An ocassional movie endorsement

I usually save movie plugs for quick hits, but damn did I like “First Man” so much that I wanted to write a brief post on it.  Great writing, great directing, great cinematography, great performances.  I loved the epic human achievement of putting a man on the man largely through the perspective a single individual, Neil Armstrong.  So well done in every way.  After listening to Terry Gross’ interview with the director, I was pretty sure I’d really like it, but it even still exceeded my high expectations.  I think this Richard Roeper review nicely captures it:

Damien Chazelle’s glorious and beautiful and alternately operatic and intimate moon-mission film “First Man” is a master class in how to find dramatic intensity in a story with one of the most well-known endings in the history of human adventure.

Spoiler alert! Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. This is the story of how he got there, what it took to get him there, and what it felt like once he WAS there.

From an engrossing, full-throttle, dizzyingly visceral opening sequence in which Armstrong pilots an X-15 that dances above the Earth’s atmosphere before coming precariously close to fatally spinning out of control; through the geeky, period-piece, procedural interludes; to the sometimes heartbreaking domestic sequences; to the stunning and breathtaking climactic voyage to the moon, “First Man” achieves authenticity and greatness.

Put it right up there with “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13” in the ranks of the best movies ever made about NASA.

Also, I have to say that those morons who complained that the movie didn’t feature a scene of the planting of the American flag are just complete morons who either did not watch the movie, or obviously, do not understand filmmaking in the least.  Ugh.

Anyway, I loved it and so glad I saw it on the big screen.  If you see it, I’d love to hear your take.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) The NYT with the “myth of the lazy non-voter.  Short version– let’s make it easier to vote!

While many countries greatly simplify the voting process — or make voting mandatory — the solutions here in the United States may not need to be so drastic.

In fact, they are right in front of us. Just as some states that have passed laws restricting access to voting in recent years have seen reduced turnout, states with laws that afford people the greatest access to voting – several states where ID requirements are not onerous, where all residents can register to vote online and registration periods extend to Election Day, and where voters have many options to vote early or on Election Day without losing any income – have experienced high participation. Our democracy depends on the ability to participate freely, without unnecessary barriers. The voters must choose elected officials, and not the other way around.

2) The case for glass as humankind’s most important material.

3) Sperm counts keep falling and scientists can only guess:

Halpern went on to explain that many chemical compounds that are used to make plastic hard (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) or soft (like phthalates) can mimic estrogen in the bloodstream—so men with lots of phthalates in their system are likely to produce less testosterone and fewer sperm (though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated earlier this year, somewhat controversially, that its research continues to support its claim that the authorized amounts and uses of BPA are safe for consumers). Plus, chemicals like BPA and phthalates can alter the way genes express themselves, making some of the conditions these chemicals cause inheritable. “Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors,” Halpern wrote. “That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.”

Sharpe, however, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health, isn’t totally convinced by the BPA-and-phthalates theory. While there’s a much more cohesive consensus throughout the field of reproductive medicine these days than there may have been 10 or 20 years ago that sperm counts are indeed falling, he says, “the controversy and lack of agreement continue regarding what has caused the fall and when in life has the effect been induced.” Though many consider environmental chemicals to be the primary cause of declining sperm counts, Sharpe says he’s “increasingly skeptical” of that hypothesis: “I would favor that it results from our huge dietary and lifestyle changes, both by pregnant women and by young men.”

Studies like the new ones presented by ASRM, in other words, increasingly serve as bolstering evidence to what many scientists already believe. As scientists reach a consensus that something is happening to men’s sperm in the Western world, the next phase will be to figure out exactly what, and why.

4) Frank Bruni, “Lindsey Graham Is the Saddest Story in Washington: His fight for Brett Kavanaugh completed his transformation into Donald Trump’s slobbering manservant.”

5) I tried reading Jane Austen’s Emma with my email book club of graduate school friends.  I gave up about half-way through as I found the novel relentlessly tedious.  How could this be a classic, I wondered.  Apparently, a huge part of the reason is that the narrative style was revolutionary for 1816.  Now that we’re all used to free indirect, though, damn that’s a lot of boring British, elite, country life to slog through.

6) Nice summary of some nice PS research, “Trump Has Made Republicans More Comfortable Expressing Their Sexism Out Loud”

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf on Republicans and the presumption of innocence:

There are principled civil libertarians and their antagonists on the right and left, in both political parties, but here’s what I see when I step back, survey a range of relevant issues, and make educated judgments about who’d be better to advance presumption of innocence and due process (having already granted that Republicans urge more due process on Title IX):

  • If there are law-enforcement figures at the local level who are depriving people of due process, they are more likely to be defended by Republicans, as happened with Joe Arpaio, and more likely to be reined in by the Democratic approach to the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • If there’s a major terrorist attack that inspires renewed calls for racial profiling, elected Democrats are more likely to fight against such proposals while elected and appointed Republicans are more likely to favor the choice that flips the presumption of innocence for some groups.
  • If a president is asserting a lawful ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges or trial, or to torture a suspected terrorist, I expect him or her to have more support on the right than the left, and to be overruled more reliably by Democratic appointed judges (although I would also expect presidents of both parties to transgress in this way).
  • It is the left that has fought to end stop-and-frisk policies that burdened total innocents, and the right that still defends them, even in New York City, where its end caused no rise in crime.
  • If I were placed on a no-fly list and wanted to challenge my status, I’d rather appear before a judge appointed by a Democrat than a Republican, if that’s the only differentiating factor that I had to go on.
  • Were I falsely accused of a crime and ran out of money to fund my own defense, I would rather a Democratic coalition had set the budget for the public defender’s office.
  • Were I mistakenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I would much prefer to go about the attempt to prove my United States citizenship via the due process procedures that the median Democrat favors than the ones that the median Republican favors.
  • If wrongly convicted, I would rather go to a progressive district attorney than a conservative one with new evidence suggesting my innocence.

That is hardly an exhaustive survey. But it should suffice to show partisan Republicans who claim to abhor character assassination and to value the presumption of innocence and due process why they are in no position to be righteously indignant about their coalition or to claim clear superiority to Democrats on these issues. Instead, they ought to feel a moral imperative to push their side to do better.

8) John Pfaff often makes the case that by focusing on for-profit prisons we miss the so-much-wrongness in public prisons (and there’s so much wrong).  That said, for-profit prisons to create uniquely perverse incentives.  Nate Blakeslee with a nice review of Shane Bauer’s first-hand reporting from serving as a guard in an awful, awful for-profit prison.

9) Robert Griffin and John Sides, “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Elect Trump and It May Hurt His Party in the Midterms.”

10) Peggy Orenstein, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys: Locker rooms are not the place to learn about sexual ethics. Neither is the internet.”

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to.

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”…

Rather than a deviant’s expression of pathology, assault among adolescents is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. Boys do it because they can: because they are oblivious, because they are ignorant, because they are impulsive, because they have not learned to see girls and women as fully human. And yes, science has confirmed what common sense presumes: Boys are much more likely to rape when they are drunk. And the more they drink, the more aggressive they are, and the less aware of their victims’ distress. By contrast, sober guys not only are less sexually coercive but also will more readily intervene to prevent assaults by others…

A boy who assaults once in high school may not do it again, which in some ways is good to hear. At the same time, that means a seemingly “good guy” may well do a bad thing. A very bad thing. And afterward it is completely plausible for him to get away without apologizing, facing consequences, making amends. The monster-good guy dichotomy contributes to his denial: He could not possibly really be a rapist because that would make him a “monster,” and he is a “good guy.” So he rationalizes, forgets, goes on to professional success and even a happy marriage. Meanwhile, he may have derailed the life of another human being, causing her years, decades, of pain and trauma.

It is natural for parents to think their own sons would be incapable of sexual misconduct, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for educating their boys. Yet according to a survey of more than 3,000 18- to 25-year-olds published last year by the Making Caring Common project, which is part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, more than 60 percent of respondents had never had a single conversation with their parents about how to be sure that your partner wants to be having sex with you. A similar share had never been told about “the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.”

Honestly, this is an area of sex education, where, I admit, I could be better.  And, I will be.  But at least one of my sons will be following the above link.

11) I have now watched Rocky I, II,III, and half of IV with said son.  Rocky really was a nice movie.  The others can be ridiculous at times, but qualify as pretty solid entertainment (Rocky V will not be happening).  Also, I turned on the TV last night and with no interesting (to me) college football on, I actually watched a boxing match for the first time in my adult life (I always watched Sugar Ray Leonard as a kid as he was a local hero in the DC area).

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