Burning & Elizabeth Warren

Burning – One of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, Burning has a quiet rage stemming throughout. It operates in subtleties, in many ways akin with Korean culture. It manages to carry weight without expressing it full stop. It is a good movie, but its story failed to really connect with me. It has some great performances and a story that cuts deep. It takes too long to develop, and really lost me at points. I enjoyed its undertones and deep seated anger, but I wish it was more polished. 7.5/10

In short, where Sanders seeks to steer capitalism toward socialism, Warren is bent on saving capitalism for all—and from itself.

The Bulwark, a site dedicated to Anti-Trump conservatives, is one of the most interesting sites to read right now. This Bulwark article discusses Elizabeth Warren’s importance in this election, an area which I had never really considered. Warren’s proposals are radical, from free college to massive increases in childcare. However, her ability to create so many policy proposals in such a short time span, have left others playing catch-up.

To hear about her importance from a conservative publication is particularly striking, especially considering how much she differs from conservative thought. Her proposals in many ways stem in the opposite direction from what many on the right hope to obtain from capitalism. Yet what this article recognizes is the importance of specificity. Her proposals create genuine conversations, where most candidates are merely running on an idealized version of what they would “like” to see for the country and themselves. While I may not vote for Warren in the end, her candidacy is still very important and I am glad that it is being treated that way.

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.

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!

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs & Howard Schultz

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – In a movie that is anthological in structure, some stories work better than others. That being said, there are a lot of very fun stories, full of the crudeness of man the Coen Brothers are known for. Liam Neeson and James Franco’s respective stories both standout, and the ending is one that will surely leave when you stop watching. This is one of those movies that I liked the more I thought about it afterwards, but for me it still does not live up to its potential. The breaking up of the stories allows for some creativity, but also takes away from the film’s success. It is worth watching but that unfortunately takes away from the score. 8/10

Finally, the hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose.

I feel a little silly arguing with this piece, as Paul Krugman has accomplished more in Economics than I can hope to accomplish in any other field. That being said, his characterization of “radical centrism” and Howard Schultz’s thought process are fairly disappointing in my view, and lend itself to some criticism.

I do not think that Krugman is being crazy when he calls out “centrists”. There is absolutely a growing group of people (albeit still very small in comparison to those on the political extremes) who hate everything about party politics. These people use terms like “identity politics” and “virtue signaling” to describe the behavior of these other sides, rather than try to engage in what they are trying to say. While there are plenty who I seriously enjoy who feel this way and there are those who have genuine reasons to interpret both sides in this light (Sam Harris, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, etc.) there are those who most likely do not know what they are talking about in the hopes of appealing to everyone (“The Podcast bros“).

However, his ultimate argument is wrong. The idea that Howard Schultz’s consideration of running is somehow doing undue harm to our system is slightly absurd. To me, rather than telling Schultz he is apart of a dangerous American ideology, maybe try to figure out what he is appealing to that maybe people who would vote for him like. That would be significantly more productive than yelling at him to take a seat and run within the system. People can run for President, and while if I were him I would not run, he has the money and power to make that choice himself. He may be a welcome change to the two-party elections of old, and even if he is not a genuinely good politician, at least he can add an option.

Also here is a piece from Bret Stephens on the subject that is much better than Krugman’s.

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.

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.

Private Life & Voter Registration

Private Life (Netflix) – I have been slow about watching Netflix movies, but this came as a recommendation from my favorite Movie podcast, Grierson & Leitch. They both gave this movie a very high score, and so I felt obligated to give it a shot. Directed and written by Tamara Jenkins, this movie finds incredible pacing and heart in what could have very easily fallen into a clichéd, sappy love story. Staring Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, a couple struggles to conceive a child in their late 40s, and goes through numerous trials and tribulations in their quest to have a kid. The pain that this couple feels is not so much in what is said but what is unsaid, how they grimace, look, and sigh. This movie has something important to say about relationships, and is much better than I could have anticipated. If you have a Netflix account, do yourself a favor and watch this film. 9/10

Registering to vote is one of the most important things you can do. Voting is the one of the few times in our democracy where you get to have your voice heard. So I encourage all of you to register to vote, wherever you happen to be. It is easy to look at National Politics and be discouraged, but locally you can have a major impact. I will be writing a Michigan Voting Guide soon enough but until then please make sure to register. When I say I do not care about your affiliation I mean it, what matters is that your voice is heard not if your voice conforms to my own. Please, take the time to register.

My Thoughts on Brett Kavanaugh

I am sure you have heard enough of the Brett Kavanaugh coverage, and frankly if you do not want to continue I do not blame you. We live in a moment where everyone agrees something went wrong but not on what. We live in a hyper-partisan moment, in which at any point, not conforming is disagreeing or endorsing. I have always been a bit of a renegade, conformity never suited me. At a very early age when kids were declaring markers as there coloring weapon of choice I said crayons. When everyone read Harry Potter I scorned while reading Alex Rider. All of that goes to say, that my opinion will almost assuredly please no one. I enjoy not fitting a mold, as being uncomfortable is all I know. So, if you do not mind, bare with me and maybe you will find something useful.

At the start of this process, I defended Kavanaugh. Republican presidents nominate conservative justices, and while we can be mad at his policy ideas we could not blindly accuse him of being a bad person. It felt that many were out to tarnish his reputation and I found myself agreeing with most conservatives. However, as the allegations came out my opinion changed but I will try to keep it as clean as possible and hopefully some may agree.

There were generally two sides, one saying that there was no evidence corroborating the attack, whilst others automatically believed Dr. Ford in spite of any evidence. To me, I would be shocked if something did not happen, and based on his drinking habits as described by his friends and others, it would not surprise me if he did not remember the event. Regardless, without evidence it is important to assume innocence and therefore while we can believe that Dr. Ford is credible, we can also take the time to investigate and make sure she is telling the truth.

That being said, the main reason I would not have given him my vote is due to his partisanship, as he established very clearly in his hearing that he felt victimized by Democrats and empowered by Republicans. He mentioned the Clintons, and Democrats as attempting to smear him and destroy his life. While I can never imagine having to be placed under that microscope, his performance showed me that he was lacking candor and too partisan to be on the nation’s highest court.

I am surprised that at the very least the nomination was not delayed further, as the senators who delayed it a week must have known that nothing would come out of it. If the FBI had time to investigate they could have credibly proven, disproven, or simply confirmed that there was no corroborating evidence. All of those conclusions help, and can make a better picture for the American people to understand whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is deserving of the position.

There is no doubt that getting rid of or destroying the confirmation on allegations alone would have set a bad precedent, which is why it makes no sense why the FBI was not allowed to fully confirm, deny, or not be able to know the answer. Everyone seemed to be playing politics rather than doing what was best for the country. He is innocent until proven guilty, and why we did not give the qualified members of our government the chance to do that despite his multiple story changes, whining under oath, and potential perjury, makes no sense.

Maybe Dianne Feinstein wanted to calculate the biggest possible political hit. I seriously doubt it, and while it is hard to understand why exactly she did not hand the information over to the FBI as soon as possible, I do feel she genuinely wanted to protect the confidentiality of Dr. Ford. Dr. Ford was, as any of us would be, terrified to be in front of senators answering questions on an assault that happened in high school. I can hardly blame her, and while Senator Feinstein could have acted in better faith, it comes from an understandable place.

My biggest worry coming out of this is that our courts are no longer institutions separate from partisanship. I feel that votes for Justices should be carried out by qualifications only, and that while we can agree or disagree on political stances, that the court is about ruling regardless of personal belief and defending the constitution. Many nominees, including Kavanaugh, echoed this very sentiment as they should, and yet the second nominee to be voted completely along party lines shows that we have come to a point where that is no longer the case.

I expect many to continue to point fingers and use their ultimate fears to justify why the other side of the aisle is despicable. Watching Lindsey Graham grandstand and attack was horrifying, watching Cory Booker attempt to vilify everyone who supports Kavanaugh was also cringe-worthy. This is the beginning of our end, when we cannot even look each other in the face and assume the best intentions. All everyone does, from those in power to those involved in politics, is assume the worst intentions in the other side, and continues to treat each other like villains. Try to assume humanity, even if you cannot understand it. I have been humbled throughout my time here at Michigan by how much I thought I knew and how much I still do not know.

For the record I think America is great, and will continue to remain that way. However, the coming apart is beginning, and if we want it to stop, we must assume the best in each other. Love thy neighbor, and if you really cannot, try to come to some understanding. I am a hypocrite as I am not even the best at it, but try. I promise you will not regret it.

I said awhile ago that this hearing was the political supernova that everything had been building towards. I had hoped as a country we were doing better, but I guess we are not. I hope we can do better.

 

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.

 

Tottenham and Caitlin Flanagan

My beloved Spurs seem to be in some weird holding pattern, as they fell short to Inter Milan who came roaring back in the last ten minutes. Suddenly, the momentum we had earlier in the season has diminished, and Mauricio Pochettino losing his cool certainly does not help things. This could be a challenge, as the criticism will begin to come if the losing continues. With the new stadium still on hold, and now the winning spell drying up, the criticism will come. How Spurs will respond remains a question, and my hope is the ship can be righted. It is a long season, but this does not look good.

She’s telling the truth, I said to myself, in a way that was neither outraged nor political, just matter-of-fact. The event she described is completely believable, but the psychologists’ notes sealed the deal. Maybe some new piece of evidence will come to light to change my mind, but with the facts on the ground as we now have them, I believe her.

This is from a wonderful article by Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Flanagan, who has written beautifully on the #MeToo as well as numerous other pieces of political commentary. This one is particularly striking, detailing the change in how sexual encounters was thought of and her conclusion that this could have happened. I have been ambiguous about my feelings toward the confirmation, as Kavanaugh is and still seems like the Conservative Justice other presidents would have appointed. However, that will all come into question if this is true, and now the nomination has the potential to become the supernova everything in our political sphere has been building towards. Folks, this is going to be a bumpy ride.