Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ronny Jackson is Candyman

"Turns out the "Candyman" can't.  Not with allegations of drinking on the job. Of wrecking a government vehicle while intoxicated. Of screaming at underlings. And of recklessly dishing out opioids.  White House presidential physician Dr. Ronny Jackson has lost his pursuit of a Senate confirmation to become the next secretary of veterans affairs. Making matters worse, he could also lose his job overseeing the health care of U.S. President Donald Trump."  (source)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Getting Into A Quiet Place

"A Quiet Place" is a lean, efficient, and effective thriller! The film lacks sufficient world-building to fully establish its premise, but wastes no time delivering on the promises of its genre.

With virtually no spoken dialogue and minimal exposition, the film gives us a master class in sound design and visual storytelling. It illustrates what films frequently do best: evoking emotion through images and audio cues - right down to the different perceptions of the same sound effects as experienced by various characters (human and monstrous).

This will likely be remembered as the surprise hit of the spring - buried somewhere between the overwhelming success of "Black Panther" and the almost inevitable sweep of "Avengers: Infinity War." If you want to feel your own breath being taken away in measured gasps, this is the movie for you.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Bueller.... Bueller?

So I finally saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the first time.  People may be stunned to read this, but I was only 4 when it came out and all the subsequent cultural references led me to believe I had sat down to watch it long before... when I actually hadn't.

The film is essentially a crime caper comedy starring high schoolers - one in which they commit "the perfect crime" of playing hooky only to indulge in the bourgeoisie excesses of upscale dining, a baseball game, and a parade.  How unceasingly American!  By today's standards, it is all so charming and admirably innocent.

It leaves a few plot holes unresolved and sometimes has a lack of dramatic stakes for the characters, but does ultimately deliver several satisfying character arcs.  Ironically, Ferris himself coasts through his escapades with almost no conflict - while those around him must change and adapt to their setting.  It's Ferris' movie and the supporting cast is just living in it.

It's also remarkable to consider that the film was made for $5.8 million and grossed more than $70 million at the box office, let alone the ongoing ancillary markets for broadcast and home video sales.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Religious Lottery

Imagine I told you that I believe I won the lottery.

That's a specific, provable claim.  There are a number of pieces of evidence that could do this: the winning lottery ticket, a news report from a verifiable source that I won the lottery, a screenshot of my bank account after depositing the check, photos of my lavish new purchases with my lottery winnings.  That's all good evidence.  But just telling you that I know I've won the lottery and my faith assures me of it is not enough evidence for you to believe my claim that I won the lottery.

Also notice what happens when I tell you why I believe I won the lottery.  If I told you:  "I believe I won the lottery because it cheers me up when I'm sad, it gives me hope for the future, my friends and family enjoy talking about what we will do with my lottery winnings, and anyway... I don't want to live in a world where I didn't win the lottery!"

What would you think about this?

You probably wouldn't believe that I won the lottery.  You might find it very strange that I believe I won the lottery in an apparent effort to make myself feel better.  You also might feel concerned or even somewhat sorry for me, wondering how I will adjust if I no longer engage in self-deception about winning the lottery.  Should you try to explain to me that there's no evidence that I won the lottery, that it's possible for me to win the lottery but it hasn't yet happened to me?  Should you respect my belief that I won the lottery even though it now seems clear I hold this believe not based on evidence but based on faith?

Now imagine that no one has ever won the lottery.

We tell ourselves, "we have people who play the lottery every day, so surely there must be some lottery winnings out there!  People have been playing this lottery for thousands of years.  They take their family to play the lottery every Sunday.  Billions of people play the lottery.  While no one has been able to produce evidence that they won the lottery, we have to have faith that they will."

At what point does a rational person, with more inquiry into the nature of this lottery, simply conclude it is very unlikely anyone will win this lottery... and that perhaps it may not be the best use of our time and attention to play the lottery without compelling evidence that it yields winners?

At what point does it no longer appear reasonable to play a lottery for which there is no evidence that anyone wins?  And with billions of people playing very different versions of this lottery, we don't know - without evidence - that any of them are more likely to produce a winning ticket than any other.

That's the dilemma of religious faith and the limits of its pragmatism.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter Eggs in Ready Player One

The Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, Chun Li, Ryu, and Blanka, Gundam Wing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Halo, Mecha Godzilla, Goro, The Shining, Madballs, Chucky and so many more pop culture references are crammed into Ready Player One!

Though enjoyable on the big screen, this just might be better watched on a home system with a pause button.  The end credits revealed any number of characters (like Sonic The Hedgehog) that I must have missed.  But it's hard not to be a gamer (or just a fan of 80's and 90's pop culture) and not enjoy the sheer amount of cameos and pop culture references scattered throughout this film - Easter eggs in a film about Easter eggs released on Easter weekend!

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Definition of Propaganda

Sinclair's Soldiers in Trump's War on Media - Anchors at Sinclair-owned local news station parrot a script pushing Trump talking points and “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” (video by Deadspin)

This is literally everything conservatives claim they don't want in journalism:
1. Biased talking points written by management for direct delivery by employees
2. One-sided opinions which are forced upon journalists to recite on air
3. Politically-motivated, scripted statements designed to appear objective
4. Mass production of the same message without independent thought
Polls consistently reveal that Americans trust their local news sources more than national news. This effort by Sinclair Broadcast Group is a deliberate attempt to hijack this trust in order to achieve partisan political objectives.