Archive for August, 2017

Cardinal drops highlights aplenty in 62-7 season debut vs. Rice

August 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 31, 2017

Stanford cruised to victory down under Sunday as it opened the 2017 campaign with a 62-7 win over Rice in Sydney, Australia.

The field seemed to be tilted in the direction of the Cardinal from the start of the contest. The white-clad squad outgained the Owls 656 yards to 241, scored touchdowns on its first four drives, and failed to produce points just three times in 13 possessions — one of which came at the very end of the game.

The contest’s opening play seemed to forecast the beatdown to come. Head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren decided that the first play from scrimmage should be a handoff to Bryce Love, the junior who started two games last year in place of all-world athlete Christian McCaffrey, now employed in the NFL. The tailback burst through a hole cleared by sophomore guard Nate Herbig, zipped out of the arms of two would-be tacklers and hit the open field at full speed. A dive by Owl cornerback V.J. Banks enabled fellow cornerback Justin Bickham to force Love out of bounds at the 13-yard line following an electrifying 62-yard run.

Two plays later, senior quarterback Keller Chryst tossed a nicely placed ball to freshman Colby Parkinson for a 13-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-7 tight end, who had lined up out wide, exploited his six-inch height advantage over Bickham in making his first collegiate reception.

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The Friday that white supremacists (never really) came to town: Part 2 of 2

August 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 24, 2017

Author’s note: This post contains one word that is considered obscene and one usage of a notorious racial slur. The obscene word is part of the title of a famous rap songMEM

After returning to my car last Friday, I decamped for a coffee shop and finished writing about The Big Sick. Then I went back home and changed out of my sweaty clothes. Like I said, man, it was hot that day.

The rumors circulating on social media said that the white supremacists who had failed to show around noon might instead (or also) be planning to come around 4 p.m. A little after the hands on my watch pointed to that hour, I drove to another quiet residential neighborhood. I parked my car and began walking back to the courthouse.

At least one helicopter was still hovering in the air, but I found very little traffic when I arrived downtown. The block of Main between South Corcoran and North Mangum streets had been reopened. In fact, cars were allowed on Main as far east as Church Street, where there was a barricade. At least one police officer must have been standing there, but most of the people clustered around the blockade were regular people demonstrating against white supremacy. Some held banners and signs declaring their enthusiasm for diversity and tolerance.

It was at this point that I witnessed the first — and for me, really, the only — tense encounter of the day.

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The Friday that white supremacists (never really) came to town: Part 1 of 2

August 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 22, 2017

It was around 11 on Friday morning when I noticed a tweet saying that white supremacists were planning to march on downtown Durham at noon. I ate an early lunch and started preparing to go.

However, I dallied. This was partly because I was skeptical that any hate group would actually show up in what might be North Carolina’s most liberal city. Indeed, none of the tweets I saw from people who were downtown indicated that any white supremacists were showing up. But to be completely candid, I also dawdled for the very converse reason: Because I was afraid of the catastrophe that could occur if armed reactionaries did in fact turn out.

Many of the white-supremacist marchers at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month were heavily armed and obviously spoiling for violence. Moreover, on Thursday evening, I’d read a disturbing news story about a gun-toting militia group that had turned up at a San Antonio city council meeting. (The stated rationale was that an official of the This is Texas Freedom Force had received death threats after publicly opposing the council’s intention to move a Confederate monument.) If shooting had started in Charlottesville, or San Antonio, or Durham — or if some whack job decided to drive into a crowd, as happened in the town where Thomas Jefferson lived and founded a university — no one could guarantee the public’s safety.

However, when the Ku Klux Klan might roll into your town, able and available adults can’t just sit on the sidelines. So even though I showed up late, I did show up.

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Comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon grapple with love, family expectations and other afflictions in ‘The Big Sick’

August 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 18, 2017

Director Michael Showalter’s new dramatic comedy, The Big Sick, is the appealing real-life meet-cute story of Uber driver–cum–comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani and graduate student–cum–comedy writer/producer Emily V. Gordon.

The story, co-written by Nanjiani and Gordon themselves, begins at a comedy show in Chicago, where Kumail (playing himself) mock-seriously lectures psychology graduate student Emily (Zoe Kazan) for heckling him during his set. The two say they’re not looking for anything serious, but their physical attraction is supplemented by a personal affection that develops between the pair, and soon they’re seeing each other multiple times a week.

Unfortunately, Kumail isn’t ready for commitment, partly because he’s focused on winning a slot at a comedy festival in Montreal, but also because his very traditional Pakistani parents and brother expect him to have an arranged marriage, just like they did. While the family is openly skeptical of Kumail’s comedic dabbling — they’d prefer that he apply to law school — they flat-out declare that they’ll disown him if he doesn’t marry a Muslim woman.

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Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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Diana of the Amazons gets the royal treatment in Patty Jenkins’s spectacular ‘Wonder Woman’

August 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 12, 2017

Previously, I wrote about the movie rivalry between DC and Marvel Comics. Left unmentioned in my screed was the iconic comic-book character of Wonder Woman, who — at least for my generation — is probably the foremost female superhero.

There was a very good reason for that omission; actually, there were two of them. One was that I’d planned to compose this review. (Well, to be honest, I’d intended for my DC-Marvel movie rivalry recap to be an introduction to this review, but it took on a life of its own in the writing.) The other was that Wonder Woman hadn’t had a proper live-action movie until this June, although her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hailed as perhaps that 2016 film’s only bright spot.

Previously, the character’s main live-action incarnation had been in the television series Wonder Woman, which spanned three seasons from 1975 through 1979. I have very vague memories of the program; they mainly center around Wonder Woman fighting Russians and my having a huge crush on the show’s star, Lynda Carter. The current obscurity of the series speaks to what I presume was its dearth of progressive gender politics, convincing special effects and overall quality. The same could probably be said of 1974 and 2011 TV movies respectively starring Cathy Lee Crosby and Adrianne Palicki and of the (rogue?) 2014 micro-budgeted movie fronted by Veronica Pierce.

Thankfully, the spectacular cinematic staging of the warrior Diana’s origin story in the new Wonder Woman is everything that the previous versions evidently were not. Moreover, this thoroughly impressive production could mark a turning of the tide in DC and Marvel’s movie feud.

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DC vs. Marvel at the movies

August 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 5, 2017

Author’s note: A few hours after I published this post, I added a note to my ersatz table indicating that two of the listings included ticket sales from the same Marvel movie. MEM

East Coast vs. West Coast, New York vs. Boston, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel: Each one of these rivalries is famous and hard-fought. But over the past decade or so, perhaps none of these have been so one-sided as that between the two titans of comic books.

Although DC’s Superman and Batman are inarguably the best-known superheroes of all time, Marvel’s superhero teams — the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and, in recent years, the Guardians of the Galaxy — are by far more popular. Moreover, Marvel comics are generally thought to have more artistic merit and to be more socially relevant than DC products.

To add insult to injury, Marvel has been kicking DC’s heinie on the film front for a decade or more. This is despite the fact that DC’s flagship characters were phenomenally successful at the box office and helped establish the comic-book movie as a genre on the strength of productions such as Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and its 2008 and 2012 sequels.

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Dining on the fly: A terminal experience

August 1, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 1, 2017

I arrived at RDU in plenty of time to make my flight on July 19. According to my parking ticket, I got to the long-term lot two hours and one minute before my plane’s scheduled departure. Despite this, and despite the fact that my flight was delayed, I wound up having to run to catch my plane.

Originally, I was prepared to wait at the gate until it was time to board. However, our departure was pushed back by about half an hour, until 8:44 p.m., and my stomach began demanding to be fed. The gate agent made an announcement that made it seem as if we might not leave until 9 p.m. or possibly later.

That meant that we probably wouldn’t land until 10:30. I wanted to meet my car service as soon as possible, and that trip would take another 45 minutes at least. Also, my flight wouldn’t offer any meal service. While I wasn’t exactly facing the prospect of starvation, it seemed important that I eat something.

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