Uncommon Sense

April 25, 2021

Netflix, Please Give the Atmospheric Scores a Day Off

I tuned in to watch a new Netflix movie, Without Remorse, with Michael B Jordan, an actor I like to watch. I had to turn it off several minutes later because of one of Netflix’s bad habits. It funds many movies and most of them have very “atmospheric” soundtracks, that is the music is almost continuous and mood setting. It also makes the movies hard on those of us who are a bit hard of hearing.

After struggling to hear and then make sense of the dialogue, I get frustrated and just turn the show off. And it is not that I haven’t tried other things. I watch a fair number of foreign generated shows, which use subtitles for those who don’t speak Korean, or Japanese, or Spanish. I do not mind this but it has certain limitations. When an English language show is on, I can go to the bathroom or the kitchen and still follow what is happening. If I am dependent upon subtitles, if I lose sight of them all I hear is words I do not understand. I either have to pause the show or rewind it when I get back (sometimes the bathroom calls strongly).

I do understand what a good movie soundtrack does, but I am learning what a bad movie soundtrack does now. Are any of you experiencing the same issue?

August 16, 2019

The Family: A Start

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:00 am
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I watched the first episode of The Family, a Netflix documentary on a shadowy group called “The Family” or “The Fellowship.” This group is a quasi-religious cult with the stated purpose of, well let one character explain it as he explained why the central character was been proselytized: “You are here to learn how to rule the world.” The first episode is set in a stately mansion near Washington, D.C. and power brokers from there and around the world “stop by” for discussions with the leaders of The Family.

The documentary assumes a pattern that I assume will be carried through. Stitched between statements made by real players in this organization and its investigation are enacted scenes of events as described by an insider who lived through them. I can’t say how much research is behind verifying the claims of the main character, who wrote a book about it, etc.

Ever wonder where is came from in a “separation of church and state” country?

I did get a frisson of anxiety when a leader in the group hands out to our man a copy of their guidebook. It is entitled “Jesus” and consists of the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that’s it. (To quote Astro, the dog, “Ruh roh.”) Later a female character (all females are quite subservient so far) says “Jesus is a real person, a real person, not some abstract idea and He wants you to know Him.” (Of course the only books of the New Testament which speak of Jesus being a real character and not an abstract idea are the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.)

We are then introduced to Doug Coe, the leader of the Family, whose main contribution (at this early point) is to establish his main point, that of “The more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence you will have.”

In a “dorm room” discussion between the young men (the women are housed elsewhere) the discussion comes around to King David and how he had more than a few character deficits. The point to the Family group, however, was that “God chooses people and whatever you do, God will stick by you.” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I be the one to tell them what God wants? Can I, can I?)

I was about to write a piece on the Book of Daniel when this viewing happened. That book is very “prophetic,” but that may be because it was written 400+ years after when it claims to have been written. Events that have already happened are really easy to prophesy. (Try it, you’ll like it.) But the key element of that book and one that is glossed over (and over and over) is that Yahweh’s promise to the Chosen People is that they will have dominion over all of the other peoples of the Earth. That is the end game, that the Hebrews, and now the Christians by inheritance, will be rulers of the world including you, me . . . everybody. This is the core message of Christianity. Christians too often stop short at the coming of Jesus and the creation of the New Paradise on Earth and in Heaven, but the narrative goes on with the entire Earth under Yahweh’s thumb, in the form of a global theocracy. (Power to the Chosen People!) If you haven’t yet found a reason to oppose Christianity, maybe the Family’s clearly stated purpose is that thing. And there are good reasons that Christians don’t emphasize that purpose which, of course, they criticize Islam for. (Only in the movies does the villain take the time to explain that global domination is his goal, bwah, hah, ha! This is because it scares the shit out of the rest of us.)

It seems as if “the Family” is an organization dedicated to that end. And there are clearly no democratic principles behind this organization. It is a “Christian” organization, therefore totalitarian through and through.

To see just how different this theocratic vision of the future is from, say, Greek philosophy, consider Aristotle’s idea of the driving force behind societies. According to him, virtue is the prime focus of a well-lived life (seems Aristotle was a bit of a Stoic). To him, “ethical virtue was a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it.” Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well. For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes. Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation (from a summary of Nicomachean Ethics, the emphases are mine).

I don’t thin civic virtue is mentioned in the Bible; just submission to the will of Yahweh/Jesus; conform, don’t rebel, etc.

The American Constitutional founders were highly focused upon building a secular government that evoked civic virtue from its citizens, so that they (We the people . . .) were constantly balancing their individual welfare with the welfare of the common good.

I do not know whether I can stomach viewing more episodes of this documentary . . . I probably will . . . in small doses, because, well, know your enemy! These people are clearly not supporters of a democratic future for this country. They are accruing power for a reason. It can’t be good, no matter how much Jesus they slather upon themselves.

 

 

March 2, 2018

A Review of Ugly Delicious

Filed under: Culture,Education,Race — Steve Ruis @ 11:04 am
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I just finished watching a Netflix serial documentary Ugly Delicious with David Chang and a bunch of other chefs and food writers … and comedians (?). The term ugly delicious is what David Chang uses for home cooked food that everyone loves which doesn’t show up on restaurant menus. Mr. Chang is a celebrity mega-chef but an ordinary guy, in the sense of he doesn’t put on airs. (Chefs used to be ordinary guys/gals but now that we have made some of them celebrities, some have gotten a bit … aloof, shall we say.)

I had read a review of Ugly Delicious in the NY Times that was a bit sniffy, objecting to Mr. Chang’s use of the F-word for one, which I found ordinary and refreshing. (The Times reviewers seem to all come from the Pecksniff Academy.)

The show is not just about food, but food as a element of culture, how food is interwoven with culture, privilege, and racism. For example, in Japan fried chicken and watermelon is a big seller in restaurants. In the U.S. you would not find that combination on a menu unless it was a black-owned and back-operated restaurant, and then maybe not then, too. Mr. Chang is seen educating himself (and us) about the racism involved in fried chicken (in the U.S. and nowhere else).

Another theme is that American appreciation of Asian foods is stuck on a stultified menu that almost cannot be changed: fried rice, eggroll, and General Tso’s Chicken, etc. … and if it is Asian food it needs to be cheap. When tourists go the China and get authentic Chinese food, they are often disappointed as it is nothing like what is served here. One element of what has created this situation is indeed racism, but one aspect of this wasn’t touched upon. It seems to be the case that a person’s taste in foods seems to be set by the time they are about six years old. If children are fed hot peppers, in that time, they will like hot foods later, for example. I now live in the Midwest and I hear people complain about a dish being “too spicy” because it included Fresno chilies. Fresno chilies! For the Midwesterners reading this, Fresno green chilies are right next to Bell peppers in heat, there is almost none. But children raised on bland food would find them too spicy to eat as adults. The lesson here is if you want to have your children grow up to appreciate a full range of food tastes, don’t shackle them while they are young. If they have a narrow diet while young, they will have a narrow diet when older, same is true for a wider diet. (I had a mixed upbringing, having a wide variety of dishes served to me, but regarding vegetables, we ate a lot of green beans and corn and not much else. So, I like vegetables, as long as they were green beans and corn. I have since learned to like other veggies, but Brussels sprouts eluded me for almost 70 years and cauliflower almost as long. (It doesn’t help that Midwesterners boil all vegetables until mushy and if not, they are creamed or fried. My mother was from Iowa, even though I was born in California.)

Of course, there are extremes for every palette. Mr. Chang relates a story of when he first tried “Hot Chicken” and bragged a little about liking “very hot” food before being served. I will not spoil the story by relating it here, but let me just say Mr. Chang had an out-of-body experience.

This is not a series just about food. It is about people and how food can bring us together as one big family. Very touching, very well told stories, and fascinating, at least to this old fart.

Highly recommended—worth watching—Ugly Delicious.

Addendum I wonder what the budget was for this series as they shot footage all over the world. If Netflix can keep up the pace, I will keep subscribing.

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