side with so much heart and spirit. They should be proud of the season they had, and all of the players on that team have an incredibly bright future.

With that said, it is hard not to feel immense pride for my favorite team. Now just one game against Liverpool is between us and the Champions League trophy. June 1st cannot come soon enough.

Ash is Purest White & Dentistry

Ash is Purest White – This movie was not made for me or many of the people that read this blog. However, it is full of beautiful movements and moving historical portraits of Chinese Society. Watching the transition of Bin and Qiao from confident and smooth to brutalized and chiseled is genuinely fascinating to watch. I also loved Zhao Tao as Qiao; she captures the transformation of Qiao beautifully. Watching her sacrifice and struggle to save a dying relationship is brilliant and heartbreaking.

My biggest problem with this movie is that it is too slow. It can feel dragging and it requires a deep knowledge of Chinese History to understand all of the themes. Much is touched upon outside of the relationship between Qiao and Bin, mainly the change of China itself. Without it, many of the sweeping and slow-developing themes are hard to understand. While part of the joy in this movie is about thinking and reading upon it after, I have to be honest to my experience in the theater. There were times when I just wanted the movie to end. I would check my watch, groan, and continue. Some of this is by design, as you can feel the change in their relationship slowly grind to a halt. However, it is a stylistic choice that breeds boredom. Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is nearly 30 minutes longer, and yet it never felt as if it was slow or dragging. This movie felt much longer. However, for the right audience, this film is a must-watch. It is not an easy movie to enjoy but if you spend the time with it, you will be rewarded. 7.5/10

Fluoridation of drinking water seems to help reduce tooth decay in children, but there is insufficient evidence that it does the same for adults. Some data suggest that regular flossing, in addition to brushing, mitigates gum disease, but there is only “weak, very unreliable” evidence that it combats plaque. As for common but invasive dental procedures, an increasing number of dentists question the tradition of prophylactic wisdom-teeth removal; often, the safer choice is to monitor unproblematic teeth for any worrying developments.

I hate the dentist and I am sure I am not alone. I have always been lazy about oral hygiene, so part of my interest in this article is my need to undermine dentistry in any way. However, this article points out plenty of troubling problems with dentistry. Oral hygiene is certainly important, but if we cannot guarantee a certain level of quality from dentistry we need to seriously question how we should take care of our teeth. Even if you love the dentist, this is a brilliant article worthy of a read.

Avengers: Endgame

In the first ever piece I wrote for this blog, I was critical of Avengers: Infinity War. My opinion stands firm on that movie, as it was bloated and confusing. The mere fact that they were able to pull it off was impressive, but that does not make it a good film.

Endgame is certainly longer than it needs to be, but it is much better than Infinity War. The cast is much smaller, allowing the plot to be more focused. The movie is slower but really allows each moment to feel earned. It manages to work for fans who may not be as into Marvel (like me) while still giving fan service for those fans who have really invested in these films. It also has (light spoiler alert) fitting ends for both Captain Marvel and Iron Man. Watching both characters get the send off they deserve was certainly thrilling. I also thought Thanos was much more compelling in this film than in Infinity War. In the last film it felt like he was just getting the stones just to say he could. Now, his motivations, or at least his patience and persistence, come to bare more fruitfully. It gives him a better arc, making his quest and (light spoiler alert) failure much more meaningful.

My only regret with this film is that I did not always know enough to understand the reference being made to which precise film. I wish I was more in tune with the rest of Marvel to understand the movie as a whole. That being said the film did a great job of allowing everyone to enjoy the ride. That along with a more intricate plot gave the movie much more backbone than many of the other Marvel movies. While I may personally not connect with Marvel as much as others, this movie is an important feat. It rewarded fans for their patience and dedication, while still blasting records at the box office. That is a true accomplishment and everyone at Marvel should be proud. 8/10

The Clippers Season is Over & The Twilight Zone

After all is said and done, the Clippers 2018-2019 season is over. The defending-champion Warriors finished off the Clippers in 6 games. My beloved Clippers played admirably, winning two games in Oracle Arena and fighting for every point. However, the Warriors proved to be simply too much.

I have watched plenty of Clippers teams, but this team is easily one of my favorites. They fought and clawed. They did not have a superstar, but they did not need one. They played hard and they played for each other. It is hard to remember the last time any NBA team played with such camaraderie and heart. Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harris, and so many others gave it their all for each other. It was exciting to see, and even if we get a star in the offseason, this team made me incredibly proud. It is rare you seem a team with this much heart and character working together. So often we see the stars, the egos, and the fights. To watch a team work together was great, and being a lifelong fan only made it more exciting to watch. I cannot wait to see what this team will do next year.

Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.

I have begun watching the original Twilight Zone series. It stands the test of time, each episode being fascinating, thrilling, and thought-provoking in different ways. What happens when we get trapped in our own Nostalgia? What do we owe to each other and to ourselves? Each episode is so inventive and exciting, it still manages to excite and thrill. It still manages to make me wonder.

The above quote is from the brilliant episode “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”. It brilliantly and creepily brings together themes of nostalgia, success, and failure. While I will not spoil anything, it deals with something incredibly familiar. What happens when we are no longer the person we were? When we are not as good as we once were? Do we trap ourselves in the past or try to move onto the present? Even if you are afraid of this show being “too old”, you should watch it anyways. Every episode is breathtaking and will leave you thinking after the credits roll.

Damian Lillard’s game-winner is beyond words

The NBA Playoffs are always one of my favorite sporting events of the year. The past few years have of playoff basketball have begun to feel less exciting and increasingly predictable. However, this year that has begun to change for the better. These teams are playing with more fire and intensity.

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers are a big part of this trend. Dame’s game and series winning shot should live on in basketball lore, as its brilliance is hard to overstate. The courage to step back from over 30 feet. The confidence to drill the shot at the most important time. I have watched the video numerous times and it is hard to get over just how insane it is.

These kind of shots are what the NBA Playoffs are all about. Intensity, grit, and determination in its most pure. You  may not be a Portland Trailblazers fan, but it is difficult not to be enthralled by Damian Lillard. I cannot wait to see what he does next.

NIRCA Nationals Reflection

This weekend, I got to be apart of a National Championship team. The fact that the previous sentence is entirely true is quite remarkable, especially considering where I was at with sports after I left high school. The Michigan Running Club men’s team finished first at NIRCA Nationals and I could not be more proud. I am so happy of my team for their incredible performances this weekend, and it is truly insane to be a small part of it.

The girls team also came in a heartbreaking second place finish. It was tough, as they were tied going into the last event only to come out in second place. They had an incredible weekend, and it was unfortunate to come up just a bit short. However, I am excited to see what they can do in the future, and I know we can come back even stronger.

In terms of my personal performance, I felt as though there was plenty left on the table. I got a huge personal best in the 200, breaking my best by over a second with a time of 24.64. I then ran a 54.99 in the 400, which was a season best but not a personal best. I was fairly disappointed with that time, but I was happy to at least get back to where I was at the end of last season. I am hopeful that next season I will get back to improving in the 400. While the 200 was exciting, the 400 is the race I care about the most. While it is disappointing to not run my best race at Nationals, I am hopeful that I can run like that in two weeks. If not in two weeks, then there is always next season.

I also had a personal best in the Long Jump, but frankly I should have jumped better. It was only my second time ever participating, so perhaps I have plenty to look forward to. It was still frustrating to feel so behind the rest of the competition, but I was happy to continue to improve. My 4×400 split was bad and that left me feeling pretty upset. I felt my legs completely give but I should have run better on the back stretch. I think I am being a bit hard on myself but I know I could have been mentally tougher. Not seeing that through was fairly disappointing as well.

However, my complaints pale in comparison to how proud I am of everyone who competed this weekend. For me, the best part of the weekend was nothing I did, but watching all of the incredible performances from my team. From throws to jumps, and even in Steeplechase, there were so many amazing performances to watch. It was truly awe-inspiring watching how some people fought and worked. I am so proud to be apart of an amazing Michigan team, and am so glad I get to spend my weekends this semester competing with them. This is the beginning of a club track dynasty. Until next year!

Captain Marvel & Ip Man

Captain Marvel – This movie is annoyingly mediocre. It takes no risks. It does nothing new. It is just there to fill in the gaps for those interested in Avengers: Endgame. I am not apart of the Marvel target audience so perhaps I am just missing something. Maybe it is a good thing a film with a female lead is just as mediocre as the male superheroes. Regardless, it is still disappointing to watch Brie Larson and others muddle in a film with so little to add. This movie also has clunky dialogue which is a problem for most superhero movies, but this one in particular. Lines like “it is sad to see you go” and “what can I do when I am set free” are unnecessary and should have been removed. Many characters also serve the purpose of delivering these nothing lines, or delivering lines of dialogue that tell you exactly where the plot intends to go. This also leads to an ending that is boring and anti-climatic.

With all of that in mind, Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are the best parts of the film. I loved Larson in Short Term 12 and she shows why she is so highly sought after. Unfortunately she is given little to work with. This is really disappointing, especially from a film so set on bringing about a new era for Marvel. 5/10

Ip Man – Donnie Yen is terrific as Ip Man. He finds a way to breathe life into the character while making the action and fight scenes exciting. The story can at times be fairly generalized and melodramatic, but the stakes are always there. The film never becomes self-obsessed with its action and always leaves room for the characters to develop. The story is also uniquely nationalist, which at times makes it easy to question the narrative itself. That being said, this film is plenty of fun and is a good movie outside of its fun action scenes. 7.5/10