Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: Lifespan of a Fact

The Difficulty of Finding Balance: Lifespan of a Fact

Three actors, at the top of their game, are inhabiting Studio 54 and tearing into our assumptions about truth. It’s easy in the abstract to draw a line underneath truth, but it is less easy in reality. In Lifespan of a Fact trying to draw that line is complicated and hilarious.
Bobby Cannavale plays John D’Argata, an essayist / journalist who has written a moving essay on a young man’s suicide. Cherry Jones is the publisher who wants to publish this great piece, but runs a quick fact check first to cover her bases.   
Daniel Radcliffe plays young Jim Fingal, whom Ms. Jones has authorized to do a fact check of the article. The play is based on a book by the real Misters Fingal and D’Argata, which covers the same ground. With nothing else to go on, you might conclude this would be a dry and esoteric piece. It is not. It is quick moving, witty, very funny and surprisingly relevant in our times.
The essay in question looks at the impact of this suicide on the community. It tries to capture the world at this moment in time. To do so to the greatest affect, the writer has taken some literary licenses. Mr. D'Argata not only doesn't disagree, he defends the actions. 
Fact-checking Mr. Fingal has been diligent to the point of absurdity. He has a 130 page spreadsheet of questions for a 13 page article. Sure, many of these are nit-picky, but a few are key exaggerations of the truth, which gives the article a deeper meaning, but does so by stretching the truth.
Both of the men get extremely defensive about their work. Mr. D’Argata is defensive of changing the work to alter the flow and underlying emotional impact. Mr. Fingal is adamant that if they don't correct some details, the reader won’t ever get to the feeling of the piece. When Daniel Radcliff drops by Bobby Cannavale’s house to have an impromptu discussion, tempers rise quickly. Cherry Jones strides into this rather testosterone-fueled flare up, to calm things down and try to get an essay that everyone can agree with.
Even though these are 3 famous actors, you forget who they are pretty quickly as their characters take over. Jim Fingal and John D’Argata both admire and despise each other. Cherry Jones comes in as a publisher who cares about selling magazines for the right reason, to move and inform the reader. Her support, like the audience's swings between the two men.
The Lifespan of a Fact clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes, which echoes the deadline in the play. Leigh Silverman keeps the momentum moving and the stakes amped up. Lifespan of a Fact is an intimate show, and Studio 54 wraps it in the right space.
Lifespan of a Fact | Playwright: Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell | Director: Leigh Silverman | Cast: Bobby Cannavale.  Daniel Radcliffe, Cheery Jones

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


This is an automated messages from the pyschie of J Scott. This is a test only.

In the event of an actual episode, you will be directed to the nearest shelter.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Oath - WTF

Wow, we watched "The Oath" yesterday. And by watched I mean we went out and paid good money to see it in a theater.

I feel bamboozled.

If you watch the trailer on YouTube, particularly the Red Band trailer, this look high-larious. Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish are a married couple, who have Ike's family over for Thanksgiving.  They are good liberals and some of their family members are good conservatives.  This leads to hijinks as they debate whether to sign a new loyalty oath to the President and USA (in that order).

I am sure when this was written and mainly filmed it was very lighthearted. Somewhere along the line, it changed into a possible reality and shit got real.

I love a black comedy! War of the Roses is my favorite Christmas movie. But this swung from Black Comedy to uncomfortable projection of the future and back way to often. Shooting a civilian enforcer of moral values accidentally - funny. Having the sister stomp on his face repeatedly - disturbing.

You will at first be annoyed that Tiffany Haddish doesn't get to be as funny as she should be allowed to. But then, you notice ... she is a hell of an actress. It is impressive. Not impressive enough to save the movie, but impressive.

We were asked to give feedback after the movie - and the one question that totally stumped me was "who is the prime target audience for this movie?"  I can't think of one. It should be me or a conservative me - but it isn't. It isn't a black comedy - the world changed as it was made. It is a bit of the Marx Brothers mixed with A Clockwork Orange - but not in a good way.

Harari does Immigration and Gets It

My new academic loadstone is Yuval Noah Harari. I gotta say, I love this guy.

Now I already told you this as I read Homo Deus, but now I am reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. He sold me as a thinker when he first taught me new stuff, and now as he agrees with me, but states it better.

Regarding Immigration, he says that there are 3 major immigration conditions and we need to discuss them individually. Then, maybe,  WE ALL (liberals and conservatives) could compromise.  They are

  1. The host country allows immigrants in.
  2. In return, the immigrants must embrace at least the core norms and values of the host country, even if that means giving up some of their traditional norms and values.
  3. If the immigrants assimilate to a sufficient degree, over time they become equal and full members of the host country. "They" become "us".
Different sides can then argue or compromise as to how many, if any, immigrants we let in. What is the criteria we choose to allow entry. The rest follow naturally, and I would say the US does better than most countries, although the prohibition of mixing of the sexes by some Muslim and some Orthodox Jewish immigrants strains our system in a new way.  But we could figure this out.

So why can't we have a discussion.

Yuval Noah Harari says that we can't have an honest discussion about this, if we are lying about the first part. We cannot have a rational debate about letting immigrants in, if we are saying one thing (like no more Mexicans) and doing a completely other (hiring them under the table to work).

Think about it: it is hard for me personally to support getting rid of all immigrants - while farms and chicken processing and Mar a lago all depend on cheap, usually illegal foreign labor.  It is hard for a anti-immigrant person to argue about letting some / any / more people in - while farms and chicken processing and Mar a lago all depend on cheap, usually illegal foreign labor.

I think the difference is I blame the farmers, owners of the chicken processing and owners of Mar a lago, while the anti-immigrant person blames the illegal immigrant. And because we don't start from the same baseline, we can't have the conversation going forward.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The world you missed while watching the Trump Variety Hour

I will admit, the Trump Variety Hour has been hugely entertaining this week - what with Krazy Kanye and Triumphant Trump.

But, seeing as I just got back from Europe, I need to tell you there are other, very important stories out there. Yes, even more important that Mr. Kim Kardashian going rouge in a news conference and Apple store.

Let's start with the most important and move down. These were all discussed during my time by news organizations in Bosnia Herzegovina and Turkey....

On November 4th, lost in the news cycle of the midterm results, the US is imposing serious new sanctions on Iran and any company that does business with Iran. We will be shutting on access to payment systems to any company working with the regime.

We are doing this unilaterally, which pisses off our allies quite a bit. Iran has not violated the agreement which all parties made, Trump just doesn't like it because Israel doesn't like it and Obama did it. So he cancelled a treaty that brings Europe great security.

I said long ago, the problem with limiting access to our banks, if used to often, means that the world will find another system to clear funds. If this happens AND it works, then the US Dollar stops becoming the world's currency, our debt is going to choke us all. Well, it is happening now.

China is working to find a way to buy Iranian oil using secret clearing systems. Worse, the European Union is working to find a way to buy Iranian oil or do business with Iran that bypasses the dollar market. Sure, we get big companies that want to work in the US to leave (like TOTAL Oil from France) - but smaller EU companies that find a way to bypass the dollar will lead to other countries doing it also. Neither the Remembi nor the Euro is powerful enough, but bit-coin like electronic systems might be.

Brexit seems to be falling part on the issue of the Northern Ireland border.

Whether you think Brexit is a great or stupid idea doesn't really matter. It is most probably happening. And it will most likely be the worst of all possible worlds. Britain will have to give up money and control over laws and migration to the EU to be allowed to exit the decision making process over those rules. What they get out of the deal is access to the common market (which is why they have to play by the rules, but not make them).

This is not horribly uncommon.  Norway and Switzerland have very similar agreements.

But the entire thing hinges on the border between Ireland (in the EU) and Northern Ireland (in Great Britain). The EU (and England) do not want a return to a hard border with guards and checkpoints. Entry into the EU basically help in stopping the Republican Irish attacks in both Northern Ireland and London. A hard border has every chance of starting that war again - in addition to spiking the economy.

BUT, the UK government is a minority government and the balance of power is held by 10 Northern Irish politicians that refuse to go along with this plan. Which they call a soft annexation of Northern Ireland.  And, truth be told, they are right.

It is a game of chicken, where the British Conservatives have given the driving wheel and the accelerator to a testosterone fueled 15 year old. (That is an analogy that makes the most sense if you've seen East of Eden).

Bosnian had an election. The super-nationalists won. And I mean super-nationalists! Trump is a lightweight next to these guys. The Bosnian Serb President and the Sparsk Republic President both want the Serbs and the Serbian majority lands to leave and join Serbia.

That is what caused the last war that left 10% of the population dead.

Bosniak and Croat leadership is just as nationalistic. Except for the new Croat President. The nationalist party won the Croat vote, but the also elected a moderate Croat President. So, of course, the people are demonstrating against him.

The USA is oddly in this because they are still operating under the Dayton Accords. These were a short term based system of sharing power after the civil war that was suppose to expire after no more than 5 years as the Bosnian parties (Bosniak, Serb and Croat) agreed on a new constitution. That was 25 years ago.

Finally, something you might have heard a bit about. A journalist from Saudi Arabia, but critical of the regime seems to have been murdered inside the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. He went to get the paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée.

This is a big deal of Saudis throwing their weight around in a 3rd country - nominally a friendly country to both Saudi Arabia and the United States.

You might have heard about it because President Trump was asked about it (seems our spy agencies knew this murder might happen). President Trump said it was kind of important but he wasn't going to do much because Saudi Arabia is buying $110 Billion dollars of military hardware and complaining would just make them buy from China or Russia. That is pretty disgusting, but I really do appreciate the dead honest of it. There is a price we are willing to pay for international justice, and $110 Billion to too high. It is a fair comment. Heartless and blunt, but fair.

Now in reality (because the Trump Variety Hour isn't hemmed in by truth), the $110 Billion was really only $100 Billion. And only $14.5 Billion was actually ordered (link), so the life is worth less that $14.5 Billion, not $110 Billion - but we are quibbling. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Well - THAT was no fun

I have flown between Sarajevo and New York many times. Usually through Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.

There are, as near as I can see, 3 (three) Turkish Airlines.  1) The business class Turkish, which is fabulous. 2) The economy Turkish Airlines, which is pretty good for economy. And then 3) Economy to New York, which is a nightmare.

First that are tons and tons of kids. Usually Orthodox Jewish children. Oh yes, and tons of Orthodox Jewish people, and tons of Muslim people. Now they all get along pretty well on the flight, but it still worries me that any little blown up might turn ugly in a heartbeat.

Yesterday the flight to Istanbul was delayed due to "weather in Sarajevo". Somehow other airlines were able to make it to Sarajevo, but not Turkish.  Okay.  4 hours later - and 2 hours past my connection to New York, the flight left.

We got to Istanbul and parked and this happened!

Doyyy de doyyy
That is a bunch of people hanging out on the tarmac!  "Waiting for the bus to the terminal?" you ask. No, just being idiots. The picture was taken by me FROM the bus. And the gaggle just got bigger. Finally even the driver was pissed and drove off and they had to wait for another bus.

A few hours later, as I border the Airbus 330 (i.e. death plane) for New York I was appalled. You see MY original flight was on their lovely Boeing 777. A wide body wonder. This piece of crap Aribus - well here is a stock photo of it in Turkish colors.

It is a 2 - 4 - 2 configuration. I sat on an inside aisle (pretty much exactly from the angle of this shot) Turns out the aisles are not wide enough for any human to make it through without knocking me. They have special beverage carts for this beast.

I was in 21 D and there was a family in 21 EFG. I try to understand families, I really do. But in this one mom actually but a pillow ON ME to use as a backstop, Dad curled on the other edge and junior a five year old stretched between them like a hammock.

And while this plane looks clean - image it after a 10 hour coach flight with screaming children, people dragging their hajibs over me and some idiot New York across from me constantly doing stretches. About the 8th time he banged me, I said "HEY. Watch it." I figured I could yell at a guy loud enough to make the moms stop hitting me.  He said sorry, but he had no choice trying to confront leg blood clots.

==== ommmmmm  ====

But yes, the work in Sarajevo went great.

AS WE LANDED, deep vein thromboses starting getting his luggage out of the over head.  Repeated requests for him to sit down were ignored. Then he tried to shove ahead of me to get off. In that he was unsuccessful and I did actually say, "Hey, we are all in a hurry here! Back off."

The good news - it was late and traffic was light and I got home quickly.