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.

Jaws & The Best Article on the College Admissions Scandal

You’re going to need a bigger boat

Jaws– I have a lot of odd hot takes from this movie, but I really enjoyed it. My biggest problem with this movie is that characters often say lines that are so on the nose, it is hard to understand why they bothered. Certain things are implied, and do not need to be repeated. The continuous repetition of the amount of money will be lost is absurd. Also, lines about the shark being dangerous are at times brilliant and at times unneeded. Also, most of what Quint says are the same types of lines said in slightly different ways. This movie could have been cut by a half-an-hour. If it is not needed, there is not point in having it.

However, the suspense and drama are all there and still effective. Not showing the shark for most of the movie is an incredibly smart decision by Spielberg. It allows us to envision the shark in our heads rather than see the shark and not be scared. This creates for an incredibly shocking and fun finale, which makes up for the at times crawling pace. I think it is a very good movie, but overrated. Roy Schneider as Chief Brody is easily my favorite character, but not enough to bring up Quint in my view.  7/10

Biggest Hot Take: Can we please get Mayor Vaughn a normal looking Jacket? Those sport coats are terrible. Also, can Quint please not say another line referring to “his day” or “kids these days”? We got it the first time.

The collapse of manufacturing jobs has been to poor whites what the elite college-admissions crunch has been to wealthy ones: a smaller and smaller slice of pie for people who were used to having the fattest piece of all.

Caitlin Flanagan is one of my favorite writers today. Her content at the Atlantic is always well-written, and unique. She generally brings out the take that I could not quite say, and says it much better than I ever could. Here is a great example, using her time as a College Counselor and High School teacher, she analyzes exactly how and why many parents resorted to this lowly behavior in order to get their children in to good schools.

Growing up in a more well off area, all of this behavior makes sense. People forget that college educations are often not about the kids themselves, but about the status of the parents. Plenty of parents who went to traditionally great schools, are increasingly angry that it is no longer a guarantee their kid will be able to attend as well. Many parents feel it is a reflection upon themselves.

While this is not the case, and I would argue having hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket is a better investment, this is not the last time we will here of scandals like this. As college admissions get more difficult, the population of entitled parents will only continue to grow.

Ross Douthat’s Article & “The Problem with Frats”

But will Mueller prove it? While retaining an official agnosticism, my sense after Cohen’s testimony is that the odds are as low as they’ve been since this whole affair started, and the increasing likelihood is that the Steele dossier was, in fact, as Trump’s defenders have long described it — a narrative primarily grounded in Russian disinformation.

In light of the recent revelations regarding the Mueller probe, this column from Ross Douthat looks particularly wise. The burden of proof was very high which makes it all the more reasonable that Mueller would be unable to prove collusion or obstruction of justice. While I would love to see President Trump leave office, it is also important that the burden of proof for these kinds of accusations is still high. While I can understand the anger over the result of the report, I am glad that our institutions held firm.

The Mueller investigation was still incredibly important. It also brought numerous indictments and guilty pleas from many inside the Trump organization and administration, all of which are valuable to helping keep our institutions afloat. Ultimately, the burden of proof was too high, and that is more than okay.  It helped lead to other investigations and brought to light how willing Trump was to collude. Ultimately, the burden of proof was too high to charge Trump, and that is more than okay. 

Because what happens in Phi Rho Kappa, stays in Phi Rho Kappa, except for naked pictures of our exes, that’s allowed, cuz it’s funny!

CollegeHumor has long been my favorite YouTube Channel, and I recently discovered a video called “The Problem with Frats.” It is pure gold. While I know it is not a good representation of all fraternities it does hit the nail on the head in terms of why it is a troubling institution. If you would like to read more of what I wrote about Greek Life, you can read through my Michigan Review Article that came out earlier in the year here.

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!

Unbreakable, Your Name, & The Plight of P.E.

Unbreakable – The hype around the new movie Glass got to me, and so I felt I should see Unbreakable in order to gauge my interest in watching it. Unbreakable is certainly creative, but at times very dull. I found the twist to be interesting even if it was slightly predictable. Regardless, I do not think this movie is as creative as Shyamalan thinks, nor does it affect me quite the same way as Sixth Sense did when that twist ending was revealed. M. Night Shyamalan often seems to think he is more clever than he truly is, and at times that comes off pretty poorly in this movie. It is fine but not a must see by any stretch. 6.5/10

Your Name – This film is so beautifully made, that it is hard to have a lot of genuine qualms with it. The animation is stunning, watching how the contrasting landscapes work in unison is truly special. What impressed me most about this movie was it took a concept that could have easily been used in a cheesy and ineffective way and it made it incredibly meaningful. My one problem is that the timelines can get slightly confusing, and I wish the resolution helped resolve a little more of the time jumping. In one of my favorite movies Arrival, it takes a similar view of time and in my judgment works better simply because it uses its template to effectively narrate the story. While this movie certainly does a great job, it missed some opportunities to make it even better. Regardless, it is a must watch but not quite as good as Spirited Away. 8.8/10

Students are more likely to be bullied in middle school than at any other point in their academic careers, and P.E. presents a particularly ripe opportunity for abuse, whether because the class forces them to use a locker room, where adult supervision is limited, or because it facilitates the teasing of overweight or unathletic kids.

This story by Alia Wong has had me thinking about my experience in P.E. in school and wondering how it helped or hurt my interest in fitness. For me, it helped as it gave me an environment where I felt confident and could excel. Then again, I am sure P.E. would be very discouraging for others who could not quite keep up or even were slightly below the curve. All this seems to do is decrease fitness at older ages, as many use their middle school memories of Physical Education and associate that with any form of working out in general.

Fitness should be made enjoyable and worthwhile to the people who are participating, especially for those at a young age. It is not surprising that putting people in an environment where they can feel exposed and bullied is not the most rewarding experience for kids who maybe are not quite as talented. I wonder if we could spark enjoyment in activity without reducing fitness to timed runs and arbitrary benchmarks, and if that would make it more fun for everyone involved.

If we want to be a healthier society, it is vital that we focus on making fitness fun for kids. Frankly, while I understand we live in a society that is “coddled” or “soft”, putting kids in an environment where they feel horrible about their athletic abilities will only further isolate kids not make them stronger. All it seeks to do is alienate kids from something important to their health for the rest of their lives. We can keep kids having fun outside and make P.E. more about having fun and then get into the more challenging competitions as kids get older.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind & Charles Murray’s The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I was hesitant to watch this movie because I simply assumed it would use a clever convention to tell a different permutation of the same rom-com story. This movie differentiates itself by investing in the characters, those in and outside of the main relationship. What kind of people would do this and what kind of people would perform these procedures? All of these questions are tackled in unique perspectives, and the twists at the end create for a satisfying narrative. That being said, I found this film slightly lacking emotional bite, which I think may have been solved by watching this in a theater. Regardless my experience was never quite as impactful as I hoped, bringing down my overall score. It is still worthwhile, and I have a feeling with the right audience it would be incredibly impactful. 8.5/10

“If something about your prospective spouse bothers you, but you think that you can change your beloved after you’re married, you’re wrong” (135).

Charles Murray was caught up in a wave of controversy in 2017, as his book The Bell Curve became a source of seeming unending controversy at universities, including the University of Michigan. While I did not attend the event with Charles Murray, it was a sad state of affairs for everyone involved. While I understand the implications behind his study, and why people would be concerned, I have no reason to believe the data collection was done incorrectly. Regardless, the reasoning for including racial IQ scores does not seem to have been entirely thought through, which makes me feel slightly uneasy about him. We all make mistakes, and I feel as though he is important to still listen to, even though some of his past work may be questionable at best.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead had been sitting on my desk for a while and I was not sure how to really look at it. However, after reading through it, I found parts of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to be genuinely enlightening, and it has left me with many thoughts and questions to ask. Tips about testing yourself and thoughts about non-judgmental society have left me in deep contemplation, and I hope to get to ask him questions about it in the future and write a review on it. While I was not as enthralled with the advice on how to present yourself in the workplace, other sections make this book important reading for all 20 year-olds. This one of the more important books I sat down to read, and even if you hate Charles Murray, you will find something in here that is valuable.

Andrew Sullivan’s The Poison We Pick & Isle of Dogs

Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many.

The following is from a brilliant article by Andrew Sullivan regarding the Opioid epidemic, and one I cannot commend enough for its scope and brilliance. Andrew Sullivan is a terrific writer, but what makes this piece particularly special is his understanding and compassion toward users and abusers of opioids. It paints a picture of a country that has lost its way, and that has left people behind. Empty voids can be filled in devastating ways, and this is no different. If you want to understand the United States today, look no further than this brilliant piece of journalism.

 I couldn’t get past Anderson’s usual clumsiness when dealing with minorities. This is a film where a character is literally whitewashed, an act that makes him more agreeable afterwards. “Isle of Dogs” treats this as a sight gag. It plays more like a confession.

This is from a review of the movie Isle of Dogs by Odie Henderson, a great writer for the Roger Ebert site. The review dwells over a few characters including  who are deemed as culturally problematic, most notably a girl in the film named Tracy who is perceived by Henderson to be the “white savior” of the film.

To me, while there were oblique symbols used that may have been misappropriated, I really do not know understand why we have to look at Tracy’s race before dealing with her as a character. Anderson could have been more careful, but this is his world and he choose to have a character with unique story and connection to the case in order to make it palpable. If she was of color I do not think that would have changed anything, and she did not have to be if Anderson did not see it that way. I do not think characterizing it as cultural appropriation is fair, as it is a slippery term to begin with and directors should be able to write their own stories without fear of fitting into a narrow cultural frame.

I liked the movie overall, but was a bit underwhelmed at points. I think Wes Anderson is an incredibly creative mind, and I love much of his work. The animation in this film is particularly astounding including a terrific voice cast. Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bryan Cranston are just a few of the voices for this film, and that is not even the tip of the iceberg. While this film could have been more well thought out, it is hard to be too angry when this film is as fun as it is with so many great performances. 8/10

The Favourite, Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, & David Brooks’s Favorite Articles

The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos’s snide and narcissistic comedy about two women fighting to be Queen Anne’s confidant is hilarious and biting. Much attention has been paid to Olivia Colman as Queen Anne and rightfully so, but I was more impressed with Emma Stone as Abigail. Watching her duke it out and manipulate those around her in a way Machiavelli would be proud was terrific, and she makes the absolute most of her role. It ends in slightly odd and precarious way, but that does not take away from the overall quality of this movie. It is a very fun time, even if it is imperfect. 8.7/10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Like me, I am sure many of you have Superhero fatigue, and yet this movie finds a way to be incredibly fresh and exciting as a superhero film. Cleverly written, it takes joy in playing with narrative and structure, showcasing different Spider-men and women from different dimensions. It makes for some of the most refreshing thrills in years, and allows for a unique take on a comic book staple. The animation is also incredible, as it literally brings comic book pages to life. Miles and the other spider-people seem to move at hyperkinetic speeds while also keeping a unique artistic quality that beckons comic books of old and new. It is hard to think of a movie more fresh and fun than this one, and one that I highly encourage you see in theaters. 9/10

Finally in this piece, David Brooks quotes some of his favorite long-form pieces of journalism, and all of them are worth a read. I would highly recommend both Andrew Sullivan pieces mentioned, as they are both terrific.

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!

Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch

Food is a product of economic supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed.

Tyler Cowen’s book An Economist Gets Lunch is an enjoyable introduction to economic principles and how it relates to food. Cowen is a economics professor at George Mason, and has his own wonderful blog entitled Marginal RevolutionHe has written dozens of books and has been an important voice in economics for the past decade.

In this book Tyler explores the history of food and why he believes it is in crisis, and explores how we can use basic economics to get the most out of our eating experience. Some of my favorite rules are why you should always eat on a street instead of an avenue in New York, why fighting patrons are a good sign, and how changing our supermarket experience can change our diets for the better. This book is a wonderful read, full of history, economics, and above all food. If you are looking for an introduction into economics or a guide to the mind of Tyler Cowen, this is a great place to start.