A ‘big project’ that is taking a ‘couple centuries’

No really, it’s okay to talk about these things frankly!

Above all the B.S. and politics and hate, a thoughtful and real response, to a real question, by the U.S. president (which began with reporters pressing, “Will you personally go to Ferguson?”):

I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed—the DOJ works for me and when they’re conducting an investigation I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other. So it’s hard for me to address a specific case beyond making sure that it’s conducted in a way that’s transparent, where there’s accountability, where people can trust the process, hoping that with a fair and just process you end up with a fair and just outcome.

But as I think I’ve said on some past occasions, part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities that feel left behind, who as a consequence of tragic histories often find themselves isolated, often find themselves without hope, without economic prospects. You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college. And part of my job that I can do I think without any potential conflicts is to get at those root causes.

Continue reading A ‘big project’ that is taking a ‘couple centuries’

Thinking of Robin Williams and ‘What Dreams May Come’

“What Dreams May Come” is so breathtaking, so beautiful, so bold in its imagination, that it’s a surprise at the end to find it doesn’t finally deliver. It takes us to the emotional brink but it doesn’t push us over.

That’s the beginning of Roger Ebert’s review from 1998. With Robin Williams’ death by apparent suicide Monday, I haven’t been able to shake thoughts of the movie.

I too loved the film; I too was disappointed it didn’t fully reach its potential. But I remember “forgiving” the film for its exhausted conclusion because it had given me so much through the rest.

Continue reading Thinking of Robin Williams and ‘What Dreams May Come’

The lost art of visual comedy?

Hadn’t thought about this before: Despite their cartoonish violence and zombie-type silly gore, I’ve uncharacteristically found movies by Edgar Wright (“Shaud of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Hot Fuzz”) alluring.

Why? There is a lot of brilliant visual comedy — not just sight gags, but creative use of film — which this video argues is becoming a lost art in the comedies that dominate today:

Via The Verge.

Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!
For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!

I don’t do well with Hallmark holidays. To be honest, I just about hate them. That sounds silly and pretentious — “Get over yourself!” — but I can’t help my antennae being ruffled by the more contrived and manipulative parts of our surroundings.

So I’ll try to elucidate my feelings here.

For the sake of my loved ones who enjoy them, I do try to get into the “spirit” of these days. But this creates an awkward, repetitive clash between my natural inclinations to be genuine and to please.

Despite my efforts to “just go with it,” whether it’s Valentine’s Day reminding me of how many people are made miserable by that commercial push, or a parents’ “Day” reminding me of corporations filling windows in the calendar while telling me when and how to show appreciation that is already innate and heartfelt, it always feels different degrees of flat.

And that’s before the ads.

Continue reading Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

First-World Soap Opera Reduced to Third-World Propaganda?

How wild would it be if something once so fun and inspiring became a rejected afterthought due to all the cynical profit-mongering and slop attached to it?

Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best. This is going to mean that fewer democratic countries will make bids for them and the ones that do, like Brazil, will do so in the face of widespread popular opposition. For the Winter Olympics, where thanks to weather and geography, the number of potential hosts is small (and thanks to climate change getting smaller), the problem will be more acute.

Slate: How Come Nobody Wants to Host the Winter Olympics?

Sports Fans: Your owner will die, or go bankrupt, or lose interest, or get arrested, then you’ll have another one

I try to make this point (and the point in my headline above) to people quite often, but never with such dead-on metaphor:

Owners and sponsors in any context are at best the sausage makers of sports. You don’t want to see them, much less know how they got into a position to buy a team, put astonishing athletes on it and make the tasty meat you, the sports consumer, devour happily. Generally speaking: The less you have to deal with them as a fan, the better. You do not need to see shots of the Kraft family in the box at Patriots games. You do not need to hear owners’ acceptance speeches after winning, or introduce the bowl game as a sponsor, or wheel Michael Vick out in a wheelchair yourself. You don’t care as long as the team competes and the owners and sponsors do not embarrass you for your loyalty to their products.*

*See: Donald Sterling.

From “Nascar, GM, and the average fan:  A new low in corporate sponsorship”

Secret World of Oil: Well-connected drug pushers, basically

The Secret World of Oil sounds as horrible as you’d expect.

From an ad for a book chat (or, “court”) tonight:

The oil industry provides the lifeblood of modern civilization, and bestselling books have been written about the industry and even individual companies in it, like ExxonMobil. But the modern oil industry is an amazingly shady meeting ground of fixers, gangsters, dictators, competing governments, and multinational corporations, and until now, no book has set out to tell the story of this largely hidden world.

The global fleet of some 11,000 tankers—that’s tripled during the past decade—moves approximately 2 billion metric tons of oil annually. And every stage of the route, from discovery to consumption, is tainted by corruption and violence, even if little of that is visible to the public.

Based on trips to New York, Washington, Houston, London, Paris, Geneva, Phnom Penh, Dakar, Lagos, Baku, and Moscow, among other far-flung locals, The Secret World of Oil includes up-close portraits of a shadowy Baku-based trader; a high-flying London fixer; and an oil dictator’s playboy son who has to choose one of his eleven luxury vehicles when he heads out to party in Los Angeles. Supported by funding from the prestigious Open Society, this is both an entertaining global travelogue and a major work of investigative reporting.

Sounds wonderfully depressing!

Don’t talk about it, maybe it will go away

“Sea level rise is our reality in Miami Beach,” said the city’s mayor, Philip Levine. “We are past the point of debating the existence of climate change and are now focusing on adapting to current and future threats.”

I can’t believe this is still happening, yet here we are in 2014:

In acknowledging the problem, politicians must endorse a solution, but the only major policy solutions to climate change — taxing or regulating the oil, gas and coal industries — are anathema to the base of the Republican Party. Thus, many Republicans, especially in Florida, appear to be dealing with the issue by keeping silent.

Keeping silent, sticking their heads in the sand. Same as it ever was.

Ice age coming, ice age coming ‘
–Let me hear both sides, let me hear both sides, let me hear both–’ Ice age coming, ice age coming ‘
–Throw ‘em in the fire
Throw ‘em on the–’
We’re not scaremongering
This is really happening
Happening …

… ‘Here I’m allowed
Everything all of the time
Here I’m allowed
Everything all of the time‘”
–Radiohead, “Idioteque

A visual history of the universe, because.

I’m not totally sure what this tells us (or astronomers), and I certainly am not clued enough to understand it, but damn is it still cool:

Scientists have created the first realistic model of the universe, capable of recreating 13 billion years of cosmic evolution. The simulation is called “Illustris,” and it renders the universe as a cube (350 million light-years on each side) with, its creators say, unprecedented resolution: The virtual universe uses 12 billion 3-D “pixels,” or resolution elements, to create its rendering. And that rendering includes both normal matter and dark matter.

How they use it? The Atlantic continues:

With Illustris, paper co-author Shy Genel explains it, “We can go forward and backward in time. We can pause the simulation and zoom into a single galaxy or galaxy cluster to see what’s really going on.”

Illustris has 41,000 galaxies in its simulation—a mix of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way along with elliptical galaxies. It represents five years of work on the part of the scientists from, among others, the MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany.

And naturally, that Orb-like soundtrack is by a band from Germany, Moonboot.

"Now that I know the final conflict is within…"