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.

Spirited Away, Incredibles 2, and Covington Catholic

Spirited Away – It is hard to think of a movie that genuinely had me on the edge of my seat quite like this one. Chihiro’s story is so absorbing, and her conviction is so strong, it is hard not to root for her the whole time. The screen is so full or richness and mystery, and the story is genuinely exciting and thrilling. Seeing this on the big screen at Michigan Theater was a great choice, and if you can see it that way I recommend it. This movie is so full of fun moments and little nods to Japanese culture it can easily be missed on DVD. While I felt certain things were still ultimately lost in translation, it is a delightful story that follows no conventions and surprises until the very end. 9.3/10

Incredibles 2 – I saw this first over summer and was disappointed. I figured something might have been wrong with my interpretation so I decided to wait and watch it again later. I watched it again and I was disappointed again. I think much of this has to do with how much I loved the first film, no sequel could ever live up to that film. However I found the villain to be incredibly lackluster, which is unfortunate considering how compelling the villain was in the first film. The film is also incredibly predictable, which while it is a kids movie, made it frustrating to watch. Especially in light of Spirited Away, this film at times seems uninspired. Jack-Jack is easily the best part of the film, creating numerous laughs as he discovers his powers. However, in spite of my desperate attempts to like this film more, it is simply disappointing. 6.5/10

It’s about reducing a complex human life into one viral moment and then banishing him to oblivion.

This is from David Brooks’s latest article about the Covington Catholic High School boys, which I think is the best take on the subject. This subject quickly came to dominate the weekend, and much of it was unprecedented in which how one narrative was quickly spun. This school is by no means a model for society and has done some unsavory things, however we should not demonize high school boys because they are not the type of people we want to be.

This need to destroy people’s lives also went contrary to further evidence later presented by other videos, which only make the rush to judgment by so many that much more troublesome. We have all done and said things that we regret. However, most of us were given the benefit of the doubt, and do not have to go to everyone explaining why when they were young they said something they maybe shouldn’t have. These boys may not get that luxury, which is slightly disturbing considering they are only in high school and they are not guilty as tried. People change, and yet we want to box people in at a very young age and destroy their futures. That has to stop.

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.

 

Tree of Life Massacre

Going to services should be about connecting with those around you, and yet that simple right was taken away for many this Saturday. While it is easy to look around and point fingers, we must first think about this and grieve. Grieve for not only those who have lost their lives this weekend, but who have lost their lives simply trying to observe their respective religions.

Looking on this shooting, I can not help but think back to my time in Israel on birthright, and how that shaped how I view Judaism today. For a long period of time, I had struggled with reconciling my atheist beliefs with what was said in prayer, and I felt myself growing ever-distant to a community I once called my own. However, in Israel I learned that regardless of my level of religious observance, Judaism is a community I can always be apart of. This made me and still makes me incredibly proud of my Jewish identity, as I practice a religion that understands the importance of diversity of thought, and embraces it for the better.

After that realization, I have begun to realize what Judaism means to me, and how that can differ from others. While my belief in God is still lacking, I look to Judaism as a community, and one that I can share with so many others. Everyone, regardless of religious observance is apart of that community, and we all owe to each other the love and respect we deserve. For me, this is not just another mass shooting, these are family members and loved ones that I share a deep connection with.

There are those out there who would rather see Jewish people not live because of what religion they choose to practice, rather than who they are as a person.While there are many factors that may have contributed to this man choosing to act in such a manner, there is much that all of us can learn from Saturday’s events. It is easy to react with anger and contempt, whether that be toward the man who committed the atrocity or toward those in power. What I ask of you is to choose compassion instead. Think of someone you love, and let them know that you are here. Let others know, that you will not succumb to the hate and fear that surrounds us, rather you will unite in love, acceptance and understanding. If Judaism has taught me anything, it has shown me that love is and has always been more powerful than hate and fear, and that all of us are capable of forgiveness and acceptance. This man chose to act and prey on our anger and fear, and we must not let him win. We must show that in the face of anger, hate, and contempt, we are capable of more.

Cristiano Ronaldo, LA Clippers, and Jamal Khashoggi

Cristiano Ronaldo has been accused of sexual assault, and while I do not like speculation do me a favor and indulge in my speculation for a little bit. This will once again be a case of he said she said, however if he is guilty it would not surprise me in the slightest.

He mentioned in the press conference that he “had everything,” and in a sense he does. This attitude could lead him to do exactly what he is being accused of, as he could feel that something that is not is he needs to take. While there is no doubt he faced a hard road to become one of the greats, now he is an incredible athlete who has been and is continually told that he is incredible. He is an incredible looking male, who is one of the greatest athletes ever. After a while, when people tell you that everything is yours, you start to believe it, for good or for ill. To me, he probably felt as though this is a woman he could take, because he was Cristiano Ronaldo. Again, innocence until proven guilty is crucial, and so at this time it is hard to say. However, it would not shock me if this is true.

In lighter news the LA Clippers are 2-2, which is a decent start for a very decent team. While many of you may be wondering whether or not Clippers fans even exist, I can tell you with confidence they do and I am a part of a small minority. My beloved Clippers traded away most of their best players, for assets. This team is full of assets, and it is going to be fascinating to see how not only they will perform but if they can attract a legitimate superstar.

The ceiling in my eyes for the Clippers is a 6th or 7th seed in the playoffs. Will they actually win anything? Probably not, but the team is still an exciting prospect nonetheless. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to be a sensational rookie, with length, handles, and defense to match. I am hopeful for my Clippers but also willing to moderate my expectations in the hopes of a team that is incredibly successful in the future.

Also, I am shocked at the Jamal Khashoggi killings, and at the responses from both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both seem desperate to remind others of their importance, however both come off as hypocrites. President Erdogan wants to remind everyone that he is a pivotal ally who is against this kind of press brutality, but he has cracked down on his own people and officials for years, and is in charge of a country that has attempted to bully others into denying the Armenian Genocide. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince has tried to shape himself as a reformer, yet he cannot seem to stop himself from resorting to brutal tactics in order to take power.

This is a sad saga, and one that I hope gets resolved. But it is on all of us too hold both of these regimes accountable, and to make sure that justice in this case is served. Journalists and the press keep our leaders accountable, and it is our responsibility to make sure both countries understand this.

The Kavanaugh Hearing Was a Mess

For me, I originally felt he had been treated unfairly, as any other Republican President would have nominated him. However, after watching the hearing today, I have become convinced that at the very least the vote needs to be delayed. It was incredibly troubling watching the demeanor of Kavanaugh who was incredibly defensive throughout was horrific to watch from someone looking for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. Watching Blasey-Ford berated with questions and struggling to recount her own have caused me to believe her. I can understand the need for more evidence, but when someone decides to yell about how his character being assassinated while one recounts the events with poise it tends to lend itself one way.

I hope that senators take the time to delay the vote and really think about who should represent us on our nation’s highest court. To me, Kavanaugh sounds like a frat boy who got his way and was able to get away with more than most. I will not deny his legal mind and talent, however his background certainly made his path to Yale and the District Court easier.

Today was a sad day for everyone involved. I hope that we can move past this. I said in a previous post that this was the moment that our country had been building towards for the past few years. Hyper-partisanship, the #MeToo Movement, and President Trump’s nominee all coming together to in an ugly collision. This was far worse than I could have imagined, and I can only reiterate that we need to delay the hearing and do our best to come together.

 

How should we follow the news and live today?

Our news and our opinions seem to drive our everyday lives more and more, and it by no means has to be this way. Here are some suggestions on how we should try to follow the news and live as we head into an increasingly hostile world.

  1. Get a digital subscription to a respectable print newspaper (preferably the New York Times), and read articles there to get a sense of the day and some of the editorials to see where current opinion is.
  2. Avoid Cable news. It is designed to keep you worried, upset, and frightened and uses that fear to gain customers and keep people watching. It is a dishonest representation of our news cycle and will cause you more stress than its worth
  3. If you cannot follow the news without TV, watch PBS Newshour or BBC.
  4. Find podcasts that can give you a wide variety of news and opinion. Some of my favorites are the New York Times’ The Daily and The Economist’s The Week Ahead. 
  5. Listen to as many sides of the conversation as you can (if you only watch MSNBC and listen to Pod Save America, listen to Ben Shapiro once or twice). The more you understand the other side the harder it will be to view people as others.
  6. If you absolutely must, take Arthur Brook’s advice and take some time off from news and politics. Political news coverage should not define your life, and if its beginning too it may be time to make a change.
  7. If you are using social media to get your news coverage, it may be time to either delete social media or take a break from it. It distorts much of what happens and tends to be extremely confrontational.
  8. “Learn how to learn from those who offend you.”
  9. Be strong in you convictions, but also be open to discussion and change.
  10. Treat everyone you talk to as human and someone who is smart enough to come to their own conclusions, even if they are heinous. If we act like people are lost causes or act as those they cannot be talked to, we lose them permanently.

I am sure there is plenty I missed so please chime in with any of your thoughts and ideas as well.