Two Michigan Review Articles

YouTube has given into randomly demonetizing videos at their discretion, and other sites have randomly deleted content and pages without an explanation. It is absurd behavior from companies that are now some of the biggest publications in the world.

These past couple of weeks have been insanely busy, so it is only normal that two Michigan Review Articles under my name! My first is on Facebook, in which I am critical of their approach to allowing publications to become authorized. I had a fun time writing it, and I hope you check it out!

The major theme for their campaign focuses on accessibility and making life “easier for students to navigate” at Michigan. “We have students from all kinds of backgrounds” Brian explained and it is their job to make the university more open and transparent for everyone involved.

I also got a chance to interview an write on two candidates who were running for LSA Student Government. Mary McKillop and Brian Wang are both good friends of mine and I had a great time talking to them about their platform and many other issues effecting Michigan’s campus. They both won today, which was very exciting for both of them. If you want to read what they are all about, definitely read it over.

 

Michigan Review Article & Russian Doll

She started out jovially, joking about how she gets recognized in the strangest places. She then delved into a more serious discussion of contemporary geopolitics as well as the importance of diplomacy. “Diplomacy is one of our arms for negotiation.”

This is from my latest article with the Michigan Review. I covered a talk from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in which she joked and warned of threats to democracy. It was a fascinating discussion, and one I encourage you to read about.

Russian Doll – I am bad about watching shows, but I was simply too intrigued to avoid watching Netflix’s latest series, Russian Doll. It is absolutely tremendous, a groundhog day scenario imbued with pain and satire. The story consistently finds ways to surprise and enlighten while staying true to its comedic routes. Natasha Lyonne is great as Nadia, and her initial discoveries and plot points are fascinating and hysterical.

However, the series really becomes special when Alan played by Charlie Barnett is discovered to be going through something similar, which causes the show to go on many fascinating twists and turns. Their dynamic is terrific, where their pain and denial stem from different things and are expressed in different ways, but are ultimately one in the same. It is a brilliant show and at just eight 20 minute episodes, it takes almost no time. 9.3/10 

Movie Etiquette

While seeing Apollo 11, I noticed plenty of bad movie etiquette. I feel that I should write about it rather than assume people understand how to behave, since clearly full grown adults have no idea.

Two couples in front of me were pointing at the screen and loudly describing their thoughts about the film, making sure that everyone understood how smart they were. Loudly pointing and talking at the screen to prove how much you know about the film is disrespectful, rude, and unnecessary. While you may think people genuinely care about your thoughts on the movie’s tonal direction most people are concerned with the movie itself. We all have emotional reactions. Laughing, a sudden gasp are more than reasonable. However, actively taking away attention from the film and attempting to put it on yourself is never okay. If you think people care more about you than the film they are trying to watch you have other issues. You have plenty of time after the movie is over to discuss your thoughts.

An adult next to me was checking Instagram while the movie was playing. Playing on your phone is something I would have expected from a child who is bored at his sister’s piano recital. Who knew grown-ups were capable of the same selfishness. Movies are roughly two hours long. If you cannot go two hours without checking your phone, then stay at home and twiddle your thumbs to your heart’s content. Emergencies are emergencies, and if you have one you should absolutely use your phone, just make sure to walk out of the theater. The bright light is incredibly distracting while trying to watch a film, and it is important to show consideration towards those who want to be in the movie theater. If you would rather check Instagram and Twitter, stay home.

Am I being mean, snobby, blunt, harsh, or all of the above? Yes. Do I care if I hurt your feelings? Not particularly. Being considerate in today’s world is a lost commodity, and a movie theater may seem like small potatoes. It is, but we have to start somewhere. Show some consideration towards others when enjoying yourself, and the experience will be better for you and everyone else around you.

Apollo 11 & Daredevil Season 3 Review

Apollo 11 – This documentary does a great job of paying attention to detail. Each moment of the moon landing is painstakingly realized, from time to sound and communication. What is slightly off-putting is that this films opts for no “talking heads” and operates completely within the context of the events themselves. The goal is to create a “you are there” sensation, which at times adds to the film but also takes away from it. If you already know plenty about the mission than I suspect you probably prefer it this way, but for those who have little background in science and were not alive for the moon landing are left slightly confused. I love documentaries, and what makes them great are often the interesting subjects who help put things into context. I would have loved to hear historians discussing the implications of this event, or scientists describing exactly how the ship works. Instead I am left with plenty of interesting and cool footage, but no message from the directors. That is disappointing, especially considering how much terrific footage there is in this film. 7/10

This season was easily the best of Daredevil’s run, with smartly paced storytelling finally catching up to the already brilliant action scenes. For the first time in the show’s run, every episode felt purposeful, every move felt necessary, and nothing felt like filler. This makes it that much more disappointing that Netflix cancelled the show, as there was so much more left to offer.

Regardless, I think it is more important to look at the product of the third season as a whole before getting sad about the show’s cancellation. The newcomers in particular were great, as they added many new dimensions to the show. Jay Ali as Special Agent Ray Nadeem stands out in particular. His struggle and ultimate send-off are all incredibly powerful to watch. Overall I would give it a 8.5/10, a must watch for any Marvel fan.

Clippers vs. Lakers Reaction

When the season began, the Clippers merely moved forward once again in the shadows of the nearby circus, far under radar and beyond the glare, sharing the same arena as the Lakers but not the same platform. This is why today feels so … what’s the word … gratifying? … for the L.A. Team Not Fit For A King.

Oh if only you could know how much joy I am taking out of the Clippers win over the Lakers last night. They showed the toughness and grit that defines Clippers, whilst the Lakers looked sluggish and unable to respond.

As a lifelong Clippers fan it has always been frustrating playing second fiddle to the team in purple and gold. Even during the Lob City era, The LA Clippers still took backseat to the Lakers. Now with LeBron, it seemed that they would be back from their slump, ready to challenge for the title they have desperately coveted. Now that appears to be out of reach, as the Lakers will almost definitely not make the playoffs.

Last night’s beatdown represented more than a win and a loss, it showed to two teams trending in opposite directions. This is a huge step forward for the Clippers, as the Clippers are poised to make the playoffs without an NBA superstar and plenty of cap space to work with this offseason. Meanwhile the Lakers are broken physically and spiritually, with LeBron unable to muster the same tenacity he had while in Cleveland. Now with playoff hopes diminishing rapidly, the Lakers are in free fall.

Last night, The Clippers put nails into the coffin of the team that has overshadowed us for so long and showed why they are a deserving playoff team. Jerry West, Doc Rivers, and Steve Ballmer are ready to take this team even further, and I cannot wait to see the end product. I wish I could explain exactly how happy I am am, but I know I cannot. All I can tell you is it feels very good. Clipper Nation, this is just beginning.

Annie Hall, Michael Cohen, & A Storm of Swords Reflection

Annie Hall – Woody Allen is a fascinating character and a joy to watch in Annie Hall. His constant neuroticism, as well as his openness towards his contradictions make him troubled but likable. It is still hard not to think of the recent allegations against him, and wonder how honest he is being when describing his love life. Regardless that should not take away from the merits of this work, as it is still an incredibly smart and clever piece of work. That said, it does drag and tries too hard to subvert itself. Some of the gimmicks are strange and unneeded. Also watching him embrace every Jewish stereotype imaginable at times made me laugh but at times made me wonder if he approached the subject with any seriousness. My negative thoughts aside, this film is a fascinating watch, even if some of its tricks work against it. 8/10

There is none of the purgation of self and transformation of spirit that happens among people who have truly been altered. He’s just switched teams and concluded that the Democrats can now give him what he wants, so he says what appeals to them. That may be progress, but it is not moral renewal.

How should we view Michael Cohen in light of damning testimony? On one side there seemed to be more of an embrace, while on the other side there seemed to be complete skepticism of him. I think it is important to be very clear on who this man is but also understand that he is being candid in his testimony.

As David Brooks notes, he worked for Trump and branded himself as a “fixer” in order to gain respect in Trump’s orbit. He did horrible things in order to protect a man he admired and get recognition from him as well. Now he has looked back and decided he was wrong. Regardless, he has not given us enough of a turnaround to make him a new person. However, I do believe he showed candor, and as LawFare notes, plenty of his evidence is damning. While we can still rightfully question what kind of person Michael Cohen is, it is important that we treat his testimony as credible. If we do not, we are enabling a president who does not care about anyone but himself. That should be something we should all fear, regardless of political allegiance.

For the most part there was one perspective character per location. A Storm of Swords changes that by moving characters around and sometimes showing the same events from different perspectives.

I finally finished A Storm of Swords, and it is probably the best piece of fiction I have ever read. It never slows down, and keeps the pace going in such a smooth way it was easy to forget just how much happened in one book.

Every character changed and grew so much in this story that it is hard to view them the same way than at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Sansa and Arya in particular, both young girls, have now become strong women in their own right. While their transformation is rewarding in many ways, it is also brutal to see them begin to lose hope in the world around them. Who can blame these characters? Often times they are isolated and tested just to survive.

My hope for the next book is to see how these characters become major players in the war itself and watch their characters grow and develop. I am really looking forward to A Feast for Crows, and have already begun reading. I will let you know of some of my favorite quotes when I get the chance.

The Oscars & The NCAA

But the easiest way to demonstrate relevance would have been to hand major trophies to two of the year’s most-loved films: Black Panther and A Star Is Born. When it came time for the two biggest awards of the evening, those movies were nowhere to be found.

This from writer David Sims, hits on the continuous ambiguity that is the Oscars. It is hard to know who the awards are for, and why certain movies continue to be selected in spite of the complaints that are made against them. I have not watched Green Book, so in a sense I probably do not get to complain. Regardless, it is still a confusing pick considering the complaints  from the Shirley family and the other films that came out this year. Free Solo, Roma, Black Panther, First Reformed, Minding The Gap and others all seemed to be lost on the academy. The Oscars continue to mystify me, as this year they tried to branch out and show that they were changing when in the end they really were not that different.

How valuable is an Oscar? Well in terms of money it seems to help a great deal, however its ability to reward merit is slightly skewed. When looking at the Oscars, it is important to remember that the voters are a specific group of people who have specific tastes. Not everyone has those tastes and that is okay. If you do not like the movies that get selected, ignore the show. Many terrific people (Alfred Hitchcock) and movies (reference the list) never get the recognition they deserve.

Justice demands the removal of artificial barriers to fair compensation. Here’s another one: Just organizations do not reap billions of dollars from mainly poor kids and then grant them fewer rights and more obligations than their peers.

This article from David French points to something I highlighted in a Michigan Review Article last year. After Zion Williamson went down with another knee injury, I continue to struggle to see how and why the NCAA should be allowed to function the way it is.

The athletes are not fairly compensated for the revenue they produce, and they cannot even work minimum wage paying jobs that any other college student would be able to if not for NCAA rules. I am fine with these athletes not being professionals, so long as they are also not barred from competing professionally whenever they want. The idea that they have to spend years in college to develop is absurd. Professional teams should be responsible for development academies, not colleges who should focus on academia and future employment.

 

AEI Conference Reflection & Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The AEI conference was very enlightening, as I got to hear from many fascinating speakers regarding political discourse as well as where much of the best policy research is leaning towards. There was a fascinating dialogue between current AEI President Arthur Brooks and Professor John A. Powell that did a great job of outlining how we can have a political discussion, which is vital for more people to here.

Some panels were better than others but another panel that stood out was a panel on the American World Order and a career panel were both very helpful for young college students. It created for fascinating thought and discussion which I appreciated immensely.

Much of what the conference suffered from was repetition, and in constant mentioning of the ideas that we are “divided” and that we need to find the “humanity” in others. This is not news to people who read this blog and to the people who go these conferences, but I recognize the value of mentioning it and making sure people do not forget it.

Also the timing for this conference could not have been worse. Right in the middle of midterms across the country in Berkeley put unnecessary stress on me and many others, This problem could have been avoided with more conferences or having it earlier in the semester. That aside, it was a great conference and I highly encourage those of you who know nothing about Arthur Brooks or AEI to watch his movie The Pursuit when it comes out on Netflix.

I can’t say that I regret any of my actions. In many ways this has been the best time of my life.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Melissa McCarthy has shown a tendency to play one-off comedic characters, which makes her role in this film that much more surprising. She does an amazing job of giving Lee Israel humanity and pain, allowing for us to sympathize with a serial forger. This movie is shockingly melancholic at times, and sometimes that works to its detriment. Regardless, McCarthy is a stand out and this film has a fascinating character for a fascinating story. 8.5/10

 

The Old Man & The Gun, A Simple Favor, and Ezra Klein vs. Andrew Sullivan

I was on a long plane ride this morning so naturally I watched movies.

The Old Man & The Gun – Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek are great, as this film takes on a fascinating life of its own. It reminded me a lot of No End In Sight, another love story with a charming bank robber. Robert Redford’s Forest Tucker is more entertaining and more fun than Clooney was in No End in Sight, and his old man charm create for some hysterical moments as people get robbed without even knowing it. My one problem with this film is that it seems to be content with allowing these two great leads to just be themselves. While that is in many ways a strength there I would have appreciated more risk in making this film. Regardless, this is a fun movie to see, especially if you are looking for a fun, relaxing, and charming film. 8/10

A Simple Favor – Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively make this movie better than it has any right to be, as there characters and personalities play off of each other in exciting and tantalizing ways. Unfortunately, much of the plot becomes confusing and downright obscure, as it tries to hard to sub-verse the genre of “gone missing” films. It has moments of great humor and insight, but it just lacks clarity. Worthwhile for the two leads, but other than that I would skip. 6/10

Also Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan duel it out on this fascinating podcast, and it is absolutely worth a listen, especially if you want to see where political debate is heading. I think both make good points, but I generally side with Sullivan. That being said, he at times makes straw-men of views that fall apart, and Klein rightly points this out. Nevertheless, it is a very interesting interview, and one I highly recommend.

Game of Thrones Quote #5 & Robert Sapolsky

The following post contains spoilers from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire.

It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love (A Storm of Swords, 776).

Sansa grew up singing the songs of her grandmother and believing that a beautiful prince would sweep her off her feet and marry her. Now, through death and a failed marriage, she has come to realize that in this world, no one will want her for who she is. This is a bitter pill to watch her swallow, and her character arc makes it all the more moving.

Throughout the first book A Game of Thrones, it was really hard to care about Sansa’s complaints. Her constant pettiness and ignorance was frustrating to read, and each time she complained I found it to be insufferable. However, her experiences have caused her to grow immensely, and in many ways she is one of the strongest characters in the story. She refused to let the horrible men in her life take away what mattered to her, and she remained dignified throughout.

Now it is depressing to read her realization of what she is and how she is viewed by others. She will never be as happy as those songs, but in a sense she is a better person because of it. Sansa was a character in desperate need of a wake up call, but this feels to harsh to for anyone to deal with.

We have been alluding away at the ideal of the self with recent scientific discoveries.

While I must admit I have not read a book by Robert Sapolsky, his arguments made on a few podcasts about why free will is an illusion are incredibly intriguing. My favorite of these was on an episode of Radiolab, in which the crew reexamined a case of someone who changed after a brain surgery. It is a genuinely shocking story and I highly encourage everyone to listen to it.

Most recently, he had an interview with Ezra Klein, in which he discusses stress and how it should be seen as a fault in machinery not as in a fault of the user. It is seriously fascinating stuff.

I guess it intrigues me because the narrative seems to be subject to so much abuse. Why do my actions matter if they are all pre-determined or not controlled by me? It is certainly reasonable to believe people would use this narrative to run amok, claiming that none of this is in fact their fault. However, I think this explanation could help in a lot of ways as well. I was born with a language learning disorder, and I blamed myself for my faults. It took me time to figure out that my handwriting was bad not because of a fault of my own, but because I had an impairment, that my interactions could feel awkward because of my ability to comprehend.

How then can we attempt to make a balanced explanation while also valuing the sanctity of humans themselves? It is a tough task, but I tend to think we should try to explain why we have certain behaviors and not act as though we are sole contributors to our own faults. Anyway, I hope to read his books at some point and have more to say on the subject!