Day 191: Better Mousetrap

The state of modern drug testing in the workplace has barely improved since Reagan started the trend. I cannot understand why. Failed tests take a toll on the economy . At a least one plant, half of a failures are due to positive marijuana results. I’m pro-marijuana but safe work places especially when working with literal tons of metal are more important. The problem is current testing can’t tell if you are high now or were a month ago (just for thc, other chemicals fade faster). This means workers even in states where it is legal. Workers can’t enjoy the fruits of their labor without fear of being flagged. We can implant a microchip to operate as a credit card but we can’t tell when one last smoked is ridiculous. 
 Marijuana is safer than Alcohol and better for dealing with long term chronic pain than opiates. We can talk in circles all we want about mental addiction but you can be mentally addicted to any reinforced action and physical addiction that comes from alcohol, opiates, and other drugs has a far greater toll. I’m sure all physically addicted (to which there is no cure just the continuous work of recovery) would trade for a mental addiction (closer to a bad habit and can end). Studies have disproven the gateway theory. To deny the healthiest high on the grounds of tradition is bad policy. 
To those who preach sobriety, I would argue without the human desire to get high, we would not have society and civilization as we know it. The history of beer is the history of us. That being said there is virtue in moderation and a balance between states is needed. Theres no reason or need to be high in most jobs. There can be great danger. Your supervisor might be a son of a bitch but he’s the son of a bitch whose job it is to get you back to your wife and kids. He needs better tools. 
Perhaps it is a generational gap but we need 21st century solutions today because the century is going to pass us by.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 174: The Government is not a Business

Trump and his family are self described business folks. While their legacy in business is debatable, that they come from the corporate world not political becomes more obvious everyday. We don’t know yet if Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia last year but the Trump family isn’t making it easy for innocence to be considered. 
This week Donald Trump Jr. became the center of the Russian storm. After days of having his ever changing story disproven by leaks, he released the emails in question. They did not vindicate him. When asked if he would like information on Clinton gathered by Russia to aid his father, he says he would love it. He brought Kushner and Manafort to the meeting, the Russian lawyer ended up not having anything on Clinton. Leaving us in a situation where we know that the Trump campaign would have colluded but not if they did. 
Ignore the discussion of impeachment for a moment. What other implications are there? One is a revelation behind the curtain. Political operators have long been portrayed as ruthless anything goes types in movies but the real political world always had norms and bounds. I’m not saying they are knights of the round table. Yet even the Gore campaign called the FBI when someone leaked Bush’s campaign bible to them. This event shows the business world core of the Trump universe one where damning emails end in a fine and mea culpas but in politics things end differently just ask Abramoff.
The anti-left media keeps yelling Ukraine like its Benghazi (as a waste of time). A low level former staffer is not the same as a high campaign advisor and candidate’s child. Manafort did in fact lobby for pro Russia candidates in Ukraine and was unable to hide it. Whether the decision to remove support for Ukraine in its war against Russian invasion from the GOP platform came from Manafort is unknown. In the end, evidence from a foreign public investigation is not close to the same as a foreign nation stealing documents from a political opponent to aid a candidate. As Watergate taught us having your own countrymen steal documents is damning without foreign involvement. 
The emails aren’t a smoking gun for criminal proceedings but they without a doubt bolster Mueller’s investigation. One can only wonder what subpeonas will uncover.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 151: Found Them

Day 145: Humans After Humanity

This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing. 
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
-E.C. Fiori

Day 101: A Long Look in the Dark Mirror

It has been 101 days since Donald Trump took office. And yet, as I read the expected deluge of think pieces and listicles, I can’t help but feel contempt for them as well. It’s as though Donald Trump presents such a comically large target, that liberals will fail to learn why they lost the government and presidency.

Take Bill Maher. I was watching a segment focusing on 100 days of Trump, and he had a long bit about Trump supporters. Pointing to the “statistic” that all trump supporters are still satisfied with Trump, he made the “humorous” argument that facts will never change a Trump voter’s mind. That for the great unenlightened masses it’s all about the “gut feeling of change”.

What followed was one of the ugliest comedy segments I’ve seen in a long time, with Bill Maher putting on a southern accent and making redneck jokes. First, it is guilty of the cardinal sin of comedy: being unfunny. It did, however, have the added benefit of making me think. There was a time, until fairly recently, that the media kowtowed to Middle America. The lowest common denominator, culturally speaking, that would offend only the least sensible.

I think two things have changed in the information age. One is the mass devaluation of media that comes with its easy accessibility. The second is, in an ever more competitive market, one must up the ante sensationally.

So if we look at these two changes together, it equals exponentially more media exposure for the average viewer, and increasingly insulting coverage for those in rural America.

What would you do if every time you turned on the television you were represented as a criminal and thug? You’d be furious, just as African Americans rightly were, and still are, for shows like “cops”.

Now let’s say an economic recession has wiped out jobs, the market is transforming in ways no one seems to understand except that every industry you could work in is dead, and every time you turn on the television, you’re portrayed as either a rapist or an idiot.

I’d vote Trump too. Fuck um.

These are our countrymen, and Bill Maher gets to lob lazy jokes from his studio castle and get paid an outrageous sum to be the definition of a pseudo intellectual. If liberals don’t take a long hard look into the dark mirror, and have the grace to see the world of insult and fear so many of their own are relegated to, than liberals will be exposed as little more than a blue baseball cap opposite the antagonistic red.

-Jack Delaney

Day 96: Charlie Kaufman and the Confidence of Genius: the Acceptance of the Absurd through Strenuous Realism and Stark Portrayals of the Human Condition

E.C. Fiori made a good point today about the value of criticism in the modern media saturated society. In light of this, I’ll attempt to demonstrate what that might look like.

*Art above by peterstrainshop

Since the turn of the century, there has been something of a trend in films that spans genre: the use of internal worlds as the physical setting for the film.

We’ve seen it be the setting for horror movies for years (confirming a theory of mine that horror almost always leads the way in terms of film trends, but it has at last made the jump to action, sci-fi, comedies, and dramas. Beyond the mere setting or plot device however, I’d like to focus on the Romantic Dramedy category, since they must trade in emotion and memory as is inherent to the genre.

I’ll begin with a declaration: Charlie Kaufman is a genius. Hyperbole? Maybe, but let me make my case.

Over the past ten years there have been two films, both celebrated, that attempt to show the entire course of a relationship through non-linear storytelling the way we remember our own. The first is 500 Days of Summer. The second, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

500 Days of Summer is, I believe, a great movie. It thrills in using every tool in the genre box to tell it’s story, switching from comedy, to drama, to musical, to documentary, to music video as it fits that moment in the relationship. When seeing it in the theater I was hooked right at the credits, and would be very proud if I was the writer of it.

But for me, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind excels beyond others. Today I’m going to focus on one aspect of it. And it springs, from the confidence of genius.

There is a scene, right in the beginning of the film, where Joel is giving Clementine a ride, and she is asking him if he is a stalker. He replies that she spoke to him first, and she comes back with this:

Clementine: “That’s the oldest trick in the stalker book”. Let’s pause.

As a writer, how would you have the conversation continue from here? Joel is extremely introverted and closed off. He is starting to like this girl, and the ball is in his court.

I can tell you what I would do: I would have a call back. I would have Joel say “Do they stock that at Barnes & Nobel?” which she mentioned she works at just a few minutes before. She would reply that it’s a bestseller, or she saw him buy it, and the snappy banter would continue.

Instead, Charlie Kaufman has Joel say this:

Joel: “I gotta read that one.”

For anyone who has written anything with dialogue, the temptation to skew towards the memorable or (potentially) quotable is almost irresistible. If you’re writing dialogue, chances are you love dialogue- why wouldn’t you have Joel say something that people are going to remember and want to say in their own lives?

He doesn’t have to be suave either, you can give Joel something in character to say that is much more dialogue driven: instead though, Charlie Kaufman gives him a punishingly boring line. It achingly boring, and almost a wasted opportunity.

Until you realize just how brilliant it really is.

The film is filled with moments like these, with people not knowing what to say, and fumbling with expressing how they feel. Your co-worker just admitted he stole a client’s underwear and is now dating her? Share an uncomfortable laugh. Protagonist is skeptically wondering about side effects of wiping the memories of failed relationships away? You could answer his question about brain damage with a scientific explanation about how all memories degrade in time and the process just focuses and accelerates it.

Instead, almost tenderly, Charlie Kaufman writes this line from the doctor: “Well, technically the process IS brain damage.” It isn’t some big corporation bent on destroying love, it’s a mom and pop private practice.

Why is this brilliant? For one, it makes the acceptance of the idea of memory wipes much more palatable. Any screenwriter can make up a sci-fi premise, but selling that premise as part of a real world and not a sci-fi one is nearly impossible. Kaufman makes it look natural.

And more importantly because at the end, at the cathartic moment where we see if love conquers all, we don’t get snappy one liners, or a voiceover, a neat resolution, or a call back. You get this:

Clementine: “You’ll find things wrong with me and I’ll get bored of you because that is what we do.”

Joel: “…okay.”

Clementine: “…okay.”

The script has been so well structured and woven together that this simple acceptance is like a grenade going off in our chests.

And if I was a genius, I wouldn’t have to resort to a simile. I could just tightly weave together a story about people, have every single one be familiar and raw, and end it all replaying a faded memory we’re suddenly so glad to have.
-Jack Delaney

Day 94: A Coronation Interrupted, A Hundred Days of Solitude, and The Celebrity Vote

        Ninety four days of a Trump presidency has had the expected effect. Staggering incompetence in every area, international and domestic faux pas at every turn. No nuclear war, which more and more is the yardstick for failure. Modern generations seem to have forgotten that fact that with thermonuclear war, we’re all in the trenches. Major population centers are exactly what they aim for.
        But I’d like to take a moment to return to the end of last year, when Trump won the election no one expected him to. In a way, Trump has never acted out of character. He has yet to “pivot” towards a more rational, “presidential” way of governing, instead being the brusque, uninformed cartoon we’ve known him as for decades. Campaign or President, that is the man.
        No, the person who failed was Hillary Clinton. My use of the word “failed” and not “lost” is crucial here, because I don’t think the 2016 election should have been a contest. This still isn’t a popular opinion among democrats, and I can’t figure out why. What has confirmed my suspicion is the book (first of a tidal wave I’m sure) from two Hillary Campaign staffers: Shattered.
        It is, of course, the story of a campaign going awry, complete with an increasingly tight circle of access to the queen herself, now confirming the “American Emperor” analogy as applicable on the right and left. There were loyalty tests, both for those in the campaign and in congress, and a hilarious amount of frustration at Bernie Sanders.
        What shocked me though, was the complete failure of Hillary to come up with a reason for running for president. It seems like the simplest undergraduate poly-sci major piece of advice to a candidate: “have a message”. Give people a reason to vote for you.
        And yet, this is exactly what “I’m with her” Hillary failed to do. It almost became a running joke inside the campaign, the best they were able to settle on being “It’s her turn!” When they spoke to democrats, they were pleased to find most of them agreed that Hillary wasn’t “evil”. Jesus. Trump was a godsend, allowing them to focus on his weekly scandals instead of addressing the fact that there was no reason for Hillary to be President.
        The real lesson of this election was the peril of a race between two celebrities. One a reality tv star, the other the most famous politician on the planet. Just as Trump’s celebrity fueled his rise and victory, it was Hillary’s celebrity in her own party that doomed her, the circle of advisers too tight, the alienation from the average American too great.
        If there is something that has irked me over these past 100 days, it’s the betrayal on the part of democrats in confronting Hillary’s persistent inability to be elected. Their failure is now ours. 1367 days to go.
-Jack Delaney