Oct 172017

Me too. Really.

I actually have been sexually harassed, twice that I can remember. However, neither time caused me particular angst. I think that’s because when you’re a man, it’s entirely reasonable to believe it’s an isolated incident. I said “yeah, whatever” and that was it.

Mostly, women don’t have that luxury. Women can reasonably expect a periodic leer, catcall, or “compliment” that falls on the creepy/predatory side of the line, just for being women. Perceived provocative behavior, clothing, or such has nothing to do with it, nor does the fact that you may not see it day to day.

(For several good reasons, I’m not going to publicly get into how I reached the conclusion of the previous paragraph. You’re going to have to take my word for it.)

To be sure, there is still misinformation out there. One in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses is a favorite chestnut of highly questionable provenance, for example. And there’s a certain sort of assumptive person I still find intolerable—a person who “knows” a great deal about me because I’m a white male, and who therefore imagines me presumptively guilty of a litany of sins.

The existence of these sorts (whom I generally don’t engage anymore, by the way) does not change the fact that the problem of sexual harassment is non-trivial, and there are two simple things men can do about it.

First, don’t sexually harass women. Slam-dunk, right? However, if you do need any help determining what that means, the Wikipedia article is a pretty good primer. It’s not difficult. The lines are solid, and for the most part, there aren’t women lurking about looking to “trap” hapless men into violations. The difference between screwing up and not screwing up is pretty clear.

Second, call it out when you see it. Make a scene. “Hey! Leave her alone. That’s not how men treat women in a civilized society.” You jump in not because you think she can’t take care of herself, but to accelerate the change in dynamic we need on this, which is that real men respect women, and men who don’t can expect shame from their peers.

A favorite acquaintance of mine moved to Atlanta a few years ago. She wrote a poignant blog post about sexual harassment—sharing first a dream about it, and then the real-life experience from which it had come. I commented that I couldn’t believe catcalls were a thing anymore.

Well, they are. So are men talking to women’s chests; men “accidentally” trapping women in tight spaces; and so forth. Wouldn’t dream of such behavior? Great. Me either.

But help me watch for it, won’t you?

 Posted by at 12:42 pm
Oct 152017

(No spoilers.)

We shouldn’t be talking about a Blade Runner sequel—not now, not then, not ever. The film generated well-known and long-lived animosity between Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott. It was a box office disappointment, barely making its own budget back. The legions of fans it has acquired over the years tend to be rabid fanboys and demanding purists—the sorts who are legendarily and chronically unhappy with sequels.

Yet here we are. Blade Runner 2049 landed October 6.

The 1982 film is in my all-time top five. I’ve seen it perhaps 20 times. As intrigued as I’ve been for more than a year by the idea of a sequel, I’ve also been steadily budgeting a little disappointment. It would have to be made meticulously, checking 99 of 100 boxes, and the Matrix sequels are excellent circumstantial evidence that such doesn’t happen.

If you’re reading this review, you probably don’t need a lengthy description of the world of these films. However, just in case we do have a true newbie or two along for the ride, I will share that in the near future, there are synthetic people called replicants who are very difficult to distinguish from genuine human beings. Plot points revolve around detecting and pursuing them when they stubbornly refuse to do exactly what we tell them to, as well as properly purposing them in society. The law enforcement officers who specialize in pursuing and “retiring” them are called blade runners.

I said no spoilers, and I’m not going to get into plot points at all. I went in not knowing anything about the film except what I’d seen in the trailers. Coupled with the open-ended conclusion of Blade Runner, there was a lot of ripe story territory. That was enough for me. And I won’t spoil your story except to say that Blade Runner 2049 delivers, weaving multiple narratives skillfully and succinctly.

Casting is excellent. The return of Rick Deckard is satisfying and genuine. Ryan Gosling does a wonderful job with range of emotion as the protagonist. His antagonists are pleasingly ambiguous and sinister. No missteps here.

Where I expected to be disappointed was in the production design. There are a thousand tiny little bits that make up the Blade Runner world, and I know them all by heart. All Blade Runner fans do. This seemed the most likely place to ruin the film—or at least damage it. And it is neither ruined nor damaged. On the contrary, the Blade Runner 2049 production design is a true tour de force. This is as immersive a world as has ever been depicted, demonstrating both meticulous attention to and tremendous love for the world of the first film. There are convincing evolutions. There are affectionate nods. Look for details. You will be richly rewarded.

For me, the score was another character in the 1982 film. Again, I was very satisfied with the follow-up in the sequel. Important motifs are carried through—sometimes intact, sometimes evolved—and there is plenty of original, yet thematically harmonious, new material too. I caught myself listening pregnantly during some moments for what I thought should be there, and was rewarded more than once.

The film is sixteen minutes short of three hours long, and if you know anything about how I review films, you know that I rail against overly self-indulgent run times. If it needs to be there, I’m fine with a film being five hours long. But bloated run times are all too often masturbatory, and should be called out when they are so. Blade Runner 2049 is not too long at 2:44. Nothing is wasted.

I join the chorus of several similarly difficult-to-please friends in saying this film is not only worthy, but really doesn’t fall down anywhere. It is scary good, delivering perhaps 125% of what would have passed all of even a strict fanboy’s filters. We’ll wait a few months to see where it ultimately slots in, but I’m confident today in calling Blade Runner 2049 one of my all-time favorite films.


 Posted by at 5:43 pm
Oct 122017

We just got back from a few days at the beach. We were able to see a few effects of Hurricane Nate at Fort Morgan, but really, almost nothing happened that far east. There was still a little water over the road here and there from the storm surge, and a little debris on the beach, but that was it.

I’ll tell you this: the heat and the humidity made it like mid-July on Tuesday. Wow. Heat index is tough on a fat guy.

 Posted by at 10:24 pm
Oct 062017

Sometimes I like to pick out exactly what I want to listen to. And sometimes I like to be surprised.

You ever think about why it feels so good to have your back scratched or rubbed? A big part of it is that you don’t know what the person is going to do next. You can capture some of it yourself, but you know where you’re going. That robs it of its magic.

I’m looking for a good service to stream music to me in that backscratching sort of way—it knows what I like, but I don’t know what it’s going to do next. I need a “deep cut” knob.

I’ve tried most extensively with Pandora, which seems promising because you can specify a primary song or artist, and then “tune” it with secondary ones (called “adding variety”). But it’s just too ham-fisted and overbearing. It doesn’t do any “thinking” on its own. Examples:

  • If I give a thumbs-up to a Joan Jett song, the station suddenly becomes two-thirds Joan Jett or The Runaways.
  • It can’t fill in blanks with good guesses. If, for example, I have a Judas Priest station but one of its variety specifications is Nick Lowe, it won’t try to set an interesting range there. It’ll just play Judas Priest songs and Nick Lowe songs.
  • It just doesn’t “know” enough. I have a Simple Minds station that apparently only knows four Simple Minds songs. There are a dozen that are both worth hearing and should be common enough to make the grade.

I played with Spotify a bit last night, but it makes a very safe playlist that I could easily make myself. You say Black Sabbath, it says “Iron Man.” You say AC/DC, it says “You Shook Me All Night Long.” You say Boston, it says “More Than a Feeling.” Etc. It’s no better than turning on WTAK, and that’s a low bar indeed.

Amazon Prime stations are better than I thought they’d be, but mostly because I can skip as many as I want. For ’80s rock or the yacht rock station, for example, I’ll reliably find that every tenth or twelfth song is one I want to hear.

So whatcha got, readers? Do you have a way to listen to music that is good at “knowing” what you like and delights you with a surprise once in a while? I don’t mind paying a little, but I’d like to stay with Internet offerings (as opposed to satellite, for example) for the convenience.

 Posted by at 11:32 am is using WP-Gravatar