Shirkers, The Hunt For Red October, and Game of Thrones Quote #4

Some of us are movers, some of us are shakers, and some of us are Shirkers.

Shirkers (Netflix)This is from the most recent Netflix documentary; A brilliant, lush and beautiful film that also unfolds into a compelling mystery. Sandi Tan filmed a road movie in 1992, and watched her mentor Georges Cardona steal it from her. She called the film Shirkers, referring to those who avoid or neglect responsibilities. Her quest to find the film becomes part of a story to settle her demons and those of her friends who lost everything as well. Bold, audacious, and thoughtful, Shirkers is brilliant and a fascinating tour of Singaporean film. Terrific and a must for film buffs. 9/10

The Hunt For Red October – Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin are at their best in the a great remake of a classic Tom Clancy novel. Connery plays Captain Ramius, head of the Red October Submarine, heading straight for the US Coastline. Baldwin as Jack Ryan believes that there is more to his motives than their appears. While it is missing some critical parts from the novel itself it is still pulse-pounding, and the story opts for a more realistic spy thriller that stands the test of time. While by no means a perfect film, it is great entertainment nonetheless. 8.3/10

Some part of him blames me… though he knows it was good counsel (515).

Catelyn continues to struggle, and her pain begins to seep into every interaction she has. She believes she has lost her sons, which create a feeling of undying attachment to Robb. She also feels she must be stronger for him, as the fragility of his life in war is higher than ever. So, everything, feels in some sense pained. How do I please my son and protect him all the same? How can I give him good counsel without losing his trust? Catelyn is walking on a tight-rope, and her lack of omnipresent knowledge of the wellbeing of her children makes things that much more painful for the reader.

Catelyn is by no means perfect, and her consist rejection of Jon Snow is understandable but harsh for Jon. He is not at fault for her fathers adultery, and yet she feels he is somehow part of the wrong. Yet her pain toward her children is palpable and understandable, as it would be a tough dilemma for any of us to work with. All we can do is hope for the Starks, and hope that everything will be okay. Something tells me it will not be.

A Quiet Place & The Florida Project

A Quiet Place – I have a confession to make. I am not a horror movie fan, and I have for most of my life avoided scary movies. However, I decided that it would be time to try A Quiet Place, a movie I had been secretly wanting to watch for awhile. In this post-apocalyptic world, the monster can hear you but cannot see, so tranquil peace is the mode of survival. What easily could have become a gimmick turns into a thematic and nail-biting thriller, using the circumstances of the world to explore the human condition rather than playing it for cheap thrills. Millicent Simmons is terrific is Regan, and John Kransinski does a great job as director, showing the pain and grief that families must go through who have lost everything. It is not a perfect movie, but a very good one nonetheless that uses its world to examine the human condition, rather than play the gimmick for cheap thrills. 9/10

The Florida Project – The story of a family on the brink of poverty through the eyes of six year old Moonie is so beautiful and brilliant it is hard to explain why without making it seem slightly ridiculous. Taking place in the outskirts of Disneyworld, many people live in motels because they cannot afford elsewhere. Rather than try to make overarching generalizations, director Sean Baker looks at individuals with care and purpose, showcasing their best and worst selves in a whimsical and beautiful way. The one character I found particularly striking was Moonie’s mother Halley, and how often she puts herself above others. This is a movie that is fun, hilarious and ludicrous, while also having a lot to say about consequences. Even in their whimsical adventures, Moonie’s behavior and most importantly Halley’s selfishness all have consequences, and eventually can lead to heartbreak. Willem Defoe is terrific as Bobby the manager, showing the conflict between caring for people and the trouble they can bring him and Brooklyn Prince is terrific as Moonie. For anyone looking for a great watch this is definitely worth your time. 9.3/10

Bill Maher & Hilarious Bundesliga Animations

I have had an ambivalent view of Bill Maher. He seems to enjoy controversy and prefers creating it in ways that I am not sure I entirely agree with. However, he is actually an incredibly honest pundit, and does a great job of bringing incredibly difficult conversations to the forefront. For every moment I want to thank him, he gives me a moment of pause. His latest blog post is a moment of pause, as he completely goes after Stan Lee almost immediately after his death. It was pointless, and he would go onto trash comic books as a medium and claim that people need to grow up.

To me, every medium has the capability of great storytelling, and for him to blame comic books of all things is absurd. For every mind numbing comic book there are stories like Watchmen and Maus that use the medium to tell something beautiful and impactful. Many look down upon video games, and yet The Last of Us has affected me more than any movie ever will. All genres have the ability of being great, and while it is we should be critical of art that we do not like, to desecrate Stan Lee like this just a few days after his death.

To be fair Stan Lee’s empire definitely took away some of the beauty behind its art in order to make money, as did Star Wars and Harry Potter. However, all three of these works of fiction have expanded the imaginations of many and given many courage and strength to go on. The idea that comic books are somehow uniquely bad as a form of literature, is a dishonest suggestion. All forms of art have the capability of being bad or good, but to blame the art form and somehow tie that into a Donald Trump world makes absolutely no sense.

While I have not heard from him yet I assume he will respond as he usually does, saying that he is not the problem but in fact the “snowflakes” who cannot handle him are. He is entitled to his opinion, but at some point he should take some responsibility for his endless provocations and maybe try to change. Knowing Bill he will not change his ways, and part of what makes him great is his willingness to disagree and go in directions no one else will. I just wish he would think twice before saying certain things.

In better news, if you are in a need of something to make you laugh, this video of Bundesliga commentary reimagined as daily life animations is hilarious.

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.

 

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.

My top 5 podcasts right now

I haven’t been as good about podcasts this school year, but I did a little podcast binging and these are my top 5.

1. Waking Up with Sam Harris- Of the intellectual dark web members, Sam is the most honest, reasonable and fascinating. He finds ways to engage a myriad of subjects on issues ranging from politics to philosophy and AI. It is always fascinating and sam is incredibly engaging with all of his subjects. The conversations can be longer but they are always worth a listen.

2. Conversations with Tyler – Tyler Cowan is one of the biggest reasons why I started this blog, someone who finds ways to make everything fascinating. His Podcast brings fascinating subjects such as Malcolm Gladwell and Paul Krugman, and asks questions that are incredibly poignant and insightful. It brings about a fascinating conversation, and a highly intellectual one as well.

3. 99% Invisible – I am not an engineer, an architect, or anything in between. However, host Roman Mars always finds a way to make design and architecture absolutely fascinating. From Sears catalog homes, to be the Toronto Raptors NBA jerseys, there is no subject not touched. Unique insights and a terrific voice guide you into some utterly terrific territory. Definitely a listen for all of the beautiful nerds.

4. Colin’s Last Stand: Fireside Chats – Colin Moriarty seemed to have hit rock bottom when he was left his own company Kind Funny. He could have given up, but instead he created his own company, and boy am I happy. A conservative in games media, he has found a way to incorporate politics, and anything else he finds fascinating into a series of great conversations.From small town mayors, to shelter volunteers and political pundits; he seems to always keep his show varied and interesting. If you want a great perspective from those on the conservative side of the aisle and just a fascinating human in general, give this show a listen.

5. This American Life – What else? Ira Glass could read the phone book and I’d want to hear every fax number. Not to mention terrific reporting and content. Zoe Chase and others make this program the staple it is. If you are breathing and haven’t listened to this program, you’re doing something wrong.

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.

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.