Jon Cazares

Jon Cazares

On Thursday, The Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law designed to restrict access to abortions. In a 5-4 decision the surprising swing vote came from Chief Justice John R. Roberts Jr., who is generally considered a conservative justice. Instead of siding with fellow conservatives Justice Thomas, Alito & Gorsuch; Chief Justice Roberts sided with liberal appointees Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagen and Breyer.

 

So, just what is the Louisiana law that was struck down?

 

Well, it’s called, “Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.” The premise of the law argues that doctors should have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of where an abortion is performed, and, if they do not have said privileges they are not allowed to perform an abortion there. If passed, the law would reduce the number of doctors allowed to perform abortions and therefor, possible enforce an “undue” restriction on a woman seeking an abortion.

 

An “admitting privilege,” means that the doctor has the privilege to admit patients to the hospital for some diagnostic or therapeutic services. “Admitting privilege,” as implied in the Louisiana law, and here is the important part - has nothing whatsoever to do medical competence.

 

So the law ties to say that a patient might be “unsafe” if they receive an abortion from a doctor that does not have admitting privileges. Hence, the title of the act.

 

The obvious problem, as has been pointed out many times, and has been the reason this act has been previously struck down in courts is: there are many legitimate reasons why a doctor might not have admitting privileges to a hospital that have nothing to do with medical expertise. Which, obviously means that just because a doctor doesn’t have admitting privileges does not mean he/she is unqualified to perform an abortion. Which means the law is trying to enforce an undue restriction.

 

In fact there was a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 in their Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt decision. The Texas law was very similar to Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Act.  In a 5-3 decision (they were one Justice down at the time, as Scalia had just died) court said the Texas law constituted an “undue burden” on a women’s right to seek an abortion, and struck it down. Which is exactly what they did to the Louisiana act.

Now, it’s interesting to note that Justice Roberts did not vote against the Texas law in 2016. He did vote against the similar Louisiana law on Thursday. As to why? Well, we don’t know why, exactly. That being said, I did find an interesting breakdown over at Rolling Stone (.com) in a 2018 interview with veteran Newsweek reporter David Kaplan. Kaplan had just published a book called The Most Dangerous Branch, which was drawn from interviews “with 165 people including sitting justices, retired justices, clerks, lower court judges and federal officials.”

Tessa Stuart, from Rolling Stone, asks Kaplan if a new court (w/ Kavanaugh, who had not yet been confirmed) would overturn Roe. v. Wade? Kaplan said about Roberts: “I think Roberts is troubled by seeing the court get put in the maelstrom. And I think he recognizes that Roe v. Wade would put the court in the maelstrom like no other ruling in modern times … My guess would be that Roberts would not vote to explicitly overturn Roe…” (Which then would turn into a 6-3 vote against striking it down, in his opinion).

Fair enough. Maybe this is Robert’s first chance (the Thursday Louisiana vote) to suggest precisely what Kaplan was talking about. I guess, Kaplan is saying that Roberts just doesn’t want to rock the boat, per say. Although Kaplan did, at the time of the interview, seem to feel the Kavanagh would also vote against striking down Roe v. Wade.

Maybe. But maybe not. Kavanagh wrote the dissent against Thursday’s decision and it’s kind of dull but it’s only four pages if you want to check it out (linked above).

I read it. To the extent I understand it, it’s kind of a mess. Kavanagh goes back and forth and says, “Yeah, well, I guess I would be for this. But then again, I can see in some instances this would be undue (therefor illegal). You know I would need more facts about the new law, specifically, in order to make a more informed vote. But since I don’t have those facts - I’ll  just vote yes. Yes, the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Act is fine!”

Um. Okay. But one would assume that, without more facts about something that is going into law - you should vote, no.

Right?

 

Anyway. This will not be last time we see abortion rights front and center at the Supreme Court. 

Now that we’ve witnessed Super Bowl Dull it’s time to dive back into the important things in life. Like - deciding what the best ad during the Super Bowl was!

Lots of people seem to have their opinions, of course. The folks over at Yahoo News seem to think it was the NFL 100. Which is a delightful ad putting together NFL super stars, old and new. And I like the commercial quite a bit. It’s funny. It’s fast paced. And it’s not too long (because I think this bit could wear itself out if it were say, several minutes long). Of course, it is an ad about football. During a football game. Which is a little silly, but whatever.

The folks over at CBS Sports really like the Bumble Serena Williams spot. It’s a socially aware female empowerment type commercial which goes really well with their brand messaging. For those that don’t know, Bumble is a dating app where women must make the first move / send the first message. Which is designed to cut out a lot of the crazy, toxic things that men send to women (usually, unsolicited). The commercial is well done, just not my favorite.

CNN went with the (perhaps, obvious) Bud Light/ Game of Thrones mash up. Continuing their charming “Dilly, dilly” line up, Bud Light knocks it out of the park with this one. “I don’t have the plague, anymore” is probably my favorite line from a commercial in a while.

There was lots of love for the Hyundai / Jason Bateman commercial, which I thought was pretty clever. There was equal amounts love/shade thrown around for the Change Up the Usual ad for Stella Artois which put together Carrie Bradshaw (SJP from Sex and the City) and “The Dude (Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski). People seem to love it or REALLY HATE it. I kind of liked it.

There was the Michael Bublé / Bubly commercial, which everyone at my Super Bowl party (including me) thought was pretty charming. And even though Donald Trump, Jr hated the Washington Post ad, his opinion is wrong. The Tom Hanks voiced ad is all about the importance of journalists and journalistic integrity and features the two murdered journalist that worked for the paper. It's a pretty powerful ad. Though, I do think the criticism of “The struggling newspaper spent HOW MUCH on the ad?” is fair.  

There are, of course, ads that didn't work as well as the advertiser hoped and some flat out stinkers too (but then again, this is all subjective). Including one with a really creepy robot kid and a gross one with chunky milk. But I’m not going to link to them or any of the other ones I hated since that will only give them more traffic.

All that being said, there was only one ad that I thought was exceptional, that one being: Microsoft’s "When everybody plays, we all win" two minute commercial for the XBOX Adaptive Controller. Seriously, you guys, every “I’m not crying, you’re crying!” meme becomes a harsh reality up in my crib when I watch that ad. And, um, it’s possible I’ve watched it several times.  

Back in July I wrote about the Adaptive Controller and basically said it’s the greatest gamer thing ever. I still feel that way. And with twenty five million hits on the commercial already since Sunday (on YouTube alone), I have a sneaking suspicion lots of folks feel that way too.

 

We all know the old saying, “Some heroes don’t wear capes.” Which is kind of a silly saying though, because lots of super heroes don’t wear capes. But whatever. We all know what it’s supposed to mean.

Anyway. Enter Candice Payne (not to be confused with Candace Payne, the Chewbacca mom). Candice, rightfully called a good Samaritan by every Chicago paper and news site, after hearing about the Polar Freeze that was sweeping the Midwest, rapidly organized with a few of her friends and offered to spring for motel rooms for about 70 homeless people.

The folks were staying in about a dozen or so tents that had been set up in a vacant lot near Willis Tower, several of them were actually heated with portable propane tanks but when one of the tanks exploded (no injuries) their heat source was gone. So, while the folks living there didn’t have to evacuate - there wasn’t going to be any heat during the minus thirty degree weather. And they clearly didn't have anywhere else to go. 

So Candice did something about it. Apparently, she called dozens of hotels but couldn’t find one willing to take 70 homeless folks until she hit jackpot with the Amber Inn. The rooms cost about $70 each and she ended up paying about $1400 out of pocket, that she put on a credit card.

Payne posted on her Instagram account and several of her friends helped by offering money, donating food, clothes and diapers. Then they ordered several Ubers to move the folks to the motel where Payne and her volunteers had provided enough food for three meals a day until the cold front ended.

Payne and her all volunteer group hopes to find a more long-term solution for the homeless and plan to continue working together. 

So, I don't know about you but - I kind of love Candice Payne. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2019 22:05

Tony Romo and the Super Bowl

Former Dallas Cowboy QB1 now CBS announcer Tony Romo blew minds and drew national headlines due to his uncanny “future reading” ability during the AFC Championship Game as he kept calling plays before they happened, during the Patriot’s victory over the Chiefs (37-31). And now he’ll be calling Super Bowl LIII (53).

Romo was so impressive that CBS immediately offered him a huge raise for him to return as a broadcaster for CBS because NFL teams were actually exploring the possibility of having Romo return to the league as QB. But … I don’t know about that. I mean, Romo is really great as a broadcaster and fans love him but as QB1 he was … well, he was good. Not great. But good. He was a starter for ten years, threw for 35k yards and went 78-49 in the win/loss category and was 50% in the playoffs (never made it to the Super Bowl). So, he was good. But he wasn’t THAT good. I mean, it’s not like he could predict the future during his games, as he appears to be doing as a broadcaster not only the AFC championship game but with numerous games in the past few years (go YouTube “Tony Romo predicts the future”). Which is precisely what the Onion joked about last week with their: “Tony Romo Realizes He Should Have Used Ability To Read Defenses Back When He Was Still Playing.

But not everyone is as impressed with Romo’s ability to read the game and seemingly predict the future. Former NFL tight end and now writer, Nate Jackson wrote Let’s All Calm Down about Tony Romo for Deadspin.com. In it he writes:

“Romo’s predictions were mostly about the Patriots’ offense, and almost all in the second half and overtime. He had a firmer grasp on the Patriots’ offense than he did on the Chiefs’. It seems safe to assume, based on his lack of “predictions” when the Chiefs had the ball, that Romo did not know what plays they would run any more than the rest of us did. This is because the Patriots’ offense is more predictable … As any football game wears on, the playbook shrinks. This is typical of any game: as the thing starts to shake out, a game plan that can be hundreds or thousands of plays shrinks to five or 10 bread-and-butter options. These are plays that are working. Plays that everyone knows. Plays that can be communicated with hand signals. Simple plays. Effective football plays. Recognizing this is not prescience, this is just science.”

This are fair points and Jackson's entire article is good; you should read it (linked above). So, I don't know if Romo is predicting the future or just calling predictable plays but I do feel he was a pretty good QB1 and is a very good announcer (even Nate Jackson agrees with this). This will be his first, but probably not his last Super Bowl appearance.

Sadly, the appearance will not be, as he one day no doubt hoped, as a player, but still. 

The NFL (at least the announcing booth) seems to be in good hands.  

Monday, 28 January 2019 21:45

Another New Year, Same Old Midwest Freeze

Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” that will blanket most of the country and, apparently, affect almost 75% of the U.S. population. That's about 225 million people threatened by below zero temperature. And what's really, really bad news for my little dog, is that three day 20-40 below zero front we're expecting here in the Midwest. My poor little guy just can't figure out what those puppy pads are for and pretty much, will only go number 2 outside. But when it's this cold all he does is go in the back yard and then, ten seconds later think, "Nope! This is BS! I'm going back inside and I'll just hold it until it's warmer!" (Good luck with that, little buddy, and it's totally okay if you have an in house accident or two during this kind of freak weather).

 

Anyway, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold. But still. Every once and while it's like, "It's going to be HOW cold?" In fact, every year, GCN’s medical columnist, Dr. Daliah Wachs writes “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating this type of weather.

 

Just for "fun" comparison; temperatures in MN will plunge to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes, in his novel, The Martian:

 

“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”

 

Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)

 

Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors, or keep their outdoor activities to the barest of bare minimums; and dream of warmer days.

 

They are not so far away.

There will be a temporary deal to open parts of the government for a few weeks, mainly for critical issues. Of course, there will be no wall. Which is fine. Walls are medieval and not terribly effective, but whatever. There will be; however, additional money to increase the current level of fencing and assist with said fence repair costs (about $1 billion). There will also be some back pay available to specific workers (but as far as I can tell - as of yet, it’s unnamed as to which workers will receive back pay and which will not). And, I guess, finally there will be a State of the Union.

And it’s this last point that makes me go, “Hrmmmmm.” (Just like in the old Arsenio days). A few days ago when the President announced he won’t have a State of the Union until after the shutdown ends. BUT it is also clear that Nancy Pelosi kind of .. uninvited him from delivering the State of the Union in the House chambers.

And then, Trump agreed to delay with this Tweet:

“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!”

Okay. This immediately made me wonder, “Wait. Is it actually her prerogative?” I mean, obviously, she does not, nor did she ever say she was denying the President to have a State of the Union - she is denying him use of House Chambers. Um, okay. But aside from that - so what? Can Nancy Pelosi deny him use of House chambers? Can the Speaker, actually do that? I’m honestly not sure. I read over lots of online sources today from CNN, to the NYT and Fox News and all of them keep mentioning “according to House Rules,” but none of them linked to any House Rules.

And then I found the House Rules. And now I know why no one linked to them, because it’s a nightmare 50+ pages of tightly fonted legalese. Ugh. It’s bloody painful to read. And confusing. Anyway. Let me dive into it.  

First, let’s check the Constitution and see what it says about a “State of the Union:”  

“The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”

The key phrase seems to be my emphasized, “convene both Houses, or either of them.” Convene, as you may or may not know means, “come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble. Summon. Order.” In other words, the President may “summon/order” either or both houses to a State of the Union.

Seems clear.

Now, the reason that the State of the Union is in the House chamber is because, well - it’s large. And fitting. And so now we ask the question - can a Speaker of the House prevent a President from delivering a State of the Union in House chambers?  

As far as I’ve been able to determine the answer is very clearly - no. But the Speaker DOES have a lot of power over what can and can not happen on the floor of House chambers. You see, not just anyone can walk onto the House floor and have a speaking role. That privilege is restricted to the usual suspects one would assume - current members of Congress, House staffers, invited VIPs, dignitaries, ambassadors, delegates, etc. and, of course, the President / Vice President. Former members of Congress and former Presidents may also enter the House chamber and deliver speeches, if invited.  

So, the Speaker can’t prevent an acting President from entering House chambers BUT according to House Rules, and as much as I understand the 50 pages of legalese I just waded through, a Speaker is, in fact, in charge of several key House chamber factors including (but not limited to):

Use and Admittance. 1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.”

Okay, fair enough. So, it’s possible the Speaker can just decide  to not agree to take part in the State of the Union, and if the Speaker decides this, congress will not attend. And if congress does not attend,  then the chamber is technically not “in session,” and can not be used.

Does this supersede the Constitution’s statement that the President may “convene both houses?” Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it’s all debatable, but even if the President could order congress into session for the State of the Union, I did find a couple of picky (perhaps juvenile) things a Speaker could do to make the State of the Union, (if held in House chambers) a disaster. For example, according to House Rules:

BROADCASTING THE HOUSE. 1. The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for closed circuit viewing of floor proceedings of the House in the offices of all Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees and in such other places in the Capitol and the House Office Buildings as the Speaker considers appropriate. Such system may include other communications functions as the Speaker considers appropriate. Any such communications shall be subject to rules and regulations issued by the Speaker.

  1. (a) The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for complete and unedited audio and visual broadcasting and recording of the floor proceedings of the House. The Speaker shall provide for the distribution of such broadcasts and recordings to news media, for the storage of audio and video recordings of the proceedings, and for the closed-captioning of the proceedings for hearing-impaired persons.”

This all means the Speaker of the House could order all close circuit cameras turned off so the speech wouldn’t be broadcast to anyone in the building. AND the Speaker could order that no cameras or press would be allowed onto the floor (although, I believe that currently only C-SPAN is allowed on the House floor). So, sure, the President could still deliver the State of the Union, but the Speaker could make sure that no one ever heard it or recorded it. In fact, it sounds as if the Speaker could, literally, order the lights shut off. So the President would have to deliver the speech in the dark, to no one. And this all may be juvenile tactics but “juvenile tactics” seem to be the ways and means of politics in the last several years.

Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to further dig through the House Rules for more information because that is some sucky reading, let me tell you (and I’m done with it).

Finally, and again, I am not suggesting that House Rules should always supersede the Constitution. I am only suggesting there does appear to be clear reasons why a Speaker of the House can make a State of the Union, at best - difficult, assuming the President decides to address the nation in House chambers.

A Speaker of the House, obviously, can not stop the President from delivering the address elsewhere, or to Congress or directly to CNN or Fox News or, in the probably case of our current President - on Twitter.

Imagine that. A SOTU address. On Twitter.

This year’s Oscar nominations are locked in. As someone who worked on and off in film, video and TV production for 20+ years and has “starred” five thousand movies on Netflix, I usually have plenty to bemoan about after reading said nominations. This year surprises me. This year I’m more like, “Yeah, I guess that mostly looks okay to me and my snotty ass opinion.” Although, I must say that it is certainly an odd choice (at least, so far) to go without a host this year. We’ll see how well that goes. Hopefully, better than the last time the Oscars went without a host (back in 1989.)

 

This year (like every other year) offers a series of fun “firsts.” As in, first time a superhero movie has been nominated for Best Picture (Black Panther), first time Spike Lee has been nominated for Best Director (BlacKkKlansman), first time Sam Elliott received an Academy Award nomination for acting (A Star is Born).

 

It’s that last one that made me actually go, “Wait. What? Really?”

 

Yes, really! After 50 years in the industry and having acted in about 100 films and TV shows we will now see the (kind of annoying) Academy Award Nominee (or, probably - winner) moniker in front of Sam Elliott’s name, too. I really do love him as an actor. And I love him even more for the fact that, when Elliott first learned of his nomination he jokingly said, “It’s about fucking time.”

 

Indeed it is. (And he’s probably going to win).

 

All that interesting stuff being said, it really does seem like a typical Oscar year with some obvious front runners. A Star is Born is going to win a lot when the awards should probably go to Roma. Although, in terms of A Star is Born, which I liked just fine (but do NOT buy the ending, like - at all!), how a movie can have three best actor nominations, a best screenplay nomination AND be nominated for Best Picture without having a Best Directing nod is, frankly, absurd.

 

But, whatever. It’s not like they need to check with my snotty ass opinion before they make their list of potential nominees. (But, they totally should).

 

Aside from that, I’m really hoping that “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” pulls out a win against the (Pretty Much Always The Winner!) Pixar film. If you have not yet seen the new animated Spider-Man flick, you should. It really is a charming and delightful “for the entire family,” kind of movie.

 

Oh yeah, and another first - First Time Meryl Streep has NOT been nominated for Best Actress. (Okay, that’s not actually true, but still - you all know what I’m talking about).

 

But, for the record, Trump is wrong. She is NOT way overrated. She’s, bloody, great! And she probably should have like, ten Oscars by now. But whatever, Again, they don’t ask for my opinion.

 

But, again - they totally should. =)

 

Full list of this years nominations:

 

Best Picture

 

“Black Panther”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

“Vice”

 

Lead Actor

 

Christian Bale, “Vice”

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”

Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

 

Lead Actress

 

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

 

Supporting Actor:

 

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”

Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”

Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

 

Supporting Actress:

 

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

 

Director:

 

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Adam McKay, “Vice”

 

Animated Feature:

 

“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird

“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson

“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda

“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

 

Animated Short:

 

“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine

“Bao,” Domee Shi

“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall

“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas

“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez

 

Adapted Screenplay:

 

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen

“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins

“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

 

Original Screenplay:

 

“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara

“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader

“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón

“Vice,” Adam McKay

 

Cinematography:

 

“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal

“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan

“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón

“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

 

Best Documentary Feature:

 

“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross

“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu

“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki

“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

 

Best Documentary Short Subject:

 

“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins

“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald

“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry

“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi

 

Best Live Action Short Film:

 

“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe

“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte

“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley

“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen

“Skin,” Guy Nattiv

 

Best Foreign Language Film:

 

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)

“Cold War” (Poland)

“Never Look Away” (Germany)

“Roma” (Mexico)

“Shoplifters” (Japan)

 

Film Editing:

 

“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman

“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito

“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis

“Vice,” Hank Corwin

 

Sound Editing:

 

“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst

“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan

“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl

“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

 

Sound Mixing:

 

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

 

Production Design:

 

“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler

“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas

“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton

“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim

“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

 

Original Score:

 

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard

“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell

“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat

“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

 

Original Song:

 

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA

“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice

“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

 

Makeup and Hair:

 

“Border”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

“Vice”

 

Costume Design:

 

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres

“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter

“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell

“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell

“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne

 

Visual Effects:

 

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

I am no gymnastics expert, but I certainly know a thing or two about a thing or two. In fact, back in the prehistoric age of the 90’s, I watched as Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller dominated American gymnastics and headed with high hopes into the 92 Barcelona Olympics. Alas, things didn’t work out for that team.

It wasn’t until the 96 games that the Magnificent Seven - Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes,  Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug became the first US team to win the gold medal, as well as winning individuals medals for Miller, Dawes and Chow. Of course that team is probably best known for Kerri Strug winning the team gold medal while landing her 2nd vault performance on an injured ankle. Sadly, Zmeskal, missed the 96 games with a torn ACL.

But I haven’t really paid much attention to gymnastics since the end of the 90’s. So, imagine my surprise when even my non-gymnastic following ears perked up at the name Katelyn Ohashi.

“Wait,” Said I, “I’ve heard that name before. Hasn’t she had, like, a few perfect 10’s in modern competitions?”

Turns out, she has.

Twice on balance beam in 2017, three times for floor exercise in 2018 and now, the ultra famous floor exercise that is currently skyrocketing across the internet. That’s five perfect Collegiate level 10’s in the last year and half. And Ohashi does it with the most charming dancing/playset I’ve seen/heard in gymnastics - maybe, ever. Which, as Rebecca Schuman describes in her delightful Slate piece, Ohashi’s exact set (meet?) could only happen at the Collegiate level. From Schuman’s “Why Isn’t All Gymnastics This Fun?” story:  

“You see, in the NCAA world, there are rules more befitting the humans of Earth … On floor, this means exactly three tumbling passes and a maximum start-value of 10. And because of this emphasis on execution rather than difficulty, NCAA gymnasts have the time and incentive to train in dance. Simultaneously, because elite gymnasts don’t really dance anymore as NCAA choreography has become more dynamic, with few notable exceptions (such as Dutch wood sprite Eythora Thorsdottir), elite choreography has become … belabored, which is the official gymnastics term for eeeeeeeeeech. The days of Bolshoi-trained masters of the avant-garde such as Svetlana Boginskaya or Olga Strazheva are as forgotten as a Yakov Smirnoff set.”

Wow! Schuman just name dropped Yakov Smirnoff! I forgot all about him. (No, seriously, I did). =)

Anyway, twenty one year old Katelyn Ohashi is at the top of her game right now and her delightful new floor routine shows it. I hope she continues strong and we can all cheer her on in the 2020 Olympic games.

I’ve only watched the video about a, ohhh, say - a dozen times, but I think her playlist from her recent 10 is as follows:

Proud Mary by Tina Turner

September by Earth, Wind and Fire

Maybe another song here but I can’t tell what or who because of the cheering

I Want You Back by The Jackson 5

Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson

Remember the Time by Michael Jackson

The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson

Thriller by Michael Jackson

Wednesday, 16 January 2019 00:43

Gillette's New Ad is Equally Loved/Hated

Wow. Gillette sure hit the viral jackpot with their new We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, commercial (this is the same video link that is on the front page). And by viral, I don’t only mean “good” because there seems to be about twice as much pushback and rage than positivity. I mean, Piers Morgan really hated it (which, probably means it can't be all bad, right?)

That being said it’s generally drawing overwhelming critical praise from social media, lots of news sites and … well, critics. But that was day one. By day two, pushback began and now it appears to be drawing a lot of negative feedback from a- (I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and say … ) predominantly male crowd of internet folks.

You should take two minutes to watch the video.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, for starters, Gillette’s short film, “We Believe...,” focuses heavily on three hot button topics - toxic masculinity, sexual harassment and the #metoo movement. Of course, they probably shouldn’t be hot button topics but, they are. More on that in a bit.

Anyway, like millions of other folks, I watched the video. And it’s fine. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s a fine commercial with a fine message about life. It’s a bit heavy handed. Okay, it’s a lot heavy handed as it shows overwhelmingly negative situations as men stand by ignoring or actively participating in - confronting bullying (or not), stepping in when women are harassed (or not), actively reinforcing sexist stereotypes and actually noticing that women are not objects.

These are all fair and fine points. In general.   

I mean, the video basically has a "controversial" view that asks men to notice more and behave better-in some situations. I literally, can’t think of anything controversial about that.

BUT - before you rage clench and say, “This article is a Libtard Safe Zone Hit Piece against men, ain’t it? I am so OUT of here!”

Hold up! Slow down!

I am not saying the commercial is - genuine! Far from it! I am saying it’s a fine commercial that, in a slightly heavy handed way, does a nice job of communicating a message about life. And, perhaps, there are some men who could learn a thing or two within said message.

That being said.

Gillette is a company. A huge company. And it wants to make money. And, as someone who worked freelance film, TV and video, on and off, for twenty years, I can guarantee you that this is how said video was produced:

First. Gillette hired a marketing company. Then, said marketing company did test research on how best to market the Gillette brand and explored controversial and non-controversial topics.

Then: Multiple scripts were written. Some about gender equality. Some about ZZ Top using Gillette’s to shave their beards on TV. Some comedy. Some drama. Some with monkeys. Some with dogs. Etc, etc.  

Then: Gillette narrowed the scripts down to a handful but “needed more research.” And so their marketing company took all the approved scripts and produced them, shot them, cut them together and ... showed them to test groups!

And test groups freaked out over the gender equality commercials - “Too political!” (They said).

And test groups loved the commercials with the dogs. And the monkeys! “Dogs and monkeys are cute!” (They said).

And test groups were indifferent to a whole bunch of other commercials. "Meh!" (They said). 

Then: The marketing company went back to Gillette and said, “Look, people love the dogs and the monkeys (who doesn’t). BUT … controversy equals huge hits. And huge hits on the internet always, always, always turn into dollar signs. And the most controversial commercial we have for you is this, kind of, #metoo commercial about toxic masculinity.

Then: Gillette, decides to go with the “controversial” commercial. Not because they necessarily believe in the message (although, they might) but because it gives them the most chance to generate the most hits, the most viral awareness, the most likes and the most internet rage (which turns into more hits). Which is all an artificial way a marketing company can force a Trend Up and manipulate folks into watching a video therefore giving it a high percentage chance of going viral.

Which brings fist fulls of $$ to their client, in this case - Gillette.

And so far it’s worked.  

Now, to be honest - what I’ve just described is nothing new. It’s, generally, the same principle of how ad men worked in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s and so on and so forth. It’s advertising. As quoted in Fight Club:

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. ”

Except, too many people have not learned "that fact." Too many people believe that altruism begins at the top of the company and works its way down, thus producing the “We Believe…” short film for the common good of all humankind!

But it doesn’t work that way. It’s all about the $$.  

Finally, as the general principle of the video goes, I agree with it all. Maybe you don’t. That’s fine. But I believe that many men should be more aware of a lot of things they are doing and saying. It doesn’t matter if you think “not all men need such a lesson!”

Yes, it’s obviously true that not all men need all lessons about all things in relation to gender equality & toxic masculinity. We all know that. Stop saying something as statistically obvious as #notallmen. You know why? Because too many of them - do need these very lessons.

So, despite the growing internet rage, Gillette's "We Believe…” commercial is a very effective, very poignant short film about (potentially) valuable life lessons.

And, sure, maybe it’s all a marketing scam, maybe we shouldn’t trust every single thing we agree with on the internet. Maybe, by the way, I’m wrong and maybe the top brass at Gillette is 100% behind this campaign for only socially aware and altruistic reasons.

Well … maybe.

But, I doubt it.

 

 

We’re living in the future, for sure.

Why do I say that, you ask? Well, a few scientists have recently discovered that, in a galaxy, far, far away...something is sending radio waves our direction. Now, before you get excited at the thought of visitors from benevolent galaxies, or terrified that green tentacled horrors are invading, be aware that the “something,” I just mentioned - is probably "nothing." In fact, GCN's very own paranormal phenomenon radio program, "The Paracast," (host: Gene Steinberg) brings all this up in the opening of their most recent program, which you can find here.  

And now, I would like to mention that when I wrote “nothing," up above, I did not mean “absolutely nothing,” just - probably, not aliens. The most likely theory being tossed around is that the radio signals are created by, “astrological phenomenon.” Editor's note: Which, thanks, by the way, Scientist Folks - because "astrological phenomenon"  tells us absolutely nothing at all! The phrase could literally mean "anything happening out in space!" (But, in this case, probably means something like - a black hole).  

Anyway, this is not the first time radio waves have been discovered heading our direction. In the way back time of 2007 (before there was even an iPad!) an astrophysicist at Australia's Parkes Observatory was analyzing data from 2001 and discovered radio bursts. Movie pun not intended. That’s actually when it happened. Of course, astronomers of the day were skeptical and most thought it was just "interference;" but he published his findings and has since been proven accurate. And now we have multiple “fast radio bursts” on record but the 2007 case, and now a brand new one uncovered a few days-have something unique in common - a repeating signal.

Now, to my understanding (which, is limited to some very recent Googling, lots of wiki reading and some science journal perusing) the 2001 burst had a “single repeating fast radio burst.” The Jan. 9th, 2019 discovery has - six repeat bursts. Which as far as I understand, is extremely unusual to find that many repeating bursts occurring naturally; and while it certainly does not prove the existence of our beloved masters and eventual overlords … errr, I mean, aliens … it is still cool.

From the Jan. 9th, 2019 study reported in Journal:  

The discovery of a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source. 1,2, FRB 121102, eliminated models involving cataclysmic events for this source. No other repeating FRB has hitherto been detected despite many recent discoveries and follow-ups. 3–5, suggesting that repeaters may be rare in the FRB population. Here we report the detection of six repeat bursts from FRB 180814.J0422+73, one of the 13 FRBs detected. 6 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) FRB project7 during its pre-commissioning phase in July and August 2018. These repeat bursts are consistent with originating from a single position on the sky, with the same dispersion measure, about 189 pc cm−3. This traces approximately twice the expected Milky Way column density, and implies an upper limit on the source redshift of 0.1, at least a factor of about 2 closer than FRB 1211028. In some of the repeat bursts, we observe sub-pulse frequency structure, drifting, and spectral variation reminiscent of that seen in FRB 1211029,10, suggesting similar emission mechanisms and/or propagation effects. This second repeater, found among the first few CHIME/FRB discoveries, suggests that there exists—and that CHIME/FRB and other wide-field, sensitive radio telescopes will find—a substantial population of repeating FRBs.”

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