Free Solo & Meru should be watched together

When I went to see Free Solo I was amazed, bewildered, and shocked. It was a film so deep and emotional, something seemed to separate it from so many other films of its kind. Alex Honnold, Free Solo climber, someone who climbs without ropes or a harness, sets his sight toward El Capitan, a rock so huge it had never been free soloed let alone climbed before. The film follows the preparation and the people around Alex as he attempts to make one of the most incredible climbs in human history.

What is great about this film is not whether or not he makes it, but rather its focus on Alex’s preparation and difficulties as well as how the people around him deal with the possibility of him falling to his death. It is gripping and fascinating stuff, but the true star is not Alex but rather his girlfriend Sanni McCandless, as she becomes our voice to Alex in many ways.”I do not understand why he wants this.” When she asks would you rethink your climbing priorities with me he bluntly says “No but I appreciate your concern.”

Watching him climb is gripping and thrilling stuff but going through Alex’s life is what sets this film apart. The director Jimmy Chin, who after Alex finishes his climb says, “That is a huge weight off my shoulders.” In order to understand that weight you should watch Meruavailable on Netflix. Jimmy Chin directs as he and his friends Conrad Ankman and Renan Ozturk attempt to climb a Mountain that has never been summited before, the Shark’s Fin at Meru. Jimmy this time gets more personal focus and his family dynamic is once again fascinating. It is just as if not more brutal than Free Solo, but just as captivating. It gives the insight into not only Jimmy’s life but the climbing life as well.

I encourage you to watch both films as they are great showcases of not just the sport of climbing, but also the human experience. The highs, lows, trials and tribulations all add up to an incredibly brilliant set of documentaries that I think go together incredibly well. For Free Solo I give a 9.5, and for Meru I give up an 8.5. Free Solo is a better film but both are great in their own way and I recommend watching both together.

Also there are plenty of great reviews on Free Solo but my favorites are from David Sims and New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens!

My Latest Michigan Review Article & Teen Sex

After shocking many and winning the NCAA title, it would have been easy to stop and rest in his laurels. For Ben, however, he felt the passion and drive to keep going.

This is from my latest Michigan Review article about National Champion Ben Flanagan! I had an absolute blast interviewing him and you should definitely check it out here!

In other words, in the space of a generation, sex has gone from something most high-school students have experienced to something most haven’t.

This is from the fascinating article by Kate Julian regarding sex levels today. A seeming paradox is at the heart of her article, why teens are having less sex despite the seemingly increasing methods to have it. Her article attempts to draw some through-lines, and at times try to draw correlations that are simply hard to prove. Regardless, I would highly recommend giving it a read and listening to her appearance on the wonderful 2038 podcast in which she makes the argument for why sex will continue to decline 20 years from now.

I begin to wonder whether this is a good thing, as loneliness and something will be missing from many relationships. It would not surprise me, given all we know, that people maybe more hesitant to have sex. However, I still think much of society will participate, as there is some value from doing so. I am curious what your thoughts are on this as this maybe something I would like to investigate in the future. Let me know in the comments!

Kareem Hunt & Tua Tagovailoa

A video surfaced of Kareem Hunt pushing a 19 year old women, and it is not nearly as shocking. The NFL has once again shown itself to be incompetent to actually investigate its own problems, and the rash punishment of Kareem Hunt shows that no one, not the Kansas City Chiefs nor the Players and Owners, have changed when it comes to the subject of Sexual Assault.

The NFL currently has $14 Billion in revenue and yet they are absolutely powerless to actually get and obtain footage that would be tangible to actively see if there players behave in such a way. Instead they have punished people without evidence of anything taking place, and not taken action when they could have in the cases of Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt.

In a statement released by the Kansas City Chiefs, they apparently were alerted about the situation in February and the NFL “conducted an investigation” with law enforcement. How and in what world the NFL with $14 Billion dollars in revenue could not get the tapes but TMZ did is utterly absurd, and while the Ray Rice tape is objectively worse, this does not make the situation any better. The fans of the NFL who care about the character of the league should be outraged and should demand a response from the NFL.

He can go 15/15 and if he throws a pick it’s the worst game

This is a quote from a piece that came out on College Gameday describing Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa and his “ohana” or family. The piece starts with his dad Galu explaining that he made his son throw lefty even though he was a natural righty so that his son could be similar to him. They then go on further to admit that at home he learned from “bible and belt” and would be whipped if he did not perform well. The quote above is him describing his “discipline” toward Tua for lack of performance. The piece then went on to discuss that his Dad made the decision for him to commit to Alabama and they moved to Alabama with him.

Yes you read that right. Tua and his family admitted on a televised piece on College Gameday that they beat Tua and that it was all apart of their family character. This story reported by Tom Rinaldi, is a ridiculous display of a puff piece, one that does not accomplish its goals and attempts to make (albeit some) light or positive out of a family situation that is clearly toxic. While that could have been a story about familial ethics that could have been made fascinating, it became a shameful promotion of bad parenting. I do not have a child but if I did I would be horrified that this piece was displayed.

For the record I used to love Tom Rinaldi and he is a reporter I still respect. However, he should know better, and this promotion of toxic home dynamics should have been avoided. While I want to critique Tua’s dad, I will not tell him how to parent, however as someone who used to be an avid watcher of College Gameday, I would have hoped ESPN had better judgment. However, for at least that piece, they did not. ESPN and parents are allowed to do what they want, but we can and should question the reasoning and merit when we do not think something is up to parr. This piece deserves heavy scrutiny and I hope ESPN will make better decisions in the future.

Shirkers, The Hunt For Red October, and Game of Thrones Quote #4

Some of us are movers, some of us are shakers, and some of us are Shirkers.

Shirkers (Netflix)This is from the most recent Netflix documentary; A brilliant, lush and beautiful film that also unfolds into a compelling mystery. Sandi Tan filmed a road movie in 1992, and watched her mentor Georges Cardona steal it from her. She called the film Shirkers, referring to those who avoid or neglect responsibilities. Her quest to find the film becomes part of a story to settle her demons and those of her friends who lost everything as well. Bold, audacious, and thoughtful, Shirkers is brilliant and a fascinating tour of Singaporean film. Terrific and a must for film buffs. 9/10

The Hunt For Red October – Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin are at their best in the a great remake of a classic Tom Clancy novel. Connery plays Captain Ramius, head of the Red October Submarine, heading straight for the US Coastline. Baldwin as Jack Ryan believes that there is more to his motives than their appears. While it is missing some critical parts from the novel itself it is still pulse-pounding, and the story opts for a more realistic spy thriller that stands the test of time. While by no means a perfect film, it is great entertainment nonetheless. 8.3/10

Some part of him blames me… though he knows it was good counsel (515).

Catelyn continues to struggle, and her pain begins to seep into every interaction she has. She believes she has lost her sons, which create a feeling of undying attachment to Robb. She also feels she must be stronger for him, as the fragility of his life in war is higher than ever. So, everything, feels in some sense pained. How do I please my son and protect him all the same? How can I give him good counsel without losing his trust? Catelyn is walking on a tight-rope, and her lack of omnipresent knowledge of the wellbeing of her children makes things that much more painful for the reader.

Catelyn is by no means perfect, and her consist rejection of Jon Snow is understandable but harsh for Jon. He is not at fault for her fathers adultery, and yet she feels he is somehow part of the wrong. Yet her pain toward her children is palpable and understandable, as it would be a tough dilemma for any of us to work with. All we can do is hope for the Starks, and hope that everything will be okay. Something tells me it will not be.

A Quiet Place & The Florida Project

A Quiet Place – I have a confession to make. I am not a horror movie fan, and I have for most of my life avoided scary movies. However, I decided that it would be time to try A Quiet Place, a movie I had been secretly wanting to watch for awhile. In this post-apocalyptic world, the monster can hear you but cannot see, so tranquil peace is the mode of survival. What easily could have become a gimmick turns into a thematic and nail-biting thriller, using the circumstances of the world to explore the human condition rather than playing it for cheap thrills. Millicent Simmons is terrific is Regan, and John Kransinski does a great job as director, showing the pain and grief that families must go through who have lost everything. It is not a perfect movie, but a very good one nonetheless that uses its world to examine the human condition, rather than play the gimmick for cheap thrills. 9/10

The Florida Project – The story of a family on the brink of poverty through the eyes of six year old Moonie is so beautiful and brilliant it is hard to explain why without making it seem slightly ridiculous. Taking place in the outskirts of Disneyworld, many people live in motels because they cannot afford elsewhere. Rather than try to make overarching generalizations, director Sean Baker looks at individuals with care and purpose, showcasing their best and worst selves in a whimsical and beautiful way. The one character I found particularly striking was Moonie’s mother Halley, and how often she puts herself above others. This is a movie that is fun, hilarious and ludicrous, while also having a lot to say about consequences. Even in their whimsical adventures, Moonie’s behavior and most importantly Halley’s selfishness all have consequences, and eventually can lead to heartbreak. Willem Defoe is terrific as Bobby the manager, showing the conflict between caring for people and the trouble they can bring him and Brooklyn Prince is terrific as Moonie. For anyone looking for a great watch this is definitely worth your time. 9.3/10

Bill Maher & Hilarious Bundesliga Animations

I have had an ambivalent view of Bill Maher. He seems to enjoy controversy and prefers creating it in ways that I am not sure I entirely agree with. However, he is actually an incredibly honest pundit, and does a great job of bringing incredibly difficult conversations to the forefront. For every moment I want to thank him, he gives me a moment of pause. His latest blog post is a moment of pause, as he completely goes after Stan Lee almost immediately after his death. It was pointless, and he would go onto trash comic books as a medium and claim that people need to grow up.

To me, every medium has the capability of great storytelling, and for him to blame comic books of all things is absurd. For every mind numbing comic book there are stories like Watchmen and Maus that use the medium to tell something beautiful and impactful. Many look down upon video games, and yet The Last of Us has affected me more than any movie ever will. All genres have the ability of being great, and while it is we should be critical of art that we do not like, to desecrate Stan Lee like this just a few days after his death.

To be fair Stan Lee’s empire definitely took away some of the beauty behind its art in order to make money, as did Star Wars and Harry Potter. However, all three of these works of fiction have expanded the imaginations of many and given many courage and strength to go on. The idea that comic books are somehow uniquely bad as a form of literature, is a dishonest suggestion. All forms of art have the capability of being bad or good, but to blame the art form and somehow tie that into a Donald Trump world makes absolutely no sense.

While I have not heard from him yet I assume he will respond as he usually does, saying that he is not the problem but in fact the “snowflakes” who cannot handle him are. He is entitled to his opinion, but at some point he should take some responsibility for his endless provocations and maybe try to change. Knowing Bill he will not change his ways, and part of what makes him great is his willingness to disagree and go in directions no one else will. I just wish he would think twice before saying certain things.

In better news, if you are in a need of something to make you laugh, this video of Bundesliga commentary reimagined as daily life animations is hilarious.

The New York Times China Profile and Thanksgiving Thoughts

The world thought it could change China, and in many ways it has. But China’s success has been so spectacular that it has just as often changed the world — and the American understanding of how the world works.

This is from the terrific New York Times profile on China’s rise as a world power and its future as it heads toward a more autocratic future with President Xi Jinping in charge. It raises interesting questions about the value of nationalism and the conventional wisdom of economics and of free expression. It is certainly remarkable that China has been able to last as long as it has, and how it can survive into the future.

Thanksgiving is coming up and one thing I can say I am thankful for is the friendships and people I have met at the University of Michigan, and thankful that my family is safe after the Woolsey Fire roared through my hometown, and after the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill. I am eternally grateful that they are safe, and my thoughts are with all of those affected. I will be back in town this week, and it will be devastating to see the effects of these devastating events. I can only hope for the best for the future, and with that I would like to wish all of my readers a happy early thanksgiving.

Stan Lee

At 95, Stan Lee has been pronounced dead. I was never a huge comic book nerd, but I loved the Marvel movies and enjoyed the fantastical powers many of his protagonists were given. What Stan Lee did for so many young children was dare them to think big, to dream farther, and to use their wild imaginations. For many today, it is hard to imagine the world of movies and comic books without thinking of Stan, and his endlessly hilarious cameos. We will miss you Stan, and you beautiful imagination. Thank you for everything, but especially for Captain America. He was such a terrific superhero, and the only reason he was ever there in the first place was because of your imagination. Rest in peace, Stan Lee.

Borderline Bar and Grill is too close to Home

Borderline Bar and Grill is all of 15 minutes from my home in California. While I now live in Michigan, it is still incredibly shocking and heartbreaking to hear of this happening not far from my home. How and why is so hard to understand, but the raw feeling of anger and closeness to this event make it more than a news story. I pray for the victims and their friends and families during this awful time, and am only glad to know that many of my friends who go to Borderline are safe.

So often we want to make a policy subscription after an event like this, and yet I cannot in this moment. It is too close, too real, and too painful to do so. All I can do is give everyone back home my love and support, and hope that everything will be okay.

Having an event happen like this in a more personal way gives perspective when these events happen in the news in other places. Thousand Oaks and the surrounding areas are incredibly safe, so safe that many of my friends and others viewed the area as “boring.” Yet, even with this in mind, the event happened regardless. I do not claim to have the answers, but I hope we can at least think. For those who want to politicize this event immediately, know that there are people who died and people who are affected by this. For some it is not just another mass shooting, it is an attack on our home.

 

Midterm Elections

Most of yesterday’s elections failed to surprise me, as the “blue wave” did well everywhere except the senate, as it was simply bad math for anything serious to happen. One thing that was fascinating was that in terms of percentage, the youth only made up 13% of the electorate, which is around the same for the last midterm elections. However, it would not surprise me if more people voted overall, due to all of the political discourse over the past few years. Nevertheless, the sun still shines and the world still spins.

One thing I was surprised about was how many people were encouraging others to vote, so long as they did not disagree with them. I received a Voter Guide from NextGen America, which advertised itself as “non-partisan” despite clear partisan appeals to the democrats. It claimed that certain candidates were “against Devos’ plan” and would “stand up to trump” while others would not. “Voter guides” are supposed to educate the population on who is running, not on who they want you to vote for.Voting is a good thing, and getting others’ registered to vote is a great thing that I encourage people to do. However, make sure you respect people’s decisions to vote their conscience, rather than downgrading them for disagreeing. It is antithetical to what the right to vote is about, and I hope that behavior ends.

This was my third time voting and only my second voting in Michigan, and I was nevertheless impressed with the motivation of many to vote. I was throughly impressed with how many busy college students made the effort to vote. It shows that for many voting is important, which is a good sign for our future.

Hopefully, we can combine this enthusiasm for voting with an ability to respect individual’s and their reasons for voting a specific way. We have a long way to go, but I still have hope.