Pleasant surprises

YouTube coughed these up at random, and provided a delightful start to my weekend:

And last, but not least, a little musical history from my era–and how everything old is new again:

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I recently discovered a series of YouTube videos in which a young lady provides commentary on various movies and movie-related topics. I’ve found many of her videos to be insightful, entertaining, and reasonably rant-free for a topic that usually brings out the ranting maniac in all of us (yes, I’m including myself in that). And then came a video in which I thought she was going to discuss one of my favorite books.

Unfortunately that’s not what we got. She delivered a twenty-minute hand-wringing over whether or not her discovery that the author’s contrary views on socio-political issues invalidated her enjoyment of his books. She evidently shares a similar quandary over a particular fast food chain whose owners also have contrary views on things, but their food is oh-so-good! (No idea, never eaten there.)

She never quite came to any real conclusion other than admitting that she’s really disappointed in this particular writer, and she wouldn’t be at all surprised if the movie adaptation of the book tanks at the box office. That in itself was more fair-minded than I would usually expect from many of a similar point of view. She certainly seemed willing to kick to the curb some other bizarre accusations against this same author, and I can’t say the video ever devolved into a rant.

Meanwhile, just tonight, I saw a post by Mike Rowe responding to a woman who, having found out that he narrates a particular science documentary series she enjoys, is pressing for the produces to fire him because of her perception of Mike Rowe’s socio-political views.

Nor is this particular problem limited to any one side of the spectrum. I know others who have vowed to stop watching any movies made by a particular studio because of the socio-political policies they espouse.

Are these people right? Are they wrong? Are they insufficiently nuanced in their evaluation of the situations? Perhaps. Am I just a conflict-averse wuss who finds it easier to just keep my mouth shut than take a public stand in any particular direction? Probably. Do I feel that attempts to punish people of differing viewpoints by denying them patronage or outright seeking for them to lose their jobs is wrong? I dunno. But I’m starting to think it’s wrong for me.

You see, I have a niece who works for an animation studio. To my knowledge the owners have not made any controversial public announcements of policy that might draw the ire of any particular group, but if they were to do so I’d really rather my niece didn’t lose her job just because some group wanted to punish the owners for a stance they disagreed with. I’d hate to see an author I like be dismissed out of hand simply because of a single controversial stand (okay, I’m sure he’s made more than one). I’d hate to see my friends or family (or myself, for that matter) denied a livelihood simply because they have unpopular beliefs.

And I’d hate to think that movie commentator’s dislike of a writer I like would move me to dismiss everything else she’s said or stop enjoying her videos. I mean, it’s not like I felt a need to stop watching her videos after she dissed one of my favorite characters in a movie I enjoyed. I could even see her point about a somewhat controversial suggestion she made concerning two characters. It seems to me it would be rather hypocritical of me to be intolerant of her intolerance of someone else’s intolerance, even though she seems to believe intolerance of intolerance is just fine.

In any case, I have not stopped watching her videos. I am, perhaps, more sensitive to her invocation of sensitive topics now, but I still enjoy her commentary. And I’d like to think that, should we ever meet, we’d be able to find plenty to come together over.

But the whole situation leaves me sad. How did we get here? Why is it so horrifying to encounter people of a different perspective that we feel we have to attack? To get them fired? To relegate their works to the rubbish bin, no matter how much we might have enjoyed them before? Why is it our job to teach anyone a lesson? And are we really that concerned over whether they learn it? And do we really think that’s the way to teach it? Are we really interested in helping them change, or are we just lazily tossing them under the bus?

Can we really be that certain our aim is so perfect that we can punish/harm/damage the target of our anger without taking any innocents down with them? I’m pretty certain the political views of the Chik-fil-A owners are not shared by all of the people who work for them. Is it fair to make them suffer? Is our boycott really going to hurt the owners as much as it would the employees who had no say whatsoever in how the owners behave?

And is it really fair to hold someone responsible for their every association? If someone made a movie with someone currently under fire for bad behavior is it really fair to assume the former is fully supportive of the latter’s behavior? Is it fair to try and bankrupt them? Does confronting a suspected cad in a restaurant and punching him out make you a hero or just another cad? Do we somehow believe that doing so is going to make that person change for the better? At what point does fighting bad behavior with bad behavior just make us all badly behaved? Does bad behavior make bad behavior alright? And if so, why doesn’t that then make it okay for them to behave badly back to us?

Undoubtedly I’m going to trigger someone, but I’m going to invoke the infamous “What Would Jesus Do?” Thing is, I’m pretty sure this one can be answered with actual evidence, not just supposition. There were plenty of examples of people who both disagreed with Christ and who behaved in ways Christ did not approve. He never refused to be seen with those people–on the contrary, he often went to those who most shunned what he advocated. He never told anyone that if they mixed with the wrong people he’d shun them. He never tried to get anyone fired from their jobs–even the soldiers who crucified him. He didn’t work to get the Sadducees or Pharisees fired. He didn’t attempt to shame anyone who worked for them. Even when he drove the money-changers out of the temple he didn’t say they couldn’t conduct their business elsewhere.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I’m pretty sure this social vigilante-ism isn’t one. Smashing someone’s head repeatedly into a wall may gain temporary compliance, but they won’t have changed their opinion. They’ll just have learned to keep quiet while they figure out how to turn the tables, giving you as little warning as possible.

This, folks, is how we got Trump. Considering the immense and immediate backlash awaiting anyone who dares say something unpopular, is it any surprise that a great many voters kept quiet about their intentions until they got the chance to vote for someone who, regardless of his faults and positions, refused to be swayed by the backlash against him? Is it any surprise no one knew it was even possible for him to win until the actual votes were counted?

You don’t force unpopular ideas out of existence. You force them underground. You force those who espouse those ideas to grow more resistant. Out of sight and out of mind is not synonymous with “safe.” Quite the contrary.

Unfortunately for our lazy, instant-gratification culture, changing hearts and minds means taking the time to get to know and understand the heart and mind to be changed. It means loving them in spite of their contrary notions until they gain enough respect for you that they begin to listen to you, to come to understand your heart and mind. Even then you still might not change their mind.

But you might actually find a middle ground you can both occupy safely and satisfactorily. And if you don’t believe that’s possible, then perhaps you’re the one whose heart and mind needs to change.

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The little kid inside

Kristina Kuzmic has an effective video about the things we tell ourselves:

As Michael McLean says, we should be more gentle with ourselves.

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Es ist ein Ros entsprungen

More Christmas music, because…Christmas music!

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The Wexford Carol – 2017

I posted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of The Wexford Carol this time last year, and it remains one of my favorite carols, perhaps partly because it’s not a common (and thus overexposed) carol. Since then I found another version that is every bit as hauntingly beautiful.

Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma will tingle your spine in new ways:

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If there’s one thing the current rash of sexual harassment/assault allegations against public figures has revealed it’s that there is an accountability gap. On one hand we have people like Weinstein, Spacey, Lauer, Rose and the numerous lesser entertainment and business officials. They’ve all pretty much lost their jobs.

Then we have the politicians: Trump, Conyers, Moore and Franken. They’re all still in their jobs or favored to win the position for which they’re running. Why is that?

I believe the bottom line is that the first group all have clearly defined accountability–people who are directly responsible for the accused’s employment. These people have the power to investigate and to make the call on whether these people should remain employed. They decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the accused.

The latter group also have accountability, at least in theory. The trouble is “the voters” is rather vague. In two of those cases these people were in the process of running for office when allegations materialized. Despite the outrage there is no one but them who can decide to not run. Short of a recall election there is no way to force those already in office out, and I’m not certain that allegations alone can force that. It may require actual criminal charges. Has any of the accusers gone that far?

In the case of Franken, last I heard a poll of his actual constituents believe he should resign. He’s not resigning. In short, he–and the rest of them–are attempting the usual Potomac Two-Step we’ve come to expect from our political class: ignore the problem and rely on the public’s short-term memory to turn elsewhere. And I suspect it will work. They don’t really see themselves as working for their constituents. They don’t really even answer to their party. They answer only to themselves.

Part of the problem is partisanship. Both sides of the aisle will claim to abhor sexual harassment/assault and feel it an offense worthy of losing office. But the depth of that abhorrence varies dramatically depending on whether the politician in question is on the other side or one of their own. More important than discouraging bad behavior is retaining power. They’ll decry and wring their hands, but they won’t actually do anything when its one of their own.

Elections have consequences, but only if voters remember and set aside partisanship.

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Serious side

Victor Borge was renown for his musical comedy; he was a comic genius. But what people often forget that he also played piano incredibly well. I found this clip the other day; I came expecting comedy and got a moment of incredible beauty.

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World Series 2017 – So long and thanks

Perhaps it’s some form of Stockholm Syndrome but, while I wanted the Houston Astros to win, I didn’t want the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose. This is the first World Series I’ve watched the entire way (I missed one game), and when I spend that much time with two teams like that I start to relate to both sides.

My heart aches for Yu Darvish. The man showed a great deal of class after the Yuli Gurriel gesture incident in Game 3, and he’s an excellent pitcher. Giving up five runs in two innings was heartbreaking. His teammates tried to make up for it–and in previous games they had proven it could be done–but it just wasn’t happening this time.

Clayton Kershaw was awesome, and fun to watch. Kenley Jansen, who looked like he belonged in shoulder pads more than a baseball cap, was annoyingly good.

I cringed every time Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig came up in the lineup. They proved time and again that they were capable of blowing a game wide open. Cody Bellinger was hot on defense, and had moments of brilliance at bat. Unfortunately he’ll likely be remembered for his record-setting strikeouts at the plate. He deserves better than that.

The Dodgers were a great team. Fans love to hate them, but they earned everything they got this season. They fought hard. The beat our beloved Cubs. They nearly beat the Astros. The stats in Game 7 showed a much tighter game than the scoreboard did. They out-hit the Astros. They had 11 runners in scoring position during the game. They hit out more often than they struck out.  They weren’t conceding the game. They just ran out of luck.

I had expected a closer Game 7, perhaps even hoped for it. I was half-prepared for the Astros to lose, even though they had a pattern of winning the next game after every loss to the Dodgers. While my blood pressure doesn’t mind it was a less stressful game for Astros fans, I knew we couldn’t declare it over until that last out–the Dodgers are just that good. Even my wife, who had vowed to go to bed, watched all the way through.

I’m glad it didn’t turn into a post-midnight stress-fest like the Cubs-Indians Game 7 last year. I’m glad our team won. Our family is now two-for-two in World Series support–like that means anything. (But you can’t be sure, so next year we can be paid to support the team of your choice.)

The Astros are easy to like. George Springer always made things exciting. Jose Altuve looked like he was having the time of his life–and we short people of the world have found our champion! Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Marwin Gonzales were solid on both sides of the inning. Brian McCann was almost lovable with his slow, lumbering gait around the bases, and remained sharp behind the plate where his size was an advantage.

While it was the Dodgers’ pitching staff the announcers were most excited by, the Astros pitchers were getting it done, and generally more efficiently. Stars like Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander were fun to watch, as expected, but Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and Charlie Morton were fantastic when they were in the groove–and they were in the groove at some very key moments. Morton bears most of the credit for Game 7 being as dull as it was, keeping his cool and holding the Dodgers scoreless for the last three innings–the point where the Dodgers were often at their most explosive.

I can’t say enough about A.J. Hinch, the Astros’ manager. It shouldn’t seem all that special to know your players and trust them to come through, but compared to the Dodgers, he was a sea of calm. He left pitchers in when they were doing well, something Dave Roberts seemed less willing to do. It didn’t always pay off for the Astros, but I believe it was one of the keys to the Astros still having enough in the tank to outlast the Dodgers.

At the end of the day–or the series–it was a great series, with lots of everything we love about baseball. Both teams fought hard. Both deserved to win. One came out the winner, and I’m glad it was the team we backed, but there was much to love about the other team who made the winners look so heroic.

Thank you–all of you–for a really fun series! Best of luck for next year.

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Journalistic prose

Journalism isn’t supposed to capture emotion. It’s supposed to relate the facts and let the reader decide what the emotional response should be. While this may be questionable assertion these days, the definite exception to this is sports writing, and this Joe Posnanski summation of Game Two of the 2017 World Series may be one of the finest examples I’ve read. I was watching that game, and reading this brought it all back.

It’s also a fine example of structure and narrative, interspersing the chronological action with the details of the final at-bat of the game. And, as he says, it was that kind of game–one in which anything could happen, and already had, multiple times.

Here’s a sample:

The tension was impossible. In the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers surely seemed out of miracles. Two of their best hitters — Corey Seager and Justin Turner — lined out against Devenski. With two outs, light-hitting utility infielder Charlie Culberson stepped up. There wasn’t much to dream about in this situation. Culberson had hit one big league home run in the past three years. (It was a walk-off home run that clinched the division and was simultaneously Vin Scully’s final call at Dodger Stadium, so we can’t say Culberson isn’t capable of some magic.)

That’s fine writing. You can almost hear the musical soundtrack. It’s straight-to-the-big-screen storytelling.

And it was that kind of game.

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Now THAT is epic

A group in Canada have been playing D&D consistently together for 35 years:

The game takes place on what Wardhaugh describes as an “alternate version of our Earth” which also includes the continent of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, picking up 400 years after the destruction of the One Ring. The campaign has remarkably been near-continuous for 35 years. “Perhaps 3 weeks has been the longest we’ve ever gone” without a session, Wardhaugh says.

I’m in a group that’s been playing for at least fifteen, and even we have gone longer than three weeks without a session. Granted, when I moved it took us a while to sort out the logistics of how to DM a game from 300 miles away, but even then…

Never underestimate the power of storytelling.

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