Some Thoughts

Sometimes in a certain state of mind I begin to feel I can deconstruct the universe in elemental ways and make sense of the world we’re living in. Rarely do they seem to hold up in the morning.

But it strikes me that despite all the polarization and tension between Conservatives and Liberals (in specifically America, but potentially anywhere), both ideologies would not exist if they were not both rooted in something resembling a logical point of view. And zoomed out to the biggest of pictures, both seem to me to be able to be boiled down to distinct but equally rational philosophical perspectives on human history.

Liberals believe in the constant pursuit of a better world, “the more perfect union.” This means more diversity, more inclusion, more fairness, more humanity. Liberals’ ideal world can’t be pictured in the mind’s eye, the way many on the right long for a 1950’s ideal. The goal post is always moving, an infuriating fact for some who value tradition and a particular sense of personal “liberty,” especially when it comes to “political correctness.”

But any honest liberal person can acknowledge that inherent in the process of creating a better world is the tension of the status quo, a violent, often deadly tension, but an unavoidable one.

Where a Conservative might point to a terrorist attack and begin to see Muslim immigration as a risk not worth taking, Liberals consider those wounds, however tragic, aberrations and bumps in the road towards progress, perhaps avoidable if not for the ignorant pushback of their right-leaning counterparts who create us-vs-them dynamics between groups around the globe.

Conservatives, though, do not believe that level of sentimentality is sustainable. They feel the weight of the past. They see that no other civilization in history has lasted forever. Chief among the reasons they believe this is the case are the primary forces of government overreach and sweeping, premature change.

Where Liberals see the government as a tool of populist consensus meant to help protect the vulnerable and put it’s thumb down on the dial of progress, Conservatives mostly see the potential for even good intentions to fuck everything up for the sake of a naive fantasy.

Conservatives say they believe in a healthy restraint on the pace of progress, the way a parent might withhold R-rated movies from a child until a certain age. Liberals would accuse Conservatives of actually desiring to preserve a certain state of civilization that benefitted them (and often only them), but here’s the thing, there’s a hell of a logic to that.

Like I said, no civilization has ever survived the never-ending grind of time. And it is pretty logical to be wary of any new intrusion that could upset a favorable equilibrium, even if means shunning certain idealistic principles of inclusion and, yes, equality.

And what’s so wrong with Conservatives simply casting a more intimate net on the range of their compassion? Would we not all save our own son or daughter before a stranger? Conservatives simply extend love first to themselves (if they’re honest), then to their families, then their own communities, and often their church (sometimes in the form of actual charity and goodwill towards other communities). What energy and will are left over goes toward preserving the system that allows them to take care of their own. Whether the system necessarily gives others opportunity to do the same is a lesser priority. We take care of our own.

As for me, I often see Conservatism as buying a house, the biggest and newest in the neighborhood (the one with the best view) and falling in love with it. Only decades later, despite the leaks that have developed over the years and the new, more modern houses that have been built down the street and all the work to be done in the yard, they still insist they have the best house. Would it be so hard to address the problems of the house in which you take so much pride? With a little work it could indeed be that house (after all, it still has the best view). There is also no need to kick out the new guy you invited over earlier just because your pipes are leaking. He might even be an expert plumber.

Do those mixed metaphors discount the desire for pure personal liberty? Maybe. There is a lot of dichotomy and contradiction in our American values and constitution. Liberty and equality don’t always get along. Free Speech means the right to shit on all the other freedoms. Achieving the right balance means answering tough questions.

Now this is the part where I bring this all together to say how this means we are really all on the same team and advocate for better communication and healthy discussion and a healthy balance between conservative values and liberals one and the rest.

Is this even lucid anymore?

 

Oscars 2017 Winners & Predictions

It’s Oscars night! I have a running tradition with a friend of exchanging our picks for every category, including who we think WILL win and, of course, who really SHOULD.

It’s Oscars night! And I have a running tradition with a friend of exchanging our picks for every category, including who we think WILL win and, of course, who really SHOULD win. Enjoy:

Best Picture 

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

Will Win: La La Land. For one, everybody has seen it, which goes a long way towards taking this award. Plus, everybody loves it, which is not to say it’s everyone’s favorite movie, but the way the voting is set up, if La La Land is at least everyone’s second choice while drama buffs spilt between Moonlight and Manchester, then it should coast. It has the momentum and nominations to be the safe the bet.

Should Win: Moonlight. It’s the most important movie of the year, while still being as cinematically and stylistically bold and inventive as La La Land, just in subtler ways that have gone unsung in the comparison. I also want to just mention Manchester by the Sea here because it broke me.

Directing

  • Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
  • Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
  • Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
  • Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: Chazelle. To his credit, he did manage to paste together tons of seemingly at odds tone and genre elements, pull off some audacious set pieces and make it all feel cohesive enough to score a blockbuster Hollywood musical.

Should Win: Jenkins, for so many reasons. He pulled off having three actors play his protagonist, coaxed out some incredible child acting performances, shot the most beautiful movie of the year, made the genius choice to set it to classical music and made an art film that never got preachy, pretentious or boring.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
  • Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Will Win: Affleck. It’s more than the performance of the year, it’s in the running for performance of the decade. It’s so subtle and complex, building so many emotional layers over the course of the movie that when there actually are moments of raw, unsuppressed emotion towards the end it feels so honest and authentic and heartbreaking.

Should Win: Affleck, but if the sexual harassment allegations against him turn off voters — and that is a conversation we should be having – I think Denzel would stand to benefit. He’d be second choice. Fences was an acting clinic.

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
  • Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
  • Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Dev Patel, “Lion”
  • Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Will Win: Ali, although I have a sneaking suspicion Dev Patel could steal this one. Lion has seemed to really win over a lot of hearts.

Should Win: Nothing would make me happier (or make me feel more validated as a longtime fan) than to see Michael Shannon accept an Oscar, but I have to go with Ali. I just love that character so much. His sympathetic, father figure drug dealer was such a subversive, moving and important lesson on the kind of empathy movies can inspire.

Actress in a Leading Role:

  •  “Lion,” by Luke Davies
  •  “Arrival,” by Eric Heisserer
  •  “Moonlight,” by Barry Jenkins
  •  “Hidden Figures,” by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder
  •  “Fences,” by August Wilson

Will Win: Jenkins is going to get screwed tonight, but hopefully he will somewhat get his due here.

Should Win: Jenkins.

Original screenplay

  •  “Manchester by the Sea,” by Kenneth Lonergan
  •  “Hell or High Water,” by Taylor Sheridan
  •  “La La Land,” by Damien Chazelle
  •  “20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
  •  “The Lobster,” by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos

Will Win: La La Land, which is a shame. Writing is not the strength of that movie.

Should Win: Lonergan, but should out to Mike Mills. 20th Century Women is awesome.

Cinematography

  • Bradford Young, “Arrival”
  • Linus Sandgren,“La La Land”
  • Greig Fraser, “Lion”
  • James Laxton, “Moonlight”
  • Rodrigo Prieto, “Silence”

Will Win: La La Land. And it sure is pretty. Some of those tracking shot set pieces will make it hard to complain.

Should Win: Moonlight. Because it’s fucking gorgeous.

Documentary feature

  • “Fire at Sea”
  • “I am Not Your Negro”
  • “Life, Animated”
  • “OJ: Made in America”
  • “13th”

Will Win: OJ: Made in America. It certainly gets some help from the long running time and event tv-like feel of its release.

Should Win: OJ. I’ve never seen anything like it. Coming on the heels of the FX series it should have felt like retread. Instead it felt like one of the most eye opening and unique dissections of race in the US I’ve ever seen or read. And that’s saying something in a year where truly unforgettable documentaries about race refreshingly filled up the nominations. So much love for 13th and I am Not Your Negro, also.

Original score

  • Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
  • Mica Levi, “Jackie”
  • Nicholas Britell, “Moonlight”
  • Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran, “Lion”
  • Thomas Newman, “Passengers”

Will Win: Hurwitz. The music from the big musical will triumph.

Should Win: Mica Levi. That score was hypnotic and I think more essential to the tone and execution of the movie than even La La Land. But I may still be high on her score for Under the Skin.

*I either have not seen enough of the movies for or do not have a strong enough opinion about the following categories for a Will Win/Should Win section. These are just my (sometimes arbitrary) predictions in bold. 

Documentary short:

  • “Extremis”
  • “4.1 miles”
  • “Joe’s Violins”
  • “Watani: My Homeland”
  • “The White Helmets”

Foreign language film:

  • “Toni Erdmann,” Germany
  • “The Salesman,” Iran
  • “A Man Called Ove,” Sweden
  • “Tanna,” Australia
  • “Land of Mine,” Denmark

Sound editing

  • Sylvain Bellemare, “Arrival”
  • Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli, “Deepwater Horizon”
  • Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan, “La La Land”
  • Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, “Sully”

Sound mixing

  • Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye, “Arrival”
  • Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow, “La La Land”
  • David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
  • Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth, “13 Hours”

Original song

  •  “City of Stars” (“La La Land”)
  • “How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”)
  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” (“La La Land”)
  • “The Empty Chair” (“Jim: The James Foley Story”)
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (“Trolls”)

Production design

  • Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte, “Arrival”
  • Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh, “Hail, Caesar!”
  • David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, “La La Land”
  • Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena, “Passengers”

Visual effects:

  • Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton, “Deepwater Horizon”
  • Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould, “Doctor Strange”
  • Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon, “The Jungle Book”
  • Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff, “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Makeup and hairstyling

  • Eva von Bahr and Love Larson, “A Man Called Ove”
  • Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, “Star Trek Beyond”
  • Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson, “Suicide Squad”

Costume design

  • Mary Zophres, “La La Land”
  • Madeline Fontaine, “Jackie”
  • Consolata Boyle, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
  • Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • Joanna Johnston, “Allied”

Film editing

  • Joe Walker, “Arrival”
  • John Gilbert, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Jake Roberts, “Hell or High Water”
  • Tom Cross, “La La Land”
  • Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, “Moonlight”

Live-action short

  • “Ennemis intérieurs,” Selim Azzazi
  • “La femme et le TGV,” Timo von Gunten
  • “Silent Nights,” Aske Bang, Kim Magnusson
  • “Sing,” Kristof Deák, Anna Udvardy
  • “Timecode,” Juanjo Gimenez

Animated short film

  • “Blind Vaysha”
  • “Borrowed Time”
  • “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
  • “Pearl”
  • “Piper”

Animated feature film

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • “Moana”
  • “My Life as a Zucchini”
  • “The Red Turtle”
  • “Zootopia”

Jacob Bicycle – “Half the Way from Shore” EP Review

Goldfine’s vocals are the secret ingredient setting these songs apart. His smooth and soulful croon is versatile enough to carry both an upbeat rock anthem and a soft ballad while never losing his wholly original fragility.

I met Jake Goldfine during my junior year in college at Syracuse. We were neighbors and spent many a PBR-fueled night jamming together in the weary hours after a party, he on his guitar and me on my keyboard. Towards the end of my college career we formalized the partnership under the very regrettable name “Palm Full” (thought we argued about it often, we could never agree on another name to make the much needed change) and debuted a few of our original songs that I contend still hold up.

However, after graduation I moved on to New York City and refocused my creative energy into my writing. Jake, though, moved to Los Angeles where he continued to hone his songwriting and musicianship.

He has come a long damn way.

This month Goldfine released Half the Way from Shore, a three-song EP with guitarist David Mosca under the name Maxwell Edison (the EP is hosted on SoundCloud under Goldfine’s alias Jacob Bicycle). When the two of us had recorded a few of our songs in college, we struggled to translate our living room rock set into a polished recording, but LA-based producer Mike Oliviero has clearly helped Goldfine fine tune his production skills. These songs come to life with all the intricacies,  instrumental Easter eggs, and sonic consistency of a thoroughly thought out, professional record.

But Half the Way from Shore is mostly a testament to Goldfine’s strengthening songwriting and sharp pop sensibility. An east coast lifer adrift in Los Angeles at the time of the EP’s recording, the songs appropriately play like melancholy, New York City songer-songwriter fare trapped inside California pop-rock shimmer. His soulful ballads of heartbreak and love-beyond-grasp often slip into pop punk breakdowns and harmony-filled interludes.

The EP begins with “Heart’s Web,” a ready-for-radio (perhaps even too polished?) anthem about the inherent risks of falling in love. The pretty pop track track is slickly constructed over an Alt-J-reminiscent indie R&B beat. The second track, “Poets,” shows off Goldfine’s tender lyrics -“the words allude me like a million flies circling ’round a light” – and becomes a cleverly self-aware reflection on the cliche repetitiveness of guitar-strapped singers and their lovesick ballads. That the song drifts into a wordless, sweepingly melodic chorus seems to suggest that some sparks are too joyous and profound to be captured in a simple, lyrical verse.

Both songs show promise, but “From When I Took a Walk,” the third and final track, is the real gem of the EP. The song perfectly marries the songwriting prowess evident in “Poets” with Goldfine’s penchant for go-for-broke hooks (“Heart’s Web”). It is also the best showcase for Goldfine’s vocals, the secret ingredient setting the EP apart. His smooth and soulful croon is versatile enough to carry both an upbeat rock song and a soft ballad while never losing his wholly original fragility – part Death Cab with a slight reggae overtones.

It can be hard to be objective about a friend’s work, but it is easy to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed these songs and was drawn to listen to them over and over again. They work perfectly as sweetly digestable pop, but also capture an artist who may not yet have fully crystallized the complex sound he wants to put into the world, but is well on his way (and leaps and bounds ahead of where he was back when we played together).

The Day After

A friend (somewhat sarcastically) suggested I take things like this off social media and to a blog or website. I’m trying to follow that advice. 

(11.9.2016)

So the silent majority spoke. And this morning I experienced another kind of silence.

There are few things I love about New York City more than the subway, despite all the stress it may cause. People of every color and creed and gender and age and income bracket squeezed in next to each other going about their day. It is the great equalizer. And it feels like America.

Today the subway, which is usually loud and bustling and chaotic, was silent. Dead silent. An eerie silence, as if everyone together had lost someone close to them. You could feel the anxiety and the fear.

I am myself so afraid. And I wonder if that is the same feeling of fear so many of the white working class people who elected this man feel about the change they see in the world. If so, what a shame that is and what a stark divide we face.

Over the last 8 years, and the only presidency for which I have been fully aware and awake, I have taken such pride in how I have tangibly, observably seen my friends of color stand up and demand equality, the smart, strong women in my life become more empowered and my LGBT friends find a more accepting world.

I know not everyone is as happy as I am to see that, but I can guarantee you that young people in this country by and large know that change to be good and just, even if we take it for granted.

I have admired watching an historic president defy every stereotype and challenge to his legitimacy while acting as a beacon of restraint and integrity and compassion on the world stage.

We can argue about to what extent this election is a threat to that progress, but I feel the fear and anxiety and my heart breaks for it.

I know a lot of white people in this country feel pain. I know the global economy has not been kind to the working class. I know so many voted out of frustration with a political system that ignored their problems and allowed corporations to ship their jobs overseas while running up the national debt. I know obamacare is imperfect.

But the man they have turned to plans to strip 20 million people of their health care, to lower taxes on the wealthy who have benefitted from the system the “political elite” gave them, to repeal the regulations on a financial industry that helped bring down the economy, all while pretending he was ever someone who was in touch with the everyman. He is also grossly incompetent and unqualified.

And those people have re-elected a whole Congress full of the same congressional Republicans who are, at the very least, half at fault for the problems that make them so angry.

That is a startling display of cognitive dissonance to me. And the numbers from this election reveal that the poorer the voter, the more likely they were to vote for … Clinton, while the whiter the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.

I am only left to conclude that, yes, the appeal had much more to do with his promise to rid the country of immigrants, and put black Americans in their place, and ignore women crying out for equality and control over their bodies, and scapegoat a whole religion for a complicated global issue. Easy, emotional fixes to multifaceted, difficult problems.

I hope those on the right govern with compassion. The groups Trump has disparaged in this campaign have been oppressed since well before the TPP and all those factors driving discontent in the Rust Belt.

I am sad. I am afraid. I don’t know how we bridge this divide. I suspect it will take more mobilization and less social media pontification. I believe we need to reach out to those who offend us with empathy and compassion instead of condescension if we are to really change hearts and minds.

I am angry when I see people eager to see their newsfeeds free of politics again. By all means, be relieved this election is over, be relieved to be free of the horse race and the debates and whichever candidates made your blood boil. But I can’t help but think that the disengagement and disinterest in our system and how it affects the lives of not just ourselves, but others, is part of why we ended up here. And I don’t just mean the results of the election.

Celebrate the end of the election, but do not turn away from politics. Politics and the political establishment are not one in the same.

I ended my day back on the subway, getting on a train at 14th street station after happy hour drinks with my girlfriend because we felt we had to see each other so urgently. Two trumpet players played a slow, melancholy version of Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” for tips together on the platform while a Latino man nearby cried his eyes out and his two friends wrapped their arms around him.

I love New York and I love this country and I promise to do whatever I can these next four years to make sure all of my friends’ voices are heard and that they feel love.

I will not hesitate to support anything positive that comes out of a Trump presidency, but I believe a great challenge is ahead of us.