This horrific ski accident.

There is something about the dynamic between the media and sports and young athletes that has always worried me. You must eternally go faster, harder, bigger, to set records, to win medals, to give speeches for big money, to become a scandal, to run a school, and so on. All of this push to increase the risk of injuries like this, for our entertainment. I note the photographer on the left focusing on the skier in agony before help has even arrived.

And is her performance really more interesting to watch because it’s faster than was possible years ago, before the optimized equipment and slopes? Do the young competitors really understand the risks they are pushed to accept, for the thrill of the tv audience?

I say slow the whole thing down, on purpose.  Why should I care if the hill can be descended 10 seconds faster than it was five years ago?  If they are all skiing on the same hill and same general equipment, we have a competition.

The only thing missing would be the braying headline: record shattered.

And bones.

You won’t pay $100 to have dinner while listening to a former athlete describe how her life was ruined by an accident on the slopes, or the chute, or cliff, or the race track.

Hollywood Aristocracy

Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.

Melanie Griffith is the daughter of Tippi Hedren.

The jobs in Hollywood movies are too good to be available to any sort of riff-raff or some talented nobody without any relatives in the industry.  No, it is only right that the children of established stars should inherit the privilege of glamour and wealth and fame.

Now what would the children of celebrity Hollywood stars be doing with their lives?  Some job that has measurable performance parameters with a demanding skill set?  Or a job you get because your father or mother knows somebody in the industry and the talents in this industry are judged according to manifestly subjective standards that anyone can, as a favor, manipulate into your favor?

Take Dakota Johnson.  As she grows up, she sees her parents leading the wonderful lives of movie stars, celebrities, privileged by fame and exposure.  She wants to be an actress too, of course.  Does she have special gifts?  Is she exceptionally talented?  Does she work incredibly hard to refine her craft?  Or does she get opportunities that others do not get, and a few acting classes, and some cosmetic surgery, and then the privileged access to casting directors and producers?

Here’s a trashy site that gives you a glimpse of just how privileged actors have become.  It is my view that most of these films will be artistically diminished by serving the vanities of the actors rather than the imperatives of the artistic vision, of the writer and director.  But the die is cast when they seek funding: if Leonardo Di Caprio agrees to be in your film, you have guaranteed yourself millions of dollars for the production.

Without him, you will be forced to actually make a good film and hope for critical recognition and a small profit.

Children are inheriting their parent’s Hollywood Privilege

The Bible on Abortion

From Reddit:

Quoting the bible to contradict a Christian almost never helps, but there is only one part that brushes against the value of an unborn life versus a fully formed human.

Exodus 21:22 –

And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no [further] injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any [further] injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

We can extrapolate from this that the value of an unborn fetus is not equal to the value of the mother. As the passage says, cause a miscarriage and you’ll be fined, not put to death. There are pages and pages of research about this passage where pro-lifers try to twist and contort the meaning in the original Hebrew, but the context makes it quite easy to understand the message that was trying to be conveyed.

Biblical Scholars– the overwhelming majority of which are pro-life– argue that the verse refers only to live births.  But at least one admits that “in fact, it is never used for a miscarriage, though it is used of a still birth.”

Further to that, does this passage make sense if it only refers to live births?    Where is the harm, exactly, if the woman is struck and then gives birth?  If it is the harm of being struck, then why the reference to “miscarriage” or “birth”– your choice?  It really does not make much sense unless it refers to a miscarriage.

The pro-life partisans argue that the particular Hebrew word is not used elsewhere to refer to still-births, but, of course, the Bible isn’t a comprehensive list of all possible eventualities.  The argument has some currency, but not very much, in my view.

Handheld Jerky Phony Video

“It’s about popular music. It’s about being in a rock band, over the course of time. And it’s also a direct conversation between me and my fans, at a level that I think they’ve come to expect over the years.”

It has reached the point where every time a video I am watching goes into funky, raw, “authentic” hand-held video mode, I nearly puke.

The latest, unfortunately, are the videos for Bruce Springsteen’s newest album.  As if the video is not a bad enough sign, here’s one that’s even worse: the subject is music.  Yes, Bruce Springsteen is putting out an album about how music is important.  How his fans expect this “conversation”.

I loved Springsteen back in the 1870’s when he released his first albums.  All right– 1980’s, actually.  “Born to Run” remains a classic.  I was also always a Dylan fan so, naturally, I was drawn to Springsteen because he had great lyrics and his band really rocked.  Nobody ever argued that Dylan was a great singer, and neither was Springsteen, but at least he could screech with more enthusiasm.

Years go by.  I find myself admiring  Dylan’s singing more and more, at least until the 1990’s, and Springsteen’s–even on his first albums– less and less.

And now, “Letter to You”, and the limitations of Springsteen’s voice are laid bare.  And, perhaps, the limitations of his music.  Without the cars, the working class angst, the oppressive union jobs, the girls named Sandy or Terry– what’s left for Springsteen?  Is his mind expansive enough to move into deeper territory, more intriguing perspectives, more subtle inflections?

The videos are awful.  First cheap trick: black and white.  Second cheap trick: hand-held jerky camera movements, as if some documentary crew just managed to sneak into the studio.  Third cheap trick: shots of the wife.  It may sound harsh, but I always picture the wife needling the husband into putting her into the video.  I should be there.  I’m your wife.  I sang backup in the band back in the 80’s.  Fourth bad sign:  drone footage of an unidentifiable man walking through snow-covered fields, without a single close-up or establishing shot to let us in on whether that’s actually Springsteen thinking profound thoughts or a stand-in.

My Liberty Your Liberty

“By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix,” they wrote, noting that the ruling “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.”  From NY Times

 

This is from the dissenting opinion by Justices Thomas and Alito in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Did you notice that they said “believe that” and did not say “discriminate against” as if a dissenting view could actually oppress a majority through the sheer power of its dissentingness (my word).

It is so offensive to Christians that a same-sex couple could be recognized as married that the Supreme Court — according to justices Alito and Thomas (and, probably, Barrett, soon)– must spare them this indignity.

What if you substituted race for sexual orientation?  So a restaurant owner with a “whites only” sign should perhaps be spared the indignity of having to allow minorities into his restaurant because it is an infringement on his “religious liberty”?

The most obvious problem here is that it really doesn’t cost these bigots anything to allow gay couples to marry.  Their right to marriage is not diminished in the slightest, except in the deep corners of their tiny imaginations where they might have to admit to their own bigotry.   What is the difference between refusing to serve blacks or Jews or Italians, and refusing to serve gay men and women?   We all recognize that bigotry is at the heart of the former.

And it is of the latter as well.

“Crucify” by Tori Amos

When it was first released, I thought this song, and the entire album it was released on was very compelling.  Over the years, I’ve begun to rethink this one– “Crucify Myself”.

It initially impressed me as a complaint– why do men abuse us so much?  Why are we figuratively “crucified” when we don’t measure up to your standards?

It took me years to realize that the “standards” she attributes to men don’t belong to men at all.  They belong to women.  And what she is really complaining about is why do I have to feel bad about not pleasing you?  The next question, honestly is, who asked you to please me?

It is not unusual to discover that a person who resents someone’s lack of gratitude is really more angry about the lack of obligation felt by the recipient of his or her ministrations.  Why can’t I control you?  I made you breakfast.  Why don’t you verbally thank me when I made you coffee when you didn’t ask for it?

 

 

Fascinating Logic

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” Mr. Latson stated in one of the emails, which were obtained by The Palm Beach Post. Mr. Latson said he had to stay “politically neutral” and separate his personal views about the Holocaust from his job as a public school official.  From NY Times

I think most people would find this statement pretty weird, but it’s really not much different from the Trump supporters who don’t quite want to sound as stupid as Mr. Trump himself but are terrified of being accused of disloyalty.  Especially with that rabble lining up for 2024.   So they say stuff like, “I can’t say if there was fraud or not, but Mr. Trump is certainly entitled to make sure that every vote is counted correctly and whether some of these allegations of voter fraud are true or not”.

If the Democrats did the same thing under similar circumstances, the Republicans would go ballistic and scream at the authorities to shut down the recount.  Well, come to think of it, that’s pretty well what they did in Florida in 2000.

What Mr. Latson is really saying is, “please don’t judge me because I believe the Holocaust never happened.”  He knows his acquaintances would find his belief both ridiculous and bigoted: it’s not an innocent belief.  It is a belief founded in centuries of Antisemitism.

No one says “I can’t say if the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” if they believe it really happened.

And no one says, “I can’t say if Joe Biden really won the election or not” if they believed Joe Biden won the election.  But if they openly said, “Donald Trump actually, really won this election” they would have to explain to their constituents why they are ignoring the results of a free and fair election, when that’s how they got elected.

And that is too awkward for them.

Mank

Not sure why so many critics seem to love “Mank”. Maybe they didn’t do their homework: the central thesis of “Mank”– that Herman Mankiewicz didn’t get enough credit for “Citizen Kane” — has been thoroughly debunked. And it’s kind of beside the point anyway. So what if Mankiewicz wrote some or most of the dialogue? Welles produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in “Citizen Kane”, and did all these things beautifully and brilliantly. 

“Mank” doesn’t want to admit that Welles was the real genius.  And he has been correctly regarded as such ever since “Citizen Kane” was released.

The Trump Monument

A wealthy donor should sponsor a big monument in Washington D.C. near the White House, showing McConnell, Rubio, Lankford, Cruz, Pence, and many of the others, raising Trump on a throne to the sky with joyous expressions on their faces.
 
Why would the Republicans object? It will represent them beautifully.  But make sure it is durable, because in 4 and 8 and 12 years, we will want to be reminded of where that party was now, and who was complicit, and who their gods were (because your gods tell you what to believe).
 
And nearby, a statue of Susan Collins, slightly askance, a bit quizzical– gazing in wonder– with her comment on not voting to impeach on a plaque: “I’m sure he learned his lesson”.

What we tell Ourselves Afterwards

According to Kazuo Odachi, a former Japanese kamikaze pilot, when the officers at his cohort presented their idea of suicide missions against the allies and asked for volunteers, the suggestion was met with “stunned silence”. It was only after considerable heckling and other forms of “persuasion” that pilots signed up for it. I remember having the impression, once upon a time, that Japanese pilots enthusiastically signed up to become a kamikaze.

Probably that’s something some people really wanted to believe, afterwards.