Saturday, March 18, 2017

Come Have a Ball!

Because sometimes you feel like a nut. And sometimes you don't. We talked before of how some people in other cultures consume insects. Although in this culture that practice is not widespread some people would like to endorse it and spread it. There are plenty of things that people consume in this culture, however, which I find just as outrageous as eating insects. And of course not too far from me people are actually having a festival to celebrate the eating of cattle testicles and other delicacies.
DEERFIELD, MI - Members of American Legion Post 392 will host their 16th annual Testicle Festival on Saturday, March 18, offering savory options to patrons, such as cattle testicles and chicken gizzards.

The event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., typically draws a good crowd, according to Legion member Al Rau. Rau said the Legion will start serving dinner around noon "until they run out of nuts." Beer and mixed drinks are $2 a pop and there is no cover charge. "You get baked beans, coleslaw and a roll with dinner, plus the nuts and the gizzards," Rau said. "They taste like chicken."

LINK
Yummy! Nuts and gizzards! Even if I still ate meat there would still be some foods which I wouldn't eat for any amount of money. This is not a question of rationality. It is purely about an ick and/or taboo factor. I'm not eating sheep stomachs. I'm not eating hog intestines. And I damn sure won't be eating bull balls. I just have no desire to ingest bovine genetic material. But everyone gets to do their own thing for their diet. 


Are there foods you won't eat under any circumstances?

Book Reviews: Quarry's Vote

Quarry's Vote
by Max Allan Collins
With the Quarry series you pretty much know what you're going to get. This installment was no exception. Quarry is a ruthless Vietnam War veteran hit man with, if not quite a heart of gold, then at least a healthy respect for doing things the right way. Generally speaking if you're not on the list then you are as safe as a new born babe around Quarry. He's not the type to lose his temper and run around murdering people because someone insulted him or dented his fender. Live and let live is Quarry's motto, well at least it is when he's not removing someone from the planet for pay. Quarry lives by a code you see. As this book, a reprint from the late eighties opens, Quarry is living the dream life. After some unpleasantness from earlier stories, Quarry is retired from the murder-for hire game. He has fallen in love with a much younger woman, Linda and somewhat impulsively married her. Linda is good looking, busty, sweet, young and naive, which is just what Quarry likes. Linda doesn't know anything about Quarry's past. She doesn't understand Quarry's infrequent cold moods or know about the numerous guns, cash and fake id's that Quarry has stashed around their home and elsewhere. All she understands is that Quarry is a quiet man who loves her. And Quarry does love her, to the extent that someone considered the deadliest killer in the continental United States can love someone. By Quarry's own admission he's head over heels in love with Linda. He has learned things about himself that he didn't know. By his standards he's gotten soft and fat. He and Linda operate a Midwestern hotel, diner and gas station. 

The money's not great but Quarry isn't hurting for money. Quarry has found peace. In fact Linda has just informed him that he's going to be a father. Well you know that bad men like Quarry can never truly find peace. One day when Linda is away a man whom Quarry has never seen before stops by Quarry's house.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump's Muslim Ban Round 2 - Why It's Not Over

This week a federal court in Hawaii granted yet another temporary restraining order ("TRO") against the Trump Administration's attempt to ban immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries (on February 10 we wrote a post about the TRO which then blocked Trump's first Executive Order).  The second Executive Order ("EO") was a watered down version of the first EO, removing Iraq from the list of 7 banned countries and making clear that the ban does not apply to green card holders, among other changes.  The second EO was a do-over in response to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the TRO put in place by a federal judge in Washington state who blocked the first EO.  The second EO was specifically crafted to pass constitutional muster . . . so why is Trump's effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States being blocked in the courts for a second time? 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Maddow and Trump Tax Returns

And then suddenly, nothing happened.
I find Rachel Maddow's voice to be about as engaging as a dentist's drill so I didn't watch her MSNBC show last night which she breathlessly and shamelessly hyped as having the low down scoop on Trump's tax returns. So this morning when I awoke, I wondered if I had missed anything of import. No. No I didn't. Maddow didn't have Trump's current tax returns. She didn't have any evidence of nefarious tax evasion by Trump or investigation of Trump by the IRS or other ominous government agencies with a reputation for not playing around. She didn't have evidence of secret ties to Russian oligarchs or Trump owned dachas on the Black Sea. No, what Ms. Maddow had was two pages from Trump's 2005 federal income tax return that showed that Trump paid $38 million in taxes on an income of about $150 million. Please try to hide your shock. This juice wasn't worth the squeeze. 

Ultimately, the reporting that Ms. Maddow eventually aired on Tuesday night’s show — two pages from a single, decade-old federal tax return — was less groundbreaking than the mere fact that a portion of the president’s records had surfaced at all. The journalist who obtained the records, David Cay Johnston, a former tax reporter for The New York Times, said that the documents arrived “over the transom” in his mailbox. Mr. Johnston even speculated on-air that Mr. Trump had sent the documents himself.
LINK

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rap Music and Race

If you don't like rap music or more precisely certain types of rap music does that mean that you don't like Black people. Well it might. But as a pure question of logic of course disliking rap music doesn't mean you are a racist. One of the things that is funny about modern life is how thoroughly and completely many people came to associate rap music as the sole music which young black people were permitted to enjoy while still being "authentically" black. The flip side of this expectation is of course how fiercely some black people defend any attack on any type of rap music as being a a racist attack on all black people. Well maybe. Maybe not. I was moved to write about this because of a relatively recent incident in Houston, Texas in which the white female owner of a famed local club declined to book two rap acts because she found their lyrics offensive from both a gender and racial perspective. She also went on to make a few uncharitable (bigoted?) comments about the type of people who came out to enjoy such music. She said that she would continue to book other types of rap music but of course by then the cat was out of the bag. Some comedians and musicians said that they would boycott the club because they felt unwelcome or that the owner was racist.

Movie Reviews: Black Book, Holy Rollers

Black Book
directed by Paul Verhoeven
There are a number of thoughts which I had after re-watching this 2007 Dutch drama film set in the waning days of World War 2. The first is that the lead actress Carice Van Houten, just like her character Melisandre in HBO's Game of Thrones, seemingly hasn't aged at all over the past decade. Maybe it's just good genes and clean living. She wasn't wearing a ruby necklace in this film. Actually often she wasn't wearing anything in this film. 

The second thought is that if real life were a story, after the unpleasant experience of being invaded, defeated, occupied and subjugated you would think that the Western European democracies would have realized that violence, racism and colonialism were wrong. But real life is not a fairy tale. Freed from Nazi threat or rule, the post war European democracies almost immediately all fought vicious, bloody and ultimately pointless wars attempting to maintain white control over non-white nations in Africa and Asia. Some of the very same people depicted here leading the Dutch underground against the Germans wound up in Indonesia doing the same thing or worse to Indonesians that the Germans did to the Dutch. Life is strange. Everyone's a hypocrite. And the last major issue which crossed my mind after viewing this film is that both loneliness and love make for some very strange bedfellows sometimes. Even the worst of us usually still need human contact. 

Today we have people opposed to the current U.S. President who style themselves the Resistance. Their opposition primarily consists of snarky tweets, strongly worded opinion pieces, hats shaped like female genitalia, sucker punching Trump voters and an occasional march or two. What would the Resistance look like once people started getting shot?  Death has a tendency to reveal just who is real and just who is faking the funk by calling themselves the Resistance. There's no shame in recognizing that in facing real oppression, most people will go along to get along. Most of us would prefer not to be shot.

Book Reviews: I Am Providence

I Am Providence
by Nick Mamatas
The title of this book will be instantly familiar to any Lovecraft fan. It's what is engraved upon Lovecraft's tombstone. It's also an atypically boastful quote from the writer. So you might expect that this is a book about H.P. Lovecraft. Well it is and it isn't. If you are the type of person who avoids horror or sci-fi stories then don't worry because despite the seeming subject matter this is not at all a horror or sci-fi story-with perhaps just one or two minor exceptions. However we earn our daily bread there are millions of other people who do so in the same fashion. And from time to time people in the same line of work will have reason to come together for conferences, dinners and social gatherings. The conversations at such meetings may well be incomprehensible to people outside of that particular circle of experts. There are discussions about the finer points of the law or physics debates about dark matter theories which would not only bore me to tears but which I do not have the training or experience to follow. Someone who works on a farm may have a deep understanding of bovine diseases and be excited to compare notes with like minded people dealing with the same issues. A person who writes or acts for a living will probably be excited to rub shoulders with other artists who do the same thing and discuss challenges which less artistically inclined people simply can't understand. Cops get together to talk about the latest tactics in crowd control, legal requirements and forced entry. Accountants get excited over new payroll software. Guitarists may spend days arguing over amp circuitry and music theory. And so on. Everyone has some area of knowledge which intrigues them and in which they may well be expert. This book asks the reader to imagine that the experts in question are not accountants or lawyers or physicists but instead H.P. Lovecraft fans, writers, would be writers and even a few groupies.

The Lovecraft experts, some of whom fit the stereotype of nerds blissfully unencumbered by traditional notions of hygiene, politesse or body hair removal, have come together in Providence, Rhode Island for the Summer Tentacular, an annual Lovecraft convention. Just because they all get together doesn't mean they like each other. A lot of the attendees are just there for the food and feuds.



Roosevelt Franklin and Baby Breeze

Sesame Street used to come under pressure to have muppets that were easily able to be identified as African-American so that African-American kids could feel that they were part of the Sesame Street family. One of the characters who came out of this desire was Roosevelt Franklin. This muppet was voiced by African-American actor Matt Robinson, who played Gordon. I liked Roosevelt Franklin a lot. As an adult, I was surprised to learn that the character was cancelled/phased out because some people (no doubt some of the same people who were clamoring for definitively black muppets) found Roosevelt Franklin and associated muppets like Baby Breeze to be stereotypical and negative. I didn't see it that way at all. My parents were pretty vigilant about such things. If they thought Roosevelt Franklin was stereotypical I can pretty much guarantee I never would have watched it growing up. Oh well. Everyone has different tastes and sensitivities. My brother recently sent two Roosevelt Franklin skits/songs to me. I don't remember the street crossing skit but I can say that I feel the same way as Baby Breeze does about people trying to talk over me at meetings that I called or am leading. Just don't do it. 

The message in "The Skin I'm In" is still relevant in 2017 America, which is kind of messed up. I do remember the "The Skin I'm In" song. The lyrics "I know my letters and numbers/Maybe better than you/So if you look at me funny/I look at you funny too" remain a pretty humorous and accurate take on being black in America.


HBO Game of Thrones Season Seven Trailer

Supposedly there are only two seasons (and thirteen episodes) left in HBO's Game of Thrones series. This first trailer doesn't show anything but it definitely leaves the impression that the story is coming to an end. I am still a little peeved that the ending will be revealed on television before Martin writes it down in his books but such is life. People work at their own pace. And there's very little anyone can do to change that. The zoom out to the blue eye of presumably a White Walker and the crumbling of the various House sigils makes me think that this season will finally see the White Walkers become real to people outside of the Night Watch. We shall see. The new season starts on July 16th, 2017.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Historical Narratives, Namibia and Self-Respect

Can you imagine a statue honoring SS boss Heinrich Himmler being erected in Tel Aviv, Israel? No?
Do you think that current day residents of Nanjing, China would support a monument to the bravery of WW2 Japanese General (and Prince) Asaka, who oversaw the horrific Nanking Massacre? That probably wouldn't go over too well either. Well would modern day citizens of Bulgaria be in favor of a monument to the Ottoman Turkish general who ordered the Batak Massacre? Perhaps not. Presumably locals would be unmoved by callous arguments that these men were trying to bring civilization to recalcitrant ungrateful hardheaded backwards savages or that whatever atrocities occurred were regrettable, rare and overstated or that hey you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs or the old standby that it was a different time and place so we shouldn't judge those brave men by our current moral standards. It has always been a bad thing to rape and murder people. It has always been a bad thing to deliberately target non-combatants. It has always been a bad thing to attempt to wipe out entire groups of people. The problem is that humans are as a species very tribalistic. We often have difficulty applying the moral standards that we know are true to people who are not part of our tribe. And when someone looks different from us or has what we consider to be odd cultural patterns the more trouble we can have accepting that this person has the exact same moral claims to life, liberty and happiness that we do. So even though we know that certain actions are wrong often times it doesn't hit home that those things are wrong until someone does them to someone who either looks like you or someone that you care about. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Movie Reviews: Get Out

Get Out
directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out is a horror movie that has the Black American experience of race and racism at its core. You would think all else equal that more horror films would explore all the rich story possibilities that race/racism allow. I mean what could be more horrific than being kidnapped and treated as subhuman for generations without end. Horror movies quite often reference either directly or more often obliquely social questions and concerns: gender, sexuality, child abuse, feminism, class struggle and many others. But it's rare for a a horror movie to include references to race other than the easy cheap plot device of the sole black character dying first. It's even more unusual for a horror film to tell a story from a black point of view. This is very simply because most horror directors and writers are not black. And even those who are are often under pressure to minimize or eliminate black concerns. This isn't unique to the horror genre by any means. There are many black film directors and writers who can tell war stories of having their book covers altered to avoid informing the reader that the protagonist is black or of having producers and studios refuse to greenlight big budget movies with black leads. But the world is changing. Get Out is a film that might not have been made or more accurately distributed and marketed by a major studio ten or definitely twenty years ago. Not only does it have a black protagonist but American racism is the animating theme of the movie. Wisely Get Out avoids the normal cheap plot device of having the bad guys be Confederate flag waving, low class, incestuous, pickup truck driving, banjo plucking white people from the land that time forgot. The film is both more ambitious and more subtle than that. As I wrote times have changed. Although recently it seems as if a loud minority would indeed would indeed like to turn the clock back to some time around 1922, I would argue that certain incidents not withstanding that racism as most black people experience it today doesn't include howling mobs bent on pogroms. Things are usually more subtle than that. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Music Reviews: What A Little Moonlight Can Do, Kitchen Man

What a Little Moonlight Can Do (as sung by Billie Holiday) and Kitchen Man (as sung by Bessie Smith) are two classic blues/jazz songs. Both songs express the joy of love but do so in lyrically different ways. I think you might say that each song is talking about a separate aspect of love. Both are written from a female point of view. What A Little Moonlight Can Do is a jazzy swing song that captures the excitement,wonder, chaos and giddiness of actually falling in love. The noted Tin Pan Alley songwriter Harry Woods wrote the song. Ironically even though the song is incredibly optimistic and upbeat, Woods himself was an often depressed alcoholic who didn't mind putting hands on people when he found it necessary. Holiday's version of the song included a number of musicians who like her would become legendary: Teddy Wilson, Ben Webster and Benny Goodman. Kitchen Man is a bluesy piece that is much earthier. The love it describes is perhaps indistinguishable from physical lust. Kitchen Man makes uses of barely concealed double entendres. The singer is not falling in love but rather describing all the reasons why she is in love with the titular hero. And the love she's detailing really doesn't have a whole lot to do with moonlight or stuttering or uncertainty. The singer knows exactly what she wants. And she's going to tell you. Kitchen Man features Eddie Lang on guitar and Clarence Williams on piano. Eddie Lang was actually Caucasian (Italian-American born Salvatore Massaro) and had to resort to pseudonyms in order to record with black singers. Lang was one of the many people instrumental (pun intended) in replacing the banjo with the guitar in jazz songs. Clarence Williams was not only a pianist but a composer, producer and music publisher among other things. For a time in the 20s and 30s Williams was the primary Black music publisher in the nation. Williams also produced songs for white country artists such as Hank Williams. And Williams would later become the grandfather of noted actor Clarence Williams III. I like both songs listed here. Each singer had her own enjoyable and influential vocal style. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jeff Sessions: Oh You Mean THOSE Russians

There are a number of different ways to not tell the truth. You may say something that's untrue because you don't know the truth. You may honestly not understand the question because it's vague or you're not too smart. You may forget to include information that is relevant to the question you're answering. You may answer with extreme precision the exact question that you're asked, knowing that the interrogator has mistakenly not asked you the correct question. And of course you may just flat out lie and tell the person asking the question something that you know to be untrue. Lawyers often tend to be masters of this sort of wordplay. Exact wording is something that has been used both in fiction and in real life both by heroes and villains to give their enemies their just deserts or prevent said enemies from getting their proper rewards. The Norse god Loki, having wagered and lost his head, prevented decapitation by insisting that he had bet his head, not his neck so no sword or axe could touch his neck. The Witch-King boasted that not by the hand of man would he fall but apparently forgot that women and hobbits could wield swords. Khal Drogo, having watched his annoying brother-in-law Viserys, threaten to murder his own sister, Khal Drogo's wife, promises to give Viserys a golden crown. He keeps his word by giving his brother-in-law a molten golden crown which kills him. 

So exact words can be tricky. I mention all of this because Attorney General Jeff Sessions, having been asked under oath in increasingly direct ways if he had had any contact with the Russians during the Trump campaign, said no. It has come out that in fact Sessions did have contact with the Russians. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Border Searches, Privacy and Profiling

I've written before on seeming or actual violations of civil liberties under the Obama Administration. For the most part it's fair to say that progressives didn't care too much about such violations. They decided that they had bigger fish to fry. And with a few honorably consistent exceptions the conservatives who criticized the Obama Administration's civil liberties record were quiet as church mice when it came to local police violations of the civil/constitutional rights of black American citizens. So conservative critiques about the Obama Administration's hostility to freedom of the press or separation of powers or due process generally fell on deaf ears. Many conservatives were themselves oft indifferent to or opposed to expansive interpretations of civil liberties (that is after all why they were conservatives in the first place). Others were just using civil liberties as a convenient club with which to bludgeon President Obama. They would drop this club just as soon as a conservative President took office. There are two recent incidents that occurred under President Trump that are receiving some attention. They both occurred at the border. I'm no lawyer. It is my understanding however that the authorities have been given more leeway than normal to conduct questioning and searches at or near the border. This may especially be the case where the object of official interest is not an American citizen who has never been to the United States before. So far there is no right for such a person to travel to the United States. But in both of these recent cases the object of the additional and to my mind disturbing state actions was an American citizen returning home. Unfortunately the two citizens did not have the right skin tone, correct European styled name or especially, religion. And this could be what triggered the additional state scrutiny, regardless of their citizenship. 

Street Harassment in Detroit and Confederate Thuggery in Georgia

There have been many words written about street harassment, which is usually defined as a man looking at a woman in a way she doesn't like or saying something to her that she doesn't appreciate. For what it's worth I think that for some this is a real problem though I don't think it warrants the heavy hand of state intervention. There are just some people who don't know how to act because they weren't raised right at home. Absent them putting hands on someone or making actual threats to harm a person I think that the police should have more important things to do than arrest men who use bad or insulting pickup lines. Free speech and all that, yada, yada, yada. Well recently in the city of Detroit a woman apparently felt she was street harassed because someone remarked on the size of her posterior. This lady evidently took offense. But rather than engage in a short frank discussion of why she didn't appreciate the remarks or simply remove herself from the area where such untoward language was in use, this lady and/or her friend allegedly decided to take the law into their own hands. And in her world the penalty for such disrespect for her gluteus maximus was death. The only issue, well beside the whole "I'm going to kill you because I don't like what you said to me" thingie, was that the shooters apparently killed a child (teenager) who didn't make the comment in the first place. Reginald Rose-Robinson just happened to have the bad luck to be in the general area. He may or may not have laughed. And now he's dead. Michigan doesn't have a death penalty. And even in states that still have the death penalty I don't think you can receive the death penalty for laughing at a bad joke or ugly comment that someone else makes. 

Detroit police are looking for a female suspect who shot a teenager to death Friday night on Detroit's west side. The woman thought the 17-year-old made a comment about her backside inside a party store. A car she was in pulled up to Robinson and his friends outside and fatally shot him in the head at 6:30 p.m. across from the Zoom gas station at Plymouth and Meyers. Two women walked into the store when a man they didn't know, made his remark. Somebody said 'Damn, she has a big booty' and we all started laughing," said Christopher, a friend of Robinson's. "That person (left), she looked and I guess she thought it was us."

The two women drove up to the boys in a dark sedan a block away and opened fire.