Thursday, December 18, 2014

Someplace Between Hollywood and Pyongyang

Rogen and Jong-un review script notes between tokes.
This recent debacle between North Korea and Sony Entertainment over what looks like a B movie that entertains the plot of assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has really crossed so many boundaries of discussion, it's hard to pick one.

Cyber-terrorism by hackers who are supposedly members of North Korean elite squad of IP savvy ninjas who cannot only break into a poorly secured network infrastructure of a Japanese gadget company who bought Columbia Pictures to get into the Hollywood business.

How they did it?

Not interested. They waved their fingers over a keyboard at a Linux prompt and magically found themselves at the root drive of all evil.

What they leaked that embarrassed Sony Entertainment executives?

Not Interested. These are Hollywood executives, did you expect any sense of appropriate decorum?

How the now never-to-be-released Seth Rogen movie insulted the regime, or maybe only Dennis Rodman?

And the Dennis Rodman connection still seems to defy the law of socio-political physics.

The first thing that came to my mind as this story broke last week and continued to escalate, was envisioning the author - perpetual stoner Seth Rogen - continually replying to questions and comments from Sony, the media, and the Homeland Security boys in black suites and sunglasses - and likely every friend Rogen ever had with the same answer that is the anthem of every comedian who went too far with a joke or a gag:

"It's only a joke".

When the conversation elevated to the movie being pulled from four major movie chains in the United States after the North Korean Cyber Ninja's eluded to an ability to somehow blow up every theatre that projected the mocked-up Kim Jong-un on its silver screen, then escalated to the movie not being released, and the United States finding itself suddenly involved investigating potential acts of terrorism based on these threats.

"It's only a joke".

This answer implies that no one is ever allowed to be offended by a comedian, as though the joke is a sacred cow not to be judged for appropriateness, but only by how funny it is.

And funny is such a subjective scale. Believe me, people remind me of this on a daily basis.

The decision not to show the movie in theatres was made by the theatre owners. In their defense, I believe it was the responsible decision, no matter how unlikely the realization of such threats may be.

The decision to pull the movie from being released was made by Sony Pictures. This is a business after all, and while it may sound heroic to some, releasing this movie was proving to risk their bottom line rather than show profit. Their stocks rose 3.68% in the twenty four hours following the announcement.

Here is the reality. Kim Jong-un, as cartoonish a buffoon as we westerners may believe him to be – a political reincarnation of a South Korean pseudo-musician Psy in a virtual loop of Gangnam Style, is still alive and the leader of contentious albeit isolated land smashed between China and South Korea with Japan just across the Sea of Japan.

And while other movies have mocked and even killed off living heads of state in the past – as far back as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator from the days before The United States even considered diving into World War II, none of those movie's premise was the direct order of a government to assassinate the offending leader. They didn't even try to parody this leader. Nor change his name. The leader is Kim Jong-un.

And the problem with such ruthless dictators who squash human rights on a daily basis and live in luxury while the population he reigns over is that they just don't have a sense of humor. They certainly can't appreciate a good parody, let alone a poor one likely conceived between tokes.

"But really, it's only a joke".

Joke or not, political affiliations aside, the taste of Rogen's joke is quite questionable.

"Pulling this movie flies in the face of freedom of speech. It reeks of censorship".

Now look. As Voltaire may or may not have said, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it". Well, maybe not to my death, but at least until somebody complains about me.

The fact is, there is no global belief in free speech. Clearly not in North Korea. And when you release a movie for the world to see, you better be ready for the world's opinion.

Because, I tell my daughters several times a week:

You have the freedom to express yourself, and I will stand by you when you do. But that freedom is not intended to protect you from the repercussions of your hurtful stupidity.

And this was just plain stupidity. Hell, damn near bullying.

Try explaining to your twelve year old daughter who sees insults flying on Instagram everyday why its not okay for kids to make fun of an tease other kids in a YouTube video, but it's absolutely fine for a stoner jackass to write a simpleton story about how funny it is to kill another person – a real person who is still alive – and then explain how a major movie studio would see this as entertainment to release to be seen worldwide.

Seems kind of hypocritical – don't you think? Even if the target of the joke appears to be one of the most tyrannical and corrupt leaders currently in power at the time.

If you want to mock an easy target like Kim Jong-un, go for it.

But why should it surprise anybody that the Galapagos-like isolation that this leader contains his countrymen under would have enough peek-holes through his iron curtain to see this film coming. Maybe Dennis Rodman told him, over a beer …

"Dude, you should see this kick as movie they're making about you".

Maybe it was one of his Ninja cyber-punk hackers looking to impress his leader by sending him link to the movie trailer that's been out since Halloween. The subject of the email probably stated "check this out" and in the body of the email the ninja might have stated something like …

"The actor who portrays you doesn't come close to capturing the greatness of your character"

Then below that link is another link to the video about the guy telling the dog he fed his steak to the cat instead.

I can't get enough of that video either.

To me, this is the perfect collision between the two furthest poles on the spectrum of reality: Hollywood and Pyongyang.

And so far Pyongyang is winning.

This isn't about being North Korean and defending your leader, even if done so with a pistol to your head.

And this isn't about being American, and holding the position that you can do anything you want to and how dare anybody challenge you claiming such a stance as "my God-given right as an American".

Wait, yes it is. It's about both these perspectives.

Well, say what you want. You have the right.

But watch out for those that disagree, because they have the right to be pissed off at you for saying it.

But the worst outcome of this circus of the stars is yet to play out.

Because you know, you just know, that Rogen is likely already halfway through writing the screen play about what he perceives to be the most talented writer in Hollywood starting a nuclear war over the brilliant script he wrote about a pompous boy-dictator ruling over the land of make-believe.

And I wouldn't mind receiving a royalty check for that idea.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Time Before This Time

Scientists estimate that the big bang – the cosmic event that scientists speculate marks the beginning of our universe – happened some 13.7 billion years ago.

When considering values in the billions – I find the need to exact to the additional seven tenths of a billion quite pretentious.

But regardless, the question remains – in a universe that is supposedly endless – what existed before the big bang occurred?

My understanding – one of only a very simple and uneducated layman to be sure – is that everything that existed in the universe was sucked in by an unimaginable force of gravity into the space that a pea would occupy, and then at its ultimate limit – exploded everything encapsulated in that small space all across the universe – in a gaseous molten form that when it finally came to cool enough to form shapes filled our universe with the orb like masses that we see today.

So the theory goes anyway.

But what was that final period like of the prior universe? When everything was being sucked in? If things were spread as far and wide today – it must have taken at least a million years to collapse?

Think of today – light from neighboring stars taking thousands of years to reach Earth. At the speed of light. To suggest that the collapse happened quickly would mean that the speed of light is not the fastest speed there is.

Or perhaps it's that speed which slows down time, like Einstein postulated. So the million year collapse seemed to happen in an instant.

Seemed like an instant? To who?

These ideas are as staggering to conceptualize in our limited human brains as the concept that the universe is endless.

Perhaps it was not the entire universe that was sucked in – perhaps it was only a galaxy. A collection of solar systems – much like we have today. Could the universe before the big bang at first glance really be that much different than this one that exists in this universal collection of time?

If there was an after, then there had to be a before. Right?

And where did all that stuff come from that exploded into the universe?

That piece of rock, lying there in your garden, where did it really come from. Originally?

And then what about all the pieces of life? This consciousness that has to exist to experience what there is? Did all these pieces, the DNAs of life that are needed to spark an existence – did they all arrive here with all the other matter that congealed into this blob of matter that spun itself around our sun to become earth?

Did they exist before us? Before the bang? Snuffed out as the universe collapsed? Gathered up as part of that gigantic collection of matter that compressed and exploded all over again? If so, then these pieces of life should be all over the universe – planted - tossed out from the big bang like a gardener tossing wildflower seeds into the loose soil in hopes some of it will catch and grow?

The truth is that all we can truly do is speculate on all these things and try, using mathematic and scientific laws that may not even have been applicable before or during that bang.

'We' of course meaning people much smarter than me.

But we are all free to consider, to speculate, to hypothesize.

That big bang was like a reboot of all existence.

A natural cosmic cycle of happenings that occur over and over and over again?

Like searching through the square root of pie looking for the sequence in decimal places to finally start recurring, albeit we haven't found it yet. But it's there. And then we will start looking for the place where it started again after sequence is defined.

Maybe the square root of pie is simply a clue left behind.

Because if you stop and think about it – everything really stems from a circle. Repeating, rotating, orbiting, and spinning start and finish that even though it repeats it never starts or ends.

If this is the case – then the same must be true of our universe, it simply goes round and round inside the blob-ish sphere-ish orb that is our universal boundary?

But of that's the case, what exists on the other side of that boundary?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Summer is for Ball

Summers come and summers go.

I love summer.

I used to live in places where summer lasts pretty much all year around. But I never appreciated them so much until I returned to Canada some thirty years ago.

But of all the Canadian summers that I filled – cram packed full – playing golf and softball in every spare moment – and how much I cherished the friends I shared those days with – none of those summers compare to these last three summers.

These last three years with my two daughters – playing ball all year around – indoors in the winter – on the diamonds in the summer – and watching them grow into players of significant skills and character – these last three summers have been priceless.

We are now at a point where I can go out and play ball with them just like any of those guys I played ball with in years past. I can throw as hard as I can to them, I can hit line drives at their feet. I can hit long fly balls to them in the outfield – and I love to watch them handle them easily.

This year, I can watch Alannah take the mound and not worry if she will have it today – or if she will walk in four runs before she's pulled. She goes out and gets the job done.

I can watch Ashley-Rae play the field – infield or outfield – and know that should the batter be this unfortunate to hit the ball her way, - well, they might as well go sit back down on the bench and wait for their next at bat.

And when I see a fast pitcher for the opposing side warming up, throwing fast heat or great junk, and either Alannah or Ashley-Rae is in the on deck circle, I am confident both will make hard contact – their short swings powered off their back leg as they snap their hips first and the bat through the arriving ball full on the barrel of their bats and driving it.

Both my daughter's confidence on the diamond is at an all-time high. And both know when the going gets tough – they have to play harder. And both know good sportsmanship and both exhibit strong leadership.

All my life I have been a baseball fan. And since moving back to Windsor fifteen years ago, there was rarely a Detroit Tigers game I did not watch or listen to somehow. But these last two years especially – I have not been so attentive.

There are two new teams that I love much more than the Tigers, and no matter what logo is imprinted on the jersey and hat either Alannah or Ashley-Rae wear, those are my favorite teams.

My lovely wife Darlene and I argue about our obsession with the girls' softball all the time. It's very expensive, and in the summer it consumes most of our free time. But the game has given them so much for relatively so little in comparison to other possible investments in their future, it has taught them so much more than they could learn from other institutions – those skills that mean so much – those attributes of being a human being that make for exceptional individuals. Attributes like team work, and fortitude and practice and discipline and contributing to a joint effort. Like success, and like failure.

Darlene is not wrong, we can't afford to have two girls travelling on two teams to different places far away every weekend.

It's taken a huge toll on our financial stability.

But still, until my dying day, I will always contend, we cannot afford not to.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time Enough For Me

Again another summer is rolling into our little burg on the cusp both Canada and the United States – nestled into a quiet corner along the bordering Detroit River.

The breeze is warmer each morning as I sit on the back deck by the pool listening to the water flow around the pools edge, the ever so gentle hum of the pump that moves it.

And of course, my faithful black lab Suzy, yet another year older, laying on the deck at my feet.

The coffee tastes great this morning, seemingly the perfect complement to the sounds of the birds in the neighborhood as they execute their morning routines.

Life is very busy right now. Almost too busy. Almost. My days are filled with exciting work on interesting projects. Those days flow into the night as I continue my work from home, between two teenage girls travel ball team practices and tournaments, and the chores that come from simply being a homeowner and a father.

I have been too busy to write, and my head to full of the information I need for work, and information I need for home and the girls ball teams, too full to make room for interesting things to write about here.

There's just so much going on.

But this weekend is as calm as they will get this weekend.

Sure, there is still some grass to cut and some weeds to whip, and both girls will have practices over the next two days, and yeas, my laptop will come out of my bag and I will put some of my attention to the backlog of tasks outstanding from the current project at work.

But other than that, the weekend is my own.

But then there is a birthday party sleep over event that Alannah will attend at a friends house, and she will need to be driven to and back at some point. And there is laundry and kitchen tasks outstanding, and the house could use a good vacuuming. But other than that, my time is my own.

Time, what time is it now? Alannah's practice starts in twenty minutes. Damn. I still need to shower and shave and stop to put gas in the car. I'd better think about going.

But after that – it's only a three hour practice today – after that the day is mine – aside from the chores and the driving and the project I need to work on.

The day is mine. All mine.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wildcats and Turtles and Disharmonous Harmony

Here we sit at the middle of January, and all that is green is buried in white.
The skies filled with those big grey and purple clouds that hang low packed with snow.
Sometimes it falls. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes I shovel it. Sometimes I wait for next week’s thaw to clear the laneway for me. 
But summer ball is right around the corner.
Yes, it’s a very wide corner still but it’s there on the horizon’s horizon.
This season will be very exciting as both Alannah and Ashley-Rae are playing at even higher levels, both playing on traveling rep teams here in the Windsor area.
But this year they play on different teams under different clubs. Alannah will be playing for a bantam team of girls born in 2001. She is playing for the Wildcats.
Ashley-Rae will be playing for the Squirt team of girls born in 2002. She will still be playing for the Athletics of the Turtle Club, on the same team that Alannah played on last year but is now too old.
While the Wildcats and Turtle Club share a mutual need for diplomatic mutual gain, the fact is these two clubs don’t like each other. And one of her coaches this year coached another team from yet another club Alannah played against last year.
And that club didn’t like the Turtle Club either.
None of these clubs like each other – but years of competition mean that many of these coaches and players have spent time in more than just one of the clubs.
It’s likely very common from community to community, rivalries like these. They are great as long as they don’t get personal.
So far so good.
But it is extremely interesting to me, the observer I seem to have retired to. Seeing both sides, seeing both styles both so completely different despite their undeniable similarity. Like two competing churches each searching for the more perfect doctrine. Both reading from the same book and interpreting the same things differently.
It’s fun.
Ashley-Rae’s team has three of my players from my Gold ’99 team from last summer. Now I’m just a dad but I’m proud of each one of them. Now they join forces with the girls that Alannah left behind.
The other girls from Alannah’s team that moved on because their age moved them up to Bantam now play on the same Wildcat Alannah does. Great kids. Great parents. So I am not so alone now straddling the Wildcat – Turtle Club line. Although the Athletics team parents seem like extended family to me.

The best of the best.
So I am looking forward to watching both teams.
They have both been practicing since the summers end. In different elementary schools in the same way, doing different things looking for the same results.
Both managers are also excellent. One a wily old veteran of the coaching circle – the other a young woman who’s extensive and impressive player career and coaching experience has now culminated to her first  managing position.

I'm very happy that both girls have such great leadership to play for.

Yet so similarly different.

Just like Wildcats and Turtles.

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