Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Non-Review: Ghostbuster's 2016

Ramblings Post #317
I had a bad feeling about this. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong but I'll never know, but this will explain why I was all weirded about this. Those special memories I was talking about. Now, I'm fairly certain those who only read the title and the first few lines will be outraged by this. But then those with short attention spans really don't read me anyway. I could post Beyonce's private phone number and nobody would notice. Not that I have it. But I'm just saying, I'm an acquired taste. 

I don't intend to go see Ghostbusters 2016. No interest at all. I'll explain a little later.

First, I don't think this film will be initially rated on it's merits or it's faults. Not for years. The detractors view it as an abomination, a reboot of something that should have been left alone. To them it's like remaking Citizen Kane or Star Wars. To the film's champions it is a glass ceiling breaking and paradigm shifting call of truth to power. It's funny dammit, and you better like it. Maybe ten years from now we'll all be able to watch it after all the attached dross has been shorn away and look at it for what it is...a comedy about people chasing ghosts. It might even be good.

What I have found curious, and more than slightly disturbing, is the glee in which those who champion the film have taken in bashing those who oppose the very idea of the film. Those who disagree with the idea are often categorized as not wanting to give women a chance or clinging to the past (the term man-baby is just weird) and alternatively must just be wildly misogynist. Not a little, a lot. I'm certain their are some small penis jokes floating about too. And maybe some are misogynistic, but I bet most aren't, but the righteousness embodied in some of the insults feels downright Freudian. Damn, tell us how you really feel. I realize that we are in an age where wholly demonizing your opponent is the norm, but this feels more personal, angrier, what should be rational discussions get clouded with belittling terms and ceaseless name calling. From the women. I mean jeez, men have feelings too. 

Now, let me tell you why I'm not going to see Ghostbusters 2016:

When I was growing up, the neighborhood I lived in didn't have many kids in it. Really not any kids. My parents were busy providing us with a living, and this was in the days before play-dates and the internet, so you just sucked it up an watched a lot of television. On the other hand the people I went to school with, in the age of cluster education, all lived together. Like right around the corner, use the backdoor close. So I daily would hear about their after-school adventures, of which I was not a part of for reasons beyond my control. I know, such FUN. I did however, get to go to summer camps. Sleepaway summer camps. At camp I was just one of the guys, I felt like I belonged and wasn't the guy who didn't know what happened that time that so was funny. And it was during one of those summers, where I was just one of the guys, we saw Ghostbusters. That bus ride back to camp where we shouted movie lines at each and laughed....

So, this particular piece of intellectual property holds a special meaning for me. I'd like to keep that great childhood feeling, that memory. I am allowed that, aren't I?

I understand that Hollywood doesn't give a damn about my feelings. To them intellectual property is property, and goodwill is infinitely transferable. With the advent of the internet and alternate access points for entertainment, the slow development of property is a thing of the past - it's a blockbuster or it's garbage. Filmmakers can't afford to experimental, and are reduced to trying to graft the goodwill from the old to the new and double up. Economics, well, the desired economics, cause Hollywood to alternate between being the creators of dreams, tellers of great stories, builders of soul-moving myths, and greedy self-serving assholes.

I want to see women succeed. We need more female heroes. But this particular piece of intellectual property is special, okay? I mean jeez, I can name three or four female oriented pieces of fiction ripe for revival or raising to the next level of public awareness without trying hard. Where is the Honor Harrington movie? Or the re-reboot of Modesty Blaise? Or Dakota North? Someone can go back and try to get Tank Girl to make sense. Or a try a Nightwing Restorations series? There is is the story I read that I thought would have been perfect for a (when they were all alive) Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White reunion that involved a island community in the 40's, a scavenger hunt, motorcycles with sidecars and a bank robbery. If I find that, can we do that now? Where is that Lumberjanes adaptation? Reboot Laura Croft? This list took like 30 seconds.

I know why Hollywood doesn't care, they've imagined themselves as desperate. I didn't expect the same from society. Maybe we need to sit down and talk more than we know. As one of my coworkers put after some conversation about this: There is so much out there that female characters need not usurp the identities of male characters to be validated. They can be their own people. I thought she had a point.

I hope the film does well, and that we can put this all behind us.

Barkeep. A drink for the ladies! What? Buying a woman a drink is sexist? Well, I guess this one worked out for me then....

Monday, July 11, 2016

Some thoughts on Tragedy

This is a political post. 

I'm going to first suggest a simple step, a change of policy.  How about....all media outlets NOT use mugshots to discuss any victims AND stop using Facebook glamour photos to describe any alleged murderers. Let's start there. 

I drove down to visit the folks the the country this week. My father has started wearing shorts, which is monumental if you know him, and my mother is still putting together food for me to take so I don't have to cook when I get back. My younger brother looks good. I bring this up because it on those trips that I try to escape my bubble and see what the rest of the world is thinking. I find those who only want to work in echo chambers unpalatable, no matter what the views are, so I strive not to be one of them whenever possible. So, between my house and my parents, I listen to a variety of local media to see where my thoughts are on the social spectrum. 

I was somewhat taken aback.

On the final leg of the journey back from parents on Sunday, I tuned into a a right wing pundit's radio show.  What at first seemed funny, then a lot less funny, quickly transformed into a defensive screed. Listening to him I got the impression that Libertarians are apparently trying to join Crossfitters and Vegans, in that every one in those groups can't wait to share that fact with you. This radio pundit mentioned he was a Libertarian before nearly every statement he made, as though the term signified his thoughts held more gravity due to his association. After listening for almost a half hour, him working through his always self centered rationalizations as a way of explanations, contradicting himself and failing to see it, and ignoring basic concepts of empathy I'm surprised he's still on the radio. Ah, but it was conservative radio, so my bad.  

He first indicated that he was sure white male privilege was a fraudulent concept. Apparently just designed to annoy him. Then he explained how there was no relationship between the Dallas police department and what happened in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. As though this was a news flash, and we aren't all aware that the irrational people don't think logically. There was a long piece about how terrible hate crime laws are, because people should only be judged on the actions. But he kept repeating the term "in cold blood" to describe the events in Dallas as though simply killing someone wouldn't qualify as heinous enough. He followed that up with the Black Lives Matter Movement conspiracy concept, in the protests that continued despite the shooting were designed to push the events in Dallas off the front page. As though the BLM movement is a vast well organized machine. He finished by to educating his listeners to the dangers of thought police, how he was an enlightened man who knew he was and needed no validation, while carefully treading over some past professional transgressions he was obviously still very bothered about. It would have been funny if he wasn't dead serious.

That he has a radio show, which means people listen to him, is a frightening concept.

It is my opinion that what happened in Dallas was outrageous, there is no reason to shoot police officers at all. Even now, prominent activists have been calling for peaceful protests all weekend, not pushing out calls for a repeat performance. Before this act of senseless violence we saw a model demonstration, where the police and protesters were even taking photos together. Afterwards, we found ourselves again in the cycle of finger pointing, confirmation bias derived anger and the usual conspiracy theories. What could and should have been a starting point for reasonable conversation concerning the deaths of Sterling and Castile, has once again devolved into social and political gamesmanship. Despite what my new favorite radio personality would have you believe, it is possible to both a believer in the ideals of Black Lives Matter and pro-Police. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not sure where we're headed. We live interesting times.

Changes in thinking an attitudes move slowly, but we live in an instant digital world, where we expect change and satisfaction quickly. Where relationships can blossom in 500 words or less. This problem isn't from a digital world, and so we're going to have to go a time of thoughtful conversation and address it. I hope we're up to it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

This shouldn't be happening.

This is a political post. 

Alton Sterling And Philando Castile.

I shouldn't know these names. I shouldn't have to know about these names. These incidents should not have happened. This shouldn't be the America I live in. I am just so tired of this.

Will these names join the list of names where justice fails. We all know the drill: Death. Suspension of the officer. Blame the victim. No charges filed/No conviction. Repeat. Are we to believe that in every single instance, now numbering in the hundreds, this is always okay? It's like the prosecutors aren't even trying. 

Let's be clear here. Even those considered THUGS have rights. The victim having a police record does not justify a police shooting. And when did we reach the point where compliance gives the officer has the right to shoot?

I just... I tried to let my thoughts settle here, to figure out what to say. But I just can't. Not right now. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Quick Restaurant Review - Another Broken Egg Cafe

I don't do these like I used to, because I don't eat out like I used to. Well, I still eat out, but I usually get it to go because I've found that while eating alone is mildly depressing, eating alone in a restaurant just looks bad. It does really, unless you're at the bar, which looks suspect without a drink, but I've cut drinking to practically a standstill, so now I'm at the bar alone with no drink and plate of food. Trust me, my couch is more comfortable, AND I get to control the remote. But I digress. So out of the blue Serve hits me up about brunch at like 3am on the group chat, and because I'm half sleep I say sure and when I wake up I'm doing brunch.

Yay! Brunch.

So we decide to meet up at Another Broken Egg in Vinings. The restaurant is part of chain and has a location in mid-town as well, but since Serve and I both live on the west side, I figured this was an easier drive. And knowing that there would be a wait of possibly a half hour because Atlanta is a brunch town - and that Serve would be late because the last time few times we did brunch she was late - I went prepared. Making sure the iPad was powered and my Kindle app ready I sallied forth.

The cafe is in a one of those developments that has replaced the mall, you know, a little shopping area with a diverse but carefully homogenized store fronts and odd sized parking lots that allow for shade trees and flowing bushes to hide which spots are taken. It's supposed to encourage walking and fresh air. Bleh. I for one miss the malls and the air-conditioning. Inside the spot is nice though, colorful and surprisingly bright with tables and booths in a L-shaped dining area separated by a free standing bar. It even has a nice veranda on the back which I imagines overlooks one of those wonderfully tricky odd sized parking lots.

I get there and check in, and they have this new app you need to download instead of one of the buzzer things. I'm a little skeptical at first, I hate putting unnecessary crap on my phone, but this one seems useful. It's called NoWait, and it keeps track of the wait times at various local restaurants. It doesn't allow you to check in or anything, but if you're trying to pick a spot I could see where knowing it's a thirty minute wait at Chez Chez La Hongree or that it's an hour at Feed Me Grubhouse would be nice information. Modern technology, eh?

I start reading on the verandah-ish patio space. Serve shows up ten minutes later, well before we're seated - surprising - and we catch up. The usual stuff grown people talk about, career, house, career, plans for the rest of the summer, etc. No, no I'm not smuggling Chinese babies, or want to be a fry cook, or moving to Alaska, nothing like that, no earth shattering revelations. It's just catching up, which we haven't done for a minute because of this thing called life...and the reality that she lives just North of West Nowhere.

First tip. Get the benigets! They call them biscuit benigets, but don't be fooled. They're light and airy, coated in powdered sugar and served with this jelly concoction. Serve swore she could eat the whole plate of them if pressed, and after tasting one I couldn't blame her. They're a great starter. My dining companion, who is vegetarian, or pescatarian, or something that makes eating out more difficult than necessary, had the Chez B omelette, but opted for regular mushrooms instead of the portobello on the menu. Now this is where you need to pay attention - they're open to substitutions. This means they actually cook the food in the on site and aren't serving prepackaged stuff. A lot of places don't cook onsite. Serve even got the them to make her hot chocolate with milk instead of water. They are on point. I got a Belgian waffle with a side of bacon and eggs. Now this is where they lost me. The bacon is *gasp* baked. I swear I almost got the sausage instead. But the waitress swore up and down I'd love the bacon. I decided to risk it.

Waffle with Eggs. The green stuff is from the Chez B. We ate all the benigets.
The food was good, but not awe-inspiring. The waffle light, but a little soft without the crisp edge I like. The baked bacon, er..pork meat strips, were good, but not go home and try to make it yourself good. And Serve liked her omelette, but it wasn't I think I would have another one even though I shouldn't good. Good enough to take out of town family good. Which is great, because it's very family oriented - lots of kids and families out. The service was excellent though, can't stress that enough. Substitutions and servers willing to do a little bit extra? I think we left a 25% tip, maybe even a skosh more.

Would I go again? Yes. And that is really all the info you need to know. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BRexit. Or How to ruin your country in one easy vote.

This is a political post. 

Let me put this in, more or less silly, but still accurate, terms. Britain has decide to break up with it's girlfriend, the European Union. It's tired of having to check in on late nights out or sit through her reality shows and just knows the fun times are around the corner if it just didn't have to put up with her relatives dropping by all the time. Now, after this break up, Britain for some reason thinks it can still get the EU to keep doing the laundry, buying the groceries, and getting frisky on the regular, you know, all the parts that Britain likes. Oh, and if it could not have to move out for while, that would be great too. Britain apparently doesn't listen to many Beyonce songs.  

I hope the stalwart conservatives in this country are watching, because this is the destination of that whole "take back our country movement" that has put reality show TV star and carnival barker billionaire Donald Trump in the driver's seat of one of America's major political parties. Visceral feel good action for a particular segment of the population, damn the actual consequences to everyone else. The BRexit vote was a repudiation of globalization, the process we've been undergoing in various stages for the past three decades now. The problem is that much like social gaming or a vodka with a new horrible flavor, globalization is where we're headed right now. This attempt to slam the brakes on the future in their own little corner of the world is going to hurt a whole lot more than it helps.   

To start with, the political fallout is catastrophic. The Prime Minister resigned so that there would be no one with the power to act on the vote until the next election, with the hopes that by then everyone will have come to their senses. In turn, the conservative government is pretty much taking a powder and this move by the Brits is causing the other members of the Union, a large part of why World War III hasn't started yet, to wonder if they'd be better off on their own (note: They won't). Even Scotland is now trying to get out from England and get back on the EU's good side. Some are wondering if the government that gets elected and sees the writing on the wall will even go so far as to reject the vote, which could put a whole nation right back here six months from now.   

And if the political looks grim, the financial fallout will be worse. Because if the EU survives, the other 27 countries probably won't want to use London as their financial hub like it has been doing for the past two decades. Hello Brussels. In Belgium. I'm not even sure if Belgium is a real country. And the restart of trade restrictions and probably tariffs as well aren't going to do British industry any favors. By closing itself off to easy trade and potentially decimating its financial sector, and doing it in a particularly ugly manner, the idea that the incoming rulers will somehow be able to negotiate a new sweet heart deal to let Britain get all the benefits of the EU membership and none of the issues is highly unlikely. Like winning the lottery unlikely. 

Sadly, the polls show that it was the older people who are trying to turn back the clock edging out those who'll actually have to live in the future. And much like FOX news viewers in America, those old folks drank the Kool-aid and believed the politicians who were spoon feeding what they wanted to hear. They were told that the membership fee for being part of the European Union, a sweet $350 million per week, would go to the National Health Service instead. This sounds great on paper. Yet a week after the vote the promoters of the idea to leave have already scrubbed that idea from the record, glossing over the fact that the original numbers weren't exactly real to begin with.

Immigration fears, seemingly now a world wide constant, were also stoked. The isle had seen a steady rise in immigration as the rest of Europe's economy floundered. Of course THOSE people, as they historically always have been according to every "fill-in-the-blank" supremacist, are responsible for any "fill-in-desired bad situation" here. And the good people bought it. Well, maybe not good people, as I understand a number of people even thought a vote to "Leave" meant foreigners would have to leave Britain. Like now. If that doesn't set off red flags for xenophobia, I don't know what will. I wonder if the British can see the irony in not wanting foreigners in your country? Ironically, the move has Britain's best export - expatriates - scrambling for answers.

And if all this sounds oddly familiar, it's because is. This is the same Leave NAFTA, we'll use your tax dollars better - until we actually get into office song and dance currently masquerading as party movement in America. And while it's practically a used car salesman pitch on a national level, it apparently worked on the sophisticated Brits. They're supposed to be the smart ones!

Britain broke with their girlfriend, and it turns out that it's looking pretty lonely out here. May I suggest some roses, some tears and a little Marvin Gaye?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Any Given...oh, I see what you did there.

Ramblings Post #316
Stumbling can be a good thing. Sometimes that stumble can help you right yourself, help you spot flaws you didn't even know you had. Stumbling can occasionally lead you to new things and new ideas. This is figuratively speaking mind you. Literally it means you may have to get a really good pair of shoes repaired. 
This guy got a TV show?
I'm not sure who Bill Simmons is or why he has a show on HBO. I'm vaguely aware he worked for ESPN, or maybe batted third for the Piscataway Pit Birds like 15 years ago. He sounds like he used to do color commentary for Junior League golf or the Western Maine Curling association, you know, something like that. But I'm sure of one thing: His new show might be worth watching. Although Simmons comes across - and dresses exactly like - an extremely well-off suburban dad who just happens to have former NBA players and movie stars as neighbors, his first broadcast indicates one thing about the show that all other sports talk shows lack : the willingness show unsanctioned outrage. 

If you've ever watched a sports show you know only properly sanctioned outrage is allowed. For example, SportsStar X does something despicable - punches a baby, elbows a nun, posterizes someone's grandmother - and the sports reporters all express a kind of properly worded, carefully temperate anger at the situation. Or Team 55 makes a horrible play or executes egregiously poor sportsmanship, and cue the middle of the road even handed admonishment. Every so often a veteran reporter will quietly, but professionally, mention that they disagree with an official league action - doesn't matter which league - but that's about all the fury you might get. They can't bite the hand that feeds them. For all that access, big time sports reporting has become for the most part a PR wing of professional sports. Sports Radio is still kicking and screaming, thank god, but at the national level it's all rather bland. Sometimes PTI gets it, but mostly bland.

So flipping through the channels I spotted this new show, Any Given Wednesday, and stopped to see what it was. The first guest I saw, Charles Barkley was suitably feisty. But then Barkley once through a man through a window, feisty is expected, although he's mellowed a bit to now we cheerfully refer to him as "a character." And then some reason probably having to do with a promise over drinks, Ben Affleck was invited to Simmons super fake looking living room set that looks like the house it would be would be in would be featured in Architectural Digest. Not real relaxed, fake relaxed. They joshed and joked. It was genial. Then, Simmons asked Affleck about Deflate-gate. 

It was like watching a Twitter meme explosion happen in real-time. Ben Affleck turned into the Boston sports fan nut that calls into the radio station to argue with the DJ - from his bedroom in his mother's basement, where he sleeps on Red Sox sheets under a poster of Larry Bird while wearing Boston Bruins PJs. He let loose in a rant that included shots at the league, the media, opposing teams and anyone else who might doubt that the Pats are greatest team ever and made it clear that this whole thing is based on pure jealousy. It was in a word, beautiful. And I didn't agree with a single thing he said. Not one. I am stunned that the show aired it.

Untethered from a sports network, and using no footage, the show might just be able to get away with poking holes in the polished front that is modern sports reporting. For a while. Right up until the leagues start "suggesting" their talent, former or otherwise, just not drop by. 

Until then, this might just finally be some good sports television.  

Barkeep. Next time, make sure they have beer. No, they need whiskey. And give him an hour.