Where did I leave off?
We saw Toni Erdmann, an off-beat, pleasant-enough German-Austrian comedy, about a world full of bullshit, the soul-stripping work of business consultants and, more generally, alienation from self and others that can overtake us if we aren't intentional about maintaining strong relationships. There's more to it than that, but it doesn't rise higher than 87/100 on the X-ometer.
John Wick 2 is full of speeding, smashing, fighting and shooting. I was bored. My ranking is just 55/100, but the overwhelming majority of people who see this film like it, according to both Rotten Tomatoes and the audience interacting with the theater screen when we saw it. My brain needs more than noisy stimulation.
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary based on an unfinished manuscript by the late James Baldwin. This is a great film, and though the construction could have been a bit tighter, it's still well worth seeing if you like Baldwin or even if you don't like him. I didn't agree with everything Baldwin ever wrote and said, but he was a brilliant, deeply conscious man who knew how to open other willing, conscious minds. 95/100
Then there is Lion. I resisted seeing this film, but after my stupid suggestion that we see John Wick 2, I had to give one back. I thought Lion would be far too sentimentally smarmy for my tastes, and there was plenty of sentimentality as well as some tear-jerking, but it was skillfully done. Moreover, it's great story based on real life events, and I'm glad I agreed to see it:. 91/100
Speaking of tear-jerking, if you haven't caught This Is US on NBC, give it try. This inventive, off-beat drama with occasional laughs will suck you in after a few episodes. All but the Season 1 finale has aired so far, but catching up won't be difficult because it's more than sufficiently binge-worthy. The characters are likable and multiple story lines will tug at your heartstrings, but, like Lion, it works without turning cheesy. 90/100
Contemptible... If True:
From The Daily Northwestern (University): Fraternity Ordered to Cease Operation Pending Investigation
The sanction comes after the University issued a security alert to students on Feb. 6 saying it had received a report alleging four female students were possibly given a date rape drug at the SAE fraternity house on Jan. 21. The report alleges that two believe they were sexually assaulted. University spokesman Bob Rowley told The Daily that the SAE-related report was anonymous at the time the alert was sent to students via email. [...]
The email, sent by Chief of Police Bruce Lewis, also said the University received another anonymous report on Feb. 3 alleging that a female student had been sexually assaulted and potentially given a date rape drug at a separate, unnamed fraternity house the previous night.
Both reports were anonymous so, as we've learned, wait for the investigation to conclude before deciding that you really know what happened.
The CTA needs to get rid of the cloth-covered passenger seats. Earlier in the week, I sat on a pee-soaked seat... while on my way to work. It was so bad, I cancelled three appointments so that I could go home, shower and change into clean clothes. A google search reveals that I'm far from the only person to have ever suffered this unpleasant experience while riding public transportation.
My first thought was that the wet seat was the work of a homeless person, but I can't be sure a homeless person was the peester. Could have been a passed out drunk with a home, or some other person with a health problem, but I'm betting it was a homeless person.
Over the past two weeks I've noticed a huge upsurge in the numbers of homeless men sleeping on the Red Line, sprawled out, typically across four seats. Moreover, the rank stench of dry piss has been filling many of the cars I've ridden in lately, even when no homeless persons are present. Recent temperatures haven't been especially low, so I don't think it's a matter of the CTA taking pity on the homeless but, for some reason, it seems they aren't policing the cars outside of rush hour.
I must add that I'm all for providing safe, clean accommodations for homeless people, without judgment. Many don't sleep in shelters because they aren't safe, and some are kicked out of shelters because of problem behavior. In many of those cases, the individuals in question need long-term mental health care that they aren't getting. Too many of the mentally ill wind up on the street or in jail or sleeping on subways and L trains. I reminded myself of this fact as I tried not to wretch on my way home to clean myself up.
Our National Pathology
I can't even
The State of Illinois fiscal crisis continues, along with our growing debt problem. Conservatives like to blame liberal profligacy, but the problem has been one of bipartisan irresponsibility that has been ongoing for years. One conservative Chicago columnist (who I dislike as a columnist) refers to Illinois politicians as The Combine because corrupt and just plain poor governance has been a bipartisan affair. Currently, we're about 2 years into a no-budget situation with the state allocating stop-gap funding a piece at a time.
The longer this sorry state of affairs continues, the worse this is going to get. We have a seriously underfunded public pension problem that can't be fixed with bankruptcy. A provision in the state constitution requires that pension payments must be made, and there is no way out.
Now before you go ablamin' public employees, the problem is that the state failed to make its side of the pension contributions while public employees made their side of the contributions. This situation was entirely unnecessary. Pols here were loath to raise taxes, even though Illinois residents were, for years, taxed at relatively low rates compared with other states. But if newspaper comments have been any indication over the past 10 years, residents of all political stripes have been inclined to lie to themselves about how taxed we are compared with other states.
A few years back, we had a temporary (now lapsed) income tax increase, and both sales and property taxes at various levels of government have increased, but the unpleasant longer-term solution is staring us in the face: we've got to carefully trim the budget where possible and further raise taxes to dig ourselves out. We are not the federal government, so we can't run deficits forever.
Tangentially and Finally:
Dear Governor Rauner:
I kind of like you and certainly think you're well-intentioned, and I believe you have the best interests of the state at heart, but for God's sake, stop intentionally dropping the Gs at the end of words. You are a summa cum laude Dartmouth grad, Harvard MBA, billionaire, from an upper middle-class suburb, raised by a nurse mom and an attorney dad. The folksy affectation sounds phony and ridiculous given the way you otherwise speak.