Monday, October 09, 2017

It's quite simple, really. If Americans really want to impose gun control, or even to reduce American carnage, be it ever so little, they know exactly what they have to do. The trouble is, they just won't do it, deeming  guns and violence central to the American tradition. Even today, Country and Western  music is code for guns. The sign of a mature  country  is what and how much it is willing to give up (guns, white supremacy, etc.) in pursuit of the greater good.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Rachel Withers: A Name to Watch in these Difficult Times

The on-screen death of a dog, often a Very Good Boy, is a contentious plot device. For some viewers, the fate of the canine character entirely determines whether they will watch a film: A search of the phrase “Does the dog die in …” on Yahoo Answers returns more than 100,000 results (though not all relating to films) while public demand for answers has also given rise to the site, through which users can pre-warn one another about animal death (and also, for some reason, whether a film contains vomiting or farts). Dogs matter to audiences, often more than people. The fate of the doglike direwolves has long been a major concern for June Thomas on Slate’s Game of Thrones podcast, and I cannot think of a single movie moment that scarred me more than the death of the dog in Fear.
With such emotional investment in our fictional four-legged friends, it's unsurprising that questions have sprung up regarding the survival of the beautiful golden lab featured in the trailer for The Mountain Between Us, the upcoming disaster-survival-romance movie starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba as strangers who must work together to survive after their charter plane crashes into the aforementioned mountain.
The unnamed dog, played by newcomers Raleigh and Austin in their dual debut, belongs to the plane’s pilot, who has a heart attack in the opening minutes of the film, though from shots of the dog gleefully galloping through the snow behind Elba, he seems to have forgotten his best friend rather quickly. The dog’s appearances in the main trailer—in which the human protagonists face freezing temperatures, falling through ice, sliding toward precipices, and a mountain lion—are ominously sporadic, leaving commenters wondering whether the dog will survive and/or whether Kate Winslet will eat the dog. (She’s notoriously heartless in freezing conditions.) is of little use to dead-doggophobes, with the film receiving 13 “yes” votes and 5 “no” votes to the vague question of “Does an animal die?” from voters who have not yet seen the film, making the website virtually useless.
In response, The Mountain Between Us has released a teaser trailer clarifying that the dog does not in fact die. “Spoiler Alert!” the accompanying Facebook status reads. “The dog lives.” The dog-centric trailer shows off the wonderful doggo wagging his tail, barking excitedly, cocking his head, and piercing your soul with his expressive brown eyes.
The studio-sanctioned leak is the opposite of the current trend toward stringent spoiler suppression from filmmakers. And it appears to have fulfilled its aim, with most of the new trailer’s comments from reassured dog lovers who are only now planning to see the film.
“I wasn't planning to see the movie just because I was afraid that the dog was going to die,” said one. “Too much suffering in the world to then go see a movie to escape reality for a little bit and then find out that the dog got killed … not for me. Now that I know that the dog will live I will definitely go see the movie.” Another now says it’s safe to see in public. “I was considering waiting until DVD because I would definitely ugly cry in the theaters if the dog died. Now I know it's a safe outing!”
No word yet on whether Kate Winslet makes it through. Not that it matters. The most important character is going to be fine.

Stop grumping

AS old age crept up on the decreaingly Subliminal Mr Dunn, even his most  devoted fans could  not help  noticing how negative he had becomes, forever complaining about all that was wrong in the world  and pointing out how much better everything was when he himself in person and in particular was young and even alive. Luckily few of them took the trouble to read his diaries so little  damage  was done.

What is going to the dogs at the moment? It is now virtually impossible to find a film in the original version in Dijon. To which I may add the more general point that, while a new product is a acclaimed and publicized from the rooftops, the demise of an older, much loved features is greeted in embarrassed silence, if indeed it is acknowledged at all.

Are we, as human beings equipped to deal with excess, whether it be excess of food or wine, excess of entertainment, excess of money, excess of pleasure in all forms? I have just subscribed to Netflix and am now ready to indulge in some serious binge watching, but I can't quite decide whether I came too late to this game to feel anything other than guilt. My grandchildren, on the other hand, seem at ease in marathon sessions  à la Las Vegas. Where is it all going to end?

Friday, October 06, 2017

We are often told that we are living in a golden age of television, and it is not difficult at first sight to see why people might be tempted to such a view: production values, acting and screenplays have probably never been higher, but in my more jaundiced moments I ask myself what does all this mean? That the sex is more graphic than before and the violence more violent than before? Is there any attempt to understand what is happening in America and the West? None that I can see, no suggestion that it's about time for all of us to grow up.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Mass in Latin is Back?

I had long assumed that the vernacular had won the battle of the masses, indeed I have written a post to that effect some tin ago. But it seems that I wrote  off the the Latin mass beloved of Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and the Farm Street crowd too quickly and it has still got some life left in it. It remains a minority taste, of course, but it is not yet out on its feet. The strongest argument in favour of the vernacular is that people can understand what they are saying, but what value can we attach to this observation? One could also argue that the more we say, for example, the Hail Mary the less attention we pay to the words. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Five Commandants

Thou shalt not worship Craven A images or other frozen assets
Thou shalt  not covet thy husband's wife
Thou shalt not covet thy  husband's  husband or oxen 
Thou shalt  not be a frozen hedge  fund manager 
Thou shalt not kick start thy Vespa on thy neighbour's lawn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

And here's another example....



Over the weekend, Donald Trump un-invited Steph Curry to the White House (Curry had already indicated he didn't plan to attend a victory celebration there), advised NFL owners to respond to any player who follows Colin Kaepernick and kneels during the national anthem by firing the son of a bitch, and lamented the fact that pro football was doing so much (they aren't) to protect players from head injuries -- becoming the first world leader to come out in favor of brain damage. Unsurprisingly, America's top athletes fired back at Trump -- but at least in this case, he picked on people who don't have nukes.

+ Warrior coach Steve Kerr (whose father was killed in a terror attack in the 80s): "In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn't it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President?"

+ On Sunday, NFL players, coaches, and owners engaged in various forms of protest to express unity in opposition to the president's comments. On Monday, Trump informed the country (via Twitter) that the controversy that started when players kneeled to protest racism has nothing to do with race. He hammered home that point by following up his critique of NFL and NBA players with some praise for Nascar: "So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag - they said it loud and clear!" Divide and Con is the new Divide and Conquer.

+ Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker: "It's impossible not to be struck by Trump's selective patriotism. It drives him to curse at black football players but leaves him struggling to create false equivalence between Nazis and anti-Fascists in Charlottesville."

+ Here are a few quick thoughts from me on Trump vs your favorite athletes (and every American value you hold dear): The Curry of Your Convictions.


As always, it's not only a matter of what we're talking (and tweeting) about, it's a matter of what's being ignored in the process. In this case, there's been barely a mention of Puerto Rico from the White House. Several days after Maria, PR is hot, isolated, running out of supplies, and near desperation.

The Guardian: "The island is largely without electricity and running water, but demand for plane tickets is highas Puerto Ricans attempt to return to their relatives and homes."


Pro athletes weren't the only targets of Trump messaging over the weekend. North Korea also received some more presidential Twitter trash talk: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho responded by saying that Trump had "declared war."

+ "Never before have two leaders in command of nuclear arsenals more closely evoked a professional wrestling match." The New YorkerThe Madman Theory of North Korea.

+ "A North Korean offensive strike is unlikely. That is, unless the Kim regime is provoked, perhaps by a particularly warmongering early-morning tweet, into believing that its existence really is at risk." Blained Harden in the NYTRocket Man Knows Better.


"The new presidential proclamation, which Trump said is needed to screen out terrorist or public safety threats, indefinitely restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea. Certain government officials from Venezuela will also be barred." Reuters: Trump's new travel ban could be harder to fight in court.

WaPo: Why did the U.S. travel ban add counterterrorism partner Chad? No one seems quite sure.


"It's easy to forget how transformative the company was exactly 100 years ago, when it, too, was capitalizing on a mail-to-consumer business to establish a physical retail presence." From The Atlantic's always interesting Derek Thompson: To understand Amazon -- its evolution, its strategy, and perhaps its future -- look to Sears.

+ "A number of successful online retailers are becoming increasingly focused on the physical world, for a number of reasons." HBRToys R Us Might Be Dying, but Physical Retail Isn't.


As the Senate GOP approaches a deadline on their effortsto overturn Obamacare, Atul Gawande reflects on a question that will be at the forefront of American political discourse: Is Health Care a Right? "The deal we each get on health care has a profound impact on our lives—on our savings, on our well-being, on our life expectancy. In the American health-care system, however, different people get astonishingly different deals. That disparity is having a corrosive effect on how we view our country, our government, and one another."


"These children were poisoned and slain not because they were despised but because they entered so little into the calculations of the powerful that they were unworthy even of contempt. They had to die because they were inconvenient." Matthew Walther: Don't Forget About Flint. "If you want to understand what some of us mean when we say that Washington, D.C., doesn't care about the post-industrial America of poverty, drug abuse, and spiritual despair, what even President Trump means when he talks about American carnage, get off exit 7 on I-475 in Michigan and head down Court Street until you get to the Flint Children's Museum on the campus of Kettering University."


"But that highly public moment came after months of maneuvering behind the scenes that has thrust Facebook, one of the world's most valuable companies -- and one that's used by one-third of the world's population each month -- into a multi-sided Washington power struggle in which the company has much to lose." From WaPoObama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook. (Just two world leaders having a chat...)

Buzzfeed: How Steve Bannon Sought To Infiltrate Facebook Hiring. (I still remember when people tried to infiltrate Facebook's workforce for the equity...)


"I was a very sick man for a very long time." So said Anthony Weiner before being sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a 15 year-old. As the sentence was read, Weiner "bowed his head and sobbed, holding a hand over his eyes."


"Yes, the world is clearly coming to an end. But is there anything you can do to prepare? That is not a philosophical question, or a theological one. And if it is a question that seems to beg any explication, you may stop reading now." The NYT's Alex Williams with a particularly well-timed piece: How to Survive the Apocalypse.

+ Politico: Kushner used private email to conduct White House business.

Dave Pell
Managing Editor, Internet

The Next Draft

An interesting and fairly dismal take (and extract) on the new news. Utterly true unfortunately


"Meanwhile, the people of Flint have been forced to use this bottled water for several years and are required to pay some of the highest water bills in the country for undrinkable water. The people of Detroit have experienced massive shutoffs since 2014, with up to 90,000 people shut off at times. If Detroiters could pay Nestlé rates, few would owe more than a dollar, and the majority would owe less than a dime." Businessweeksheds a lot of light on the bottled water industry with this piece: Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For.


The war of words between President Trump and Kim Jung Un would be funny (in a surreal way) if they weren't actually two world leaders potentially driving the world towards a nuclear exchange. Following Trump's bombshell UN speech, Kim fired back, calling Trump a "mentally deranged US dotard." Trump continued the flame war with a twitter blast: "Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" (If this escalates, it would be SAD!)

NYT: Trump poised to drop some limits on drone strikes and commando raids. (And Obama didn't exactly skimp on the drone strikes...)

Politico: "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers' expense since early May." But don't get on his case. "This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people." (At least I can admit that when I fly business, it's for the legroom and to create a little more space between me and the real American people.)


"Hernandez, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015, was found to have 'the most severe case [CTE researchers] had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age,' Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, said at a press conference Thursday. Baez also announced a federal lawsuit against both the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of Hernandez's daughter, Avielle, for $20 million, claiming the league and the Patriots deprived her of companionship with her father." The lawsuit probably doesn't have a great chance of succeeding, but the intersection of the Aaron Hernandez story with the NFL's handling (or non-handling) of the sport's head injury crisis makes this a story that will drive the issue into the red zone.


"Kubota and his Partnership colleagues were faced with a question: How does a system of doctors change the decades-old practice of treating pain -- from an ankle sprain to a chronic back problem -- with addictive pills? And if not opioids, what do you give patients in pain?" MoJoInside a Massive, Successful Effort to Stop Prescribing So Many Opioids.

+ Ben Popper: How a startup hopes to treat the rural opioid epidemic -- at a profit.


"It's no wonder that Tom Hanks's character in the movie Big, finding himself transformed into an adult, wants to get out of the toy business and go back to being a kid." The Toys R Us bankruptcy is of course a story about the pressures created by online shopping. But it's just as much (if not more) a story about debt. From Amy Merrick in The New YorkerHow Toys R Us Succumbed to Its Nasty Debt Problem.


"Forest Green is the first completely vegan professional sports team in the world. But its ethos extends way beyond food. The team plays on an organic and vegan field, called the New Lawn, which is fed with a solution of Scottish seaweed that's hand-cut and cold-pressed." The world's greenest sports team is a century-old football clubin a tiny English town. (I live in the Bay Area. This article basically describes every team I've ever been on...)


"The world's largest retailer announced Friday that it is testing a delivery program in Silicon Valley that would allow customers to use smart-home technology to remotely open the door for delivery workers and watch a live stream of the delivery by linking their phones with home security cameras." From WaPo: Walmart wants to send people into your house to stock the fridge -- even when you're not home. (We're seriously losing our minds...)

+ "It was Mr. Shaw, a man who loved numbers even more than he loved a slice of pizza, who transformed the endless number into an endless celebration of mathematics, joy and pepperoni." Larry Shaw died at the age of 78. He leaves behind his greatest invention: Pi Day.

+ After six decades, BYU has ended its ban on caffeinated soda sales. We should let them enjoy the victory for a bit before we tell them everyone else stopped drinking sodas because of the sugar.

Dave Pell
Managing Editor, Internet
Liked this issue? Pass it along:

It's quite simple, really. If Americans really want to impose gun control, or even to reduce American carnage, be it ever so little, th...