I was going to write about a different topic until this last Friday. On Friday morning, the much-awaited decision Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was released which reversed the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 that created a federal law protecting a women’s right to abortion in all 50 states. The vote was 6-3 and to reverse the decision of the 1973 decision, the justices voted 5-4. This decision pushes the abortion laws back to each of the 50 states. It is impossible to talk about this issue without generating controversy. I would be lying to all my readers if I did not admit that my personal feelings on this issue leans towards a specific bias. So being completely honest, there is nothing I can say in this blog that will not be controversial. As I have aged, the abortion argument has evolved from a question of morality, to accepting abortion as a matter of personal responsibility, to finally rejecting the concept based on the flawed logic of federal power. We live our life doing our best to understand the complications of human civilization and abortion is just one small piece of this experience. So why would my personal opinion on a social and personal issue really matter to anyone? I just want to emphasize a few things that have disturbed me since this ruling was released.
The best analysis of my personal opinion on abortion in the mainstream media comes from the online publication THE HILL. This article on the overturning of Roe vs. Wade needs to be read and appreciated. There have always been two primary problems with the 1973 ruling and this article addresses both of them. First, the original ruling was based on an incorrect reading of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. This was one of the three amendments passed during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The 1973 ruling was an incorrect interpretation of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment existed as a pushback against future state discrimination by Southern States who wanted to recreate a two-tiered society after the Civil War. No person should be deprived of “life, liberty or property.” So how did this law become the basis of Roe vs. Wade? This is the foundational argument that has irritated many lawyers for decades. In fact, even Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a hero to liberals, had problems with the 1973 ruling. Here are a few of her quotes taken from a speech in 2013 on the 40th anniversary of the ruling.
“My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change,” Ginsburg said. She would’ve preferred that abortion rights be secured more gradually, in a process that included state legislatures and the courts, she added. Ginsburg also was troubled that the focus on Roe was on a right to privacy, rather than women’s rights. “Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” Ginsburg said. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.” (BOLD IS MY EMPHASIS).
Second, for a country that is always promoting our democratic ideals and the importance of voting, Roe vs. Wade took this away from the American people. A court filled with nine older men (Eight Caucasian and One African American) voted to engrain this into law. The American people were not allowed to vote and have an opinion on this issue for over 49 years. Plus, it violated many states’ 10th Amendment Rights and their ability to pass their own rules and regulations regarding abortions.
This ruling also brings into question about when a life truly begins. There has been a lot of debate over the past decade of when an embryo becomes a baby. There are three stages of pregnancy. Much of the current scientific facts surrounding a female pregnancy is based off this scientific model. Read this article for clarification. To summarize,
1-8 Weeks of Pregnancy: Embryo
8 Weeks to Anywhere between 12 Weeks to 24 Weeks: Fetus
After 24 Weeks: Baby
The argument about the duration of a baby being a fetus is still undecided and crucial to this debate. According to many recent scientific studies, the evolution of the embryo into a fetus is when the baby becomes a human. Other findings disagree on when this actually occurs. The problem is that there is so much about pregnancy and the development of the fetus that we do not understand as humans. There are other complicated questions. For instance, does the 14th Amendment protections include the rights of an unborn baby? These are questions that have never been appropriately solved by science. This is a topic that still needs more research and clarification.
Three more comments on this topic. First, I used to have respect for the BBC. But as they have proven over and over again this past decade, the arrogance of the British elites knows no bounds. Because we fought this country to attain our freedom in the late 18th Century, I still do not believe the British have ever understood the decentralization that is inherent in our Constitution. So this article explaining that, “Women have lost their Constitutional Right to Abortion” maybe the dumbest thing the British have ever published. There is no Constitutional right. If women want to engrain abortion into the Constitution, it is up to them to create the movement to accomplish this goal. But the abortion question should have always been a states’ rights issue. Second, despite what many Americans think, abortion legalization is NOT COMMON around the world. This Washington Post article makes this very clear. Of 198 countries, 59 of them allow women the “freedom” to make a choice about an abortion. The other 139 countries have some form of limitation from an outright ban except for health reasons or to terminate pregnancies due to rape to asking for “permission” to be allowed one. Here is the real interesting aspect of this. The recognition of when a fetus becomes a baby usually forces abortions within the legalized framework of 16 weeks. After that, an abortion becomes increasingly difficult to attain except in seven countries. Canada, United States, Netherlands, Singapore and the Communist nations of China, Vietnam and North Korea are the only countries in the world that allow late-term abortions. That is a quite an interesting and diverse mix of countries. Finally, the fear that this ruling will cause abortion to be banned is not out of the question and I understand this argument. Just like I supported the elimination of Roe vs. Wade, I would also be in total opposition to a full Federal ban on abortion. People with strong religious beliefs mostly support the right to abortion now. At present, state abortion laws go back into effect in the United States. Despite many feminists’ fears of a full ban, abortion is now illegal in only 11 states. This list will probably increase to around 15-20 in total when all the bills are eventually passed in each state. Despite this, the individuals who are most upset about this ruling, the liberals on the coasts, will likely see no such restrictions on abortion. As a citizen of the state of California, abortion rights are likely to be expanded to allow abortion up to the moment of birth. California allows teenage girls to get abortions without parental consent. There are also laws on the books allowing for out-of-state women to get an abortion due to the legalization of later term abortions in California (Current law allows abortions up to 24 weeks after fertilization). Corporations have announced (Disney, Amazon, and Dick’s Sporting Goods being some of the first) that they will cover travel and medical expenses to any woman who needs to travel out of state for the procedure. Plus, California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington announced that they will be “abortion sanctuaries” for women. Remember this when you see a crying woman who lives in Los Angeles talking about losing her right to an abortion. Not only is she misinformed, but she is also an idiot and has an agenda. There will be no such abortion restrictions on the West Coast.
I feel sorry for the women in the states that may lose their abortion access. Democracy is a cruel beast and there are many states in our Union where the majority of people do not support the right of a woman to have an abortion. But it is not the responsibility of actors in Hollywood or tech elites to push their moral values onto these individuals. The United States is sometimes a messy republic because of our authoritarian need to control how other people think. This has always been the wrong tactic. If you believe your opinion on this issue is moral and correct, education and cultural change will make all the difference on whether future generations agree with your point of view. This summarizes the human experience in a nutshell. If we all acted and believed in the same political and social issues in unison, would that really be a human experience? This is what makes the short amount of time we are on Earth so interesting. And why I personally believe that life needs to be protected as much as possible and within reason. It is not up to me to tell someone whether they can have an abortion. But as a parent, I am damn happy that my partner never got one.
UPDATE: A reader brought this up to me after publication. I will let Justin Trudeau's tweet speak for itself.
From his Twitter feed:
Officiel du gouvernement - Canada
"No government, politician, or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. I want women in Canada to know that we will always stand up for your right to choose."
This is one of the most hypocritical statements I have ever read. Is he even aware of what a stupid statement this is? As many unemployed Canadians know, bodily autonomy and choice for women and men was not an option when the COVID-19 vaccine came around. You just can't make this stuff up.
At some point, I will continue my evaluation of my Master’s Degree education. But because of the resolution of a sporting event that occurred this week, I feel the need to comment. On Thursday night, my Golden State Warriors won their 4th NBA Championship in 8 years. This is the 5th of my lifetime and 7th total for the franchise. This championship came as a complete surprise. But there are so many small details to discuss involving this latest championship among my favorite professional sports teams.
First, a rundown of some basic statistics and history. The Golden State Warriors have now won 7 NBA Titles. This places them into 3rd place all-time behind the 1st place tie of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers who each have 17 NBA Titles. The Warriors prevented the Celtics from getting the elusive 18th which would have placed them back into first place all-time (This is also the 2nd time that the Celtics have failed at getting the 18th Championship. They lost in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010 against the Lakers). This latest championship snapped a 3rd place tie with the Chicago Bulls who have 6 NBA Titles. In fifth place is the San Antonio Spurs with 5. No other team has more than 3. Before I was born, the Philadelphia Warriors won championships in 1947 and 1956 (Losing the NBA Finals in 1948). They moved to San Francisco in 1962 and preceded to make the NBA Finals two more times (1964 & 1967) losing to the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers respectively. When I was nine months old, Rick Barry finally led the Golden State Warriors to their first title in the Bay Area sweeping the Washington Bullets in 1975. After 1977 (And one year away from my first sports memories), the Warriors began their decline. For most of my life as a Warriors fan, I have had very little to cheer. During an eight year stretch in the late 1980s to early 1990s, the Warriors would make the playoffs five out of eight years and win as a lower seed in the 1st round of the playoffs three times before getting knocked out in the Conference Semifinals (1987, 1989, 1991). After 1994, the Warriors would not see the playoffs again until the 2007 season when they slid into the playoffs and upset the top seeded San Antonio Spurs in the 1st Round before getting knocked out in the Conference semis again. The first Stephon Curry Warrior team to make the playoffs did not occur until the 2013 season. So from 1978-2012, a period of 35 seasons, the Warriors made six playoff appearances and never got past the 2nd round of the playoffs. This all changed when Stephon Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were drafted by the Warriors.
The Warriors only got above a 5 seed in the playoffs once in my lifetime up to this point. Counting 2013, the Warriors playoff series wins were as a 5 seed, a 6 seed, twice as a 7, and once as an 8. Then, 2015 happened. You always remember the first championship. Especially one that you have been waiting for 40 years to witness. Of the four that the Warriors have won during this era, this is still my favorite championship. It is like popping your virginity with your first girlfriend. It is the first step into becoming a mature man. After having the best record in NBA history in 2016, the Warriors shockingly looked exhausted against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals as Lebron James won his 3rd title that year and the first for the city of Cleveland since 1964. As good as the Warriors were, they signed Kevin Durant that off-season. This signing definitely was a situation where the rich get richer. The Warriors were stacked and proved it in the NBA Finals by winning the next two championships in 2017 and 2018. As fun as these titles were to experience, they still did not feel as significant as the initial championship in 2015. Because the Warriors evolved into a Super Team with the Durant trade; these championships did not feel as special, but they still count all the same. Both these titles felt dirty and almost unfair to talk about. Like having a professional football team play a bunch of high school all-stars in a competition. The slaughter would be difficult to watch. The 2019 season would be the final year of the Golden State Warriors run (At least that is what the media was telling us). Curry was banged up, Klay Thompson blew out his knee, an injury that he did not recover from until early 2022, and Durant went down with an Achilles injury during the NBA Finals. A team that had won five consecutive Western Conference championships had finally reached its zenith as injuries tore the team apart on its way to losing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors. The next two years were abysmal. In the shortened 2020 season, the Warriors had the worst record. In 2021, they qualified for the play-in game only to lose to Memphis. As the team got healthy, younger, and picked up a few key contributors like Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins, the 2022 Warriors team felt completely different. As the season wore on and Phoenix dominated the West, it did not feel like a return to the championship podium would occur. But on Thursday night, June 16th, the Warriors did the improbable and won that 4th championship of this era. Now, they can officially be called a dynasty. This is the first time (Other than the MLS L.A. Galaxy which also won 3 titles in 4 years in the early 2010s) that one of my favorite teams can be classified as a dynasty. With all the years of suffering that professional sports have given me, I never thought this experience would ever occur with one of my favorite teams. And unlike the American dynasties of the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas (And their minions) who have been destroying the United States for the past 40 years, I hope this dynasty never comes to an end. This 2022 title still did not feel as significant as the 2015 one but it is definitely my second favorite. A team that went through some dark times has shown a championship pedigree and persistence that I never knew it possessed.
I am satisfied if this group of players never wins another NBA Title. They have already given me so much to be thankful for. But if they happen to repeat in 2023, the Warriors will join the Celtics (11 titles in 13 seasons including 8 straight which will never be matched), Bulls (6 titles in 8 seasons), and the Lakers (5 titles in 9 seasons) as one of the most memorable teams in NBA History (NOTE: The San Antonio Spurs won their 5 titles over a 15-year timeframe). That repeat will also be important to me personally as it will equal the Showtime Lakers in the number of championships and the duration to achieve them. Kobe Bryant’s Lakers won 5 championships over an 11-season arc from 2000-2010. I never have to listen to the bullshit from L.A. Lakers fans ever again.
Finally, the Warriors caused me to reach an important milestone with my professional sports teams. If we do not count Major League Soccer as one of the main professional sports (I do see it as the 5th sport), then I have reached double digit championships with my sports teams in the four ‘recognized’ popular sports leagues. Two of my favorite teams won championships before I was born, the 1945 Cleveland Rams and the 1951 Los Angeles Rams. The Philadelphia Warriors also accomplished two titles in 1947 and 1956 (As mentioned above). Even though I was an infant baby and alive, the 1975 Golden State Warriors title is not in my memory bank due to my young age. I only recognized this championship later after watching VHS Videos of the 1975 NBA Finals in the 1990s. But for championships I can mentally remember (1978 to the present day), the Warriors have now gotten me my 10th one as a fan and 11th one since my birth. In Order these championships are:
Golden State Warriors: 1975 (9-month-old ExpertofSome was more concerned about his poop-filled diapers than Rick Barry)
St. Louis Rams: 1999
Anaheim Angels: 2002
Anaheim Ducks: 2007 (And still the city of Anaheim and Orange County’s only two titles)
Los Angeles Kings: 2012
Los Angeles Kings: Again in 2014
Golden State Warriors: 2015
Golden State Warriors: 2017
Golden State Warriors: 2018
Los Angeles Rams: 2021
Golden State Warriors: 2022
If I throw in the L.A. Galaxy who has more championships in the MLS than any other franchise, those Cup years were 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2014 bringing my memory bank total to 15 and my lifetime total to 16. Three Galaxy championships overlap during the same years as the Angels only title and both of the Los Angeles Kings titles.
But if you only count the four main sports, this is the first time in my life that two of my favorite sports teams will be defending their championships at the same time. The year of the title defense is always the most enjoyable as a sports fan. It is one year of pure ecstasy until another team takes it away from them at the end of the season (If they don’t repeat as champions and, in my case, only the 2017-2018 Warriors have repeated making this a likely reality).
So let me enjoy my ecstasy for a little bit longer. My beloved Rams won the Super Bowl only four short months ago and now I am adding an NBA Title from my Warriors. Could the 2022 San Diego Padres be far behind? Fingers crossed. Until next time!
77,849 words written. 362 double-spaced pages in length. Starting the writing process during the first week of October 2020, my book was completed on May 31, 2022, nearly 20 months after its initiation and 21 months after the trip was taken which is the focus of my book. Over 500 hundred sources were pulled from the internet, a couple of educational research articles, and a novel were used as references as well as experiencing many of the locations personally during the one week, over 1400-mile drive north. Before publication, the book is getting sent away to a professional editor for some “changes” and then given to a layout artist that will format it correctly for publication on Amazon. Looking back on this book, I hope this will be the first of many. As a person who loves to creatively express myself, everything I write in the future will hopefully evolve from this long and intimidating project. More details later as the book nears publication.
Because of this, I have been having a difficult time getting motivated into writing another blog. So the topic that has been swamping my mind will likely be updated in the future with a much longer, detailed, and well-researched post that was given my full intellectual attention. But a moral issue has been irritating me and it needs to be addressed on this blog.
I have been wrestling with an ethical dilemma. But to understand it, this blog will require a dive into my childhood. As some of you may know, I went to Catholic School for eight years, specifically St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church from 1980 till graduation from the 8th Grade in 1988. Growing up in a religious atmosphere, the ethics spoken about by ‘God’ in the Bible became the foundation of my childhood. Many aspects of this education still linger with me to this day. As I got older and started questioning various teachings of my Church, I became fascinated with alternative ethical systems. Catholic Church was the only educational system I knew and my inherent open-mindedness as a child led me astray of the church after receiving my Confirmation during my sophomore year in public high school. During college, I studied Buddhism and read multiple books on this religion and its foundational philosophy. I even met the Dalai Lama in 1996 at Long Beach State. During these high school and college years, I made friends with a new group of people that diverged tremendously from my friends during the elementary years. They were artists, skaters, and punks who had different philosophical leanings and were often critical of my early childhood religious upbringing. But what set them apart from my Church was their tolerance (Except when it came to me talking about the Church) of alternative lifestyles and viewpoints. It was a refreshing change from the more close-minded and strict church upbringing. As time has gone by and I have met more friends in the television, tech and engineering industries, the people that have surrounded me have become more educated, technical, scientific and a little entitled (Especially my California brethren). But other than a couple of my friends who are incredibly comfortable in their lives because of a strong family or marriage, there has always been something missing from an intellectual or ethical standpoint with some of my long-time acquaintances. I never was able to understand this until recently. Unlike my Catholic school friends, there was a certain lack of confidence and high amounts of cynicism whenever we hung out. Since many of them fell into the Bill Maher, atheist mold, they were highly opinionated about the negative impacts of religion on society. They were not completely wrong. But what type of world were these people trying to propose to me? What was their moral foundation for society? Their lack of belief or integrity and in some cases, morality seemed to be lacking and it felt like this was the foundation of their cynicism What purpose did their life serve? As Darth Vader says in the STAR WARS franchise,
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
When thinking about this, other than being open-minded and tolerant towards individuals (Which is a foundation of many religious teachings also), how did this impact me morally and ethically? Here is where my evaluation of my past begins to disturb me. I DON’T FUCKING KNOW.
This article on Dr. Robert Malone’s Substack has to be read. It dives into the basis of scientific discovery and how honest scientists will tell you that there is no fixed truth. Science is constantly evolving and changing with time. This wisdom is also recognized by the best priests and rabbis. This also made me aware of another observation. No matter how often that religious theorists and scientists have been at each other’s throats for thousands of years, neither one is the sole proprietor of ‘truth.’ Throwing in science and engineering’s bastard child ‘technology’ which has its own difficulty with understanding the foundations of human behavior, no one philosophical belief has a monopoly on truth. So how did I come to this conclusion? Paying attention to what has been going on inside our world over the past two years, the “science” of the COVID-19 vaccines has failed miserably. The social experiment of social media has led to mental illness and depression. Technology’s best usage is apparently full spectrum government and corporate surveillance. As a person who came around to “believing” in these ideas, I find myself back at square one. Depending on the Scientific or Technological solution (Like Climate Change), these ideas are about as "truthful" as some of the more fantastical stories in the Bible. Religion has one advantage though. At least it teaches you a form of ethics and morality. Ironically, the best publications during this COVID-19 pandemic have been the religious ones like Lifesite News which often publishes stories about the vaccines and Dr. Fauci that the mainstream media will not touch. So what does this mean Expert? What is your conclusion regarding all of these ideas?
Again, I don’t really know. But taking apart the educational teachings and knowledge that religion, science, economics, and technology have shown us, none of these systems can be classified as evil per say. They are neutral entities that just explain a particular philosophical viewpoint related to the foundational understanding of their systems. What makes all these things ‘evil’ are people and institutions involved inside these systems that take advantage of them for personal gain and the accumulation of power. THAT IS THE REAL HUMAN PROBLEM. There is nothing wrong with believing in any of these things as long as you acknowledge the fact that none of them will ever be able to give you all the answers you are looking for. The quicker any human mind can recognize this simple fact, the more evolved it will become.
Reviewing a movie was not my plan for this blog today. After doing multiple sports and culture related blogs, I thought it was time to write about the importance of mythology and why every historical culture has their own religious belief system that often defines and give context to their actions. And then I saw TOP GUN: MAVERICK and I thought to myself, “Fuck Off, Expert. You need to write about that movie.” What follows is a summary (No Spoilers) and review of the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster film.
Before diving into the details of TOP GUN: MAVERICK, I think it is important to explain how this movie was experienced in the theater. At my local theater, there were four different ways to watch the film; the classic 2D, IMAX, ScreenX, and 4DX. Since I had never seen a movie in the latter two formats, I decided to take a plunge and watch the film in ScreenX. Not understanding what ScreenX or 4DX were, I decided to research these formats before watching the film. So what is ScreenX? According to Woojer.com:
“Screen X is an immersive technology that projects footage onto the sidewalls as well as the main screen of the theater to create an immersive experience. It has enlisted since 2012 and was developed by the same company - CJ 4DPLEX - that created 4DX motion-theater technology that augments the movie-going experience with seats that move, wind effects, strobe lights, simulated weather effects, and olfactory experiences. The Screen X process can come in post-production, which is more common but not as preferred, or in pre-production, using three different cameras.”
This differs from 4DX in two key aspects. 4DX is a higher resolution picture and the theater itself becomes a sensory experience.
“4DX is a state-of-the-art film technology developed by CJ 4DPLEX which delivers an immersive multi-sensory cinematic experience. 4DX incorporates on-screen visuals with synchronized motion seats and environmental effects such as water, wind, fog, scent, snow and more, to enhance the action on screen. It is the world’s first and leading 4D movie technology brand for feature films including Hollywood blockbusters, local films, and alternative content such as concerts and commercials.”
During TOP GUN: MAVERICK, the ScreenX experience activated during each flight sequence in the film. The story and character development were isolated to the normal one camera shot which is viewed on the main screen like a normal movie-going experience. ScreenX adds two additional cameras into the shot that project onto the sidewalls of the theater on both the left and right side. Sitting inside the theater makes it feel like you are in a box surrounded by images with surround sound blasting you like a wind gust across your face. It is an overwhelming experience and definitely made the film more enjoyable.
Second, I have been reading about the technological innovations surrounding this film since they started shooting it four years ago. Because Tom Cruise and the actors became trained pilots for this film, the director decided that the most realistic flight footage would be placing the cameras onto the military jets themselves with the talent inside. The creation of these cameras and the engineering required to allow six IMAX cameras to survive the high speeds of a military fighter jet is fascinating in its own right without even watching one image from this film. The cinematography is stunning and an evolution for flight based storytelling. If this film does not win the Oscar in 2023 for the technology that was invented so this picture could exist, then the Academy will have lost the last speck of respect that I have for it. The only other film that compares is 95 years old. WINGS, the first Best Picture Winner from 1927, actually used cameras in the air that were activated by the pilots involved. Real explosives were used to give the movie a realistic feel. The cinematography from this almost century old picture still holds up in the present day.
This brings us to the review of the film. What can I say about it? Most of the enjoyment comes from the incredible flight sequences mixed with the wonders of experiencing the innovative cinematography and the new movie theater technology. The whole 137-minute experience left me flabbergasted. My 24-year-old daughter, who was also impressed with the movie trailer when it was released back in 2020, accompanied me to the theater and her opinion mirrors mine. This movie is why we go to the movies every summer. To have as enjoyable of a time in a two-hour window as possible. Does the movie have a story? Not really. The basis of the film revolves around Pete “Maverick” Mitchell being called back to the TOP GUN program by his old friend and rival, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky to train the next generation of pilots for a dangerous mission to disable a nuclear power plant built into a mountain that is posing a threat to the United States. The country is unnamed but resembles Iran by description. But the story is only a small, minor detail used as an excuse for the airborne training sequences that take up the majority of the first half of the film. The movie is a character study. It even throws in healthy doses of nostalgia by recreating the bar and shirtless beach scenes for the present-day audiences. Much to my satisfaction, the movie also engages in multiple close ups of Tom Cruise’s on-and-off again relationship with Penny, played by the 51-year-old Jennifer Connelly. Like so many movies from the 1980s do, the camera focuses on Jennifer’s body in multiple situations as she is walking away from “Maverick.” Watching these scenes, it feels like the filmmakers are telling the audience, “We made this film for everyone born between 1969 and 1980” using one of our favorite sex symbols from our childhood as bait. Watching Jennifer Connelly light up the screen took me back over 30 years to when I fell in love with her in the first place, in films like LABYRINTH and CAREER OPPORTUNITIES. This is one of the few films I have ever watched where leaving the theater left a gigantic smile of my face.
In conclusion, if TOP GUN was not your thing, I still recommend going to see this movie just for the experience. I was not a fan of the first film and only came around to appreciating it once it gained iconic status. If Grand Theft Auto V is satirizing the film and the music, then the movie has achieved a historical status that only few films ever can. This is not even bringing up Sterling Archer’s admiration for it. Does the movie gloss over the fact that the United States has the largest and most technologically advanced military in the world which makes the mission seem kind of ridiculous? YES. Do other countries have more advanced military jets than us? THIS IS HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE. Does the movie feel like an updated remake more than a sequel? ABSOLUTELY. Should this movie only be seen in a movie theater? ABSOLUTELY. Did the film images on the left and right side of the ScreenX movie theater not look as clear and focused as the main screen in the front including the fact that it seemed to get blurrier the farther the image was from the screen? YES, but this can be forgiven due to the fact that this technology is new, and it will likely be resolved as the technology starts to mature. I also do not recommend waiting to see this on home video because the experience will not be as enjoyable on a modern home theater system and the flaws of this film will come into deeper focus. But none of this matters. Go see TOP GUN: MAVERICK as soon as possible, damn it. You will not be able to take that smile off your face.
If you approached and asked me what my favorite show on Amazon Prime Video was, you would probably guess THE BOYS, GOLIATH or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. But Amazon has been the one streaming service where I prefer to engage in their “artsy” shows instead of their more popular high budget offerings. The shows I have enjoyed on Amazon are the impersonation thriller SNEAKY PETE, the podcast adapted HOMECOMING, and the incredible MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. But no show on this streaming service has had more impact on my emotions than UNDONE. A show that re-embraces rotoscoping animation (A style that was reinvented famously in A SCANNER DARKLY), the incredible writing mixed with the animation which helps to enhance the ideas and themes that are presented makes this the best show on Amazon Prime Video that hardly anyone knows about.
UNDONE is created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, creator of three of the best animated shows of the last decade. BOJACK HORSEMAN remains one of my favorite animated cartoons of all-time slipping in just behind THE SIMPSONS and SOUTH PARK. A show that dealt with a washed-up celebrity horse that suffers from crippling depression and the consequences of his impulsive behavior, BOJACK dove into psychology like no previous animated show ever has. The episode where Bojack gets a look into his mother’s dementia-riddled mind remains my favorite animated episode of a cartoon of all-time. In terms of TUCA & BERTIE, I have not watched this show but have taken it under advisement due to the recommendations given to me. As good as these shows are, UNDONE maybe Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy’s masterpiece.
The show dives into the grief that a young girl suffers after her father dies in a tragic car accident. Season 1 revolves around the consequences of this accident and how her grief and the history of mental illness in her family impacts her behavior. The show is an emotional drama wrapped around science fiction themes. Season 1 was an incredible watch. But then, Season 2 hit Amazon last month. Diving deeper into its science fiction themes, this season starts inside an alternate reality where Alma’s father has not died in a car accident, and she discovers that her sister can move into specific timeframes tied to a person’s memory. The brilliance of this plot device is that it allows the viewer to experience the trauma experienced by an ancestor. The story revolving around Alma’s grandmother Geraldine (Whose real name is Ruchel) and the memory that she has spent her entire life repressing is heartbreaking. The family ties this event to the actions of the matriarch in the family who has been hiding a secret from her husband and children for the entirety of their relationship. Because of advice given by her future mother-in-law during a small conversation, her reaction to this advice leads to unintended consequences for a person that the mother loves dearly. The animation style is used perfectly to enhance the storytelling and express what happens inside people’s minds. The show is an advanced look at human psychology and the impacts that small decisions can make that will affect future generations long after your life has ended. The season ends on a cliff hanger and let’s hope that Amazon has the temerity to give the show creators one more season to wrap up some loose ends. While Season 1 dealt with the theme of grief, season 2 is about acceptance. Who knows what Season 3 will bring?
I highly recommend this amazing show. Bob Odenkirk, who also stars in the pitch perfect prequel BETTER CALL SAUL as the protagonist Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill, plays Alma’s father and is an incredible presence throughout the show. One of my favorite young actors, Rosa Salazar, who also starred in one of my favorite, recent Netflix shows, BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR, stars as Alma. The mother is played by the underrated Constance Marie, who is most famous for being the matriarch on THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW. The show is about a biracial family and besides English, Spanish and Hebrew are spoken at specific spots. The rotoscoping animation is beautiful and is a necessary element for the type of writing and storytelling that this show requires. If you have an Amazon Prime Account (Like the majority of our nation), give this show eight hours of your time. You will absolutely not regret it.
2022 has been like no other year in my life. I have always been an individual who likes to pay attention to cultural events, educational opportunities, and political decisions since my high school years. All three of these things have been incredibly important in defining the type of individual that I have become. With politics, it is always a valid argument that for the majority of moments in your life, the behavior of our politicians really has no impact or effect on your life. Elections and political donations can be important when a particular cancerous individual has taken power and you feel the necessity to remove them democratically. But in your life, there will always be one moment when politics becomes incredibly important. If you believe in the idea of the Fourth Turning that every generation will experience some form of massive upheaval during their lives, then paying consideration to the politics of that era could become a matter of survival. This leads to my personal experience in 2022. Since the beginning of the year, my wife and I have spent over 10,000 dollars on updating our survival gear and food storage. No matter how bad things have gotten in this country, I never believed that there was a cause for dread. Now, I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to prepare themselves for a future of shortages.
Many economists, politicians, and cultural analysts agree. Food shortages are likely heading our way in the near future. These shortages appear to be the worst that any American will experience in their lifetime. Here is some evidence.
Joe Biden: If your president is warning you, absolutely believe that these shortages will be much worse than his rhetoric.
Baby Formula Shortages are already occurring (Due to inflation and supply chain issues caused by the Ukraine/Russia War and our own government’s incompetent monetary policy).
Farmers are warning about food shortages in the near future.
Even Joe Rogan is concerned about it.
Zerohedge has been talking about this problem on a daily basis.
Then there is the weird case of about a decade of tragedy at food processing plants that just happens to occur in a very short time frame. Intentional? Impossible to know but this should be investigated.
This has led to a few organizations that firmly believe that government-enforced food rationing is right around the corner.
An inevitable outcome with skyrocketing prices.
Consultants are warning buyers.
Even Zillow has gotten out.
TECH & CRYPTO COLLAPSE
Unfortunately, these two industries go hand in hand with one another.
Tech companies have been severely overvalued for the past decade. The incredible rise in their stock price and valuation was never legitimate. It was all speculation and faith. Now, reality has come home.
There are multiple causes. But the era of free 0% interest money is over. This is going to lead to a painful correction.
Crypto as a currency is proving to be closely tied to the value of tech stocks. So Bitcoin and hundreds of other coins are crashing as well.
Ron Paul called the economy of the last decade, “THE EVERYTHING BUBBLE.” Unlike the financial institution crashes of the 1990s, the tech crash of the early 2000s, or the housing market collapse in 2007-2009, this economic collapse will impact almost everything in our lives. Until deflation takes hold and prices drop to a more reasonable level, the next few years maybe some of the darkest times of our lives.
This obviously depends on your budget. Plus, there are some great deals out there if you look carefully.
Bass Pro Fish Shops: Got accepted for their credit card and used it to update our survival gear, camping supplies, weapons, outdoor clothing, and backpacks in case a quick escape becomes necessary. With the United States sending billions to Ukraine and escalating a conflict that could quickly slide into World War III while the Russians warn us about their potential usage of nuclear weapons if they face collapse, it may become necessary to escape into the wilderness for an undetermined amount of time. My best advice is to spend rationally and within your budget. My wife and I were able to pay off our purchases within 2 months mainly due to my budgeting and a lucky win at a Las Vegas casino. Plus, with 2% back on the card, we were able to purchase another 200 dollars of free supplies that were forgotten during our first couple of trips. Once you are done, cancel the credit card. Because unless you live inside that store, there is no real reason to keep it for the future.
Gas: Keep at least ten gallons of gas inside your garage in storage. Getting at least 100 miles away from an urban center that could break into rioting and violence if there is a lack of food is important. Going 100 miles in a particular direction in any city should take you into rural areas.
Food: Store at least six months of food. If shortages are coming (And they are), keeping this supply is important if some of the necessities aren’t available. Dried and canned food is the best way to go. Any fresh or frozen food is fine as long as your electricity remains on. But if blackouts occur, your fresh food will likely have to be trashed.
Buy a Generator: Important to use the aforementioned ten gallons of gas or propane available for usage when necessary. Generators will also help keep the electricity flowing if you only experience rolling blackouts.
I also recommend getting some credit cards. Make sure they are low balance cards that can be paid off quickly. The reason for this is because many current credit cards have incredible benefits if you apply as a first-time user. Any credit score of 670 or more should get you a decent mid-tier card. There is nothing wrong with accumulating free money to help with your purchases. Here are the three I recommend, none of them have a maximum limit of over 2500. Each of these cards also have a zero balance because it is important to pay them off in their entirety every month if possible.
AMERICAN EXPRESS BLUE CASH PREFERRED: 6% cash back on grocery purchases, 3% cash back on gas.
US BANK ALTITUDE CONNECT VISA SIGNATURE: 4X Points for Travel and Gas.
FIDELITY REWARDS VISA SIGNATURE: All Purchases give you 2X back into your retirement fund whether a 401K or IRA.
Do what is best for you. Chase, Capital One, and Citibank have their own family of cards if you happen to be banking with them. Get creative and take advantage of these deals because in an inflationary environment, every dollar or “point” is important.
Next time, I will be doing Part 6 on my educational indoctrination at Arizona State University involving my Masters Degree program. Until then!
I apologize for the delay between this essay and my previous one. Recently, the French film director Jacques Tati came to my attention. As a person who believes that comedic writing and directing exist on a higher scale than many other forms of filmmaking, I wanted to dive into why this particular director’s comedies are considered some of the greatest of all-time. After experiencing three of his most famous movies and a sixty-minute documentary, my opinion on Tati is a complicated one. His movies fit into the definition of how most film experts see French filmmaking. But even though there is much to admire about Tati, his filmmaking style also has its imperfections. For an individual who was a professional mime known for his physical performances before and after World War II, it is fascinating how Tati evolved from working on the stage to becoming one of the most legendary French film directors. This essay will look into this background before revealing my own complicated history with French filmmakers. Finally, I will talk about the filmmakers that Tati’s films influenced before diving into a final evaluation of Tati’s three most famous films, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday-1953), Mon Oncle (My Uncle-1958), and Playtime-1967. These films deserve their place in the zeitgeist. But unlike some of the greatest films of all-time that hold up over the decades, can we really make this argument about Tati’s classical works?
Jacques Tati was born in 1907 into a comfortable middle-class life in La Pecq, a suburb of Paris. Showing no interest in academics, Tati spent his childhood being trained as a picture framer (How did this impact his filmmaking sensibilities?) by his grandfather before completing his compulsory military service in the late 1920s. Being introduced to rugby, he became a semi-professional player where his comedic talents were recognized by his fellow teammates. Taking a risk on his performing style during the dark days of the Depression in the early 1930s, he developed his comedic physical style as a mime street performer in the early 1930s. He eventually booked engagements at theaters in France and Germany and fine-tuned his craft as an actor in short films until the outbreak of World War II often working in night clubs and cabarets. When the war ended in 1945, Tati’s career as a filmmaker began.
Tati made six films during his lifetime. I watched his second, third, and fourth films in chronological order of release. You can definitely see an evolution in his filmmaking style during this almost decade in a half of time. On a personal level, I have always had a strong opinion about French films. While filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, and Jacques Demy are considered legends, I have always personally embraced the more unique styles of French auteurs like Luis Bunuel (His French films particularly), Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Michel Gondry. Godard, Truffaut, and Demy made some incredible films. But they also made some movies where the slow pace and visual style left me feeling empty and disappointed. With Bunuel, Jeunet, and Gondry, experiencing any of these films will give you a definitive idea based on their elaborate filmographies of the type of filmmaking to expect. Gondry in particular came to my attention based on the amazing music videos he produced in the 90s for many alternative acts like Bjork. Art is obviously incredibly objective. But I feel the French style of filmmaking is overrated. I feel the same way about most Japanese films (Not anime which is a different genre) and India’s Bollywood. In terms of films made by countries that do not get the same appreciation as the aforementioned nations, Russia/Soviet Union and their philosophically introspective filmmaking, the incredible talent of directors that have made fantastic films in theocratic Iran, and my favorite filmmaking country of the 21st Century, the immensely talented South Koreans, are underappreciated by film experts (Even though the talent of South Korea is now getting globally recognized). Tati slides between these two extremes. There are some truly fantastic moments in his films. Yet, I can’t help but admit that there were also long stretches in each film that meandered too long and often led me to divert my attention away from the film due to boredom.
After watching Tati, you can definitely see the impact his filmmaking had on some contemporary filmmakers. Particularly, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and David Lynch. In Anderson’s recent film THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021), there is a comedic scene where a character moves through an M.C. Escher type building that looks like it was stolen from Tati’s MON ONCLE. Anderson has been very open about the inspiration that Tati has had on his filmmaking. Spielberg’s THE TERMINAL (2004) comes across as a homage to Tati’s most famous masterpiece PLAYTIME. Finally, David Lynch’s slow-visual style which can be seen in his most famous film can be partially attributed to Tati. Plus, Tati was fascinated with the modernism of the post-World War II era. The best jokes in each of these films revolves around the world that technology is creating and how his character, the simplistic Mr. Hulot, handles these changes. Tati’s films are a satirical post-modernist take on the rapidly changing world where technology and science would soon become ubiquitous.
Tati was inspired by the silent era slapstick of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. You can see it in the way that Mr. Hulot (Played by Jacques Tati in all three movies) interacts and navigates each scene. These films have almost no dialogue. Film is a visual medium and Tati understands the power of it. A Tati film moves from one scene to another with no underlying purpose. They are appreciations of the chaos of daily life. In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Mr. Hulot takes up residence in a vacation resort. Of the three films I watched, this one is the most difficult to enjoy for two particular reasons. First, the movie feels incredibly dated with sight gags that probably worked well on a mid-20th Century audience but come up incredibly flat in respect to our modern tastes. Second, even though this is his second movie, it still feels really raw like Tati was trying out different visual gags to see which ones worked. Even though this film was a hit in France at its time of release, the movie feels unfinished like the best moments were left on the cutting room floor.
This is not the case with MY UNCLE. His third film, and the only one to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, became an international sensation. Significantly more watchable than MR. HULOT’S HOLIDAY, this is the first film that satirizes the superficiality of French culture and the advancing of technology which was uprooting the world during this post-War era. The best scenes in the film all revolve around the house (Which inspired the design of the POWERPUFF GIRLS house in the cartoon). Whether it is the matriarch of the family turning on her distinct fish-shaped water feature every time a stranger comes to visit, or the incredibly well-shot scene of the husband and wife acting like eyeballs inside the windows of the house as Mr. Hulot moves around in the darkness of their yard, to an extended afternoon brunch that features inane social interactions followed by a water leak that changes the nature of the scene, the movie is Tati’s first that defines the type of filmmaker he will become. MY UNCLE is enjoyable and does not meander and lag like his previous film did. The only complaint is that the movie is a little long. A few extra scenes could have been cut to get the movie down to a more manageable 90 to 100 minutes.
Finally, we come to what I believe is Tati’s masterpiece PLAYTIME. Shot inside a city that was built from scratch (Affectionally called “Tativille” by the producers of the picture), PLAYTIME is Tati’s magnum opus. To describe it without explaining the visuals of the movie would not do the film any justice. The film is about a future city made of glass where technology controls every aspect of life. From a cinematography perspective, this is one of the best shot movies I have ever seen. After first experiencing the movie, I was unsure of my personal feelings towards it. As time goes by and my brain began to evaluate what Tati was trying to accomplish, this is an incredible picture. Being the second movie in his trilogy of three films about modern mid-20th Century technology (With TRAFIC being the last one), PLAYTIME is an amazing filmmaking accomplishment. First, a little background on this film. PLAYTIME costs so much money to make that it drove Jacques Tati into bankruptcy. The movie was not well-received at its time of release and has only been appreciated by future generations long after Tati died in 1982. This film has multiple scenes that are incredibly memorable. There is a scene of a receptionist at an office doing multiple tasks at once and moving from side to side in a dance-like state. The scene is improved when Tati shoots the receptionist from outside where you can only see his feet while his body is blocked by a sign. From this perspective, it does look like the receptionist is doing an interpretive dance. There is the great scene where residents from neighboring apartments are watching television, but the cinematography is framed in a way where it looks like they are watching each other. There is a wonderful visual Easter Egg where an individual is talking about taking a vacation. If you miss the posters in the background and what they are trying to tell you (HINT: Every city in the world IS THE SAME), then the entire scene is wasted. Finally, he ends the movie at a nightclub where the viewer comes into a restaurant at its grand opening. This entire scene is over 40 minutes long and gets more chaotic as the amount of people inside the club continues to increase and the problems that the nightclub faces get more complicated. The movie needs to be experienced just for these reasons alone. If I had to reflect back on the best movie of Tati’s career, the only one I would recommend that every person experience is PLAYTIME.
Looking back, I believe it is difficult for our current generations to appreciate a filmmaker like Jacques Tati. So many of the innovations in his movies have long been appropriated by other directors. The first thing I thought when watching Mr. Hulot was Peter Sellers performance as Inspector Clouseau in the PINK PANTHER franchise. The same physical slapstick comedy is present. The one significant difference is that Blake Edwards dialogue and Seller’s incredible performance gives these films a more modern-day edge which makes them more enjoyable to present day audiences. Tati’s Mr. Hulot is a slapstick character that can only be appreciated visually. It is incredibly different than watching the non-stop jokes that made A SHOT IN THE DARK one of the funniest movies of all-time. But if you have the patience to watch a filmmaker who was a truly innovative comedic force during his era, then I would recommend diving into Jacques Tati. It will help you understand the tropes of many modern-day filmmakers.
NOTE: My analysis of Jacques Tati will have to wait a week. My mind has been focusing on the brilliance of the NBA Phoenix Sun's over this past week. So here is a blog for all my Phoenix friends.
I am a West Coast guy. Born in the suburban Los Angeles town of Torrance, Southern California has been my place of residence for the majority of my life. Plus, I have lived all over Southern California (Los Angeles area 21 years, Orange County/Anaheim/Fullerton 8 years, Palm Springs almost 2 years, San Diego 5 years and now Riverside County/Temecula 5 years). I understand the culture of each area well. Not to mention if someone is visiting, I can give killer directions to any location due to my knowledge of the local streets. But during an almost 8-year stretch of my life, Phoenix, Arizona was my home. Despite some issues I had with living in that city at the time and experiencing the ridiculous mortgage crash that impacted this region more than any other, Phoenix left me with more pleasant memories than negative.
Coming from California, my biggest complaint about Phoenix was the lack of culture. But this was an unfair opinion to have at the time. Phoenix has a culture. It was just not something that was suitable for my mindset during the years I lived there. I also had major problems with the food. Even though this has been resolved as many good restaurants have opened in the area since my time of residence, there is something about Arizona coffee and a glass of water that is just plain “different” from my personal experience. Since I am very familiar with Arizona’s neighbor to the east, New Mexico, I always thought Arizona’s bizarre water was a symptom of the region. But this is not the case. New Mexico water tastes better than California’s and their food is exceptional because of this. But I also met a lot of really nice people, had a comfortable and stable job, and owned a home for the first time in my life during my years there. If you are a sports fan, there was something else that happened in that town during my years of residence between 2004-2012. Arizona’s sports teams had some very good and interesting teams.
The Diamondbacks were the most disappointing. Being the only professional team to win the city a championship (In 2001 against the New York Yankees) and winning the division and making the playoffs in three of their first five seasons, the Diamondbacks recent history has not been as memorable. First, their baseball stadium is one of my favorites in Major League Baseball. If you throw in the classic Dodger stadium that overlooks downtown Los Angeles, Petco Park placed front and center in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego and the San Francisco Giants stadium resting on the bay, you can argue that the NL West has the most beautiful stadiums in professional baseball by far (Not to forget the wonderful fan experience of Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, the home of the Rockies). The Diamondbacks won two division titles during my eight years there (2007 and 2011). They only had three winning seasons (2008, they went 82-80). The most exciting team was the 2007 one that swept the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS only to get swept in the NLCS by the red-hot Colorado Rockies who went onto win their first and only National League pennant before eventually getting swept themselves by the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series. But the Diamondbacks did not generate a ton of excitement during my years in Phoenix except for two specific seasons.
The Coyotes are a tragedy. I love NHL hockey. During my eight years there, I could show up for a game hours before the puck dropped and get decent tickets. Phoenix has never embraced hockey culture the way that many cities on the West Coast have. The Coyotes were pretty miserable during the majority of my time there. After making the playoffs and losing in the 1st round five of their first six seasons in Arizona, they went on a long streak of playoff-less hockey. The streak finally snapped during my last three seasons there. Despite becoming one of the better teams in hockey in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, the Coyotes got knocked out by the Detroit Red Wings in both seasons. The streak finally was snapped during my last few months in Phoenix. Arizona made a heroic run to the Western Conference Finals to play my beloved Los Angeles Kings in 2012. My Kings knocked them out in five games on their way to their first Stanley Cup championship (A feat they would repeat two years later). Meanwhile, the Coyotes have entered another dark period. Other than the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020 when they upset the Nashville Predators in the Qualifying Round to get their first playoff series victory since 2012 (The playoffs were expanded to the top 12 teams that season and the 11th seeded Coyotes pulled the biggest upset of the opening round), the Coyotes are in a very dark place as a franchise right now.
As you can see, the history of sports in Phoenix is not great. This can also best be summed up by the experience of the Arizona Cardinals. One of the original teams to begin play during the first season of the NFL in 1920, the Cardinals history has been filled with nothing but disappointment. They won a championship in 1925 that was rewarded to them because the team with the best record, the Pottsville Maroons, violated the territory of the Frankford Yellow Jackets and were formally removed from the NFL. Not to mention the Chicago Cardinals coach at the time hired high school sandbaggers so the Chicago Cardinals (The location of the team at the time) could win their remaining games. It is the only NFL title that is in dispute with both the city of Pottsville and the Cardinals recognizing the championship. Going on 97 years now, many people believe the Cardinals are haunted by the Pottsville curse. In 103 years of playing football, the Cardinals have made the playoffs eleven times. That is 92 seasons of failure. As the Chicago Cardinals, they did make the NFL Championship game twice (Pre-Super Bowl) in 1947 and 1948 coming away with the victory in 1947. That is the franchise’s last title. During 19 of the Cardinals first 20 seasons in Phoenix, the team only had two .500 seasons (1994 & 2007) and one winning season and playoff appearance in 1998 at 9-7 that led to a win over the Dallas Cowboys, their first playoff win since the 1964 Playoff Bowl for 3rd Place. But this all changed when an angel from God (Kurt Warner) took over the team in late 2007. Winning the NFC West in 2008 and 2009, the Cardinals had a fantastic run to Super Bowl XLIII as a 9-7 number four seed losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 on a drive by Ben Roethlisberger at the end that may have arguably been the greatest Super Bowl winning drive of all-time (Apologies to Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford). The 2009 team went 10-6 and may have won the greatest wild card game of all-time against the Green Bay Packers (51-45 in OT) before the New Orleans Saints knocked them out in the divisional. The good news is that the Cardinals are experiencing their best era of football in the last fourteen years in comparison to the first 89. They went .500 in 2011, 10-6 in 2013 and had their two best regular season records in 2014 (11-5 which ended in a wild card loss to the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers due to starting their 3rd string quarterback because of injuries) and 2015 (13-3 and another playoff win before being knocked out by the Carolina Panthers again in the NFC Championship). If you are keeping track, the Cardinals have had 5 playoff wins since 2008 (3 during that season). Before that season, they had only had two in their entire history (1947 and the 3rd Place NFL Playoff Bowl in 1964). The franchise had a few down years after that and returned to the playoffs in 2021 where they got knocked out by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card game. But the Cardinals history is looking up and they should be a playoff team again in 2022.
Finally, the best professional sports team in Arizona, the Phoenix Suns, have seen massive amounts of playoff disappointment despite having a very respectable history as a franchise. The Suns have made the playoffs 31 of their 54 seasons as a franchise. Unlike the other Arizona teams, their all-time record is 2271 wins and 2008 losses. They are the most successful team in Phoenix by far. During my eight years there, they also had the most success. The 2005, 2006 and 2010 Suns teams lost in the conference finals each season. They were always interesting and competitive during my time in Arizona. Since 2010, the Suns actually entered the worst decade of its history. Ten straight seasons of playoff-less basketball. But last year, they made the NBA Finals for only the 3rd time in their history (Joining the 1975 Suns who lost to the Boston Celtics, the 1993 Suns who lost to the Chicago Bulls and now losing in 2021 to the Milwaukee Bucks despite taking a 2-0 series lead). With the Golden State Warriors battling injuries and the Memphis Grizzlies as a team on the rise with their best years in front of them, this NBA season looks increasingly like it will end in a Suns NBA championship.
I want to make one wish for my adopted hometown. Even though facing the Golden State Warriors could become inevitable in the Western Conference Finals meaning that I will have to root against the Suns, I have no ill will towards that team. If they play basketball like they have been, they will make short work of the Warriors and get another chance at their first NBA title. And I will be rooting for them against whatever Eastern Conference team stands in their way. No franchise other than the Minnesota Vikings or Buffalo Bills has probably suffered more disappointment in the playoffs without a championship victory. It is time for the Phoenix Suns to join the other 18 NBA teams with at least one title. It is time for them to take their rightful place in NBA history and give the city of Phoenix its much-deserved 2nd sports championship.
To all my friends in Phoenix, I wish you the best of luck. If my prediction comes true, I have no problem with watching that championship parade with all of you. You have dealt with enough pain and agony in the sporting world. It is time for this team to finally bring this city some much-needed joy. Good luck!
Every now and then, a movie comes along that is unexpectedly exceptional. One of my favorite films of 2021 that got almost no press was LAST NIGHT IN SOHO by one of my favorite directors, Edgar Wright. A movie that could have been predictable becomes a terrifying horror film during its 3rd act. It also has one of the best soundtrack moments of the past decade when the dark Siouxsie and the Banshees song “HAPPY HOUSE” begins the transition of a party scene into something more sinister. Keeping with the British theme, one of Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie’s best films in years, WRATH OF MAN, had a fantastic and complicated Ritchie-like story that brought out the best in Statham’s acting skills while taking place in some of the seedier and rundown sections of Los Angeles. Despite my enjoyment of these two films, there was one other movie made by a British director (And Ritchie acolyte) that really got my attention during the 1st quarter of 2022. That movie was THE KING’S MAN.
Matthew Vaughn has already made a name for himself since escaping from the Guy Ritchie shadow. His career kicked off by directing the fantastic LAYER CAKE which helped land its star, Daniel Craig, the new James Bond role. This was followed by the well-loved KICK ASS (A movie I did not like) and the misunderstood but solid STARDUST. But his KINGSMAN franchise has been the money maker that has established him as one of the best action directors in Hollywood. KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE was an extremely entertaining movie that became a global hit. It was followed up a few years later by KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, a sequel that did not have the charm nor interesting story of its predecessor (As well as a miscast Elton John who feels like he was placed into a different movie altogether). So my expectations were muted when THE KING’S MAN was released onto HBO MAX back in early 2022. But my expectations were completely shattered. Serving as a prequel to the KINGSMAN universe, this film was superior to the previous two films in almost every possible way.
STORY SPOILERS ARE ABOUND! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE, I ADVISE TO STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO GO IN FRESH. WARNING IS OVER!
THE KING’S MAN starts with the always charming Ralph Fiennes advising during the Boer War in the early part of the 20th Century. His participation in the warzone leads to the death of his beloved wife right in front of his young son when the troops are sabotaged. This tragedy leads to his character becoming a pacifist as he raises his son back in England. Meanwhile, a cabal of famous individuals meet on an isolated mountain to scheme the world into war that is guided by a shadowy organization and their dominating leader. This scheme succeeds and the careful balance of peace is fractured as World War I is launched. The movie does not shy away from the history of World War I but the shadowy figure that is trying to organize the world for his benefit is eventually defeated by the reinvigorated Ralph Fiennes which leads to the creation of his KINGSMAN organization. But besides the surprisingly deep and complex story mixed around action pieces, this movie stood out to me for three important reasons.
The history inside of the movie was incredibly solid. While the shadowy organization that led to World War I was a fictional creation, our current world is burdened with its own shadow organizations that have their own interest in creating a new world. Also, the movie reflected on the incompetence of the three main world leaders, Tsar Nicolas II of Russia, King George V of the UK, and Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany who ruled three of the most powerful countries of that time. The start of World War I was often blamed on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which is dramatized very well inside the movie. But while this event may have been the powder keg that led to political escalation, history is often more complicated than that. The utter incompetence of the world leaders during the early part of the 20th Century, the decline of the Russian, Austrian-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires simultaneously mixed with a rise in nationalism were more likely causes to one of the deadliest wars in human history. It also may have been the most “avoidable” war in human history. Going back to the beginning of the film, the Boer Wars were two separate confrontations between the colony of South Africa and the British Empire. The first Boer war that lasted only three months led to the creation and independence of the South African Republic. The second Boer war was a bloodier conflict that started because of the discovery of precious metals in the region. The U.K. beat the South African Republic and the Orange Free State and brought the country back under its control despite heavy losses. After Rasputin fails to get Russia out of the war, the shadowy organization hires another Russian influencer (Vladimir Lenin) to accomplish that goal. If you know your history, this is exactly what happened. The February Revolution led to the abolition of the monarchy and the exit of Russia from World War I. This is exactly what happens in the film. The death of Herbert Kitchener was also dramatized in the movie. Even though the boat he was on, the HMS Hampshire, was sank by a German submarine in the film, the real ship was actually destroyed by a German mine.
There were a couple of other story elements that also surprised me with the depth of knowledge that the writers had for THE GREAT WAR. When you see a movie that is a self-described action film, it always is a surprise when the film has much more depth than expected. History books often point out that the sinking of the Lusitania was the beginning of the entry of the United States into World War I. But this is historically inaccurate. Despite the sinking of that ship, the United States maintained neutrality into 1917. The Zimmerman Telegram, the authenticated document that exposed the German offer to the Mexican government and Japan of the re-partitioning of the western United States to Mexico was actually the trigger that led to the United States involvement in the war. But the movie does not shy away from showing the efforts that the British made to drag us into that quagmire. British propaganda inside the United States was rampant during the War. All of this is dramatized in some fashion in this film. After the film ends, Ralph Fiennes’ character even mentions the unfairness of the Versailles Treaty and how it could lead to further conflict. As historians know, the Versailles Treaty is often blamed for laying the groundwork for the rise of the National Socialist Party, AKA The Nazis who would drag the world into a much greater conflict only a generation later. For a simple action movie to dive this deeply into the World History of only a century ago deserves the highest of accolades. This aspect of the movie impressed me tremendously.
I would be remiss to not mention two more things that stand out in the film. The acting is superb especially Ralph Fiennes as the founder of the KINGSMAN and the “No Shits Given” performance by Rhys Ifans as Rasputin. Since the movie has a satirical bent, Ifans embraces the rumors and eccentricities of the Rasputin legend and dives full scale into a performance that steals the film. This leads to the third reason why this movie needs to be seen. I have not seen an action film that had a sequence that stood out to me more than two long, action-filled scenes in this movie. Most action movies are lucky to have one memorable scene. THE KING’S MAN has two. The first involves the assassination of Rasputin which leads to one of the best fight scenes in movie history. Not to be outdone, Ralph Fiennes’ son in the film enlists in the army and fights in the stalemated trench wars of northern Europe. The scene where his character retrieves the telegram that is so vital to ending the war is one long triumphant action scene that when completed, leads to the biggest tragedy in the film. These two scenes need to be experienced on as big of a screen as possible. Even after seeing this film over a month ago, both scenes have remained with me while I am writing this review.
If you are interested in a movie with a dark satirical edge, a surprising knowledge of history and some of the best action you will ever see on film, give THE KING’S MAN a chance. You will not be disappointed. Here is hoping that it will get nominated for Best Picture next year.
Next Week: A review and introspective analysis of Jacques Tati.
As mentioned in a previous blog, I have become increasingly disinterested in the entertainment industry. Watching the Oscars, the only award show that I pay any attention to, was a surreal experience this evening. And I am not even talking about the Will Smith assault on Chris Rock’s face for his funny joke about Smith’s “untalented” wife. The whole night felt like one long hazy dream. As an example, there had never been more movies nominated in one year that I HAD NOT SEEN. Every time any political issue was brought up during the telecast, I could not help but sarcastically smug. Who really cares about what Sean Penn thinks? Or the fact that most actors think about the complexity of geo-political issues about as often as they think about anyone other than themselves. A big thanks to Will Smith also for showing his incredibly, indomitable ego mixed with remorse once he realized that his one violent action may have fucked up his career. Because nothing is more vital than maintaining that feeling of inflated, narcissistic, fake self-importance to a Hollywood actor or performer. Going along with the narrative is all these people can do. Spending three hours of time with these ‘elitists’ felt untimely in a world that is rapidly descending into a hellscape.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started a few weeks back, I have been very quiet about my personal opinion on this ongoing tragedy. War is never an enjoyable topic of debate. While the United States government and its supplicant media promote stories about this war that almost seem like they were pulled out of a Marvel comic book, the Russian media (Until it got censored by all the United States media and tech companies) has also dived head first into the propaganda narrative. The first casualty of war before any blood is spilled is always the TRUTH. The truth will eventually come out about the events ongoing in the Ukraine that will likely be different from both the geo-political narratives bombarding our brains. Many of my closest friends know my opinion on war. As an American, every war or conflict we have engaged in since World War II was very much avoidable. After September 11, 2001, we went into Afghanistan (Which can be considered a legitimate invasion since it was a direct result of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil). But overthrowing the existing Afghan government (Which stormed back into power in 2021) and engaging in regime change never should have been the goal. Once Bin Laden was killed, the occupation of Afghanistan should have ended. Then there is Iraq, Libya, our support for the Syrian rebels against the Syrian government, and our quiet support for the Saudi Arabian massacre of Yemen. Over the past 20 years, there has been no country that has spilled more blood than my beloved United States. All these wars could have been avoided if saner minds had prevailed.
This brings me to the Russia-Ukrainian War. My preferred opinion on this conflict is Swiss-like neutrality. Because unlike the LORD OF THE RINGS-type “good vs. evil” narrative coming out of the West regarding Russia’s actions and the “there have been no real problems with our military plan” Russian denials, the realities of war are never clear cut. The events of war always live inside a world of grey. As a person who studied World War II religiously during my junior high years, I have never agreed with many of the historical narratives that came out of that war. Because like war narratives, history is very malleable. Governments and individuals seeking power can choose to use history for their own personal advantage. Here are a couple of examples that directly relate to the ongoing Russia-Ukrainian War and the ongoing misunderstandings that have polluted the narrative ‘waters.’
First, what is a Nazi? According to the Oxford dictionary, it has two specific meanings. The first one is its historical meaning of being a member of the National Socialist Party, the ruling party affectionately called the Nazis when they ruled Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. National Socialism is an embrace of a collectivist mindset wrapped around extreme pride in a nation. It is an ideology that takes the worst elements of the left (Authoritarian Collectivism) and the right (Racist Nationalism) and combines them into one authoritarian ideology. But the second meaning is the interesting one, “A person who uses their power in a cruel way; a person with extreme and unreasonable views on race.” This aspect of Nazism could also be defined as racism. Per the education system of my childhood, Nazism gained its power through the subjugation and demonization of Jews which is historically accurate. Six million Jews perished in World War II, often in brutal concentration camps. But as the war expanded, two other ethnic groups also suffered devastating losses. One was the European Romany (Known in the derogatory term as “Gypsies”). With a population of 1 to 1.5 million on the continent of Europe, the Nazis managed to kill anywhere between 250,000 to 500,000 Roma. But another genocide is often overlooked. The Slavic genocide during World War II may have very well exceeded the number of deaths committed on the Jewish people. As many as 11 million Slavic people were likely slaughtered during World War II. This number may actually be low. Estimates put the war dead of the Soviet Union at 8.7 million and the total dead at just under 27 million. Since the Nazis controlled most of the Slavic territory during World War II, it would be a proper estimate to assume that the majority of these deaths were Slavic. So why do I bring this up? Why does this also lead to my personal non-recognition of the Ukrainian president as a hero?
Since 2014 when an American backed coup led to a pro-NATO government that had “Nazi” support, Ukraine has been at war with the Russians. First, Russia democratically annexed Crimea, a historical port dating back to the time of Catherine the Great. This also led to a Civil War between the Eastern regions of Ukraine that are a Russian majority (the Donbass and Lutansk). The Ukrainian government has killed at least 14,000 people since this war started. They have also passed laws that basically outlaw various aspects of the Russian language and culture in their society. So who are these Nazis? A recent article by Pepe Escobar dives into this debate. When people hear the term “Nazi”, they usually assume that it is referring to right-wing nationalists who have an irrational hatred of Jews. And this is a proper definition. But as history has shown, Nazism can also be an irrational hatred of the Slavic people especially ones of Russian origin. That is why Israel has defended its support of the Ukrainian Nazis. Because that movement is not anti-Jewish, it is anti-Slavic. This dates back to the World War II era and the history between Nazi Germany and the Ukraine. Stepan Bandera, a hero to many right-wing nationalists, joined forces with Adolf Hitler due to his hatred of the Poles and helped lead the invasion to capture Poland at the start of World War II. It expanded to Lvov, Ukraine where a pogrom was put into place to execute and eliminate the remaining Poles (Slavs), and Jews in the territory. After Ukraine declared independence, Germany arrested Bandera. He was later released to help fend off the advance of the Soviet Union in 1944 as Germany began losing the war. This is when the hatred of the Russian people became engrained into the mindset of right-wing Ukrainians. Right now, one of the leading battalions of the Ukraine, the Azov Battalion, recognizes Bandera as its “hero” in their fight against the Russians. This battalion is also filled with Nazis. The same type of Nazis that consider the Slavic people as second-class citizens. Nazism has a dark history with other Slavic people too. The Ustase militia during World War II may have been one of the most brutal and racist Nazi collaborators. The movement was composed primarily of Croatians who executed hundreds of thousands of Serbians, Jews, and Romani.
Ukraine has also been the home to lots of wonderful political ideas. The 1905 anarchist revolution led to a rise in anarchist political movements in various cities including anarcho-syndicalism in Odessa and anarcho-individualism in Kyiv. The whole movement also committed many violent acts during the time of World War I before it was finally crushed, and the country of Ukraine was placed under the control of Josef Stalin in the new Soviet Union in 1921. This is also where the existing borders of the Ukrainian state were drawn as the new Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. This is how Crimea, a province with a majority of Russians living inside of it, became part of the Ukrainian territory. If Ukraine can be compared to any state in the United States, it most resembles the open, agricultural fields of Iowa. But those fertile fields of the Ukraine have been a warzone for many centuries of human history.
So as you can see, the history of the region is quite complex. Like all human stories, there are no real “good” guys and “bad” guys. The Ukrainians and the Russians have committed awful crimes. But both groups of people have also done wonderful things for our world. In addition and as an American, why should my opinion on this war even matter? Even if you count the death toll from this Russian-Ukrainian War, neither country does not even come close to toppling the amount of people the United States has killed since September 11, 2001. So why are we even giving an opinion on this war anyway? Russia and Ukraine have a complicated history and it is none of the United States business to take sides in a war that the majority of our citizens have no understanding.
EXPERT OF SOME