January rambling: surreal logic

conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy

weird_hill.xkcd
Weird Hill from xkcd

4 Ways to Detect Media Bias and Step Out of the Partisan Bubble.

Virtually All Major US Drinking Water Sources Likely Contaminated With PFAS.

Can Bankers Become Allies Against Climate Change?

The forgotten assassination of MLK’s mother Alberta King in 1974.

How do you keep that Christmas Eve feeling?

The Day That Changed Everything. The subhead: “They lost the biggest N.J. high school football game ever played.”

How to treat tennis elbow.

Komodo dragon destroyed BBC camera by trying to have sex with it.

The Critical Importance of Church Choirs.

Can’t find a marriage record? Try looking for a “Gretna Green” marriage location.

Jack Burns, R.I.P.

Every guest star on the TV series Cannon, starring William Conrad. CBS, 1971 to 1976, 122 episodes.

Inequality

World’s 2,153 billionaires hold more wealth than poorest 4.6 billion combined.

Rising inequality affecting 70% of the world.

Americans’ Drinking, Drug Use, Despair Wiping Out Life Expectancy Gains.

Structural Racism in Medicine Worsens the Health of Black Women and Infants.

Healthcare Algorithms Are Biased, and the Results Can Be Deadly.

IRS grabs the money.

The Liberation of Auschwitz: January 27, 1945.

Recommended reading: Joe Kubert’s Yossel.

Work

Illegal Interview Questions You Thought Were Harmless.

Were Your Rights Violated at the Workplace?

FTC Received Nearly 1.7 Million Fraud Reports, and FTC Lawsuits Returned $232 Million to Consumers in 2019.

Astrogate.

Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.
– Paul Tillich

Books, language, and librarians

Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians.

How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon.

Writing a book series.

You can write “embedded” but you can’t write “imbedded.”

English Needs a Word for the Relationship Between Your Parents and Your In-Laws.

The 5th Annual Tucker Awards for Excellence in Swearing.

IMPOTUS

Expansive Executive Privilege Claims Pose Serious Constitutional Crisis.

The Imperial Presidency Is Alive and Well.

He Boasts Of Obstruction At Davos Press Conference.

Doral Resort Spikes Its Room Rates Ahead Of His RNC Visit.

The Surreal Logic of the China Trade Deal.

“Reckless” Decision to Loosen Firearm Exports Regulations.

The Cost of an Incoherent Foreign Policy.

His Supporters And The Denial Of Reality.

Ten Principles that Unify Democrats (and most of the country).

Now I Know

This Is The Poem That Never Ends. It Just Goes On And On, My Friends. and The Town With No Name and What To Do When Iguanas Fall From the Sky and How a Rock Band Helped Runaway Kids Find Their Way Home and It’s Art Because Someone Says It Is and Why Do Bakers Have Bigger Dozens? and Behold the Power of Dried Plums.

MUSIC

That Don – Randy Rainbow.

On the retirement of conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy: conducting Debussy’s La Mer; playing Rach and Bach and more.

Coverville 1293: The Neil Peart Tribute and Rush Cover Story III.

The Golden Spinning Wheel by Antonin Dvorak.

Tall Skinny Papa– Annie & The Hedonists [Caffè Lena Late Night Sessions]

All About Falling In Love – MonaLisa Twins

Fiddler on the Roof: Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine – Motel (Adam Kantor) and Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) and Tradition – Tevye is Anthony Warlow, production done in Australia.

How Long Has This Been Going On – Audrey Hepburn, from Funny Face.

The Inner Light – The Beatles.

Kobe Bryant: when the famous die

TMZ is vile

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash victims
per CNN

After retired basketball star Kobe Bryant died, I felt a bit like a cultural anthropologist. Beyond the tragic loss of life, I was interested in how others reacted to his passing.

I wrote about Kobe Bryant less often than I did the Kobe, Japan earthquake. Once was a passing reference to him which was mostly about his coach Phil Jackson. For whatever reason, I lost interest in NBA basketball this century. And I was pretty enthusiastic back in the days of Magic Johnson’s Lakers versus Larry Bird’s Celtics.

One thing about me is that I tend to absorb overwhelming grief. It was not so much my own but my sense of the collective shock of his many fans and colleagues. Even if it wasn’t my specific pain, I can remember how I felt when John Lennon and Rod Serling passed.

For instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “I’m screaming right now, cursing into the sky, crying into my keyboard, and I don’t care who knows it.” It was hardly the only anguish I saw.

Many pieces noted that Life Is Not Promised. In fact, Kobe himself said the same thing in Newsweek shortly after 9/11/2001. “We Never Know When Our Time Here Will Be Over.”

Sports Illustrated started their story with variation on that angle. “Thirteen-year-old Gianna Bryant and her father are gone, and that is not quite how the Bryants’ story will be told, but it’s how we should think about it first.”

The news cycle

Naturally, there were discussions about how only Kobe and, eventually, then his daughter, were mentioned when there were seven others on board, including two other basketball-playing teens. Part of it is that it was only known initially that Kobe and “some others” were riding.

In fact, there was a depressing reason. Reportedly, Kobe’s wife Vanessa “learned about the death of her husband and daughter at the same time as the rest of the world. Before police notified her of her family’s tragic loss, the news was leaked by TMZ – a tabloid news channel.”

The story was noteworthy at a certain level because nine people were killed. Its prominence days later is tied to fame. TV writer Ken Levine (MASH, Cheers) noted what would have happened if he had died with a famous baseball player. “if we had crashed there would have been news bulletins breaking into every network, huge front page headlines the next day and they all would say, ‘Baseball star, Tony Gwynn and a passenger were killed in a auto accident.'”

For his part, Gywnn, who died of cancer in 2014, “felt it was wrong that one person should be valued over another just because they’re famous.” But as Levine opined, “You can’t change the way the world operates.”

Early on, some people complained that “no one” was talking about the 2003 rape accusation against Kobe and subsequent settlement. Yes, it wasn’t the lead immediately after the horrific accident. But by day two of the story, I heard it mentioned regularly, in passing to be sure.

Retirement

Dear BasketballFor my part, I was totally unaware of his Mamba Sports Academy, founded in 2018. The page quotes Kobe Bryant in noting, “Mamba Mentality isn’t about seeking a result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life.”

I did see his Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball, about achieving his dream and then needing to walk away.

No less authority than Magic Johnson considered Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker ever. I’d say he was up there with George Mikan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic himself. If my sense of personal loss isn’t as great as others, I still recognize the magnitude of his passing.

Because the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain warning system that could have alerted pilot to the hillside where he crashed, expect that the technology will be mandated more often.

R.I.P.

So rest in peace, basketball coach Christina Mauser, who leaves behind a husband and three children; Alyssa Altobelli and her parents, John and Keri; Payton Chester and her mom, Sarah; and pilot Ara Zobayan.

And rest in peace, Gianna Bryant and her dad, Kobe. He was a “girl dad”, and that IS something I can relate to.

Movie review: Parasite (Gisaengchung)

Writer/Director Bong Joon Ho

ParasiteI have no idea how to review the movie Parasite (Gisaengchung). Except this. This movie is LOL funny at some points, utterly horrific at others.

Bong Joon Ho is a South Korean writer/director. The first people we meet are the Kim family, parents, college-aged son and a daughter a bit older. They live in dire poverty, all but jobless, dealing with life’s indignities.

Then by chance, the young man Kim Ki-woo gets a fill-in gig as a tutor for the daughter of the Park family. These are well-off, aspirational people, especially the father. Once Kim Ki-woo gets his foot in the door, he wonders if he can get gigs for the rest of his family.

This is a tricky task, because there are people already in a couple of these positions. But the Kims are creative and the Parks are fairly oblivious. And the first part of the movie ends. We discover, though that it’s not only the Kim family in the parasite role. Also, you can’t always get rid of the stench of poverty.

I suppose I should mention that the movie is in Korean, with subtitles. Well, except for those moment the Park mother tries out her minimal English.

What the writer said

Lessee, what did Ken Levine have to say? “So far PARASITE is my pick for movie of the year

“Writer/Director Bong Joon Ho has achieved the near impossible – making a movie so engrossing that no one in the theater had to tell someone to turn off their phone. Now, THAT’S filmmaking.” Well, actually there was that one woman in my row…

“Happily, PARASITE doesn’t fall into any one genre. It cleverly and stylishly combines a few, bends a few, and creates a few into one compelling cohesive film. I was knocked out by the storytelling. I guarantee you won’t be able to predict what happens next. You’ll laugh, you’ll shriek – and isn’t that what entertainment’s all about?”

I went to this in early January 2020, without my wife or child, and it’s probably just as well. Naturally, I went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

Yet another JEOPARDY! post

“What is Palestine?”

jeopardy.logoYou may not be aware of this, but I am Constitutionally required to write a JEOPARDY! post at least once a year. Maybe it’s because J! is one of the two reasons I decided to create a blog in the first place.

I’ve been watching the show since the original series with Art Fleming with my great-aunt Deana. Since she died in 1966, it’s been a long time. Not all that much has changed. The dollar values have gone up considerably. The cheapest clue used to be $10, then $100 when the show returned in 1984. That amount doubled to $200 in the early 2000s, alas after my appearances.

Another thing that has changed is that they got out of the prize business, and instead award $2000 for second place and $1000 for third. This makes a lot of sense. Arranging for my trip to Barbados in May 1999, with my new bride, was terribly complicated.

Win until you lose

Only one rule change has substantially altered the game itself, and that is ending the five-win and done rule. Virtually anyone winning five games would be back. With players now able to win more games, it turned the formula on its head.

When Ken Jennings was on the Tournament of Champions, after winning 74 regular-season matches, there was a “mere” three-time winner in the group. It’s clear, though, that at least the casual fan of the show likes the big winners. James Holzhauer, the 32-game winner, got people to watch. He, like Jennings and others, even made the national news and became stars.

Personally, this is inconvenient. I might be several shows behind in my J! watching, only to hear that player X has won their 10th game. So when I actually DO watch those matches, I already know the outcome. The downside of time shifting.

JEOPARDY! can also make the news in other ways. For instance, A Contestant Asked, “What Is Palestine?” The Game Show Gave the Wrong Answer. The show accepted Israel as the site of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This after another contestant was penalized for answering “What is Palestine?”

As Dan noted, “Details of that particular game aside, there’s the matter of her giving the right answer and being denied. That can shake your confidence at a very vulnerable moment and affect your subsequent playing. There’s no way to measure that.”

Oops

NOTE: “Katie’s score displayed $4,600 at the end of the round after being ruled incorrect and $4,800 at the beginning of the next round, with no explanation. This clue caused a break in taping for judges’ deliberation in which compliance officials were involved.

“A replacement clue, ‘Bascilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe’, which Jack got correct with the response of “What is Mexico?”, was played and recorded, but, due to human error, was not included in the originally aired edit of the show. The show uploaded video of the replacement clue to Facebook on 2020-01-13.”

On another front, I didn’t mind that Greatest Of All Time tournament. The redeeming factor is that it was on primetime on ABC-TV and didn’t cut into the chance for “regular” players to have a chance. Of course, I learned the outcome before I watched it, but so it goes.

Conversely, I hated Team JEOPARDY! last year because it minimized the opportunity for folks like me from having a chance to be on the stage. What is the end of this JEOPARDY! post?

Movie review: Bombshell (2019)

a pretty good TV movie

BombshellThe movie Bombshell is about the denigration of women at FOX News. The chief bad guy is the head honcho, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), who created the media empire. He is sufficiently villainous.

This is a really important story being told. Issues of power, consent, body image abound. It is quite timely in the #MeToo era, with that ripped-from-the-headlines vibe about breaking the silence.

It’s interesting that the two more powerful female news performers operated largely in their own circles. that would be Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Whether by the competitive design of the FOX management or happenstance, this allowed the abuse to go on without people comparing notes.

BTW, the makeup for Kidman and especially Theron, is amazing. But I was distracted by many of the men whose approximation of the real guys went from not bad to laughable.

Also less than satisfying for me was the character played by Margot Robbie. Maybe it was because Kayla Pospisil was not an individual but rather an amalgam of several FOX employees. Still, she suffered the most on-screen humiliation, and it was mighty uncomfortable.

In another era, I’d say this was a pretty good TV movie. Once that term was generally understood as “not bad for television.” Of course, that line has long since been blurred. The storyline was uneven, and somehow not as compelling as I wanted it to be.

Trumped

It is ironic, as one critic noted, that “Bombshell glorifies/reframes notoriously racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic Fox personalities as #MeToo heroines.”

Megyn Kelly, in particular, I found to be a loathsome on-air personality. I did feel for Megyn, both the real her and movie her, when the 2016 Republican nominee for President said untoward things about her. And I thought she was soft on him during their next encounter. So that narrative rang true.

The Pospisil/Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon) relationship did not. I did buy that Carr could be a closet liberal working at FOX, though.

I guess I wanted to pump my fist when – no spoiler – Ailes’ machinations are revealed, as I did in Spotlight or even The Post. My wife liked it more than I when we and our daughter saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in late December. My daughter thought it was good too.