ADHD Does Not Exist

Is it a surprise to me that a new TIME magazine article features a doctor who doesn’t believe that ADHD exists?

http://time.com/25370/doctor-adhd-does-not-exist/

Hell no. Call me careful. Call me paranoid. Whatever you say, I don’t think people should be popping pills regularly. This is, of course, acceptable for treatments of serious conditions and mental disorders, but even popping a tylenol for every little headache gets a bit excessive for me.

As a nation, do we really want to raise an entire generation of people who are hooked on stimulants? Who need them to function normally? The real answers- exercise, diet, sleep- are never the sexy answers. Why bother trying to live healthier when you can swallow a pill? Unfortunately, one of the most important lessons people can learn in life is that that quick solutions are usually just stopgaps.

Today, we may think it’s crazy that Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine, or that opium was given to children, or even that alcohol was commonly used in medicine. 50 years from now, people will look back today and marvel at a generation who believed they could only concentrate properly if they took drugs. It’s a lie that Big Pharma propagates. It’s a fad that people buy into. But it’s not the truth.

Twitter Followers

So I’ve been paying more attention to Twitter lately. I know, I know. I’m on the cutting edge of the times. Still, I admit that it has its uses, but spam never fails to amaze me.

Here is a perfectly legit gentleman, who happens to be more dope than all others, who is offering a service to get more followers. Now, we can debate the usefulness of having a bunch of spam bots following you- they certainly aren’t reading your clever jokes- but we can at least admit that in an image-conscious world, the appearance of followers leads to the appearance of influence.

But, and this might just be me, if you’re going to advertise a service whereas you are able to get "Thousands Twitter Followers with Cheap Price," then… I don’t know… you might want to actually have thousands of Twitter followers.

Really, if this guy is as dope as he says he is and he only has 135 followers then I can only presume that he knows absolutely nothing about how to get a respectable amount. Unfortunately, @Larkinlkj isn’t alone in his delusions.

No, Judith. You need keep secret to yourself.

Coin, The Digital Credit Card No One Needs

Coin is a new kind of credit card. Instead of carrying around all of your other cards individually, you only need to carry around a digital Coin. The computer chip stores all of your credit card info securely and then you can cycle through them and use whichever you want. Magic!

Let’s look at the many problems of this idea:

1) It doesn’t solve anything important

Instead of holding four cards you can hold a slightly thicker one? Is that selling point really worth $100? Ironically, having to fuss with my smartphone before swiping a credit card is actually making things a lot less convenient.

2) Losing your credit card just got a whole lot worse

Not only did you just lose all of them (which may have happened anyway if you dropped your wallet), but it costs some money to buy another one. Again, people will pay for something if it adds value, not otherwise.

3) Security

Good job, asshole. Now that you have successfully combined your credit card with your ATM card, you have just handed your waiter access to your bank account! I’ve talked about the security differences between ATM and credit cards before. Handing anybody your card carries risks- why hand somebody all of them?

4) Now you only have one

Speaking of giving out your credit card, there is a benefit to having others handy. Drank too much at the bar and left without paying your bill? It’s okay, use the MasterCard instead of the Visa the next day. Is the bar holding your credit card but you need to swipe another in the jukebox or in the parking meter? No problem. Hey, that’s why you have two, right? This is a case of technology giving you LESS options.

5) Low tech is more reliable than high tech

Neat, your credit card has an LCD display! One can only ask, what happens when it runs out of batteries? Or gets wet? Because one of the main benefits of a credit card is being able to handle emergencies. ‘Always available’ is an important feature. Even worse, the first rev of Coin relies on a working smartphone, which limits options even more (and depends on TWO batteries).

6) It only works in the United States.

Most of the world uses a chip and pin system for security and the first rev of Coin will not support this, so good luck on vacations.

 

After Coin was first announced, there was a fair amount of criticism. Speaking of these concerns, the company’s CEO stated, "I was surprised that people really broke it down, really got into the nitty gritty about these specific use cases." Really? He was surprised that consumers were worried about their financial security? Is this the kind of obliviousness you want from a credit card merchant?

I get it. Tech is cool. We all want to live in a future that our parents didn’t have. But sometimes, you need to think about the practicality of the situation.

But hey, it’s shiny.

Prisoners

The story of Prisoners is fairly standard thriller fare- not the most original plotting as far as the twists and certainly not a unique conflict (kidnapped children). I did guess very key elements of the story fairly early. While this can usually ruin a movie, Prisoners has enough other questions running through your head to keep you guessing and entertained. While there are some unlikely coincidences to lend to more dramatic surprises, the situations don’t stress believability too much. There are some moments that you can’t think about too closely, perhaps, but I would say that the plot works for this movie overall. The big picture is that Prisoners is well paced.

The main story hook, that which the Prisoners title comes from, is compelling enough to make the audience squirm. But really, the film shines in execution. The pacing keeps your attention throughout the entire two and a half hours. The acting is mostly good but I would say that the ambiance and mood are even better. The cinematography and emotion in some of the scenes, like the police car speeding in the rain, are expertly handled.

Speaking of craft: everything, from the setting to the music to the characters, is handled with enough attention to merit praise. I usually don’t get too specific as far as mentioning actors but I did think Jake Gyllenhall played his detective role superbly. We saw everything from his professional callousness to his emotional fatigue all play out in his character arc. The acting and the atmosphere work together to create artistic depth lacking from a lot of films today.

Prisoners looks like a normal thriller but, somehow, the sum of its parts are greater than the whole. It’s easy not to notice it but a shame if you don’t. I came out of it feeling like it was one of the best viewing experiences I’ve had all year. Granted, the film isn’t groundbreaking or historically notable but it definitely sits atop its genre. If you like a good kidnapping nail-biter then this one’s for you.

Kill List

This British film is one of those fabled ‘love or hate’ affairs that often provoke outbursts of analysis and speculation. For my part, I thought the whole thing was poorly done and overblown, and what could have been an interesting movie ultimately trips over its own balls. Many spoilers ahead.

Kill List is 3 movies– 3 distinct parts that feel very different from each other– and this is the core of its dissonance.

The movie begins with a quaint domestic dinner scene. The editing is semi-amateur in quality, looking very much like an indie film and perhaps waiting a bit too long before getting to the point, which is that these two couples look like normal people with normal problems but there is a secret lying underneath. Maybe I got used to the style or it changed when action started occurring but the initial shock of the camera work wore off and I was drawn into it.

The second act takes over most of the film and feels like a black comedy assassin movie. We know Jay and Gal are contract killers and are in over their head. It’s fairly standard stuff for the genre but the plotting is setting up a deeper mystery that really brings Kill List into true thriller territory.

The ending of the movie suddenly delves into secret societies and feels rushed. Events take a sinister turn but make less sense. All plausibility is pushed aside as the characters serve the plot more than make believable decisions. And the climax, one hundred seconds of ridiculousness that lacks motivational depth, really kills any sympathy that remained for the film.

Analysis of the movie is abuzz with strange comments. The truth is, Kill List is not very confusing in retrospect, it just leaves questions unexplained. This type of forced mysteriousness is grating and it is simply a lazy method for the writers to make events seem more interesting and deep. In my opinion, it is an attempt that fails to hide the cheesiness and plot holes.

Everything rests so heavily on chance in this movie. What if Jay never revealed himself to the pagans? What if they just killed their target and moved on? What if Gal shot that last guy before getting stabbed? This is the type of ‘everything was planned in advance’ movie that asks you not to think it through too much.

I mean, this whole premise of a cult worshipping death to the point where they are happy to die needs some background. The whole idea of why Jay is so important to them is unexplained, the reason that the cult gladly gets twenty members shot up to acquire him isn’t mentioned, and really, the portrayal of the secret society is laughable.

I wouldn’t doubt that a less edited version of the movie, or at least the original script, had answers to these questions. I would bet that the explanations just weren’t satisfying or were cheesy and the creators feigned artsiness to disguise the lack of proper plotting.

Kill List is probably not worth such a long post but its reception has an air of being a masterpiece. The vast majority of movie reviewers work very hard to come up with explanations that don’t exist and, to me, display a lack of understanding of the realities of the professional creative process. A quick example is the fact that most people refer to this as a horror film, which it is not.

I have heard theories about the movie representing the ills of the remnants of the British Empire, the falseness of the Iraq War and the current establishment and all that. Sure, if there’s some parallelism involved, that’s great, but the plot should still make sense.

I also dislike the entire line of ‘what if it was all a dream’ speculation. This has become the go-to conjecture when a movie presents its facts in any dissociative manner. Fine, in Inception, even though I disagree with it, I understand why the theory could be offered. In Kill List, however, nothing suggests that dreaming is even a factor. Jay is told to ‘wake up’ a few times but this is more about his reconstruction, his becoming.

Kill List is a film that is supposed to provoke inquisition. Whenever movies like this come out, I always find people zeroing in on the wrong questions. Was Shel in the cult? (No). Was Gal in on it too? (No). Was it all a dream? (Sigh). The reality is that Kill List is unsatisfactory not because it is cleverly going above all of our heads but because it doesn’t attempt to answer its most interesting questions.

In the end, I’m afraid, just because something provokes thought does not make it clever or well structured. It’s easy to tell a joke and leave out the punch line, especially if one doesn’t even bother to come up with one. What’s much more difficult is delivering on an interesting premise.

American Horror Story Coven

Here we go again. I’ve discussed American Horror Story on these pages before. While the debut season amazed audiences with sensory overload and strong acting, the sophomore season was a discordant mismatch of genres, ideas, and convoluted and incomplete plot threads. Season 3 is the one that will determine if the overall series has legs and I’m please that it corrects all of the problems with the previous one.

Coven is a much tighter experience in comparison. While the original focused on ghosts and a haunted house, this one prefers witches and black magic. Something new is crammed into every episode, no doubt- American Horror Story is nothing if not a mishmash of horror tropes- but everything carries the same themes within.

Improvements abound. The characters in this season are stronger. There are many but they are individually more interesting than before. The music is exceptional, opting this go around for a poppy industrial blend. Even showing events in other eras, a familiar mechanic in the series, is used much more intelligently and doesn’t distract from the story. And by far, perhaps the shining architectural trait of Coven, is the pacing. Each episode pulls the audience along in a new twist, standing yet another hair on the back of our collective necks.

I don’t know how the season will end but if it finishes as strong as it started, it may just be the best American Horror Story yet.

Hans Zimmer

Riddle me this: What do Captain Phillips and 12 Years a Slave have in common?

Well, they are both movies about a protagonist being forced into adversity. Captain Phillips does a serviceable job, being mostly interesting because the concept of modern day piracy is fascinating and foreign. It does have some emotion injected at the end but it’s hard to argue that 12 Years doesn’t deal with weightier injustices. The latter film also educates audiences on some of the smaller details of slavery and the period outlook, and while not perfectly executed, is probably the better film.

But what else do these movies have in common?

Hans Zimmer’s fucking Inception music.

Time (Inception)

 

The track Time plays during the final scenes of Inception and serves as the perfect capstone for a powerful tour de force. Unfortunately, Hollywood wants to piggy back off the best of the best and this song has been showing up in other movies.

Here it is in Captain Phillips:

Safe Now (Captain Phillips) – start at 0:55

 

Probably less obvious is its rendition in 12 Years a Slave:

Solomon (12 Years A Slave)

 

Now, I understand the song can be a real tear jerker but, I gotta tell you, Hollywood, it kind of ruins the movies for me. I’m watching a boat captain get dragged into an escape craft by Somali pirates and then I hear the Inception song and think he is in a dream within a dream. Or maybe all poor Solomon Northrup has to do is kill himself and wake up in the arms of his loving wife, a free man again.

That’s the problem with trying to usurp something that is already iconic. Imagine if a gritty heist movie attempted to use the Darth Vader/ Empire theme from Star Wars- it just wouldn’t ever work. And I feel the same way about Inception’s flawless soundtrack. Leave it alone, please.

Now, Captain Phillips was composed by a student of Zimmer’s, although the credits do give the man a shout out. 12 Years? That was composed by Hans Zimmer himself. So here he is, essentially, just phoning it in.

But the plot thickens. Apparently there is another, very similar song, also composed by Hans for The Thin Red Line, called Journey To The Line. Listeners will discover that this is just an earlier version of Time (and Safe Now, and Solomon).

Journey To The Line (The Thin Red Line) – start at 1:24

 

So now, how can we blame anybody but little old Hans? And, for someone very much on the record as hating everyone overusing techniques he pioneered in Inception, isn’t he being a little hypocritical?

Car Leasing

Leasing is just an awful model for ‘having’ a car.

Sure, leasing is great for the industry. If you can convince the buyers of any product to want a brand new one every two years then you will be in business for a long time. Keep the manufacturing up, keep adding new perks and features, keep selling the dream. Dealers can make much more money from the secondary market by ensuring a higher level of quality control defined in the lease terms (low mileage, guaranteed service, etc.). As a warrantor you can even limit manufacturer’s warranties to less years if you can manage to make most of your money from leases. The car companies clearly win.

But when did people get tricked into thinking leasing was a good investment?

The sales pitch is that, under certain circumstances, leasing a car is more financially viable than buying one. The numbers get run and it can turn out to be true, but what exactly are these special circumstances that make leasing attractive?

Essentially, if you are going to buy a new car every two or three years then it makes absolute sense to lease. Besides the lower financial burden and worry that you need to bear as a title holder, you can end up spending less in the long run than if you buy, devalue, sell, repeat.

However, buying a new car every two or three years is absolute financial mismanagement. Cars are built to, and meant to, reliably last much longer than lease terms. If you get caught up keeping up with the Jones’s and always need the next best thing then at least admit that you are paying a premium for status. That is fine if you have a lot of money but don’t spin it into thinking that you’re making a sound financial decision.

So leasing is good if you want to always have a new car but constantly upgrading is not financially beneficial and thus a mismanagement of money. By the transitive property of mathematics, leasing is a stupid waste of money. Don’t listen when people say buying cars is a waste. Cars are never a good overall investment, sure, but if you need one, get one, and keep it for at least five or six years. You won’t have any hassles in that time, you’ll have good resale value, and you’ll get much more coming back to you when you do need to upgrade.

Total Miami Hurricanes Sanctions

The University of Miami is finally ending its 3 year nightmare as the NCAA case against them is officially over. Besides a number of minor infractions dealing with phone calls and text messages, Miami is guilty of allowing a rogue booster too much access to students- 30, in fact, that he paid $170,000 in benefits to over 10 years. Nothing salacious like abortions or prostitutes were proven- we are talking about club VIP access, bar tabs, dinner, and boat and house parties. Generally, normal college stuff that happens behind the scenes at every single football program.

Lost in the news of the sanctions imposed by the NCAA are the ones self-imposed by Miami over the last few years. I have, surprisingly, yet to see a truly exhaustive list so I’ll do my best here.

NCAA-Imposed

1) 9 football scholarships lost over the next 3 years, deducted from the 85 total cap.

2) 3 basketball scholarships, 1 each year over the next 3, deducted from the class size.

3) 3 years probationary status for the entire athletic department.

4) 2 years of a single unofficial visit per prospect.

5) Frank Haith (Missouri) has a 5 game suspension.

6) 2 year Show Cause for Aubrey Hill (Carol City), Clint Hurtt (Louisville), and Jorge Fernandez.

7) 12 football players to repay $4,000 in restitution for illegal benefits. 5 suspended for 1 game, 2 suspended for 4 games, 1 suspended for 6 games.

8) DeQuan Jones suspended 10 games. Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson also served suspensions.

Self-Imposed

1) 2 year bowl ban, including skipping the ACC championship game.

2) 1 year of a 20% reduction of official visits.

3) 1 year of a 14% reduction of fall evaluations.

4) 1 year of a 20% reduction of available contact days.

5) Miami is only playing with a current roster of 74, as opposed to the cap of 85, and may try to get some leniency from the NCAA to account for that (suffice it to say that some scholarship reductions have already been self-imposed).

This is quite a hefty list of penalties that will still linger for a few years. Dealing with the football scholarships will be easy given the current roster size and the fact that the school can still pull in full classes. The unofficial visit penalty gives Miami a hit but the university is free to throttle up its official visits again after self-imposing recruiting restrictions, so that might be a wash.

Certainly the brunt of the sanctions are already behind the program and it is FINALLY time to look forward, but let it not be said that Miami got off light.

Breaking Bad Finale

(This post inevitably contains spoilers about the last episode of Breaking Bad. For a recap of Seasons 1-4, go here.)

Is there a show on television that fakes you out more than Breaking Bad? The writers are so self aware, so smart. They know what the many possible outcomes are, what the audiences expects, and they make sure to juke one way and then go the other direction.

Just when you think Walt is the most evil motherfucker there is, he goes and does something genuinely benevolent. And then when you think he’s reformed and is a good guy, he turns it on you again and hits a new low.

The season finale of Breaking Bad hits all of the targets it needs to. The Skyler and Jesse storylines get sealed up. Yes, there are dangling questions, like what happens to Flynn or Marie? But these threads were never key to the series and can well be left to our imaginations. The finale trimmed the fat and cut to what we wanted to eat, and nothing more.

The final episode didn’t end as dark as I and some of my friends had expected. The mess Walt made gets wrapped up more nicely than deserved. But more importantly, everything feels complete and the final events, I think, will stand up to the test of time. The foreshadowing is well done, the build up isn’t forced, and the web of relationship issues is sorted out. While parts of the finale may not be overly shocking, it nevertheless chronicles a satisfying sequence of events.

Jesse is the moral compass of the series. He does bad things, for sure, but he’s the one telling Walt where the line is, and often ignored. Fans will mostly be rooting for him over the course of Season 5 so I’m honestly surprised that the finale lets him live, especially when he could’ve gotten away scot free, with millions of dollars, months before. But then, Jesse had a bit of first world problem guilt. He was upset by all the evil he’d been a part of and wanted to get caught and give up his blood money. After squandering his money and losing his freedom to the neo-nazis, this time, we know Jesse is getting out of dodge. It’s a release for him and the audience, who have been collectively holding their breaths the entire time.

Breaking Bad is undoubtedly a series that incites passionate discussion. I remember arguing with a colleague a couple of years back. He affirmed that the reason Walt did everything was out of love for his family. I called Bullshit. That’s the Hollywood ending. That’s the "USA! USA!" chanting of American programming that’s been ingrained in our brains. That is the happy message that this show doesn’t pander to, that is the point of this series. The show is called Breaking Bad, after all. Yet my friend is a professional writer and still thought this. So I’m glad that the final episode makes this clear. Of course Walt loves his family, but he did this, all of this, for himself.

Despite everything that happens, all the tragedy up to the end, we still get treated to a Walt and Jesse buddy moment at the end. The series has always been at its best when these two were a team so it’s a great way to close things out.

Like Ozymandias, Walt’s reign is over, but Breaking Bad has entrenched itself into lasting permanence.