Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Reviews: Ma

Ma
directed by Tate Taylor
This is a horror film. But maybe that description might give you the wrong idea. 
It's as much a thriller film as horror. There are relatively few jump cuts used. Those that do show up are few in number until the film's final third in which there is some reversion to the mean in well known and overused effects.

There is nothing supernatural, no magic box that appears in the mail, no one who looks exactly like a family ancestor who's been deceased for two centuries, no inheritance of a heretofore unknown family mansion, no seductive slender woman or man who only is seen at night. None of that is to be found in this movie.

This movie was in part created because the primary female lead, Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer, wanted to do something outside of the typical maid or mammy asexual roles which she normally plays. This film was definitely different from her normal roles, I'll say that for it. How successful it was? Well I thought it could have been better, especially in the way the ending was built.

Ma asks us if people are born monsters and if the scars of past harms ever truly heal. Some people hold grudges longer than others. That's just human nature. Some religious traditions call upon us to forgive those who trespass against us. Others reject forgiveness and seek retribution. A lot of pop culture and pop spirituality states that seeking revenge, holding grudges and refusing to forgive all harm the holder of the grudges far more than the original aggressor. 

Michigan Prosecutor Sleeps with Rape Victim

You would imagine that most prosecutors of sex crimes would be focused on making sure that justice was done and that the perpetrator of the crime was justly punished. 

You would imagine that a prosecutor would not have to be told that his or her job is to put away the bad guys (gals) and not, repeat not, to get nookie from the victim of the crime. You would imagine that. But for at least one prosecutor in Michigan you would be wrong. 

LANSING — Michigan State Police have launched a criminal investigation into an assistant attorney general who has been accused of having an inappropriate, intimate relationship with the victim in a rape case he was prosecuting. Brian Kolodziej, who was hired in September 2018 under former Attorney General Bill Schuette, was put on administrative leave and subsequently resigned last week after the relationship came to light, said Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“To say I’m horrified and disgusted is really an understatement,” she said. “In over 25 years of practice, I have never before even heard of a situation like this.” 

Representative Rashida Tlaib, Netanyahu and Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the alleged behest of President Donald Trump, recently barred US Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories. Tlaib and Omar are decidedly pro-Palestinian and pro-justice. 

The Representatives do not agree that Jewish people in Israel should have more rights than the Palestinians. It is possible that Netanyahu was going to ban them anyway and Trump just gave him political cover to do so. 


After the uproar Israel cynically agreed to allow Rep. Tlaib to visit her grandmother in the West Bank but only if she agreed in writing to not say or do anything critical of Israel during her time there. Desperate to see her grandmother, Tlaib briefly acceded to this humiliating condition, but faced with outrage by some relatives, constituents and supporters on this issue, Tlaib stood strong and refused to adhere to Israeli speech restrictions.


"In my attempt to visit Palestine, I’ve experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government. In preparation for my visit, my grandmother was deciding which fig tree we would pick from together, while Palestinians and Israelis who are against the illegal military occupation were looking forward to Members of Congress finally listening to and seeing them for the first time.

Movie Reviews: It Chapter Two

It Chapter Two
directed by Andy Muschietti
This is the sequel to the previous It movie, reviewed here

Both films are based on Stephen's King's 1986 novel. This movie is set in the current day, about twenty seven years after the supernatural events in the first movie. The children are all grown up with relationships, careers and families of their own, Some are are doing well, others less so. Most of them have generally forgotten what happened in Derry, Maine or have hazy memories at best. I had read Stephen King's book decades ago.

I did not read the book again before watching the film. Much like the characters in the film I didn't have an exact memory of every last plot detail so unlike with some other book to film adaptations I wasn't sitting there in the theater thinking that this plot point was wrong, that interpretation wasn't in the book, or that this person didn't look, act or sound as I expected them to look, act or sound. I lacked demanding expectations. So on the one hand that made the movie more enjoyable.

On the other hand the film was just under three hours long. I didn't think all that was necessary. Most of the actors get a chance to shine at something but I thought the film could have cut down some fluff from its runtime. Compared to the first film I thought that the sequel wasn't quite as emotionally engaging. It did rely tremendously on its special effects and made overt homages to a few classic sci-fi/horror films, most notably The Thing(1982).

Michigan Apples Arrive

One good thing about living in Michigan is that you get first dibs on a pretty amazing variety of apples every fall. Now it won't officially be fall for another ten days or so but football has started, leaves have begun to turn color, and apple orchards are starting to toot their horns about what they have to offer. Probably in a few weeks when the temperature has fallen to what I consider real fall weather and more of the harvest has become available I will go to an apple orchard near me. I am sure the ones listed in this story are nice.

But in Michigan it's hard to drive twenty minutes without running into an apple orchard somewhere. Maybe next year I will try some a bit farther afield. Of course apple orchards offer more than apples. They have cakes, pies, candy, syrup, donuts, fritters, candles, soap, and all sorts of other goodies that are derived in part or in whole from apples.


Area orchards and cider mills have opened for the season, offering treats such as apple cider, donuts, pies and fresh apples.
The Michigan Apple harvest 2019 crop estimate is 25.25 million bushels (1.06 billion pounds), according to the USApple Outlook meeting held recently in Chicago.
This year's crop estimate is in line with the average harvest, which is about 25.2 million bushels per year.

Detroit Public School Chess Prodigy Charisse Woods

I have always enjoyed playing chess. I wish I were better at it. One person who is better at it than I and likely to improve more in the future is  Charisse Woods, a ninth grader at Detroit's Cass Technical High School. 

Woods is leaving for Mumbai, India to compete in the World Youth Chess Championship. In other words..she's a really good chess player. She will be the only chess player from Michigan representing Team USA.

Charisse Woods is getting ready to head to Mumbai, India to compete in the World Youth Chess Championship. The ninth-grader at Cass Technical High School first learned to play chess when she was just 7 years old. She says she loves how the game keeps you thinking.

"There's like trillions of different positions," Woods said. "The game is so dynamic. It changes so often. I love the challenge, getting to travel and meeting new people."

Des Moines Iowa Lawyer Works as Prostitute; Urges Decriminalization

The obvious joke is that lawyers screw you over one way or another. At least with this attorney you'll hopefully leave the experience with a smile on your face.

DES MOINES, Iowa —
A Des Moines attorney is unveiling her life as a part-time prostitute.The mom, wife, attorney and prostitute, Katherine Sears, hopes that by shining a light on her lifestyle, she can help decriminalize prostitution. “I like sex,” Sears said. “Sex is fun and I can get paid for it.”
She began working as a prostitute three years ago, at the age of 27. Sears travels to Nevada, where prostitution is legal, and works in a brothel.

“You can make a job out of this? That’s fantastic,” Sears said. “Why would I not do this?” By speaking about her experience, Sears hopes to educate people on a taboo topic.

“I think a lot of people are upset about prostitution without understanding what it is they are being upset about,” she said. “Which is really frustrating because it’s hard to talk somebody out of something when they are just entrenched in, ‘No, this is what’s right.’”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Religious Freedom and 7-Eleven Foot Washing

I dislike people using my kitchen sink to wash their hands. It's not the worst offense but I have a strong preference in keeping the areas where I clean utensils and prepare food separate from the areas where people clean themselves and their funky hairy bodies.  

Other people are indifferent; they consider dirt to be dirt and plumbing to be plumbing. They say as long as you're cleaning something what difference does it make in which sink you clean. My response is that if a man gives people an inch on washing their hands in his kitchen sink, before long people are changing their baby's diapers there. 

We should respect other people's religions and rules. One religion might require a certain hairstyle. A different religion might forbid even platonic physical contact between unmarried men and women or between a man and a woman married to someone else. Another religion could have strict rules regarding work on its day of rest. And one religion might require multiple daily prayer sessions and body washings. We should tolerate these differences where we can. Business owners  are required to make reasonable accommodations for an employee's religious requirements. But sometimes this isn't always possible.
ROSEVILLE, Mich. (WXYZ) — A video posted on social media is sparking a debate. An employee at the 7-eleven on Gratiot and 13 Mile Road in Roseville was captured washing his feet in a sink that is meant for washing hands. 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Movie Reviews: Brightburn

Brightburn
directed by David Yarovesky
Richard Donner directed Superman and The Omen. Brightburn is a low budget earnest mashup of those movies. It is produced by the people who created Guardians of the GalaxyBrightburn imagines the origin story of an evil Superman. Evil is a loaded word. There is no such thing as evil in nature.  

The cuckoo who tricks other birds into raising its hatchling, who immediately destroys the host birds' eggs, the wolf who hunts bison to eviscerate and eat them, or (in the film's example) the wasp who lays eggs in or around other insects who either raise wasp young or become food for wasp young are all acting according to their instinct. They can't be reasoned with or trained to do otherwise. Their behavior is pre-programmed. It's who they are and what they do.

Arguably humans can deliberately ignore, short-circuit or rewrite much of our instinctual programming. Some argue that humans don't even have instinctual programming. I don't know that I would go that far but humans certainly possess a level of free will that is apparently unparalleled for other beings. Brightburn depicts events when someone who looks human but isn't reaches a point where his pre-existing programming activates. The results for humans are similar to the caterpillar who discovers that its supposed stomach ache is actually a young wasp eating its way out of the caterpillar. Not good.

Book Reviews: Goodbye Homeboy

Goodbye Homeboy
by Steve Mariotti with Debra Devi
I am always intrigued to find that a person talented in one field is also skilled in another. The musician Debra Devi's new book demonstrates that Devi should be just as well known as an author as a musician. I had a strong sense of six degrees of separation reading this book as the other author and primary subject, Steve Mariotti, is a Michigan native and University of Michigan graduate.

This book is a memoir by a white teacher who helped mostly Black and Latino impoverished students better themselves and improve their lives. Some people will immediately dismiss it on those grounds alone. That would be a mistake, I think. The story is real. I didn't pick up any white savior vibe. This book makes the implicit and occasionally explicit argument that teachers need higher salaries and better social/workplace support.


In his younger days (I have no idea of his politics now) Mariotti had a libertarian streak. The book features amusing stories about Mariotti's meetings--really more head butts-- with Objectivist philosopher, author and Libertarian inspiration Ayn Rand. I thought Rand was a horrible person on a personal level and a philosophical one. 


Near the end of her life Rand wasn't that different from a cult leader. When Mariotti shared his ideas or principles with Rand, she insulted him and dismissed him from her presence. Rand went out of her way to write nasty letters to Mariotti calling him a loser and ordering him to never darken her door again.

I found this darkly amusing only because at the time of Mariotti's interaction with her, Rand was at an advanced age and was certainly not, to put it mildly, a beauty. Rand was a mean narcissist who apparently found it important to use her time to attempt to crush a young man's ego. Some people.