Who is the Most Annoying Vicar in Grantchester?

Grantchester

Eh gads, but I’m thoroughly fed up with this show they call Grantchester. If it wasn’t for Leonard and the fact there’s nothing else to watch on Sunday nights; Sidney and Will would have driven me off long ago.

So, I put it to you, my audience. Who do you hate more, Sidney or Will? There will be a poll at the end of this blog. I remind you, casting your vote for Sidney or Will is not saying you like the other one. How could anyone like either of them?

Sidney’s Many Failings

Who could possible imagine I might yearn for the days of an almost psychopathic vicar who promised his girlfriend he’d leave the priesthood and marry her and then, an hour later, left her, waiting without so much as a note, at the door for a ride that never came.

Oh, Sidney, you were a liar, that much is certainly true. Filled with self-pity so much that it shot out your anus and your ears like a barrage of cannons. Every moment you came on the screen with your whining and crying about God having abandoned you, of not having love, of being bored with the religious life made me want to punch you all the more.

I’m not a religious man but I like to think if I was so, I’d rather have an aloof cat tend to my spiritual needs. If running away from your problems was a virtue, Sidney might be a Saint.

Ah, Sidney, you are not missed in Grantchester, not by me at least.

When will Will sigh sadly Again?

Probably in the next scene. Will sighs a lot. Everything about the new, chronically sad Vicar of Grantchester is awful. Life is miserable unless he’s banging whichever skirt happens to cross his path while guzzling whiskey like lemonade and smoking a pack a day. What a fine example you are for Grantchester.

Oh, sigh. Something happened. Sigh. Isn’t it awful? Sigh. I’m going to go sit and feel sorry for myself for a while. Go on and solve the case yourself. Sigh. Poor Leonard, it’s not fair. Nothing is fair. I’ve lost the love of my life for the tenth time. Sigh.

Well, Will, I mean, if it’s the tenth time it’s happened, it’s probably not the love of your life.

Gee, Tom, you’re right. Woe is me.

Oh wait, another girl! I’m in love again! I’ll charm her pants off and then find a reason why it’s all really so miserable. Sigh.

Grantchester Poll

You tell me. Who is worse?

Who do you find more Annoying?

View Results

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Conclusion

Sigh.

Tom Liberman

Dark Winds a Bad Ending to a Good Show

Dark Winds

I just finished watching the last episode of the first season of the Dark Winds series on AMC and came away more than a little disappointed. Endings. They’re important.

Dark Winds is six-part series set in the 1970s which follows tribal police officer Joe Leaphorn as he attempts to solve both a bank robbery and a murder on the Navajo reservation. I very much enjoyed the show’s first four episodes although came away moderately disappointed after the fifth episode. It was the final episode that really left a bad taste in my mouth.

Let’s get into it.

Dark Winds Plot

The plot of Dark Winds revolves around Joe Leaphorn in his attempts to solve both the murders and bank robbery. The bank robbers escaped by helicopter onto Navajo lands and that puts the onus on Leaphorn to solve the crime. Meanwhile, the murders, while occurring on Navajo land, count as federal crimes meaning the FBI has jurisdiction.

The relationship between Leaphorn, played ably by Zahn McClarnon, and belligerent FBI Agent Noah Emmerich, played with great aplomb by Noah Emmerich, is key to the investigative part of the story. Emmerlich inserts a spy into the tribal police force to help solve the investigation but Leaphorn quickly figures it out and enlists Jim Chee, played by Kiowa Gordon, as an ally.

The Plot Isn’t the Story

Dark Winds does an excellent job, at least until the final episode, of telling a story and using the plot to drive it. The real stories are the death of Leaphorn’s son in an explosion at a refinery on the land and the general mistreatment of the Navajo people by the United States government.

Sure, the murders and the bank robbery drive much of the action but the real story is far more interesting. A young, pregnant Navajo girl is saved from forced sterilization by Leaphorn’s wife, a nurse at the hospital. Forced sterilization on Native Americans is just one of many shameful parts of United States history.

In addition, the Navajo activist who committed the bank robbery was the victim of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of teachers, priests, and nuns at boarding schools children were forced to attend away from their parents. The tormented Hoski, played by Jeremiah Bitsui, carries out his criminal acts largely as vengeance for both his own mistreatment and that of his people.

The dovetailing of Hoski’s storyline of rage and Leaphorn’s own grief over the loss of his son is the real story here. It’s a tale of anger and an inability to let go of hate. A path both Leaphorn and Hoski share at the beginning of the series.

The real stories of Dark Winds are told at a leisurely pace and we see them slowly unfold as we get to know the interesting characters. It draws us in and holds us.

The Last Episode of Dark Winds

Then, in the later part of the penultimate episode and the entirety of the final episode, all the good work is abandoned with a ridiculous series of events, stunning coincidences, and one action scene after the next. It’s just a mess and the various characters act in inexplicable fashion. I’m not going to get into it all including the strange addition of the Mormon family hostages, it’s too much.

It’s all a setup for an intense scene between Leaphorn and Hoski. Hoski realizes all his rage has done nothing to help, on the contrary has caused more harm, more pain. Leaphorn ostensibly tries to convince Hoski to let go of the rage, go to prison, accept responsibility for his actions. In reality, Leaphorn is talking to himself, telling himself to let go of the anger over his son’s death.

Conclusion

The final confrontation between Leaphorn and Hoski is fine as is the denouement when Leaphorn finally releases his anger.

It’s everything in the last episode or so that leads up to that final which fails. These sorts of action scenes are what a lot of people want and I suspect many, if not most, people will enjoy the action-adventure end to the season. I did not.

I think everything might have led to the soul-searching climax with far fewer complications and a simpler story line. The finale left me deeply disappointed. All the good from the first four plus episodes was tainted.

That being said, the series is good and worth watching.

Tom Liberman

Ideology over Reality and the Great Depression

Ideology over Reality

A recent Facebook spat of mine involving the Great Depression reminded me of the concept of ideology over reality. It’s not a big deal but it did strike me as something to discuss in a blog.

Basically, in a reply to one of my posts, a fellow with absolute certainty posited that the Great Depression would have lasted only a few months but President Franklin Roosevelt intentionally extended it to promote a socialist ideology.

It’s also important to understand my original reply had nothing to do with Roosevelt or the Great Depression. It was merely a comment about the Federal Reserve.

The Simple Problem

The simple problem with the stated post is that Roosevelt took office some three years after the Great Depression started. This is ideology over reality.

Do I think the person who made the statement is lying? No, I don’t. I think that person absolutely believes what they are saying. That person likely heard it from some factually unsound individual and believed it because it fit his world view. I didn’t even bother replying because there is just no point. When ideology over reality takes over a mind, for many people it seems almost impossible to go back.

The Original Thread

The original post I commented on involved a historical article about Andrew Jackson and his veto of the Second Bank of the United States. Someone else commented that between then and the establishment of the Federal Reserve, there were a series of economic panics and that, perhaps, Jackson’s veto, had drawbacks.

Ideology over Reality

In any case, that’s not really the point of my blog today. I understand Confirmation Bias and I’ve written about it before. Ideology over reality is becoming disturbing. The reply about the Great Depression was one of several I received on the issue. Not a single reply addressed my point in any way. They all spoke about nebulously related concepts, topics that met with the ideology of the person writing.

Conclusion

A growing number of people seem to just not care about reality. Ideology is first, last, and only. Facts simply don’t matter. Reality is irrelevant. What’s important is simple ideology. My ideology is right. Everything about it is right. There is no room for debate. There are no complex topics. It’s all simple, straightforward, easy. I’m smart, you’re stupid. Your way will lead to my destruction and I must stop you by any means possible.

Anyone who agrees with my ideology is always right. Anyone who disagrees with my ideology is always wrong. When a threshold percent of the population succumbs to this way of thinking, we can no longer coexist with one another in a peaceful way. We haven’t reached that threshold yet. Hopefully, we never will.

Think logically, not ideologically.

Tom Liberman

Sarah Michelle Gellar and McDonalds Misleading Headline

Sarah Michelle Gellar

It’s been a while since I’ve added to my Misleading Headline category but a story regarding Sarah Michelle Gellar and a lifetime ban at McDonalds rises to the occasion.

Matthew Thomas of the TheThings must be proud of sheer stupidity of this misleading headline and article. I read a lot of stories and I rarely encounter anything this incredibly illogical and stupid. I urge you to read the entire article, not just the incredibly misleading headline.

I’ll go ahead and give you quick summary of the abject stupidity presented here.

Burger King Commercial

As a child actress, Sarah Michell Gellar featured in a Burger King commercial. One of her lines included a claim that McDonalds hamburgers contained twenty-percent less beef than Burger King burgers. Following along so far?

McDonalds Sues

McDonalds then filed a lawsuit over this commercial and apparently Sarah Michell Gellar was named somewhere in the suit. She confirmed as much when asked about being sued by McDonalds when walking down the street one day. Proof positive, obviously.

Let’s Ignore the Fact Checker without any Facts

Thomas then goes on to link an article from the Huffington Post that debunks the claim Sarah Michelle Gellar was banned from McDonalds. Ok, seems reasonable so far. Then Thomas goes on to write “Despite the aforementioned fact check …” and what follows is utter gibberish.

Thomas posits because McDonalds apparently did file a lawsuit in the case, it stands to reason that maybe they also banned five-year-old Sarah Michell Gellar for life. I mean, just follow the logic, right? If they are willing to file the lawsuit then why wouldn’t they ban her for life? That’s it. That’s the entire train of logic from beginning to end.

Birds can fly so it’s perfectly logical there are birds on the moon being hidden by NASA because the earth is flat or something.

Anything is Possible

The stupidity of Thomas is based on the idea anything is possible. I wrote a lengthy blog on how the Egyptian Pyramids were built which discusses this concept in depth. Just because anything is possible doesn’t mean that the highly unlikely things are just as possible as the obviously possible things.

First off, how would McDonalds go about enforcing such a ban? I haven’t been to McDonalds in a long time but as I remember, no on checks identification before you order. Suffice it to say that such a ban is clearly impossible to enforce.

Conclusion

This headline is ridiculous and clearly false. The story that supports the headline is such an illogical mess of writing that it boggles the mind.

Tom Liberman

Endeavour Series Eight Trying too Hard

Endeavour

I just finished watching the final episode of the eighth series of Endeavour and came away mightily disappointed. Not that the mystery was terrible or anything but it failed to meet its normally high standards.

I’m aware this relatively negative review will not be popular with fans of Endeavour and of Morse shows in general. That being said, I call them like I see them and this season failed for a number of important reasons.

The Mystery

I’ve written in other places on the criteria I use when evaluating the objective quality of a show but a mystery show is slightly different. An important factor in a mystery is giving the audience a reasonable chance to solve the riddle before the conclusion. Too often in mysteries the writers make it so convoluted and confusing the audience never has a chance to figure it out.

In the three episodes of this series, only the first gives the audience even a semblance of chance to figure out the mystery. The second episode of Endeavour involved clock hands matching semaphore signals which spell the Welsh version of an important character’s name. Um, our chances of figuring that out? Zero percent seems high. The third was such a convoluted mess they spent twenty minutes explaining who did it and why and I’m still confused.

I found the mysteries too clever by far and this largely ruined the season for me. Particular the third episode, which tried to be Silence of the Lambs meets Halloween meets A Beautiful Mind, left me baffled, bored, and incredulous.

It’s my opinion the Endeavour audience doesn’t need all this nonsense. Give us a reasonable mystery and let the wonderful characters carry the story.

All the Rest

Everything else in Endeavour is up to par. The acting is excellent. The sets are great. The costumes are period and convincing. The cinematography is solid although I thought they got a little too fancy at times trying to be stylish.

Missing Son

The third episode included a lengthy side story involving Thursday’s missing son. I strongly suspect it is a lead-in to what will be the main storyline of series nine. It also allowed Thursday’s wife to have her meltdown which I guess was dramatic acting or something.

That being said, it was way, way too much. It took away from the episode and no investigation or even explanation occurred. It was just there. This really took time away from what was already a mind-boggler of an episode. Nothing forwarded the story.

I get what they are trying to do, or at least I think I get it. My problem is a much simpler way to handle the situation existed. Just a scene where the army calls looking for the son. Something simple, don’t get into details or even have it known that he’s missing. Just a quick setup.

Conclusion

The character of Morse, both older and younger, is well-established and interesting. He and his co-workers are good enough for an interesting episode. All I need is a reasonable mystery around them and I’m happy. This series of Endeavour just tried way too hard to be far more than it needed to be.

Hotel Portofino Two Episode Early Review

Hotel Portofino

I watched the second episode of Hotel Portofino on PBS and I’m ready to give my preliminary review of the six-episode series. When I write a review, I try to take into account a lot of the things that make it objectively better or worse. Absolute good or bad is difficult to assign because there are many parts to a show and Hotel Portofino definitely has a duality to it.

Hotel Portofino tells the story of an English woman running a hotel in Italy in the early 1920’s when Mussolini first comes to power. It focuses on Bella Ainsworth and her immediate family including a war-traumatized son, a daughter with a young child, and a wayward husband. We also get to meet a wide variety of guests.

So, is it good? To quote my favorite YouTube lawyer, it depends.

Acting in Hotel Portofino

The acting is generally solid and often excellent. Natascha McElhone is strong in the lead and is generally supported well by a large cast including her scheming husband Cecil played by Mark Umbers. I don’t have any problems with the acting in the show.

Sets and Costumes in Hotel Portofino

This is where the show is truly outstanding. Everything in the hotel, the scrumptious surrounding countryside, the fancy cars, and the wonderful costumes are spot on. Details in the scenes are excellent with every room of the hotel looking lived in and real.

The costumes also appear period to my eyes and wonderful. Everyone is dressed the part and I’m immersed in the world of Italy.

Writing and Dialog in Hotel Portofino

The writing and dialog are largely good although there is the never-ending problem of British actors portraying citizens of the United States. It’s a real problem but I’m not sure I can really blame that on anyone. If you’re a fan of period pieces on PBS you’ll have noted this yourself and I need not elaborate.

Story and Structure in Portofino

Here’s where all the good comes to a screeching halt. There are far too many characters, far too many story lines, and the structure of the episodes have no central support. We meet character after character in the first episode and it’s impossible to tell one from the other after a while. We meet even more guests in the second episode.

Scene after unrelated scenes spawns on the screen, often without any linear sense of story or structure. The nanny suddenly finds the son attractive out of nowhere. The food deliveries stop for no apparent reason. Is the American an art critic or a CIA agent? What’s up with his yoga practicing wife? The young waiter is an anti-fascist suddenly? I’m totally confused.

The writers don’t trust us with any information and its impossible to figure out what’s going on with all the plots. A good example of this is the local fascist blackmailing Bella over a letter. The contents of the letter? A complete mystery. The American’s real goal? A mystery. The nanny’s personal tragedy? A mystery.

The first two episode had no central support. Like the Gilded Age, we just got scene after scene, plot line after plot line but nothing to hold it all together.

In the second episode the cutting off of food deliveries might have brought the story together. Perhaps the staff all heads out, fishing, scavenging, finding friends, and bringing the entire story together. Instead, we spent forever on a scene painting when we learn, out of nowhere, the nanny has talent as an artist.

Conclusion

If you like beautiful scenery, lovely costumes, good acting, and you don’t particularly care to try and follow a mind-numbing number of plots with little explanation; this show is for you.

It’s not a bad show by any stretch. I think a tighter structure, more scenes devoted to just a few plots, and fewer characters are required to make it excellent entertainment. In its current state, it’s ok.

Tom Liberman

Irma Vep the Review

Irma Vep

I watched the second episode of Irma Vep on HBO and I’m glad I held off writing a review for a week. There’s a lot going on with this show and a single episode wasn’t enough to write an informed opinion about the show.

A lot of times I’m tempted to immediately wax poetic about a story I read in the news or some event that happened in my life. Often times it’s a great idea to get my thoughts down immediately, fresh, raw. Other times, particularly when the situation is nuanced it is better to wait. In any case, the wait is over, let the review of Irma Vep begin!

What is Irma Vep?

The show is not easy to describe. At its heart, it is about an actor making a film. That actor is Mira Harberg as portrayed by Alicia Vikander. Harberg is coming off a highly successful although soul-murdering role in a super-hero film. She’s now a highly sought-after and successful actor but she’s taken a role in a low-budget vampire film called Irma Vep.

Now comes the difficult part in describing this show. The film is a remake of seven hour long silent-film of the same name. The audience, that’s me, is shuttled back and forth between four different realities. First is Harberg and her life. Second is the making of the film in which she channels the Irma Vep character. Third is the film they are making itself as seen through the director’s eyes while watching the dailies. Finally, is the original silent film with scenes interspersed with the new scenes.

It’s a lot. It’s ambitious. It’s good. I’m really enjoying it and not just for the lurid suggestion of lesbian dominance and submission. Although, I admit, that does pique the old imagination.

The Acting

I’m absolutely loving all the acting. Vikander is delightful as the unfulfilled and spoiled actor trying to broaden her career. Devon Ross as Harberg’s new assistant is quirky and interesting. The old assistant, the vivacious Adria Arjona, is the aforementioned lesbian former love interest.

Particularly outstanding is Vincent Macaigne as Rene Vidal, the psychologically unstable director. His quirky, edgy performance is a thing to behold. His portrayal of the damaged director hoping to pay homage to one of his favorite films is breathtaking. The scene in the second episode where he insists on making it abundantly clear to his psychologist that he masturbated as boy to not Diana Rigg, who he respects as an actor, but to the character of Emma Peel is an absolute delight.

Vincent Lacoste as the insecure actor insisting on changes to the script to secure his fragile ego is marvelous. He doesn’t want to live with his mother who serves him herbal tea at night because it makes him look weak. Vidal tells the insecure actor he has written mom out of the script but she’s actually still in it. The scenes move from rollicking hilarity to brutal insecure honesty. I’m enthralled.

And I haven’t even mentioned Lars Eidinger as the crack-addicted Gottfried, Jeanne Balibar as the set coordinator, Carrie Brownstein as Mira’s agent hoping to lure the star away from the small remake into playing the Silver Surfer!

Structure

The structure of the story is complex, to say the least. We move back and forth between the four stories being told and it gets confusing at times. It’s a silent movie, it’s a real movie, it’s the making of a movie, it’s an actor becoming the character. Be prepared to pay attention.

Conclusion

I’m rather surprised it even got made, let alone picked up by HBO. It’s madcap, it’s mayhem, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s hilarious, it’s erotic, it’s complicated, it’s not for everyone, but it’s for me.

Tom Liberman

Is Monetization in Diablo Immortal Fixable?

Diablo Immortal

There’s a new mobile game on the market called Diablo Immortal and it’s generating a huge amount of hate in the gaming world. Diablo Immortal uses something called monetization as a method to generate revenue.

The game is free to play. Anyone can download it and start playing immediately. The makers of Diablo Immortal, Blizzard Entertainment, use in game purchases, or monetization, to make money. Nearly every gamer agrees the level of monetization in Diablo Immortal is unprecedented and a terrible direction for the industry.

My discussion today involves the idea something can being bad for one group or individual and good for another. Leading to difficult problems which are not easily solved.

What this blog is not about

One of the big arguments for monetization in Diablo Immortal is it’s really just pay-to-play rather than play-to-win. This is not my focus here today.

An argument for the pay-to-win model is that people can simply not pay. Again, not my focus here.
Another group argues that legislation against such predatory games will solve the problem. Again, not my focus.

However, I must cut through all the nonsense before I get to my actual point.

Addictions and Laws

People have addictions. Drugs including alcohol, food, gambling, love, whatever. Addictions exist and Diablo Immortal uses the underlying cause of these addictions to harm people. The game uses a tried and tested method based on dopamine. It works. People will be harmed.

Laws can’t stop it, although they can slow it certainly. If you make something illegal then a black-market arises which is worse than a legal, if predatory, market. Violent criminals gain huge sums of money.

Finally, my point

Diablo Immortal is bad for addictive personalities. It is bad for people who don’t have the time, money, or personal stability to play the game safely.

It is good for players who enjoy the underlying game and have the money, time, and personal stability to play it without trouble. It is obviously good for Blizzard Entertainment if it generates considerable revenue.

Where does that leave us? It’s not as simple as enlightened self-interest. I acknowledge this game will hurt people. I accept that addictions are real and the game taps into them and causes real harm. I fully get the manufacturers know it will cause harm and don’t care. The game won’t hurt me but I am not without empathy. I know it will hurt many people.

How to Fix the Problem

I’m against laws that outlaw such games for a number of reasons. The black-market as discussed above. The fact that many people can and will enjoy Diablo Immortal without negative consequences to their lives. Banning the game punishes those people.

The solution is elusive and difficult, as is often the case.

People who feel empathy for the harm Diablo Immortal will cause to others should not play. People who are against monetization of such games should not play. Friends and family must pay attention to those they love for signs of danger. Financial Institutions can implement notification policies when certain thresholds are met in regards to money issues.

Banning the game is a simple solution but it won’t work in the long run. Harassing the company might work in the short term but someone else will always take their place.

Easy? No. Simple problems have easy solutions. Difficult problems are not easily solved, no matter what an influencer might say. Don’t like my answers? I’m not surprised. Difficult solutions are never popular.

If enough people have critical thinking skills, empathy for the suffering of others, and understand the principles of enlightened self-interest; Diablo Immortal and its ilk will die. Good riddance.

Tom Liberman

We Own this City Review

We own this city

I watched the last episode of We Own this City on HBO and largely enjoyed it. It’s based on a book by Baltimore journalist Justin Fenton and created by David Simon of The Wire fame. It focuses on the Gun Trace Task Force led by Sergeant Wayne Jenkins in Baltimore.

The Wire is a great show about the problems of drugs in Baltimore specifically but all across our nation and, indeed the world. It doesn’t sugarcoat the violence and spares neither the police nor the drug dealers. We Own this City continues in the same manner and I came away discouraged about the world in which we live.

That being said, I think it’s a good show and well-worth watching, particularly by those invested in perpetuating the War on Drugs.

The Premise of We Own this City

The Gun Trace Task Force in Baltimore engaged in criminal activity that resulted in many of its members being given lengthy prison sentences, particular their leader, Jenkins. They stole money, stole and resold drugs, took money from taxpayers for overtime they didn’t actually perform, and engaged in generally despicable and illegal behavior with impunity. Bullying, harassing, assaulting, framing, and otherwise attacking the citizens of Baltimore.

The six-episode mini-series details their behavior in horrifying detail and ends with the sentencing phase of their crimes.

The Quality of We Own this City

The acting, writing, sets, camera work, and everything else in We Own this City is excellent. It’s a slick and well put-together show. It’s a bit jarring seeing actors like Jamie Hector in role-reversal from The Wire but I managed to overcome that eventually.

The biggest problem with the quality of the show is the non-linear time flow. I understand they wanted to start with the arrest of Jenkins but the constant back-and-forth with time made the show difficult to process. They tried to make it easier by having Jon Bernthal, who played Jenkins with frightening aplomb, adjust his facial hair indicating the time frame.

The display of dates on the screen didn’t really help me follow the story. Is this happening before the scene we just saw? After? When is this? Has the previous scene we just watched already happened when we’re watching this scene or is it going to happen later? Very confusing. That’s pretty much my only problem with the show.

Who Watched We Own this City?

I wonder if the target audience of We Own this City actually watched it or is it a case of preaching to the choir. I have no doubt Simon and Fenton are passionate. They well-understand the War on Drugs and the horrors it begat.

The sad truth is the people who will watch this show already understand the problems associated with the War on Drugs. The people who must be convinced of its folly are not going to watch, at least I don’t think so. They don’t want to see beloved police officers turned into nothing more than the single largest criminal enterprise in the history of the world. Hyperbole? No, I’m afraid not. Police are the worst criminals in the United States.

Treat Williams Daggers the Problem

Now, having read the previous paragraph I feel certain you think I’m anti-police. Let me explain why that is not the case.

Treat Williams plays Brian Grabler, a retired officer who understand the real problem. He tries to explain its nature to Wunmi Mosaku. She plays Nicole Steele an attorney from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice department.

Near the end of the last episode, Grabler asks Steele what’s not in the report detailing the many systemic problems in the Baltimore Police Department. What’s not in the report? She doesn’t understand and he must lead her to the answer.

The problem isn’t law enforcement officers. It’s not a legal system willing to stomp the rights of citizens. It’s not the violence on the streets committed by those plying the drug trade and those trying to stop them. It’s not that police departments are completely at odds with the communities they serve, enemies unwilling to cooperate.

The problem is the War on Drugs. It’s the root cause of everything else. Its corrupted our legal system. Its corrupted our police departments. Its corrupted city hall. The War on Drugs hasn’t stopped drugs, its just created an army of amoral criminals. Police officers, lawyers, judges, politicians. All engaged in criminal activity wrapped in good intentions and driven by the money the drug trade creates.

The system forces law enforcement officers to become criminals. Judges to twist the Constitution into a laughable parody of words used to enact that which it is designed to prevent. Politicians to actively work against their constituents.

Conclusion

We Own this City is an excellent show marred by a confusing timeline. It’s also a show that clearly illuminates the errors of the War on Drugs. Sadly, the people who need to understand the root cause of the problem have little interest in fixing it. Those who understand the problem don’t have the power to fix it.

Tom Liberman

Nick Saban and the NIL Kerfuffle

NIL

NIL is making news in the NCAA in a dust-up between Nick Saban, Deion Sanders, and Jimbo Fisher. NIL is an acronym for Name, Image, and Likeness. The state of California passed a law back in 2019 that allowed college athletes, so-called student-athletes, to profit from their NIL. From there a Supreme Court case followed and now the practice is legal and thriving.

Saban accused Jackson State and Texas A&M, coached by Sanders and Fisher respectively, of essentially paying players through NIL manipulation. Sanders and Fisher don’t like the accusation much and counterclaim that Saban is the one who used such methods in the past to get the best recruits.

The NIL Accusation is True

Saban claims coaches like Fisher and Sanders are going to local business leaders and getting them to offer prized recruits NIL deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. This in an attempt to win the recruiting battles which decide winners and losers in the NCAA. The teams that get the best high-school players win more. Full stop, end of story.

Saban is now losing out on some of the best players to Jackson State and Texas A&M. It’s important to understand Saban’s accusation is absolutely correct. Fisher and Sanders, and other coaches including Saban himself, are creating a pool of money contributed by interested business owners and offering it to the most highly sought-after recruits.

What Saban wants with NIL

Saban’s point is giving highly lucrative NIL deals to high-school recruits who have yet to play is a perversion of the system. The NIL is designed to reward the players on the team who become recognizable for their athletic performance.

Saban himself says he has no problems with players like Bryce Young making as much as they can from NIL deals. He believes they earned it with play on the field. Saban wants the NIL deals to be commiserate with the athletic ability of the players.

Saban suggests the current NCAA situation is like a professional sports league without free-agency rules and no salary cap. The team that wants the best players, gets them.

The Reality of the NIL Situation

Nicky-boy, I appreciate what you’re saying, I truly do. I think your intentions are honorable. It’s a lost cause. It’s not only the coaches engineering the payments to boost recruiting. Fit and attractive young women athletes in the NCAA are getting NIL deals at an astounding rate. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to anyone.

One wonders when the next Paige Spiranac will arise on the women’s college golf scene. Whoever she might be, she’s going to make a lot of money playing golf and good for her.

The underlying reality is if someone wants to pay someone, for whatever reason, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so? If an athlete can make a ton of money, make it. They are one play away from a career ending injury. Sure, the coaches of the world might offer the crippled player a job as an assistant water-boy for a couple of years, gee thanks.

Conclusion

It’s a free market economy in college athletics, finally! With a free market comes some bad with the good. As I said, Saban is right. Fisher and Sanders are absolutely engineering NIL deals for recruits in an all-out bidding war.

The teams that pay the most are going to get the best players. But, honestly, how is that different than its been for the last fifty years in the NCAA? The power teams get the best players and win the most games. Saban should understand that better than anyone.

Now, at least, the players get something out of it as well.

Tom Liberman

Depp and Heard are a Billion Dollar Industry

Depp and Heard

Depp and Heard are in the middle of contentious legal battle and it’s a billion dollar industry. I’m conflicted. I’m talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp but I don’t think anyone needs that clarification. Who isn’t cashing in on the Depp and Heard drama?

I’m conflicted about this blog. Writing it means I’m part of the legion of Depp and Heard opportunists. Am I expressing genuine thoughts here or do I just want clicks and eyes on my blog? Maybe this post will go viral and indirectly result in the sale of millions of my novels.

On the other hand, the sheer volume of people trying to cash in on this terrible and tragic story is nauseating. I suppose it’s all moot in the end, you’re reading this and that means I wrote it. Let’s get on with it.

Depp and Heard Trial

The trail is all over the news and I’m not going to expend any time talking about the awfulness of one party versus the other. It’s a terrible tragedy. A marriage gone horribly wrong. Two people whose love turned into an international tragedy and lawsuits.

Cashing In

Who is the big winner in all of this? Not Depp and Heard. It’s mainstream news channels. Alternate news channels. Misogynists, social justice warriors. It’s social media personalities, all the influencers. Even morally bankrupt politicians are trying to garner a few votes by picking sides. Scalpers! Yuck.

Twitch watch parties with some of the biggest streamers. YouTube personalities with millions of subscribers releasing daily videos with sensationalistic titles. Depp this! Heard that! The Big Moment! Twitter is trending Depp and Heard. TikTok. Name a social media outlet and I’ll show you opportunists trying to take advantage of the situation to make some money.

Sick to my Stomach

I’m honestly feeling nauseas just writing this. I’m regretting it. I’m thinking I shouldn’t be doing it just because it means I’m part of the problem. Still, I think it’s important to call out everyone profiting off this situation.

I know this lurid story is interesting and people are genuinely picking sides. That being said, there is no doubt that a YouTube video that suddenly generates millions of watches is a strong motivator to make more such content. A Twitch streamer watching the legal case live with thousands of viewers is cash in the bank. It’s money and its gross money, at least I think so.

Human Nature

People love a train wreck. It’s undeniable. People cheer at the hockey game as much during a fight as they do for a goal. Many people enjoy the lurid, the sensational, the exciting. Depp and Heard is all that. Everyone has an opinion and if they can make some money expressing it, all the better.

I suppose I’m tilting against windmills here, just the same as when I rail against drafting in professional sports.

Conclusion

I think I’ll wrap this up quickly and then go wash my hands. Gross. It’s all so gross.

Tom Liberman

The Stereotype in Religious Beliefs Article

Religious Beliefs

I just read a moderately interesting article about how atheists, agnostics, and Christians are stereotyped in regards to their religious beliefs. The article pretty much confirms anything you’d suspect. Most people stereotype others based on their religious beliefs or lack thereof. That’s not what I’m going to be writing about today.

I want to discuss the extensive comments thread on the article. Now, I didn’t peruse all 1,322 comments on the article but I did scroll down far enough to get a general impression. No one discussed the actual article. People certainly had strong opinions on the religious beliefs of one another and things get quite political at times. As to the study? Nada.

What was the Study?

The study was pretty simple in design. Do people stereotype atheists, agnostics, and Christians differently? The premise being that, generally speaking, people think atheists are more likely to behave in a morally deficient manner. The big difference in this study is that it separated atheists and agnostics rather than grouping them together.

The results were exactly as predicted. Atheists were considered the most likely to behave immorally, followed by agnostics, with Christians being viewed as the least likely to engage in amoral practices.

Exactly what the study expected to find. The authors did some interesting things with the those who filled out the questionnaires by sometimes defining atheism and agnosticism and other times allowing the users to give their opinion without the definitions.

The Results of the Study on Religious Beliefs

To my, atheist mind, it’s a predictable result. It’s exactly what I’d expect. No big deal, study confirms the stereotypes exist and play out pretty much in a standard way.

The Comments

Ah, now we get to the interesting part of the article. The comments. After reading the article, I planned to comment my thoughts that the results pretty much matched expectations of the stereotypes of religious beliefs. No one else seemed to be on the same wavelength.

Not that people didn’t anticipate the results, they just filled the comment sections with more study fodder. Basically, everyone spent their time talking about moral expectations of people based on their religion and political views. I saw much back and forth on the actual definition of atheism and agnosticism. This of course, is exactly what the study was not about.

The study wasn’t about the actual morality of atheists, agnostics, and Christians. It was about stereotypes others have of those group in regard to their likely moral behavior.

It seems no one actually read the article, big surprise there. The atheists, agnostics, and Christians simply listed out their stereotypes of one another and argued about it. I found this humorous. I suspect you, valued readers, are less amused than I.

Conclusion

They needn’t have done the study at all. Just pretend to do the study and post the article. The comment section tells the rest of the story.

Tom Liberman

Greg Norman is the US Congress

Greg Norman

A lot of people are angry that golfer Greg Norman is in bed with Saudi Arabia in regard to a new golf league called LIV. He glossed over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi saying that “We all make mistakes”.

LIV is basically a league funded by money from Saudi Arabia where the biggest names in golf get paid extremely well no matter how they perform. Greg Norman is willing to ignore evil in order to make some money and people don’t like the blatant greed and amorality of this.

Well, readers, I’ve got news for you. Hold on to your hat. Take a seat. Greg Norman is doing nothing worse than our Congress has done for the last fifty plus years. If he’s guilty, so to is our system of government, to its rotten core.

Past Rants

I’ve ranted in the past, sometimes virulently, about how Saudi Arabia is not our friend and yet everyone in Congress gets down on their knees and shoves her or his nose where the sun don’t shine. Did we fly Saudi Arabian royals out of the country after 911 when the rest of our nation was locked down from flying? Yep.

Are we in bed with selling them weapons when they are murdering men, women, children, both born and unborn, in a wholesale slaughter in Yemen? Check.

Were fifteen of the men who attacked the country on 911 from Saudi Arabia? Yep. Is Saudi Arabia in actuality a far bigger cash cow for terrorists than Iran? You betcha.

Do they loan the son-in-law of the former president billions of dollars? No doubt about it.

Money

It’s a sick, disgusting lack of moral and ethical conviction driven by lust for money. Our congress is corrupt to its foundation when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Sure a few members of make noise about cutting them off but it’s the whistling of a parakeet against a hurricane. The Saudi Arabians own your politicians. Own. Don’t give me any partisan nonsense you Democrats and Republicans. You claim the ends justify the means and support murderous, terrorists, whose goal is to destroy the United States of America. You vote for the miserable politicians who justify their behavior with sick logic.

Greg Norman is the Bad Guy?

Yet, despite decades of absolute corruption from your politicians, who wave the American Flag around like they just won World War II, you vote for them time and time again. Greg Norman is the bad guy here? You’re the bad person here! Your representative in Congress is the bad guy here and you voted for her or him. Judges and Justices on the Supreme Court bench are the bad guys here. Our entire system is corrupted in part by money from Saudi Arabia.

You save your outrage for Greg Norman and a golf league while holding it back for your chosen politicians, presidents.

Conclusion

Greg Norman is scum but at least he’s not destroying my country. He’s in bed with murderers and you are too. Save your outrage for the people who deserve it, the people who are making decisions about the future of this country, if it has one.

Tom Liberman

Sanditon Lacked the Deft Touch of Jane Austen

Deft Touch

Season Two of Sanditon wrapped up with a final episode largely lacking a deft touch. The various plot lines largely smashed to the ground with all the force of turkeys dropped from a helicopter. This lack of deft touch runs counter to the general manner in which Jane Austen writes her novel and struck me greatly.

I’m certainly not saying the second season of Sanditon is a disaster. It proved largely watchable and mostly enjoyable. Still, the heavy-handed conclusion to several of the season-long story lines left me somewhat disappointed. Let’s talk about it.

Charlotte, Alexander, and Colonel Lennox

I never felt any real chemistry between Charlotte and Alexander. I found Rose Williams effective in her role of Charlotte but I couldn’t see why she fell in love with Alexander. Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Alexander never really engaged me. He seemed dull and lifeless, which, to be fair, is part of the character as written.

Likewise, Colonel Lennox didn’t strike me as the sort to win Charlotte’s heart. In addition, his portrayal as a scheming villain never resonated for me. Tom Weston-Jones just didn’t make me hate him, or like him much for that matter. He was just sort of there.

Because I never really got invested in the potential love triangle, the ending never tugged at my emotions at all.

The Kids

Honestly, I know one is Leonora but the other one I just can’t remember. Let me look it up, ah, yes, Augusta. Eloise Webb didn’t have a lot to work with and she rotated between hating and adoring Charlotte so often I lost track of it all. I just didn’t really care about either one of the children to be honest and therefore their plight didn’t mean much to me.

Tom Parker and the Money Problems

I did find the money issues involving Sanditon and Tom Parker compelling but the resolution left me completely dissatisfied. I hoped Arthur might come up with some brilliant plan. Instead, a single hand of cards in a game that wasn’t explained solved the issues. The dramatic music played during the game hoped to create tension and suspense but I felt nothing.

It’s a real problem when one of the biggest dramatic moments at the conclusion of a season is confusing and dull. The resolution here left me baffled. This is the best the writers could find?

Miss Lambe and Charles Lockhart

The ending here really turned me off. Alexander Vlahos did a superb job as the brilliant artist, dismissive of society, admiring Miss Lambe. Then, suddenly, with no explanation or foreshadowing, he’s the bad guy. Crystal Clarke as Georgiana also turned in a fine performance. First disdainful of the artist and then succumbing to his charm.

The conclusion largely betrayed everything that came before it. If we’d seen Lockhart revealing his nefarious scheme in any way before the denouement, it might have worked. We didn’t. The twist ending fell quite flat for me at least, the deft touch of Austen completely absent.

Alison, Carter, and Fraser: A Deft Touch at Last

This love story made more sense and the flavor of Austen came through. I believed the innocent and bright-eyed Alison falling for the apparently dashing Captain Carter. Frank Blake as Fraser did a great job portraying his admiration of Alison while displaying loyalty to his friend.

Rosie Graham as Alison and Maxim Ays as Carter also performed admirably in their roles. I found myself invested in this story and when Fraser emerged as the winner of Alison’s heart it made sense.

I was a little put off by Fraser resigning his commission and returning with Alison to a life of farming. A more appropriate ending, in my mind, is Alison joining Fraser in India, traveling the world as the wife of an officer destined for glory. That is a small quibble and this storyline proved more satisfying.

The Nefarious Edward

Absolute applause for Jack Fox in his role as Edward Denham. His performance made this story the most compelling in the series. This is a villain! He perfectly transitioned between scheming miscreant to charmer. I believed him, his plan made sense. He brought Edward Denham to life in a way lacking with Colonel Lennox and Charles Lockhart. A villain is vital to a story and Fox sold me completely.

Lily Sacofsky as Clara, Charlotte Spencer as Esther, and Anne Reid as Lady Denham ably supported and enhanced Fox’s performance. Each of them brought their own nuance to the plot and I believed every second of it. When Clara comes to the realization she’s better off on Team Esther it is apparent and logical. Everything comes together nicely.

Perhaps I found her final decision a bit paradoxical after her speech about the fierceness of her love for the baby, but this is minor.

Conclusion

Sanditon is a decent show and I enjoyed it. Sadly, it lacked the deft touch necessary to bring it home as excellent entertainment. What did you think?

Tom Liberman

Butt Hurt Liberal Politicians Punish Meanie Disney

Liberal Politicians

There’s a small story in the news about the liberal politicians of Florida using their power to punish a corporation for saying mean things about a law they passed. These liberal politicians think it’s the job of government to punish anyone who dares criticize their policies.

In this case a private company, Disney, in a press release criticized some legislation promoted by Governor Ron DeSantis. Little Rwonny was so butt hurt by this criticism that he went crying to his mommy for his binky and a sippy cup of warm milk. Sadly, it was not forthcoming so he set out to use his political power to punish those meanies at Disney.

Only Big Government Liberal Politicians Left

Little Rwonny and his crying liberal politician buddies exactly sum up the condition of politics in the United States of America. As long as it’s your policies being promulgated by an overreaching government, every private citizen must line up in absolute agreement. How dare anyone dare disagree with me, shouted widdle Rwonny as he pouted and threatened to hold his breath. I gonna show them!

Such government overreach is not even questioned in this day and age. It doesn’t matter if it’s democrats mandating a private business must force customers to wear masks or a republican demanding a business cannot do so. It’s all one side of the coin.

The other side of the coin is Libertarian. A business, an individual, a human being can disagree with politicians without fear of repercussions. They have every right to speak their mind without an overreaching, uber-liberal, government threatening their livelihood if they don’t get in line.

Get out of Business

No tax breaks! Stop incentives. No special statuses. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Get government out of our private lives. I want to smoke some weed, wear a mask, fire some guns, and the government shouldn’t have any say in it.

We have an entire profession, lobbyists, built around bribing politicians with fancy dinners and gifts in order to get them to pass laws favorable to my business. Crony Capitalism isn’t rampant, it’s the de-facto form of business we have in this country.

Government officials decide who succeeds and who fails. Our current crop of politicians are completely ingrained in this ideology. They have no idea all that remains is the difference between liberal politicians and uber-liberal politicians.

Authoritarian Citizens

The supporters of both the Republican and Democratic party cheer with wild abandon when government punishes their foes. Yay! That’s awesome they cheer and pat each other on the back. Hopefully they’ll make it legal to shoot my opponents soon!

Then, as soon as the exact same thing happens in a state controlled by the opposite political party they start whining and crying like a two-year old denied access to the chemicals under the sink by a reasonable parent. Wah! So mean. They are mean. I don’t like them. It’s not fair. Boo-hoo. Sob, weep, wail, they are so mean!

Conclusion

You’re all liberals who think it’s the job of government to punish your enemies. Keep it up, destroy the grand experiment of the founding fathers. You deserve what you get.

Tom Liberman

Kitchen Set for Young Boy Causes Controversy

Kitchen Set

An interesting story in the news involves an uncle giving his nephew a fancy kitchen set for his birthday. Apparently, the parents of the lad are quite upset with the gift. They think it’s inappropriate for a boy to get a kitchen set as a present.

Now, we do have to take Reddit posts with a grain of salt. It’s quite possible the person making the post is just trying to stir up trouble. Still, I think it’s a situation worth examining from a Libertarian point of view. Let’s go!

Parental Rights

For a Libertarian it comes down to Parental Rights. There’s a lot in the news about Parental Rights and, as usual, there is no consistency in the established parties. When it comes to math questions it seems the Republicans are all about Parental Rights and Democrats are against them. When it comes to certain medical procedures then it’s completely reversed. Republican’s think the state knows better for the child than the parents while Democrats think, rightly so, the parents must be the ones in charge of such decisions.

Now, in this case, it’s pretty simple from a Libertarian perspective. The parents have every right to restrict the type of gift their child receives. If they think a kitchen set is an inappropriate gift then they can inform the uncle to please gift toy soldiers to the lad in the future. Save the kitchen set for daughters, if there ever are any.

Boys Cook

Everyone is up in arms because the chef industry is dominated by men. The article states almost 75% of all professional chefs are men. It’s a good job and I’m quite proud and happy to say my nephew owns and operates a restaurant. You go, James!

The fact the parents don’t want their son to play with a kitchen set makes the parents morons. This is factually true and I agree wholeheartedly, they are idiots. The uncle is absolutely in the right in giving the gift as long as he didn’t know about the parents’ preferences. It’s a great gift for a young man or woman. I like to eat. I love good food. The more chefs in the world the better. You go, uncle!

Idiot Parents are Still Parents

The parents are living a delusional lie and trying to limit their son. Horrific. I hope the boy overcomes their miserable stereotypes and gender biases and becomes whatever he wants to be, a chef if that’s his passion. Perhaps the uncle can give him an example by cooking a delightful meal whenever the family visits. Make a point of being in the kitchen and creating great food for everyone to enjoy.

That being said, the parents are the parents. They have every right to raise their child the way they see fit, barring something illegal. It’s not illegal to deny your male child a kitchen set, just stupid.

Conclusion

Much as we’d like to everyone to agree with us, be it a math problem or a medical procedure, sometimes parents are stupid. Sometimes people are stupid. It’s not up to the government to fix stupidity. Freedom is all about allowing people to do as they want, within reasonable boundaries including not causing harm. Even if such behavior is self-destructive or incredibly stupid. Even if such behavior negatively affects a child, sad to say.

Tom Liberman

A Mess of a Winning Time Episode

Winning Time

Any carry over from last week’s excellent episode of Winning Time quickly dissipated with this mess of an episode. No focus, no central theme, back to unnecessary salacious content, lots of fourth wall breaking, and just a general hodgepodge of an episode.

I honestly find it difficult to believe the people who put together Pieces of a Man also released Momento Mori. Same director, largely the same writers, and yet a completely different result. I find it unfathomable.

What went wrong with this episode of Winning Time? Let’s discuss.

Lack of Central Theme

I’ve discussed before how a central theme holds an episode together and allows other, smaller stories to swirl around it with an anchor to bring them home. The theme was readily available, the catastrophic injury to Coach McKinney. The necessity for assistant coach Westhead to grab the team and take over.

The episode certainly showed us the blood covered McKinney often enough but the other story line of Magic Johnson and his endorsement deals shared the spotlight. Frankly, both made good thematic elements but by splitting the episode back and forth between them with a cursory look at dementia inflicted Momma Buss only diluted the impact of everything.

The added theme of the financial troubles for Dr. Buss took up another big section of the episode. Each vied for supremacy and nothing really emerged. We just jumped from one scene to the next along all three plot lines. It ended up being largely confusing and unimpactful.

Too Fast

The various story lines just went too quickly. Magic’s relationship with his girlfriend and father came out of the nowhere. It seemed like a vehicle for the fourth wall breaking punch line of the Nike rep at the end. I’m not a big fan of an entire storyline dedicated to setting up a zinger at the end, even if the zinger is a good one.

Coach McKinney’s injuries and the team responding to them all happened so fast. It was just a whole bunch of scenes tenuously strung together. The emergence of Michael Cooper as a premier defender is an interesting story but you’d only get what was happening if you already knew the outcome. It wasn’t cohesive storytelling.

The loan situation was really interesting as well but it came in short snippets interspersed with the other stories. Everything just raced along toward zinger conclusions. The episode completely lacked the deliberate and intense pacing of Pieces of a Man.

Fourth Wall in Winning Time

Not surprisingly, this episode of Winning Time broke the fourth wall almost continuously from beginning to end. The previous episode resorted to this tactic only once or twice and briefly at that. This time we found ourselves listening to long monologs as characters explained their motivations and plans. I found it irritating, pointless and detracted from the interesting stories.

Conclusion

It’s a real shame of an episode following the brilliance of its predecessor. The show is still largely entertaining and worth watching but I hope we get more of the good stuff and less of the mess.

Tom Liberman

Sheriff Hickman and the Blacks

Sheriff Hickman

I just read a fascinating article about Sheriff Rick Hickman and his response to an emergency call in the neighborhood of Des Arc, Arkansas. Sheriff Hickman responded to the call by asking where the triple-shooting took place. When informed it was a particular apartment complex he responded, “Oh really, black people then.”

The upshot of the response is Sheriff Hickman is being called a racist. Sheriff Hickman claims the apartment in question is largely occupied by black people so his response was not racist, but natural. Now, it turns out the attacker and victims are all white but that is not relevant to the point I’d like to analyze today.

Is Sheriff Hickman a racist?

The Event and Aftermath

The event itself is a horrific example of the gun violence rampant across all sections of the United States, urban and rural, white and black. Three people died in the shooting. It’s horrible and my sympathies to all those who lost loved ones and those who respond to such events and see the horrors.

Sheriff Hickman and his Other Comments

Sheriff Hickman, now accused of being a racist, was asked if he ever used racial slurs before. He responded that he does not use the most egregious racist word often but has in the past and a lot of people around him do. He also thought his response when told about the location of the shooting was natural and not of racist implication. Black people live in that area so that’s what he assumed.

My Analysis

The case seems pretty open and shut but I think there is a great deal more nuance than people who view the world in simplistic, good and evil, terms will admit. Now, I don’t know Sheriff Hickman at all besides his few quotes so I’m merely stating an opinion here.

I found the response to the question of his own usage of racial slurs to be refreshingly honest. In this day and age where the standard law enforcement line generally includes something like: that sort of attitude has no place in our department. We never put up with it. I’ve never known a racist law enforcement officers. Blah blah blah blah blah. Bullshit.

I’ve lived in small towns. I know all about sheriffs, both good and bad. Fire marshals, both good and bad. Good old boys, both good and bad. The fact that Sheriff Hickman answered honestly about his own use of racial slurs when his brethren officers consistently lie in similar situations makes me like the man. It makes me think he’s one of the good guys.

I think if I sat down with Sheriff Hickman and asked: what do you think you’d say if the shootings took place in a predominantly white area? Would you have said, “Oh really, white people then.”? I suspect Sheriff Hickman might pause, look at me, thought about it, and replied, “You know what, Tom. You’re right. I wouldn’t have said that. Maybe I do have some unconscious racial biases and it affects the way I do my job and the way underlings look to my lead. I need to do something about that.”

Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he wouldn’t reply that way. Maybe he’d remain in continual denial about a problem that isn’t just overt racism, hatred of all black people. It’s subtle, it has nuance, and it causes problems in many ways, both small and large.

Conclusion

I think it’s important to have conversations with men like Sheriff Hickman. Difficult conversations where I understand his point of view and he understands mine. I think that’s the way forward. This rush to judgement, to cancellation or whatever you want to call it, just widens the divide instead of helping to heal it.

What do you think?

What should be done about Sheriff Hickman

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Tom Liberman

Pieces of a Man Winning Time’s Statement Episode

Pieces of a Man

Pieces of a Man is the fifth episode of Winning Time and what an episode! Booya. If you’re wondering how to craft a story properly, watch Pieces of a Man. It showcased fantastic acting, an intense and compelling story, and passion. An episode like this is why I love entertainment; this is why people filled stadiums to watch Greek Tragedies two thousand years ago.

I know I’m waxing overly poetic here, but it’s been a while since I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed a television episode. I’d probably have to go back to the heyday of the Sopranos to remember a time when I found myself so engrossed.

Last week I mentioned what a solid understanding of character Solomon Hughes brings with his portrayal of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If only I knew what awaited. Anyway, on with my review.

The Central Theme of Pieces of a Man

It is generally a good idea to have a central theme to focus an episode and the characters therein. In this case we leave Dr. Buss and Magic Johnson and focus on Abdul-Jabbar. We start with him as a young witness to terrible racial injustice. His father, a police officer and a devout Christian, does not see eye-to-eye with his son, Lew Alcindor.

Being a superb athlete and champion is not enough for Alcindor. This young man is a piece of what he will become but he wants more, he wants to be more. He comes to Islam and takes a new name much to his father’s chagrin but that is just another piece in the man that Abdul-Jabbar is becoming. It’s a fantastic start to the episode.

This isn’t about the Lakers, it’s about Abdul-Jabbar, but it subtly becomes about the Lakers. It becomes about Magic Johnson, Jack McKinney, and Dr. Buss. It’s a story about all of them and all the pieces of them. It’s a profound episode.

Salaciousness

I’ve complained about the unnecessary salaciousness in Winning Time. We get it here but it is part of the story. It’s part of the locker room. I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms. I played sports. The locker room scenes in movies with men in towels everywhere and overly condescending locker room talk always strikes me as fake. Not here.

Here the players talk about cut cocks with Wood Harris, in all his glory, playing the role of Spencer Haywood. He brings it to life with a monolog that sounds like the locker room. I believe! Whether it’s a true story or not hardly matters. I believe these are real athletes in a real locker room and that’s no easy trick. Most sports movies fail miserably in this regard because it’s difficult for an actor to portray a professional athlete.

The Other Characters as Pieces of a Man

Dr. Buss plays a small role in this episode which was an incredibly brave move and it works. While Abdul-Jabbar is struggling to reconcile what he has become as compared to the youthful energy and enthusiasm of Johnson, we also see Dr. Buss struggling to put together his pieces as well. Can he step back from the edge of the cliff and admire the view?

Will Abdul-Jabbar add another piece in his journey? Can Magic Johnson become more than a fragment, a single piece of a man? Can Jack McKinney put together the final piece that he’s been striving for all his life?

The Importance of Dialog

This episode functions on many levels. The conversation between Heywood and Abdul-Jabbar in regards to young Magic is thoughtful and moves the story forward.

The disagreement between McKinney and Abdul-Jabbar where the later exactly predicts the result of his performance is profoundly interesting. McKinney realizes that Abdul-Jabbar knows what he’s talking about. It brings their relationship to a new level.

The locker room fight between Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar trying to put together their own pieces and find their place in all of this is raw and powerful.

The conversation between the financial advisor and Dr. Buss brings us a deeper understanding of his struggles to put together his own pieces. Even Jeanie finding Paula Abdul to lead the cheer squad is interesting.

Abdul-Jabbar at the mosque talking with the Imam moves the story toward its inevitable conclusion. We know what’s going to happen but it’s the journey that compels us to keep watching.

The dialog pulls the entire episode together. There is no telling in this episode, just showing. No exposition. Just actors performing, owning their characters and their lines, pulling us into their world.

Conclusion

You’ve probably figured out I liked this episode. Go watch it. Well done. Well done, indeed.

Tom Liberman

Can you Ban your Cake and Eat it Too?

Cake

I just read an interesting article about a restaurant that charges a fee to bring your own cake. It’s tearing up the internet and it gives me a chance to focus on my Libertarian ideology for the first time in a while.

The question is fairly basic. A restaurant doesn’t want you bringing your own cake, food, or beverages to consume. Almost all restaurants have a corkage fee for bringing in your own wine and no one really has a problem with this. The fee in question at the unnamed London restaurant was £10 per person at the table. It was a birthday celebration with a dozen people and I’ll leave the math to you.

In any case, my question today is if the fee is justified.

£120 for a Cake

The sticking point largely seems to be the high price for the cake. Most people seem to agree that some fee is in order but a great deal of debate on the amount is raging. The price does seem rather high to me but, that being said, it is replacing twelve desserts. I can easily see each dessert running around that individual price.

In other words, I absolutely see both sides of the argument. I do understand the restaurant is out the price of all those desserts but, on the other hand, they’ve made a tidy profit on the rest of the dinner. A table of twelve at a celebration is certainly going to eat a lot of food with appetizers, mains, and drinks. Is it worth it to alienate good customers with such a policy?

The Internet is Divided

Based on the comments I read, the internet seems fairly divided on the topic. I certainly understand both points of view as I mentioned. However, this is where my Libertarian ideology turns such conundrums from difficult to simple.

While most of the commenters put forward various arguments in support of the restaurant and against it, my answer is easy and came to me even before I finished the article. I’m sure most of you loyal readers already know exactly what I’m going to write.

The Libertarian Cake Answer

The restaurant is well within their rights to charge an extra fee for bringing a cake onto the premises and substituting it for desserts ordered on site. The customer is equally within their rights to resent the fee and refuse to eat at the restaurant again, cake or not.

That’s where life gets pretty simple for a Libertarian. It’s clearly not a situation in which the government should intervene although I suspect a bi-partisan panel of “conservatives” and “liberals” will introduce legislation to ban charges for bringing your own cake. They will tout the legislation as common sense and good for the children who get to eat the cake. Afterall, we must protect the children!

Conclusion

Putting aside the sarcasm for a moment, though it pains me; if the restaurant wants to charge whatever amount for bringing your own cake, that’s their business. If the customers decide they’d rather eat somewhere else, that’s their prerogative as well.

That is all. Continue with your daily lives and don’t forget to stop and taste the cake.

Tom Liberman