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My shameless plug for science fiction
Here’s the lesson. Stick the landing. I enjoyed Jurassic World from the beginning, the middle, and the end. We moviegoers know what we want, and we know what we like. Movie makers often appreciate that, meaning us. Infinity War didn’t deliver. If you doubt that just check any source of viewer responses.
I don’t care about the setup for your sequel. You can give an audience an enjoyable ending and still setup the sequel at the same time. Infinity War is a comic, so I guess it falls into the category of fantasy. And don’t assume I have anything against fantasy. Bilbo and Frodo are all that and a bag of chips. Jurassic World is science fiction. I think that matters.
By developing a taste for science fiction you are enabling yourself to contemplate important issues of the day. You can engage your curiosity. You can form ethical arguments. You begin to think and act in a way that determines your future, and you can do good things for someone following in your footsteps. Science fiction perpetually compares the now with the what if. It asks this question. What would happen if we had the ability to do such and such? History has taught us that the less prepared we are for advances in technology, the more bad decisions we suffer from. Remember DDT? Shouldn’t we commit the time to consider the harm of new abilities before we make ourselves too vulnerable? Science fiction has proven to be one of the most reliable tools we have to engage in the debate.
The science in Jurassic World is cloning. Genetically modified organisms, otherwise know as dinosaurs, are brought to life by combining original ‘dino’ DNA with other animals’ filling in the missing pieces. In a fairly frightening manner, the movie weighs the possible outcomes of producing genetically modified animals for profit. I’ll borrow from one of my favorite 70’s sci-fi TV shows, the Six Million Dollar Man, which introduced us to the idea of the bionically enhanced human, who’s famous line is “We have the technology. We can make you stronger, faster, better than before.” The antagonists in the film decide to do just that when they investigate the possibility of turning a dinosaur into a military weapon.
Today we are faced with a number of staggering challenges from the technology we now, or very soon will possess. What are the right answers for whether or not we should clone animals, or humans? Who should police the internet? What are the worst consequences for us of the dark web? Can there be rules and punishments for cyber warfare and cyber espionage? Where will unchecked gene research lead us? More good than harm? Will that depend on how careful we are? Who will decide? These are a few of the necessary questions. Turn to your favorite science fiction book or movie to consider the answers.
If you have never appreciated the science fiction genre before, there are many places to go for recommendations. I will offer some suggestions. Here is my Mount Rushmore of authors.
Suggested Science Fiction
Books by or films based on the writing of
Philip K. Dick
Let me give an honorable mention to Neal Stephenson, whose novel Seveneves promises to offer some of the best in science fiction movies to date. Read the book now before the first movie comes out.
I think this sports story is as much about modern American culture than it is about professional sports in general. Pro sports in the U.S. has a significant presence. Many do not pay attention to the major sports, including pro basketball. Those that do have a fanatical attachment. The National Basketball Association – NBA – best of 7 game series championship is underway. The Golden State – AKA Oakland, soon to be housed in San Francisco – Warriors (relocated from Philadelphia in a previous life), have three wins while their opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have zero. The first team to win four games is the champ. On Friday this series may be over and Kevin Durant could be named the MVP of the winning team. If so he will retain his title as NBA finals MVP which he earned last season, his first as a Warrior.
Durant spent his first 9 years with the same franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder (born Seattle SuperSonics). By collective bargaining agreement, Durant was free to sign with any team that could afford to pay him. He chose the team with the best regular season record which had just lost in the championship finals to the Cavaliers.
And he has been harshly and repeatedly criticized for going to the one team that gave him the best chance of winning.
9 years. Kevin Durant lead the league in scoring multiple seasons. Won the regular season MVP one year. Came close to winning the championship once out of those 9 years. Once. Yet the naysayers claim he should have gone to play for Boston or Washington D.C. or stayed in Oklahoma City since these teams were not as good nor did they have as much talent as the Warriors.
Here are the realities. LeBron James is the most talented AKA best player in the league, still in his prime. He left his first team, Cleveland, because he did not win a championship there in 7 years. He created a super team in Miami by joining with a former championship star player Dwayne Wade, and another free agent all-star player Chris Bosh. Four years later, after two championships and seeing the aging Miami roster not good enough to win the championship with him, James went back to Cleveland, but only because they had the best young superstar in the league, Kyrie Irving, and traded for the top rebounding forward in the league, Kevin Love.
Because of those decisions, James has been in the championship finals 8 years straight. There is no doubt that James and the Cavaliers would have won the championship last year and certainly had a better chance this year without the presence of Durant on the Warriors. So then, here is your argument. When the best player can’t win the championship organically, it is more acceptable for him to manufacture a team good enough to win because he’s the best player. But if someone else does the same thing, they should be criticized as being much worse.
History tells us that only once has the best player regularly been on the championship team. Remember Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? They did it 6 times. That is the only time we’ve seen it.
LeBron James doesn’t need your help. If he wants to be on a better team than Golden State’s believe me he will find one this summer and leave Cleveland like HE DID LAST TIME.
Let’s point this fact out for the critics. You blame Durant for going to a team that just came from behind to win 4 games to 3 in the semifinals against a team that lost one of its best players to injury during the series. Yes. The Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors in the previous round of the playoffs had Chris Paul been able to play the last two games. They only needed to win one. For the sake of all the critics, I hope Durant wins at least two more championships in addition to this year. I hope you just burn with anger and frustration because Durant did what you would never have done. RIIIIGHT
How dare you criticize Durant for going to Golden State because he wants to win? He would have lost anywhere else. This, in a league where his own team left Seattle and took Durant with them to Oklahoma City, just for more money. The same league where another team left New Orleans to land in Charlotte, for more money. Wait. The Los Angles Clippers moved from San Diego, after moving from Buffalo, for more money. There is more. Much more. The Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City moved from New Orleans too! No, jazz is not associated with Utah.
When Durant leaves one team for another he only leaves the fans of that team behind. They still have a team of players to root for. When those teams left town, the fans were left with nothing. Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and northern New Jersey have no team to watch anymore. But you want to rant about Kevin Durant. Spare us your self righteousness judgment. Durant won’t miss it.
An item indispensable in its potential to insure the safety of the officer and resolve incidents with people in the field to satisfaction is the officer’s tongue. The words used, when and how they are delivered, the tone of voice, body language, and eye contact are all part of the package. This verbal judo is the most powerful weapon that can be yielded because it has the capability of saving lives without taking lives.
Like all complex tools, it has to be employed in combination to work effectively. An officer must combine verbal skills with training, experience, and problem solving abilities so that each individual circumstance can be given the unique approach it deserves. No two people are alike, and no police encounter is identical, regardless of the similarities or the appearance of ‘routine’ that might imply otherwise.
Most encounters involve persons who are being reactive, they are responding to the actions of the officer. We are not talking about most situations. We have to approach it from the point of view of all situations. Therefore an officer must be objective and avoid making assumptions. This allows for flexibility, so that you can adjust quickly to whatever occurs. One method is for the officer to put themselves in the position of the person they are contacting. “What would I be thinking in this situation?” “What would I do under these circumstances?”
Officers make thousands of public contacts. Overtime they have catalogued a large volume of experiences with criminals whom they have investigated. So in a interaction involving suspected criminal activity, you could substitute the former examples with “What would a person committing a crime be thinking in this situation?” “What might that person do under the circumstances?”
Officers who avail themselves of these techniques are often willing and able to use words as a tool to disarm a potentially threatening contact, to catch someone off balance, to discern whether or not physical force is required. And if physical force is not required, choose a different tact.
One of the things an officer has to prepare for is the mentality of the person who is thinking in the following pattern. Why is the officer talking to me that way? Is he trying to intimidate me? Who does he think I am? Who does he think he is? Why is he being so pushy? Where is the rude attitude coming from? The good news is that the officer can be prepared, and can prevent this person from having a negative interaction.
One final point. Everyday people can have bad days. They can be generally unpleasant. Officers see that and learn to compensate. By the same token, officers can have bad days. Some can be generally unpleasant. Let’s not excuse either of those behaviors. Because those officers find themselves all too often in situations that go bad, and everybody loses when that happens.
Can you remember your first motion picture? For me, I don’t so much remember the first one I ever saw, but the first one that I remember seeing. Alfie, starring Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. I imagine that I was younger than the age when most remember their first movie. Perhaps you really had no exposure to them so you waited until you were older.
If movie going was a family thing for you then as a kid you didn’t have a say, did you? One thing I attribute my love for films to is that early on I saw so many of those classics of the 1960s. We lived in Alaska when the entire television broadcast consisted of one black and white channel. As chance would have it, one of my father’s duties was to operate the projector for the theater at the local naval base. I tagged along and got to watch whatever motion picture he was shipped to screen. For a kid to have free run of an empty auditorium is a special kind of adventure. Arriving early, I’d wander around indulging my fantasies unsupervised, while dad maneuvered the heavy metal film canisters, removed the massive cellulose reels, and threaded rolls of it through the machinery with surgical precision. Of course, one of my responsibilities was to police the seemingly razor sharp edged empties.
My impressions were memorable. Michael Caine could command a scene like few others, the charisma that has powered one of the most prolific careers in the industry was easy to see back then. The movies from 1966 were memorable for me and I treasure their artistry with a special place for the magic that I – among many – credit to them. Nevada Smith has that status. There is no better film for showing the talent that Steve McQueen possessed. His hero epitomized the essence of the revenge plot. The story portrays racial conflicts from an individual perspective, allowing the viewer to appreciate the reasons why how we treat each other matters.
My favorite western from that year is not The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, because it doesn’t capture the America of my imagination, in spite of Clint Eastwood’s machismo. The Rare Breed and James Stewart do. Depth of feeling is one way to judge a film, as a standard to assess quality. I did cry watching it. And I cried watching Born Free. More than once. But I laughed too. Though not while watching Born Free, watching The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. The masters of the art know it is more the facial expression, the body control, in concert with lines spoken, that capture funny. Don Knotts, his comic genius on full display, may not have garnered the full recognition warranted for his performances. Watch it yourself, and dare to disagree with me.
One last thing. In case you were wondering, one of my first movie memories WAS seeing Bambi on the big screen.
Part 1 of a 4 part series on baseball, culture and social change
Much has been written about the pastime of baseball and the connection that it has to national culture. I will endeavor to add to the discourse.
I appreciate both participatory and spectator sports, I know many people might not share such passions. Of sports, baseball, for me, singularly stands above all the others. My experience is that if you play baseball, you learn its pleasures, which to the uninitiated, may be impossible to describe. You also know that a baseball player is simultaneously a spectator. In the dugout, awaiting your turn at bat, you watch the action, as the ramifications of what takes place will impact your potential contributions to the game. On defense, in the field, you’re found waiting and watching plays that you aren’t directly involved in. Eight position players watch the confrontation between pitcher and batter, prepared to spring in to action in a split second.
Major League Baseball, for many, offers the best of what the sport has to offer. It has the best practitioners, the best facilities, concessions, and perhaps the best atmosphere. One reason the sport as a whole and MLB in particular have been significantly woven into the fabric of our culture is that it has evolved alongside modern American history from the time of its earliest introduction in the 1800s.
Here let’s touch on slavery.
Some would argue that slavery has been in existence in various forms throughout human history. I would argue for the premise that an aspect of slavery exists within a symbiotic relationship. The slave and slaveowner share a commonality. The lives of both slave and slaveowner are closely connected. They have a shared priority, that being the quality of life of the slaveowner. Wrong or right, for worse or for better, there are potentially more damaging things than slavery. “Racial” segregation is one.
Slavery has as a fundamental characteristic, the role of status. The single dividing aspect between slave and slaveowner is social status. Remove status, and you are left with equals. I will not assert that people are basically equal, but I offer this fact, all people can be treated as equals. “Racial” segregation, on the other hand has no such purity, for it assumes people are different, and by implication are not equal, therefore should not be treated equally. It also assumes that these “different” people prefer to be separated from those who are “different” from them and integrated with those who are not.
Here is where it is not equal by any measure. Segregation means you will have no part of my life. I will have no part of your life. You are denied the experience of everything that I contribute to our culture, and I am deprived of everything you and your’s contribute. To the extent that people are not equal, winners and losers are born out of the denial of access that segregation causes. What is the implication in the difference created with segregation? If you are a slave you have value to the slaveowner’s life. If you are part of a segregated “race” you have no such value whatever. By extension you are of no value. If anything, you are a detriment. Welcome to my neighborhood. Segregation was the flawed solution to our post-slave society.
Back to baseball.
Our sport existed for a time in a state of separate organized competitive leagues. There were Negro leagues because baseball was completely segregated well into the 20th Century. MLB is a prosperous multi billion dollar industry today. The Negro leagues collapsed long before the first African American player was allowed into MLB in 1947. The success of professional baseball relative to other forms of entertainment is often underestimated.
The prosperity of the nation has parallels to the expansion of professional baseball. Thirty cities house major league franchises. That is double the number of the original 1876 league of clubs. There are close to 240 minor league professional teams. Their existence allows the profession to permeate throughout the country in the small towns and communities which lack the population density to fill 50,000 plus seat stadiums 81 days each year. Revenue is generated from live attendance of games at every level. Concessions, souvenirs/memorabilia (including licensing and merchandising of same), advertising, and broadcast media involve an almost exponential income stream. Forbes estimates the current value of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise at $3 billion.
The first modern renaissance of the segregated MLB was highlighted by the career of home run champion George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth who’s 1927 New York Yankees are considered by many to be the greatest team of all time. Flash back to the the economic frivolity of the 1920’s, which culminated with the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, signaling the beginnings of the Great Depression.
Fast forward through three wars and several economic and political crises to arrive at perhaps the historical peak of the sport. The integrated MLB of the 1980s decade not only had the best American players but a significant number from foreign countries. By the end of the decade close to 15% of the player pool was foreign born. 1993 reached a significant demographic milestone when the percentage of foreign players equaled that of African American players. Today, 228 players from 13 different countries comprise 27% of the league. While the number of African Americans has decreased to 68 players, less than 8%. In part two of this series, I will discuss some of the theories for these numbers and try to determine what role segregation played, if any.
What do you think about the message of Tomorrowland?