Disappointing Journalism: WDEF

WDEF needs to address their local political coverage, at least in this instance. It’s disingenuous to show one candidate (Coty Wamp) fiddle with their microphone (1:10-18 in the clip) as b-roll to a voice over of the candidate’s platform and then tout the other candidate’s (Neal Pinkston) years in office and experience (1:57 in the clip) with the candidate holding their microphone.

WDEF also failed to mention Pinkston’s nepotism charges as well as Wamp’s misidentification of a criminal subject. I’ll consider that a wash.

Full disclosure: I do not contribute or in any way support either candidate even though I am a registered Republican. When I see shoddy or poor journalism (or media pretending to be journalism) I will call it out.

Residency requirements

The Tennessee legislature passed a bill (waiting the governor’s signature) to require three years of residency in the state and in the district any candidate for office looks to represent. I have not dived into the details, but barring an elected official from representing a changed district based on the census and district redrawing, I do not see a problem with this legislation. A Trump-backed candidate does and has out-of-state money to back her.

Please educate me on this. It seems like anti-carpetbagger legislation where it’s MAGA folk instead of Yankees.

Success, work, dictionary

My school sent students a message today:

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

That insight is, at best, wildly and optimistically simplistic.

It’s also telling students that if they experience sudden success they shouldn’t embrace it.

Sadly, it ignores the benefits certain people realize through the genetic lottery.

Disappointingly, it’s ignorant of the culture.

It negates the value of an outsider to make significant impact (a.k.a. outsider view, fresh eyes, devil’s advocate) in an otherwise closed loop.

Ultimately, it sets people up for disappointment when they work hard and well yet do not realize the success they envisioned.

However, it will spawn another generation of self-help and leadership pablum that will suck the money, energy, and hope of another generation of people looking to succeed.

And thus some people will succeed without any work effort or talent or ability or skill.

Also, how does one and who measures success? Is it an athletic director?

UPDATE: My reply to the college

I’m not sure what Joan Cronan’s story is, but I assume it cannot be condensed to a single quote.

Regardless, I have seen many people work hard and well yet not succeed due to race or gender or sexual orientation or finances or circumstance or any number of reasons one can disqualify another independent of ability.
I’ve seen people find remarkable success without much effort.
I’ve seen people born into remarkable success with no effort.
I’ve seen people lie, cheat, steal, connive, and bluster their way to success, sometimes with effort and work but more often with race and gender and finances on their side.
Hard work — and for the sake of the argument let’s assume the hard work is also good work — is not an automatic ticket to success.

Film Studies unit 1, 3 of 3

I watched There Will Be Blood (TWBB; 2012) for my Film Studies class.

An ever present thing in the movie for me is Daniel Day Lewis (DDL) using a John Houston accent throughout – it works but is also distracting.

Unlike Taxi Driver (TD) and most of Django Unchained (DU), TWBB shoots action in the wide shot giving scope to a story that could have been claustrophobic. It still is contained – there are many close ups and places where the camera frames things tightly, like the scene before the well blows.

In a movie where dialog takes up considerable time compared to action on the screen, the dialog – often delivered by DDL and, to a lesser extent, Paul Dano (PD) – has its own kinetic energy that conveys action.

Juxtapose the dialog in TWBB to super hero movies’ scenes where the hero’s stand around in a circle and talk. In the former, the camera is on the face and the expression and the eyes while the dialog is spoken, delivering an intensity and significance to the words. In the latter, the camera spins around a daily scrum status update meeting way too light hearted to convey the importance of their work (saving Earth or the galaxy or whatever).

This is another dark film, but of the three I think I enjoyed and appreciated it the most.

Random notes:

  • The scope of this movie feels huge though it isn’t really
  • A thought I had on first viewing that I forgot: this could be a prequel of sorts to Chinatown & The Two Jakes
  • Paul F. Tompkins is wasted in the early town meeting scene
  • There is a massive lack of women in this; I assume that’s intentional
  • The music and score is on-point
  • If characters aren’t coated in oil or dirt, pay attention
  • Ciarán Hinds was also wasted – he seems purposed built for having a bigger role in this movie
  • Narrative developments happen off screen that end up significant in the closing scenes
  • Like TD, this is a very White cast; I assume that is intentional

That is not your pipeline

Imagine a bill to study energy infrastructure in your state:

On March 2, a seemingly innocuous bill in the Tennessee General Assembly proposed a study on energy infrastructure,  but an amendment to remove local government’s ability to regulate fossil fuel infrastructure threw up red flags with legislators, local government officials and environmental groups.

(Dulce Torres Guzman via Tennessee Lookout)

Based on my limited understanding:

A libertarian would say the state should not supersede the will of the locality, and the locality not supersede the will of the local people and deny the pipeline;

A liberal would say the good of the many outweighs the good of the few (or the one), but part of the calculus should be the environmental impact and deny the pipeline;

A conservative would say the good for business is the good for all as pipelines and their ilk will create jobs, short term and long term and approve the pipeline;

A modern Republican would be for state’s rights, religious legislation, and where the others don’t intersect, a hands-off approach to business in this case, probably pro pipeline and approve the pipeline;

A MAGA would demonize those against pipelines (pro conservative) and demonize those for local control (anti libertarian) and variously pro- and anti-Republican depending on short-term goals and approve the pipeline;

A modern Democrat will do something either in concert with other Democrats or not;

An independent informed thinker, not an Independent voter, will look at the proposal – pros and cons, history, who benefits – and will be disappointed that the State government is moving so fast on this item.

Film Studies unit 1, 2 of 3

I watched 2 films Sunday for my film studies class: Taxi Driver (1976) and Django Unchained (2012). I will probably watch There Will Be Blood (2007) tonight and pick which 2 of the 3 to do for my unit 1 analysis, and which of those 2 I will write about for my unit essay.

Taxi Driver

It’s been at least 20 years, probably 30, since I last viewed this film. I remembered going in how uncomfortable the movie is to watch. Robert De Niro is perfect in the role, bringing a staccato integration with other characters while his voice-overs give an internal monologue that vacillates between assured and unhinged in equal measure.

Cybil Sheppard’s Betty lights up the screen in almost every scene she is in.

A young Jodie Foster delivers Iris with a delicate veneer ineffectively hiding her fear.

Peter Boyle portrays maybe the most interesting character in the movie. When Travis Bickel (De Niro) goes to get the taxi job at the start we can see Boyle’s Wizard in a heated discussion through the window over the dispatcher’s shoulder. I would love a story about Wizard that takes place simultaneously with Taxi Driver.

Random thoughts:

  • Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel are wasted in this movie
  • That said, they both inform Bickel’s interactions with Betty and Iris, respectively
  • I forgot about the scene with Martin Scorsese as the guy in the back of Bickel’s cab talking about how he will kill his wife
  • Windows, mirrors, and eyes are recurring elements
  • I forget how New York used to look & be
  • I forgot how the movie ends
  • I had to stop the movie twice and watch 30 Rock episodes
  • This is a movie that would be hard to remake today in the modern age
  • It is about 20 minutes too long
  • The political posters end up in interesting spaces
  • The music was spot on – the xylophone pieces really bothered me. Bernard Hermann, well done

Django Unchained

This was my first ever viewing. I was not looking forward to it, because:

  • I’ve grown disenamored of Tarantino’s homages
  • I do not like Jamie Foxx or Leonardo DiCaprio as actors
  • It’s dark and heavy

I ended up enjoying it more than I thought. Christoph Waltz was great as King Shultz, Samuel L. Jackson played Steven superbly, and the bounty hunter section of the film was as good a bit of the Western genre as you’d find in this century.

I am impressed by the second dinner scene where Leo cuts his hand. I read that it actually happened and he stayed in character and pushed through. He received a standing ovation from the cast and crew for this, and the scene was clearly his best.

Random thoughts:

  • Few women are in it, and the ones that are and have screen time are mostly wasted, which is out of step for Tarantino movies
  • Walton Goggins was also wasted
  • The scene with the Australian mine employees was a missed opportunity
  • This was Tarantino’s super hero movie
  • A lot of seeing things through slats/gun sights/gaps in things, and like Taxi Driver eyes in general are key elements
  • Tarantino in this movie was as disturbing as Scorsese in his but for different reasons — Tarantino is awful in acting and accent
  • Where in the hell did Candie get all those gun hands?
  • Hi, Chattanooga! (The first outfitting scene for Django)
  • Reading articles about the movie I think there was a lot that was cut that should have been left in to make the movie hold together better than a super hero movie
  • I could do without the cameos — give up-and-comers with ability the roles
  • That said, the woman with the covered face in Candie’s crew was another wasted opportunity
  • This should have been 2+ movies — bounty hunter & vigilante in Django Unchained and then rescue husband in Django Unleashed — or else been 30 minutes shorter. A third movie could have been about him and Brumhilda trying to settle somewhere.
  • No one wised up to Hilde and Django having the same ‘R’ burned into their right cheek. It took Stephen to somehow decode that they knew each other

Biggest Criticisms

The music in this movie is a mess. The pieces that were homage to spaghetti westerns and more modern stuff done in a country-and-western vein were great. However, Tarantino kept taking me out of the movie with more modern pieces that reminded me that this is a movie and they were thematically out-of-place.

The super hero elements I alluded to also took me out of the suspended disbelief this kind of movie deserved: blood & other body matter spatter was comical; the clown car that spewed gun-toting plantation hands was ridiculous; Django shooting a rider off his horse the first time he fires a rifle is absurd; that he turns out to be a shooting savant is even more absurd; and his interaction with the Australian miners had me thinking “it can’t be this easy”, until it was.

Discovering Amy Winehouse

Dear Friends,

It’s not uncommon for me to miss or dismiss artists in the initial blush of their celebrity only to learn of them in some retrospective analysis. This approach offers the benefits of not waisting time following the siren song of one-hit wonders or fad-milking acts, skips past the orgy of fawning fans falling over themselves, and provides me with a percolated, thoughtful analysis highlighting the craft of the artist in the cool light of history.

I’m not sure how I missed Amy Winehouse when she was alive. I did, but thankfully Ted Gioia highlighted her jazz chops in a recent post:

Like so many music stars, she died at age 27—they even call it “The 27 Club,” and that’s one all-star group you definitely don’t want to join … I got a stack of books on Amy, and started reading about the circumstances leading to her death at age 27 …

I decided to focus on Winehouse’s music instead, but really I want to look just at her jazz singing. Because this is what turned me into an Amy Winehouse fan. I didn’t pay much attention to her pop music until I first heard her rendition of a jazz song, which forced me to reconsider everything I had assumed about her. 

With this setting the table for my Winehouse appreciation, I listened through the various clips Mr. Gioia linked.

This just in: that woman could sing.

Read the whole article for the dazzling details, his analysis, and links to the clips that I enjoyed. While you’re doing that, I’ll go make myself an Amy Winehouse jazz playlist.

Saving time

Ugh. It happened again. Parts of the world changed their clocks because it was 02:00 local time.

When I lived in Japan I got to experience the joy of one time zone in the whole country that does not change twice a year. It was glorious.

However, I did have to invest in blackout curtains because sunrise was around 04:30 in the summer. With the longer morning-side day still came a longer evening-side day, and the earlier peak day heat meant that maybe it would dissipate enough in time for a nice evening.

Daylight savings time needs to go away – kind of.

With countries as big East to West as the continental US, Mexico,and Canada, how to get rid of DST becomes problematic.

My favorite idea is, in autumn, to merge Eastern, and Central time into one time zone, combine Mountain and Pacific into another, and Alaska and Hawaii into a third.

Central and Mountain time zones would do nothing. Eastern would “fall” back to aline with Central Daylight time. Pacific time will “spring” ahead (for the second time in the year) to align with Mountain.

Most of Alaska stays on Alaska Standard Time. The rest of Alaska and Hawaii permanently “springs” ahead to Hawaii-Aleutian Daylight Time.

If my math is right (and there is zero guarantee that it is) the newly created Eastern time zone and the new Western time zone would be 1 hour different from each other – 10 AM in Toronto would be 09 AM in Los Angeles, 10 AM in Chicago would be 09 AM in Denver, and 10 AM in New York would be 9 AM in Mexico City. All of Alaska and Hawaii would be 2 hours behind Los Angeles and 3 hours behind New York: a 5 PM meeting in Detroit would be 4 PM in Phoenix, and 2 PM in Anchorage and Honolulu.

Coming out of this the US would have 3 time zones (mostly), Mexico would have 2, and Canada would have 3. South America would ideally similarly simplify.

Quartz has a good article about this from 10 years ago: https://qz.com/142199/the-us-needs-to-retire-daylight-savings-and-just-have-two-time-zones-one-hour-apart/. Disappointingly, it only focused on the continental US with some through to Alaska and Hawaii.

UPDATE: I thought Atlantic was 0:30 off of Eastern time when I wrote this. I was wrong and adjusted things accordingly.

Libertarianism in light of misinformation

The fundamental precept of libertarianism is best summed up with the phrase:

All things being equal, …

Of course, few if any things are truly equal.

Libertarianism – as I understood it – is predicated on other secondary assumptions, assuming government doesn’t tell them to do these things:

  • People have enlightened self-interest
  • People are responsible for their actions and expect others to be
  • People are predictably selfish
  • People are rational actors
  • There’s someone else who will fill in the gap: churches, charities, non-profits, and the like where enlightened self-interest, predictable selfishness, and acting rationally fail
  • Open information is best and will help people be enlightened self-interest rational actors

That idea, that open information is best, feels right. It should be right, all things being equal.

Things are not equal. Just like the idea that there are markets in everything, there is gaming of everything. Come up with rules and someone will not only find ways around them but will frame their activity as right and true.

Many people are disturbed that Duck Duck Go will down-rank Russian disinformation on their search engine. They are declaring that DDG is dead to them.

I have no problem with this. I will keep an eye on down-ranking, but in this case I think it’s the right thing to do.

First, down-ranking means that the search results for the disinformation will still be there but maybe not at the top. So sources of bad information will have a hard time to manipulate algorithms to get their bad data at the top.

Second, there’s the idea that all users – in this case, all people – are the above-mentioned rational actors and can tell disinformation from fact. They can’t. See the amount of recent disinformation around Barack Obama’s birth certificate AND HE’S BEEN OUT OF OFFICE FOR FIVE+ YEARS. DDG is not preventing misinformation from being available but is not giving it equal weight to credible data.

Third, DDG’s announcement seems to assume the imperfect knowledge of most if not all users. That’s not wrong: We’re all variously imperfectly knowledgeable about Russia’s war with Ukraine, Brexit, the cartels in Mexico, the elections in South Korea, and a bunch of other stuff. I read the news for 1-2 hours per morning and I would not consider myself “well versed” on any of it.

Forth, DDG uses results from Microsoft’s Bing. One could do the same search in Bing and get the misinformation.

My takeaway is that DDG is being a responsible netizen, preventing misinformation from proliferating as on-par with verifiable information from credible sources. Those who think DDG is violating libertarian ideals and will not use it as their search engine – farewell and best wishes.