Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cruz-Fiorina Drop Out

Per NY Times:

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than a month ago, Senator Ted Cruz seemed to have done it.
He had won Wisconsin. Former rivals were holding their noses to support him. He was dominating delegate elections, positioning himself for what seemed increasingly likely to be a floor fight at the Republican convention in July, as the campaign of Donald J. Trump fell into internal disarray.
“Tonight is a turning point,” Mr. Cruz said on primary night in Milwaukee. “It is a rallying cry.”
It was neither.
On Tuesday, Mr. Cruz ended his campaign, his loss in Indiana extinguishing any chance of denying Mr. Trump the nomination.
“Together we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got. But the voters chose another path,” he told supporters here as cries of “Nooo!” rained from the crowd. “Tonight, I am sorry to say, it appears that path has been closed.”

Sanders, You Gave It a Good Run But Time To Face the Math

I like Bernie Sanders.  No, really.  I like the guy.  He clearly has an appeal with young voters that cannot be denied, and his charisma is contagious across most other demographics.  That said, his policies are about as rooted in reality as Sarah Palin's claim to be a foreign policy expert because she can see Russia from Alaska.  Most of his ideas boil down to free stuff for the people.  Hey, who can't get behind that, right?  Who doesn't like free stuff?  If you want to pay off my student loans I'm sure as hell not going to stop you.  But that's not reality.  In the real world, SOMEBODY has to actually pay for the free stuff that the masses enjoy, and by "somebody" I mean you and me.  Or as the great Snoop Dogg once said "everybody got their cups but they ain't chipped in."  Hillary may not be the most likeable of candidates (understatement of the year) but at least she has been around long enough to know better than to make promises like free college for everybody.  Full disclosure, I'm not a Hillary fan either; she certainly comes with her own set of issues.  But let's set aside, for a moment, the subjective preferences we may or may not have towards one candidate or another.  Today I want to talk about math.  Yes, that subject that you were forced to learn all throughout your time in school but then never used again after you graduated (unless you were crazy enough to major in engineering like me, in which case you are just getting started on your never ending quest towards mathematical enlightenment).

As of today's post, love it or hate it, Hillary Clinton has 2,165 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination as the Democratic party's presidential candidate.  That's a difference of 218 delegates.  Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has 1,357 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nod.  That's a difference of 1,026 delegates.  As of today, there are 1,243 delegates still available in the Democratic primary.  Which means Bernie would have to win 83% of the remaining delegates in order to win the primary.  Conversely, Hillary would only have to win 17% of the outstanding delegates in order to win.  That's math.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Larry Wilmore, President Obama, The WHCD and Racial Slurs

Let's say that you invite a guest to your home. He says he needs to relieve himself. You inform him where the restroom is. But he says "No thanks, I keep it 100!" He then proceeds to remove his lower clothing and joyously defecate on your living room carpet. When you inform him that you have a BIG problem with what he just did he self-righteously accuses you of hypocrisy. After all, everyone has body functions. Why should he hide his? How dare you impose your hypocritical standards on him. He's a better person than you because he's honest. That admittedly imperfect analogy describes my feelings when I read that comedian and writer Larry Wilmore had used a form of a racial slur at the Saturday White House Correspondents Dinner to describe President Obama and his appreciation for the President. Wilmore, the host of Comedy Central's "The Nightly Report," used the term at the close of his comedy monologue at the annual glittery gathering of politicians, journalists, celebrities and dignitaries. He ended his 20 minutes of barbs with sincere personal remarks about what it means to see a black president in his lifetime. “When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback,” Wilmore said. “Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, I'm going to keep it a hundred. Yo Barry, you did it, my n---a." Wimore pounded his chest in a "peace out" gesture. Obama returned the gesture, laughed and rose from his seat to shake Wilmore's hand.
What sort of Jedi mind trick have racists done on black people so that not only do we call each other a racial slur that they created but we are proud to do so and consider it daring and revolutionary to do so in front of white people? In fact a big part of the reason that some of us want to use that word is just so we can go na-na-na-na at white people and say you can't say it so there!

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Home

Hey there. Remember Bran Stark? Well he's back. And he's apparently somewhere around 24. Ok well not really but his aging is quite noticeable. The show creators said that after this season they only think that they need maybe another 13 episodes to complete the story. They had better hurry because Bran and to a lesser extent Arya are really growing up quickly. I have a friend who is a bit perturbed that Bran's big plan seems to be to become a tree. Well there's more to it than that I hope but that is where we open up this episode. Bran and his creepy sensei the Three Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow) are in the weirwood tree roots. They are exploring the past together. Bran and the Three Eyed Raven watch a young Ned and Benjen Stark in the courtyard of Winterfell spar as their older brother Brandon offers pointers. Their sister Lyanna rides in to show off her equestrian skills before trying to get a young Hodor to practice with her brothers. It seems that Hodor was always large and good natured but he wasn't always simple. His name is Willas. He can speak as well as anyone. Old Nan puts the kibosh to Lyanna's idea, saying that Willas is just a stablehand and needs to focus on that. Bran wants to stay in the past longer and find out what happened to Willas/Hodor but the Three Eyed Raven pulls him back to the present. The Three Eyed Raven says there is danger in remaining for too long in the past. Meera is sitting outside, no doubt upset about her brother's death. Bran asks after her but Meera doesn't want to be bothered with Bran at the moment, even as a feral looking Child of the Forest girl tells her that Bran needs her. At Castle Black it's showdown time. Thorne tells the diehard Snow loyalists that either they come out or he's coming in. Davos and crew draw their swords. Ghost bares his very long and very sharp teeth. Thorne has his people start to break down the door. It's a very tense scene. But just as Thorne and company are about to kick through the damaged door, Dolorous Edd, Tormund and the wildlings arrive. They brought along one of their giant friends (Wun-Wun?) in case anyone starts to act stupid. Actually, someone does act stupid but after the giant decides to play racquetball with that man's head just about everyone else gets with the program. There's some skirmishes but Dolorous Edd orders Thorne and Olly and a few other people sent to the cells. Upon seeing Jon Snow's corpse a saddened Tormund says he will burn it.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book Reviews: The Caretaker, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Caretaker
by Thomas William Simpson
This is a mildly entertaining thriller that starts out with a lot of promise but loses it a bit about halfway through. It remains an ok read but I felt it was stretched out a little bit longer than it needed to be. The ending was hugely melodramatic but it wasn't like that wasn't telegraphed. In a book that is almost 600 pages I am going to expect something a little bit more epic than what The Caretaker turned out to be. That could be in part because of a decreasing patience or declining attention span on my part. I'm not sure. I can definitely say that if you are stuck somewhere for hours with no mental stimulation at hand this book could come in quite handy. You know the sorts of arenas of which I speak--places like auto dealerships, hospitals, corporate headquarters-- where all you can do is hurry up and wait. One thing which the author did which I wasn't too crazy about is to end sentences by alluding to the fate of major characters or letting you know who the bad guy is. If he did it once or twice that would be amusing or even exciting. It might make me curious. But there were constant references to wondering how a major character would be enjoying prison right now or explaining that it's too bad that another major character didn't know that he was dealing with a sociopath. Part of the joy in reading a book like this is in figuring out who the bad guy is, who the mark is, what the con is and what the motivations of the bad guy are. So much of that was given away so early that instead of being sucked in by the con, figuring it out and identifying with the so far clueless heroes and heroines, I felt a little separated from the protagonists and villains. Either they were too stupid or too obvious in their evil. The joy of being conned by stories like these is in figuring it out for yourself. Would you really enjoy a magician who instead of doing a trick for you explained in detail exactly how the trick worked even as he was doing it? Well some people would. Perhaps if while the magician was explaining the trick you were watching, he did another magic trick that you didn't even see until the end, then that might be ok? You could argue that that's what Simpson did here. Yes that might be the book's saving grace. But as I said I just thought it was a bit too long. Gunn Henderson Jr. is a tall stereotypical WASP Alpha Male salesman. He works for an unnamed shoe company (think Nike). 

Gunn is the kind of man who doesn't feel that his day is complete unless he has proven that he's better than you at something. Gunn's a sharp dressed ultra competitive man who doesn't take any s*** off of anybody. Anybody. That includes his marks clients, other salesmen, his bosses, women in general and especially his attractive wife Samantha or Sam. Sam is, if not quite a desperate housewife, getting pretty close to that status. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Red Woman

Well we're back. And Jon Snow is dead. Dead as a doornail. There is no doubt whatever about that. Let me repeat emphatically that Jon Snow is dead. But this is no Christmas Carol. We open with a panoramic shot of the Castle Black courtyard centered on Snow's corpse to make that fact clear. We hear Ghost howling with grief and scratching at the door. Not for nothing but you would think that the Stark children would know by now not to get separated from their wolves. It seems like bad things happen. Davos knows something's up so he leaves his room and discovers Jon's body. Along with some of the Night's Watch members who didn't stab Jon 5011 times he takes Jon's corpse inside. Everyone immediately knows Thorne did it. But Dolorous Edd says that they can't trust anyone who's not in the room. Melisandre enters. She says she saw Jon fighting at Winterfell in her flames. Davos is less interested in prophecies and more interested in getting people to guard against the attack which he knows must be coming. He suggests setting Ghost free. While Jon's friends are ready to make a last stand and go out hard, Davos thinks it's better to make a stand and survive. He convinces Dolorous Edd to go for help. Exactly who Edd is going to ask for help is unsaid but I would guess that that Davos is talking about the wildlings. Meanwhile Thorne is overseeing a meeting to explain what happened. As he says, and he may well be honest here, he never liked Jon Snow. But Thorne never disobeyed orders. But he could not stand by and countenance Jon letting the wildlings thru the Wall and giving them lands where they had often robbed, raped and pillaged. Thorne, and several other Night's Watch leaders saw that as treason to the Night Watch. It was something that would destroy the Night's Watch. It violated, as they saw it, the whole purpose of the Night's Watch. So they had to act. Thorne isn't hiding anything. Later on Thorne knocks on the door of the room where Davos and the die hard Snow loyalists are hiding. He offers to give amnesty to anyone who lays down their weapons and provide Davos and Melisandre safe passage south. But they've got to surrender before nightfall. Thorne won't say what will happen after that but then again I don't suppose he has to does he?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones: Who is Jon Snow's Mother?

The last thing Ned Stark told Jon Snow was that the next time they talked he would tell Jon all about Jon's mother. Benioff and Weiss had to answer (presumably correctly) this post title question for GRRM before he allowed them to adapt his A Song of Ice and Fire series for HBO. Although this post does not technically contain spoilers as GRMM, Benioff or Weiss haven't publicly answered the question, this post provides what I consider to be the correct, obvious and most widely held answer. Season Five of Game of Thrones made increasingly obvious (IMO) hints to the answer. Season Six may include flashbacks, some of which could be written about below. So if you don't want to discuss Jon Snow's mother and why that's important to the story, you should probably skip this post. This post references numerous book details, which if you've not read the books, might be things you don't want to know. Caveat lector.

Movie Reviews: Count Yorga, Vampire, My Son The Fanatic

Count Yorga, Vampire
directed by Bob Kelljan
This AIP movie is similar to what Hammer later tried to do with Dracula AD 1972. It updates vampires for the modern era. The difference is that Count Yorga ,Vampire takes its subject matter more seriously. This film is an example of how low budget doesn't necessarily need to mean low class. The special effects are few and far between. The blood looks fake as can be. But nevertheless this film gives a pretty good bang for the buck as far as scares go. In addition, this is a pretty interesting trip in time back to the days of doctors who chain smoked, women who found bras to be too constraining and men who thought that tight gaudy polyester pants just screamed out macho masculinity. So there's that. The early seventies were a different time. As the title gives away there isn't any real mystery as to who the bad guy is or what he is. Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) looking and sounding like a Continental mix (even though he's American) between Dracula and Hugh Hefner is the titular bad guy. Yorga's making ends meet as a medium and hypnotist. He claims to originally be from Bulgaria. Yorga is conducting a seance for a woman named Donna (Donna Anders). Donna wants to contact her recently deceased mother. Donna's mother died suddenly from anemia shortly after she became Yorga's girlfriend. The Count didn't come to the daytime funeral. But he did convince Donna to bury her mother instead of cremating her as her will instructed. Donna doesn't seem to find this strange. At Donna's request many of her friends attend the seance even though they don't take the seance or the strange count very seriously. As the seance gets going Donna sees something and becomes hysterical. Count Yorga calms her down and hypnotizes her to forget whatever it was she saw. He also takes the opportunity to implant some naughty post-hypnotic suggestions in her head. Needing a ride home Count Yorga prevails upon Erica (Judy Lang) and her boyfriend Paul (Michael Murphy) to offer him a lift. Paul's not crazy about the idea; he doesn't like the glances the Count is giving his woman. Erica seems oblivious. Arriving at the Count's neo-gothic LA mansion Paul declines the Count's offer to Erica and him to stay the night. Paul is anxious to be away, especially after seeing the Count's silent moronic looking servant Bruda (Edward Walsh). 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince Dead at 57

The jacked up thing about getting older or perhaps about life in general is that eventually all of your youthful heroes pass away.  Prince died today at age 57. That seems far too young of course. But you never know what's going on in someone else's life. And like the Mississippi Fred McDowell song points out, no matter what your plans might be, when your time is up "You gotta move". Prince was a huge part of the soundtrack to my misspent youth. They say that people often keep a special spot in their heart for the music of their teens and early adulthood. I have most of Prince's albums. I definitely have everything he did in his classic period from the late seventies to the early nineties. This is sad but it is what it is. Prince was one of the most exciting and eclectic performers, composers, musicians and guitarists out there. I don't think he ever fully got the credit he deserved from the rock press, who often dismissed him as a "pop" star or "R&B" star. On guitar Prince could play circles around many people but I think his true instrument was his band. Condolences to his family.
(CNN)The artist known as Prince, who pioneered "the Minneapolis sound" and took on the music industry in his fight for creative freedom, died Thursday at age 57, according to his publicist. "It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning at the age of 57," said Yvette Noel-Schure.
Earlier Thursday, police said they were investigating a death Paisley Park studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Earlier this month, Prince said he wasn't feeling well, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and canceled at least one concert in the city. Some days later, he took the stage in Atlanta to perform. After that concert, the singer's plane made an emergency landing, Noel-Schure told CNN. At the time she said, "He is fine and at home."
Prince has won seven Grammy Awards, and has earned 30 nominations. Five of his singles have topped the charts and 14 other songs hit the Top 10. He won an Oscar for the original song score to the classic film "Purple Rain." 

The singer's predilection for lavishly kinky story-songs earned him the nickname, His Royal Badness. He is also known as the "Purple One" because of his colorful fashions.
Controversy followed the singer and that, in part, made his fans adore him more. "Darling Nikki," a song that details a one-night stand, prompted the formation of the Parents Music Resource Center. Led by Al Gore's then wife, Tipper, the group encouraged record labels to place advisory labels on albums with explicit lyrics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm a Woman and I Didn't Vote for Hillary Clinton

Growing up there was one woman in politics whom my mother strongly admired and always gloated about -- that woman was Geraldine F. Ferraro. Before Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton or even Sarah Palin, there was one woman who commanded the attention of many and was seen as a major force of political power and potential. Geraldine Ferraro was a congresswoman from New York City. She served New York's 9th District which basically made up most of Brooklyn at the time. East Flatbush, Flatbush, Brownsville, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights, Brooklyn were home to a wave of Caribbean natives who settled in New York City in the 1970's. My mother was in that bunch. Even though my mother wasn't a citizen and couldn't cast a vote for Ms. Ferraro, she volunteered during multiple congressional campaigns, and up until I was a high school student in the late 90's my mother still believed that Geraldine was "targeted in 84" and would still become our country's first woman President.

This morning as I filled out my ballot form in favor of Bernie Sanders, I suddenly felt a slight sense of betrayal to my mother, Geraldine Ferraro and even Hillary Clinton. I feel strong in my decision to support Bernie, but now I'm worried I might regret withholding support for Hillary Clinton.

Saudi Arabia's Threats, 9-11 and President Obama

You may recall that there was a Saudi connection to 9-11. Fifteen of the nineteen men who committed the attack were Saudi Arabian citizens. Saudi Arabia practices, underwrites and exports a fierce puritanical brand of Islam, one which is implacably hostile to all other religions including other versions of Islam. Thomas Friedman gets it mostly right when he writes that  Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment. It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia. And we, America, have never called them on that — because we’re addicted to their oil and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.
So I wasn't that surprised to learn that the Saudi Arabian government, alarmed at the possibility that the Congress might pass a bill allowing exceptions to foreign governmental immunity in the case where American citizens have been murdered, made some crude threats about selling off US assets were that bill to become law. "Nice economy you got here kid. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it. You savvy??"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Movie Reviews: Anomalisa

directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
This stop motion animated movie is simultaneously offbeat and very traditional. It's also adult and explicit in a way that probably would not have been possible with live action acting with these particular actors, although you never know I guess. It's a beautiful movie with a message that you've no doubt heard a million times before but in my opinion never gets old. Enjoy life. Expand your horizons. Live and love while you can because sooner than you think winter is coming for us all. I suppose how much you enjoy this movie depends on how amenable you are to hearing those particular bromides again. All of us should occasionally take the time to stop and smell the roses. As Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. If your inner child or young teen could see the adult that you've become would he or she be excited and joyful or revolted and frightened? Are you living your dreams? Are you just slowly hacking your way through a dull and boring life? Or worst of all, are you thoroughly consumed with self-loathing and thus depressed at the choices and compromises that you've made in order to get somewhere that you're not sure you want to be anymore. It makes a difference. Our mental and emotional states can influence our physical state and vice versa. Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a middle aged, out of shape and somewhat jowly customer service efficiency expert. Michael writes books and gives lectures on how to be a better customer service agent. He doesn't like his work. He doesn't like traveling around speaking. He doesn't like his wife. He doesn't like people in general. Michael is a sad sack of a man.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2016 Presidential Race

Lately few of the five remaining major party candidates have been having a good time of it in the polls or on the campaign trails. Most of the candidates made some unforced errors or were baited into making mistakes by the media or their rivals. The candidates seem to be reaching a point where their irritation with each other and the entire campaign process becomes more evident each week. Each candidate is digging deep to find weaknesses in his or her rivals. This interminable process is made even more unpleasant by the 24 hour cable news and social media presence. For every statement you make there is someone eagerly waiting to call you and your supporters everything but a child of God. When Republican consultants are asking other Republican partisans if their preferred candidate pays them more for certain unusual sexual favors or Democratic consultants and media talking heads are trying to paint the other Democratic candidate as the Second Coming of George Wallace you know that people are getting nasty and desperate. So it goes. Nobody put a gun to their heads and made them run for President of the United States.

Donald Trump
Politics is not war. But politics and war have some things in common. In both war and politics you can attack in different ways. There's the air game where someone comes over the horizon at 800 mph, drops ordnance on the target and is gone before anyone can react. There's lots of explosions and people running around bemoaning all the destruction. The nice thing about the air game is that you're in and out quickly. Few people can meet you on equal terms. You can shift targets at a moment's notice. The air game looks great on video. 
In the ground game you have to, as Sonny Corleone might have said, get up close to someone and bada-bing shoot them right in the head. The danger with this is that even a less technologically advanced enemy can still hurt you once you're both rolling around in the muck.The ground game is slower. You spend more time doing things that don't get publicity or ratings. It's pretty ugly on video.

Monday, April 11, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Season 6 Trailer(3)

Well well well. Another trailer drops. Apparently HBO has finally decided to throw us some more crumbs before the new season starts on April 24. Enjoy. Unlike the previous trailer, which was just expanded from what had been already put out there, this one has new footage. What do you think?
UPDATE: New clips are available below the jump.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Television Reviews: Bates Motel and Damien

Some stories don't lend themselves to rewarding and interesting prequels. Not everyone has the talent or desire to dream up new backstory for a pre-existing tale, particularly if he or she didn't create the original story. Since we already know the story ending, the narrative conclusion is fixed. The creator may be unable to hold interest with a prequel. But if the original story left previous events unexplained or only vaguely detailed, the creator could make a lavish backstory that's independent.  The creator can birth a new work that expands on and gives new insights into the original story. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. Two A&E series, Bates Motel and Damien, provide different examples of prequel/reboot success. Bates Motel, a updated prequel of Psycho, featuring Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) is an example of a prequel that works. It has its own energy and plot. Though it's apparently inexorably moving toward the day where Norman will commit matricide and live out his remaining days pretending that he's his mother and "talking" to her, Bates Motel has enough quirks to lure the viewer and get him or her excited and unsure about what happens next. We know the big picture, but the devil's in the details. The Psycho story is stuffed to the brim with Freudian and Oedipal overtones. The show's writing and incisive acting of the two main characters breathe life into a trope that's almost a cliche now. Although the displayed unhealthy mother: son relationship is mostly subtext it's still noticeable enough to make the viewer and some in-universe characters more than a little creeped out. For most parents not named Norma Bates there comes a time when certain parental behaviors or activities aren't appropriate with their child, particularly if the child is opposite sex and post-puberty. Norma Bates is not necessarily an evil woman but she is a manipulative, deceitful and frequently bossy one. In the current season Norma has finally realized that her son Norman is unwell. She can't protect Norman from the outside world or his own demons. 

Well actually, Norma is more worried about protecting herself from Norman. It must be a scary thing to know that a loved one who is physically stronger than you has gone round the bend. Or from Norman's pov it must be a scary thing to know that your mother sees you primarily as an extension of herself.