Saturday, July 21, 2018

Movie Reviews: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
directed by John Krasinski
A Quiet Place is a thriller/sci-fi movie starring a real life husband and wife. This is an intelligent, well acted, empathetic film that makes judicious and limited use of special effects. This is the type of scary yet dramatic film that showcases the best that Hollywood can do when good writing, directing, and acting all come together. Most stories explain or question who we are, why we exist and how will we survive. A Quiet Place does that. 

Another thing which A Quiet Place does which is rather unusual in today's zeitgeist is to show equal respect for the different and complementary traditional family roles played by men and women even as the film winks at us by having both men and women step into the other's role during emergencies. A father is no less manly for nurturing his children while a mother protecting her family can be just as dangerous as any man and yet still feminine. The film focuses on a small number of characters in a limited environment, but the viewer never feels bored. This works because this isn't just a monster movie. This is a a drama about a family. The quirk was that a family that has a tremendous amount of pain, love, and other primal emotions to share can't speak to each other. Now for someone like me who tends to think that most people talk way too much anyway, this would initially sound like a pretty good idea. 

Police Officer Sexually Assaults Black Man in Washington D.C.

What exactly is the proper protocol to use when someone attempts to sexually assault you? Well there isn't any one correct response for every situation. Some victims may fight back; others may try to escape or run away. Still others may freeze and just attempt to survive. 
It all depends on the victim's perception of his or her circumstances. It's all very easy to say what someone should have done if you're not that person, weren't in their situation, and have never been so violated. Sheep can talk a lot of nonsense about what they would do to the wolves right up until the time that the wolves show up. 
Stop fingering me though, bruh!” That’s what one Washington, D.C., man told a metro police officer during a body cavity search on Sept. 27, 2017, according to the ACLU. Now the civil rights group is helping him sue the police department, calling video of the incident “shocking and unjustified.”
The lawsuit says it began when officers drove up to 39-year-old M.B. Cottingham and friends as they sat on folding chairs on a public sidewalk. There was an open bottle of alcohol nearby, and they were celebrating Cottingham’s birthday, according to the lawsuit.

Officers pulled up and asked whether the group had weapons, and they said they did not. The lawsuit says it was not clear why the officers pulled up in the first place, as the open bottle of alcohol was “was on the ground at the curb behind a parked car” and not visible from the middle of the street.

Waitress Body Slams Groping Customer

Don't hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself!
-The Georgia Satellites
One Mr. Ryan Cherwinski was evidently so infatuated with the backside of one Miss Emelia Holden, a waitress at a restaurant that he was patronizing, that he decided to reach out and touch it. Well that turned out to be a very bad idea, not only morally but consequentially. Holden reached out, grabbed Cherwinski, and body slammed him before giving him a piece of her mind. Cherwinski was later arrested and charged with sexual battery. Now, not only will Cherwinski get his fifteen minutes of fame as a man who's unable to keep his hands to himself, but he will also be known as a man who got his butt kicked by a woman. Watching Cherwinski flail about helplessly as Holden seemingly effortlessly handles him is a reminder that very often bullies are at the end of the day, cowards. 

Emelia Holden, 21, didn’t hesitate to take matters into her own hands when a man groped her during her shift at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s in Savannah, Georgia on June 30.
In surveillance footage of the incident, 31-year-old Ryan Cherwinski is shown grabbing Holden’s backside as he walks behind her. Holden immediately turns around and grabs him by his collar and slams him into a counter.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sickly Newark Grandmother Dies When Power Company Shuts Off Electricity

In the movie Goodfellas mobster Henry Hill, as played by Ray Liotta, explains in voiceover that the animating ethos of the Mafia, as exemplified by local Mob boss Paul Vario (Paul Sorvino) is "F*** you, pay me!!. The Mob exists to extract profit from its clients victims. There is no other reason. Utility companies on the other hand are not just only supposed to make money from customers. These companies actually do have a charge to help people and provide a public service. Profit should not be the only or highest purpose. When the Mafia deliberately kills someone or is indifferent to a person's death as a cost of business no one is surprised. That organization is working as designed. It is after all a criminal enterprise.You don't blame the shark for biting you. You blame yourself for swimming with the sharks. When a utility company does the same, though, it is not acting in concert with its charter. 

NEWARK — Linda Daniels had fallen behind on her electricity bills, her meter run up by medical equipment going around the clock and increasingly hot weather. But on July 3, her family said, they pulled together $500 to pay down her debts, believing it would maintain her service. Two days later, her electricity was shut off. It was a sweltering day and temperatures in Newark soared into the 90s. Ms. Daniels’s house was stifling, the air so stuffy that her daughter said it was difficult to breathe. Even more serious: Ms. Daniels relied on an oxygen machine, and it required electricity. 

Ms. Daniels, 68, had various ailments, including congestive heart failure, her relatives said, and in recent months she had been placed in hospice care as her health declined. Her doctors had not given her any indication of how long she had to live, relatives said, but her family wanted her to be comfortable and to be at home. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Movie Reviews: High Noon

High Noon
directed by Fred Zinneman
It's ironic that this film's title for a time became short hand for the sort of high handed right wing shoot first ask questions later macho cowboy vigilantism which some people argued that animated such politicians as Ronald Reagan and inspired or infused such film series as Death Wish or Dirty Harry. At the time of its release many people who saw it understood High Noon as a left wing allegory about McCarthyism and blacklisting. Right wing iconic actor John Wayne, who was in favor of blacklisting, if not necessarily black people, hated High Noon, calling it unAmerican. 

Wayne boasted about helping to run High Noon's writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country. Wayne declined to act in the lead role. 

High Noon bothered Wayne so much that he went so far as to help make an answer movie to High Noon, Rio Bravo. In Wayne's mind Rio Bravo "fixed" a lot of the problems with High Noon. Some people consider Rio Bravo to be at least as good as High Noon while others say High Noon is in a class by itself. Well you've have to watch both movies to make that call but I think, politics aside High Noon remains one of the best Westerns ever made. It's also a matter of some irony that the film's lead actor, who was in his own right a icon of American masculinity, Gary Cooper, was also quite conservative in his personal life and a friend to John Wayne,. It just goes to show that art can make strange bedfellows.

Although this film was directed by Fred Zinnerman it was produced by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kramer who was famous for such social message films as The Defiant Ones, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Inherit the Wind and of course the slapstick It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

What is Obama's Legacy?

In the days of Pharaohs, Kings, Sultans, and Emperors, occasionally a new ruler would take the throne who had a bug up his or her butt about some previous ruler. Maybe the new tyrant had some unresolved Daddy issues. Maybe the fellow had seized power through a violent coup and wanted to demonstrate his utter disdain for the former ruler. Maybe the new ruler had a well reasoned long standing political or religious grudge against the previous line of rulers and wished to convert the population to an entirely new way of thinking. Whatever the case, throughout history there have been autocrats who have gone far out of their way to downplay, deny and even delete any records of their predecessor's accomplishments. 

Sometimes loyalists to the previous regime who were brave enough to continue to speak the truth as they saw it found themselves exiled or like Trotsky, facing the business end of an icepick.

As far as we know President Trump hasn't started issuing kill lists for American citizens who cherish President Obama's legacy. Not yet anyway. But President Trump has been on a significant rampage to wipe away most of President Obama's initiatives or accomplishments. 

Black Men Don't Belong Here!!!

I don't know if these sorts of incidents are actually happening more frequently or if we are just hearing about them more often but they give the lie to the bromides that (1) people don't notice race or (2) that Black American men get any sort of benefits from patriarchy. In both cases referenced in this post the unfounded fears or aggression of white women led them to confront and invoke the threat of state violence against Black men. 

Fortunately for the men involved they managed to avoid being shot or assaulted but it could have just as easily gone the other way. It is impossible for me to imagine social sanction for a Black woman claiming to be in fear of her life by the mere presence of a white man or seeking to bully him out of the public space if all he was doing was minding his own business. In both instances white women made automatic assumptions that blackness was not allowed in their surroundings and needed to be expelled. 

There are of course younger Black people who look back at the responses of Black Americans to state sponsored segregation and violence before 1970 or so and find them lacking. If these sorts of incidents continue to occur we'll find out who really is ready to stand up to the Beast, so to speak, and who was just flapping their gums. If you're Black in America, particularly a Black man, you have to be ready for this sort of thing. It can happen any time any where. We've seen a white woman in South Carolina assault Black boys at a pool, a white man in North Carolina demand to see a Black family's pool id, a white woman in Tennessee try to kick a Black family out of the pool, a white woman in Yale call the police on the fellow black student taking a nap, and too many more incidents to mention. Clearly most whites do understand just whose side the police are likely to take. I do think that Trump's election has given permission to certain people to share their true feelings. 

(FOX 11) - A man told his story about an experience he described as racial profiling in a neighborhood where he was parked in his car. Ezekiel Phillips said if he weren’t black, a white woman would have never felt threatened by his presence. “You don’t have to call 911 on me. Talk to me. Ask me my name,” Phillips said.

Married Woman and Alleged Lover Die in Carbon Monoxide Accident

I imagine a spouse would have a number of emotions upon learning that their better half was cheating on them but had also just passed away. I mean how do you process that sort of information? 

A woman who died inside her Newark garage had reportedly been having sex in a running car with her mechanic lover when her body was found by her husband on Monday night. Law enforcement sources told NBC the woman, 39-year-old Tameka Hargrave and a 56-year-old man believed to be her mechanic, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The sources said they believed Hargrave had been paying the man to fix her car by having sex with him. Her husband, Kahali Johnson, told ABC he found their bodies inside the garage, along with had been left running in a closed garage, and called police just before 9pm.

Johnson said he went to investigate after a strong gas odour entered his apartment before 9pm on Monday, and found the pair 'laid out'. He claimed when he found them, they were both outside the car, which had been left running.

'As I tried to open the last garage door, I see the mechanic, he's laid out,' Johnson said.'She's just a few feet away, she's laid out. And pretty much I had to call 911, because at this time, with that level of emissions, I knew that they were gone.' 

Lions Kill Poachers

Poachers are horrible human beings who kill rare animals, often driving them to extinction in order to sate the Western appetite for trophies, or the Chinese and African appetite for medicines or foods of dubious medicinal or nutritional value. Poachers thus add to the destruction of African wildlife and ultimately impoverish that continent in ways that are becoming increasingly obvious. So when I read these stories I wasn't exactly saddened. I was wondering though if the stories were really true. Both stories seemed like something out of a Kipling story. But some fact checking verified that although the events in one story had actually taken place in February, not June, everything else happened more or less as described.

So although I am not exactly esctatic that the poachers are dead sometimes that's the only way to stop bad people from doing worse things. The poachers knew the risks and paid the price. Perhaps if more things like this happened humans wouldn't be needlessly killing so many animals. Although there is a certain grim reciprocity in poachers being killed by lions ultimately the only fix is to convince people that killing animals for medicines that don't work or stupid religious reasons is not a good thing to do. And that understanding can't be imposed from the outside of a particular culture. It has to come from within. Otherwise the resentment at THEM telling US what to do is going to outweigh any arguments about the correctness of the actions. And obviously people have to believe that the benefit from poaching isn't worth the cost. That's going to take a while. But until then perhaps poachers should tread a bit more lightly. The Lion isn't sleeping tonight. Lions 2 Poachers 0.

A suspected big cat poacher has been eaten by lions near the Kruger National Park in South Africa, police say. The animals left little behind, but some body parts were found over the weekend at a game park near Hoedspruit.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP. "They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Book Reviews: Blood Song

Blood Song
by Anthony Ryan
This older novel was the author's debut into a pretty crowded field and the first in a trilogy. I think it's unfortunate that so many publishers and authors shoehorn stories into a trilogy format when so many of them could be told in one stand alone book. However, Blood Song left me wanting more, which I suppose is all a reader can ask. The  story themes will be familiar to anyone who has read high fantasy; there's not too much that's new here. The book's enjoyment comes not from brand new ideas but in how the author weaves together some classic tropes and storylines.

The author sets the story in a world much like our own High Middle Ages. Countries that are fantastic versions of England, France, Wales, The Ottoman Empire, Songhai, and other Eurasian or West African nation states vie for economic and political primacy. Ryan uses a framing technique in which the person we believe to be the protagonist tells the story of his life to an enemy who will shortly it is believed, oversee his execution.

The protagonist is Vaelin Al Sorna, Sword of the Realm to King Janus of The United Realm, aka Darkblade, Young Hawk, and Hope Killer. Vaelin has been captured by his enemies in the Alpiran Empire and is going to be executed, or so everyone believes. Curious about the life of Vaelin and how he became one of the greatest warriors of the Sixth Order, the battle caste created to defend and expand the Faith, the Alpirian Imperial Chronicler decides to take down Vaelin's story. Vaelin's story starts when he is just ten years old and is abandoned by his father, the former Battle Lord to King Janus, at the gates of the Sixth Order castle.