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.

Game of Thrones Quote #2

*The following post contains spoilers for the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones Series*

‘And did you see where I was seated, Mance?’ He leaned forward. ‘Did you see where they put the bastard?’

Jon Snow is someone who is full of conflict, whether that be because of how he was treated or what he represents. As a bastard child, he is evidence the worst part of Ned’s character, and is a painful scar for the family. No one more painfully recognizes this than Catelyn, who treats him as a scar, one to be ignored in order to prevent bringing out what it represents. Ned had flaws, and her refusal at times to understand that leads her to treat her bastard son with contempt.

None of this however is Jon Snow’s fault, and so he has constantly lived knowing the pain he represents to his family but cannot do anything to change it. He decided to go to the wall, to make something of himself, to not live as destructive reminder but a positive influence. He took an oath, swore allegiance, and promised to live by the decree of The Night’s Watch, only for it to be taken from him once again.

In this moment it is hard to know if he means every part of what he is saying or if he is trying to win over the free folk. I think he believes a good portion of it though, and it seems fitting for all that he has been through. Did you see what happened to me? Every time I try to do something whether it be honorable or not I get thrown away. And for what? I am a bastard child but that was not my choice. 

Now Jon Snow sits across from Wildlings who are an enemy of the one organization that gave him purpose. This once again was not necessarily a choice of his own, and now the one thing that meant anything to him is now seemingly gone. Maybe he is pretending and trying to play double agent, but that must be upsetting. It remains to be seem (AGAIN I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SHOW!) whether he will eventually believe in the cause of the free folk, but for now there seems to be some foreshadowing in that direction.

“The Long, Knotty, World-Spanning Story of String”

Ferris Jabr wrote a fantastic story on the history of string and its importance for our civilization.

“In a fiberless world, the age of naval exploration would never have happened; early light bulbs would have lacked suitable filaments; the pendulum would never have inspired advances in physics and timekeeping; and there would be no Golden Gate Bridge, no tennis shoes, no Beethoven’s fifth symphony.”

This article does a terrific job of taking something we so often take for granted, and show just how impactful its invention and usage is on our everyday lives. This is a great example of not only a fascinating subject, but also terrific writing as well. This is an absolute must read for anyone who breathes oxygen.

Via Tyler Cowen

Fascinating Article on the Straw Ban

A fascinating article by Alice Wong discusses the ban on plastic straws.

“People have told me online that I still have access to biodegradable straws at Starbucks, despite my reasons for using plastic ones. People have told me to bring my own reusable straws without thinking about the extra work that entails. Why would a disabled customer have to bring something in order to drink while non-disabled people have the convenience and ability to use what is provided for free? This is neither just, equitable, nor hospitable.”

I have never even thought about this argument in terms of eliminating plastic straws. This argument of inclusiveness is used generally used by those who lean more liberal, however many of those same people would probably support the same ban on plastic straws. Extremely thought provoking and definitely worth a read for people of all political persuasions.

via Tyler Cowen