I love football movies of all kinds (though I strongly dislike watching actual football games) -- The Blind Side, Little Giants, Remember The Titans, Jerry McGuire, Forest Gump. Bring on the sentimentality and the cliches because I love them all! But Rudy (1993) based on a true story starring Goonies alum Sean Astin, which I watched for the first time last night, is the current contender for #1.
10 minutes into this movie and I'm already crying. It has all the right ingredients for an American football film icon: an unlikely hero from a working class town with a heart of gold, a big seemingly unachievable goal for higher education, a constant chorus of you-can't-do-its, college branding, fall colors, and wide-angle shots of quiet misty mornings. It's got it all. Needless to say that I was an emotional mess by the end of it. Sean Astin was absolute perfection in his acting, along with Jon Favreau as the sidekick who never gives up and a young Vince Vaughn as an arrogant jock who Rudy ultimately inspires. I gave Rudy a 5-star review on Amazon streaming, tissues still in hand.
Out of 709 reviews, 85% were 5-stars, 8% 4-stars, 4% 3-stars, 1% 2-stars, and 2% 1-star. What cruel people would give this wonderful heartwarming film a 1- or 2-star review? What could they possibly hate about it?
Most of the negative reviews concerned technical challenges -- the DVD was broken, the streaming quality was bad, the sound was too low, and etc. One person complained that there was too much "potty mouth." Another expressed his dislike that the characters "took the Lord's name in vain." Someone else said Rudy was a "pathetic" character with an unhealthy obsession for Notre Dame, which 12 people found helpful on Amazon.
But one 2-star review in particular stood out:
Unremarkable. Trying to make a hero out of someone who was just dishonest. Read up on the guy and he actually was dishonest in business after college as well.
A quick Google search confirmed the bad news: in 2011, Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger along with a dozen associates were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors. It was a "pump and dump" scheme for a sports drink company named "Rudy." It's tagline: "Dream Big! Never Quit!"
“Investors were lured into the scheme by Mr. Ruettiger's well-known, feel-good story but found themselves in a situation that did not have a happy ending,” said Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The tall tales in this elaborate scheme included phony taste tests and other false information that was used to convince investors they were investing in something special.”
The New York Times wrote about the fraud, here. Forbes did too, here.
First Disney and now this. Is there nothing we can believe in anymore? It's hard to not get angry. Where's the responsibility of the filmmakers? The writers? The book publishers? The people peddling his brand? Who's fault is it? Rudy's fault? Big business'? Notre Dame's? Hollywood's? Evil corporations'? The finger pointing can go on and on.
And on and on it goes.
Such is the story of man's folly in The Garden of Eden. When God asked who took the fruit from the serpent, Adam pointed the finger to Eve, "She made me do it." And out they both go...condemned to suffering for all of eternity.
We have Adam and Eve to blame for this too. So at least there's that.
I have many questions and no answers. Instead, I'll leave you with a quote from Father Cavanaugh's character from Rudy, which I think encapsulates the ironies:
"Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: There is a God. And I'm not Him."
So like seriously and I don't see this woman often in terms of living in LA
But like, I love this woman so much.
I love you so much.
She's so cool
No, but I haven't see her in forever
Like, she's so cool
She seems pretty fucking cool
Oh thanks Matt.
And like she shows up with a roll of toilet paper
That’s cuz you’re the shit. She's the shit. Like she repackaged that show for JJ Abrams. So I got her toilet paper to celebrate today
A whole show
Like that’s pretty fucking cool
Is this Hank Williams?
You’re not as hot as you think you are. Did I tell you about that story? Did I tell you about the roll of toilet paper story?
Oh no no you weren’t here
So I’m walking around with a roll of toilet paper and some guy yells that out and I'm like, really motherfucker?
Like I’m strutting
That was hilarious
I had this big roll of toilet paper I was carrying under my arm but he rolled down the window and was like, you’re not as hot as you think you are. And I just started laughing because I was like, I’m carrying a giiiiant thing of toilet paper!
Oh my god who says that?
It was a way...
Look, look...men project their weird shit on women all the time, ok.
It was a way to diminish me but I thought it was funny because I’m carrying a roll of toilet paper
It's not like I'm walking like this.
In my fucking heels like this.
Like I was carrying a big thing of toilet paper and I just started laughing hysterically.
Like he was insulting me but I thought it was funny
Women get all kinds of shit
But I thought it was funny I’m carrying a roll of like 16-ply right here and you think I’m the shit?
Like I know when I look hot and those days are not the days when I’m carrying a 16-ply of toilet paper like, fuck yourself I thought it was hiiilarious
What you gonna do...
You’re not as hot as you think you are. And I’m like, yes I am, actually
Goddam these taquitos are so good!
Why is the food so good here?
I was a chef you know.
At KFC. I was a chef. I was frying all that chicken. Like hundreds of chicken.
Oh no way.
I studied cooking in Italy.
Wait, where'd you go to school?
Well, I was only there for like a semester. But I loved cooking.
You learned to make fried chicken in Italy?
No, I made like Italian. Like so much Italian. Like meatballs and shit.
What'd you major in?
Oil painting. But I was like thinking Literature.
Oscar Wilde is my favorite poet.
No, Oscar Wilde was a playwright.
Oh no way.
But anyway the art department was like, you are soooooo talented you should be an oil painter. You like are the most talented oil painter.
You still painting?
When I watch films on the touchy subject of multiculturalism, I am often frustrated by the tendency of the writer/director towards easy stereotypes, predictable bad guys, and victims with no agency of their own...in other words, propaganda. Thankfully, this is not one such story.
Originally released in 2003, Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom, Gaelic for "My Name Is Yu Ming," is a splendid short film with a poignant take on language, heritage, and belonging. Available to watch for free on Youtube. I won't spoil it for you, but I recommend it. 13 minutes of your day well spent.
A nod to writer and director, Daniel O'Hara, for this masterful piece of storytelling. Bravo.
Call him old-fashioned or elitist or whatever other stodgy names, but Sir Roger Scruton makes a damn good case for the need to preserve beauty in this 2009 documentary film. You can watch it for free on Youtube.
While Postmodernism turned establishment art on its head (think of the Dadaists, the Surrealists, the Abstract Expressionists, the Brutalists, and onward), an unintended consequence of that movement has led us now to a slew of contemporary works of art and architecture stripped of beauty, which Scruton argues is a virtue we desperately need to defend.
Human beings need beauty to thrive, to have hope, to keep living....maybe, even to touch the divine. Think of the prehistoric painters in Lascaux for example who decorated their otherwise dark cave walls and ceilings with art. What was that about? Or the early Mesopotamian sculptures used for worship? Or the Ancient Egyptian works of Ra, the Sun God? Has there always been a connection of art with something deeper and higher? Scruton thinks so. And I do too.
Form follows function was once a noble cause, but take a walk through any modern high-rise cities and it's hard to tell one glass and steel structure from another. Or artists who create work only to shock the viewer, instead of helping to transcend and find greater truths? What happens to us when utility and commodity becomes the establishment? Do we even recognize beauty anymore? I believe this is something important for all of us to contemplate for ourselves.
A few nights ago I watched a 6-episode series on Netflix of Bill Moyer's 1988 interview with master mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. In their final conversation, the two talked about the circle as the most divine shape in nature, a kind of godly manifestation in aesthetic form (think of the mandala for example, or the halo, the sun, the moon, the planets, etc).
If the divine is circles, then are we humans squares? Who invented the square? How did it come about? What were its functions? Where would we be without it? And why is the word associated with boring fuddy-duddies? (a real search result, by the way, from my computer's thesaurus). Some contemplation and a little research later, I found myself with a copy of Italian artist/designer Bruno Munari's 1965 book, The Discovery Of The Square. Surprise surprise, it's shaped like a square!
A fascinating work of curiosity, Munari traces the use of this four-walled shape from paleo-Babylonian, to Ancient Rome, to Le Corbusier, to logarithmic spirals, to a simple game of chess. Did you know that "in ancient times, the square was believed to have magical properties including power to prevent plague, and it was common practice to wear a silver disk, with a square cut in it, on a necklace" (p 22).
From the opening essay:
"The square is as high and as wide as a man with his arms outstretched. In the most ancient writings, and in the rock inscriptions of early man, it signifies the idea of enclosure, of house, of settlement. Enigmatic in its simplicity, in the monotonous repetition of four equal sides and four equal angles, it creates a series of interesting figures: a whole group of harmonic rectangles, the golden section, and the logarithmic spiral, which also occurs in nature in the organic growth of plants and in parts of animals. With its structural possibilities, it has helped artists and architects of all epochs and styles by giving them a harmonic skeleton on which to build an artistic construction."
A fun and quick read for the aesthetically curious. So take a peruse! It's probably the squarest thing you can do this week.
Wendy's Twitter account caters to weed, man. No that's Arby's. Wendy's has the best Twitter account. The actress for Wendy's is married to one of the managers at Wendy's.
I work at Denny's.
That guy's wife is her. She doesn't wear her hair like that in real life, right. Never talk about Subway. Subway never even had a guy. But she's super chill. And she get hella wasted. When you're making that money. She got that Wendy's money.
Battle of the Sexes on Netflix.
His grandfather did that shit, man. His grandfather invaded South Korea. And the US has to come in on the landing. And it's crazy, bro. Trump doesn't know what's going on. She knows the game. He didn't study the fucking Korean War.
I can't eat rice. You don't have to eat the rice just eat the meat. Oh it's closed. What? No it's 24 hours, dude. No dude there's two. The one closer to us is open. I'm like part night rider.
Alright Andrew night to meet you.
White Republicans going to war. You talking about 2000 vs. now.
I'm taking the dog.
The name "Jordan B. Peterson" inspires either great awe or great ugh. A bearded middled-aged man is not exactly what we all think of when we think of a Youtube Sensation in 2018. His channel recently surpassed more than 1 million subscribers, his talks at rock star-style concert venues from earlier this year were sold out, and when he posts one ordinary picture of an overcast street on Instagram, 18,000 people go to like it. Makes you wonder, does he know about Insta filters?
His newest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote To Chaos, is currently the No. 1 International (as well as National) bestseller on Amazon. Its antecedent, a post on Quora, has generated almost 5 million views to date. By the way, Jordan B. Peterson is not a musician or a celebrity -- he's a professor of Psychology -- with a camera on his home computer.
For those unfamiliar with his brand, JBP was kicked into stardom in late 2016 when he publicly denounced the gender pronoun law in Canada, citing a conflict of morality (and of philosophy) between democracy and tyranny. A couple of videos surfaced online shortly thereafter of university students shouting him down at a rally. It went "viral," as the digital-age saying goes, and a star was born.
I don't actually dislike him. I've read his book cover to cover and I admit I like it. I also admit I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code cover to cover and liked that too. I mean, JBP is no Dostoyevsky or TS Elliot (both of whom gets frequent mentions in his lectures), but he is as good (or maybe even pretty great) of a writer for a clinician and academic. Clean up your room, he says! Last Sunday I spent 8 hours straightening out my apartment from top to bottom like I'm back living with my parents again. Stand up straight, he says! He sounds more like my college ballet instructor than some devilish patriarch. Any moment I expect he'll post a video reminding me to not talk with my mouth full.
For all the forthrightness however, JBP also has his moments of weakness. On his much watched interview with Cathy Newman (which just passed 10 million views) he stumped Newman when she asked, "Why should your freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?” His response, “Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable.” Newman was suddenly dumbfounded. She couldn't formulate the words back to him. But instead of letting the viewer decide in that moment, he slides in a snide, "Gotcha." It was one of the few unsportsmanlike moment I've witnessed from JBP, though to his credit, he did keep his cool during the remaining 30-odd mins of the heated interview.
Peruse the Youtube comments that follow and very quickly you'll see them degenerate into vulgarity and petty jabs at Newman. What a conundrum this must be for a man who believes in individual transcendence and freedom of words. What a pity. But this is not to say that JBP's videos are not also full of positive comments. Just as a casual observer, his followers often leave very intelligent and thoughtful notes, more than the vast majority of channels I follow elsewhere. So there's that too.
Love him or hate him, he is a product of our time, in every sense of the word. With the democracy of Youtube, viewers now choose their own content of consumption. 1 million + people have chosen JBP with more flooding in. He has a book deal. He's touring the world on talks where ticket prices average around $50 a pop. He is no friend of the Far Left. He is vehemently opposed to being with the "Alt Right." For all the decries from the University of Toronto, it looks like JBP's position as professor is more than secure. According to Reddit, he surpassed $66K annually from the online membership platform Patreon. What to make of him? If only there was a singular narrative.
In more than one interview, Peterson himself said that traditional media was dead. He's living it. And that's something worth noting.
Received an invitation to attend a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace? Uncertain of how to respond? Fret not, Debrett's guide on Etiquette & Modern Manners has you covered. Gone are the days when a book of etiquette is only deemed for the rich, the Royal, the business-oriented, or those planning a wedding. I think all of us could benefit from a little polish in our everyday behavior. A predecessor of and English counterpart to Emily Post, Debrett's has all one needs to know from addressing the Queen of England to approaching the delicate matter of breaking off an engagement. By the way, if you do meet the Queen, it's "Your Royal Highness" when addressing her directly and "Her Majesty" when addressing her in the company of others. Gentlemen, do bow your heads and ladies, a courtesy is required. And if you're beset by specific worries, there's always the Queen's Lady-in-Waiting to help with Q&As. Duh!
First published in 1769, Debrett's has so many wonderful sections with parts of it rather dated yet still applicable.
On asking your pesky neighbors who show up unexpectedly to leave your home: offer them something to drink when they enter your home, but do not be afraid to "allow the conversation to flag and not refill cups or glasses."
What to bring for your aging uncle who's staying at the hospital a while? Debrett's notes that "a small and robust pot plant is a good idea, but check with the florist that it will thrive in a hot hospital ward--a plant that drops its leaves or dies is not a tactful addition to a bedside."
Text too much? Chat too long? On the virtues of the telephone, "brevity and clarity are the two most essential qualities."
When going on a first date, did you know there is always a host and a guest? The host should arrive on time and the guest arrive only a little late. "There are two forms of invitation to a first date that are incorrect and unfair (although perfectly acceptable when people know each other better). It is wrong to ask if the other person is free at a specified time without giving further details about the evening. The girl might like the opportunity to say she will be busy on that particular day, if she chooses to accept she will need a rough idea of what to wear, and whether or not to eat first." I can definitely attest to the latter half of that sentence; a hungry girl will not be a good date.
"It is also unacceptable to arrange to meet or collect her and then to greet her by saying 'What would you like to do?' What is she to say? Apart from the fact that the responsibility should be taken by whoever issued the invitation, it is very unlikely that she will know what he is prepared to spend or how far he is prepared to travel." I wonder what Debrett's might say about modern dating on Tinder? Or unwanted photographs of the male anatomy via text. Oh my.
And if you are coupled, what about those dreaded parties you get dragged to by your spouse or for your child's playdate? How does one start a conversation with a stranger? "The first art of a good conversationalist is to put people at their ease. Conversation can hardly flourish in a stilted atmosphere."
Or here's a clumsy one that often happens. On the virtues of small talk, "Avoid asking people questions that might be on a government form or an application for a visa. One's heart often sinks when asked: "What do you do?' and 'Have you any children?'"
But my favorite part comes from a more serious section in "Invitations, Letters and Talk." Here on the difficult task of writing a letter of sympathy when someone has passed away, Debrett's cites the beautiful work of Henry James. In a letter to his close friend Sir Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) on the death of his wife, James writes:
My dear Stephen,
I feel unable to approach such a sorrow as yours--and yet I can't forbear to hold out my hand to you. I think of you with inexpressible participation, and only take refuge from this sharp pain of sympathy in trying to call up the image of all the perfect happiness that you drew, and that you gave. I pray for you that there are moments when the sense of that rushes over you like a possession that you still hold. There is no happiness in this horrible world but the happiness we have had--the very present is ever in the jaws of fate. I think in the admirable picture of her perfect union with you, and that for her, at any rate, with all its fatigues and sacrifices, life didn't pass without the deep and clear felicity--the best it can give. She leaves no image but that of the high enjoyment of affection and devotions--the beauty and the good she wrought and the tenderness that came back to her. Unquenchable seems to me such a presence. But why do I presume to say these things to you, my dear Stephen? Only because I want you to hear them in the sound of the voice and feel the pressure of the hand of your affectionate old friend.
Al Jazeera English has a really great channel on Youtube called 101 East that I recommend to anyone who shows an interest in learning about Asia. It features a variety of investigative journalism, from the music ban in Pakistan, to the the problems of widespread teenage pregnancies in the Philippines, to gang rape in India, to children working as maids in Myanmar. All of it is well-written, well-produced, and absolutely worth your time.
But my favorite in this series however is on China, of course I'm also partial. Hosted by Canadian journalist Steve Chao, this series is illuminating of a country that is often misunderstood by the west. Even for me, watching 101 East confirms just how little I know of my own birth place.
So here's a list of the "Top 5," in no particular order, as subjectively curated by yours truly. As with all modern journalism, I do ask my readers to keep in mind the kinds of subjects that are deemed by our media as "newsworthy." Often times, they are the sensational ones. Even with Al Jazeera English, they are at the end of the day a business, with a somewhat subjective lens, probably with viewers who are measured in click throughs, that bring in ad revenue, and so on. This is not to discredit, but to remind us that 101 East is only scratching the surface of a real China - there are after all, 1.3 billion Chinese with 1.3 billion differing views of the country in which they live. For every one negative story, I bet there is a positive story that go untold. And the only way to find the truth is to go to China for yourself, spend time there, get to know people there - and I hope this channel will help inspire that curiosity.
1. Left-Behind Generation - With stagnant wages and the rising costs of living, millions from the rural regions are forced to migrate to the cities to find work. But China also has strict policies towards these migrants which won't allow their sons or daughters to go to schools in the cities. So millions of children are left behind without parents, in remote villages, some by even themselves.
2. The End of China Inc - For the past few decades, China has been building massive projects to transform itself into a modern nation. But was the country ready for it? Today, it has 5.7 trillion in debt and two billion square meters of empty residential space. Where is everyone? And what does its economy mean for the rest of the world?
3. Faking It - More than 90% of the Chinese antiques on today's market are fakes. Acquired by private collections, galleries, auction houses, and even museums, these fakes are so well-made that even experts can't tell the difference. How is it possible that within three months after an object is excavated a fake shows up on an auction house catalog? This story takes you to the village where these high-level potters and craftsman make their imitations, and to the bigger story behind it on how they get their hands on the original. As someone who studied art history, I find this an interesting debate because at what point, does the knock-offs, which are so well-made, become a piece of art itself?
4. Food for Thought - Fakes are not just relegated to expensive art. Even your local wonton noodle soup dealer is making fakes., using toxic ingredients with deadly effect. What does that look like? And most importantly, why? This episode asks why ordinary citizens would want to hurt each other for the sake of profits.
5. Super Moms - "Zuo yue zi" is the Chinese custom that new mothers spend the first month after child birth in bed. Three meals a day prepared for her, her infant bathed and fed for her, her home cleaned for her, even her hair is washed for her. Traditionally a duty of her own mother or mother-in-law, now is a booming industry in China.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).