On the Campaign Trail – 1

I haven’t been paying that much attention to the Democratic Presidential Campaign. It’s way too early, and there are far too many candidates. The need for the Democrats to not only unseat El Presidente but retake the Senate and keep the House is too important to worry about who wins the eventual nomination – especially when any one of them is good enough to win. There’s strong reasoning behind the “Vote Blue – No Matter Who” slogan.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me from having opinions.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Fehérlófia (Hungary, 1981)

Director: Marcell Jankovics
Writers: László György, Marcell Jankovics
Music by: István Vajda

Start by collecting bits and pieces of local folk tales and legends. In this case, that means Hungarian, Avar, and others from the peoples that came and went through that part of southeast Europe.

Assemble them into a fairly standard “Hero’s Journey” tale.

Decide to animate the result.

Take some mild hallucinogens to give you inspiration for your design aesthetic….

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BOOK REVIEW: Decoding the Heavens

Decoding the Heavens
A 2000-Year Old Computer – And the Century Long Search to Discover its Secrets
Jo Marchant
Da Capo Press
(c) 2009 by the author

I suppose that anyone interested in the history of science in the years BCE or archaeological oddities has heard of the Antikythera Mechanism. Found in a shipwreck off the coast of a Greek island, the box of gears and dials has been a puzzle and a marvel (a puzzling marvel?) for decades.

Marchant has dredged up the history of the device, from its collection off the Aegean seabed up through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Well, to be honest, the object itself hasn’t done much. It sat in storage in the National Museum of Athens for years before anyone decided to take a look at it. The museum – and the divers that worked on the wreck – were more interested in the statues and other objects of obvious value.

The Mechanism turned out to be a specialized device for computing the many lunar cycles – and possibly some dials that compute planetary positions as well (parts are still missing). Marchant doesn’t spend much time on the astronomy or mathematics behind it; she’s far more interested in the archaeology and personalities in its story.

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Burying the Lede

I did not watch Mueller’s testimony yesterday, but I did read about it – even following a liveblog. I was not expecting much, since all the information was already out there. And, being a professional and as bipartisan as he could be, Mueller wasn’t going to be tricked into saying anything damning (that wasn’t already covered in his report).

Even so, there were still things that need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, the press is far more concerned with the “optics” of the hearings (the tone of the questions, Mueller’s uncertainty and reticence) and picking winners and losers than discussing the content.

So instead of headlines like “Six Takeaways from the Hearings” and the usual “Dems Disappointed”, I would have gone with something completely different if I had any front page editorial control:

MUELLER CONFIRMS TRUMP NOT EXONERATED

* Says Trump lied to cover up his involvment
* Trump can be indicted once out of office
* Schiff calls Trump “Disloyal”
* Russia still trying to interfere in our elections

See? It’s not hard.

One might come across some of these (or similar points from the hearings) buried deep in the later paragraphs of a story. To bury the lede like that is a colossal failure of journalism. I cannot tell what is in the minds of the mainstream press. Perhaps they are trying to maintain a sort of bipartisan neutrality in the matter, and not come down on one side or another. Or maybe they want to milk any “controversy” for as long as they can in order to keep readers. Or worse, they just don’t care. It can’t be that they are afraid of any pushback from daring to criticize El Presidente, can it….

Thankfully, there are still a handful of journalists (and the places that publish their work) who know what their proper role is.

A US election was hijacked. Trump stood by as it happened and profited from it. And ever since he has attempted to cover up this original sin of his presidency. At the hearing, Mueller did not rail about Trump’s serious misconduct. But in the quiet way of an institutionalist who respects norms and rules, Mueller made it clear: Trump engaged in treachery. This is not news. But it remains a defining element of the Trump presidency that deserves constant attention.

David Corn, Mother Jones

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

What should be important to all of us is that the world heard (again) that the Russians continue to undermine our democracy, that the Trump campaign was not averse to accepting Russian help in the 2016 presidential election and actively sought to cover up its actions, and that there was convincing evidence the president of the United States obstructed justice. And those are just some of the things that were discussed at the hearings….

But when folks follow [Trump’s] lead and focus on performance and visuals rather than the substance, they’re playing Trump’s game on Trump’s turf. And when that happens, Trump wins. So if you’re playing that game and still wondering how Trump always seems to get away with the outrageous and the unconscionable, you should just look in the mirror.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

If only we were paying attention……

The Apollo Missions

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of many important milestones. The Mets won the World Series. There was a music festival on a farm in New York.

Oh, and human beings walked on the moon.

Ask the average person about the Apollo Program, and they will know that it was Apollo 11 that landed the first people on the moon. Apollo 13 was the one that they made that movie about. More educated people might know that Apollo 8 was the one with that “Earthrise” photo, and Apollo 1 was the one with the fire that killed the astronauts.

Even more educated people will know that Apollo 7 through 10 were various manned flights, and that 12 and 14 through 17 actually took people to the moon.

But what about the other numbers? What about 2 through 6, and anything over 17?

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On the 2019 All Star Game

Just a few random notes – in no particular order – about this year’s All-Star Game.

Determining that one league dominates the other based on one single game – where the managers seem to place more importance on getting every player in the game instead of, you know, winning – is ludicrous. Especially in an era when players switch leagues so easily. Aside from the significant role of chance in any individual contest, taking that logic to its extreme means that Don Larsen is the greatest pitcher of all time. And how can you say one team “dominated” the other when the final score was 4-3?

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50 States, 50 Movies – Part 3

Let’s be honest, here. I’m not really that much of a movie buff. I’ll see a movie in a theater maybe once a year, watch one on TV at about the same rate, and watch one online maybe twice a month. But I still appreciate the art form and its history. So maybe that qualifies me sufficiently to make a list like this. Heck, it’s not that hard. Just enter “Best movie set in {state}” in your favorite search engine, and you’re off and running.

And if, unlike me, you are a true film buff, maybe by poking around in the “runners up” you’ll find a hidden gem that deserves more attention.

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Celebrating America

It seems that on the Left these days, America is taking quite a pounding. Our collective Sins of the Past are being dragged out into the open, and held up as examples of what is (still) wrong with the country – and we can never seem to atone for them to their satisfaction. Institutionalized oppression of (insert minority group here). Economic inequality resulting in an entrenched, oligarchic government. Interference with the governments of other nations and peoples. Unchecked militarism. Environmental degradation. There are even serious essays being published that claim we’d be better off if we had never won our independence.

Given the barely concealed contempt for this country, one has to wonder why they aren’t leaving for greener (to them) pastures.

I am led to wonder – is there anything about the United States of America and its system of government that is worth celebrating?

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50 States, 50 Movies – Part 2

What, you actually thought I’d do all of this list in one post when I could break it up and get three posts out of it? Come on! I’ve got to pad my post count somehow!

When doing a list like this, one could probably come up with an algorithm combining the proportion of the movie set in the state, the proportion of the movie actually filmed there, critical response (both immediate reviews and long-term reputation), and perhaps even adding in what the state’s tourism office might think of the movie.

But reducing things to a number isn’t as much fun as going through individual movies and making the decision on your own.

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50 States, 50 Movies – Part 1

It’s a thing that some movie review sites do during the summer. Run down their choices for the best movie set in each of the fifty states. Some of them even remember to include the District of Columbia.

It’s not an easy task. Not because you have to decide which movie is the “best” according to your personal opinion, but you have to decide what you mean by “set” in a given state. Does a movie set entirely in Los Angeles properly represent all of California? If a key event in the movie takes place in a given state, does that count – even if the rest of the movie is set elsewhere? How much of a role does the setting play? Plenty of vacation movies are set in Hawaii – but they could just as well be set somewhere else. Does where the movie was actually filmed matter, and if so, how much? What about documentaries? Do they count? Lots of tough calls…

Since they keep making movies, the lists are always out of date. However, I’ve got nothing else on my plate right now, so….

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