The Boys in George Clooney’s Bloat

A few months ago, I started seeing trailers for the new George Clooney movie, “The Boys in the Boat”.   I breezily scratched that film off my list.  Firstly, Clooney is a mediocre director, as evidenced from his previous films.  Secondly, a plucky band of American working-class men incredibly, stunningly, unbelievably, amazingly, shockingly enter an athletics competition and win.  My God!!! Has that ever even happened before?  Will the audience be surprised by anything in the film?  Will the best rower prove to be a nice guy, and get the girl?  Will some group of nefarious, jealous, evil people try to stop them?  Will there be a last-minute hitch to shockingly overcome?

As if.  As if anything about this film was ever going to be even remotely interesting.  Then, I accidentally stumbled into the review on the Roger Ebert review site.  Now, I know is overly generous to most films, but this review stunned me. I was completely wrong.  This magnificent film is fresh, exciting, rousing, and heroic!  You must see it!  3.5 out of 4 stars.

Seriously?  There is nothing in the description of this movie that even hints at a result like this.  The story is cliché-ridden, it’s directed by the “genius” who directed “The Monuments Men” (which Clooney himself apologized for) and “Leatherheads” which was reputedly so bad I never even bothered to see it, and it overtly toots the message of “believe in yourself” because if you believe in yourself you will win, even if all the other competitors also believe in themselves and win too.  We know for a fact that Nazi athletes do not believe in themselves, are not plucky, are never underdogs, and are known to deflower virgins.

No, I was not wrong.  Here’s a good corrective (the Guardian).

Will I see it?  I retch at the very prospect.  There is not one thing in the previews or reviews or trailer that displays the slightest hint of originality, insight, intelligence, or fun.

And should scrape itself off the list of “review” sites.  This is not the first time, recently, that it has been excessively generous to a bad film.  I know you want to be popular and you hate disparaging films that you know the public is going to love, but it is a disservice to culture in general to throw yourself at a film like a cheap slut late, late, late on a Saturday night.


Trial by Innuendo

To any casual observer, Mr. Weinstein’s history of accusations of abuse seems as though it should be admissible, and yet it was not.  NY Times (here)

A New York Times reporter is appalled that the conviction of Harvey Weinstein of rape was overturned.  I am not.

At the time of his conviction, I was rather shocked that the court allowed numerous women–who were not the victims in the case– to testify that Weinstein had treated them very badly.  I don’t doubt that he did.  I also think it’s likely he was guilty of rape and I would not have been displeased to see him convicted of it in a fair trial.  But what the prosecution did was unethical and unfair.  They lined up numerous witnesses who all agreed that Weinstein was an asshole.  Then they essentially said– “see what a horrible person he is?  He must also be guilty of rape.”  Of course, they used artful language to make it sound more sophisticated than that.  They said it showed a “pattern” of behavior, an MO, that corroborated what the actual victims experienced.

I don’t think it’s even close.  That was an indefensible tactic and both sides knew it and most informed observers were certainly aware of it.  The prosecution thought, well, this is special.  It’s a new era.  It’s “me too”.  The justice system should change to accommodate this new sensibility.

None of those additional witnesses laid charges against Mr. Weinstein.  All of their allegations were made without any attempt to prove them, and without giving Weinstein the opportunity to rebut or challenge them.  Some of them brought cases that were rejected because of police misconduct.  Presenting their untested evidence in court poisoned the well.

If any of those women had valid charges to make, make them, and take him to court, where you can attempt to prove your case and Weinstein can be given a fair chance to rebut your accusations.  If you can’t or won’t prove them, you have no business testifying in a case you are not involved with in order to smear the defendant.

Complicating the matter is that many of these women did have consensual sex with Weinstein.  At least some of them, were hoping to advance their careers in the film industry as a result.  Even the two actual victims in the case who allege that Weinstein raped them  also had consensual sex with him.  This raises the possibility that many or all of the damaging character witnesses may be experiencing something like buyer’s remorse.  They consented to sex on the expectation that Weinstein would advance their film careers.  When he didn’t fulfill his side of the deal, they came to believe that the sex was, in some sense, less consensual than it was when they consented.

That’s not a crime.  It’s just contemptible.  Or, if it is a crime, the victims are the actresses who were unwilling to make a pact with the devil and, therefore, lost opportunities for a career in film and were replaced by actresses who were willing to trade sex for opportunity.  It is also contemptible for aspiring actresses to use sex to curry favor with producers and other powerful insiders in order to get juicy film roles.

Similarly, in the Bill Cosby case, the victim had agreed to a cash settlement with Cosby for which, as part of the agreement she voluntarily signed, she agreed to never again bring charges against him.  She didn’t have to take the money.  She didn’t have to sign the agreement.  The agreement was actually supervised by a judge through the court system.  So when the authorities decided to charge Cosby anyway, and she testified– breaking the agreement– I thought immediately that a judge should have thrown it out (or demanded that she return the money she received from Cosby).  I thought that was obvious.  Eventually, it was obvious and the case was thrown out.

Reporter Jessica Bennett seems to believe that a bedrock principle of justice– a very important principle– should be dispensed with so it would be easier to convict someone based on flimsy evidence (what could it be if not “flimsy” if it’s not strong enough to support a conviction on its own).   In a sense, it is the principle of having the right to confront your accuser.  The additional women who testified against Weinstein denied him the right to “confront” their accusations by making them in court in a case in which their charges were not being tested.  That is an afront to fundamental justice.

His conviction in California used the same approach.   And I hope that the higher courts throw out his conviction there as well.

Then I hope both systems re-try him and come up with a fair judgement based on the facts of the case– not on his reputation.

The Elusive Joy of Apocalypse

“The crowd, too, seemed electrified in a way I had not seen for years. The lifting up of the martyr, the processing of her death into rage, the processing, through Trump, of the rage into joy — the old alchemy was working again.” NY Times

I don’t think I personally give enough credit to the “joy” aspect of finding out that your worst fantasies about global conspiracies (the Democrats, the Ukrainians, the French, the Pope, the sex traffickers, the Fairies & Orcs, Mike Pence– whomever) are likely true, and that a savior– with his own custom leather-bound bible to offer– is bravely defying the courts and politicians and judges (even the ones he appointed) who are out there serving the interests of the international pedophile conspiracy by bringing him down. The swagger, the mocking, the insults (even of Jimmy Carter as he mourned the death of his wife), seem tasteful to you, hallmarks of virtue and moral courage and dignity. Surely he would have served in the military had he had the opportunity– okay, maybe he did dodge it– and surely some of those wounded veterans like John McCain deserved mockery, but he is sure to restore military spending to its normal level of ten times what everyone else in the world is spending combined, and he will stop crime, invent manufacturing, prove that all the world’s climate scientists are liars, put Stormy Daniels back in her place, pay the money he owes the National Enquirer, eliminate the deficit by cutting taxes (after increasing it massively his first term), stop abortion (unless the polling shows it’s a loser of an issue), cure cancer, and maybe actually go to church some days. Whatever he says, even if it’s the opposite of what he said yesterday or the day before that, or tomorrow, believe it, deliriously. You know in your heart that to do otherwise will bring not a rational, creaky, imperfect but functioning state; no, it will bring the apocalypse.

The Cost of a Year at New York University

The estimated total cost of attendance for an on- or off-campus student attending N.Y.U. over the 2022-23 school year is $83,250.

From Here.

This cost is baffling to me.  How can it cost a single student what a single professor makes in a year?  And what do they mean “on or off” campus?  Surely, room and board is a big chunk that can’t be “on or off”?

Let’s imagine a university that awards degrees in History, English, Sociology, Psychology, Art, Music, Business, and Economics.  Let’s imagine it has 1,000 students.  Let’s call it Jester College.

In my imaginary university, let’s have 20 professors.  I know, I know– there would be many different professors for different specialties at a real university.  Bear with me for a moment.

The 20 professors each earn $100 K.  Not extravagant but not unbearable.  So our annual budget for salaries is $2 million.   Let’s say each of them has to work really hard and teach three classes.   That’s 60 classes of an average of 17 students each.

The cost per student for salaries would be about $2000.  Of course, that doesn’t include the cost of administration or rent or utilities or mascots.

Of course, that’s a silly amount.  The buildings would cost a lot and we have a president and a dean and so on.   But the cost of the essential service of a university is $2,000.

Let’s say Jester University acquires some land for $6 million and builds dorms at about $60 K per unit for about 600 of the students.   Thirty-six million dollars.   Of course, the money is borrowed, so let’s allocate $162,000 a month or $1.9 million a year for the dorms and roughly $1 million for the land.

We still have students paying $4,000 a month to cover the cost of land, dorms, and professors.  The classroom buildings will cost quite a bit less than the 600 units of the dorms.   You need a gym and a library.

It’s all crazy of course.  I’m just trying to imagine some genius entrepreneur coming along and looking at the costs of university education and deciding he could make a lot of money by offering the same basic service for a lot less than $82K.

All you need is a qualified professor, a class-room for each session of each class, a dorm for students to live in, and a few other ancillary items for education to take place.  The students go to class, listen to the professor, go to their dorm rooms and study and go into town for a beer or pizza or hang out at the gym or the library.

Jester U.  doesn’t offer chemistry or biological science because it’s too expensive to build the labs.  You can go to New York University instead and pay $83K for the privilege.  But a lot of academia consists of reading and writing and studying and testing and that can all be done a lot more cheaply than $82K.

Why doesn’t someone do it?

Because students are generally unsophisticated and willing to take out gargantuan loans to pay what Universities demand, the Universities’ demands are based on costs that have very little to do with providing the essential service that students used to go to Universities to receive.

Let’s say that those 1,000 students each pay $10K in tuition, room, and board, per year.  That gives us an annual budget of $10 million.   How does this get to $82 million for New York University?

Go ahead and get a lab and lots of other stuff.  Let’s double it: now you have $20K.

I know: this is ridiculous.  I’m sure there are other expenses I am not accounting for.  But I’m also sure that a lot of those expenses aren’t really necessary or essential or important.  They are part of the established bureaucratic structure of post-secondary education in 2023, and very, very hard to dislodge.  You have deans and financial officers and accountants and secretaries and clerks and heads of departments and so on.

I would suggest you could jettison a lot of them and still provide a solid post-graduate degree to most students.

On the Cost of Textbooks

More news on the cost of college & university.









Clark vs Maravich

Look folks, I’m sure Caitlyn Clark is a magnificent player, so let’s not spoil it all with bullshit about her achievements.  For about a week, I have been hearing and seeing reporters– most disquietingly from Christine Brennan on PBS News (who has become rather slavish of all things women sports lately, especially the USWFT)– raving about Clark’s “unbelievable”, “astounding”, “unprecedented” career achievements, as if she is the equal or better to the best male players.

Pete Maravich averaged 44.2 points a game per season.  He scored 3,667 points in 83 games.  There were no 3-pointers in his era, so all of his points were earned through field-goals and at the free-throw line.

Clark averages 32.1 points per game.  Her “record” total was achieved in 130 career games.

Are we clear now?  No, Caitlyn Clark is not the greatest basketball player ever.  Peter Maravich, arguably, still is.  I say “arguably” because there may be other male players who come close.

The idea that Caitlyn Clark is now the all time best college basketball player of any gender is sheer nonsense.

Socialism for the Rich

In the contest for dumbest government programs, state funding of Hollywood productions must rank near the top, along with sports stadiums.

‘After a state economist determined that “the film incentives represent lost revenue” and that their economic benefits were “negligible,” Michigan, which cut funding for the police and schools while facing a severe budget deficit, eventually decided to end its incentives.’

Now Michigan wants to restart the program. Because Georgia and Indiana do it and we must compete in this race to the bottom! Both parties do it while selling the myth that these productions generate local jobs and increased tax revenue. Clint Eastwood, hard core self-reliant pull-your-bootstraps up Republican, is more than happy to take advantage of this welfare program for actors and directors.

‘A recent report prepared for state auditors in Georgia estimated that the tax revenue returned on each dollar spent on incentives was 19 cents. A similar report from New York determined the return was between 15 cents and 31 cents.’

Socialism for the rich.

It is very disappointing, to say the least, that taxpayers who are outraged by this or that or everything completely miss the biggest spending scandals happening right in front of them.

On Dylan’s First Album

One of the most astute comments I ever did see on early Dylan:

“These debut songs are essayed with differing degrees of conviction,” writes music critic Tim Riley in 1999, “[but] even when his reach exceeds his grasp, he never sounds like he knows he’s in over his head, or gushily patronizing … Like Elvis Presley, what Dylan can sing, he quickly masters; what he can’t, he twists to his own devices. And as with the Presley Sun sessions, the voice that leaps from Dylan’s first album is its most striking feature, a determined, iconoclastic baying that chews up influences, and spits out the odd mixed signal without half trying.”

From “Inside the World of Rock” posted to Facebook, 2024-03-20.

My second quote of the day, from the NYTimes, on South Dakota Governor Kristi Noemi, who appears to be grooming herself for a shot at Trump’s VP:

This approach to political image-making has its roots in the pantomimed femininity of Phyllis Schlafly and Sarah Palin, where the promise of a powerful woman was defanged by her participation in the pageantry of traditional gender cosplay.

NY Times



My response to a Facebook post praising actor Tim Robbins, especially for his super, mega, amazing role in “The Shawshank Redemption”, a highly over-rated film that substitutes the outward trappings of “significance” for real depth.  (Watch “Cool Hand Luke” for a film that really is what “Shawshank” thinks it is.)

Here it is:

It’s called “method acting” and I cringe every time I encounter it in a film. Makes me love British actors and others who speak in normal tone. The delusion is that by mumbling you latch into some kind of elusive authenticity or, better yet, convince everyone that you’re like Brando. (Brando could get away with method because he really was a very good actor at times.)

Devotees of method will even mumble, absurdly, when speaking into large crowds or from distance. It’s like you believe that if you use the same plates and silverware as a gourmet restaurant your food will be just as good.

My comments on Reddit about the magnificent opulence of John Williams movie soundtracks:

I know I’m a minority (sigh) but I don’t think there is a single piece of music by Williams that moves me. Most of it reminds me of brass bands in parades. Most of it is pretty similar– individual pieces never stand out to me. In movies, Williams provides big crescendos to tell you to be impressed by the director, and the quantity of movement in the scene (armies, machines). Does he have a single melody you could say is “haunting”? Music in movies that did move me: Yann Tierson (“Amelie”); Ennio Morricone “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Maurice Jarre (“Doctor Zhivago”), Nino Rota (“The Godfather”). The theme from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein is quite beautiful and lifts the movie. The music from “The Third Man” is not my favorite but it is at least very distinctive.

Oh My God! You Mean Hamlet Dies?!

On the Stratford Festival Theatre Website:

“This production contains references to death and dying that some people may find distressing”.

You have got to be kidding.

You mean the theatre company that has regularly presented “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” and “Richard II” and “Henry IV” etc., for more than 50 years, has suddenly decided that audiences need to be warned that some characters in the play they are watching might get killed?

Is there a risk that some people might spend $130 on tickets and travel all the way to Stratford and then accidentally stumble into Macbeth offing King Duncan, or Hamlet offing Polonius, or Ophelia offing herself?

“Some” people? But not “all” people. Me, for example: I think I might enjoy seeing Othello or Lear bite the dust.

I would prefer not to be warned.

But seriously: have the promotional team at Stratford Festival Theatre lost their minds?  Do they imagine some theatre-goer rushing out of the theatre weeping and traumatized because they didn’t know Banquo was going to get killed and are shocked that a play at a Shakespearean festival theatre would have death in it?

Look, folks, Stratford itself has the solution:  it now offers a multitude of anodyne confections for every taste!  Check it out,