Saturday, October 31, 2020

Speaking of Rats

Dang. Didn't Stephen King write a story where something similar happened? Yes, he did. At least a few such stories he wrote. Graveyard something or the other..Sometimes relatives or friends ask me to visit NYC and I say no thank you!

A man was trapped in a hole teeming with rats for half an hour after a New York City pavement collapsed from under him last Saturday. Leonard Shoulders dropped almost 15 feet into the sinkhole and was unable to cry for help out of fear the rats would get in his mouth.

“Rats crawling on him. He can’t move. He just… it was so bad,” the victim’s brother Greg White told NBC News. “He didn’t wanna yell ’cause he was afraid there was gonna be rats going inside his mouth.” It took half an hour for the emergency services to extricate the 33-year-old New Yorker from the sinkhole.

He was taken to St Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where a spokesman said he was in a stable condition. The incident laid bare two of the problems besetting New York City, the poor state of its infrastructure and the rampant rat population.

Movie Reviews: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
directed by Ralph Singleton
This 1990 B-movie was based on another Stephen King short story of the same title which I first read in his excellent collection "Night Shift" though it was published earlier elsewhere. This tale was an example of something that worked well as a short story.
It could have worked as a 30 minute installment of an episodic tv show. But there just wasn't enough there to justify a ninety minute film. The screen story is unduly stretched out. It shows. Realizing that the original source material was sparse, the film adds in some themes of sexual harassment, though this is done to (a) make the protagonist and would be hero more well, heroic and (b) to show off mammary glands. I don't suppose I can argue with that.
The short story was laser focused on resentment that some blue collar workers might feel for someone who is college educated (apparently in his younger days King worked a fair number of jobs that did not require the college degree that he had/was in the process of acquiring). This film alters the emphasis so that the viewer is unsubtly directed to the class divide not of advanced education but that of owner/management vs worker. 

2020 Election Prediction

The Presidential election polls were wrong in 2016 because pollsters didn't account for the number of people who disliked Clinton and because pollsters underestimated the number of (especially) non-college educated whites who felt that Trump was the perfect middle finger to a world that was bypassing them. Now four years later pollsters have adjusted. Trump has seemingly lost support among college educated whites and especially white college educated suburban women. 

Despite the protestations of some about the identity of the Democratic base, it's still the white vote that will be essential in determining the victor of Tuesday's election. And from what I've seen Trump will have trouble recapturing the 2016 coalition. I believe the results will be closer than some think but Biden should win. Either way the loser will feel that they lost an eminently winnable election. Depending on how big the margin is one or both major parties may change everything about themselves. We'll see what happens. Either way though there are a lot of issues and problems that will remain regardless of which rich man wins.

Black Couple Not Allowed At Sushi Restaurant???

I don't know who coined the umbrella term "people of color" to describe, in the American context, people who may not be of clearly European descent. Too often that term is used to suggest that there is a commonality among different groups with massively dissimilar interests, goals, wealth, and histories. To put it bluntly the key dividing line in American society is not white/non-white but rather Black/non-Black. There are many groups who are not necessarily "white" as Americans define it but who still have their own histories of anti-Blackness which predate and overlap the Black American experience in North America.

Desegregation, while necessary to overturn intolerable insults to dignity, does not correct the dislike and disdain for Black people that many people share, regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality or other characteristic. Some restaurants, nightclubs, and other public gathering spots often discreetly maintain a quota of Black people allowed. 

After that quota is met other would be Black patrons might find that the establishment's employees or owner(s) will provide all sorts of preposterously inventive and totally "non-racist" reasons why the Black customer is not allowed inside. While I can't say with 100% certainty that this is what happened recently at a sushi restaurant in Buckhead, I can say that I am quite familiar with people suddenly changing their mind or changing the rules when they see me.

Monday, October 26, 2020

QAnon and Conspiracy Theories

What do you do when people say or believe things that are simply and demonstrably untrue? Do you lose your patience and call them names which question their intelligence, morality, or number of chromosomes? Well sometimes. I feel that way about people who insist that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States or believe that the world is flat and that THEY have brainwashed us into believing otherwise for some nefarious as yet unrevealed purpose. 

But in the video below the speaker makes the argument that ridicule and insult, while comforting to those who style themselves sober empiricists, don't really do anything else than to stroke the speaker's vanity and make the target of the insults hold on even tighter to the bad ideas. 

So it may well be counterproductive to tell someone in detail just how dumb they are IF you are going to need their future assistance, lack power over them, or care about what they think of you. And if you dig deep enough in most people's most cherished viewpoints and ideas, you may well find some beliefs that are also not necessarily upheld 100% by the empirical data.

It was an interesting argument. Check it out below.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Movie Reviews: Drive A Crooked Road

Drive A Crooked Road
directed by Richard Quine

This 1954 film noir wasn't super exciting. It was a little predictable all in all. But it did feature a pretty nice piece of acting from Mickey Rooney. The diminutive Rooney's height was an important part of the story. It was sobering to watch this movie and realize that actors that I only remembered as older or even elderly were young and vital once. 
Time doesn't wait around for anyone. 
I thought that there were some subplots that were either never fully developed or just cut out prematurely. The film is short but somehow manages the dubious feat of simultaneously feeling rushed and ponderous.
But as mentioned, Rooney's acting carries the film. If this film were to be remade today it would likely be more explicit which in this case, would be a good thing. Everything was implied in this film, which might have been why I felt certain portions of it dragged.
Eddie Shannon (Rooney) is an amateur race car driver and professional auto mechanic. Eddie knows all there is to know about cars. When he's behind the wheel of an automobile or tinkering with one, he's self-assured and poised. Otherwise Eddie's a depressed schlub. Eddie's especially shy and reticent around women. 

Ice Cube And The Black Male Vote

The rapper, actor, and filmmaker Ice Cube became the subject of a great deal of agita because of his meeting with some people within the Trump Administration regarding Ice Cube's Contract With Black America (CWBA) plan, which lays out some policies and plans which Ice Cube and some other Black people would like to see adopted. Now I don't have a problem with anyone criticizing the merits of the CWBA. No one is beyond criticism. No one. Never. Ever.

The problem however was that people (and by people I generally mean Black gatekeepers in predominantly white owned media and academia, disproportionately Black women) criticized Ice Cube not for his plan's alleged faults, blind spots or shortcomings, which few of them could delineate in any event, but instead lambasted Ice Cube as a chump, sellout, misogynist, and Trump supporter for having the f*****g audacity even to meet with any Republican without checking first with his Democratic (preferably Black feminist female) overlords. 
Twitter loons, left leaning media and academic favorites, few of whom were heterosexual black men, starting pushing the narrative that heterosexual Black men were the weakest link in the Black community, that Black men as a group were diehard cisgender heteronormative misogynistic patriarchal oppressive dummies who were going to mess everything up, as usual, by voting for Trump. One noted nutcase even said that Black women needed to go on a sex strike against Black men to control the Black male vote. 

Puss Caterpillars

If you are outdoors in the woods taking a walk, taking pictures, walking your dog, or just enjoying the briskness of autumn, you might see a small hairy something on a tree, a bush, or the ground that looks like a slow moving mouse or a small section of a bad toupee.

If you do see this thing, it's probably not a good idea to pick it up or to let it touch you. See this is something called a puss caterpillar, the larval stage of the southern flannel moth. And for some reason God and/or Mother Nature saw fit to grant this two inch long creature toxins which can cause extremely painful reactions in much larger mammals such as humans. I guess that is one way of ensuring that the larva survives to become a moth. 

First, it was murder hornets. Now it’s stinging caterpillars. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, foresters in Virginia are warning that if you see a caterpillar that looks like a wig on a tree, don’t touch it. The Virginia Department of Forestry said it had received reports of hairy-looking puss caterpillars in eastern Virginia. Its hairs are attached to a poisonous gland, said Eric Day, of Virginia Tech’s Insect Identification Lab. Touching it could cause a painful reaction, the severity of which can vary, Mr. Day said. Other symptoms can include pain that comes in waves, a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, according to the University of Michigan

Jeffrey Toobin: When In Doubt Whip It Out!!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who can do so are working from home. People keep in touch with co-workers via Zoom or Web-ex meetings, instant messaging, emails, conference calls, and the like. 

Working from home means that you learn a little more about your co-workers' personal lives and quirks. Perhaps you hear or see their children or grandchildren in the background. Maybe you find out what sorts of books or music they enjoy. 

Maybe you find out that your co-worker's relationship with their spouse or significant other is much different than you thought. Maybe you see someone without makeup or with uncombed hair. Maybe a co-worker is less productive because their peers or supervisor can no longer just walk into their office or cubicle to get a hands on update on their status.

Speaking of hands on, however lawyer, blogger, New Yorker magazine contributor, and CNN analyst Jeffery Toobin apparently forgot that there are some activities that shouldn't be shared with anyone else other than perhaps an intimate. 

Music Reviews: Anne Laurie: Since I Fell For You

The song Since I Fell For You is a blues/jazz standard written by jump blues pianist Buddy Johnson. I was really only familiar with the Dinah Washington interpretation. I recently ran across an earlier version sung by Anne Laurie which dated from 1947. It's not as lush as the Washington rendition but I like it just as much. Its sparseness speaks to me. 

Maybe it will to you as well. Supposedly Washington herself listed Laurie as an influence. I wonder how much of today's music will still be relevant sixty or seventy years after it was released. Perhaps the best of it will. There was plenty of crap released in whatever Golden Age of music one cares to reference. Still, it's hard for me to let go of the idea that they don't write songs like this any more. The lyrics are equally applicable to men or women. Listen below.