Joey Chestnut Banned from Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Spectacle

Joey Chestnut

** Update **

I’ve read several comments suggestion that Chestnut insisted on his new brand of hot dog being used for the contest. If this is the case; then he is to blame. It’s Nathan’s contest and they should use whatever dog they want. However, the updated articles I’m reading still state he was “banned” and therefore what I’ve written stands.

** End Update**

Well, color me jaded. Joey Chestnut banned from Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating spectacle not for performance enhancing drugs, not for cheating, not for criminal activity; but because he now sponsors a different company.

Crazy me, I thought it was a competition open to everyone. Apparently, you’re only allowed to compete if you shill for Nathan’s. Welcome to the sad state of America.

Not a Competition at All

I am triggered. You heard it here first; Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is not a contest. It’s just an advertising campaign. Who knows how many competitors weren’t allowed to take part in the past because they chose not to hawk Nathan’s wares? The entire thing is a sham. A sham!

Every single “winner” is tainted. The entire spectacle is invalid. I refuse to call it a contest anymore. It’s not. For it to be a true competition you must allow everyone to play. When you ban your most famous competitor you void the entire thing.

Shame on Nathan’s! Shame! I point my finger at you! Shame! We want Joey Chestnut!

Competitions are Open

Do they ask the spicy competitors at the county fair if they sponsor one of the hot sauces? No, they do not. Do they ask the apple pie eating heroes if they sponsor one apple producer? No, they do not. Are professional athletes forbidden to have contracts with sports apparel companies that compete with league apparel sponsorships? No! No! No and no again!

What happened to the spirit of competition in this country? Are we so afraid of competition that we ban anyone who represents a rival brand? I guess so if you’re Nathan’s.

Conclusion

Rise up! Take to the streets. Take to Social Media. Rouse your neighbors, set your dogs barking. Get it, dogs?

Get Joey Chestnut back in the contest and let him sponsor whomever he wants.

Tom Liberman

True Detective Season Two a Horrific Tragedy

True Detective Season Two

I finally managed to choke down the last episode of True Detective Season Two and I’m glad. I’m glad it’s finally over. Have you ever repeatedly hit yourself in the face with a hammer? What a slog. Season One is some of the finest television I’ve ever seen. Season Four has moments but was ultimately a letdown, perhaps as I watched it directly after True Detective Season One that is to be expected.

Season Two. What to say? I’ll give it a firm do not recommend. It has a fine cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaugn but they just can’t overcome the morose writing and directing.

What is True Detective Season Two About?

Darned good question. I’ve seen it and I’m pretty much in the dark. A financier guy who has a bunch of mob money meant to be invested in the high-speed rail project in California gets killed. From there, you’ll need a flow chart.

There are some blue diamonds from a robbery years ago with corrupt cops, vengeful orphans, Russian mobsters, Mexican Mobsters, Arabic Mobsters, corrupt politicians, a new age touchy feely dad, a homosexual war hero with a girlfriend, a corrupt cop, other corrupt cops, corrupt land evaluators, a singer in a nightclub who is a Venezuelan human trafficker, a psychiatrist is also a human trafficker but the bad kind, not the nice kind, sex workers, a black guy who is in charge but I don’t have any idea who he is, a white guy who is friends with the homosexual guy but isn’t. Hell, I have no idea. I lost track of it somewhere around episode three and never got it back.

Relief. Any Relief. Please.

About two thousand years ago some playwrights came up with the idea of comic relief. Shakespeare knew about it. It’s generally considered useful. The people who wrote this mess figured, nah, over-rated. What they figure we want to see are scenes where two people talk to each other in gravelly voices, enunciating each word slowly with the pretentious vocabulary of a dandy Harvard English Professor.

To spice things up between these interminable conversations they throw in an implausible shootout. I use the word implausible generously.

The show is absolutely relentless in its humorless, overly dramatic tone. It never stops. It’s like the Terminator. It will not stop until you are bored and looking at funny cat videos on TikTok, and even then, it will keep going.

Please, you’ll beg, just one joke. A funny line. A prat. I mishap. Anything. Please. For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I just want to smile once, I don’t even need to laugh, something, anything. A dad joke. A knock-knock joke. Denied! Or, in the language of the show; A predilection for humorous anecdotes is not my natural inclination.

Acting

I can’t blame the actors, it’s clearly the directing. I’ve read the producer of True Detective Season One was given total control of Season Two. Absolute power doesn’t end well. Poor Vince Vaugn has to deliver those awful lines in one slowly spoken conversation after the next. He’s been labeled as miscast but I don’t think it’s his fault. He does the best he can with what he’s got.

Colin Farrell’s son is clearly cast for a single purpose and they think it’s subverting expectations when it turns out to be false in the end. I saw that one coming from episode one and anyone who didn’t just wasn’t watching closely.

Stylish

The show is stylish to a fault. Every camera shot is perfectly diagrammed. Every background meticulously crafted. We get wide-angle shots, close-ups, deserts, cityscapes, redwoods. It’s all beautiful and gritty but it doesn’t seem real. It seems like a student film made by someone who worshipped Alfred Hitchcock but skipped all the other classes.

The Music

Overbearing. Even if a scene doesn’t seem tense, the music tells us it will be soon. The music doesn’t enhance here, it leads the mood. You know exactly what is going to happen when the music starts playing in almost every scene.

Conclusion

I could go on. I won’t. Avoid this. A confusing, overbearing, mess.

Tom Liberman

The Regime is a Maddening Ride

The Regime

The Regime on HBO. What to say? Indeed, what to say? It’s a show. It’s difficult to watch. It’s maddening to watch. It’s enraging to watch. Comedic, horrific, painful, touching even. Drama? Satire? Comedy? Historical Retelling? Dystopian? I’m not sure, all of them?

The Regime tells the story of Elena Vernham, the chancellor of a Central European autocratic state. She is insane, crafty schemer, delusional maniac, abused daughter, hapless pawn of the Super Powers? Pick your poison.

For Whom are we Rooting?

If you’re looking for something to cheer you up, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. If there is one decent person in this show it’s Agnes whose misguided loyalty to Elena is her ultimate demise.

Everyone else? No, thank you. Elena? Self-serving monster. Herbert? Abusive, violent psycho. The rational cabinet? Greedy pigs stealing from the workers at every opportunity. The husband? Simp. The opposition leader? Manipulative, arrogant prick.

A show has to have someone to like? Bah, we don’t play by those rules.

The Moral Lesson?

Good luck finding anything here. The show isn’t about lifting you up. It’s about despair. Elena, in one of her rare moments of lucidity, confesses she always ends up as back as a scared child. Well, that’s a happy thought.

The Regime Quality

Superb. The acting is top-notch from Kate Winslet’s Elena all the way down. Nobody fails here. I believe them, in all their wretchedness. The sets are superb. The music is a delight, enhancing and not leading. The cinematography is beautiful, well framed shots. The sound is clear and crisp. This is a quality show in every respect. It’s just not easy to watch.

Conclusion

I’m not sure I can come up with a clear conclusion here. The show is wonderful and horrible.

I’ll finish with one observation. Agnes’s son. All but stolen from her by Elena. The last we see; he is laying terrified on the floor as the revolutionaries storm the building. What happened to him? The only thing we know for sure is Elena isn’t wasting any time worrying about it. That’s Elena. That’s the show.

Tom Liberman

Shogun Leaves the Audience in the Dark

Shogun

I just finished watching the critical acclaimed 2024 Shogun miniseries based on the James Clavell novel. It is an updated version of the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain.

Shogun tells the story of John Blackthorn who arrives at the island of Japan as an English merchant hoping to break the Portuguese monopoly on trade. Well, at least that’s the supposed premise but more about that later.

Shogun largely received good reviews from the critics and acclaim from the viewers. There is a lot to like here but it falls tragically short in my opinion. The show goes out of its way to leave the audience in the dark and that ruined it.

Immersion

One of the things that makes a show good is immersion. When I’m watching a show, reading a book, or otherwise engaged in consuming entertainment, I want to feel like I’m part of it all. I want to feel fear for the protagonist, lust for the romantic interest, elation at the victories, sadness at the losses, and all the rest.

The way this is achieved is by including the audience. Let us in. Tell us what’s going on. Shogun spends almost the entire miniseries keeping things from us, I’m guessing so as to spring twists and surprises.

How does Shogun keep us in the dark. Below is a list of things that bothered me, it is not all encompassing but my general thoughts.

What is Kashigi Yabushige Doing? 

The first instance we get of being kept in the dark during Shogun involves the possibly loyal servant of Toranaga, Yabushige. He is a schemer. He understands his lord is possibly going to lose the struggle with the counsel and is playing both sides of the divide to assure his survival.

How do we learn about this? Basically, in a series of conversations between Yabushige and his son. We never actually see him carrying out any scheme. We see him all too obviously prevaricating in conversations with Toranaga which a method of exposing his schemes, none of which we actually see.

Near the end he betrays Mariko and Blackthorn by scheming with a rival lord. Do we see him agonizing about this decision, planning it? Basically he’s asked to do a favor for the rival lord, cut to black.

This is a potentially interesting storyline. If we actually got to be in on Yabushige and his plans, to fear for Toranago, Blackthorn, and Mariko. We don’t and I therefore I don’t really care.

Buntaro’s Survival

The finest warrior in the land stays behind to guard the fleeing Toranaga as he escapes Kyoto. We see Buntaro battling off hordes of warrior as he disappears around a corner.

The next time we see Buntaro is when he returns. We are told he joined a band of Ronin who fought there way across the countryside with only he and one other surviving. Wow! I mean, what a fantastic little story. Are there any scenes of it happening? What about the surviving Ronin, is he made a Samurai by Toranaga? He must be a bad ass!

Nope, nada, nothing. Just one line. Why? Probably because the burgeoning romance between Blackthorn and Mariko must come to a shock conclusion with the arrival of her presumed dead husband. What a shame.

The Gardener’s Death

This one was particularly upsetting to me. At Blackthorn’s home there is a gardener. Blackthorn hangs up a pheasant to rot and the smell is so horrible, the gardener takes it down and is executed for disobeying Blackthorn’s directives.

What really happened? We find it out all through exposition. Toranaga has a spy in the village. Yabushige, discussed earlier, is trying to find that spy. Toranaga and the gardener come up with the plan to frame the gardener as the spy and thus stop Yabushige’s investigation.

The gardener is ill and feels he is near the end of his life. He wants to do one last service for his lord and thus takes down the pheasant knowing he will be executive but only after the fake evidence is planted in his home.

Holy moly! What a fantastic little side-story. It tells us everything about loyalty, the culture of Japan, etc. Do we see any of it? Nope, nothing. We just hear about it after it all happened. What a waste. I want to see the planning, the agony of the gardener’s family, the theft, the execution, the reward for loyalty and honor.

Yoshii Nagakado’s Death 

The son of Toranaga, Yoshii Nagakado, decides to kill his uncle because the man betrayed Toranaga earlier in the episode. He plans a daring raid of the brothel where the uncle is staying. He enlists compatriots, he carries out his plan. Again, great stuff. I want the anticipation of the attack, knowing Taranaga is opposed, perhaps it is almost discovered at the last minutes.

Again, nope, nothing. We’re at the brothel, the attack happens, Nagakado slips, falls, dies. Sadness. I don’t care! I just don’t care! You didn’t involve me! I didn’t see it coming. I had no rising tension. No chance to care.

The Final Plan

Toranaga surrenders to his peers but in reality, he has a cunning plan. He schemes with his must trusted advisor who commits suicide to make the plan more convincing.

Do we know this plan? Are we let in on it? No, no, and no. It’s all sprung on us as a big surprise. It’s the final insult. Nothing could be clearer: audience, we don’t care about you. We don’t want you involved, just sit there, trust us, it’s going to be great.

Is Shogun Terrible?

No, it’s not terrible. The acting is hit and miss. Cosmo Jarvis as Blackthorn and Anna Sawai as Mariko are unconvincing, bland, boring. Their romance is milquetoast. Everyone else is pretty good with particular credit to Moeka Hoshi as Usami Fuji who absolutely steals every scene she’s in. She does more with a single expression than Sawai does with her endless philosophical blithering. I felt her pain at the death of her husband and child, her loathing to serve Blackthorn, and her eventual respect for the man. She I believed. This is a woman of her time, of Japan.

The sets are great when they are actually sets but the CGI, mainly cityscapes and ship scenes, is adequate at best.

The story is scattered. Is it about Blackthorn’s merchant mission? Blackthorn and Mariko? Toranaga’s schemes? It’s just all over the place. It meanders from one place to the next like a drunken sailor without stopping to focus anywhere.

Conclusion

I’ve gone on for quite a bit here so I’ll wrap up quickly. Include me, damn you, Shogun. Let me in!

Tom Liberman

Mr. Bates vs the Post Office Review

Mr. Bates

This is a difficult one for me to review objectively because the subject matter triggers me greatly. It tells the story of Alan Bates and hundreds of British subpostmasters fighting a power with limitless resources, the government. The entire story in Mr. Bates is everything Libertarians worry about in a government agency.

Basically, the Post Office installed faulty software in all their branches. The faults resulted in many subpostmasters showing accounting shortfalls. The government, along with the software developer, hid the faults, blamed the subpostmasters and sent them to jail, took their money, and largely ruined their lives.

Eventually one subpostmaster, the titular Mr. Bates, managed to raise enough ruckus to bring the attention to the public. It only took twenty-five years. Yep, this whole mess started in 1999 and isn’t fully resolved to this day.

Sadly, my job today isn’t to lambaste the British Post Office and government, it’s to review a television series, and that is what I will do.

Lots of Characters

Mr. Bates starts at the beginning of the disaster when Alan Bates loses his post office because of accounting shortfalls for which he refuses to accept responsibility. He asks for audits, software checks, and what not but is denied.

We then start to meet some of the other subpostmasters encountering the same difficulties. This leads to the biggest problem with the series, there are a lot of characters. It’s not really anyone’s fault and I think they did an admirable job of consolidating people and keeping the total down to a reasonable number. That being said, there are a lot of stories going on at the same time and the complexity of weaving them together is no easy task.

Acting

I found the acting in Mr. Bates to be largely top-notch with Toby Jones in the lead role particularly strong. He shows his determination to see the truth prevail but also his fatigue over the course of the decades long fight. His wife, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is also quite strong in her role.

Ian Hart as Bob Rutherford is a particular standout although, as I mentioned, the acting is excellent throughout.

Cinematography, Music, and the Rest

All of the supporting features of the show were well done and believable. I was particularly impressed with the music which didn’t try to overwhelm us with emotions but simply enhanced the sometimes-traumatic story. All good work in my opinion.

The Story is the Thing

Mr. Bates is not a big budget, high-production, action movie. The horribly miscarriage of justice that all those subpostmasters suffered is the main star. It’s such a vile story, such a little guy against the government story, that you don’t really need anything else. I commend them for keeping it fairly simple because it could have gotten overly complex and tried too hard to manipulate the viewers emotional. It just told the story and told it properly.

Aftermath

Since the broadcast of Mr. Bates vs the Post Office, public awareness of the situation rose dramatically and reignited the legal proceedings, which as mentioned, continue on today. In that regard I find it impossible not to consider the show to be a spectacular success regardless of anything else.

Conclusion

I found myself immersed and oft-times riveted to the drama of the story. I was never bored although I suspect an audience looking for high-octane drama might find it slow-moving and somewhat dull.

A fantastic series I think well worth watching and not only because I’m a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

Taxes and Perrier a Study in Law

Perrier

Do you think of Perrier as water? I do. I’d imagine the vast majority of people reading this do. Do you consider it soda? I don’t and I’d think the vast majority of people agree with me, including Perrier itself.

Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is what it says on the bottle. It is naturally carbonated, whatever that means and sourced and bottled at the site it emerges from the ground. I don’t drink a lot of Perrier, nor do I drink much soda but then again, as the saying goes, I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Perrier is water.

Why am I asking you about the nature of Perrier? Because the United States legal system decided Perrier is soda. Why you ask? Money. Taxes.

The Perrier is Water Lawsuit

Jennifer Montgomery filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania when she paid a tax of twenty-four cents on a 16-ounce bottle of Perrier. She wants a refund because it is illegal to tax water in the United States. It being considered essential to life and all.

Let me pause for a moment to praise Montogomery. Filing this lawsuit required time and money. When the original case was decided against her, she appealed. You go, girl! Sadly, the Pennsylvania Department Board of Revenue Appeals court decided that revenue is the most important factor. We need those tax dollars and nothing is going to stop us from getting them.

Nix v. Hedden

I haven’t put on my Time Travel hat in a while and there was a case back in 1883 involving a similar tax situation and tomatoes. Something about fruits and vegetables. Let’s go back and see what happened then. Now, where is the cap, we did a bit of Spring Cleaning involving the We Got Junk people recently and I hope it didn’t get tossed out along with that hideous lamp.

Hmm, not in the closet. In the fridge? Nope. Here it is, in the Gloomhaven Box, what’s it doing there? Well, never mind, let’s plop it on, spin three times, focus on 1883 and kapow! Here we are. Wowzer, am I poorly dressed, look at all those suits and dresses. I’ll just observe here in back, that constable with the baton looks like he’s ready to use it.

“A tomato is a fruit,” says the lawyer holding the delicious red object in one hand and a large book with the other. “Right here, your Honor, it’s science!”

Bang, down comes the gavel. “It seems obvious, any counter-argument?” says the judge looking at the other lawyer.

“If a tomato is a fruit it’s exempt from the vegetable tariff.”

Bang, down comes the gavel again. “I declare a tomato is legally a vegetable in the United States forevermore.”

“Your Honor …,” says the first lawyer.

“Shut yer yap, contempt of court. Ten days.”

Oops, that constable is giving me the side-eye, spin three times, poof, back home! Remember where I put the hat, I say to myself as I toss it on a shelf.

Well, I guess it’s good to know some things haven’t change. Tax revenue is more important than reality. Yay!

Conclusion

Perrier is soda, the courts have spoken and the courts can’t be wrong.

Tom Liberman

Randall Emmett Taxpayer Funded Movie Industry

Randall Emmett and the Taxpayer Funded Movie Industry

I just read a fascinating story from the Los Angeles Times about how states are conned in the Taxpayer funded movie industry. Taxpayer funded movie industry, you rightly ask? I’m afraid so. How is that possible, you ask? Because we live in a free money, crony-capitalism country.

Basically, fly-by-night movie companies come to your state and film low-budget movies with aging name stars and get almost the entire thing paid for with tax dollars. From what I can tell, it’s largely a Ponzi scheme with the next state in line paying the overdue bills from the previous production. Let’s get into it.

Randall Emmett is Running the Show

Who is Randall Emmett? A movie producer who was accused of various sexual transgressions on his movie sets and in his personal life. This did not stop him from producing movies. He just started up a new production company making low-budget movies.

How is this a Taxpayer Funded Movie Industry?

The scheme is relatively simple. Many states are eager to have a movie made in their confines. They use Taxpayer money to “reimburse” film-makers who shoot in their states. The film-maker usually makes various promises about how long the shoot will take, where, and how many jobs it will create. The usual business mantra for fleecing states of Taxpayer money.

In any case, they film the movie on a shoe-string budget paying a high-profile, but usually late in his career actor, seven figure salaries for a day or two of shooting. They then lollygag on payments to the rest of people involved, including the law enforcement teams assigned to the set.

Then it’s off to a new state, with new promises, a few million dollars to pay off the old debts and a new actor. Rinse repeat. The movies themselves are largely trash although they probably generate enough money to make the entire enterprise profitable as long as there is another gullible governor lined up to dish out your money.

Scummy?

You bet. This is the world we live in. It’s easier to make a profit with Taxpayer funds and a bad movie than it is to produce a quality product.

The obvious problem here is that states are willing to dispense money to businesses on the promise of new movies, new factories, new jobs, etc. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The state and the corporations need to be separate for the health of both.

There should be no tax-breaks, no reimbursements, and no incentives of any kind to conduct business in a particular state or municipality. A business should only survive and thrive on the merits of its product or service.

Businesses and politicians are far too chummy, and it is not working for We the People. It’s not.

Tom Liberman

True Detective Season One versus Night Country

True Detective

I just finished watching True Detective: Night Country and I earlier watched True Detective Season One. I think they often have a similar structure and yet where one succeeds almost universally the other largely fails.

The reason I want to go into a deep examination is the superficial reasons for the reception of the two shows, basically the gender of the two leads. This has nothing to do with why one is largely great while the other is more pedestrian.

Or, to speak more plainly, True Detective isn’t better than Night Country simply because two men are the leads in the first and two women in the later. Let’s get to it.

Haunted Leads in True Detective

One of the most striking similarities in the structure of the two seasons is the haunted nature of the leads. Cohle and Danvers, played by Matthew McConaughey and Jodie Foster, both lost children earlier in their lives and are traumatized by this loss.

True Detective shows us this when Cohle arrives for dinner at Marty’s house staggering drunk. Over the course of the dinner Marty’s wife begins to ask Cohle some personal questions in which he reveals the death of his daughter. Marty’s wife, played by Michelle Monaghan, responds with kindness and understanding. Cohle begins to shed some of his trauma at this dinner.

Meanwhile, we are sort of vaguely told Danvers lost a son through some flashbacks of her playing with the boy and a stuffed polar bear missing an eye.

I felt for Cohle, genuinely. The scene where he arrived drunk was inexplicable until we understood, we felt his existential dread at meeting a happy family. I connected with Cohle on a level I never did with Danvers. Danvers was just angry but I never really understood her pain, it wasn’t demonstrated to me.

The Flawed Hero Trying to do Good

Marty, played by Woody Harrelson, is an extremely flawed man as is Navarro, played by Kali Reis. Marty has a weakness for crazy women while Navarro has anger management problems. The difference is Marty is completely self-aware of his flaws. He knows he messes up and wants to be better, he just can’t get there. Navarro seems to have none of this self-awareness. She is angry and proud of it.

A vitally important scene occurs when Marty and Kohle visit a house of ill-repute and Marty spots an underage girl working there. He tries to save her. Later he protects his daughter in his own, inimitable way. We see that fundamentally; Marty wants to be a good person. He is trying.

We never get that from Navarro. She seems perfectly content in her self-destructive life. Her love for her sister is substituted for Marty’s attempts to be a good person. It just didn’t resonate with me.

Despite his serious and obvious flaws, I like Marty. I’m rooting for him. I can’t say the same for Navarro. I don’t like her much and I don’t really care what happens to her.

The Criminal Investigation

Marty and Cohle investigate the gruesome murder of a young, female prostitute. Danvers and Navarro investigate the mysterious death of a group of scientists.

In True Detective we see the investigation. We see Marty and Cohle working the scenes, interviewing witnesses, detecting. Big chunks of the show are dedicated to watching the two professional work their magic. We also see their partnership in which their strengths are combined to make them greater than the sum of their parts. They are good detectives and respect each other immensely, that’s shown through a series of scenes in which they are being interviewed by other detectives about another crime years later.

Danvers and Nararro don’t do a lot of investigating. Most of the useful information about the case comes from Prior, Danver’s young officer, and others associated with the two. They don’t like or respect each other. They are filled with rage and bitterness. There is nothing to like about their relationship.

I believed Marty and Cohle as detectives but I didn’t have that feeling about Danvers and Navarro. I imagined a long history of law enforcement work with Marty and Cohle and believed it absolutely. For the life of me I can’t figure out how Danvers and Navarro advanced in their professions. They just are not believable.

The Supernatural Angle

Both shows have a supernatural feeling to them. There is Carcosa and the Night Country. In True Detective the supernatural theme is lurking in the background but the nature of the crime is clearly human. The opposite is true in Night Country. The supernatural angle is played up from the very first scene when a herd of Caribou stampede off a cliff for no apparent reason.

The supernatural element came along organically and sparsely in True Detective and neither of the leads really paid it much attention to it other than Cohle’s philosophical rambling. It played a front and center role in Night Country. A huge number of scenes showed people having supernatural experiences with the dead.

I felt Night Country just wasted a good chunk of time showing us scenes of the supernatural rather than storytelling, detecting. Every time something supernatural happened, I’d roll my eyes and lose interest. A lot of it seemed to be played for the shock value rather than furthering the story.

A Moment for What the Two Shows didn’t Have in Common

Humor. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud at the antics of Cohle and Marty. Their interactions, their dialog, was often hilarious. Night Country? I don’t recall laughing once. It was grim and unrelenting.

Likeable characters. I liked Marty. I liked Cohle, I liked many of the bit players. I can’t think of a single character in Night Country I truly liked. Young Prior probably comes closest.

Conclusion

True Detective Season One worked on almost every level and I consider it some of the finest entertainment available. True Detective: Night Country largely failed. It’s not a terrible show. The acting, cinematography, sets, and music are terrific. It just failed to make me care, to tell a cohesive narrative, to immerse me.

Tom Liberman

Nolly Brings Home a Winner

Nolly

I’m always happy to report on excellent entertainment and Nolly brings it home with flying colors. Nolly tells the story of Noele Gordon who began a long career with an early color television transmissions test in 1938.

Nolly, played by Helena Bonham Carter, focuses on twilight of Gordon’s career during and after her firing from Crossroads, a long running British daily soap opera.

Nolly isn’t an Exciting Story

The first thing that really struck me about Nolly is that it’s just not a thrilling story. There are few big moments. It’s just the story of a woman in show business who gets fired from her job and must recover.

Even the firing itself isn’t particularly dramatic. There is no storming and screaming. Nolly’s agent goes in to negotiate the new seasonal contract and is simply told she’s being cut from the show. The agent then tells Nolly who is in denial for a little while but eventually accepts the situation with some aplomb.

Story First

The story is the thing with Nolly. Nolly is clearly an overbearing presence on the set of the show and the other actors fear her but also love her. This is shown to us by her actions, not told to us through exposition. We first meet her when a new actor to Crossroads almost sits in Nolly’s seat at the head of the room preparing to read through the daily script. The other actors, in a panic, manage to stop the newcomer.

During the reading, Nolly is demanding about where she will stand, the dialog she will speak, and even goes as far as changing the accent to be used by the newcomer. Soon after this insight into her demanding nature we see her knowing the names of almost everyone on the set, asking about their family, making sure things are done for everyone.

Nolly is a complicated character, tough but caring, and Carter portrays the two sides with absolute believability. I’m immersed in the show.

The story doesn’t try to force us to be sad or to laugh or to do much of anything. The story unfolds and sometimes we laugh, sometimes we’re sad, sometimes we’re angry. It’s rare these days that a television show trusts the audience like this. Mostly we see scenes that are purpose designed, and telling the story isn’t that purpose. Let’s make them laugh. Let’s make them sad. Let’s put in a scene that will accomplish what we need whether or not it fits the story. Nolly has none of that.

Why was Nolly Fired?

A big part of the second half of the three-episode series is trying to figure out why Nolly got the axe. Nolly only finds out herself very near the end and it subverts her expectations and thus ours. I won’t get into details but it is totally believable. There are no real bad guys, just people doing the best they can.

The Ending

The ending of Nolly isn’t a big, ground-breaking, show-stopping scene. It ends like it runs, gently but believably. It seems almost like an anti-climax to us because we’re used to big endings and I think some people will be disappointed. I thought it totally appropriate.

Conclusion

Nolly isn’t the sort of show that most of the producers of modern entertainment think we want to see, at least judging by what’s on television and in the movie theater these days. That’s a shame because a simple story done properly is quite effective, at least in my opinion.

Nolly, give it a shot but don’t expect to be blown out of your chair. Expect to laugh a bit, to be sad a bit, to forget that fifty minutes has passed and the episode is over before you know it. It’s quality entertainment.

Tom Liberman

Tampering in the NFL is Outrageous

Tampering

The NFL has a rule called tampering. Basically, it’s against the rules for any team employee to speak with an agent or player on another team except during a short two-day period. It’s largely against the rules even for players who know each other but are on opposing teams.

Basically, if you play for one team in the league, you cannot discuss moving to another team with anyone from another team except for those two-days during the off-season. Recently two moves involving Saquon Barkley and Kirk Cousins triggered the NFL into an investigation. There are reports both were approached by their new team outside the window. Tampering.

Tampering is totally Outrageous

Outrageous! How dare an employee at one place of work even discuss moving to another place of work outside a forty-eight-hour window? Would we tolerate such behavior in any other walk of life? Obviously, at your job, you cannot even so much as speak to someone in management at another company without severe repercussions.

Even if you’re just shooting the breeze with one of your buddies over at Company X but he may have mentioned you’d be a good fit to management a year earlier, against the rules! Scofflaw! Villain! Criminal! What is this world coming to? How can employees betray their employers with such brazen disloyalty?

Imagine discussing your salary concerns with a potential employer while you’re still at your old job. What kind of monster are you?

Why do we have Tampering Rules?

That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. To give the current employer an enormous advantage. No one else can negotiate with the player in question before that short window. Players like Barkley and Cousins, or their agents, can’t get a feel for their value in the open market.

Would the judicial system support such a scheme in any other line of business? Another rhetorical question. It’s completely and totally outrageous.

It’s possible a player might be negotiating with another team during the course of the season and it might affect their play although this is highly suspect. Players want to increase their value and are generally playing their best. That’s beside the point. If you’re working a job, you can negotiate for another position with another company at any time. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

Madness, I tell you, Madness

Seriously, how can anyone listen to the NFL spout off about tampering rules? Can you imagine getting a job at another company with better pay and working conditions but an industry representative says, “Nope, sorry buddy. Tampering. Go back to your original company at the original salary.”

We’ve got the NFL draft coming up as well. Go read my rant about that. Ranty, rant, rant!

Tom Liberman

Monsieur Spade and the Lost Opportunity

Monsieur Spade

I recently finished watching Monsieur Spade on AMC and I’m sorry to say I didn’t enjoy it all that much. It’s a real lost opportunity because I absolutely love the premise of the show.

As a young man I read Dashiell Hammit and the Maltese Falcon is a happy memory indeed. I’ve enjoyed watching many a movie with a noir theme and who doesn’t love the hardboiled detective Sam Spade and his many imitators?

What went wrong with Monsieur Spade? Let’s discuss.

Premise

The premise is c’est magnifique. Sam Spade is retired and now living in the small town of Bozouls in the south of France. We imagine his peaceful existence won’t stay that way for very long and we are right. He came to the region years ago to deliver the daughter of a client to her reported father. While trying to do so he met and married a wealthy French woman, Gabrielle, who has since died and left Monsieur Spade her vineyards.

The father of the girl, who is now a teenager, is a miscreant of the worst sort and involves Sam and others in the town in an all but impossible to follow plot involving a boy-genius and so many other parties it boggles the old gray matter of your narrator.

Noir Dialog and nothing but Noir Dialog

We certainly expect Monsieur Spade to deliver laconic lines and always with a cool demeanor. But do we expect every single line of dialog to be a battle of noir? I don’t. It’s not only Sam who talks like this but the rest of the cast as well. It’s a figurative battle of pithy utterances, one after the other, batted back and forth like a ball at a Wimbledon tennis match. Boom, bang, smash, crush.

Sam is never perturbed; he always knows exactly what to say and he’s not alone. The entire cast delivers nothing but noir and more noir.

“It’s raining, Sam.”

“Here I thought it was a poodle with a full bladder on the balcony.”

“Poodles are German, not French.”

“How can they tell?”

It never stops. Just one pithy comment after the next and it gets annoying all too quickly. It was great for about half an episode but it loses its charm quickly. We need fully developed characters who behave like real people.

Nonsensical Plot

Paraphrasing a laconic Spartan after a long speech entreating their aid in battle; “We no longer remember the first half of your plot, and thus can make nothing of the remainder.” There is a lot to process. I’m not going to get into it all but give a few examples.

The supposed monk who seemed like he was going to be an important character. He shows up, kills half-a-dozen nuns, one of whom was the most interesting character in the series, and then vanishes until the finale, supposedly taken off by French gendarmes to Paris. When did he get back? Who is he? Where did he come from? None of it is answered.

There are dozens of moments and characters like this. Characters make no sense and act irrationally at best. The entire side plot with the singer and her drunken husband didn’t further the plot in any way and his death seemed so unnecessary. Likewise, the death of the young English spy came out of nowhere and just baffled me.

The young girl suddenly knows details about her life she previously did not but no explanation as to how she learned them. I could go on but I shall cease in the name of brevity.

Sam Spade Torturing a Guy

I honestly don’t like a protagonist who tortures someone, particularly when the character already knows all the information he needs. It’s not a good look. Why the guy was there to kill Monsieur Spade in the first place made no sense.

The Ending

I can’t even really describe the baffling ending to the show. A character shows up from nowhere, never seen before, who knows everything, and solves the problem, I guess, sort of, I’m not really sure? Wow, that was satisfying. I won’t go into detail. It was terrible.

Conclusion

Give us a season two! Let the actors act like people instead of noir caricatures. Give me a simpler plot and let Monsieur Spade solve it, not some random third-party interloper. What a terrible disappointment this show turned out to be.

Tom Liberman

Court Storming is Already Banned the Question is Enforcement

Court Storming

There’s a lot of buzz on all the sports channels about banning Court Storming thanks to a couple of incidents involving high-profile players. Basically, a team wins a game and the fans storm onto the court to celebrate. This often leaves the players on the losing side in a dangerous situation as they attempt to dodge the excited, and often inebriated fans.

The sports pundits are all talking about banning court storming and wagging their fingers at the dangerous situation. It’s bad. It should stop. Golly gee, aren’t they all Dr. Einstein. Thanks for the heads-up on the situation.

Court Storming is Largely Banned

Almost every professional sports league has rules against storming the field or court. Most college conference implement heavy fines on schools where court storming takes place. The ACC is the only exception.

There are generally dividers to keep fans from doing it although these are easily bypassed. Almost every school has security officials stationed at the game to prevent court storming.

It continues to happen on a regular basis all across the country. Let’s not even talk about the celebrations that happen on the streets which are even more dangerous.

How to Stop Court Storming

The question is not if court storming is dangerous, it’s how to stop it. I’ve watched and read the pundits complain about it during almost every sports show and article I’ve read in the last few weeks. Rarely do I find anyone talking about the enforcement issue. How do we stop court storming? If thousands of people want to rush onto the court, it’s not easy stop.

Arresting people is difficult when you’ve got so many storming the court and relatively little security available to do it. You can fine people, ban them from attending, even put them in jail for a few days but that’s a big strain on the system and costs money.

Sure, you can post an army of security people, horses, dogs, and all the rest. That is moderately effective although at a football game with nearly a hundred thousand people in the stands, good luck. The problem is you cannot possibly hire that kind of security for every sports events. Some of these school make a huge amount of money from their athletic programs but many do not.

What’s the Answer?

I’m not sure there is a good answer to this problem. I think extra security, barriers, and penalties for those that do engage in court storming is a good idea. I’d like to see more security in these situations but I’m not sure you can stop a mob of people from doing what they want, often alcohol infused people.

Conclusion

My biggest problem with this entire discussion is that most people aren’t even talking about the solution. They just want to ban court storming without thinking through the process of doing so. We all understand the problem, how about we start talking in a meaningful way about how to implement it.

Tom Liberman

Wrong Scorecard for Jordan Spieth a Problem or Not

Wrong Scorecard

There’s a bit of a contretemps in the golf world over the fact Jordan Spieth was disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard after the second round of the Genesis Invitational. Spieth takes full responsibility for the mistake but the question being raised is should players be required to sign their scorecards at all and is the penalty too harsh?

It’s an interesting question because for a number of reasons and I think there are good arguments for all points of view. Let’s get into it.

Why is it a Rule?

The reason it’s important for a player to sign her or his scorecard stems from a time in golf when only the player herself or himself really knew the total strokes taken in the round. Back then we didn’t have cameras and automatic scoring applications to take care of everything. It came down to a matter of personal integrity. If a player wanted to cheat, the opportunity to do so was readily available. That is not the case anymore.

The argument goes: if scoring is largely automated now, why does the player even have to keep score? Even if there is a mistake, it will be readily fixed almost immediately. In addition, there is the harshness of the penalty for a wrong scorecard, disqualification. Well, it’s disqualification if the player signs for a lower score that actually achieved. If the score is higher then the larger value is entered for the round but that’s another matter and I don’t want to muddy the conversation too much.

What do I think about a Wrong Scorecard?

As a former golfer, I gave up the sport because it caused me way too much anxiety, my kneejerk reaction is the rule is a good one. It’s a tradition, it’s about integrity, but it’s also about the simple process of checking your work. In any sort of a test, you make sure you’ve written down the answer you wanted to and didn’t make some sort of a mistake. If you did so, the wrong answer is your final answer. You can’t take it back.

I cannot deny the other side of the equation has its merits. There is really almost no way for a top-tier professional golfer to cheat by putting in a lower score. Now, it can certainly happen at smaller, local events where nothing is televised or automated. The rule should serve a purpose and at the highest levels of golf, it doesn’t really do anything to ensure a correct score is applied.

On the other hand, bear with me because I’m going back and forth on this one, it’s a toughie. On the other hand, people can cheat at lower levels of the game so you’d have to keep the rule in place there. Then you’d have to decide at what level the rule is waived, what tournaments, etc. That’s an entirely new can of worms.

Still, disqualification for an honest mistake that resulted in no harm seems a bit harsh.

Of course, the professionals should be role-models for everyone else, juniors particularly. The fact that Spieth has to sign his card, and make sure it’s correct does serve some purpose.

Finally, I don’t see that the situation really needs to be fixed. It’s not like players are getting disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard every week. It’s an incredibly rare occurrence, largely because the players are in the lifelong habit of reviewing their card and signing it after doing so.

Conclusion

My final conclusion is the rule still serves as purpose and should remain on the books. I do understand the frustration of those at the Genesis Invitational who are fans of Spieth and wanted to see him play over the weekend. Perhaps the penalty might be changed to two strokes for each instance of under-reporting a score.

What do you think?

What should the penalty be for signing an incorrect scorecard?

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Tom Liberman

Funny Woman is Good but not Funny

Funny Woman

I’ve watched the first three episodes of Funny Woman and am really enjoying it. I went out to IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to read what other people think and I found an interesting range of opinions. A number of people really like the show while others do not find it funny at all. That’s the interesting part, the show is titled Funny Woman but it’s not a comedy. Let’s get into it.

Funny Woman is not a Comedy

I think the fact Funny Woman is actually more of a drama than a comedy is one of two things causing people to dislike the show. I must be clear, if you don’t like it, I’m not saying you’re wrong. You can like or dislike a show all you want. That’s subjective. What’s objective is the show isn’t a comedy. It’s a show about a woman comedian trying to make it in the entertainment world.

Now, the show does have comedic moments, or at least attempts them. The scene in the department store based apparently on an episode of The Monkeys is not particularly humorous although that is clearly the intent.

Gemma Arterton isn’t Trying to Make you Laugh

The second thing is Gemma Arterton, who plays the titular Funny Woman, Barbara Parker/Sophie Straw character, is not trying to make you laugh. She playing a character trying to make a 1960s audience laugh. Her character’s idea of comedy is based on Lucille Ball, not modern standards. Arterton is acting, not telling jokes.

I’m going to mention the part of Parker/Straw being portrayed by Arterton is extremely difficult. Arterton isn’t a comedic actress and it’s not a comedic role. Still, her job is to make us believe the people around her find her hilarious. That’s no easy trick but I think she’s pulling it off remarkably well, not perfectly perhaps but more than good enough. Better than most could manage.

Full Review

I’m going to wait until I’ve watched all six episodes to give a full review but I absolutely like what I’ve seen so far. Stay tuned.

Conclusion

The show is complicated and I think that’s responsible for the majority of the negative opinions. In our minds we think it’s a comedy, that Arterton is supposed to be funny to our eyes. In reality it’s not that. She’s playing a part.

This confusion, at least in my opinion, creates a disconnect between reality and our expectations of reality.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Is Rebel Moon Good or Buzzy and which is Better

Rebel Moon

I just read an article about the Netflix movie Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire and it brings to mind an interesting conundrum when producing entertainment. Is it better for people to like the movie, book, television show, play or other production or is it better for there to be a lot of buzz about it?

It’s a question I, as a writer myself, definitely think about. I imagine a lot of people making things in this modern age of social media think about also.

What’s the Difference Between Good and Buzzy?

Good is difficult to define and there is always the subjective versus objective debate. But, for the purpose of this article, let’s assume good means people in general and professional critics enjoy your work.

I’ll define buzzy as something people are talking about. Not necessarily in a good way. If something is truly terrible but intriguing, people will talk about it.

Rebel Moon is Buzzy

Judging by both audience and professional reviews, Rebel Moon isn’t very good. I’ve seen and read several reviews and also read comments by fans of the genre and they all seem rather disenchanted with it. A few positive reviews focus on the visuals and what not. With that being said, I think it’s safe to say Rebel Moon isn’t a particularly good movie but it is a certainly very buzzy movie.

People are talking about Rebel Moon all over the internet and mostly, although not exclusively in a negative way.

Good and Buzzy

Obviously, I’d love for my novels and short stories to be very good and to have people talking about them. That’s obvious but it’s not my question today. I think my novels and stories are quite good but there is certainly no buzz about them.

Financials

We can fairly safely say Reble Moon isn’t a good movie and it has a lot of buzz around it. It’s difficult to say if the movie is a financial success or not. Netflix is a subscription service and just because Rebel Moon shows hundreds of thousands of views doesn’t mean it is profitable. What makes it profitable for Netflix is if people are convinced to stay with the service or add the service because of Rebel Moon or its seemingly inevitable cavalcade of sequels and director’s cuts.

It does seem buzzy is better than good, from a purely financial point of view. This is not a universal rule though. There is some fatigue at play. If you produce the same sub-standard product again and again, even a huge amount of buzz doesn’t translate to profits, particular if you spend a great deal in production.

Fool me once, the saying goes.

Answer the Question Already

Would I prefer my novels and stories to get a huge amount of buzz on social media or would I prefer them to be good? It’s a fair question because sales for me are quite minimal. A few people have read my work and enjoyed it, or at least that’s what they tell me. If there was huge buzz about my novels and stories, I’d be making a significantly larger amount of money.

I’m never going to write anything I don’t like because there is no guarantee it will get buzz anyway. The question isn’t whether I’d write something bad in the hopes it gets buzz but which one I prefer. Buzz or quality.

To lay it out plainly. I write two novels, doing my level best to write them well. One is really good and one isn’t. The one that is good gets no buzz and the one that is bad gets a tremendous amount of buzz. Which novel makes me happier? The one that got buzz and money but makes people think I’m a crappy writer or the good one that doesn’t make any money but people really enjoy and feel they’ve gotten value from reading?

Conclusion

For me, I’d rather my novel be good than buzzy. That decision is certainly influenced by the fact I’m in a good financial situation even without huge profits from my novels.

The bottom line is my audience. People who read my novels spend a nominal amount of their money so that’s not as big a consideration as their time. It takes time to read a novel, many hours. Me, I want people to close the book, or device, and lean back with a satisfied smile. That was worth my time. I enjoyed that. I got value for my time and money. I’m glad I read that.

Tom Liberman

The Seventh Episode of Luck Illustrates Good not Great

Luck

I’ve been watching a 2011 television series called Luck. It stars Dustin Hoffman as recently released mobster Chester “Ace” Bernstein and his subtle plots for vengeance against those who conspired against him.

The first six episodes are astonishingly good. Great. Other than some audio problems requiring closed-captioning to understand the principal characters it is, in my opinion, one of the best series I’ve ever seen. Then came the seventh episode. Something happened. Something went wrong. Why? How? Let’s get into it.

The Seventh Episode of Luck

Luck starts the seventh episode with a bizarre recap of the story leading up to current events. It’s narrated in great detail and continues on for an abnormally long time. I sat there shaking my head, they haven’t done recaps before, who is the narrator, what is going on here? What prompted this?

Then the episode started. It wasn’t exactly like watching a different show but then again, it kind of was exactly like watching a different show. The characters, the actors, the sets, all pretty much the same but not.

Early on a kid appears out of nowhere and the veterinarian helps him but there’s no explanation, what’s going on? Then there is a big poker tournament out of nowhere. A rather gratuitous sex scene. Yes, there were sex scene before, but they furthered the story. The music is really obtrusive now, it was subtle before, enhancing, not telling me how to feel.

The actors aren’t speaking with nuance anymore, they’re saying directly only what was implied before. The kid scene spirals into inexplicable behavior by all parties. The old jockey is in an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting but it’s short. All the scenes are short, abrupt, whereas before they took a leisurely pace, slowly unfolded.

We’ve got a plethora of up-close head shots, every scene has them. We didn’t have that before, did we?

It’s not terrible but it’s not what it once was. What happened?

The Investigation of Luck

So, as the episode is rolling, I’m getting pretty distressed. I look it up. What could possibly have happened? During the filming of the Luck, during the seventh episode in particular, horses were injured and had to be put down. Horses were stopped from running while an investigation took place. Eventually HBO cancelled the series although not before the season was complete and a couple of episodes from a planned season two filmed.

The Difference

It’s impossible to determine exactly what happened during the investigation to alter the flow of the show but it’s pretty clear to me, people knew it was the end. Probably more than a few people felt terrible about the deaths of the horses and no longer had their heart in the show. It is quite apparent. The editing, the writing, the music, nothing from the seventh episode of Luck is up to the standard of the first six.

Conclusion

I haven’t watched the final two episodes, maybe it hits it stride again after the shocking death of the horses. We’ll see. I’d like to know from anyone else who watched the show, did you immediately detect the change in tone of the seventh episode?

The entire thing demonstrates to me the effort required to make a show great. There are so many moving parts. Acting, directing, editing, music, costumes, sets, and more. Making a great show requires everything be exceptional. Making a good show is a lot easier. Luck shows the difference.

Tom Liberman

The Chancellor and the Sex Videos

Sex Video

University of Wisconsin-La Cross Chancellor Joe Gow was fired from his job because he made sex videos with his wife publicly available. Yes, it’s yet another “Freedom of Speech” story with all the salacious sex that every news organization likes to plaster on the front page.

Gow says he’s been making such sex videos with his wife for years but kept their real names secret. He says he and his wife wanted to be more open about the videos to raise free speech issues.

A Quick Note about Why I’m Writing This

I haven’t written many articles lately, mainly because every time an interesting story comes up, it pretty much mirrors a previous endeavor of mine and I feel like I’m just covering old ground. Then a little voice inside my head reminded me about as many people read my blogs as read my novels, which is to say, not many. So, why not rinse and repeat? Who does it hurt?

Anyway, I’ve spoken on the idea of Free Speech many times before. If you want to find those stories then look them up, I won’t be adding anything new or groundbreaking here. On the other hand, just stick around and read this one, then you won’t have to read the others.

Free Speech is not Speech without Consequence

People throw around the words Free Speech all the time, but only when it applies to speech they like someone else does not. Right wing speaker cancelled? Left wing beer promoter cancelled? People are howling from the rafters about Free Speech.

Fired for making a sex video? Gow says it’s about testing free speech. It’s not. It’s about testing permissive attitudes. Free Speech is pretty simple. The Constitution of the United States manages to cover it with a simple sentence. “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.

That is all. That’s it. That’s what Free Speech means. It basically means you can’t be arrested for saying something although there are exceptions like shouting fire in a crowded theater as the classic example.

What it does not mean, what it has never meant, is that you are free from facing consequences for speaking in certain ways. If you tell your spouse they’ve gained too much weight then you expect to face consequences. If you tell your boss, you had sexual intercourse with their spouse, you expect to face consequences. If the rules of the forum are no political speech and do it anyway, you expect to be banned.

What was Gow Really After?

Publicity, possibly. Expecting an open and honest discussion about sexuality between consenting adults in the modern, internet era, quite possibly. Good luck with that, the depth of Holier than Thou in this nation requires an infinitely long sounding chain to find the bottom. Fire and brimstone to everyone who is doing exactly the same thing as me but they don’t know I’m doing it.

I’m sure he expected to be fired and it’s certainly the right of the school to do so.

The Bottom Line of the Sex Video

It was a foolish thing to do if he wanted to continue at his job but I applaud Gow and his wife. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sex, as best I can remember. If two consenting, legally capable people, want to have sex, to tape themselves having sex, to make those tapes available for the titillation of others, I applaud them. Good for you.

I’d vote to keep him at his job if he was doing it well. If people can’t handle the fact other people enjoy this sort of thing, then don’t look at it. Don’t judge. Sure, some students are going to see it. Why do we care so much? It’s just sex. Better than the violence we glorify in this society.

Tom Liberman

Telling your Audience the Obvious in Writing

Obvious in Writing

I happened to catch the pilot episode of The Irrational on NBC the other night and an incident at the end reminded me of something I generally dislike. Telling your audience the obvious in writing. I don’t think it’s wise to exposition information to your audience in general but it’s particularly painful when it’s something that is patently obvious.

It’s an interesting question because there is no defined line in what constitutes the obvious in writing; be it a book, a television show, a movie, a play, or any other media. It’s something that really bothers me but I don’t think others are as annoyed. Let’s discuss.

The Scene

At the very end of the pilot episode there is a parole hearing for a man convicted of fire-bombing a church. The attack injured the protagonist of the series and he shows up at the parole hearing hoping to ensure the convicted man is not paroled.

The criminal is asked to tell the parole board why he deserves release. He starts off with the standard sort of apology about how he contemplated his crime and now ready to return to society. He then spots a figure behind some frosted glass and his demeanor instantly changes. He immediately tells the parole board he is likely to fire-bomb a church again if released.

The Obvious in Writing

It was quite clear to me that the convict saw someone who frightened him into changing his story. I like to think anyone who watched the episode came to that conclusion immediately. It’s what happened next that bothers me.

The protagonist and his ex-wife, an FBI agent, dash outside chasing the mysterious figure seen by the convict. They fail to catch him and stand together on the courthouse steps. They then engaged in a conversation stating what the story just showed us. He’s afraid. There’s someone else. Maybe he didn’t commit the bombing, etc.

We knew that!

Or at least, I knew that. The scene really bothered me. I was annoyed at the writers for telling me the obvious. Do they think I’m stupid? It almost rises to the level of a personal insult. I know, I’m a weirdo. Still, there’s no doubt it immediately took me out of immersion and into writer rage.

My Question

I’m aware I’m overly sensitive to certain aspects of writing that don’t bother other people nearly as much. I want to ask you. Are you annoyed by the obvious in writing? When the scene unfolds in a way that you get it immediately but is followed by a scene where characters spell it out to you like you were a child?

Are you bothered when the writing spells out what should be obvious?

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Tom Liberman

Why is every State Referendum a Constitutional Amendment?

Constitutional Amendment

Another round of elections came and went this past Tuesday and, as usual, it struck me how many states are floating referendums that change the constitution of the state in question. I think a lot of people might be confused about the subject and I thought I’d try to clear things up.

Every referendum being a Constitutional Amendment is serious threat to We the People.

The Tenth Amendment

It all boils down to the Constitution of the United States and specifically the Tenth Amendment. The text is quite straight forward. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

It’s those last four words that throw a wrench in the plans of all the statists who want to dictate to you how to lead your life. What does it mean? It’s pretty simple. If the Constitution of the United States does not specifically have the power to act on a certain issue, then it is up to the States or the People.

The Word Or

Or. That’s the key word. It’s not and to the people. It’s or to the people. In logic, which the Framers of the Constitution understood, there is an enormous difference between And and Or.

Here’s an example. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. If I were to say I was born in Springfield and Missouri that statement would be false. With an And statement, both sides must be true before the statement is true. If either side is false, the entire statement is false.

Now, if I were to claim I was born in Springfield or Missouri that statement would be true. With an Or statement, if either clause is true, the entire statement is true.

What does all this Mean?

What the Constitution says is when it comes to powers not specifically stated in the Constitution of the United States, it’s up to the State or the People to decide. The same logic largely applies when it comes to powers for the individual states.

If the state of Missouri passes a law restricting local rules to a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation); that law can be overridden by the People in the form of a local ordinance. So, Missouri says, you cannot restrict CAFO operations. A local community votes to do just that. That Or is a huge part of the equation.

Without a State Constitutional Amendment, the local ordinance overwrites the state law. When the Framers wrote Or they meant it. The law that applies is the one closest to the People. People override State and State overrides the Federal Government, unless it is written into the Constitution. Then it’s the opposite, which is exactly what states are doing.

The Deeper Meaning

The deeper meaning of the state writing a huge number of Constitutional Amendments is that it rips power away from the People. The Framers understood the Federal Government needs to be limited because the people of a state know better the circumstances of their governance. Likewise, the people of a local community know better than the state how to run their government.

Let’s take a quick look at a hot topic these days. The mentioning of homosexuality in schools. It seems perfectly self-evident to me that the people of Orlando, Florida and the people of Baker County, Florida will have different views on this subject.

When the state of Florida tries to dictate to both of those communities how they should treat this subject it steals the rightful authority from those communities.

It’s vitally important to understand if you agree with the right of Florida to restrict Orlando from mentioning homosexuality in school then you also agree with the right of Florida to force mentioning homosexuality in school to Baker County. We give the state power it should not, must not, have.

If Baker County passes a law restricting mentioning such topics in school, they have every right to do so, just as much as Orlando has the right to allow it. This is local control of government and the Framers understood the more the state infringes on local communities, the less local communities want to be part of the Union.

Conclusion

The states are grabbing power from local municipalities at an alarming rate. The state thinks it knows better for Baker County and Orlando both. It doesn’t. The People do.

Tom Liberman

Why do People Hate Deion Sanders?

Deion Sanders

Deion “Prime Time” Sanders recently took a job as the head coach of the Colorado Buffalo’s football team and a lot of people aren’t so happy about it. I’ve read quite a few articles claiming he cannot build a winning program, that he only wants to make money for himself, that anyone who hires him is a fool.

After those articles I’ve read the comments which, outside of Colorado fans, are almost universally negative toward Deion Sanders. It piques my curiosity that so many people feel the way they do. I have my thoughts on the subject. Let’s talk about it.

Deion Sanders is Prime Time

There is no doubt that Deion Sanders lives up to his nickname of Prime Time. He’s brash, he’s confident, he’s the sort of fellow who proudly tells you he’s going to beat you and then often does so. He’s arguably the greatest defensive back in NFL history and was one of the finest athletes in the world.

This sort of cockiness often brings out the haters and I think this is one of the reasons people are rooting against him.

Deion Sanders is Black

Much as some people would like to deny it, racism is still around. There are hardcore racists and more subtle racists. The fact of my first point combined with the second brings out the racism. Not only is he black but he’s cocky, uppity even. The same sort of brashness out of a white guy is perceived as toughness, no-nonsense manliness.

The Bottom Line of the Deion Sanders Hate

The bottom line is the bottom line. Deion Sanders is a relatively young, brash, black man who is coaching football. An enormously outsized percentage of the best high-school football players in the country, called five-star recruits, are minorities. Young, black athletes are choosing to go play for Deion Sanders. This is a threat to the institutions that currently dominate the sport.

I’m certainly not saying all the top recruits are flocking to Colorado to play but it makes a difference. If a dozen five-star recruits go to play in Colorado instead of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Auburn, LSU, and the other dominant college teams; those teams are slightly less good.

This is not just about bragging rights for those powerhouse schools, it’s about money. A lot of money. Those schools generate billions of dollars in revenue by having good football and basketball teams. The coaches make millions in salaries and more in the redistribution of the clothing contract money, private flights, loans for houses, and other perks.

The alumni of the schools do business in million-dollar luxury boxes where they entertain important clients. The wealth is enormous and its influential tendrils permeate every aspect of college towns and beyond.

If Deion Sanders succeeds then he won’t be the last young, black man to take over a program and siphon talent away from the power schools. That’s a real threat and people are genuinely worried. They have a vested interest in making sure he fails at Colorado.

Conclusion

Deion Sanders isn’t the most likeable human being in the world to begin with and the situation here is what people often call the perfect storm. The reality is he represents a threat to the establishment and, if you know anything about history, the establishment doesn’t go down without a fight.

Stay tuned.

Tom Liberman