Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Egypt's Next Move

I just posted the first blog over at at IR From Afar. It's about the mess in Egypt right now. Have a go.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A New Blog

No, I am not abandoning Six Hours on Sunday, born in 2005, but I have created a new blog for any writing I do on international relations (IR), politics, government, and current events (at least those with international consequences). I need a place to write where the theme is narrow, at least much narrower than Six Hours on Sunday has been thus far. 

So, I'll post on here when there is something up on my new blog. For now, you can head over to IR From Afar by following this link. Read the welcome post, in which I describe the inspiration behind the name of the blog. 

Thanks, ye few loyal readers. 


To Space and Back

I really have always wanted to see the journey of the solid rocket boosters after they detach from the shuttle following a launch. Now, thanks to NASA, one can watch the entire journey with sound. The video is 400 seconds. Speeds of nearly 3000 mph are reached. And everything ends in the water. This is an incredible video. If you have a little time, watch the whole thing. Full screen this thing (lower right icon in YouTube window).

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I watched this from bed last night and I could not stop laughing out loud for a good minute.

The Most Interesting Main In The World on Bromance...

Movie Review - Game Change

Regardless of one’s political orientation, I think it wise to cautiously approach movies that explicitly focus on a political figure. To treat with a grain of salt the things you hear and see in these movies, even if they are supposedly based on actual events, is a good start. There, that was my preface for the review of Game Change (2012) based on the nonfiction book of the same name written by Heilemann and Halperin.

Game Change was produced by and aired on HBO. Although the book spends more time on the other players in the 2008 campaign, the movie primarily focuses on the decision by the McCain campaign to select Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate.

What struck me first, considering that Hollywood is solidly on the left of the political spectrum, is that the movie gives McCain and those in his inner circle a very fair shake considering the recklessness of their decision. McCain is portrayed as a very amicable man, one who early on recognizes that Palin wasn’t the best choice and a man who does his best to make her feel comfortable in the national media spotlight and on the campaign trail. From what I read in 2008 and since then, this portrayal of McCain and his team seems accurate. There were clearly some people who were skeptical of the Palin pick for several reasons. One, she was essentially a small-town politician, drastically unprepared for the demands of a national campaign. Two, the typical vetting process for a VP pick is 4-8 weeks. In order to pick Palin, she had to be vetted in 4-5 days, increasing the chances that after the selection something harmful about Palin would be unearthed and irreparably damage McCain’s chances. And three, when compared to other VP choices (Pawlenty and Lieberman) Palin did not have the national recognition that could instantly garner new support and subsequent donations.

When Palin was brought on board things soured very quickly. (Also accurate to what I have read.) The movie portrayed this very well, showing concern on the faces of aides one moment and then showing them high-fiving each other in the aftermath of Palin’s RNC speech and her debate against Joe Biden. Despite the fact that Palin memorized her debate answers, line by line, McCain’s campaign rejoiced because the debate was not the disaster of epic proportions that they fully and rightly expected. However, other than these two highlights, Palin proved to be power-hungry, ignorant, narcissistic, and amazingly childish at every opportunity. I had read that at one point Palin listed Africa as a country. This particular hiccup wasn’t in the movie, but other infamous ones were, like her inability to distinguish the reasons behind the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan or her foreign policy advisors having to explain to her who the Axis powers were in WWII. Needless to say, the McCain staff quickly realized the gravity of the situation and either gave up completely or pushed on, leading to the ridiculous step taken to prevent a disaster in the VP debate, have Palin memorize 25 responses.

What I didn’t expect to feel during the movie was sorry for Palin, but I did. She was so obviously out of her league, despite her amazing acting ability and last minute heroics on a few occasions. At one point, Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top advisor (played by Woody Harrelson) turns to Palin and says, “You seem completely un-phased by all of this.” Palin (played flawlessly by Julianne Moore) turns to Schmidt, pauses, and says, “It’s God’s plan.” I do not know the accuracy of this specific conversation, but it perfectly sums up Palin’s attitude, as if she deserved the nomination, as if she was expecting it. It is deeply disturbing. So, on one hand, I feel sorry for Palin that she was way out of her element, but on the other hand, she did this to herself by embracing radical delusions of grandeur.

The movie very accurately portrays Palin as the element behind the radicalization of McCain’s campaign and of his supporters. It was Palin’s idea to bring up William Ayers and casually suggest that Obama liked to pal around with terrorists. McCain, having went through one of the low-points in American politics during the 2000 Republican primary contest against Bush, in which McCain was accused of fathering a black child out of wedlock when in actuality the McCains adopted their daughter from Bangladesh, strongly resisted dirty attacks from the campaign on Obama’s connection with Ayers and Rev. Wright. Eventually, McCain conceded, letting Palin loose on Ayers and from that point on in the campaign we really did see the nutters come out of the woodwork. They were drawn to Palin because she showed them that someone with her viewpoint could once again make it in America. She made the far, far right feel like they had a chance.

The video below is from a McCain rally. During this rally, McCain had to confront some of these nutters who were clearly energized by Palin’s ridiculous accusations and racist undertones. It was certainly a low point in the 2008 campaign and McCain had to address childish statements from adults. It was embarrassing for his campaign at the time, but he handled the situation gracefully.

Although Palin has largely disappeared from daily headlines, I think the radicalization of the right is still partially fueled by her brief time in the national spotlight. I think Game Change subtly suggests that Palin is one of a few select people responsible for this. I will get a bit repetitive here, but I did think that the movie was very fair to McCain and his campaign. Choosing Palin was a huge unforced error of the 2008 campaign, one that scared me and angered me, but now, in hindsight, one that I can sit back and laugh about. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Watch out, Twitterverse. @thebrycesrite has landed. 

The Tour

Le Tour de France is over. I believe it was one of the cleaner Tours in a while, but truly, only time will tell. The victor, Chris Froome, announced in his victory speech that this is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time. That is obviously in reference to all the former winners of the Tour who have now been disgraced by revelations that they were cheating, but I particularly enjoyed the line because it was a great dig at the press and at Lance Armstrong, fraudulent winner of 7 yellow jerseys. If Froome holds up, then that line will be remembered for a long time. 

One of my favorite parts of the Tour are the video clips that outlast the race itself. That's what this blog is really about, just an excuse to share some video from the last few years of the Tour. 

This first one is of a spectator tripping another spectator who is running alongside Tejay Van Garderen. I understand the temptation to run along with the riders in the Tour, but as soon as someone starts getting too close, gets in the way, or gets too disruptive, I immediately start hoping that the rider punches the fan or that the fan falls on his ass. Naturally, I watched this video several times. At the end, the cameraman or one of his friends says, "Well, don't run with the riders you twat!" That's classic.

One of my favorites of Contador punching a fan a couple years back. The dude deserved it. These guys train year round. This is their job. I too would punch a guy really hard if I thought he was about to disrupt years of training and hard work.

And this last one is just from the last few days of this year's Tour. Froome rightfully lashes out at another moron running too close to him.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly. (Starring Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and other actors you might expect to be typecast in a mob movie.) 

I had heard nothing about this movie, but its cast and topic (I'm a sucker for mob/organized crime movies) were intriguing enough that I gave it a shot. The movie begins with the audio of Obama speaking at the 2004 DNC, I believe, where he first used the not red states, not blue states, but United States of America line. The scene, however, is that of two amateur criminals trying to win the job of knocking off a poker game. They do both successfully. 

It is 2008 and other audio from Bush and Obama is played throughout the movie. One Bush speech is about the severity of the economic recession. Another speech is an apology of sorts about the necessary economic bailout. All of the clips work to establish the meme of the time, that people are desperate, poor, and willing to do anything for some cash. The unity and freedom that both Bush and Obama speak about are contrasted with the harsh reality on the ground of these seedy neighborhoods, where every man is on his own, where no spirit of community bonds people together, and where money and loyalty is the only currency.

Brad Pitt's character, Jackie Cogan, is called in to do clean up (translation: kill anyone suspected of being responsible for the poker game disruption). He uses his usual crew and brings in a hit man, played by James Gandolfini. Things go pretty smoothly for Cogan until the last scene of the movie, when he is stiffed by the man responsible for paying him. The two men are in a bar and Obama is on the TV. What Obama says sparks a discussion and then a closing speech from Cogan, the kind of dialogue that only seems natural in a mob movie, and when Killing Them Softly is at its most thought-provoking:

Obama (on TV): ...To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one... 
Driver (speaking to Cogan): You hear that line? Line's for you. 
Cogan: Don't make me laugh. One people. It's a myth created by Thomas Jefferson. 
Driver: Oh, so now you're going to have a go at Jefferson, huh? 
Cogan: My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words 'All men are created equal,' words he clearly didn't believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He's a rich white snob who's sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So, yeah, he writes some lovely words and aroused the rabble and they went and died for those words while he sat back and drank his wine and fucked his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fucking pay me.
Bottom Line: Besides this last scene and a couple others, Killing Them Softly is not worth the investment. I have a love for mob movies, but I also have a high tolerance for them and on a few occasions I almost turned this one off. There's certainly better out there, but as far as a closing speech goes, Cogan's was one of the most interesting I've heard/seen in a mob movie.

Rated R for f-bombs dropped in nearly every sentence, head shots, drug use, and a typical above-the-law attitude.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Trained Jumper

Via the Dish.

Review - A Good Day to Die Hard

I think A Good Day to Die Hard accomplished what The Expendables 2 (and 1, and the forthcoming 3) sought to do, but failed miserably. Light on the plot. Immediate, heavy action. And some character development to actually get the viewer to care about the fate of the actors on screen. 

It's a testament to Bruce Willis' badassness that he single handedly made a better action flick than Sly, Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuch Norris, JCVD, Bruce Willis, Arnold, Crews, Couture, and Hemsworth did combined. 

The latest Die Hard installment is certainly not flawless. Willis' lines are repetitive and cheesy. He says, "I'm on vacation" several times throughout the movie as he is in a car chase through Moscow, mowing people down with a SAW, or driving a large SUV out of a helicopter, but it does seem to work as long as your tolerance for the impossible is amped up, as it should be heading into any action flick.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Analyzing Egypt through a Western Lens

One of the best DU professors I took classes from has an op-ed about Egypt's coup, which has been widely celebrated by some Westerners even though it sets an extremely dangerous precedent for democracy development in the Middle East. I recommend reading the whole piece in the Christian Science Monitor. Money quotes below:
The modernization experience of the Arab-Islamic world has been qualitatively different from the Western one. For complex reasons rooted in the failures of the post-colonial state, modernization has produced strong religious-based opposition movements and weak secular groups in deeply polarized societies....As many had predicted, the Brotherhood’s first attempt at exercising power highlighted its incompetence. Morsi made one bad decision after another and his party’s popularity plummeted. The Brotherhood was headed for certain defeat in the coming parliamentary elections. This would likely have led to a period of soul-searching and internal debate. A more inclusive and moderate offshoot might have emerged. Now, we will never know....What Western liberals fail to appreciate is that integrating Islamists into formal politics is an essential part of the struggle for democracy in the Arab-Islamic world. The prospects of this happening have now been dealt a serious blow. The lesson that Islamists will learn is that respecting the rules of democracy do not matter, because when they win elections, their opponents do not respect the same rules. It is now likely that a process of radicalization will poison the politics of Egypt and the broader Islamic world for years to come.

It's Obamacare

Here's a great post about an ad blaming Obamacare on a woman not being able to choose her doctor. Money quote from Paul Waldman at the American Prospect:

The ad mentions not being able to choose your doctor, which would be bad. If you chose an insurance plan in an exchange established by Obamacare, that plan will probably have a network of doctors from which you have to choose if you want your care paid for, and if your doctor isn’t on it, then you’ve been prevented from choosing your own doctor. 
Of course, that isn’t because of Obamacare, it’s because of the way insurance works in America; it’s how it worked before Obamacare, and it’s how it’ll work after Obamacare. But it’s a lot simpler to say, “Now that we’re under Obamacare, I didn’t get to choose my doctor!”

Monday, July 08, 2013

Film - Chasing Ice

What scares me the most about global warming is the thought that we have reached the point of no return. The Greenland ice sheet is going to melt and sea level will rise 2-3 feet over the next 50 or 100 years. I also worry that there are not enough viable alternatives to reduce our individual carbon footprint. The powerful film Chasing Ice, which documents the National Geographic photographer James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), only magnified these thoughts.

For EIS to succeed, Balog needed to place dozens of cameras in strategic locations so that they could monitor ice levels at critical glacial landmarks throughout the world. Every six months or so he would return with his team and examine the photographs, taken at preset intervals, to study the changes. The film documents Balog’s return to these locations and, upon his first trip back after six months, the camera catches a heartbreaking moment when Balog discovers that the computer used to time the pictures was not working correctly with the cameras. That held true for every camera the team set up. Nat Geo and Balog went back to the drawing board and redesigned the chips used to time the shots. The updated cameras were put back in place and the wait started again.

Of course there would not be a Chasing Ice movie if the cameras did not record something remarkable and scary. The change in ice level in six months is extremely worrisome. But these cameras did not just record six months of change. They have now been in place for years and are still recording the retreat of some of the biggest and most important glaciers in the world.

The film is at its most powerful when these images are displayed across the screen, but there are appropriate interludes filled with staggering facts and brief clips from global warming skeptics, almost all of which were taken from Fox News because they are the prominent climate change deniers. Thankfully, the film does not spend too much time addressing the deniers. It uses Balog’s images to do the talking. Although one of the most poignant scenes in the movie is when Balog is talking about the danger climate change presents to the human race. “You go out over the horizon,” he says, “and sometimes you don’t come back.” At this he gets choked up, pauses, and looks off into the distance. At this point in the documentary, if you are not concerned about returning from the horizon, Chasing Ice has not done its job and no other movie will.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Joining Twitter

This is sort of a mea culpa, as I have lambasted Twitter on this blog before. Admittedly though, Twitter has come a long way since then and, apparently, so have I. For a while I have been thinking of joining merely to follow news organizations or certain journalists because news travels fastest by tweet and I like to stay informed. And then I emailed a connection in the writing/publishing industry and one piece of advice he offered me was to get on Twitter. These two reasons, coupled with the realization that I do value short, witty, funny sentences and one way to read more of those and to produce more of those is to join Twitter and that is why I have decided to sign up. 

I still despise Twitter for many of the same reasons I have held since its creation, but I'm not going to rehash those again. 

Now, I just have to pick a name. Unfortunately, my Instagram name of bigbryce is not available. I also tried "thebryceisright," one of my absolute favorites, but some punk out there already has that one too. I'm trying to avoid using my full name or bperica, which, interestingly, was also taken, so I have settled on a few: @bigcitybryce @tallissues @brycebroods @pericaposse. I'm leaning toward @bigcitybryce. I can change the name later, according to Twitter's website. 

If you have any thoughts on the names or Twitter itself, I'd love to hear.