William Hecht
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William Hecht

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  NOT BECAUSE I JUST EMERGED from long hours indoors during the Wisconsin winter, but rather because of the self-quarantine brought on by the Digital Age and social media, I find it ironic that many people today will easily adopt to their new lives under government-ordered quarantine: after decades of mass human migration toward self-confinement inside the virtual world, a decree, for many, would be a mere formality. Meanwhile, in the same fashion that a virus in your computer can completely disrupt a computer network, the novel coronavirus shut down society. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not the virus can be removed and the network and data saved relatively quickly, or whether the equipment is useless and the data lost.

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IN EVERY introductory economics class, it becomes clear from early on that specialization is the source of greater efficiency or productivity; in the division of labor and in free trade, the secret sauce is “specialize.” In other words, everyone should stop doing what they used to do and begin to do only the things they do best. It even works if they only do the things they do least poorly. This sounds great and all the textbooks have nice charts, pictures, and examples of how much we all benefit from this miracle. The books almost insult us for thinking that we might do things any other way. As a result of the consistent application of these principles over time, a country or an integrated global

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AS WITH THE ELECTION PRIMARIES, with the Academy Awards a lot of people pay attention to who has been “hot” with the earlier voters. Unfortunately, that can make for a boring show. For example, Best film, actress, actor, supporting actor and actress, and Best director are already strong favorites. With that in mind, for the major categories at least, identifying possible upsets will make the awards more exciting or give you a chance at winning the pool. So, here goes. Best Film 1917 but Parasite a serious upset chance. Best Actress Renee Z in Judy has won and won and won. Maybe Charlize Theron of Bombshell a longshot to play spoiler? Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix has been scooping up the awards for Joker. A shock

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SOMETIMES, THE BEST WAY to tell one story is by telling a different story. That’s what happens in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. In 1998, the editor of Esquire asked a particularly cynical reporter to do a short piece on Fred Rogers, aka “Mr. Rogers” for a segment on heroes. The interviews with Mr. Rogers changed the writer. The short piece changed into a full-length cover story and one of the most popular magazine pieces of the year (https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a27134/can-you-say-hero-esq1198/).  Tom Hanks “became” Fred Rogers, and Jonathan Rhys (from The Americans) killed it playing Lloyd Vogel, the angry, edgy journalist. This movie made me want a “do-over” of at least a decade in my life. A lot of people are kind, but there are special

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  Bombshell is going to win movie industry awards. It would be more fitting if it won a Pulitzer. The performances were exceptional, and the story had all the ingredients of a mystery thriller. My eyes (and sometimes my mouth) were wide open as I watched Charlize Theron act herself into an Oscar nod. She played Megyn Kelly, star anchor who faced the top-down machinery of power, misogyny, and fear at Fox News—which informs the culture of many large companies and which dovetails with the male, tyrannical culture of the Trump administration. The movie is the real bombshell; it explodes the veneer and exposes the ruthlessness of power and influence inside the Western world’s most powerful media empire (and as the movie reveals, a powerful

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The Rise of Skywalker had a lot to live up to and mostly delivered. It had a powerful plot and an assuring conclusion, but it might be better appreciated for the relevant cultural themes than for the credulity; like its predecessors (and like the Marvel/DC franchises), each new episode has to ratchet-up the limits of the imagination in order to impress. For example, this one went farther with the concept of deus-ex machina (from Greek theatre when gods were brought down on stage) to resolve plot barriers: people are reincarnated, resurrected, or move between worlds more on a par with the Harry Potter series. I don’t wish to disparage the experience, however.  In a post four years ago about “The Force Awakens,” http://www.moviesmarketsandmore.com/not-long-ago-and-not-far-away/, I celebrated the

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She is Winter      by William Hecht Deep December night and she is spent. She is consumed–like the fields after a greedy harvest. She slumbers—as does the world. Only her essence is sentient, aware. It is a spell: cast in the light of the great moon, it will break with the first rays of the equinox sun. Her hair is black. It is a wave of boreal night that flowed through the glass, swept down her  cheek, and spilled on a pale shoulder.  Things made of night are smooth–and softer by far than anything made from day. She dreams—as does the world–of light and warmth, of aromas and twitching roots, the vibration of launching sprouts: calls to life. If I could dream with her, I would

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Movies

  Midway As with Dunkirk, the film focuses on a handful of individuals and their roles and experiences in the context of that critical battle in the War in the Pacific. A well-made historical war film, the Midway story shows how (as in Imitation Game) intelligence gathering–not merely firepower–turned the tide.  The special effects were thrilling, and the experience of a lower-tech war fought with what are now mostly relics as war machines made for an engaging movie and history lesson. They did well to consider the perspective and sensibilities of the Japanese, perhaps, more than in past films on WWII.     The Irishman Martin Scorcese’s 3 1/2-hour long saga of a teamster turned mob insider stars three heavyweights of American gangster films: Robert

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At an turning point in the film Joker, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), is assaulted on the subway.  Due to a disability that causes him to laugh randomly, some fellow riders described as “Wall Street types” decide to rough him up. Because Arthur still wore the clown outfit he used as part of his work, one of the assailants tried to sing “Send in the Clowns” as a prelude to the onslaught. That scene propels the action to the next level. Arthur Fleck, The Joker, in the corrupt and failing city of Gotham and with no intention of doing so, becomes the name and face of  what is best described as an anarchist movement [Note: The Joker, in his madness, may incline toward nihilism or absurdism

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Markets

  MY INTRODUCTION to the concept of gold as an investment began in the late 1980s. I was a young stockbroker in Arizona, and while copper mining dominated the extraction industries then, there was still talk of gold mines and claims on thousands of acres that might translate into billions for lucky investors. After the inflation scare of the late 1970s (shortly after the US abandoned the gold standard), confidence in the financial system had eroded. Gold was seen as a way to preserve purchasing power if a currency kept losing purchasing power (due to inflation). Even as prices were coming down in the late 1980s, investors called in to arrange purchases of gold coins and silver bars. They brought guns and family. Precious metals

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