Wednesday, November 30, 2016

‘Snowtime!’ creators on getting the elements of winter,
childhood and conflict just right


The premise for “Snowtime!” is simple enough: Children on a two-week winter school break in a small village learn valuable life lessons when they form two teams for a huge (and greatly allegorical) snowball fight. But the Canadian film, which received a 70 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, has won acclaim for a charming, whimsical look whose wintry persona is come by honestly. “Lord of the Flies” with snowballs, it’s not.

“We know what winter looks like, we know what winter feels like,” director Jean-Francois Pouliot, who lives in Montreal, said at TheWrap Screening Series on Monday in West Hollywood. “I came in with one objective as far as look and style: I want this film to feel like winter much more than ‘Frozen.’ I admire ‘Frozen,’ but I want this film to have the feeling of wet wool.

“Winter has very different colors. It has all the colors you see in our film,” he continued, while speaking to TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman alongside Paul Risacher, one of the film’s screenwriters.

“War is a messy, messy business,” a “Snowtime!” character says, making a statement that’s more than a little true of the film’s own creation. One of 27 films vying for the 2017 animation Oscar, it reflects collaboration; innovative ways of resolving indie and big-budget esthetics, live-action and animation realities — plus a grasp of the power of a familiar story, and the risks of finding a new way to tell it. ...

Read the full story at TheWrap

Image credits: Waxman, Pouliot and Risacher: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trump and Arthur Brooks’ ‘dignity deficit’


FOR ARTHUR Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in The Wall Street Journal, the presumptive victory of Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 presidential election was a victory of the Norman Rockwell middle class over the elitist defilers of Western values. In an essay that barely submerges its deeper triumphalism, Brooks reaches for the ephemeral to explain the rationale of voters behind Trump’s apparent presidential win. For them, Brooks says, it’s all about dignity.

“Over the past half century, the percentage of working-age men outside the workforce doubled. Tuesday’s election results stunned pollsters and pundits. But to observers who have been watching deeper trends across America, the outcome was hardly incomprehensible. ...

“Most economists predicted that policies built on Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration and antitrade rhetoric would hardly help unemployed, working-class people in places like Kentucky and West Virginia. But where these experts heard incoherent specifics, many voters heard a consistent deeper theme: A promise to work hard at restoring left-behind Americans’ dignity by bringing back jobs and striking back at the cultural elites who disdain them.

“This story is not merely crucial for understanding this extraordinary election. It is also the lodestar for cultural renewal and better politics, no matter one’s place on the ideological spectrum. Leaders on both sides will likely take issue with some parts of Mr. Trump’s agenda. But all must contend with the central reality he has unearthed —the hunger for dignity in communities where it is most absent.”

◊ ◊ ◊

THERE’S BEEN a “hunger for dignity in communities where it is most absent,” the communities common to white working-class men, a national cohort whose sensibilities Trump tapped into on Election Day like a sugar maple tree in Vermont.

But what’s not clear is how (or whether) Trump’s agenda — as a matter of governance and not of campaigning — will equalize those communities’ aspirational dignity with that of other communities, the ones that the president-elect has spent a year and a half denigrating, denying dignity to vast swathes of the American electorate. Apparently, according to Trump’s agenda, it’s a zero-sum game; the one can’t coexist with the other. It is not enough that he wins; others must lose.

The deeply insensitive, calculatedly divisive rhetoric of the president-elect over the 18 months of his campaign — and the equally divisive Cabinet choices in the 13 days of White House transition — strongly suggest that the “dignity deficit” Brooks speaks of isn’t meant to be eliminated, only moved further onto the shoulders of the people in America for whom the dignity of work and economic empowerment has been a way more precarious proposition.

Brooks says that “all must contend with the central reality [Trump] has unearthed—the hunger for dignity in communities where it is most absent.” If Trump truly believes this, he can start with the communities of Latinos and African Americans, for whom the dignity Brooks talks about has been not absent, but certainly under siege, for years before the Great Recession.

Trump won’t do that because he’s spent so long vilifying those communities on the campaign trail — and apparently to great success — he can’t embrace them now without arousing the ire of the white working class whose support was his primary political objective from the start.

◊ ◊ ◊

BROOKS WRITES: “Who falls on the wrong side of this dignity gap? These days it is working-class men. In his new book ‘Men Without Work,’ my colleague Nick Eberstadt shows that between 1965 and 2015 the percentage of working-aged men outside the workforce increased to 22% from 10%. Many millions more are underemployed. The employment-to-population ratio for men aged 25-54 is 6.8% lower today than it was in 1930, in the teeth of the Great Depression. These secular trends were amplified by the nonrecovery that most Americans experienced after the Great Recession. Only about the top fifth of the economy saw positive income growth for most of the Obama presidency, Census Bureau data show, while most others averaged no growth at all.”

Never mind the open question of how much less of the economy would have seen positive income growth if Obama economic reforms hadn’t rescued the economy from eight years of the Bush administration. Let’s cut to the chase:

Brooks doesn’t say so in the previous paragraph, but when he refers to “working-class men,” he means white working-class men. Their overwhelming support of Trump at the polls — the civic manifestation of their frustration and that of their partner in grievance, white working-class women — forms the basis of Brooks’ argument.

◊ ◊ ◊

When it comes to explaining why white voters voted the way they did on Nov. 8, Charlie Cook says it more plainly: “The estrangement of these white voters created a backlash — inartfully called a “whitelash” by some commentators—based on the conviction that the country they remembered growing up, made idyllic by the passage of time, had been swept away. They at once deplored the change that took this country away from them, and demanded change to give it back.”

This is the source of what Brooks might call a dignity disconnect. The white voters Cook describes are longing for an America they only marginally remember or don’t remember at all, like the reveries of the hosts on “Westworld” or the implanted memories of the replicants in “Blade Runner.” Take the Supreme Court’s recent evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, for example. That landmark legislation has no resonance, no lived meaning for the vast majority of these voters. Most of them weren’t alive when it was first enacted in August 1965, and many, many others were too young to know or care.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Isabelle Huppert explores the dark side of the psyche
in Paul Verhoeven's 'Elle'


Isabelle Huppert’s role in “Elle,” France’s official entry for the 2017 Academy Awards, let her try on a range of emotional disguises for a woman whose rape at the hands of an unknown assailant is the catalyst for a bold psychological study. But the veteran French actress, who’s made films with directors from Chabrol to Cimino, found working with Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven a welcome extension of her own versatility.

“It’s surreal. I think it’s very, very close to the reality of a human being, in a way,” she told an audience on Monday at TheWrap Screening Series in West Los Angeles. “The whole investigation of her psyche, the whole investigation of any relationships in the film, is so true. I think there’s a great amount of truthfulness. That’s what is so disturbing: the ambiguity of it, the complexity of someone who does what she does.”

In the film, which is Verhoeven’s first feature since “Black Book” (2006), Huppert portrays Michèle, the hard-charging director of a leading video game company based in Paris. After being sexually attacked in her home, she begins the process of tracking down the rapist — a search that yields surprising results and reveals her capacity to be both victim and victimizer in the real world. ...

Read the full story at TheWrap.

Image credit: Huppert: Ted Soqui Photography

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A look back at The Globe’s look forward


THE PREDICTION market has been all over the lot forecasting Donald Trump’s first actions after he moves into the White House on January 20th He’s made a lot of promises about his Day One action items. While the facts are anyone’s guess, and will be for another 68 days or so, we can thank The Boston Globe again for its tongue-in-cheek look at life under a President Trump.

The Globe created a fictional front page reporting the actions of President The Donald on Sunday, April 9, 2017. If the headlines are even close to being right, it should be a very big day: “Markets sink as trade war looms.” “Curfews extended in multiple cities.” “DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN.” “U.S. soldiers refuse orders to kill ISIS families.”

When the parody page was first published by the Globe on April 10, it was generally received as a principled lark, a spirited piece of journalistic satire in the classic adversarial tradition. But back in April, we had the luxury of time, or we thought we did. At least then, we had a chance to push back what’s pushing against us as a nation, right now.




Friday, November 11, 2016

Election 2016: Polling and we the (untruthful) people


SINCE TUESDAY night, news organizations spanning ideology and readership — from FiveThirtyEight (holy of holies) to the Associated Press, from Moody’s Analytics to PredictWise, from Fox News to The New York Times — have engaged in mea culpas, wringing hands and scratching their heads at how they could get the results of the 2016 presidential election so wrong.

A lot’s been made about the inaccuracy of the myriad polls that preceded the election. But we haven’t heard as much about how they got their results; very little’s been said about a factor that the best, most reliable pollsters are defenseless against.

That factor led to an informational house of cards that was destined to fall, and it did on Election Day, when everyone (including yours truly) got completely sucker-punched by an unexpected outcome.

◊ ◊ ◊

It basically went like this: Everyday citizens, no doubt embarrassed by the idea of publicly supporting Trump, gave pollsters the information of apparent social preference, the choice that seemed to be the most palatable, the most acceptable to their friends and families and neighbors and the public at large: "What are you, kidding? Of course I'm voting for Clinton."

Even though they weren't.

The pollsters generally took respondent answers on faith. What those poll respondents said seemed to dovetail experientially with the mood of the country. So, pollsters took that false data and ran with it, building poll after poll after poll around it, reporting the results as a kind of presidential campaign holy writ.

Then the media reported the pollsters’ findings back to the public (or the media conducted its own polling of everyday people, beginning its own version of a process that would lead to exactly the same result).

Thus, the sense of a wave building for Hillary Clinton was utterly, tragically erroneous from the jump, a dream wrapped in statistics as insubstantial as the dream itself.

◊ ◊ ◊

FALSE DATA — answers from millions of poll respondents, answers that were exactly the opposite of what those voters intended to do on Election Day, false answers to survey questions in the waning days and weeks of the campaign, when the scales of public opinion seemed to tip for Clinton — was the X factor of the 2016 election.

At the end of the day, it’s the only thing that would account for the outcome of the election, and the realistic expectation of nothing else. There’s no other reason for the best of established polling protocols — regression analyses, demographic weighting, sample sizing, sampling errors — to have so thoroughly whiffed at the plate when it counted.

You don’t have to be Peter Hart to see how this makes sense: A poll can only be as accurate, as truthful, as presumably dispositive as the root information that makes that poll possible in the first place. Garbage in, garbage out.

Image credits: Clinton projection: New York Times. Clinton-Trump electoral vote map: Moody's Analytics.

Fear and Loathing in America 2016 *



God has special Providence for drunks, children 
and the United States of America

Otto von Bismarck

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Leonard Cohen


ON THURSDAY, Donald Trump went to Washington. The next president of the United States, a man thunderously endorsed by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, went to the nation’s capital to meet the African American president who occupies the White House for the next 10 weeks.

This happened the day after the night when anti-Trump protesters clogged the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles and thronged the Trump Tower in Manhattan and gathered at Parkman Bandstand in Boston and marched through downtown Chicago to protest at Trump Tower in Chicago and hit the streets of Oakland and San Francisco and Portland and Boulder and Philadelphia and Phoenix. This was the day after the night when Lily, a Latina protesting in Los Angeles, told CNN exactly what the stakes may well have become.

“If we don’t fight, who is going to fight for us? People had to die for your freedom where we’re at today. We can’t just do rallies, we have to fight back. There will be casualties on both sides. There will be, because people have to die to make a change in this world.”

◊ ◊ ◊

On Tuesday night, Donald John Trump, the nominally Republican [x]illionaire attention addict and pornographic self-pitchman, finally catapulted to victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and achieved the Oval Office, set to become the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017. It was a victory no one saw coming.

Maybe it was something we should have expected. Earlier in the year, there was a tweet released by the social-media staff at Hotels.com. The thing went little noticed in the Twitterverse on May 3, when it first came out. It was one of those innocently snarky items Twitter is famous for: a tweet from Captain Obvious, Hotels.com’s Edwardian-elegant wiseass of a pitchman, asking questions that now seem all too tantalizingly pertinent:

“Is Canada starting to sound like a good option? Why not make a trip North before November? Be a tourist before becoming a resident.” If you had any doubt about the real thrust of the tweet, what it was that provoked it, the tweet offered an inescapable clue: “#ElectingToMove”

◊ ◊ ◊

A YOUTUBE live video feed of protesters from Fox10 in Phoenix tapped into the mood of much of the country tonight. A live chat on the same You Tube page as the video revealed the written mood of people watching and reacting in real time. The CAPS LOCK cognoscenti weighs in:

PRESIDENT ORANGUTAN

TRUMP BETTER WATCH HIS ASS

DEPORT THESE FUCKERS



MUSHROOM CLOUD THIS CROWD

KILL TRUMP REDNECKS

LIBERALS ARE RACIST INFANTS

MUSLIMS ARE PIGS

WHITE IS RIGHT



LIKE WITH Lonesome Rhodes, the charismatic protagonist/antagonist of Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” Donald Trump blinded much of the country with the candlepower of his own mythology — the way it had already blinded him. In a variety of ways, we’re paying the price for that now. Or we soon will.

We’re paying the cost of having let him get close early on. When the media wasn’t yet fully dazzled by the daring of his bluster. When he wasn’t fully held to account for statements made in the past. When we let him walk on releasing his tax returns.

We’re paying the price for buying into this most malign aspect of our obsession with celebrity and power: our willingness to confuse heat with light; our willingness to imbue celebrity with sagacity; our willingness to pretend that American society’s more marginalized citizens are America’s most privileged; our willingness to lash out in unthinking rage, to burn down our village in order to save it.

And worse. Irony of ironies: After months on the trail essentially saying nothing, picking fights with demographic others, inciting violence at his own campaign rallies, riding the crest of emotionalism without deep-diving into policy, Donald Trump really didn’t even bother to define himself beyond the bullshit veneer of gilt-edged horndog maverick businessman ... concealing the real Donald Trump: a flamboyant, self-absorbed, hot-headed charlatan whose inexperience with our government somehow recommends him to run our government; a relentless publicity ho whose presidential campaign was, ultimately, nothing more than one man’s monument to himself.

And irony upon irony: Turns out that was enough to win. The country let him get away with it. We’re paying the price for our willingness to let that happen.

◊ ◊ ◊

On Thursday night, after an apparently expansive meeting with President Obama, the president-elect took to Twitter to react to the wave of protests that were emerging across the country — protests that continue right now. His first reaction was as tone-deaf, as insensitive as we’ve come to expect over the last 17 months.

“Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”


Then, perhaps realizing (or more likely having been advised by his aides) that a tweet like that did nothing to help close the national wounds that his own campaign had created and worsened, it decided that maybe a new tack was needed. Trump did the pivot at 3:14 Friday morning, nine hours after the first tweet:

“Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”

◊ ◊ ◊

TAKE NOTE of his first instinct: to respond with a snide, butthurt innuendo, making an unproven claim — protests “incited by the media”? Really? — in the course of his weak grievance. Then, and only then, hours later, comes the sunnier, more anodyne reaction — one which, on the basis of previous campaign performance, we’re invited to believe may not even be sincere.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy spoke at Vanderbilt University and characterized Richard Nixon, then seeking the presidency, in the heat of RFK’s one and only presidential campaign: “Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit.”

Today, at long last Nixon has his forthcoming successor, his heir apparent. And for the next four years, we’ll be paying the price for our willingness to let that happen too.

Image credits: Double Trump: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press. Captain Obvious tweet: Hotels.com. Two-image illustration: Lonesome Rhodes: from "A Face in the Crowd." Trump mouth: via The Guardian (UK).     * All due propers to Hunter S. Thompson.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016: Hillary Clinton concedes the 2016 presidential election



MSNBC and CNN have reported that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has called her Republican rival, Donald J. Trump, to concede the 2016 presidential election. CNN reported the final electoral-vote count as 288 Trump, 215 Clinton.

MSNBC reports that Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, has been won by Donald John Trump, the president-elect of the United States.

Image credit: AP/Matt Rourke.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: CNN and MSNBC:
Trump wins Alaska and Wisconsin


In the wee small hours of the morning, Republican nominee Donald Trump has won the states of Alaska and Wisconsin, according to CNN and MSNBC. Their electoral votes — Alaska's three electoral votes, Wisconsin's nine electoral votes — lift Trump's total to 257. Two hundred seventy are needed to win.

Election 2016: Clinton wins Maine


MSNBC calls the state of Maine for Hillary Clinton, its three electoral votes boosting her EV total to 218. Donald Trump holds at 245 EV.

Election 2016: Clinton wins Nevada


CNN and MSNBC have called Nevada (6 electoral votes) for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, 49 percent - 45 percent. The new totals: Clinton 215 EV, Trump 244 EV.

Election 2016: MSNBC:
Trump is 'apparent winner' in Florida


Hedging its bets while waiting for the final votes from Broward and Miami-Dade counties, MSNBC has named Donald Trump the "apparent winner" in the state of Florida, making him for now the recipient of the state's 29 electoral votes. The path to victory for Trump has widened considerably.

The addition of the Sunshine State to the Trump column deepens the electoral-vote imbalance: Clinton 209 EV, Trump 244 EV.

Election 2016: Clinton sweeps the West Coast


Hillary Clinton has swept the West Coast. MSNBC reports that Hillary Clinton has won Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington state, for a total of 78 electoral votes. New totals: Clinton 209 EV, Trump 187 EV.

Election 2016: MSNBC: Trump wins Ohio


MSNBC reports that Donald Trump has won the state of Ohio, historically one of the two or three states in the nation that's considered a national bellwether for presidential politics. Trump is projected to have won the state (18 electoral votes) by a sizable margin, 53 percent - 42 percent, with 75 percent of precincts reporting.

According to MSNBC exit polling, 54 percent of those responding said the economy was the driving factor in their decision to vote for Trump.

Election 2016: Basket of adorables:
Trump wins eight states


MSNBC reports Donald Trump to be the winner of eight states in the south and west. Texas (38 electoral votes), Louisiana (8 EV), Kansas (6 EV), Wyoming (3 EV) and the Dakotas North and South (3 EV apiece) have moved into the Trump column.

Election 2016: Fox News: Clinton wins Virginia


Fox News is reporting that Hillary Clinton will win the battleground state of Virginia, and its 13 electoral votes. The narrow win spares Team Clinton the embarrassment of losing the home state of her running mate, former Gov. Tim Kaine.

Election 2016: Clinton wins New Mexico, Montana to Trump


MSNBC reports that Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the state of New Mexico, and its five electoral votes. Also, Republican Donald Trump is projected to win Montana and its three electoral votes.

Election 2016: Clinton wins New York


MSNBC reports that Hillary Clinton has won the state of New York, and its 29 electoral votes. The Empire State, a state with a long and storied Democratic identity, was something of a gimme for Clinton. She served as a senator in the state after leaving the White House, and she maintains a home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Clinton wins the state by a comfortable margin, 77 percent to 21 percent, according to MSNBC projections.

Election 2016: Trump picks up Arkansas


Donald Trump wins the state of Arkansas (6 electoral votes), defeating Hillary Clinton in the state where she and husband Bill launched their bid for the presidency in 1992. The win brings Trump's electoral vote total to 72; Clinton has 75, according to MSNBC estimates.

Election 2016: Trump wins 4 Southern states


Donald Trump continues to win consistent with projections, taking Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee, MSNBC is reporting. These victories help Trump secure a grip on a contiguous swath of southern states. But MSNBC political analyst James Carville, a veteran of the Bill Clinton campaigns, noted that Trump's march across the south shouldn't raise eyebrows. "There's been nothing surprising in our projections," he said tonight.

Election 2016: Clinton wins seven states,
District of Columbia


Hillary Clinton has won seven eastern states and the District of Columbia, MSNBC reports. Clinton puts Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois (20 EV), Massachusetts (11 EV), Maryland (10 EV), New Jersey and Rhode Island in the Democratic column; those states plus the District of Columbia, heavily-African American, give Clinton an early edge in the early electoral-vote count (75-66).

Illinois was probably a lock for the Democrats; it's President Obama's home state, and Clinton spent time there herself. She grew up in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, in a home on Wisner Street in an upper middle-class neighborhood. She threw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs opening day game in April 1994. Clinton won other states in the northeast, all of them consistent with pre-election forecasts. One of them, New Jersey, puts a bit of a thumb in the eye of Gov. Chris Christie ... Trump's prospective transition director.

Election 2016: Trump projected to win
South Carolina, West Virginia


MSNBC is reporting that Donald Trump wins the states of South Carolina (9 electoral votes) and West Virginia (5 EV). The margins vary; Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in South Carolina by 3 points (50 percent-47 percent), and in West Virginia by 8 points (51-43). The wins are pretty much in line with most forecasts, which have Trump winning most Southern states handily.

A sizable slew of states are closing polls now.

Election 2016: North Carolina voting extended


CNN is reporting that the North Carolina State Board of Elections has agreed to extend polling-place times in Durham County, due to computer glitches. The board has reportedly agreed to keep polls open from 20 minutes to an hour beyond their usual closing time of 7:30 PM.

Election 2016: Clinton projected winner in Vermont


CNN is projecting Hillary Clinton  as the winner in Vermont, with its three electoral votes. Senator Bernie Sanders — her old foe in the Democratic primary season — makes good on a pledge to everything he could to put her over the top in his home state.

Election 2016: Trump projected winner
in Indiana and Kentucky


CNN is projecting Donald Trump as the winner in Indiana and Kentucky, two states he was frankly expected to win easily. Indiana (11 electoral votes), a heartland state with a history of conservative leaders, is the home state of Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, so it would have been a major embarrassment for the Hoosier State to fall into the Clinton column.

Likewise, Kentucky (8 EV), part of the historically Solid South, was not expected to be in the Clinton orbit. It's Mitch McConnell's home state and, as such, it would have been embarrassing if Clinton had snatched this one away from the Republicans.

Election 2016: Something building
for Democrats in Florida?


Katrina vandenHeuvel of The Nation tweets:  "Clinton's current estimate has already surpassed the votes Obama received in Florida in 2012."

An interesting development maybe: Obama won the Sunshine State in 2012, largely on the strength of late absentee ballots.

As of 2 PM Pacific, Clinton had 4,225,249 estimated votes to Trump's 3,947,947 (this from a tweet from Al Giordano, journalist and political commentator.

Florida polls close at 7 and 8 PM. First results should be coming any minute now.

Election 2016: Computer glitches
reported in North Carolina


The North Carolina State Board of Elections will hold an emergency meeting by teleconference to discuss the possible extension of polling-place operation times, this because of computer glitches. The meeting is set for 6 PM (3 PM Pacific).

State law says that if polling-place operations are disrupted for 15 minutes or more during an election, the State Board of Elections "may extend the closing time by an equal number of minutes."

This is potentially very important; North Carolina has been the object of protests, and the source of controversy, over how the state handles its black and minority voters at polling places. African American turnout is believed to be down in the state this election because of voter disenfranchisement through legislative means.

Election 2016: Colorado voting systems down


This can't be good: Jessica Oh at 9News in Denver reports that all voting systems in Colorado are down. Oh tweeted the information at 1:05 PM mountain time, shortly after an announcement was made at the Denver Elections Office.

Colorado's role in this election could be important, though probably not pivotal. Its status as a swing state has solidified in recent years. And with the election expected to be close, the impact of early voting can't be underestimated. The Denver Post reports that Republicans have gained an edge in early votes over the weekend, shifting a trend that was favoring Colorado Democrats until then.


Stay tuned. We'll see if this is a thing or ... a thinglet.

Vote. It matters.



NO, IT’S NOT tomorrow or next week. Election Day is today. Right now. It’s under way. It’s on. And if you’re registered, wherever you are, you need to be there. Get out and vote today.

The presidential election pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump is the starkest, most incredibly obvious choice between two different iterations of the United States that we’ve had in years, maybe generations.

And no matter which side of this great political and cultural divide you’re on, it’s important that you make your voice, your choice, known. This is one of those things that’s both a duty and a right, a privilege and a responsibility. And there’s no good reason to sit this one out. Cynicism is not fashionable, no matter what your hipper-than-thou friends say.

If you’re registered, follow through on what you’ve already set in motion. Finish what you started. Go vote. Don’t shrug your shoulders and say “it doesn’t matter,” like those invertebrate knuckleheads whose patriotism, whose belief in this country, is an exercise in the situational.

The lounge chair will be waiting for you when you get back. Drop the 40-ounce. Put down the blunt. Binge-watch “Luke Cage” or “Peaky Blinders” when you get home. You need to do this. If you’re gonna be a card-carrying trash-talker about this nation and who runs the government, you need to be a card-carrying citizen who helps decide who runs the government.

It’s not tomorrow or next week. Election Day is today. Right now. It’s on. And if you’re registered, you need to go there. Be there. Ahora.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016: Dixville Notch weighs in



And ... we're off! The first in-person votes of the 2016 presidential election are in, from Dixville Notch, N.H., by custom the "first in the nation" to cast ballots. The votes, customarily cast beginning at midnight East Coast time, may or may not be a bellwether of what's to come. But if nothing else, it's a moment of civic tranquility before the real madness begins, hours from now.

The vote totals:

Hillary Clinton: 4 votes

Donald Trump: 2 votes

Gary Johnson (Libertarian): 1 vote

         ... and in a hearty blast from the past ...

Mitt Romney: 1 vote

Stay tuned ...

The Shock Historic Election Forecast 2016:
Clinton, comfortably


SPORTS FANS who weigh the prospects for their favorite teams are often advised to accept the need for the reality of actual competition, often being told something like “the contest isn’t fought on paper, there’s a reason why they play the game.” Presidential elections are no different.

In the final round of pre-election polls, Democrat Hillary Clinton tops Republican Donald Trump across the board, by a little or a lot. The latest poll from Monmouth University gives her a fat 6-point edge among likely voters. A tracking poll from ABC News and The Washington Post finds her ahead by 4 points. Even the new survey by Fox News — always a crap shoot, given Fox’s conservative predisposition — gives Clinton a 4-point bulge.

In the Real Clear Politics four-way average poll (which includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein), Clinton leads by 2.2 percentage points, and by 2 points head to head against Trump. Bloomberg has Clinton up by 3 points, CBS News has her ahead by 4 points, but the IBD/TIPP tracking poll has Trump in front by 2 points.

◊ ◊ ◊

Past is often prologue, but not always. In the 2012 electoral vote count, President Obama beat Mitt Romney like an egg at the hands of a chef, 330-208. I don’t think the margin of victory for Clinton over Trump will be quite that vast — we’ve been advised to expect a close race — but it’ll be big enough.

Forecast: On the basis of a plurality of national and battleground polls; continued strength for Clinton in the Electoral College; an estimated advantage in early votes; runaway support from Latino voters fed up with Trump’s vilifications; the support of women voters sick of Trump’s history of sexual harassment and lack of gender-related social graces; and (grudging?) support from backers of independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be elected the 45th president of the United States, with an Electoral College vote total of 308.

Donald Trump, the [x]illionaire attention addict and Republican nominee, will trail with 230. Two hundred and seventy electoral votes are needed to win.

◊ ◊ ◊


IN FLORIDA, expect Clinton to be the skin-of-the-teeth beneficiary of a combination of long-term and short-term trends on Election Day.

The strong advantage for Clinton among the state’s early voters; the multi-generational presence of Cuban Americans; the follow-on impact of their children and grandchildren of voting age; the more recent arrival of Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after prolonged economic downturns on their home island; the long-term edge in Democratic voter registrations over Republicans; the more recent surge in voter registrations among Latinos; and the collective insults of Latinos by Trump from day one of his campaign ... all of it breaks Clinton’s way on Tuesday.

Clinton will — by the slimmest of margins — win Florida and its 29 electoral votes, continuing a pattern of Democratic victory that President Obama set when he won the state, on the strength of late absentee ballots, in 2012.

◊ ◊ ◊

Ohio may be another matter entirely: In the Buckeye State, the latest polls indicate a tossup at best, with a plurality of polls breaking strongly for Trump, on a two-way, head-to-head basis, or in combination with Johnson and Stein.

In Nevada: The evolution of the state’s population base — younger, browner, more frequently affiliated with unions connected to the state’s hospitality and casino industries — and a continuation of voting patterns that have returned Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to office since he was first elected in 1987, strongly point to a continuing Democratic trend, and Clinton winning the state’s 6 electoral votes.

Reid hasn’t just been an idle spectator. John Ralston, a veteran of Nevada politics, observed Sunday in Politico Magazine: “After two years of boosting voter registration among key Democratic demographics, the retiring Senate minority leader has brought turnout among Hispanics in the state to record levels. In doing so, he’s almost surely delivered the state for Hillary Clinton—and possibly with it the presidential race.”

◊ ◊ ◊

THE NEW YORK Times’ Upshot forecast map, as a foundational projection point, forecasts a Clinton win with 275 electoral votes. Another Times analysis, an interactive charting the 1,024 paths to victory for either candidate, projects a “most likely outcome” of 322 EV for Clinton. That seems unusually optimistic.

A more likely scenario: I say the Upshot forecast map holds — Clinton 275, Trump 263 — but Clinton also ekes out the narrow win in Florida, gaining the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes. Also, in my forecast, Clinton wins New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes (contrary to the Upshot map, which counts New Hampshire as a state for Trump despite eight of the nine organizations in The Times own survey of pollsters reporting Clinton a prohibitive favorite to win the Granite State).

Clinton 308 EV, Trump 230 EV, GOT*.

◊ ◊ ◊

But that’s just me. Time will tell how this all shakes out. There’s a lot to be decided Tuesday, but for a lot of Americans, it’s all over. According to the United States Election Project, more than 42.2 million Americans had already cast their ballots as of Oct. 30 — that's 18.2 percent of the country’s voting-eligible population. They clearly have a lot invested in the outcome.

On Friday, CBS News reported on one group that doesn’t have quite so much at stake yet, but may still be a very reliable barometer of who’ll win on Tuesday.

Last week, the students of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., took part in a mock presidential election, continuing a long tradition. Teachers tallied the votes at day’s end and added them to a spreadsheet.

The winner? It wasn’t even close: Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, 52 percent to 43 percent.

Elementary school kids? Don’t be too dismissive of that. The outcome of the Benjamin Franklin mock election has accurately predicted of the outcome of every real presidential election since the school opened ... in 1968.

Not even the pros have been that consistently right.

Image credits: Clinton: Reuters/Brian Snyder.   * Give or take.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election 2016: Early voting snapshot II: Florida in play


IN AMERICAN presidential politics, few states have the linchpin reputation of being pivotal to the outcome of elections that Florida has. Only Ohio has a similar status as crucial barometer of the American electorate on Election Day. But while much of the rust-belt, blue-collar identity of the Buckeye State hasn’t changed over the years, Florida has since 2008 emerged as the petri dish of the nation’s demographic evolution.

For the Democrats and the Clinton campaign — capitalizing on their own aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts and a galaxy of unforced errors by the Trump campaign — that fact is paying big dividends right now in the Sunshine State, days before the election.

“Of the early votes cast by Friday, close to one-third of the Hispanic voters had never voted in an election before. And polling makes clear that they are overwhelmingly voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, The Huffington Post reported Saturday.

◊ ◊ ◊

S.V. Date reports: “The looming danger for Republicans in this is clear. Republicans once were able to count on California, Texas and Florida in presidential contests. Then it was only Texas and Florida. A Clinton win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday could confirm the start of an era where Democrats head into presidential contests able to count on three of the mega-states ― California, New York and Florida ― with Republicans having only Texas.”

“It reduces the math to a tiny group, but it’s a useful group,” Ruy Teixeira, a demographer with the Center for American Progress, made it clear. “If Florida is gone, that only leaves Texas.”

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s campaign topkick in 2012, made it clearer still. “If what happens in 2016 with Latinos and other non-white voters is the same thing that happened with African Americans in 1964, Republicans aren’t going to win a presidential election for generations.”

◊ ◊ ◊

WHAT’S APPARENTLY playing out in Florida didn’t just happen; this surge in Latino votes started with a surge in Latino voter registrations as far back as July of last year. If you kept up with the Pew Research web site, none of this is a surprise.

Pew Research Center first reported last July, and again in an updated version of that story on March 9, that Latino voters “make up an even larger share of the state’s registered voters than in past years ...”

Pew reported: “Due to the state’s large Cuban voting bloc, the Latino vote had been reliably Republican. For example, President George W. Bush won both the Hispanic vote and the state in 2004. But 2008 represented a tipping point: More Latinos were registered as Democrats than Republicans, and the gap has only widened since then. This has led to the growing influence of Democrats among the state’s Hispanic voters in 2008 and 2012, two presidential elections in which Barack Obama carried both Hispanics and the state.”

“Among all Floridians, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in 2016. This is due in part to Hispanics, who accounted for 88% of growth in the number of registered Democrats between 2006 and 2016. During this time, the number of Hispanic registered voters increased by 61%, while the number of Hispanics identifying as Democrats increased by 83% and those having no party affiliation increased by 95%.”

◊ ◊ ◊

The reasons for this huge shift in Florida’s political identity are as simple as getting your head around a simple truth, one never more evident than in this election: Presidential politics is a demographic experience. In Florida, it’s one with a Cuban heritage.

“Cuban Americans and their politics are also changing,” Pew reported last year. “This group increasingly leans toward the Democratic Party as more are born in the U.S. In addition, due to an influx of Cuban immigrants since 1990, a sizable majority of Cuban Americans today say they have at least some common values with people living in Cuba.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

Windy City winner: The Cubs win and why it matters



The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.

Red Smith


WHEN BOBBY Thomson hit a home run to win the National League pennant in 1951, Red Smith wrote that ode to the long shot finishing in the money, against all odds. If only the Ol’ Redhead were alive today.

If he were, he’d have been witness on Wednesday to a miracle borne of 108 years of hard work and hard luck; he’d have seen and heard of a city fighting to stay alive and vibrant in the grip of a fugue state of gun violence that’s claimed hundreds this year alone. He’d have watched the Chicago Cubs, hapless no more, defeat the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, to win the World Series in seven games, ending the longest drought by any major professional sports franchise.

Somewhere, Steve Bartman is breathing easy.

IN all the ways that matter — the drama, the comeback, the unpredictability, the unexpected heroes, the 17-minute rain delay Wednesday — this was a World Series for the ages. And it was an experience the whole country could get its heart around. It took the Great National Pastime to help us reach something like a national consensus; not because of clever marketing or boardroom decisions. The Chicago Cubs really are America’s team.



Something in this win, the course of this season, the previous 107 seasons of rollercoaster emotions has helped to solidify this team’s hold on the mass heart. The Cubs embody the human condition, its highs and lows, its flights and crashes, more and better than any other team around. And that’s what makes this win so special.

Roger Angell once observed that “there’s more Met than Yankee in all of us,” but you can make the case there’s really more Cub than Met or Yankee in all of us. Our lives are tissues of disappointment, travail and encounters with bad manners. Plans fall through; the diagnosis isn’t what we expected; unfortunately the employer decided to go in a different direction. We can’t always get what we want. Usually.



But every now and then ... something happens. It doesn’t pay the bills or fix the plumbing. It won’t stop ISIS or AIDS or inflation, or any other modern plague. And it won’t in and of itself stop the senseless gun-violence slaughter that’s gripped the Windy City for far too long. But Chicago needs that “it,” that ineffable objective, that green light in the distance ... that chance to feel good. To feel strong. To feel united. To feel alive.

NOW THE folks at Anheuser-Busch get that (notwithstanding their current foreign ownership). Overnight after Game 7, the marketing and creative team at Budweiser cobbled together an ad that weaved the voice and image of the late Cubs broadcasting legend Harry Caray into film and video footage of the final out of Game 7 — as if Caray, dead since 1998, was calling the game himself.

The result was a masterpiece, a powerfully emotional ad that’s made grown men weep more than once in its 1.3 million You Tube views. Yeah, it’s selling beer, but that’s not what you’re looking at.



You’re looking at real people, everyday people. Like the throngs that stood outside Wrigley Field waiting for the outcome.

Like the well-recognized comedian and movie actor who sat in the stands and celebrated, not as a famous entertainer but as just another overjoyed Cubs fan.

Like the Cubs fan who watched the final out in his basement with friends and collapsed in tears when the Cubs won it all.



It doesn’t happen often enough, God knows. But the Chicago Cubs victory in the Fall Classic, a game that was a classic — a clinic on tenacity and determination — showed how being down one game to three is no excuse. We all live our lives down one game to three, or it feels like it much of the time.

But sometimes ... we get it right. We put it together. We bounce back. And we put one in the W column — we win, in spite of everything. On those days, there’s more Chicago Cub in each of us than anything else.

Image credit: Cubs win!: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty Images.

Last Taboo: Wesley Morris on why pop culture
can’t get its head around black male sexuality


NEW YORK Times staff writer Wesley Morris weighed in on Oct. 27 in the New York Times Magazine, with “Last Taboo,” a playful, courageous, provocative piece of writing that goes all in on the subject that Dare Not Speak Its Name: black male sexuality.

In an essay that deftly sprints around the eras of D.W. Griffith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Quentin Tarantino and “Empire,” Morris lays bare this angry national preoccupation, explaining why, despite other pretenders to the title, this may truly be our culture's last taboo.

It’s been a week since the piece was published, but considering its subject matter, we shouldn’t be surprised that it still inspires upraised eyebrows and furious commentary. Whether they know it or not, he readers who’ve been speaking out — or lashing out — are reacting as much to history as to the author of the piece. Which makes sense; regardless of how long this blistering essay’s been out there, the shelf life of the subject matter is a long way from expiration.

At its root, American society’s perverse fascination with and fear of black male sexuality stems from an inability to reconcile the received wisdom of the male as the seat of power in social and professional relationships, and male genitalia as the dominant force of sexual relationships, with the fact that black male genitals also exist. It’s a double bind of our national pathology: Black men must be relatively powerless because, well, they’re black men. But they can’t be powerless because, well, they’ve got penises. Morris investigates the source of a dilemma rooted deeply in our popular culture.

◊ ◊ ◊

Some excerpts:

“The national terror of black sexuality is a central pillar of the American blockbuster. In 1915, D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” envisioned a post-Civil War country run by feckless white abolitionists, nearly ruined by haughty blacks and then saved by the Ku Klux Klan — a mob whose energies are largely focused on rescuing a white woman from a half-black, half-white lieutenant governor’s attempt to force her into marriage.

“That’s just the plot; Griffith’s genius was at its most flagrant in the feverish surrounding details. The country isn’t even done being rebuilt in “The Birth of a Nation,” and here comes the K.K.K., already determined to make America great again. The movie crackles with sensationalist moral profanity. Many of the black characters, for starters, are played by white actors, all having a grand time making randy savages out of their roles. ...

‘“The nation’s subconscious was forged in a violent mess of fear, fantasy and the forbidden that still affects the most trivial things. A century after Griffith, you’re free to go to a theater and watch Chris Hemsworth throw his legs open and parade his fictional endowment, while sparing a thought for what it would mean if a black star who goes by The Rock were to do the same. ...

“Black male sexuality is of interest [to] American popular culture only when the people experiencing it are white. There is no paradigmatic white penis. To each man his own. But there is a paradigmatic black one, and how do you stunt-cast for that? ...

◊ ◊ ◊

THE under-representation of the black penis bespeaks a larger discomfort with depicting black male sexuality with the same range of seriousness, cheek and romance that’s afforded white sexuality. The history of American popular culture is an immersion in, if not loving white people, then knowing that white people can love. There’s been no comparably robust black equivalent. ...

“We have a strong, ever-proliferating sense of how white people see the sexuality of black men, but we are estranged from how black men see themselves. Post-Blaxploitation, that connection was primarily confined to the art world. The queer film essays of Marlon Riggs and Isaac Julien, from the late 1980s and early 1990s, remain different but intellectually conjoined odysseys of the male gaze, aimed at himself — two black mirrors. Otherwise, there was virtually no television and very few movies that were seriously interested in normal black desire, straight or otherwise. That’s changing.

“The Starz crime drama “Power” is about an unfaithful black crime boss (Omari Hardwick), and a few months ago, it made room for a casual cameo by the rapper 50 Cent’s penis. And that bartender who slept with Jessica Jones happens to be Luke Cage (Mike Colter), who now has his own show, a so-so Blaxploitation-minded superhero drama that presents Colter as the sexiest man on television (or any streaming service). The record-industry soap opera “Empire” doesn’t even seem to know there ever was a white gaze; it’s the least self-consciously black show I’ve ever seen.

“There is still something missing from our picture of black male sexuality, though, regardless of who’s looking: romance. We know black men can grind, but rarely do we see them love — as though we’d have to upend too many stereotypes, shed too much pathology, making it impossible to get there. ...

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with black men’s sexuality — only the ways it has been distorted, demonized and denied. ...”

Read the rest at The New York Times

Image credits: 'Last Taboo' cover: © 2016 The New York Times.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

'Tonio' director on investigating a family's grief
within the creative process


Paula van der Oest began work on her latest film, “Tonio,” with an ending. On the morning of May 23, 2010, a young man, Tonio van der Heijden, was struck by a driver while riding his bicycle back to his home in The Netherlands. The budding photographer, in critical condition, later died at the age of 21.

For his parents, Adri and Mirjam van der Heijden, the time after his death was consumed with grief and longing for a life snuffed out so soon. For Adri, a renowned Dutch fiction writer, his son’s passing resulted in a blaze of creative energy that led to “Tonio,” a “requiem memoir” published a year after his son’s death — a memoir that was the seed for van der Oest’s film, the Netherlands’ official Oscar submission. ...

Read the rest at The Wrap

Image credit: Van der Oest: Ted Soqui.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Come on, Chicago


BASEBALL IN NOVEMBER? And why not? Everything else has happened in this wacky, dysfunctional, cockeyed year, there’s no reason the great National Pastime shouldn’t be included in our basket of imponderables.

And in a year when anything can happen, that’s exactly what happened on the baseball diamond. The Chicago Cubs, in the World Series for the first time since 1945, stand on the brink of winning it all tonight, in a Game 7 for the ages.

Last night, when the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 9-3, in Cleveland — knotting the Series at three games apiece — it was every baseball fan’s dream scenario. Reality strangled the invention of the past 70 years.

◊ ◊ ◊

Having your team in the Fall Classic is exciting enough, an anodyne civic event no matter what your city is. But for Chicago in 2016, it’s an especially uplifting note in a year of downbeat events.

In September, after an ugly Labor Day weekend, Chicago passed 500 homicides, a fact that made 2016 the deadliest year on record for the Big Windy. This past weekend, 17 people were fatally shot, bringing the year’s total to 614, as of midnight Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Some cities need the little victories more than others do, and that’s the case right now for Chicago. In the greater scheme of things, it may not matter much. Hard to believe that a Cubs win tonight would seriously, or even slightly, alter the arc of gun violence that seems to have a perverted, malign mind of its own.

But in bad times, you look for a ray of hope anywhere, everywhere, and having the bragging rights to being World Series champions for the first time since 1908 is a good place to start. If only for a moment, a few moments before the next gunshot, the next siren, the next scream in the night.

Come on, Cubbies. Bring it on home. You need it. We need it.

Image credits: Cubs celebrate: USA Today Sports/Reuters.
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