Monday, September 25, 2017

Bob Costas defends Colin Kaepernick and the NFL protests after Trump's attack — Quartz

Kaepernick has repeatedly said that his protest had nothing to do with the US military. But even before Trump became president, American sports, and football in particular, have been increasingly militarized, almost becoming a brand extension of the US armed forces. The Pentagon pays the NFL millions of dollars each year to host patriotic events during games, which include full-field displays of the flag.

“[Patriotism] has been conflated with a bumper-sticker kind of flag-waving and with the military only,” Costas added, “so that people cannot see that in his own way, Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing.”


I find Costas repugnant, but in his own way, however imperfectly, what he is saying here is insightful. The USA is, and has been since we got the bomb, a military machine. War and violence are so ingrained and assimilated into the culture one wonders if it can ever be undone.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) **

Droll satire of upper middle class mores. Pretty tame.

Elisabeth Moss' Emmys-Night Swearing Has Storied Tradition in Scientology, Say Insiders | Hollywood Reporter

"Scientologists are urged to communicate with 'average people,' and to do so effectively you have to 'go down the tone scale.' So they all use 'fuck, fuck, fuck' every time they talk. It’s fascinating," Lugli explains. "The quote-unquote philosophy behind it is you match the tone level in order to communicate on the same level of the people with whom you’re communicating. If you’re too 'high-tone,' people will not understand you."

Not everyone requires swearing. Journalists and gay people, for example, are classified as "1.1" on the scale, which signifies "covert hostility," according to Lugli. "That means I have to communicate just slightly above you — which can be anger or hostility. That's where you get Tom Cruise telling Matt Lauer he's being 'glib,'" he explains. (The Church of Scientology and a rep for Moss declined to comment, but the church has denied animosity toward gay people.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ken Burns' VIETNAM WAR - Limits of 18 hours | HuffPost

"The American involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended 30 years later in failure. It was begun in GOOD FAITH, by DECENT PEOPLE, out of fateful misunderstanding, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation.” (My emphasis added)

Really?

The film is remarkable in its liberal use of the secret recordings of White House conversations. We hear the voices of President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. These recordings reveal cynicism, paranoia, and deception that have little in common with “good faith” or “decent people.”

Conscious of their audience, the film makers are reluctant to be too harsh in condemning American motives. The theme, in effect, is that the American War in Vietnam was a bi-partisan, well-intended, accumulation of unfortunate mistakes made by six Presidents over 30 years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Senate’s Military Spending Increase Alone Is Enough to Make Public College Free

One of the most controversial proposals put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign was a pledge to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Critics from both parties howled that the pie-in-the-sky idea would bankrupt the country. Where, after all, would the money come from?

Those concerns were brushed aside on Monday night, as the Senate overwhelmingly approved an $80 billion annual increase in military spending, enough to have fully satisfied Sanders’ campaign promise. Instead, the Senate handed President Trump far more than the $54 billion he asked for. The lavish spending package gives Trump a major legislative victory, allowing him to boast about fulfilling his promise of a “great rebuilding of the armed services.”

The bill would set the U.S.’s annual military budget at around $700 billion, putting it within range of matching the spending level at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Images (1972) ***

Stylish puzzle picture (literally) from Robert Altman regarding a children's book author whose grip on reality is often tenuous. Beautifully shot in Ireland with the lovely Susannah York.

Dick (1999) **

At the time of release an amusing attempt to explain the 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes, the identity of Deep Throat and a number of other baffling questions which arose during the Watergate scandal. Now it plays more like an alternative history since all the questions have been answered and as always the truth is stranger. Still it's well cast and well played with a great soundtrack of pop hits of the time.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Does God Play Dice? - 3:AM Magazine

How does the electron move then? It must exist in the atom. It must move in some way there. But more surprisingly, the textbooks of quantum mechanics provided no picture of the motion of the electron, and in fact, they did not tell us what electrons are at all. Moreover, I knew that the two great founders of the theory, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, did not agree on its meaning either. I was determined to search for the answer by myself. Then I started on a lonely journey to “trace” the elusive electron, until now. I simply want to know the answer of a naive question. I simply think on it continually. But the exploration has completely changed my life. It shapes my way through the world and finally makes me become a philosopher, or more accurately, a natural philosopher, who aims at understanding the mysterious universe. A more detailed story about this journey can be found in my little book God Does Play Dice with the Universe (2008).

For me, doing philosophy is not only a profession, but also, and more importantly, a way of life. Life is transitory. Everybody is a mere mote in the universe. Yet God, the universe, gives us minds, and thus we can know and understand His thoughts. The most happiness is not beyond this. As the great Chinese sage Confucius taught us in The Analects, “Hear the Tao in the morning, and it would be all right to die that evening.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gary Taubes on Calories vs. Carbs, The Case Against Sugar, and More | diaTribe

“Pharmaceutical companies regularly spend $1 billion to develop drugs to treat diseases that are related to obesity and diabetes, and that will often be used by a small percentage of the population afflicted.

“The US Fitzgerald, the destroyer that recently collided with a cargo vessel off the Sea of Japan, cost $1.5 billion and is one of 62 similarly expensive ships in its class. Our nation spends this money because we think it’s important to the defense of the US population and, well, world peace.

“Obesity and diabetes alone supposedly cost the US healthcare system roughly one billion dollars PER DAY.

“Isn’t it worth spending this kind of money to find out whether we’re fooling ourselves about the nature of a healthy diet, particularly as these obesity and diabetes epidemics are blowing up worldwide?”

I’d bet in this day and age we could do five to ten randomized controlled trials for one day’s worth of direct medical costs from obesity and diabetes and, with them, answer reliably virtually all of the critically important nutrition questions.

Coming from my perspective – trained to think by physicists and having spent much of my professional life studying episodes in which scientists fooled themselves and so simply got the wrong answers – I do not understand why we wouldn’t do such tests, and why we wouldn’t want to argue that they’re necessary. They’re inexpensive compared to the money we spend on other vital questions and issues.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John Cleese on Monty Python and Political Correctness

What are you working on now?
I have a show I’m working on at the moment called Why There Is No Hope.

Sounds funny.
It is funny. Some people immediately see the title as funny and other people go what?! There is no hope that we’ll ever live in a rational, kind, intelligent society. To start, most of us are run by our unconscious and, unfortunately, most of us have no interest in getting in touch with our unconscious. So if the majority of people are run by something they don’t know anything about, how can we have a rational society?

Woody Allen’s Lazy Filmmaking - The Atlantic

Allen’s laziness becomes most glaring as the shoot approaches and then unfolds. In Lax’s telling, Allen is disengaged prior to the shoot, sometimes leaving his collaborators (location scouts, costume designers, etc.) to spin their wheels. “Woody has paced himself to be at top strength when the filming begins” is how Lax puts it, “often to the frustration of those who want only to do their best work on his behalf but cannot always get his attention to make a choice on what he wants.” As for the shoot itself, Allen has confessed, “I don’t do any preparation. I don’t do any rehearsals. Most of the times I don’t even know what we’re going to shoot.” Indeed, Allen rarely has any conversations whatsoever with his actors before they show up on set. Those with smaller parts will not even have seen the full script, merely their own scenes. (Parker Posey showed up for her first Irrational Man shoot not knowing whether it was a comedy or a drama.)