The Cubs turn their back on one of their own

September 27, 2012

The movie Field of Dreams was the story of a farmer who as in pain, and through acts of penance was able to ease his pain by getting a chance to visit with his dead father once again and reconcile with him.  It really isn’t a baseball movie,even though it contains one of the most beautiful soliloquy’s ever written about the game.

One of the acts of penance that Ray Kinsella performs is giving a man, Archie “Moonlight” Graham,  who had been to the Majors, and never come to bat, a chance to have that one at-bat … that one opportunity to dig his spikes into the dirt and stare down a pitcher, moments before he lets loose a whistling baseball toward him … and then hit or miss.  The man gets his opportunities to play with the ghosts, and then willingly gives up that life of restored youth and fun to return to his life as an aged doctor to save a little girl’s life.

Why bring this up.  Adam Greenberg is no ghost, and unlike Archie Graham, he did get his chance to stand at the plate in the Major Leagues.  However, his one at-bat for the Chicago Cubs resulted in a concussion as he was hit by the pitch.  It was the first, and only pitch that he ever saw in the Majors.  After rehabilitation, he was not called up by any teams.  All he wanted, like Graham, was the chance to see one good pitch.

Matt Liston, a filmmaker and Cubs fan, made a short film about Greenberg and his quest for just on at-bat.  He collected signatures, and petitioned the Cubs to let him have that one opportunity.  The Cubs, always the PR juggernaut, said no.

We’re a professional team trying to win the pennant,
we have no time for niceties!
 

Since the Cubs were too busy in September trying to avoid losing 100 games, they couldn’t afford to do anything so ludicrous as be nice to a player who nearly died in the cause of Cub Nation.

Enter this man’s team:

Who would have guessed there were so many sensitive Cubans
in Miami?

The Miami Marlins have swooped in to the rescue!  Seven years after a Marlins pitcher hit him, he will don Marlin orange, teal, and black to get his one at-bat, doing so against the Mets in Miami this Tuesday.

Congratulations to the Marlins and Adam Greenberg who will finally get to live this dream.


Dave and Liz and Chicago Save the World

September 24, 2012

Elizabeth N. sent me a link to this really funny short story by John Scalzi that is also a bit heart warming for us lovers of the crown jewel of the Great Lakes.  It tells the story of a couple who must convince an alien space probe to not destroy humanity, by proving that humanity is worth saving by using only examples found in ChiTown.  We can all be grateful that the author kept them away from City Hall.

The story would have added realism if the alien space probe had destroyed the world after the Cubs game … but that is just my personal opinion, not a suggestion to the author or any potential alien invaders.


Upcoming films for 2012 and into 2013

September 23, 2012

Seems like a good enough time as any …

September 28

Looper

In the not too distant future, there exists time travel technology, and the mob has access to it.  When they need to eliminate someone, they make them disappear into the past where a hitman (Joseph Grodon-Levitt) executes the person;  an arrangement which becomes complicated when one of his victims is his future-self (Bruce Willis).  Joseph Grodon-Levitt has been doing some critically acclaimed work of late, and I thought his work on The Dark Knight Rises was a major plus.  Bruce Willis has had his share of bad films, but has been able to put in good work too.

October 5

V/H/S

Anthology horror films are usually not good (even The Twilight Zone: The Movie was not a home run film).  However, V/H/S has been getting some strong reviews ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival … especially after a member of the audience reputedly fainted during one of the scenes that some viewers claimed wasn’t even the scariest moment in the film.  The premise:  a team of thieves are sent to a home to steal a rare videotape.  When they arrive, they find a large collection of tapes, and start viewing them to decide which is the one they were sent for.  What they find are five stories of terror (and they are in the home of the person who videotaped all of it).  The trailer above is the standard trailer.  The red band trailer was a fair bit gorier.

October 12

Argo

I have been looking forward to this film, based on the true story of the Canadian Caper, where the CIA and Canadian government teamed up to protect and rescue six Americans who managed to escape the capture of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The whole plan hinged on getting agents into Iran undercover as a film crew filming a science fiction film.  The film will undoubtedly be fictionalized, but based on what I read about the real event, I’m not sure that they could make this even more strange than the real event.  Ben Affleck directs himself along with John Goodman and Bryan Cranston.

October 26

Cloud Atlas

Based on the Booker Prize-finalist novel by David Mitchell, the film is a literal epic spanning centuries of time from the distant past into the future, examining the concept that while human nature does not change much, people will change to fit the circumstances of their era, with each character in a different era reading about the character of a previous era, and being affected by them (or are they really all the same person).  The Wachowski Brothers last epic (The Matrix) was good for one film, so this could be a winner (let’s hope this isn’t Speed Racer).  Some of the book reviews I read said that the book is so complex that it may be unfilmable.  Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving all star).

November 9

Skyfall

Unlike many previous James Bond films, the plot of this film has been kept under relatively tight wraps, but the release of the trailer sent instant buzz across the world.  After Bond’s apparent death in an operation gone wrong, the identities of every British agent gets out into the open.  With “M” (Judy Dench) under attack from the government and MI6 literally under attack from the outside, Bond discovers that “M” is in serious trouble from a former associate who is behind the plot to bring down MI6.  In addition to Daniel Craig returning for his third outing as 007, Javier Bardem, Helen McCrory, Ralph Feinnes, and Albert Finney all make Skyfall the most star-studded cast of any Bond film, and old timers like me await Ben Whishaw bringing the character of “Q” back after John Cleese briefly took the role in the wake of Desmond Llewelyn’s retirement and passing.  After the slight disappointment of Quantum of Solace, this film seems to have a ton to look forward to.

Lincoln

I’ve already written a bit on this film, so I won’t say too much more.

November 23

Hitchcock

No trailer available yet … but take a good look at that poster.  That may not look like Alfred Hitchcock, but I was shocked to read that this was Anthony Hopkins!

The film focuses on the Master of the Macabre during the filming of Psycho, with Helen Mirren playing Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville, and noted Joe Machota client Scarlet t Johansson playing the role of Janet Leigh.  If you have ever read about the real Alfred Hitchcock, you know that he was as creepy as the movies he made, and he gained some particularly twisted form of self-satisfaction by torturing actresses.  I’m not sure Anthony Hopkins can play a creepy guy with morbid fixations on professional women?

December 7

Hyde Park on Hudson

It is June, 1939, and war in Europe is scant months away.  So concerned is everyone, that the king of England and his wife decide to make the first visit of any British monarch to the United States in an attempt to secure assurances of greater aide from the United States.  Meanwhile, President Roosevelt, already fairly stressed from rescuing the U.S. from the Depression, now must try and convince an overwhelmingly isolationist nation to back the Brits when all Hell breaks loose in the near future.  With Franklin and Eleanor not really seeing eye-to-eye, Franklin calls for his cousin Margaret Suckley to come in and offer him comfort (what was it with FDR and his cousins??) in a highly stressful time.  Billed as a dramedy, Laura Linney plays Margaret and Bill Muray plays FDR.  I didn’t think it was entirely possible for Bill Murray to pull this off, but a glance at the trailer convinced me that he really performs well as the former president.

December 14

 The Hobbitt: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson is back.  Ian McKellan is back as Gandolf, and Martin Freeman takes on the role of Bilbo Baggins in the year’s most anticipated film.  From the looks of things, this film will at least cover up to the discovery of the One Ring.  Several other old characters will make appearances (despite not being in the book).  Until Peter Jackson proves he can drop the ball, I will believe that  he can get this right!

December 21

Zero Dark Thirty

From the most anticipated to the most controversial film of the year.  Zero Dark Thirty is the Kateryn Bigelow’s dramatic retelling of the manhunt and eventual attack that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.  There have been lawsuits flying as Bigelow’s production may or may not have been given access to classified documents related to tortured detainees and the actual attack by SEAL Team-6 on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.  I suppose after this film’s release we will still be as in the dark as before as to what the real story is.  That doesn’t mean the story is necessarily any less compelling.

December 28

Django Unchained

A bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) frees a slave (Jamie Foxx) and partners up with him to bring down his latest bounty (Leonardo DiCaprio):  a slave owner who happens to own the wife of the now-freed slave.

Quentin Tarantino has already proven that period pieces are no problem (Inglourious Basterds was a major hit).  In addition to the slew of Tarantino repeat actors (Samuel L Jackson makes a required appearance), Don Johnson (yes, Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame) and Tom Wopat (yes, Luke Duke himself) have roles.

Les Miserables

While there have been many adaptations of Victor Hugo’s classic, this is the first attempt to film the Schönberg-Boublil musical, which while I am not an enormous fan of musical theater, easily ranks as my favorite.  Hugh Jackman plays Valjean, but I am really interested in seeing Russell Crowe as Javert.  I am also impressed with Anne Hathaway as Fantine.  Much like the real musical, there is a possibility that the roles of the Thénardiers stealing the show (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter).


Interesting political insight?

September 20, 2012

I am apolitical.  I tend to distrust all politicians.  I don’t care about their political party.

I also (sadly) think that we are seeing the beginning (not the end) of a transformative process in American politics that will force a reworking of the political landscape to fit the changing demographics of the nation.

That takes me to Mitt Romney.  I think Mitt Romney seems to be an honorable man.  He seems to have been successful with his money.

I hope he does not become president.

Let me explain.  While I don’t have any real problems with Mitt Romney himself, there are quite a few people who he has allied himself with;  people whom he will owe big if he wins, that I don’t particularly care for.  These tend to be far right wing extremists who don’t seem to grasp a great deal of pragmatism or negotiation.  Barrack Obama, for all of his faults (and he has plenty of them!), got elected by a more moderate electorate, and as such has not catered extensively to the extremists on his side of the aisle.

So, how did a guy who once got elected governor of the fairly left wing state of Massachusetts, the same state once almost renamed “Kennedy”, and saw its state capital of Boston renamed “The Ol’ Watering Hole”, fall in with some arch right wing folks?

This article has an interesting take on that.  To no one’s surprise, Romney’s alliance with the far right is hardly that of a true believer.  That is, Romney’s transformation from a moderate Republican in New England to a candidate carrying the standard of the far right is one of convenience.  The writer contends that the critical moment in history was in 2006 with George Allen and macaca-gate.

For those who don’t remember, the fairly popular Senator Allen was on his way to easy re-election when at a campaign rally he spied a former quizbowl player named S.R. Sidarth taking video for the local Democrats.  Allen pointed him out to the crowd of supporters, and then referred to home as “macaca”, a term from Africa that is considered a racial epithet.  Given that Allen’s mom is from Tunisia, essentially squelched his attempt to claim he had never heard the term before.

Allen, who had been considered a front runner for the ’08 Republican, was suddenly tainted goods.  The author claims that the moment the right leaning Allen was out, it created a vacuum which Romney jumped in to.

This sets up an interesting situation that we are seeing unfold;  potentially more historic than the previous election.

I don’t know when we last were in a position in history where the incumbent president, in an economy this poorly during peace time, won re-election.  I know that if it has ever happened, it has been a long time (I seem to think the economy of 1936 was already in recovery from the Great Depression, and was even better than now).  While polls can be wrong, and this is far, far from a slam dunk (Obama has isolated quite a few supporters from ’08, and who knows what happens between now and Election Day), the Republican Party could be looking at a massive embarrassment in November.

If Mitt Romney, with the support of the far right, cannot defeat a president who is ruling over the worst economy in half a century (and to be fair this is largely not President Obama’s fault, and there is little he could have done, though not too many people realize that), it will call into question the current model of the Republican Party.  It will become clear that the Republican Party will have little choice other than to moderate, or for the last few moderates to abandon the party.

With the demographic shifts coming to the United States, the latter option above would likely hasten what I suspect will be the eventual end of the GOP and its replacement with something different.  There will always be a far right in the US, though its composition I think will be changing in the coming decades.

In relation to my previous post, I also predict the Cubs will continue not winning the World Series … so we’ll have to see what percent of my predictions come true.


Psychic phenomena, apocalyptic fiction, and lovable losers

September 20, 2012

I haven’t seen it, but a new TV series entitled Revolution premiered this week.  It tells some kind of story about teenagers journeying through a world where electricity has been gone for several years, and one of them may have the key to turning it back on.  Of course, they go to Chicago because industry + intellectualism + conspiracies + roving gangs = Chicago (much like: fashion industry + bad manners + muggings = New York or rain + rain + rain = Seattle).

The problem with film or television set “in the future” is that you have to make certain predictions about events between now and then.  Like with psychics, sometimes you guess right (or accidentally inspire things to become right)

cell phone / Captain Kirk babe calling device

One of the more chilling examples was an episode of the short lived The X-Files spinoff, The Lone Gunmen, which saw a storyline about a plot to hijack airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center … an episode that aired in March, 2001.    The writers were hardly psychic!  Even Tom Clancy had a book that ended with a fanatic plowing a commercial jet into the Capital Building, wiping out the government except for the President.

Sometimes you guess wrong … 2010, the sequel to 2001 foresaw a  joint mission by the US and USSR to Jupiter in 2010, which was wrong on many levels.  They also saw Pan Am as a major space carrier, which is also not something that could have happened.

This is not much different than what psychics do.  They guess a whole mess of things, and then harp on the things they guess right, and their followers conveniently forget the 50% of the stuff they got wrong.

Back to Revolution.  If you caught the commercials for the series, you noticed this scene:

The ivy is growing in very well this year!

BUT … this is the scene from the show and the recent promos.  If you go back to the spring and see the early promos, the scene has one small detail added:

In some parallel universe, this happ … who are we kidding,
this never happens!

In the original Revolution universe the Cubs won the 2012 World Series.  However as the summer rolled on and the Cubs put on their rendition of Titanic (complete with some scrambling to leave while a few souls hung around watching the destruction and waiting for the inevitable), the good folks at NBC decided that this as not going to happen, and airbrushed out the announcement that Saint Theo Epstein, patron saint of teams who can’t win, had again worked some miracle.

So in the newly realized universe of Revolution, taking place in the year 2027 or later, the Cubs have still never won a World Series.

Meanwhile, the remains of U.S. Cellular Field have collapsed under the weight of many trophies (in my mind, it could happen).

Just my way of saying Happy 104th to the citizens of CubNation.


A film of interest for the coming year …

September 14, 2012

Coming a few years later than anticipated is Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln.  The first trailer was released this week, and it is slated for a full on Oscar blitz release on November 16, 2012.

Spielberg originally purchased the rights to Doris Kearns Gooodwin’s book back in 2001 (4 years prior to publication), and it was originally to be targeted for a release to coincide with the Lincoln 150th birthday commemoration in 2011 (the bad economy severely curtailed much of the planned activities in Illinois).  It has an all-star cast (Daniel Day Lewis is the living embodiment of the image of Lincoln) … Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, and James Spader among others), and the usual 5 -star Spielberg production team.

If the film is going to be true to the spirit of the book, then I am disappointed that it isn’t going to be released earlier, as in weeks before election day.

I have read some excerpts of Goodwin’s book that this is based on (Team of Rivals …), and I think this book (and I hope that this film) speaks volumes to the politics of 2012.

The main thrust of Goodwin’s book is not so much a tale of the hero Lincoln defeating the Secessionists, but Lincoln creating what might have been the most divisive cabinet in history at the most divisive time in American history, and how he took that divisiveness and won over his rivals … not by ostracizing them from the political process, but by putting them in the middle of it.  Here is Lincoln in the midst of trying to guide the country through insurrection (mostly behind borderline competent or fully incompetent military commanders, such that he has to take considerable charge of day-to-day moves of the military), and the three most powerful members of his cabinet (Secretary of State Seward, Attorney General Bates, and Secretary of the Treasure Chase) are all men who lost to Lincoln in the 1860 election, an election so divisive as to make our current problems seem trivial by comparison.  Within Congress you have the far right Republicans calling for the complete destruction of the South, while the far left calls for an immediate abolition of slavery, all while the anti-war pacifists demand Lincoln take advantage of opportunities to sign a cease fire and let the South go on its way, or bring them back into the nation with slavery intact.  All the while, Lincoln is trying to navigate the nation with a sense of pragmatism between these contradictory forces.

If this sounds familiar, that is because you have been awake for the past 12 years.  The problem is:  where is our Lincoln?  The extremists on both sides are easy to pick out … but where is the leader willing to either engage both sides (which may in fact not be a possibility), or the leader that reaches out to the moderates on both sides and brings them to the forefront to force the extremists back to the fringe.  It says something about the leader we need now, and the leadership we are severely lacking everywhere.

Something made even more amazing given how Lincoln is one of the few people universally lionized on either side of the aisle, even though his real-life actions would have made him a target of both parties today.


Science fiction becoming reality …

September 11, 2012

In 1982, George Lucas introduced one of the most ridiculous weapons in film history:

The imperial All-Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT), which used unnecessarily slow, plodding movement toward the enemy to draw out the battle for no logical reason.  But, dammit, they were cool raised to the power of cool!  These gigantic armored assault camels were totally badass from this 10 year-old’s perspective.  I wondered if they would ever be made for real.  My dad, ex-Navy, told me how utterly impractical they were as weapons.

Screw practicality, these things were cool!

Fast-forward to 2012, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA … aka the closest the US military has come to publicly funding mad scientists … aka the people who really did invent the internets), has advanced evil science fiction transportation for use by the US military.  Meet the Legged Squad System Support (LS3):

In addition to carrying equipment for a military squad, it can also follow simple auditory and visual cues.

OK, it isn’t armed … but given that this is a military robot, you know they are already looking to throw a couple of guns on this thing in addition to advanced armor plating.  I am also thinking it is not useful on stealth missions.

The light saber:  still on hold.

Oh, in case you are thinking that this is too slow … DARPA already has a faster version on the way:

It is slated for outdoor testing in 2013, and has a top speed exceeding that of Usain Bolt’s world record.

The world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but we can still make cool things.