Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Does Gravity Have a Schedule? Or: When Will Reality Hit Trump?


The cleverest thing I heard during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign came from Republican commentator Rick Wilson. He was describing the success of Donald Trump to that point by saying, "Donald Trump is like a man who jumped off a hundred story building, has fallen to about the fiftieth floor, and now thinks he can fly." (I can't find an exact transcript of his remark, so forgive me if I paraphrased any of this incorrectly.) Basically he was alleging that gravity still applied to Mr. Trump even if he hadn't felt its full effects yet.

Now obviously Mr. Wilson was operating under the assumption that then-candidate Trump would soon hit the ground in the form of losing to Hillary Clinton by an embarrassing margin. However, since we live on a planet God is punishing for some reason, the former reality-TV star actually won that election. (Oh, in case any of my previous material didn't make it clear, I'm a super-liberal Democrat. The results of 2016 have pushed me to be more open and vocal about it on my microblogging/mass-texting service.) To this day now-president Trump still has the appearance of a man in midair. While for a time we all began to question whether he would ever touch the ground, increasingly it seems as though the pull of gravity will force him to Earth soon. The most obvious downward pressure on the President may be the investigations which many expect to produce evidence of criminal wrongdoing. You also have to consider the political opposition that has risen up like bitchy yeast in the aftermath of the Republicans' 2016 victories. By this time next year the odds are very good President Trump will have to deal with Democrats controlling at least one house of Congress. However I would like to highlight a different force that may cause our POTUS to plummet and on a predictable schedule too: betrayal by Republicans in Congress.

My theory stems from an interview one unnamed Republican member of Congress gave to notable conservative media figure, Erick Erickson. This Congressman (while concealing their exact identity Erickson apparently felt it safe to let us know what kind of genitals this MoC has) contacted his buddy Erick to vent about the frustrations of being a member of Donald Trump's party when he is constantly causing political problems. Some people have taken part in a parlor game to guess this mysterious public servant's identity, but I would rather focus on the content of some of what he said and try to extrapolate from it.

Mr. Erickson begins his story by quoting the unidentified lawmaker as saying,
"If we're going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherf**ker".  That certainly raised my eyebrows. The brows reached new heights when I then read that this secretive legislator has gone on television multiple times to defend said motherf**ker. Thus he confirms the suspicion some have that other Republicans in DC hate the man they nominated and elected, even if they won't come right out and say it. That made me wonder if there are a set of conditions in which the members of the President's party on Capitol Hill would ultimately brings the President crashing down.

Thankfully we get an indication of what that might look like later on in Erickson's piece where he provides for the full context for the opening line.
Judiciary is stacked with a bunch of people who can win re-election so long as they don't piss off Trump voters in the primary. But if we get to summer and most of the primaries are over, they just might pull the trigger if the President fires Mueller. The sh*t will hit the fan if that happens and I'd vote to impeach him myself. Most of us would, I think. Hell, all the Democrats would and you only need a majority in the House. If we're going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherf**ker. Take him out with us and let Mike [Pence] take over. At least then we could sleep well at night.
He also details the internal strife Congressional Republicans are experiencing, the ramifications of the Democrats expected reclaiming of House of Representatives in the next election, and all the ways President Trump has infuriated him. In all it paints a picture of a President who is much closer to hitting pavement than he might realize. It's really just a question of when, not if, the gravity of the situation become more than he can overcome.

Crucially the concealed Congressman hinges all of his predictions of impeachment on the condition that President Trump fire the special counsel currently investigating him. That is an important caveat to keep in mind as all of my following predictions cannot come to pass with that inciting event. However since it is already something many people are already speculating about, some reasonable parties are preparing for, and that almost happened once already, I think it's fair to treat the attempted termination of the investigation as read. 

With that out of the way, let's focus on the meat of this obscured politician's veritable smorgasbord of revelatory comments. He focuses on the House Judiciary Committee as the decisive factor in all of this as they are the folks in Congress who would first consider any articles of impeachment against a sitting president. He predicts they could do this once they no longer need fear reprisal from voters that support Trump. While he vaguely refers to "the summer", we can actually be much more specific than that by working out the exact date when enough committee members will cross that threshold.

We can begin determining the date by defining the threshold. The House Judiciary Committee has 39 member which means for any articles of impeachment to be successfully voted to the full House would require at least 20 votes. Our anonymous official is likely correct that all Democrats (or close enough to make no difference) would vote to impeach President Trump, and they represent 17 votes in Judiciary. That should mean we only need 3 Republican votes, except I doubt it's as simple as that. In the modern House nothing moves with support primarily from the minority party, especially when Republicans control it. Former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, established the "Hastert Rule", which stated simply that a majority of the majority party must support something for it to be voted on. Republicans have typically followed that rule, which would mean at least 11 and preferably 12 of the Republicans on Judiciary would have to be willing to vote for impeachment before we'd see any actual action. So when will 12 members of the committee from the GOP be free from the so-called "Trump base"?

Our next step will be to identify any Members of Congress in this pool of 22 who cannot afford to lose the support of the maybe 25% of voters who are deeply devoted to President Trump. We cannot judge this purely on those who speak in favor of the President publicly as our unnamed elected office holder clearly demonstrates that is no proof of true support. However a few people on this committee have demonstrated a loyalty to Trump, his voters, or his agenda with more than just lip service.

I believe 5 of the 22 are "Trump loyalists" who have gone above and beyond the call of party loyalty. First Rep. Steve King has repeatedly represented himself as a member of the "Trump Base" and certainly shares the President's views on some key issues. Next we can note that Rep. Jim Jordan has not only actively sought to undermine the special counsel, but that he has made some pretty indefensible claims supporting Trump as well. Then we should acknowledge that both Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andy Biggs have called for removing Robert Mueller from the investigation. So they are pretty unlikely to support any impeachment vote resulting from the President doing exactly that. Finally, I would not expect Rep. Matt Gaetz to turn on Donald Trump when they already share so much, including political mentor Roger Stone.

Another 4 committee members may need all the Republican votes they can get for a general election. Two of them, Reps. Karen Handel and Steve Chabot, both face potentially tough races for reelection, according to Cook Political Report. Two other current members are leaving the House as they each run for governor of their respective states. In Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador is leading in the polls over other Republican primary candidates, and Rep. Ron DeSantis is currently enjoying a similar position in Florida. Even if neither of them wins their primary they have clearly shown an interest in higher office suggesting that neither of them would want to upset a large segment of Republican voters.

That leaves 13 of our original 22 a possible votes for impeachment once they are free to vote their conscious. We can list 7 of them as "free" right this moment. Reps. Lamar Smith, Darrell Issa, Ted Poe, and Trey Gowdy are all retiring from Congress and seem to be leaving the worries of pleasing Republican primary voters behind them. More importantly the chair of the committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte is retiring as well. If the chair wasn't willing to hold a vote in committee there would be no chance of impeachment. On top of that we can add Rep. John Ratcliffe who is already past his primary and Doug Collins who has no opponent in his.

Then it's just a matter of looking through the calendar and finding when each of the remaining members is finished with their primary. Whether these incumbents win or lose, they will be past the concern that a faction of Republican voters can end their careers. The 11th member will become "free" on June 27th, before the Sicario sequel hits theaters. If you want to be extra sure the majority of Republicans would be free to vote for impeachment, you could wait until August 15th when Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner who has already voiced his support for the special counsel investigation.

So depending on how events pass we may not have to wait for November, 2020 to see the Trump Presidency come undone. We may not even have to wait for Labor Day. Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself stressed about political news.  President Trump may still act like he can fly, but the rest of us know it's only a matter of time before gravity wins.


 

Friday, August 26, 2016

I wrote a poem! Don't know why....

Hello Internet! Normally I only use this space to share prose, and I haven't done that in a long time. So I have decided to share a bit of free verse I came up with recently here. And it's not just because I feel guilty for letting this blog slowly fade out of existence. It's also because I don't have anywhere else to share poetry where it won't be mocked. So enjoy!

"Hot Rain"

Wide eaves above the one dry stretch of ground
Humidity so thick the clouds literally cannot hold it
When all the world's a sauna
Your sweat is just part of the brume

The Sun preheated the pavement 'til it sizzles
Rain becomes vapor the instant it lands
Steamed like rice on a summer afternoon
Your body feels so drained and saturated all at once
So much day left...

Hot rain is the worst
Blizzards numb
A real summer shower cleans
Even an August scorcher is sincere in its consistency
How can you be soaked and baking at the same time!?
That doesn't even make sense!

Your car waits less than one hundred feet away
Your home protects your cat a fifteen minute drive from here
A double pepperoni pizza could be out of my freezer and in your belly before Good Wife

To get to all of that you must brave
Torrid, muggy, uncomfortable, disgusting(!) precipitation

So instead you cower
Against a wall
Among the brume
Under a wide eave
Above the one dry stretch of ground.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hey, SNL! I got yer brilliant political satire right here.

Previously I have written scripts for political pieces and comedy pieces. In this entry, I will combine the two in a satirical sketch like what Saturday Night Live does to open their show. So as you read the following feel free to imagine you favorite "Not Ready for Primetime Players" performing the scene (f'rinstance I've always been partial to Amy Poehler's version of Hillary Clinton).
_________________________________________

O'Malley Press Conference

INTERIOR, DAY: THE EVENT ROOM OF A BALTIMORE AREA HOTEL

(A podium sits center stage facing the audience. Chairs are arranged on either side. Several REPORTERS are seated, but there are clearly more seats than seated. A banner reading "O'Malley" hangs behind the podium. GOVERNOR O'MALLEY ENTERS)

O'MALLEY: Thank you all for coming out. I imagine most of you came because we promised free beer and pizza, but before we get to that I would like to make an announcement. (reading) "When we began this campaign together, I hoped that we could unite America in a common . . ."

REPORTER 1: (Interrupting) Excuse me, but who are you?

O'MALLEY: I'm Martin O'Malley. What did you think the banner was for?

REPORTER 1: I just thought "O'Malley's" was the bar that supplied the beer.

O'MALLEY: If I could finish my announcement please. "When we began this campaign together, I hoped . . ."

REPORTER 2: (Interrupting) Sorry, but campaign for what?

O'MALLEY: President. I have been running for President for about the last three months.

REPORTER 3: President of the United States?

O'MALLEY: Yes. Though, I'm not surprised you didn't know that. No reporters came to my campaign launch. That's why I promised the free pizza and beer this time.

REPORTER 4: Are you a Republican?

O'MALLEY: No.

REPORTER 4: Are you Elizabeth Warren?

O'MALLEY: What? No, I'm Martin O'Malley. I'm a Democrat, and I was Governor of Maryland for eight years.

REPORTER 2: Why are you running against Hillary Clinton?

O'MALLEY: To be perfectly honest, when I started my campaign I didn't think she was going to run.

(ALL REPORTERS laugh)

O'MALLEY: She had so many problems already, and then the e-mail scandal started. Did anyone believe that she was so power-hungry and egomaniacal that she would still run for president with all that baggage tied to her?

(ALL REPORTERS look to each other and nodding and saying things to indicate they readily believed that.)

O'MALLEY: Ever since she joined the race, it's been pretty clear I don't have a chance. No one will donate money to my campaign. No one shows up to my events. Be honest with me, how many of you are only here for the free pizza and beer, raise your hand?

(ALL REPORTERS raise their hands)

O'MALLEY: So we've reached the point where continuing this campaign would not make any sense either for myself or . . .

REPORTER 4: Are you Bernie Sanders?

O'MALLEY: No! Obviously, I have no hope to become the President of the United States, so I called this press conference to announce that I'm ending my campaign, and endorsing Hillary Clinton.

REPORTER 1: Sir, I don't mean any disrespect, but do you think anyone cares if Hillary Clinton has your endorsement?

(HILLARY CLINTON ENTERS)

CLINTON: I think I can answer that question.

REPORTER 2: Secretary Clinton! What are you doing here?

CLINTON: I'm like Beetlejuice. If you say my name three times, I'm there. (Steps behind podium, brushing O'MALLEY aside) Thank you, for that wonderful introduction governor. I will be taking over things now. Let's hear it for the Governor O'Malley from the great state of Connecticut.

O'MALLEY: Maryland.

CLINTON: No one cares. (Addressing REPORTERS) Ladies and other voters, I want to thank the Governor for acknowledging the inevitability of my victory. I look forward to the day when all Americans come together and realize that I must be President. And to help us reach that noble goal, I am officially endorsing Governor Martin O'Malley's endorsement of Hillary Clinton!

(ALL REPORTERS applaud)

CLINTON: You know you can trust Hillary Clinton, because you can trust Martin O'Malley, because you can trust Hillary Clinton.

O'MALLEY: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, I'm flattered that you would come here just to support me.

CLINTON: Actually, I came for the pizza and beer.

-SCENE-


Friday, February 13, 2015

Could movie buffs beat Vegas?

The house always wins.

Well, not quite always, but often enough that casinos are multimillion dollar businesses and thousands of people have to seek treatment for gambling addiction, because making bets has ruined their lives. The house makes a fortune and gamblers file for bankruptcy, because the house knows more than the bettors. Casinos are built by exploiting the common person's ignorance about statistics. Almost every game puts the gambler at a massive disadvantage. When the house doesn't have a built in advantage like when taking sports wagers, they try to stay ahead of the public by having far more information. Bookmakers hire highly intelligent people who have a level of expertise no ordinary person can match. When a casino sets the odds for a wager, they have put massive amounts of research into predicting both the likely outcome and the probable distribution of bets they will receive. If you want to make a living wagering on sports, you better have a high IQ and work ethic to match. Just scratching out wins on fifty-three percent of your bets would put you in an elite class of gambler. However there may be a few rare situations where the sharps in Las Vegas don't have the most information.

For special events bookmakers will accept bets outside their normal purview of sports. They will occasionally offer up odds on things happening in pop culture, like reality show outcomes or awards ceremonies. Suddenly a business built around some of the sharpest sports experts in the world has to venture out of their comfort zone where others know more than they do. This gives bettor a rare chance to gamble on a somewhat level playing field. If the casinos aren't the experts, then maybe you could be the expert, or at least find someone who is to advise you.

I believe the annual Academy Awards offer such an opportunity. Plenty of people love movies, and some of them enjoy having the chance to gamble on the highest of Hollywood honors. Casinos gladly accept their action knowing it doesn't take much information to beat the hoi polloi. However a very few film buffs may have the advantage over Vegas. For those of us who study and scrutinize the Academy Awards like religious texts, we can spot those special situations that professional gambler's refer to as value. Sometimes the bookmakers misjudge the odds they should offer for a particular outcome. That means bettors can earn a payoff disproportionate to the actual likelihood of the result occurring. The most clever and committed Oscar watchers know that upsets do occur with some regularity. Actors, writers, directors, and even whole pictures have bested expectations and won when someone else was presumed to have the golden statue coming their way.  So it could pay off to lay some money on the Oscars, if you have reason to believe the reward outweighs the risk. For anyone who may be interested I will provide -FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY- my assessment of the major awards and where I think the sharps may have it wrong. Remember these are not my predictions of who will win, though I may mention that, this is about getting the best value for your betting dollar.

We'll start with the "major" categories, for which gambling odds are readily available.

BEST LEADING ACTRESS-

The Nominees:
Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night- 60/1
Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything- 40/1
Julianne Moore for Still Alice- 1/9
Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl- 25/1
Reese Witherspoon for Wild- 8/1

Best Bet: Bettors can gain an advantage by exploiting an area of ignorance. When the bookmakers or the general public don't have a full picture of the contenders for the award the odds can get skewed. We all know that the kinds of movies that win Oscars usually only get a limited release and few people see them. This is especially true for foreign language films. As such most people know nothing about the film Two Days, One Night. While I haven't seen Marion Cotillard's performance, I have seen the results of film awards that usually forecast the results of the Oscars. So far Mme. Cotillard is the only actress other than the favorite Julianne Moore to win a major award for starring in a movie while being female. In my estimation that should give her the second best odds. Casinos prefer to have money spread among all options, so no matter what happens they never stand to lose too much. Since no one saw the movie, no one is betting on Cotillard, so the bookies have to offer longer odds to attract action and spread out the risk. That gives you a great chance to make a value bet on Marion Cotillard.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS-

The Nominees:
Patricia Arquette for Boyhood- 1/7
Laura Dern for Wild- 28/1
Keira Knightly for The Imitation Game- 25/1
Emma Stone for Birdman-  12/1
Meryl Streep for Into the Woods- 15/1

Best Bet: Patricia Arquette's dominance of the preliminary awards may make you think putting money on her is a safe bet. That may be true, but that does mean putting a lot of cash on the line for a small payoff. If an upset happens does happen, you'll be in the hurt, and you'll have missed out on a great money making opportunity. To select a dark horse most likely to surprise the field I looked to a few key factors. Remember that the Academy is mostly composed of older men. When they decide which actress they want to bestow an award upon, they tend to pick the woman they would most want to sleep with. (Hey, don't blame me, it's the Oscar voters who are sexist.) That narrows the race to Keira Knightly and Emma Stone as the two youngest and prettiest nominees. Between them only Knightly has been previously nominated. That indicates she already has the respect of some AMPAS members. I like the potential of earning a big prize if the obvious favorite doesn't come through, so I'd bet on Keira Knightly.

BEST LEADING ACTOR-

The Nominees:
Steve Carell for Foxcatcher- 30/1
Bradley Cooper for American Sniper- 75/1
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game- 20/1
Michael Keaton for Birdman-  5/6
Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything- 11/10

Best Bet: Though Michael Keaton seems to be the heavy favorite, there's a strong chance that he'll have some tight competition. While Keaton took the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy, Eddie Redmayne snared the parallel award for Drama. That would make Redmayne the most likely contender to beat Keaton, but that doesn't mean betting on Eddie gives you the best value. With a bet of $10 only returning $11 in winnings, that's a pretty small payoff for what are likely some long odds of an upset. (Also there's the chance the voters will see Redmayne's re-dic-u-lous performance in Jupiter Ascending, and squash his hopes like a post-Norbit Eddie Murphey.) If you want to bet on an upset bet on one that can reward you proportionate to the odds. For this category, I like Bradley Cooper as a long shot for a few reasons. First, Cooper has now been nominated three times in three years. That indicates a lot of voters like him and some may think he's due for the award. Second he has to portray a character that many people already know. Chris Kyle was on our TV screens just a couple of years ago. Keaton plays a fictional person (who is really just a fictionalized version of himself, so where's the challenge there). The people played by Carell and Cumberbatch are both obscure figures of whom voters won't have preexisting impressions. Redmayne does portray the world famous Stephen Hawking, but mostly during the period of his life before he became the man we recognize. Trying to recreate a living person when we can compare Cooper's performance to our memories of that person is a risky move. Sometimes the Academy likes to reward those kinds of risks. Finally, American Sniper has become the biggest box office hit of all the films up for Best Picture. There are members of AMPAS who like to reward financial success. Some of the glory for the film as a whole could give its star a much needed bump in the voting.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR-

The Nominees:
Robert Duvall for The Judge- 30/1
Ethan Hawke for Boyhood- 12/1
Edward Norton for Birdman- 10/1
Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher-  14/1
J. K. Simmons for The Theory of Everything- 1/5

Best Bet: This is another category with a heavy favorite. So all we need to find the best value bet is determine which of the nominees has the best chance of upsetting J. Jonah Simmons. Robert Duvall may be deeply respected, but very few people are passionate about The Judge as a movie. All the other nominees have past nominations and respectable reputations, so they're all even there. I think Edward Norton may have an edge though. Part of the appeal of Michael Keaton's performance in Birdman comes from the winking nature of an actor famous for playing a superhero in a movie that mocks superhero movies. Well Edward Norton once played the Hulk, and famously had a contentious split with Marvel studios over their designs for the character. Now he plays the "pure" theater actor who serves as the foil to Keaton's former blockbuster star. It's a roll that many Oscar voters imagine themselves playing in their real lives. If AMPAS really wants to flip the bird* to all the comic book inspired films that dominate the box office, they could give the trophy to Norton.

BEST DIRECTOR-

The Nominees:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman- 7/1
Richard Linklater for Boyhood- 1/6
Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher- 45/1
Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel- 22/1
Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game- 18/1

Best Bet: This one honestly confounds me. I know Richard Linklater walked away with the Golden Globe award, but in 5 of the last 7 years the Oscar didn't go to the Globe winner. Also, I know that for most of the Academy Award's history the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director went to the same movie, and most people assume that's still the case. In the last couple of decades that has changed dramatically. Of the last 16 years the winner of Best Director didn't direct the Best Picture 6 different times! Boyhood may very well win Best Picture, but that by no means makes Linklater a lock. Based on the buzz, I would make Alejandro Iñárritu the favorite to win. Since Vegas gave him the next best odds after the presumed favorite, they seem to agree. When I can win $7 for every dollar bet on someone I judge to be the favorite, I call that a value bet.

BEST PICTURE-

The Nominees:
American Sniper- 75/1 
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)- 18/1
Boyhood- 2/5
The Grand Budapest Hotel- 9/1
The Imitation Game- 7/1
Selma- 20/1
The Theory of Everything- 30/1
Whiplash- 60/1

Best Bet: You could actually make an argument for a few of the nominees as good value bets. Because American Sniper has a turned into a box office sensation, there will be some AMPAS members who feel that sort of popularity should be rewarded. On the other hand Chris Kyle's story has stirred up some political controversy, and the Academy has distanced itself from similar films in the past (e.g. Zero Dark Thirty). After Selma missed out in almost every category, there came a major backlash against what many perceived as a racially charged oversight. Historically the Academy has underrepresented minorities among their nominees and winners, but that's changed in recent years. More black nominees have won Oscars from 2001 on than won in the previous 73 years of award's existence. There may be enough voters rallying behind Selma to pull of an unexpected win, similar to what happened with Argo a couple of years ago. Though the odds of that happening are probably longer than the 20 to 1 pay out the bookmakers are offering. I believe Birdman represents the best value bet. It has favorable odds to win Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director. A film that wins all of those prizes is actually pretty likely to win Best Picture. Certainly it's more likely that 18 to 1. So you have a great opportunity to win big by betting on Birdman.

Now I will give a brief (relatively for me) rundown my selections for the best bets to win all of the other categories.
  
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may have more fans among Oscar voters than any of the 3 nominated super-hero movies and the divisive Interstellar. The film made major strides improving motion capture technology, which is probably the future of special FX.

BEST SOUND EDITING- American Sniper successfully recreated the chaotic sounds of battle. That's an impressive feat that usually garners awards

BEST SOUND MIXING- Whiplash had to incorporate the sounds of musical instruments in realistic, but nuanced ways. I expect the voters will respond more to those subtleties than to the louder competition.
 
 BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT- "The Phone Call" is an emotionally powerful little fil- y'know what? No one cares about this category. Let's move on.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT- "Feast" has the advantage of being paired with a widely scene and loved Disney movie. Plus you should never bet against a movie featuring a cute puppy.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT- "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" has an incredible one-two punch of being emotionally wrenching and urgently topical. That's like catnip for Oscar voters.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN- The Grand Budapest Hotel was skillfully and intricately produced to such a gorgeous degree, its visual splendor even stand out among Wes Anderson's oeuvre.

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP- The Grand Budapest Hotel; see above

BEST COSTUMES- The Grand Budapest Hotel; see above above

BEST ORIGINAL SONG- "Glory" from Selma will win what I suppose you could call a token award.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- The Theory of Everything had to lean on its score a lot. How else are going to milk a lot of emotion about a guy who spends most of the movie unable to move?

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM- Ida deals with the aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland through the lens of an individuals profound story. And as Kate Winslet taught us Holocaust movies win Oscars!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE- CitizenFour has won just about every preliminary award, so I expect the Academy to follow suit.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE- How to Train Your Dragon 2 will likely win, because major releases from US animation studios have a heavy advantage in this category. I know the Academy usually doesn't honor sequels, but I figure How to Train Your Dragon 2 won't be punished for that as much as Big Hero 6.

BEST FILM EDITING- Boyhood is your likely winner. Usually the awards for Best Film Editing goes to the film that wins Best Picture. So with Boyhood favored to win the top prize, you should bet on it winning in this category too.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY-  Birdman pulled off an astounding feat by filming the movie so that it appeared as if most of it was done with one continuous camera shot. Any director of photography who can pull that off deserves an award.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY- The Imitation Game would be my pick. This category can get confusing, because apparently no one can agree on what it means for a screenplay to be "adapted". Whiplash was considered an original screenplay by the Writers' Guild, but is an adapted screenplay according to to AMPAS. So be warned that this is my least confident prediction.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY- The Grand Budapest Hotel has the key preliminary awards under its belt. I expect that to continue. The Academy has a habit of rewarding young-ish auteur filmmakers with a screenplay award. After two past nominations, look for Wes Anderson to finally land an Oscar.

Those are my predictions. I wish you all the best of luck with your Oscar pools. Remember if any of you do wager money on these predictions, you owe me 10% of your winnings.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sketch Script: Achilles' Heel

EXTERIOR, DAY: AN ENCAMPMENT OF GREEK WARRIORS

(A crowd of warriors are gathered in a semicircle around two men, ODYSSEUS and ACHILLES. ALL are dressed in ancient-style armor and holding weapons and/or shields. ODYSSEUS and ACHILLES stand on a slightly elevated platform facing the others.)

ACHILLES: Take tonight to prepare for battle my Greek brothers for tomorrow will be our day of victory over Troy !

ALL cheer and wave their weapons in excitement.

ACHILLES: Tonight the Trojans hide behind their walls and celebrate their Festival of . . . (looks to ODYSSEUS who shrugs) I don't know, some dumb Trojan thing. We shall allow them to sing their songs and drink their wine, and in the morning they will be too sick to fight. Then we will conquer!

ALL cheer and wave their weapons again.

ACHILLES: So sharpen your swords, dress your wounds, and I want to see everyone getting a good night's sleep and eating a healthy breakfast. We will bring praise to Greece!

ALL: Praise to Greece!

ODYSSEUS: And praise to our leader, Achilles!

ALL: Praise to Achilles!

ACHILLES: (Feigning embarrassment) Oh, you guys I don't deserve a lot of special attention. Now get back to your camps. We assemble again in the morning.

(The crowd  disperses off stage except for ACHILLES, ODYSSEUS, AJAX, AGAMEMNON, and NESTOR. AJAX, AGAMEMNON, and NESTOR form a group facing the audience. ACHILLES and ODYSSEUS turn to each other begin a conversation back stage of the others.)

NESTOR: Do you guys think this plan seems a little risky?


AJAX: What are you talking about?

AGAMEMNON: What could be risky about attacking a city of drunken Trojans?

NESTOR: That's the thing. I don't think sound military strategy is based on the assumption that your opponent will have a hangover.

AJAX: Oh, there's no doubt that they'll be sleeping it off. Trojans are known for their drinking.

(At this point ACHILLES and ODYSSEUS cross the stage behind the others.)

AGAMEMNON: Exactly right! Everyone knows that alcohol is their Achilles' heel.


ACHILLES: (barging into the group) Excuse me. What did you just say?

AGAMEMNON: Oh, Achilles, I didn't know you were listening.

ACHILLES: What did you say about my heel Agamemnon?

AJAX: Well since everyone knows your heels are the only weak spot on your body . . .


ACHILLES: (interrupting) Everyone knows about my heels?! That was supposed to be a secret!

AGAMEMNON: Sorry, I had no idea you didn't want people to know that.

ACHILLES: Let's see, I'm fighting in a war, and I am pretty much invulnerable. So, no, I didn't want people to talk about the one body part that the Trojans should aim at. How did you even know about it?

AGAMEMNON: Ajax told me.

AJAX: I heard it from Nestor.

NESTOR: I heard it from Homer, the poet. Actually, I think he's been telling a lot of people.

ACHILLES: That gossipy blind bastard! His eyes don't work, but his mouth sure does.

AGAMEMNON: It's just a really interesting story. It's on all the pots.

ACHILLES: Oh Gods...

NESTOR: It's not that big a deal. It's just an expression, like when you say you're caught between Scylla and Charybdis. 

ODYSSEUS: Wait, what does that mean?

ACHILLES: Not now, Odysseus. What else do people say about me? Like do they say "Achilles' sword", or "Achilles' smile", or "Achilles' great looking hair"?

AGAMEMNON: No, it's pretty much just the heel thing.

ACHILLES: This is awful. I don't want the most famous thing about me to be my heel. For the love of Jesus!

ODYSSEUS: Who?

ACHILLES: I dunno.

NESTOR: Achilles, if we knew it bothered you, we never would have said it.

AJAX: Yeah, everyone knows how angry you can get.

ACHILLES: (starting to yell) Then why don't people say "Achilles' anger"?!

AJAX: Man, maybe anger is your Achilles' heel.

ACHILLES: Stop saying that!

ODYSSEUS: Yeah, it doesn't even make sense. We know his Achilles' heel is his heel. (ACHILLES glares at him)

ACHILLES: Okay, until the Trojans are defeated, I am ordering everyone to stop talking about my one weakness.

AGAMEMNON: You know, Achilles, having a vulnerable heel may not be such a big deal, if you didn't always wear sandals.

NESTOR: That is true. We Greeks don't have the most protective footwear.

AJAX: Maybe you should pray for something sturdier and more protective

ACHILLES: What god do you pray to for better shoes?

AGAMEMNON: I would go with the goddess of victory.

ACHILLES: You mean Nike?

-SCENE-

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Can't Blog Now, Noveling.

I highly doubt there will be anyone eagerly awaiting any new posts in this space (especially given the pace I post at). Just in case though I want to let you know that I am taking some time to focus on a longer more substantial work. Also, I hope seeing this post anytime I try to blog in the near future will remind me I have bigger fish to fry. I do not wish to abandon this blog, but I do need to dedicate myself to other pursuits at this time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The College Football Trophy Room: Week 5

Enjoy this week's installment of my series on the trophies found in college football. If you need an explanation of the series you can read the introduction. Previous editions in the series are archived under the "trophy room" tag.

This week's edition will focus on one trophy which is of special interest to morally upright college football fans. 

http://www.antiquehelper.com/auctionimages/49392t.jpg
Above: An image of a 1917 "sawhorse" dollar bill taken from AntiqueHelper.com which CANNOT be copied, printed and used as legal tender.
 Sawhorse Dollar- Dartmouth Big Green vs. Princeton Tigers- 11/17/2012
(The following is an open letter)

To Mark Emmert, NCAA President
700 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206

Dear Mr. President,

I wish to inform you of my extreme disappointment in the lack of responsibility shown by the NCAA as an institution and you as an administrator. For decades our nation has relied on your organization to protect our scholar-athletes from the pernicious grasp of gambling. The NCAA was once a fierce opponent of the sinfulness of wagering. You had strict rules prohibiting anyone affiliated with any athletic program from getting involved with any bets made on NCAA sanctioned activities. In fact I'm pretty sure if a football player buys a lotto ticket you have wisely required them to submit forms seeking clemency from your office.You have even threatened to ban certain states from hosting NCAA championship events if they allow gambling on single games of NCAA sports. I, for one, thought it was about time those dens of inequity, such as Delaware and Montana, were put on notice. Why then, I must ask, have you allowed two football teams to compete each year in a game with a cash prize?

While the sum awarded to the winner may seem like small potatoes, a single dollar bill, but the principals your organization stands for could be stained by even the smallest wager. Additionally if some year the victorious team decides to cash in this rare note on the collectors market they could be looking at a pay day of hundreds of dollars. Divided between a football roster that could be as much a $4 a player -more than enough to corrupt otherwise innocent college students. Of even greater concern is the schools involved in these avaricious proceedings. Dartmouth and Princeton have long served as academic bastions in this country. As members of the Ivy League these schools have led the way in keeping student-athletes pure, forgoing national notoriety because they refuse to recruit elite athletes on the principal of academic purity. If these institutions are allowed to become corrupt, well, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that a fish rots from the head down.

As in any case the immorality comes from outside interlopers. A businessman from each of the respective schools decided to juice their enjoyment of a simple display of athletic ability by placing a wager on it. I do not hold you responsible for allowing private citizens to wager on college sports as you do not have the power to stop them . . . yet. Where I feel you should have acted is when these lowlifes (Or is it lowlives?) drew the coaches and athletic directors into their seedy dealings. Perhaps you thought exchanging a collectible piece of currency with a cute design as a traveling trophy was harmless. These teams played eighty-three times without the taint of money. Now that cash is on the line that means the Tigers and Big Green players are knowingly involved in a bet. As the last defender of amateurism in sport you cannot allow this to happen.

Unless, of course, the idea of amateur athletics is a preposterous, outdated myth. In that case I guess this sort of thing is really no big deal.

Hugs and kisses,
Joel A. L. Thomas 

Please return to this space each week during this college football season for more information and lore about college football's many trophies.