Friday, June 2, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: It’s All Connected… Or Is It?

It’s mostly sports this week.  Except for the piece about the monster movies.

Math is hard.
Nearly seven months after the presidential election, pollsters are still trying to answer a question that has rattled trust in their profession: Why did pre-election polls show Hillary Clinton leading Donald J. Trump in the battleground states that decided the presidency? Is political polling fundamentally broken? Or were the errors understandable and correctable?
I do not understand why we’re still talking about this.  Polls showed that Trump had something like a 15% chance of winning the election, and that is in no way the same thing as saying that he could not win under any circumstances.  His win was the equivalent of rolling a “1” on an eight-sided die, i.e. it looked highly unlikely before the event, but in fact, it was always a totally plausible outcome.
What is it about this that people do not understand?
Nobody in the New York Yankees' clubhouse is giving up on Masahiro Tanaka, but nobody has any answers either. Formerly the team’s ace, Tanaka is a very bad pitcher right now… despite the fact that after another stinker Wednesday, Tanaka is 5-5 with a 6.34 ERA in 11 starts -- at least a third of his season, already in the books.
Girardi did not try to sugar coat Tanaka's 5⅔ innings of seven-run, nine-hit ball in a 10-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. He didn’t try to use Aaron Judge's misplay in the third inning to try to excuse Tanaka. There were too many balls, too much pitching behind in the count, too many weak fastballs and not enough trademark sliders or splitters.
I should probably be happy that the Yankees are overachieving.  They throttled the Blue Jays last night 12-2.  BUt still, this has been a maddening season at times.  The Yankees have a good team.  They hit well, and though they really missed shortstop Didi Gregorius in Wednesday’s loss, they generally play good defense.  Really, the only thing that can derail this team is their starting pitching, but their starting pitching has only been good two or three nights in five, and not in any way that’s readily predictable.  Every single pitcher has had both stellar performances and performances that have been legitimately awful.  Tanaka is perhaps the worst offender in terms of his being erratic, but everyone on the starting staff has been wildly inconsistent, and that’s why they’ve dropped games like Wednesday night’s.
The Yankees say they want to win now.  Okay.  But how do they move Tanaka out of the lineup when he’s also been so good at times?  I don’t think they do.  But they need to somehow find a way to make him the man that he can be, and for better or worse, it’s becoming a matter of some urgency.
“I think back to Emmett Till’s mom, actually,” James said. “That’s one of the first things I thought of. The reason she had an open casket was that she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime, and being black in America. No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. We’ve got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African Americans, until we feel equal in America.”
Police said the n-word had been spray-painted across the front gate of a home James owns in Los Angeles. The LAPD said it would investigate the vandalism as a hate crime and examine security camera footage from nearby homes to identify a suspect. James lives in the house in the offseason, and he and his family were not living in the home at the time.
I confess that I had to look Emmett Till up.  Till was beaten to death in 1955 Mississippi during a trip from his native Chicago.  To make a point about the violence of his murder, his mother--who first had to fight just to get the casket with her son’s body back--had an open casket funeral, as a way to show the world exactly what had happened.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, right up until the time of the Blackhawk Down incident in Somalia, I really believed that the world was turning a corner, that we had a legitimate chance to create what President George H.W. Bush called, “a kinder, gentler America” via well-considered economic policies and collective global security.  
To say the least, we’ve fumbled that chance.  I feel personally responsible, and you should too.  Truth is, there’s no one else to blame.  We only have the world that we create.
Starring Tom Cruise, in his most
dramatic role...
On May 22, Universal Pictures unveiled its "Dark Universe," an umbrella under which its monster movies will be released. At least five films are on the way, includingThe Invisible Man (with Johnny Depp), Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), Frankenstein's Monster (Javier Bardem) and Bride of Frankenstein (not yet cast). But the future of the universe hinges on the performance of June 9's The Mummy, a Tom Cruise-led reboot of a trilogy of films started in 1999.
Some of this looks great.  Dr. Jekyll starring Russell Crowe?  Love it.  Same with Frankenstein’s Monster, presumably based on Mary Shelly’s book, which is a personal favorite.  As far as I’m concerned, they can make as many of those as they want, and I will watch them all so long as they aren’t out-and-out horrible.
I have no idea why these need to be connected via some kind of shared universe.  Presumably the idea is to create sequel-effect, but it’s an artificial throughline that magnifies enormously the odds that one or more of these films will suck.
Studios seem confounded by audience tastes.  How complicated is it, though?  In a world where everyone reads Rotten Tomatoes, what audiences want is good films.  That’s ought to be easy to understand.
If that bicyclist whizzing by seems a little happier than the average gridlock-bound car commuter, you’re not imagining it: A recent study found that two-wheeled commuters were happier than their gas pedal-stomping, car-caged peers.
Becoming a bike commuter might seem daunting, but the benefits can be worth it: exercising regularly, saving money, decreasing your carbon footprint, absolving yourself of guilt over that break-room doughnut.
I put some shots from my own bike commute up on Instagram yesterday.  If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like to bike commute through New York, go check them out.
Headed up the Hudson Greenway...
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That’s all I’ve got.  Have a nice weekend.

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