Saturday, March 23, 2019

Movie Reviews: Never Grow Old

Never Grow Old
directed by Ivan Kavanaugh
This was a chilling Western with both classic and revisionist themes.
It is sobering to grow older and see actors of your generation who once played sarcastic teens move to playing alienated young men then change to playing pudgy middle aged dads. In another ten years or so they'll be playing grandfathers. So it goes. Time waits for no one.

There are some cultures that and some people who consider a stranger mentioning a man's wife to be a faux pas at best and an intolerable insult or threat at worst. Although we now tend to view such interactions thru feminist eyes and claim that such negative responses are bad because they imply that the wife is her husband's property, the point remains that in certain charged circumstances or situations asking "innocently" after the well being or presence of a man's wife or other female relative is indeed meant and understood as a serious insult or deadly threat.

It's no different from the classic mob hoodlum telling the bar owner that he has a beautiful establishment and that it would be a shame if something happened to it. In this movie, a dark-both visually and morally- Western that attempts some modern revisionist surgery on classic Western themes while also upholding them, the bad guy Dutch Albert (John Cusack) is introduced in a late night encounter at the protagonist's home. 

Andre Williams Passes Away

I wrote before about Andre Williams here. He was one of the last of the old time rock-n-rollers/R&B giants. He just passed away at 82. If you happen to like old school R&B/jump blues/rock-n-roll and don't mind an occasional little lyrical smuttiness/nastiness in music then you might want to give his music a listen. 

As people have pointed out the Good Lord wouldn't have given you a tail feather in the first place if He didn't want you to shake it from time to time. RIP to a Detroit musical giant and one of the dirtiest old men who ever walked the planet. Andre Williams, who carved out a place in the 1950s rhythm-and-blues scene with earthy songs distinctively delivered, then fell on hard times as a result of addiction before enjoying a late-career resurgence, died on Sunday in Chicago. He was 82.

His son Derrick Williams said the cause was cancer.
In a decade when mainstream white audiences were watching “Father Knows Best” on television, Mr. Williams was recording provocative songs like “Jail Bait” (1957), a sly warning to men inclined to date teenage girls. It ends with a narrator pleading with a judge for leniency and promising to abandon his lecherous ways:
I ain’t gonna bother none 15,
I ain’t gonna bother none 16,
I ain’t gonna bother none 17,
I ain’t gonna mess with none 18,
I’m gonna leave them 20-year-old ones alone too,
Gonna get me a girl about 42.

Grand Rapids Police and Teens Walking In Street

I've written about how I am not overly fond of police. In my experience and those of many people I know, police are overly aggressive with citizens, especially black people, and most especially with black males of any age. Police actions cause fear, contempt, and hatred.

I think that police too often reflexively choose the harshest penalties when interacting with black people: unnecessary searches, use of force, citations and tickets when a similarly situated white person gets assistance or maybe a warning, etc. But I'm also irritated at people (usually teens) walking in the middle of the street. The sidewalk is for walking. The street is for driving. I don't drive on the sidewalk and get upset when someone checks me.

Before watching the video below the jump I was primed to blast the cops but afterwards I couldn't-at least not completely. The police officer could have stayed in his car, but police also could ignore a highway speeder who has slowed down. Often they do. But sometimes they don't. If I'm the cop in that situation once I have told the teens to get out of the street and they've done so I'm going to keep moving. My ego isn't so weak that I need to frighten kids with my "authority".

But enforcing a reasonable law is not a crime. Unless you are ready to hold court in the street and kill or die, you won't win confrontations with police. If the police order is legal, most people will eventually comply with it, willingly or not. When the police act criminally, then I believe that we have the right to refuse the illegal order and defend ourselves. But that's not what the below video shows. Few cops will let a citizen ignore them and walk away from a legal detention. FWIW, I'm not sure of the race of the teens. I've seen separate descriptions of them as Latino and/or Black.

More Flat Earth Dummies

It remains a source of amazement and amusement to me that some people still believe that the earth is flat. From what I can tell this is only a very small minority of folks. Some of them are obvious trolls. Others believe everything is a conspiracy. Still others are just low IQ people with an extremely limited grasp of science and logic. Some think that being contrary by definition means being smart. 

Others flatter themselves that they're just smarter than everyone else. And some are people who reject all science, logic and math as Eurocentric and thus by definition untrue and racist. So it goes. But it's funny to me that when the evidence conclusively disproves the flat earth theory, flat earth adherents drop the evidence and not the theory. 

In what may be one of the most satisfying TV moments we can recall, a group of conspiracy theorists have accidentally spent thousands of dollars to prove that yes, actually, the Earth is round. The scene in a new Netflix documentary called Behind the Curve, which follows a group of Flat Earthers, a "small but growing contingent of people who firmly believe in a conspiracy to suppress the truth that the Earth is flat".

One of those Flat Earthers is Bob Knodel, who hosts a YouTube channel entirely dedicated to the theory and who is one of the team relying on a $20,000 laser gyroscope to prove the Earth doesn't actually rotate. Except... It does. 

Why People Watch Birds

I don't spend a lot of time watching birds, or least not as much as I used to spend. I do watch the Wrens and Sparrows(?) that spend a lot time eating pears and berries that have fallen from the neighborhood trees. I keep an eye out when I park my truck near or under a tree. 

And though I utterly despise them I keep a careful watch on the loud and aggressive Canadian Geese who have evidently decided to stay in Michigan year round, gracing us with their hisses, honks and incredible waste production. The geese keep their beady little eyes focused on humans. They will attack any human who gets too close to their nesting areas. And they keep expanding their nesting areas. As I've written before if it were up to me I would happily greenlight Order 66 on those Canadian Geese. Still, I do enjoy watching some of the increased activity of birds as they either return to Michigan or simply become more noticeable. A lot of people also like watching birds.

Earlier this month I gave a talk titled “Backyard Bergen Birds” to the Demarest Garden Club. While I was putting the presentation together, I came up with all sorts of cool photos and information about the birds that visit our yards here in North Jersey. I even included a section on a variety of bird feeders that you can use to attract everything from hummingbirds to cardinals. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: Unfriended 2: Dark Web

Unfriended 2: Dark Web
directed by Stephen Susco
This movie is a stand alone sequel that was both intelligent and plausible in how the story is first drawn out and a little dumb in how the characters later react to danger. The film uses current paranoia over privacy and nasty sectors of the Internet to create a scary story. 
The vast majority if not all of the film shots are captured through computer or phone screens. With the advent of widespread Internet usage we all have a significant portion of human knowledge, history and experience at our fingertips from the comfort of our home 24-7. The flip side of this is of course that your information and identity can be shared with some amoral or completely immoral actors, corporate or otherwise. Perhaps it's Facebook suggesting that you become friends with people in your company though you have zero desire to have personal relationships with work associates. 

Perhaps you shopped on Amazon and now all the online ads you see are related to that item. Maybe you did your taxes online and your tax preparer or Internet service provider didn't mention a data breach. Five years later you learn that someone has used your SSN to file for unemployment insurance in three different states. You might allow your pre-teen child to use the net completely unsupervised. You later find anonymous inappropriate messages in your child's inbox. There's no end to the possibility for good or evil posed by the Internet.

Movie Reviews: King of Thieves

King of Thieves
directed by James Marsh
This film was based on a real life heist that I hadn't heard of before. It is a British film that makes absolutely no concessions to American audiences for the differences in accents, cadence, and slang. So the dialogue was occasionally difficult for me to follow. Most of the characters as well as the actors playing them are well into their seventies or eighties. One of the younger men in the group is said to have just turned sixty. These men have all the normal benefits of age- grandchildren and solicitous children or in-laws. 

However they also have all of the normal costs as well. Muscle has been replaced by flab. Sex is not really a motivating factor for most of the men any longer. Some of them have permanently lost the interest or ability. Others have diabetes or hearing problems or prostate problems or incontinence issues. Some are widowers. They fall asleep at inopportune times. None of them have the energy or drive that they used to have. 

Although the movie sometimes makes jokes at the mens' expense-one hapless fellow needs to relieve himself so badly that he uses the sink instead of the toilet-much to his friend's disgust- the film doesn't stay on this path. As becomes clear both by exposition as well as the actions of the thieves, these are hard men who've done some hard things in their lives. Some are killers. Some have killed cops. None of them are particularly trustworthy, grandfatherly appearing though they may be. Some are just mean. As their leader reminds them they should have too much pride to ever beg for mercy from the state.

Because the film decided to stick pretty closely to the broad outline of real life events there was not quite the level of violence which I had expected. There are some threats. It might have been a more exciting film had it decided to venture a little more into fiction and add some more events to the storyline. This film is crammed full of award winning talents. I thought the director and writer might have taken greater advantage of that.

President Trump and The Pimp

In all likelihood, President Trump's immigrant grandfather Frederick Trump, was among other things a brothel owner or to put it less delicately, a pimp.

In 1891, Trump moved to Seattle, in the newly admitted U.S. state of Washington. With his life savings of several hundred dollars, he bought the Poodle Dog, which he renamed the Dairy Restaurant, and supplied it with new tables, chairs, and a range.[2] Located at 208 Washington Street, the Dairy Restaurant was in the middle of Seattle's Red Light District; Washington Street was nicknamed "the Line" and included an assortment of saloons, casinos, and brothels. Biographer Gwenda Blair called it "a hotbed of sex, booze, and money, [it] was the indisputable center of the action in Seattle."[3]:41 The restaurant served food and liquor and was advertised to include "Rooms for Ladies", a common euphemism for prostitution.[3]:50

So with that background perhaps it is not too surprising that the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, had a Super Bowl party where he posed with one Li "Cindy" Yang, an enterprising "businesswoman" who among other things owns massage parlors and previously owned the day spa where Trump buddy, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid women for a "happy ending".

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Glass Wall

The Glass Wall
directed by Maxwell Shane
This is a 1953 black-and-white drama that might be considered a film noir in some circles. I didn't see that though. It has the look of many noir films but I'm not sure the story quite meets that criteria. It is far more of a very important message film than a noir, not that those two categories are mutually exclusive. It is something that would with some appropriate nationality changes to characters and an even more in your face approach likely resonate well with about half of American viewers were the film remade today. 

Although the message is not always subtle because the director beats the viewer over the head with it near the film's end, the film still has enough drama and excitement to pull the viewer in no matter his views on nationalization, immigration and following the letter of the law. There is always a tension between doing the right thing and doing the legal thing. Survival can make people not care about doing what's right. And the question of who gets to be an American is as important today as it was in 1953. 

The film's cinematography showing New York City at night is intoxicating. It reminded me of why NYC might be a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. NYC has so many people that if it were a state of its own it would be the 12th most populated state. I couldn't tolerate being around that many people day in and day out. Shane uses the constant throng of people to show how even among millions we can be set apart and made to feel alone. 

Movie Reviews: The Hole in the Ground

The Hole in the Ground
directed by Lee Cronin
This is an intelligent Irish horror movie. Well maybe it's not as smart as it thinks it is, but it does convey thrills, chills and excitement without gratuitous bloodshed or bared mammary glands which are normally de rigueur for these types of films. It doesn't reach the heights of Hereditary, perhaps because the story has been told so very many times before. And the ending is well, somewhat cliche ridden. But nevertheless I always appreciate films that can tell a story without automatically sinking to the lowest common denominator. 

I suppose you might make an argument that the film, although it has obvious connections to movies such as The Omen, The ShiningOrphanRosemary's Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is also a metaphor for domestic violence. We are at our most vulnerable behind closed doors with those whom we love and think that we know. But what if you discover that your loved one is not the person you thought they were. That can be a very scary thing, no? Sometimes people find that out too late.  

Some people cross a previously unknown line and trigger a harsh unpleasant response from their spouse. Or you might realize that your spouse or significant other has an entirely different world view, one which is utterly inimical to yours. Your spouse might have been just faking to get something from you. But their true beliefs or behavior patterns frighten you. If you tell other people that your special rider has some issues no one believes you because with everyone else that person is polite, helpful and well behaved. In fact, anticipating just such a response from you, an abuser could have told and convinced all of your friends and family that it's you who have the problem, not him or her.

An abusive spouse can be practiced in making the target of his or her hatred not believe what they are seeing. And when the mask drops, the abused person may be so frightened that they will do whatever they are told to do, just to get a semblance of normalcy again.  Food for thought I guess.