Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kellywise the Dancing Clown

I thought this was humorous. It's probably more humorous if you have seen the new IT movie or spent even a little time listening to Trump counselor/spokeswoman KellyAnne Conway spew contradictory nonsense whenever she's on television. Kate McKinnon continues to hit the ball out of the park when doing impressions.


Mice on the Menu at the Fortune Buffet

Let's say that you are sitting down to eat at your favorite restaurant. Just as you are preparing to consume your preferred meal, the one that is only really done right at this place, you notice mice or rats running across the floor. Do you shrug your shoulders and continue to  chow down? After all, we all have immune systems for a reason. You might as well give yours a work out. If you look behind the scenes at almost any restaurant you'll probably discover some information that won't give you a warm fuzzy feeling about eating there. Heck maybe those raisins in the salad aren't really raisins? Or, now armed with the knowledge that your food was prepared in a place shared with nasty filthy diseased little mice and their droppings, do you immediately leave the establishment,  cussing out the owners and swearing by the sixty-two moons of Saturn never to set foot in there again?

This is not just a hypothetical.
LIVONIA - Customers are complaining of a rodent infestation at Fortune Buffet in Livonia. Customers took out their phones to record it, as employees ran around with brooms during a lunch buffet. Fox 2's Hilary Golston talked with the owner.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Reviews: The Whistler

The Whistler
by John Grisham
I usually like a lot of Grisham's work. Like many other former lawyers or legal experts who have become thriller or mystery authors he is able to build excitement around oft boring judicial proceedings or explain legal esoterica to those of us who didn't go to law school. This book wasn't his among his most worthy creations though. The Whistler starts out in the familiar Grisham style. Two investigators for the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct, Lacy Stolz and Hugo Hatch, receive information regarding potential judicial corruption. They follow up on it. But they're not expecting anything big. Although they are lawyers and work for the state they have no arrest powers and don't carry weapons. They investigate judges. The most dangerous things they normally encounter in their daily labor are nasty insults from $800/hr defense attorneys or empty threats from angered judges. Lacy and Hugo don't make a lot of money in their job.

Neither of them earns much more than $60,000/year. Lacy is single and quite attractive. Hugo is married with a growing family. The two co-workers are close. Not in THAT way. Lacy babysits for her partner and his wife from time to time. But the stakes of Lacy's and Hugo's job are usually pretty small. At worst a particularly venal judge might be indicted and convicted of a crime and serve a few years. That's pretty rare. Prosecutors and judges don't like to take down fellow big shots. Usually what happens is that a judge is censured, forced to resign, reassigned, fined or perhaps disbarred. But this case is different. Their contact, a man calling himself Greg Myers, claims to know of a corrupt judge who has stolen more money than all judges, ever. And the judge is involved in worse crimes. Disbarment or fines wouldn't be appropriate for this judge. These are federal crimes with real penalties.

Detroit CPL holder practices Self-Defense

I don't have much to say about this incident. On Detroit's east side one man armed with a gun tried to rob another man. The would be victim was legally armed and defended himself, shooting the robber multiple times. The robber is still alive. The victim had no time to call the police. And since the victim is neither bulletproof nor a superhero he had no way to wrestle with the assailant and disarm him without being shot. The victim did run away but again only Superman is faster than a speeding bullet. We stop someone who is wrongfully initiating force against us by meeting that force with equal or greater force.

I think that there are many reasons why violent street exists, some of which the government can and should address and resolve and some of which are probably beyond government solution. But that's another discussion. When someone is either shooting at or threatening to shoot you, it's too doggone late to make his parents raise him right. It's too late to give him enough self-respect and material success so that he won't want to risk prison or death. It's too late to rewire his moral code so that he doesn't enjoy hurting other people. The only thing we can do is stop the threat. And the most effective way of doing that is to be armed. There are some areas that are more dangerous than others. People who can should avoid those areas. But sometimes you can't avoid being in a bad area because it's your home area. Most people are not criminals. Most people won't ever be attacked. But I think it is non-negotiable to insist that American citizens retain the right to defend themselves both in their homes and in the streets.

Movie Reviews: Killing Gunther

Killing Gunther
directed by Taran Killam
This film was a mixed bag. It tried to be This is Spinal Tap for hitmen but didn't make it.
Killing Gunther is Killam's directorial debut. Killam is a SNL veteran. So often, this movie does feel like an unnaturally extended SNL skit. I thought that the premise was humorous. The film's energy flags occasionally. I think that the hour and a half long Killing Gunther could have dropped about 20 minutes from its running time and done okay. It's action comedy film that mixes slapstick, Airplane like sight gags, and black comedy to decent if not great impact. The first 20 minutes I laughed out loud quite a bit, after that, not so much. If I had seen this in theaters I probably wouldn't have thought it worth the expense and trouble of going to the movie theater. It was okay as a Saturday afternoon film.

 Although some more squeamish people may be turned off or even offended by the premise, the movie is not all that different from any number of comedies set in corporate offices or shady bars where a bunch of lovable losers come up with their planned big score. I was reminded of Welcome to Collinwood. Blake (Killam) is a somewhat louche, highstrung, world class hitman. Although he's good at what he does he's by no means the best. That appellation is reserved for the target of his ire, Gunther. Nobody knows what Gunther looks like. Some people aren't even certain that Gunther is a man. 

Everyone agrees that Gunther is the best. Maybe he's the best ever. Gunther takes on impossible hits and makes them look easy. Gunther shows off and steals all the best jobs. He makes other assassins look bad. Blake resents not being number one in his field. Blake decides that the way to set his own rep in stone as the man to see when you want someone murdered is to kill Gunther. As Ric Flair always says to be the man you gotta beat the man!!! Blake also has some more personal reasons for wanting Gunther dead. These become obvious later on in the film.

Columbus Day

1492. The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them..

Here is how the pirates were able to take whatever they wanted from anybody else: they had the best boats in the world and they were meaner than anybody else and they had gunpowder...The chief weapon of the sea pirates, however, was their ability to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was much too late, how heartless and greedy they were."-Kurt Vonnegut
This past Monday, October 9th was Columbus Day. It's a federal holiday but many people do not receive the day off. Increasingly Columbus Day has become a flashpoint between people who would like to bring to light that there were already people living in the "New World" in 1492 and those who see any attempt to revise bad history as a simplistic scurrilous attack on whites, Italians, or Western Civilization. I was reminded of how the second group thinks when I was listening to a local white (supposedly liberal) radio host bemoan the city of Detroit's planned renaming of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. The radio host and most of his callers were of the opinion that everyone (by which they meant non-whites) was just too sensitive these days. They said that well sure maybe Columbus did some bad things but Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't perfect either. 

And in their view because America existed now that made everything okay. The radio host closed out with what he thought was the devastating conclusion that Columbus was good because "our European ancestors never would have made it here were it not for Columbus".  Wow. How can anyone argue with that logic.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Harvey Weinstein Accusations

Harvey Weinstein is a famed award winning Hollywood film and television producer and distributor. He has produced and/or distributed such movies as Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, Good Will Hunting, Clerks, The Crying Game, Shaolin Soccer,  The Iron LadySilver Linings Playbook, The English Patient, and Sex, Lies and Videotape among others. Weinstein is the executive producer of Project Runway. Weinstein also has a book publishing company. Weinstein provided an internship to Malia Obama, President Obama's daughter. Although Weinstein's recent films have not been as critically acclaimed or as profitable as they have been in the past, Weinstein has over the years built a well deserved reputation as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. He's worth hundreds of millions.

Like several men who fit that description, Weinstein has had business relationships with some of the world's most beautiful or successful actresses and models, including such women as Heidi Klum, Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, and Uma Thurman. Weinstein has allegedly used his power within the entertainment industry to make women put out or get out in the classic casting couch/sexual harassment sense. I was aware of a few isolated past accounts of settlements and accusations concerning Weinstein. But the New York Times recently ran an expose detailing numerous settlements going back decades. The story included women who were willing to go on record about their experiences with the satyric Mr. Weinstein. 

Update: The Weinstein Company’s board has fired Harvey Weinstein after reports of sexual harassment complaints against him. Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview. “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” Ms. Judd said she remembers thinking.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Reviews: A Rage in Harlem

A Rage in Harlem
by Chester Himes
The author Chester Himes (1909-1984) had a very short career as a screenwriter for Warner Brothers. It ended when studio boss Jack Warner heard about Himes' hiring and immediately ordered Himes' firing, stating "I don't want no n*****s on this lot!". So much for liberal Hollywood. Himes said that incident in particular and the Los Angeles racism in general was something that more than anything else embittered him. That's saying a lot since Himes had been tortured by police, served time in prison, and watched helplessly as his blinded brother was turned away from a whites-only hospital. But Hollywood's loss was literature's gain. This is African-American noir fiction based in, as is apparent from the title, late fifties Harlem. Hollywood made a nineties movie based on this 1957 book starring Robin Givens, Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover. I've seen the film but didn't remember much about it. Hollywood previously made seventies era semi-comedic blaxploitation films based on Himes' other works. I didn't recall much about those movies besides the Donny Hathaway soundtrack and Redd Foxx appearance. So when I set down to read this taut, short novel I didn't have a lot of expectations, good or bad. 

After reading it I was impressed. Himes doesn't waste prose. He describes things quickly. You don't get bored with tedious explanations. Himes paints a picture and lets the reader fill in the rest. The novel has some humor, but it's not slapstick. It's more subtle. And at least in this story, which serves as the introduction to the rough black detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, the detectives are not humorous at all. They aren't interested as much in protecting citizens as they are in ending any challenges to their personal authority.  They are not nice people. 

Himes writes: Grave Digger and Coffin Ed weren't crooked detectives, but they were tough. They had to be tough to work in Harlem. Colored folks didn't respect colored cops. But they respected big shiny pistols and sudden death. It was said in Harlem that Coffin Ed's pistol would kill a rock and that Grave Digger's would bury it. They took their tribute like all real cops, from the established underworld catering to the essential needs of the people--gamekeepers, madams, streetwalkers, numbers writers, numbers bankers. But they were rough on purse snatchers, muggers, burglars, con men, and all strangers working any racket. And they didn't like rough stuff from anybody else but themselves. "Keep it cool", they warned. "Don't make graves."

Michigan Mother Jailed Over Vaccination Refusal

People have differing beliefs about the efficacy of some scientific or medical procedures. We have, within some very wide parameters, the ability to make these decisions for ourselves. Your body. Your choice. There are limits. You can't legally decide that ingesting cocaine and meth is the best way to spend your weekend. You can, however, eat and drink yourself into a stupor. An adult can refuse medical treatment for conditions or diseases that everyone knows require immediate treatment. The state or concerned family or friends face a high barrier trying to force an adult to accept medical treatment or drugs that he or she opposes. I know some doctors and lawyers who are frustrated by this. They snark that someone has spent a few hours on Google or WebMD and now considers themselves a doggone legal/medical expert. I've had discussions with friends and relatives who have what I consider to be conspiratorial paranoid mindsets. I know how irritating it can be when someone refuses to see reason. But this is our system. An adult doesn't have to justify his or her bad decisions. The state or other adults have to justify why they wish to substitute their judgment for someone else's.  

But children are a little different. With children the state has an independent interest, separate from the parents, in ensuring the child's health and life. When the parents disagree with the state or disagree with each other things can get messy. Rebecca Bredow, a local Southeast Michigan woman, shares joint custody of her son with her ex-husband, James Horne. Horne wanted his son vaccinated. Bredow disagreed, citing health and religious beliefs. The judge presiding over the case was unconvinced

Las Vegas Murders and The 2nd Amendment

I don't have that much to write about the recent atrocity in Las Vegas where a wealthy semi-retired real estate investor and gambler shot hundreds of people at a country music concert. Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people and wounded over 400. Likely many of the survivors will have lifelong physical and even emotional or mental issues. It's a horror. No one yet knows the killer's motive. From the information released to the public, it appears that Paddock used bump stocks to increase the rate of fire of his weapons. Bump stocks are legal devices which redirect the gun's recoil to make a semi-automatic weapon behave somewhat similarly to an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons made after 1986 are of course already banned for civilian usage. Those made prior to that time are legal but only with strict government oversight. 

In the wake of the shootings many people who were generally already pro-gun control were greatly outraged.  Some people expressed content that country music fans and presumed Trump voters and pro-gun people were the victims of the shooting. Others called for more gun control: bans on bump stocks, bans on semi-automatic rifles, increased fees, taxes and insurance on gun owners, criminal liability for people whose guns were stolen, limits on the number of weapons or ammunition any one man could purchase, warrantless searches of gun owners' homes, long prison sentences for someone caught with a banned gun, medical sign off to own a gun, government surveillance of anyone known to have more than x number of guns, lawsuits against the NRA or gun manufacturers, profiling of white men, registering of all guns nationwide, only particular types of guns (revolvers or shotguns) being allowed for civilian ownership, confiscation of all guns except for police or military use, and the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.