RIP, Roger Ebert…

This is one of Ebert’s strengths; he doesn’t review films in a way that’s too academic or inaccessible, he writes film reviews like a guy who loves the shit out of movies and knows how to rage if they don’t love him back. I will never feel as passionately about anything as Ebert does about how much he hates this movie about a kid traveling around the world looking for parents. I love how important movies are to Ebert. I love how serious he takes his craft. I love that he sees bad movies as a personal attack. And I love the glee that he surely felt when he wrote this review.

via 4 Randomly Hilarious Pieces of Found Comedy on the Internet | Cracked.com.

Roger Ebert has loomed large in my life.  As a kid movies were absolutely my favorite thing.  The old Alameda Theater ran $1 matinees every Saturday when I was growing up, and I went almost every weekend from the age of 9 or 10 on.  Most of the time the films they showed were bad to mediocre.  Occasionally they were just resoundingly dreadful.  But I loved the experience of sitting in that great old art deco theater, spending the afternoon watching stories flash by on the screen.

Most afternoons I’d walk home from school and tune in to Dialing for Dollars on KTVU, where the host, Pat McCormick gave away money to people who called in and tried to put a brave face on presenting what were never better than average, overplayed films.  On Saturday nights I almost never missed Creature Features, hosted by Bob Wilkins.  Again, most of the films were pretty bad, but every now and then a classic would sneak in.

Throughout high school and college given a choice between doing almost anything and going to the movies I’d choose the movies.  As I grew up I became a fan first of Roger Ebert as a TV-based critic alongside Gene Siskel on Sneak Previews, which I rarely missed an episode of.  Later on I discovered Ebert’s written criticism and as an aspiring critic myself I studied his work intently.

I couldn’t describe what made Ebert’s criticism great any better than the Dan O’Brien quote above.  Most critics, whether they’re writing about films, music, books, art or architecture approach their criticism from behind a lectern.  They are the all-knowing experts on art and write down to their readers.  Much as I enjoyed Gene Siskel’s sparring with Ebert on Sneak Previews, this is why he was never my favorite critic.  Siskel came across as professor Siskel.  Ebert wrote from the seat next to you in the theater.  In every way he was a guy who primarily went to see films because he really, really loved the experience of seeing a movie in a theater.  He wanted to be entertained, and reserved his worst and most scathing criticism for those films that were insulting to the audience they were aimed at.  The worst offense a filmmaker could make in Ebert’s book was to make a film that failed to transport the audience out of their seats and into the experience.

When I started writing music criticism I consciously kept this perspective in mind.  I always wrote as a fan.  Thanks Roger.  I will truly miss you.

Everything wrong with the structure of MLB, in a nutshell…

2013 Payrolls And Salaries For Every MLB Team.

  • New York Yankees $228,995,945
  • Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909
  • Philadelphia $159,578,214
  • Boston $158,967,286
  • Detroit $149,046,844
  • San Francisco $142,180,333
  • Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250
  • Texas $127,197,575
  • Chicago White Sox $124,065,277
  • Toronto $118,244,039
  • St. Louis $116,702,085
  • Washington $112,431,770
  • Cincinnati $110,565,728
  • Chicago Cubs $104,150,726
  • Baltimore $91,793,333
  • Milwaukee $91,003,366
  • Arizona $90,158,500
  • Atlanta $89,288,193
  • New York Mets $88,877,033
  • Seattle $84,295,952
  • Cleveland $82,517,300
  • Kansas City $80,491,725
  • Minnesota $75,562,500
  • Colorado $75,449,071
  • San Diego $71,689,900
  • Oakland $68,577,000
  • Pittsburgh $66,289,524
  • Tampa Bay $57,030,272
  • Miami $39,621,900
  • Houston $24,328,538

A-Rod will be paid more to play in 2013 than all of the players on the Houston Astros combined.

Oh, and the taxpayers of Miami should find Jeffrey Loria and Michael Hill and extract a pound of flesh from each of them.

 

Steubenville…

Could not do the subject more justice if I tried…

Dispatch – Henry Rollins.

For the last couple of hours, I have been thinking of the verdict that was reached in what is now known as the Steubenville rape case.

Since all involved are minors, I won’t use anyone’s name. Two juvenile males were found delinquent of the charges and will be, as far as I understand, incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility until they are twenty-one years of age.

There is, I guess, cell phone generated video content of parts of the crime. It went “viral” on the internet and brought attention to the events.

I got through a few minutes of it but was too disgusted to watch the rest.

The case, the verdict and the surrounding circumstances open up a huge conversation.

These are a few of the things that I have been thinking about.

After reading several posts online, I was not surprised at the vast range of sentiments expressed. Many of the postings were of outrage that the two found delinquent were not tried as adults so they would face much longer sentences. You might not know, but in some states, this sentence would be decades long. Many of the posts spoke of the damage done to the victim and the life she will have now. One person suggested caning the two young men. Many others were angered at the deification of high school football players and how they often receive special treatment. You can read this stuff all day if you want.

After reading posts for quite awhile, I thought first about the two young men. I wondered if the years in the facility will “help” them. What, exactly does one “learn” in one of these places? That is to say, after five years locked away, does the idea of assaulting a woman seem like the wrong thing to do, more than if you were incarcerated for one year? Would you be “more sorry” about what you did? Is that possible? Or, would you just be more sorry for yourself about where your actions landed you? At what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?

What made these young people think that that what they did was ok? What was in their upbringing, the information and morals instilled in them that allowed them to do what they did, minute after minute, laughing, joking, documenting it and then calling it a night and going home? Out of all the people who were witness to what happened, why wasn’t there someone putting a stop to it?

What I am attempting to get at, and I apologize if I am not being clear enough is that this is a failure on many levels. Parents, teachers, coaches, peers all come into play here. I am not trying to diffuse blame or lessen the awfulness of what happened but I want to address the complexity of the cause in an effort to assess the effect so it can be prevented.

Some might say that the two going to the youth facility are as much victims as the young women who was assaulted. I do not agree. The two are offenders. What they did was obviously wrong. That being said, we cannot end the discussion at that point and expect things to change.

I have yet to say anything about the damage done to the young woman involved. It is ironic and sad that the person who is going to do a life sentence is her.

As a testament to the horrific power of sexual assault, I encourage you to see, yet cannot recommend the documentary The Invisible War about sexual assault in the military.http://invisiblewarmovie.com/. The reason I say that I cannot recommend it is that it is so well done, so clear and devastating that it will put you through quite a wringer. I do hope you see it but damn, it’s hard. In the interviews with women who have been assaulted by fellow members, the damage that has been done to these good people is monumental.

Many people are angry that more time was not given to the offenders. This seems to be the prevailing sentiment. I understand the anger but don’t know if adding a decade onto their sentences would be of any benefit. To me, the problem that needs to be addressed is where in the information chain were the two offenders made to understand that what they did was not wrong on every possible level? You can execute them both tomorrow but still, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

It’s a situation where you would like to be able to point a finger and say, that’s the reason and be done. You have to be careful when you do this because it’s easy to miss.

I think to a great degree, we humans still divide ourselves into two species, even though we are monotypic. There are males and females. We see them as different and not equal. Things get better when women get more equality. That is a bit obvious but I think it leads to better results up the road. If it’s a man’s world as they say, then men, your world is a poorly run carnage fest.

It is obvious that the two offenders saw the victim as some one that could be treated as a thing. This is not about sex, it is about power and control. I guess that is what I am getting at. Sex was probably not the hardest thing for the two to get, so that wasn’t the objective. When you hear the jokes being made during the crime, it is the purest contempt.

So, how do you fix that? I’m just shooting rubber bands at the night sky but here are a few ideas: Put women’s studies in high school the curriculum from war heroes to politicians, writers, speakers, activists, revolutionaries and let young people understand that women have been kicking ass in high threat conditions for ages and they are worthy of respect.

Total sex ed in school. Learn how it all works. Learn what the definition of statutory rape is and that it is rape, that date rape is rape, that rape is rape.

In the spirit of equal time, sites like Huffington Post should have sections for male anatomy hanging out instead of just the idiotic celebrity “side boob” and “nip slip” camera ops. I have no idea what that would be like to have a camera in my face at every turn, looking for “the” shot. I know what some of you are saying. “Then why do they wear clothes like that unless they want those photos taken?” I don’t know what to tell ya. Perhaps just don’t take the fuckin picture? Evolve? I don’t know.

Education, truth, respect, equality—these are the things that can get you from a to b very efficiently.

It must be an awful time for the parents and relatives of all three of these people and I hope they all get to a better place soon.

What else? That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading this. Henry

WBC, room for improvement…

World Baseball Classic shatters attendance records heading into championship round – IBAF.

So, after attending both Semi-Final games in San Francisco and watching many of the games in held in Japan, Puerto Rico, Arizona and Miami on TV I’ve got some thoughts about the World Baseball Classic.

First, I think it’s a neat tournament.  It’s fun to watch these players compete for national pride against one another in a variety of settings.  I’m all for continuing this once-ever-four-year tradition and letting it grow and evolve.

Second, the US needs to take this tournament seriously.  The play of the US team this year and in the 2009 tournament was feeble.  Without David Wright the US would have been mathematically eliminated after two games.  One player does not a team make.  I suspect that MLB is going to have to exert some pressure on players and agents to get the US native players to take serious interest in participating, not to mention on their professional teams to allow participation.

Third, and this is really important – it’s idiotic to schedule the finals in a stadium where the weather makes attending at best uncomfortable, and at worst a non-starter.  Ryan and I will be there tonight for the final, but with rain in the forecast (and 40 degree temps) I doubt we’ll watch the whole game.  Sunday night’s crowd for the Semi between Japan and Puerto Rico was respectable, but that was obviously driven by the appearance of the Japanese team.  The crowd was full of Japan supporters.  Contrast that with Monday night’s game between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic where there were far more empty seats than bodies in the stands and it was clear that without a big draw playing the March San Francisco weather was a big deterrent to attendance.

Read the article linked above and it’s clear that games in Miami, Puerto Rico, Arizona and Japan were very well attended.  Like I said, I watched many of the games on TV and only saw one contest in Japan that was poorly attended.  In PR, AZ and MI the stadium was packed.  Why?  Well, in Puerto Rico baseball is a big deal.  Oh yeah, and it’s warm there in March.  In Miami and Arizona the weather is also welcoming for a March baseball fan.  The Japanese games I saw were held in domed stadiums.

I love AT&T Park.  Great place to watch a ball game… in June. In March, not so much.  I stopped going to opening games for my beloved Oakland A’s years ago when MLB started insisting that the A’s open their season at home at night.  The Oakland Coliseum in April is chilly, at best, in April, and it’s typically about 10 degrees warmer in Oakland than it is in SF.  I’ve ranted at length about my objection to MLB games being held so early in spring and late in fall as they have been since the expansion of the season.  So it should surprise no one that I think the best path to success for the WBC games held in the US is to make sure the games are held where watching a 3 to 4 hour game at night is likely to be a pleasant experience.

My preference all along for the WBC would be for it to mirror the set-up of the World Cup – as a month-long break in the regular season, held in July.  Obviously, 30 MLB teams want nothing to do with this from a revenue standpoint, but it really does make the most sense.  Instead of asking players to be ready to play all-out competitive baseball at a point in the year when they’re typically just ramping up to be ready to play, I think the fan experience would be vastly improved by staging the games mid-season simply because the level of play would improve.  I also believe the injuries that players, agents and teams fear would be much less likely for fully geared up players than guys who are really just getting warmed up.

Beyond that, staging the WBC in mid-summer allows scheduling of games pretty much in any stadium in any of the countries competing from the Northern hemisphere.

Regardless, I hope the 2013 WBC is an object lesson to Bud Selig.  It’s got to be embarrassing to see an empty ballpark for the finale of the tournament after the preliminary rounds were so well attended when at least half of the reason for the thin crowd is as simple as typical March weather in San Francisco.