“The Big Sick”: romantic comedy about caregiving covers Muslim assimilation

The Big Sick”, directed by Michael Showalter, written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, does, even as a romantic medical comedy (if there is such a thing) lay out the issue of assimilation for religious minorities, especially Muslims.

Kumali, playing himself as having come with his parents as a little boy from Pakistan, does comedy gigs at Chicago nightclubs, more or less on Rush Street. His more conservative but well assimilated Muslim parents urge him to go to law school and become respectable.

Kumali falls in love with a (Gentile) girl Emily (Zoe Kazan), and they start sleeping together.  One day Emily twists her ankle in a supermarket, and a few days later is in a medical coma with what looks like a life-threatening opportunistic pneumonia.  Kumali is the only one present until family arrives and pretends to be the husband.  The doctor asks if she has HIV, which could mean that Kumali has been exposed to AIDS himself. (Yes, heterosexuals can spread it.)

But it turns out that Emily has an unusual automimmune disorder, related to genetics (and probably an earlier infection like mono).  Eventually she pulls through, and the end of the film will deal with whether they still have a relationship.

The film presents a few social issue confrontations. Early in the film, when Emily shouts out at him, he scolds her for harassing a  comedian, which is considered rude behavior in comedy clubs.  (Ask Kate Clinton, whom I have watched on Netflix.)  Nevertheless, that helps start the relationship.

While Emily is in the hospital, a caricature of a while nationalist and “Trump supporter” harasses Kmali in the club as a recruiter for “ISIS”.  The boorish troll gets tossed by security, but not before he is told he is  “bad person”, part of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”.

Then there is the scene where Kumali is confronted by his parents.  Why doesn’t he think about his family instead of himself, they say.  Why is an arranged marriage to a Muslim girl not god enough for him?  Why won’t he grow his beard?  (He looks quite handsome and charismatic as he is, clean-shaven but with his hairy body;  most middle Eastern people are actually “white”, a fact that gets lost on a lot of people.)  Why won’t he kneel and pray five times a day facing Mecca?  Kumali does not such formality is necessary to have the personal faith.

I worked in I.T. or 30 years, and I always encountered software people from India and Pakistan. Until 9/11, nobody thought about religion in the office.  Everyone was assimilated. The parents are shown as well off, with beautiful Islamic interior decorations and art work in the house, and well assimilated into American capitalism and business.

At the end, Kumali moves to New York to start in a new club, and Emily has to make a choice.

Chicago picture (wiki).

There was a short film called “Murphy” about a boy, a dog and an animation in the pre-show (M2M).

Name: The Big Sick
Director, writer:  Michael Showalter, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/9/10
Length:  120
Rating:  R
Companies:  Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, Apatow
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017m at 12:30 PM EDT)

Nathaniel Frank’s encyclopedia history of LGBT marriage equality

I’ve covered some of the argumentation about gay marriage in a review of a film about it here July 5.  But an encyclopedia-like book like Nathaniel Frank’s “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America” (2017) can cover a lot more detail than a documentary film or video. Still, this particular issue seems to have both sides talking at or past one another, playing with the subtleties of language itself, like in “Paul’s” Youtube videos.

I have to admit  some distraction.  I had to finish reading the last chapter on Obergefell and then the philosophical Epilogue (Arnold Bax-like) just as the news exploded this morning with Donald Trump’s edict by twitter banning transgender troops from the military.  Different topic (I’ll come back to the military thing soon with another post) – and indeed a marriage with a transgender person can turn into a straight marriage but without the possibility of procreation, exactly like a heterosexual marriage when the woman is past menopause.  I guess that shows partly why tying marriage to procreation gets so problematic.

At the very beginning, Frank says that marriage law is important by indirection:  logically, those who are not married or do not have the benefits of marriage can be excluded from some of society’s benefits as a consequence of mere logic.  In fact, that generally describes how things were in my own life in a world that (until very recently) where being married usually meant having minor dependents that one had sired – but it didn’t always mean that.  And single people and same-sex couples have always had dependents.  But someone without dependents can find his life disrupted by the needs of others anyway – as I found out with my own eldercare situation. There is a “dynamic imbalance” in life (like in a chess position, say a Sicilian) between having fewer responsibilities and more disposable income, and at the same time being less welcome in some situations,

The debate over “gay marriage” has become sometimes interchangeable with “gay rights” or “equality”.  Or let’s say “the right to marry” is a tricky idea.  As a logical matter, anyone has the same “right” to marry a consenting adult member of the opposite gender (when gender is binary), but not the same capability to procreate or even enjoy penetrative heterosexual activity in a relationship.  Frank talks about discussions about marriage as early as 1963, and then about the Baker case in Minnesota in the early 1970s.  Frank also explains how marriage became a focus (among gay “activists”) as to whether gay people should assimilate (and share risks and responsibilities, including serving in  the military) or resist. Did liberation mean walling off the outside world and creating your own (like in the East Village and the Ninth Street Center, with its polarity theory, in the 1970s)?

Indeed, overseas, “gay marriage” as been illogically comingled with gay rights in general, as in Nigeria with its draconian law in 2013.

Frank indeed covers the history of gay rights in general, including Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the Moscone-Milk assassination in San Francisco in 1978, the Briggs Initiative in California that could have banned gay teachers (1978), the AIDS crisis and Reagan’s indifference, the sodomy law litigation (Hardwick v. Bowers in 1986 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003), and the history of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military.  In the 1990s, particularly in Hawaii, debate on gay marriage for its own sake as a marker for personal equality in general, started to develop, even as cases like Romer v. Evans (Colorado Amendment 2) grew.  Then, of course, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, under political pressure.  Frank presents the 90s as more negative for gay people than it really was for me. Frank gives many side anecdotes that are important for other issues:  Dan Choi and don’t ask don’t tell as a valued Arabic translator needed for intelligence purposes; the fact that one of the important marriage cases involved a person who died of ALS;  the male couple in Florida who took care of foster kids with HIV.

Then , in the 2000s, the cascade of litigation started, with Massachusetts in 2004, leading eventually to Obergefell, with many steps along the way.  These included the idea that you could encourage the states to go their own way and experiment first, before solving it federally, although then you had the Full Faith and Credit issue (to be resolved in Obergefell).  Along the way came Gavin Newsome’s marriage day, and then the whole Proposition 8 saga in California.

Frank has a few juicy quotes that show how gay marriage became a cover for a bigger question about hyperindividualism and sexuality.  On p. 236 he refers to the risk that the “gradual transformation of marriage from a pro-child societal institution into a private relationship designed simply to provide adult couples with what plaintiffs say is personal fulfillment.  It was a sinister echo of the old canard that homosexuality was primarily about indulging individual selfishness, while somehow heterosexual pairing was about contributing to the greater good.”  When was this canard actually stated?  Is the greater good to be found in protective courtship and doting?  It strikes me that this is like a three-lane highway in Virginia (indeed, Marshall-Newman, 2006): it can be more challenging to raise adopted kids in a same-sex relationship that survives a few decades of aging than a conventionally heterosexual one with biological children.  If marriage is expanded to include relationships with no penetrative complementarity, will heterosexuals decide that it isn’t important to marry before having kids?  Indeed, the record so far is that gay marriage does not encourage heterosexual divorce or discourage heterosexual marriage.  (Baseball player Bryce Harper beamed his Mormon heterosexual wedding celebration on Superbowl Sunday on Facebook.)    Later, on p. 349 (in a chapter on Obergefel there appears, “While defenders of gay marriage bans in 2015 did all they could to avoid appearing anti-gay, the notion that letting gays marry would transform the institution from being ‘child-centric’ to ‘adult-centric’ fit squarely in the tradition of demonizing gay people as selfish and indulgent, and gay rights as the triumph of a narcissistic culture over a responsible and temperate one committed to the common good.”

In 2010, Nathaniel Frank had published “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” through St. Martins, about nine months before Congress approved the gradual dismantling of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the certification of which was completed in September 2011.

Related post on my “Do Ask Do Tell Notes”.

Legacy movie reviews about Proposition 8:  “The Case Against 8” (2014); “8: The Mormon Proposition

Author: Nathaniel Frank
Title, Subtitle: Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-06774737228
Publication: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 441 pages, hardcover, 16 chapters, Epilogue
Link: Author

(Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)

“The Matchbreaker”: the comic antithesis of the next best thing to unrealistic romantic fantasy

If you’re 74 years old, it’s generally not too appropriate to expect an intimate relationship with a 21 year old, however legal.  My own mother used to say (back in 2000, when I was 57) that even 30 was too young for me, even for “friendship”.  So what’s the next best thing?  To play match maker, as “Uncle Bill”, on Facebook and Twitter.  Yes, I’ve done that.  I know of much younger men who should meet each other.   Sorry, I don’t use Snapchat, although there is a lot of snappy smartphone chat in this film.

This is, “The Matchbreaker”, directed by Caleb Vetter. Wesley Elder (sounds LDS-like) plays the energetic, articulate, socially charismatic Ethan Cooper (Wesley also helped write the script and story). He’s skinny, cis-male, and hairy chested.  I could say that this comedy is “Milo” for straight people. He gets fired by giving too much away to customers as a computer tech in a store that looks like Best Buy (I think of the Nerd Herd in the store Buy More in the old NBC series “Chuck” where Zachary Levi plays a spy disguised as a repair techie).

So Ethan goes into business for himself, somewhat by accident, as a matchbreaker.  Parents hire him to break up relationships of their teen kids (first daughters and then sons too) by double-dating them and causing his clients to make faux pas.  Like in one case, a gawky male (Olan Rogers) isn’t able to jump off a river boat to save a girl who jumped in.  It’s all sexist and chauvinistic.  Ethan has a best friend and roomie played by Osric Chau as part of a tag team.

The film doesn’t have the outrageous social setups that made sitcoms in the 1950s funny, but that may be what it needed, rather than playing itself as a Shakespeare-inspired comedy.  Eventually, he’ll be exposed in a comic near-finale (rather like “All’s Well that Ends Well”) and face the idea he could lose his own girl friend (Christina Grimmie), an only half-willing accomplice.

The film is shot in “KCMO” – Kansas City, Missouri, with many spectacular shots of downtown, all the way out to the famous shopping malls (the Country Club Plaza, south of downtown, near most of the bars), with some scenes on the Kansas site, and some scenes in Leavenworth, KS.  I was last in the area in the summer of 2006 but I know the area well because I earned my MA in Mathematics in 1968 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  Army service followed.  I would have liked to have a scene a Royals Kauffman Stadium (been there once).

Downtown KCMO wiki

Kaufman Stadium wiki

Leavenworth wiki

Picture: Kansas City Star plant, downtown KCMO, my trip, 2006.

Name: The Matchbreaker
Director, writer:  Caleb Vetter, Wesley Elder
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant, 2017/7/19
Length: 94
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Stadium Films
Link:  official

(Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 5:30 PM EDT)

Tyler Cowen: “The Complacent Class” waits for that knock on the door, maybe

Tyler Cowen, somewhat conservative economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a New Jersey state chess champion, has a new and brief book “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream”.

Cowen believes in a cyclical behavior of peoples throughout history.  When a major culture, such as the U.S., becomes more stable and “safer”, people innovate less, and wealthier or better-off people become more insular.  It becomes harder for less fortunate people to participate meaningfully in the system and to advance.  I advanced this idea myself in my own “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book (2014).  That tends to lead ultimately to breakdowns and new cycles of unrest and instability.  Although, actually, the uncertainty is generated by shortsighted behavior by the better-off, as we saw with the 2008 financial crisis, where the “rich” goaded the “poor” into taking on debts they could not pay back (the subprime scandal).

I can relate to this personally.  I did get an “inheritance” at the end of 2010, so I have kept on writing without demanding much compensation for it.  Otherwise, I might have more incentive to take risks and create “real businesses” that can actually employ others.  Or I might have more incentive to have a bigger personal stake in both “other people’s causes” and in actual volunteer efforts (and be willing to demonstrate and sometimes take other people’s bullets).

That fits into the idea of populism and anti-elitism that helped Donald Trump win the election and helped Britain leave the EU.

Cowen does attribute some of today’s complacency to the Internet, and the way it can lead to people of like minds to clump together and ignore larger truths.  This can become expressed in “assortative matching”  even in dating (like using fitbit watch data in real time) and marriage, but it can also lead to aggregations of fake news that can sway politics.

The Internet also tends to make some people less interested in the physical world, as he notes by talking about how some people used to collect records and CD’s of classical music (as I did) but now can depend on the Cloud. Economically, the use of “free” content is a mixed bag, as it gives more people a chance to be heard (as it did for me), but makes it harder for many people to make a real living at it (outside of the idea of “Make the A-List”).

He also notes that the level of violence and rebellion has been greater in the past (like the 1960s and early 1970s) than now, but that, as the Black Lives Matter movement (in response to police profiling) shows, the extreme indignation of some people can make this kind of energy come back, and burst into the lives of the sheltered.

He often mentions gay rights, going back to Stonewall in 1969, which was pretty energetic.  He gives a nod to gay conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, and notes that gay marriage or abstract equality was not particularly compelling as an idea until after Y2K.

It was easier in the past for someone with “nothing” too work him or herself into wealth that it is today.  He notes that even in authoritarian countries like China, it is easier for some people to do this today than it is in the U.S., where people are no longer as “hungry” for wealth or even for others.

Cowen is not optimistic that the Internet, which gave me a second career as a self-made journalist-pundit, will continue to be the source of truth for those who want to store it there.  He thinks crime could undermine the entire digital revolution, and be the Big Rip of our complacency.  The Great Moderation will indeed end.

Cowen mentions the issue of campus protective environments (example is “Mizzou”) but doesn’t get into the issue of speech codes, micro-aggressions and trigger warnings the way he could. Campus environments are promoting complacency while pretending to favor activism.


Author: Tyler Cowen
Title, Subtitle: The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream
Publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1250108692
Publication: St. Martin’s Press, 240 pages, hardcover, 9 chapters, endnotes, index
Link: marginal revolution

(Posted: Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 3 PM)

“The Promise”: World War I epic about Armenian genocide is also a personal moral fable

The Promise”, directed by Terry George, and written with Robin Swicord, apparently based on an original story, is a historical epic about genocide, specifically of the Armenians in the early days of World War I by the Ottoman Turks.  The film has a bit the style of a modern western, and makes a compelling narrative with many moral points about a historical event that generally doesn’t get that much attention.  In fact, even today, the Turkish government (exacerbated by Erdogan’s dictatorial and press-suppressing behavior, which Donald Trump has supported), doesn’t admit that the Turks murdered 1.5 million Armenians (in an area that became part of the Soviet Union) during the period.

The basic story concerns an Armenian medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac), an American Associated Press journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale, who had played the Asperger-like doctor Michael Burry in “The Big Short”, helping drive the 2008 financial crisis), and the Parisian-raised Armenian woman Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), whom both men love.  The movie really plays down the romantic or erotic potential of the love triangle, to pursue more abstract moral arguments.

For openers, as the film opens, Mikael is a pharmacist in the mountain town of Surin, agrees to an arranged marriage so that the dowry will pay for his medical school.  It sounds off-putting to me for a promise of procreation and marital performance to pay for school, but that is how things used to be, where arranged marriages were common and  people were expected to “learn to love” their socially assigned spouses.  Once in school in Istanbul, the winds or war appear.  A friend bribes an official so that he can get a “student deferment” from conscription for being in medical school, an issue that would occur in my own life.  Eventually he faces brutality from Turkish officials who view him as a physical coward.  But he escapes, in a thrilling train sequence, and gets back to Sirun to find the Turks have destroyed it.

Chris and Ana have wound up in a nearby Red Cross facility, but Chris is captured.  The Turks accuse him of being a spy, but his release comes at the cost of the life of the Turk who helped him.  Chris repeatedly insists his writing (he has a notebook that looks like a pre-Internet blog) is necessary so that the rest of the world learns what is going on.  He even tells a French Captain that his reporting may help get the United States to join the allies in World War I (which would happen in 1917).  In the final scenes, where the orphans and some families are recused by the French, Mikael uses his skills to treat civilians wounded in battle (his mother dies), and Chris has to fight like a soldier.  But combat journalists often have to be able to handle themselves in battle.

Wikipedia article on Armenian Genocide.

This is a good place to note Comey’s comments on journalists and classified information.

Name:  “The Promise”
Director, writer:  Terry Georgr
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, very late, 2017/5/2, I was the only person in audience!  Showing just for me!
Length:  133
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Open Road
Link:  FB

(Posted: Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 5:30 PM EDT)

“Summer of 8”: on a California beach, teens enjoy their last day of “childhood” before college

Summer of 8” (directed and written by Ryan Schwartz) is a low-keyed coming-of-age youth drama, that doesn’t try to get funny (compare to “10 Rules for Sleeping Around”) and doesn’t seem that ambitious.

I was led to the film by seeing pianist-actor Michael Grant (“Fair Haven”) in the cast.  Here, he plays Aiden, one of eight 18-year-olds spending the last day of summer at Newport Beach, CA, before going off their mostly separate ways to college.

The film is framed by the lead character, alpha male Jesse, Carter Jenkins (who played the teen raising a pet dinosaur in the NBC series “Surface” ten years ago), writing a letter to his perfect dad, who we learn toward the end of the film, had passed away during Jesse’s boyhood.

The film starts in the day time and passes into an all-nighter, leading to some drugs and a little sex. But the daytime conversations early in the film get interesting.  The men are rated as to their attractiveness, which typically puts heterosexual men at peril.  Aiden is an 8.5 and I guess Jesse is the 10, but poor little Oscar (Matt Shively) is a 3, but Bobby (Nick Marini) seems to be in Jesse’s class.

College, as a college professor said in an opening episode of “Jack and Bobby” on TheWB in the middle 2000’s, is where adult life starts.  The kids here are starting to ponder the fact that their lives so far have been about them as individuals, competing in school; they have no concept of what marriage and raising their own families would be like.

Orion Pictures has returned as a distributor for the theatrical release.

Name:  “Summer of 8”
Director, writer:  Ryan Schwartz
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon instant, $4.99
Length:  88
Rating:  R
Companies:  Orion, FilmBuff
Link:  Cineplex

(Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 8:30 PM EDT)

“Frantz”: Ozon’s post World War I mystery

Frantz”, the latest film from Francois Ozon, is a period mystery, with a pacing that reminds one of Hitchcock.  It is set in another world Germany and France in 1919, after World War I. before the inflation and reparations got really bad in Germany.  The present time of the narrative is filmed in black and white Cinemascope (like Hud), with the flashbacks in a sepia color.  The film is in German and French, with subtitles.  The name of the tragically deceased character is deliberately ironic.

Anna (Paula Beer) grieves the loss of her fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) and regularly puts flowers on a cemetery mark, even though his body was lost in the trenches. One day an appealing young Frenchman Adrien (Pierre Niney) shows up at the cemetery.  Frantz’s father, a doctor, asks him to leave and blames him personally for the horror Germans endured, and says he could never treat him (violating the Hippocratic oath). But Adrien wills his way into the family.  We learn that Adrien is a concert violinist, like Frantz had been, but struggles with hearing loss after the war.

The backstory shows how they became friends in Paris (with a hint of gay intimacy), and later presents their tragic accidental and fatal encounter in the trenches, setting up the moral dilemma for the movie.

Yet, there are signs of a bizarre romance between Adrien and Anna.  There is a swimming scene and then beach, where the camera dawdles on Adrien’s smooth chest, and then shows the only war wound, near the appendix.

But after Adrien returns to France, Anna goes looking for him, setting up some more ironies in the plot.

There’s a bizarre barroom scene where Frenchmen sing “La marsellaise”, out of Berlioz and out of “Casablanca”, but with some twists in words.

The movie has a brooding film score by Philippe Rombi, and some typical recital pieces, including a movement from a Tchaikovsky Quartet, and what sounded like an Alma Mahler song (I didn’t see it in the credits).

There’s a scene where Frantz’s father blames all fathers for goading their sons to fight for country.

There are critical scenes in the Louvre in Paris, looking at a painting of a suicide by Manet, with viewers filmed from behind, a technique from a famous scene in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and in Brian de Palma’s “Dressed to Kill”.

The tone of the film reminds me of “The White Ribbon“, which sets up pre-Fascist ideas.

The color scheme is the inversion of what happens in my screenplay “Do Ask Do Tell: Epiphany”.  I put present day (on a space station Rama world) in sepia;  true events on Earth in backstory in full color, and fiction embedded in a leading character’s writings in black and white, all anamorphic wide screen.

Name: “Frantz”
Director, writer:  Francois Ozon
Released:  2017
Format:  2.39:1 Cinemascope, Black and White with sepia color for flashbacks  (French and German, subtitles)
When and how viewed:  Landmark E St.  2017/4/9 fair crowd   (Casablanca was in Dallas at the Inwood Theater in 1982)
Length:  111
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Music Box Films, Mars
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, April 8, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)


“Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric”, on National Geographic, explores gender fluidity from medical and social viewpoints

Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” aired on the National Geographic Channel Monday, February 6. 2017, at 9 PM EST, two hours with commercial breaks.  The film is credited to “Katie Couric and the World of Wonder”.   The film could accompany (“NatGeo”) National Geographic Magazine’s recent issue “Gender Revolution: The Gender Issue” (earlier review).

Couric started by recalling how things were a half century ago.  Gender was strictly binary.

The documentary then shifted to a  rather clinical and medical examination of the brain biology of gender.  It’s rather intricate, as a schedule of hormones (especially androgens) affect the development of external genitalia and perceived gender identity and probably sexuality.  All of these can be affected by epigenetics and by mitochondrial DNA passed only from the mother.

Soon the documentary says that more pre-teens are uncertain of their gender than the public realizes.  Some physicians will prescribe puberty blockers as “pause buttons” to give the tweens more time.

The film gradually shifted focus to the social acceptance of a less binary idea of gender.  It covered an outdoor camp in California for transgender kids, and a fast food chain (Pollo Loco) with restaurants with a substantial transgender workforce.

The film moved toward the political and legal questions associated with the “bathroom bills” in several states, including North Carolina and Virginia.  (The HB 2 in North Carolina also interfered with local governments’ passing their own anti-discrimination laws, and led to a political crisis of sorts.)  The case of Virginia female-to-male teen Gavin Grimm is headed for the Supreme Court.  Gavin was shown with a pet pig and parrot.

Later in the film, Couric interviews a group of Yale students in a dorm setting.  Only one or two students are “cis gender”, that is, their gender identity matches birth sex.  The other terms like pan-gender and “gender fluid” are introduced.

The film does not mention that sexual orientation itself is usually totally separate from gender identity.  Gay men often look for other “masculine” partners, and usually identify themselves as cisgender males.  The film tends to suggest that people should get used to the idea of potential romantic partners who are less fixed as to gender, a personally discomforting notion.  The film does cover other native cultures, like in Somoa, where gender fluidity is much more readily accepted than in the west.

The film also does not cover the idea that cisgender people sometimes engage in cross-dressing for acting purposes.  Paul Rosenfels at the Ninth Street Center used to say that most transvestites are straight. I think that the Rosenfels ideas of polarity and balance can occur with a cisgender person (you can be a cisgender male and still be feminine subjective, for example).

The film does cover a transgender female surgeon who does reassignment surgery in San Francisco.  She says that the oldest person on record for reassignment surgery was 76.  In one couple, an elderly man had “become” a woman but stayed married to his wife.

The film ended with an interview of Hari Naff and tennis star Renee Richards.

The film maintains that there are about 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S., about 0.6% of the population, or about 12% of the LGBT population, even though “cis-gender” gays (especially men) are much more common. (Thinkprogress source.)

(Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 8 PM EST)

“The List”: a “black” romantic comedy about the perils of upward affiliation in relationships


Name: The List
Director, writer:  Brandon Sonnier
Released:  2007
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD
Length 92
Rating R
Companies: RossWWMedia, Warner Independent Pictures
Link: Black Film Festival

The List” (alternatively titled “I’m Perfect”), from 2006 and directed by Brandon Sonnier, at first sounds like genre “indie” black romantic comedy (rather like Tyler Perry), but in fact it broaches a “morally” important topic:  what happens when we approach romantic or intimate relationships expecting the other partner to be “perfect” enough?  Call this the “upward affiliation” problem (a term coined in the 1980s by conservative writer George Gilder). https://www.doaskdotellnotes.com/?p=511

The plot is heterosexual, and some reviewers have noted that this story would work regardless of the race of any character.   In more recent years, in fact, casting diversity has started to become a “political” flashpoint in Hollywood. http://billsmediareviews.com/?p=1908

The story presents a young ad executive Lewis (Wayne Brady) who has a peculiar intellectual way of processing everything.  As a manager, he makes lists of goals.  For romantic partners, he makes lists of desired attributes.   Lew proposes to the perfect lady on his own reality television show, and she says “No” to the Big Question.  In fact, the lady retaliates by showing how far Lew falls from perfection himself. But Lew will not be deterred from using his “list” technique.  He soon has his eyes on Cecile, played by Sydney Tamiia Poiter (daughter of the actor Sidney Poitier, as from “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, both 1967).  He will experience his own battle of head vs. heart.

The film gradually gets back into his ad business, which involves casting and filming commercials in Los Angeles – somewhat away from the actual entertainment film business.

The “upward affiliation” problem can drag on the resilience of a population.  If people are too picky about whom they will bond with (enough to marry and raise children), or not willing to stay in an intimate relationship during physical adversity, a people becomes more vulnerable to adverse externalitie and even enemies.

The idea of a personal “list” has another implementation: one can have a private “list” of persons he or she thinks the most of or would fantasize getting intimate with, and “to hell” with everyone else.  Although, in my own short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is,” the ocelot doesn’t have clay feet after all.

(Published: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 at 9 PM EDT)

Dating and relationship apps: how do they help people find and keep romantic partners?


“Dating Apps / Relationship Apps: A New Direction”, by Happy Couple, CEO Julien Robert

The landscape of online dating and dating apps has come a long way since the first site went live over two decades ago. It’s quaint to think that people used to find dates and mates through jobs. Or friends. Or chance encounters in bars.


Today, there are thousands of dating apps on the market ranging from the general to the specific – dating sites for mature singles, farmers, and even vegetarians. Whether gay, straight, bi, trans or into open relationships, people can virtually meet dozens of potentially compatible matches with just a few keystrokes and without ever leaving their living rooms.

But what about after they’ve met someone? For years, there weren’t any apps designed to make sure those online matches went smoothly or that helped determine that the match was, in fact, a good match at all.

The most exciting development in the dating app arena are their companion pieces – apps designed to speed up the getting-to-know-you process so users can find out more quickly if they’re well-matched, and if they’re not, what they can do about it. Call it the Angie’s List Effect. Broken dishwasher? Find a plumber with Angie’s List. Broken relationship? Fix it with the help of an app.

While this specific niche in the market is still developing, Happy Couple is a standout. Launched on Valentine’s Day of 2016, Happy Couple is a well-designed, spunky quiz game where users guess their partner’s answers to questions about communication, sex, emotions, responsibilities, recreation and their partner’s background and favorite things. Think the Newlywed Game, only without those primitive cards those TV game players had to ink up with giant markers and hold over their heads.

Instead, in this simple game, just five questions are delivered each day and game players answer them any time they want – in line for lunch at the food truck, on hold listening to Muzak, during a coffee break at work.

The two halves of the couple work as a team and get points for matches which result in reaching new levels and being rewarded with a choice of challenges designed to enhance the relationship. The most intriguing element to Happy Couple is that the game is not only geared to heterosexual couples, but to gay and lesbian couples and even those self-described as “other.”  Additionally, the questions and the daily relationship tips are tailored specifically to the players depending on if they are dating, living together, married or are in some other “it’s complicated” relationship.

This goes way beyond the scope of competing dating apps that are therapy apps aiming to fix what’s wrong. Instead, this is a true relationship game that has the couple – the game’s player – really interact.

There are a few glitches – it can be slow at times and some new features such as a between-couples competition has yet to launch – but these don’t detract from the experience. And the conversations the app generates turns out to be the true value behind the fun experience.

ABOUT HAPPY COUPLE: Happy Couple is an innovative app designed to broaden and deepen couples’ relationships, whether just a few weeks along or after 25 years of marriage. Founded by CEO, Julien Robert; Dr. Lonnie Barbach, head of content; Arnaud Le Mérour, CMO; and Erin Johnson, art director — the dynamic team with French and U.S. roots has developed a fun, witty, informational technology offering that is transforming the way couples look at their connection and affinity. For more information, visit: happycouple.co.

(Published: Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at 10:15 AM EDT.  It was submitted to me through Public Relations firm Beyond Fifteen.)