Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Reviews: Revival

by Stephen King
I wonder if as we age we all begin to have more feelings of nostalgia. Perhaps it is also the case that our mortality is more on our minds. That's certainly the case for me. I wouldn't call myself old just yet but I am certainly neither young nor any longer under the illusion that I am going to live forever. I don't know if that is the case with Stephen King. Fictional books are not autobiographies. Fiction doesn't necessarily tell you anything about what the author is actually thinking about or experiencing in his or her personal life. Nevertheless it is interesting that it seems that after King's near death at the hands of an inattentive motorist and his self-acknowledged entry into senior citizen status more of his books have horrific car accidents, narrative grumbles about aging and its indignities and very sharp tones of regret and nostalgia. A character in Revival points out that humans have three age ranges : youth, middle age and how the f*** did I get so old? But of course all of this could be completely coincidental. Only King knows for sure. In the foreword to Revival King name checks some of the writers who have influenced him. These include such luminaries as Arthur Machen, Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft. The introductory quote is the famous Lovecraft couplet "That is not dead which can eternal lie/And with strange aeons even death may die". Revival is a loving homage to all of those writers and more while still being an identifiable King work. Like many King stories it has references to his earlier creations. Revival's tone just screams out Joyland, from the first page to the very last. There are numerous stylistic similarities, from the first person framework, to the old man looking back at his life and remembering the glory and embarrassment of first time sex, to the excitement of a man actually discovering his true talents. One character in Revival even points out that he briefly worked at the Joyland carnival. I will have to go back and peruse Joyland to see if that was the case. Like Joyland, Revival generally keeps the open supernatural stuff off the page until later but unlike Joyland  the reader is aware much earlier that something strange is going on.

I don't think that Revival ever went for the gross out (my definition of gross out might differ from yours) but King has never needed to do that. He can and has accomplished that goal in several books but that's not what I enjoy about his work. His horrors are usually quite grounded in everyday reality. Looking at life there's quite enough horror to go around for everyone without having to include supernatural events to scare people. One of King's gifts is to meld the supernatural with the prosaic in a manner which allows the reader to easily suspend disbelief.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hip Hop vs. Iggy Azalea

Before I really knew who Iggy Azalea was, I distinctly remember hearing her song "Fancy" on the radio which starts off with an over exaggerated "urban" accent proclaiming that:

"First things first, I'm the realest"

Let's just pause here for a moment.  To be sure, claiming to be the "realest" in hip hop is nothing new.  Rappers have been doing that since the beginning of hip hop.  But the reason why hearing this particular verse on the radio triggered my Spidey-senses is become it immediately came off as inauthentic.  Kind of like the 2003 Hulk movie...there was something about it that just seemed "off" that you didn't quite understand until the 2008 Hulk movie came out, and then you were like "ah ha, now I get it."  But let us continue. The next few verses double down on this theme and provide a bit more context:  

"Drop this and let the whole world feel it
And I'm still in the murda bizness"

Now here, "murda bizness" is a double en tundra meant to be taken in the popular hip hop cultural sense of establishing one's street credibility while also serving as a reference to the single by Iggy and rapper T.I. titled "Murda Bizness" which was one of the first songs Iggy released on her 2012 E.P. "Glory."  Again, "realest", "murda bizness" are all modern hip hop buzz words intended to portray an overall sense of being "down" or "hip" as Dr. Evil would say:

To be clear, if you grew up in an environment where this theme was part of your day to day then that's one thing. But when you grew up in an Australian suburb, as did Iggy Azalea, it reveals an "art imitates life" type scenario where the listener is left wondering whose life this artist is trying to imitate because it certainly does not seem to be her own. And therein lies the problem.

From its beginning, Hip hop has been a conduit for the Black Community in the United States to give voice to the issues facing Black people.  Like many popular forms of art, however, it is no stranger to opportunists. Record labels have been falling over themselves for years in an effort to find the next "Bling Bling," "Crank That Soulja Boy," or "Hot Nigga" so that they can package it and deliver it to the masses.  To that end, the music industry has known since the days of Elvis and Chuck Berry that popular Black music can become even more profitable if it is packaged and delivered through a White artist.  Enter Iggy Azalea.   

Monday, December 22, 2014

Disturbed Man Kills Two NYPD Officers: Blame Game Ensues

As you might have noticed (and I was planning on writing a separate post touching on this and still may later this week or next) there have been recent nationwide protests about the level of (often deadly) violence which US local police forces use against Black Americans, especially Black males, especially young and/or unarmed Black males. In the cases of the deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford and Eric Garner, mostly white grand juries and/or prosecutors refused to charge the police with any crime at all. Some white supporters of police not only applaud and celebrate these no indictment outcomes but take to the media to lecture black people on their actual or perceived shortcomings and point out that in the big picture, police killings of citizens are relatively rare events. So quit crying and be happy you're living in America. Or something. The same people taking a phlegmatic view about police on citizen violence started singing a different tune when a disturbed and violent young man shot and killed two NYPD police officers, after shooting his girlfriend and before killing himself.

Two police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot at point-blank range and killed on Saturday afternoon by a man who, officials said, had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The suspect then committed suicide with the same gun, the authorities said. The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. Mr. Brinsley shot several rounds into the heads and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons, the authorities said.

Suddenly the relatively rare incident of a citizen shooting and killing two police officers became the foreseeable outcome of "anti-police rhetoric" and "incendiary comments" made by various anti-police brutality protesters and such persons as President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and professional gadfly/MSNBC host Al Sharpton and probably any other black person to the left of Ben Carson. At least that is what former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Union leader Pat Lynch said.

A Letter to Young Guru

On Sunday, I read an article penned by former Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, entitled 'Letter to My Younger Self.'  This short article stood out to me because of the introspection and because it shows that Gooden has learned from his past mistakes.

As a person who journals, I understand the therapeutic power of releasing your demons through writing and I encourage putting pen to paper to express yourself.  But my words will never be published to millions of people.  Still the same, it is chicken soup for the soul to write out your problems, make the paper into an airplane, and then throw it away.

In fact, Gooden's letter inspired me so much that I decided to write a letter to 13 year old Young Guru.  Read it after the jump.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Interview: North Korea Punks Sony and Hollywood

I don't like confrontations. However there are situations where some people or organizations will provoke a conflict to take something from you or yours. Maybe it's your lunch money or a job promotion. Maybe it's your self-respect. Maybe someone has insulted your little sister. When these things happen the only thing you can do is fight. Someone wants to throw down? You give them all they expect and more. You need to punch the bully in the mouth. You won't always win. You may get a beatdown, figuratively or even literally. But by fighting back you raise the cost of the clash. Bullies, like other predators, seek easy weak prey. If they have trouble taking things from you then even if they win the resulting fight this time, the next time they may leave you alone.  When you fight back you might win. You show the bully and other observers that the bully made a mistake. By refusing to cave to extortion you reveal that it's the bully, not you, who is the weak cringing coward. Sometimes just standing up to a bully may end the situation. It's hard to say for sure. But it's certain that allowing yourself to be bullied, to be insulted, to be humiliated, will bring more of the same. Once you get on your knees for someone it's pretty difficult to stand up straight again. Unfortunately Sony executives, other Hollywood magnates, film distributors and theater owners never seemed to learn this critical life lesson. Hackers connected to the North Korean government broke into Sony's databases to steal sensitive, private and confidential information. They warned Sony not to release The Interview, a Seth Rogen satirical comedy about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. 

The hackers threatened to publicize other private information or to engage in unspecified 9-11 type actions. They also threatened Sony's vendors and business partners. Sony and US film distributors crumpled like a wet paper bag. Major theater chains declined to show the film. Sony pulled the film from release. 

Movie Reviews: As Above, So Below, The November Man

As Above, So Below
directed by John Eric Dowdle
What is the basis of fear? It's the unknown isn't it? It's the dark. In the dark our primary sense of sight is useless. That in and of itself can cause disorientation. Another major fear that many people suffer from to a greater or lesser degree is claustrophobia. I might have a tinge of this myself. I don't like the feeling of being restrained, caged or closed in someplace. At all times I want to know that I'm in control, that I can get up and leave from wherever I might be, that I can move around and breathe freely. As Above, So Below is an interesting horror film that combines the hoary old tropes of found footage and handheld cameras with some cool historical and semi-mythological information. It gives a tip of the hat to films like National Treasure,  Angels and Demons or The DaVinci Code. Obviously it also makes very strong references to The DescentIt may raise the more thoughtful viewer's curiosity about lost cities, ancient science and the flotsam and jetsam of civilization. As mentioned, the film emphasizes the simple fears of being trapped and lost somewhere in the dark. The ending is not the best in my estimation but no film is perfect. I did like that not everything was explained. The movie allows you to make up your own mind about some things. This film uses some very simple and classic techniques to ratchet up dread and excitement. Generally speaking my interest was kept throughout the entire film with only one or two dead spots. The movie maintained viewer interest without too many magnificent massive mountains of mammary gland tissue displayed willy nilly or excessive grotesque gratuitous gut-wrenching ultra-violence. So I suppose that's a skill that must be recognized. It is possible to make an entertaining film and scare people with only modest amounts of violence or toplessness. There are plenty of shocks and frights that the viewer may know are coming. Until the very end these shocks still manage to impress. Sometimes very simple techniques can work the best. And believe it or not, the black guy didn't die first. He's not a primary character but not dying first is a step forward.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lansing Michigan Satanic Temple Holiday Display

I am not religious. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am also however a big believer in the right of the individual to make a stand based on his or her sincerely held moral, ethical or religious beliefs. Sometimes, these tenets can conflict. What is right or good is not immediately apparent. In the past few decades though what has been apparent is that some devoutly religious Christian people feel that there is a "war on Christmas" or that they are losing ground in American culture. This has provoked a backlash in which some Christians seek to leverage their majority status to place a Christian imprimatur on government and/or secular functions. The classic examples of this are attempts to make Christianity the official religion of a state or the entire country, Christian prayers at legislative sessions, which the Supreme Court upheld (wrongly imo) and the never ending battles over holiday nativity scenes at government buildings. When challenged over the last, people supportive of such scenes often ask those opposed what's the big deal, advise them to quit being so sensitive and suggest that they have a nice warm steaming cup of STFU. Well.
I am not among those who are outraged by nativity scenes but I definitely sympathize with those who are. And once you open the gates to allowing religious displays on government property, well then you need to understand that it's an all or nothing type of rule. The people in Lansing, Michigan, our capital, are learning that this holiday season as the Satanic Temple (Detroit Chapter) is moving ahead with plans to place its own holiday display on the Capitol lawn. The Satanic display was originally planned in response to a Christian nativity scene but the Christians were apparently lacking in organizational skills and so far have not finalized plans to get their nativity scene in place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guns Guns Guns!!!

Today, we'll let the stories speak for themselves:

From Australia:

The gunman who held hostages for more than 16 hours in a Sydney cafe was no stranger to police -- and was on bail for violent criminal offenses at the time of the siege.
Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born refugee who was granted political asylum in Australia in 2001, had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.
"It's pretty obvious that the perpetrator was a deeply disturbed individual," he said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that the 50-year-old was "well known" to federal and state police, as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.
"But I don't believe he was on a terror watch list at this time."
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said authorities were investigating why Monis -- who was killed in the siege -- was at large, given his criminal background.
"We're all outraged that this guy was on the street," he told reporters. "We need to understand why he was. We also need to understand why he wasn't picked up."

Uniformed militants attacked a school, killing at least 126 people and taking hostages on Tuesday, an official said - an atrocity condemned by the White House as "heinous."
"The gunmen entered class by class and shot some kids one by one," a student who was in the school at the time told local media.
Provincial official Bahramand Khan said at least 126 people were killed and 122 injured. More than 100 of the dead were school children, he added. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which appeared to be targeting the the children of senior military officials.
Bombs planted by the attackers slowed rescue efforts, a military official said, adding that operations at the scene were "closing up".

And not to be outdone, from the good old US of A:

The manhunt for a Marine veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives amid a child custody dispute has spread to two suburban Philadelphia counties.
Some schools were closed Tuesday, hospitals and other public places increased security and residents remained on heightened alert, even as officials lifted a shelter-in-place order for parts of Bucks County, where a knife-wielding, fatigue-clad man resembling suspect Bradley William Stone attempted a carjacking Monday night.
The killings and the manhunt through neighborhoods and woods echoed two other Pennsylvania tragedies: George Banks shooting and killing 13 people, including five of his children, at two locations in Wilkes-Barre in 1982; and Eric Frein's 48 days on the run through the Poconos after a shooting in September killed a state trooper and injured another.
Monday's shooting rampage started before dawn at the home of Stone's former sister-in-law in Souderton and ended about 90 minutes later at ex-wife Nicole Stone's apartment in nearby Harleysville, prosecutors said.
Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found dead after a neighbor saw Brad Stone fleeing just before 5 a.m. Monday with their two young daughters.
Police then made the grim discovery of five people killed in two other houses: Nicole Stone's sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece were dead. A 17-year-old nephew was left clinging to life. And her mother and grandmother had been fatally shot.
Brad Stone and his ex-wife had been locked in a court fight over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency motion early this month, although the resulting Dec. 9 ruling remains sealed in court files.
 Your thoughts?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Music Reviews: The Chi-Lites, Stuff

The Chi-Lites
As much as any other music artist or group not named James Brown or The Jackson Five, The Chi-Lites were the primary group that would exist on a soundtrack of my childhood. I have many positive early memories that involve Chi-Lites songs. My father sang a lot around the house. I recall Chi-Lites songs being among his favored groups. People tend to look back through a rosy lens at the music of their childhood; I am likely no different in this regard. Nonetheless I do think that The Chi-Lites were special for their time and compare positively with a lot of the singers around today. The Chi-Lites (a Chicago based group, hence the name) were a smooth soul/R&B singing group that updated fifties doo-wop stylings for the then current pop/soul market. They combined soul, gospel, pop, funk and slight mixtures of rock-n-roll and even lounge music for a format and sound that was pretty perfectly balanced between sweetness and grit. A lot of their early work featured compositions which opened with heart felt spoken word intros that segued into passionate tenor leads, sparse instrumentation with occasional fuzzed out guitar leads and slickly harmonized backup singing. Like any other group that wanted to sell records and thus continue to eat, the Chi-Lites changed with the times, moving from the funk, romance and nationalist inspired lyrics of the early seventies to smoother semi-disco sounds of the late seventies and early eighties. I prefer the earlier sounds which are disproportionately represented here but to each his or her own. If you are into soul music or pop-soul with generally positive, or at least not overtly negative lyrics, The Chi-Lites may have something for you. Musically you can easily hear the family relationship between The Chi-Lites and Curtis Mayfield's music or some of Hendrix's clean toned ballads. 

The Chi-Lites' primary, albeit not exclusive, songwriter and lead singer was Eugene Record. His plaintive tenor defined male romantic need though it would take time before I understood his lyrics.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"TOP FIVE" in Theatre's Today - Who Makes Your List? Dead or Alive

In honor of the release (TODAY) of "TOP FIVE" written and directed by Chris Rock, let's discuss your TOP FIVE.

First watch this fun roundtable where Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Angie Martinez, Ed Lover, Miss info, Jayson Rodriguez, Datwon, and Shaheem Reid discuss and defend their TOP FIVE list of greatest rappers ever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Senate Intelligence Committee Releases CIA Torture Report

The Senate Intelligence Committee just recently released a declassified (by the White House) report on torture engaged in by the CIA and other agencies under the Bush Administration post 9-11. There's not too much here which is surprising or that was unknown to anyone who was paying attention to some of the leaks and other allegations that have come out over the past decade. And certainly it's not unknown to the people who were tortured or the governments which assisted the US in activities which are illegal under both national and international laws. No, the only people who might be surprised are American citizens who don't pay a tremendous amount of attention to what their government is doing. Because the Obama Administration whiffed on bringing these perpetrators to justice immediately after the inauguration it's unlikely that any of these folks will ever be identified and held to account under the American criminal justice system. Prosecutorial discretion is a wonderful thing sometimes, eh? But that aside as others have said in a democracy, in a constitutional republic, in America, theoretically the citizens are still the boss. And the boss always has the right and for that matter the obligation to know what his employees are doing. It is amusing to me that some of the conservatives who were against this release claim to be more concerned about the possible negative impact on US interests or citizens overseas than they are about the rights of US citizens to know the crimes the government has committed in their name. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Highland Park Police Love Triangle

The town of Highland Park, Michigan is not really a suburb of Detroit as the entire town is within Detroit. It is almost smack dab center in Detroit. Although it is an independent municipality, it has more or less the same class and racial demographics as Detroit and many of the same financial and tax issues. Center Line is a suburb of Detroit though, it, like Highland Park is surrounded by a larger city, in this case Warren. Warren and Center Line have (changing) demographics which still remain quite different from those of Detroit and Highland Park although neither Warren nor Center Line is a rich area. Thus concludes the SE Michigan geography lesson. I mention that only to point out that no place has a monopoly on stupidity. Although nationally you might have heard of this story as "Detroit area" or "Detroit cops" apparently none of this took place in the City of Detroit proper. So thank goodness for small favors.

I won't judge anyone else's private proclivities. You put a camera in anyone's bedroom you might be surprised at what you find. All I will say is that when your private behavior causes you to have to pull guns on people with whom you were previously doing the do, perhaps you might want ask yourself if you are really making good decisions. Because I'm thinking you're not. Fortunately nobody in this story was shot though but that was mostly through dumb luck. Situations like this while possibly humorous because of the exposed private affairs are also important reminders that police are not necessarily any more worthy of respect than other people. Though as they are usually armed they can be more dangerous than other people. But police or not some things are just dumb. Stupid is as stupid does. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. Watch the video below the jump.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book Reviews: The Devil's Red Nickel, The Sinatra Club, The Savage Sword of Conan

The Devil's Red Nickel 
by Robert Greer
In some very minor respects this mystery novel walks the same side of the street as similar works by Walter Mosley and Gar Anthony Haywood in that it imagines a black hero in a genre which still has very few such characters. But aside from the fact that the three authors share chromosomes and similar melanin levels and take black humanity for granted there's not too much else in common. The writing styles are utterly different. C.J. Floyd is a middle aged bail bondsman/private detective who lives in Denver, Colorado. He's definitely and defiantly old school. He drives around town in his 1957 Bel Air convertible. He's a man who loves listening to doo-wop and classic R&B. Think Esther Phillips and not Beyonce. Floyd is not exactly a wealthy man. In fact he's under some financial constraints because he's having some issues with people skipping their bond. But Floyd's not a man to let anything get in his way of doing what he sees as the right thing. He's good people. An older man named Leroy Polk dies of what appears to be a heart attack. 

The doctors/medical examiners find one of Floyd's business cards among the dead man's effects. Now Floyd did not know Leroy Polk personally but like millions of other people he knew the man intimately in Polk's persona of "Daddy Doo-Wop", a Chicago area DJ, music promoter, A&R man, producer and would be record company owner. Daddy Doo-Wop helped break tons of black music acts throughout the Midwest and West. Record companies and their acts would do their best to get their music played on his show. If Daddy Doo-Wop played your record that could make you famous and make you a lot of money. On the other hand if he didn't like your music it could be very difficult to get people to come to your shows. In some instances you might as well have quit the music industry and taken up needlepoint.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rolling Stone Magazine Retracts UVA Fraternity Rape Allegations

Although it should scarcely need to be repeated for the generally fair minded individuals who read this blog every last single one of us has our own individual biases, which are often magnified and accelerated by our experiences and the gender, race, class, sexual, political and other identities through which we experience the world. It’s just the way human beings are. So that is why it is important, though we can all forget it from time to time, to remember that an accusation does not equal proof that a crime occurred. Sometimes people do not remember what happened. Sometimes people lie. And I have not seen any evidence that shows that lying is solely or even disproportionately the preserve of one gender or another. Men and women are equally human. We all have both angels and devils lurking within.

So when the Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at UVA came out, complete with such lurid details as beatings and rape as fraternity initiation and a woman being violated on top of broken glass, I didn’t feel one way or the other about it. I wanted to see some proof. There were some inconsistencies in the account that made me think that this was more of an urban legend than an actual event but I am not a journalist or criminologist. If true then someone definitely should have been arrested and charged (unless of course the assailants were cops but I digress) Unfortunately UVA and the people who are concerned with stopping rape didn’t bother waiting to find out whether this was true or not before taking action against the fraternity (in UVA’s case) or repeating what have turned out to be untruths (in the case of the media and various other social justice warriors)

Why EVERYONE Should Care About Our Justice System's Failure to Prosecute Law Enforcement for the Deaths of Citizens

My Two Cents........

We are living in very interesting times.

A police officer can murder a man using a maneuver that is not only violent and inhumane, but banned by the very organization which employs the officer. This can all be captured on video but not deemed a crime.

Police officers can murder children for no reason except that they felt scared. That is not considered a crime. There is a serious problem here and it should pique everyone's interest, regardless of race. Officer Daniel Pantaleo was an eight year veteran of the New York City Police Department. Within those eight years he has cost the taxpayers of New York City a great deal of shame and $30,000 in lawsuit settlement costs.

In 2013 Darren Rice and Tommy Rice filed a federal lawsuit alleging that their civil rights were violated when Officer Daniel Pantaleo and four other officers (including a sergeant) wrongfully subjected them to a public strip search. This search included the removal of their pants and underwear in broad day light. Of course the officers claimed they never strip searched the men, making this a civilian's word versus an officer's word situation. However, when it came to giving just cause for stopping the men in the first place, conflicting stories were given by all of the officers involved. This led to the City of New York settling for a monetary amount with the men and closing the case.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No Indictment for NYPD Officer Responsible for the Death of Eric Garner

No Indictment in Murder of Eric Garner

A Real Conversation on Race

In the days since the announcement by Ferguson, Missouri District Attorney Bob McCulloch that former police officer Darren Wilson did not commit an indictable offense when he fired multiple shots at and ultimately killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, the national discourse has erupted with the usual suspects calling for an open and honest conversation on race yet speaking only to their own respective echo chambers.  The liberal crowd has rushed to MSNBC to decry all things police, while the conservative crowd has rushed to Fox News to decry all things Michael Brown.  Like two ships passing in the night, the two camps are largely speaking past one another as opposed to speaking to one another. 

One event, however, triggered both camps to look up and take notice when the St. Louis Rams demonstrated their support of the protesters of the Michael Brown shooting.  It seems that the problems between minorities and the criminal justice system is a problem that most in America are willing to (somewhat) acknowledge, but when it interrupts Monday night football then things have gone too far.  People like MSNBC's Joe Scarborough immediately turned red and went on now-infamous tirade about how the St. Louis Rams players should be punished and should apologize and how the entire "Hands Up" symbol is, according to Scarborough, based on a lie and should not be repeated.  Fox New's Greta Van Susteren similarly took offense to the act and stated that football should be off limits to discussions of race or politics.  Then, almost within the same breath, both Scarborough and Van Susteren called for an open and honest dialogue about race.  Apparently this "open and honest dialogue" does not apply to Americans who play in the National Football League.  If you're finding it difficult to reconcile these two contradictory notions then you're probably not alone. 

The point is this: if you want to make progress towards improving America's race problem (and let's not waste time debating whether there is, in fact, a problem) then you must be willing to address it not only when it conveniences you but also (and here's the kicker) when it inconveniences you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bill Cosby Rape Allegations and Al Sharpton Tax Issues

It's difficult to keep up with the various rape accusations against Bill Cosby. There are currently over fifteen different women who have made allegations that Bill Cosby either attempted to seduce them or raped them. Unfortunately, for those of us who would like to know the truth, these charges detail events that may or may not have occurred many decades ago. Some accusers (Janice Dickinson) have made past statements which contradict their present ones. 
Other women claim to have engaged in ongoing intimate relationships with Cosby after the alleged rape. 
Cosby himself has categorically refused to address the accusations. He has previously reached civil settlements with some of the women. Because of the statute of limitations, unless someone with more current accusations pops up, these claims can't be criminally tried. 
I don't know if outstanding claims can be heard in civil court but there are lawyers who could address that. Nonetheless there are so many accusers that lack of criminal convictions notwithstanding, Bill Cosby's reputation and future business plans have taken a serious hit. 
NBC and Netflix cancelled planned projects. Much like with allegations with Herman Cain or Jian Ghomeshi, with this many women coming forward, even a Cosby fan who holds innocent until proven guilty as a moral cornerstone might wonder about some things. It's important to point out that I am agnostic on Cosby's guilt or innocence. Who among us knows either Cosby or his accusers? There is no evidence so far that anyone has provided that would strongly convince me of his guilt or innocence. Too much time has passed. We're not in a court of law.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Movie Reviews: Nightcrawler, Deliver Us From Evil

directed by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler is an independent film by first time director Dan Gilroy (he wrote The Bourne Legacy) which is worth checking out. Have you ever been around someone who makes you truly uncomfortable? Do you know someone whose smile or laugh gives you the impression that they are doing so not because they actually find something funny but because they learned on their home planet Voltron that humans occasionally smile or laugh. So they're trying to blend in. They're imitating human emotions. 

Some people fake feelings better than others do. Such a person could be a sociopath. They don't really have very many human passions other than lust or the need to dominate but they can temporarily put on many sentiments just as you put on clothing every morning. But as clothing is not a part of you, human instincts are foreign to sociopaths. Sociopaths can use emotions to manipulate or trick people. The more skilled of them can, when necessary, give an impression of actually caring about people. But truly, they don't. People are just a means to whatever end they are seeking. 
The sociopath can take off whatever emotion she was using to delude you and move on to the next mark. Guilt, shame, regret and honor are all meaningless concepts to such people. Trying to explain such things to them or worse trying to make them experience them are a complete waste of time and could wind up with someone getting hurt. In my current career, I don't think I've ever known anyone truly like that. I might have when I was in financial sales. 

The higher I've moved up the food chain the more I find that many people closer to the top do not give a flying Fibber McGee about the folks below them. But honest to God true sociopaths? I think those are rare, at least at my relatively low level of authority. But Nightcrawler would have you believe that many of them are working in the news business. Los Angeles man Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is such a person. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

When I was younger and still a growing lad, Thanksgiving meant TONS of food and seeing all of my paternal cousins. On Thanksgiving I also always had to listen, willingly or not, to older relatives retelling stories or jokes which I had heard a thousand times before. That could get tiresome after the first nine hundred occurrences, let me tell you. I can't remember the exact point when it happened but one Thanksgiving dinner saw me being solemnly promoted from the children's table to the adult one. Now that was important you know. It was a big freaking deal! I should have gotten a medal or something. Thanksgiving produced the spectacle of dozens of friends of relatives or relatives of friends stopping by my grandfather's house. Sometimes I wondered exactly who, if anyone, in authority had actually invited some of the hungry looking people standing ahead of me in the serving line. Because I know I didn't. And more people meant less food for yours truly. Snicker. This brought back some memories. Now my cousins are spread across the known universe. These days I usually see most of them only at weddings or funerals. And with age I somehow lost the ability to scarf down three heaping helpings of various meats, starches and vegetables while leaving room for multiple desserts. All the same I will still see or talk to a few relatives or loved ones today. I will even have some foods which I normally don't have. And getting older has taught me that every day that you wake up and still have your health is an unambiguously good day, no matter what else may be going on in your life. I would give anything to hear some of my older relatives' interminable stories again. So while winter is coming for us all eventually I hope that today you will have fun. 

Enjoy life. Be joyous and thankful for the gifts that you have and the love that you receive and give in your life, however that may be expressed. If you're far away from family or loved ones, why not get off your Rumpelstiltskin and spend the day volunteering at a shelter or something similar? Or if you are going to be with friends and family today, please enjoy all the tales and humorous anecdotes that you've heard before. It's worth it I think.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson Grand Jury Indictment Announcement: No Charges Filed!

The grand jury tasked with deciding whether or not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown has reached a decision. That decision was just announced shortly after 9 PM EST this evening. Update: No criminal charges will be filed against Darren Wilson. Not a one. The grand jury found no probable cause. Stop back here later for updates, discussion and analysis of next steps, if any. With any luck one of the blog attorneys will stop by to comment and provide perspective. I think this whole process has been janky, to borrow a word often used by one of my cousins but we shall see what will happen. One of the things which has bothered me about this situation is that too many people who support Officer Wilson seem to want to try the facts before a trial has even been set. The grand jury is only supposed to decide if there is enough evidence for an indictment. It's a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Everyone should remember that. If the grand jury indicts it doesn't mean that the people on the grand jury thought that Officer Wilson was guilty of the crime. That remains to be seen. One of the things that some of the commentary around this incident does show is that in general people with more melanin and people with very little melanin have completely different viewpoints of reality, to the extent that one wonders how there can ever be any "coming together". Of course such coming together can and does happen on an individual level but in so many ways institutionally we remain a nation completely divided in perceptions and everything else. This CNN poll shows that 38% of whites think that Wilson should not be charged with a crime at all while a full 50% of whites think that police in their area have no or almost no prejudice against blacks. LINK 
Anyway, indictment or not, once the decision has been announced let us know what you think of the process, the case particulars and what if anything this means for the future of race relations in America.

MARION BARRY: DC's Mayor for Life

In the early morning hours, on November 23, 2014, I learned via my Facebook feed, that former District of Columbia Mayor, Marion Barry, transitioned from this life.  I can't say that I was completely shocked, he was 78 years old and he had been in and out of the hospital for at least the last couple of years.

I immediately thought to myself that DC would be in mourning for months, and that there would be street and school name changes, Go-Go and outdoor memorial concerts, and documentaries and television specials in the name of DCs most famous mayor.

I also thought about my personal memories of Marion Barry.  Though I am not an ardent supporter of Barry, I still respect the things he has done for me and the District of Columbia.  Check out my thoughts after the jump.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Reviews: Mafia Prince

Mafia Prince
by Philip Leonetti with Scott Burstein
I'm not too familiar with current organized criminal activity in the Philadelphia-Atlantic City-South Jersey area but throughout the eighties and nineties this area was shared by at least seven different Italian-American criminal organizations: the five New York Families, a small moribund North Jersey Family and the Philadelphia Crime Family, which had a dominant presence in Philly and Atlantic City. Although Gambino Crime Family boss John Gotti would personify a new brash breed of go-go eighties mobster, in fact he was preceded by his good friend Philadelphia Family Boss Nicky Scarfo. Scarfo's reign was extremely violent. Scarfo was apparently something of a paranoid press obsessed pint-sized psychopath whose dedication to violence and to preemptive murder turned many family members and associates against him, including his maternal nephew and later underboss, Phillip Leonetti. It's one thing to kill someone who has broken some widely accepted Mafia rules. It's something else again to kill someone's "civilian" relative or order murders of crew members for the tiniest of transgressions, real or imagined. Scarfo's reputation for violence initially increased the amount of money flowing into mob coffers but he enjoyed killing too much. He brought in too many people whose only skill sets were intimidation and murder. Blood costs money. The relevant state and federal law enforcement agencies made putting Scarfo behind bars a top priority. 

This book primarily describes Leonetti's relationship with his uncle and Scarfo's rise to and fall from power. There are some things revealed within that I didn't know. Philip Leonetti, or "Crazy Phil" as he was known on the streets, was an accomplished murderer in his own right. During a mob war his mere presence caused one man to commit suicide (FWIW Leonetti said he just wanted to talk to the man) It's not really possible to feel too much sympathy for him.  But unlike a mobster such as Kenji Gallo Leonetti doesn't seem to miss the old days of murder and mayhem. He's also pretty circumspect about the day to day business in which he was involved. We read about control of or influence in unions but not much about how it was established or how it works on a daily basis. It was usually maintained by threat of murder.

Music Reviews: Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly
by Puccini
For some reason I actually was more familiar with the gender bending remake M. Butterfly so it was good to recently see the original in the Detroit Opera House. The original story had much more in common with The Jerry Springer Show than with The Crying Game. When Madame Butterfly first came out it was considered to be quite trashy. So maybe a century from now people will think that Jerry Springer, Howard Stern and Wendy Williams are high art. 

You never know. I was actually surprised to feel some pathos while watching and listening to the opera, particularly during the tragic third act. While some people are able to become intimate with others and keep things on a even keel without serious commitment, other people who engage in the dance of life are like swans. They mate for life and expect their partner to do likewise. Many people think that these characteristics differ between genders but every individual is different. There are men who get one-itis and never ever get over their lost true love who rejected them in some horrible fashion. There are women who are quite comfortable using emotional or physical intimacy to extract things from men while never truly committing to any single man. 

But Madame Butterfly sticks with the more common and familiar tropes of gender expectations regarding which gender is more likely to have "love them and leave them" as a viable if not preferred option and which gender is more likely to stay up at night wondering if someone will call or have concerns about sexual intimacy occurring too soon. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama to Announce New Immigration Policy Tonight

To be sure, immigration has been a hotly contested issue in this country since the country's founding.  As the world has become more globally connected, it seems that America's comprehensive immigration system has become increasingly inadequate at realistically dealing with those millions who would join our nation, especially when you consider that many of those millions are already here.  Throughout the years, the United States has been forced to deal with this problem through the Executive Branch which is the branch of the federal government charged with executing the laws passed by Congress.  I've written on the legality of this Executive Power before.  In a nutshell, when Congress passes most of its laws, it purposely leaves room for the Executive Branch to use its "prosecutorial discretion" in implementing those laws through the Executive's own Code of Federal Regulations, which are rules written by the Executive Branch that spell out in greater detail how the Executive Branch plans to actually carry out the laws passed by Congress.  The reasoning behind this is simple: Congress, as the law making body, recognizes that the people who are actually on the ground executing the law every day are in the best position to know when discretion should be used.  This is why police officers are allowed to let you go "with a warning" when you've been pulled over for speeding or why a prosecutor is allowed to decide whether or not to bring charges against someone or cut them a deal.  It's all about prosecutorial discretion.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan used that same prosecutorial discretion to allow the children of people legalized under the 1986 immigration law to remain in the country.  In 1990, President George H.W. Bush used his prosecutorial discretion to extended that same benefit to spouses.  So for all of the political posturing that has come about over President Obama's propose use of prosecutorial discretion, the United States Executive Branch has already established a precedent on this issue.  So what exactly is Obama proposing and is it different from what has been done in the past by other Presidents?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Reviews: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
I recently realized that I refer to this book quite a bit but somehow never got around to doing a review on it. This is a children's classic. I suppose as an adult you can go back to reread it, analyze it and find some adult issues crammed in the nooks and crannies but imo this is firmly written for children. If you have lost touch with your inner child or worse, crammed him or her into the closet, locked the door and thrown away the key I don't think that you would enjoy this story too much. Although it is written for children L'Engle did not write down to children. Children may not understand sex, lust, violence and death in the same way that adults do but moral concerns can be similar regardless if the question is whether you should commit adultery with your best friend's wife or whether you should make fun of your fellow kindergarten classmate because their parents can't afford to give them new clothes. 

A Wrinkle In Time is the first in a series, which grew in grandeur as the protagonists did and obviously brought in more adult themes as everyone grew older, married and endured loss. Nevertheless this book is complete in and of itself. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger or leave too many major questions unanswered. So I appreciated that way back when I originally read the book and I appreciate it now. Something else which bears mentioning is that the primary protagonist is female and on the verge of emotional/sexual maturity. That was pretty unusual for a sci-fi/fantasy book written back in the sixties. So if you're not female perhaps this book might give you an insight into the female mind? I can't call it. Of course you could use this for good or for bad, I guess. 

The book's most critical element is its rich and dense religious symbolism. Madeleine L'Engle  was a devout Episcopalian. Her overwhelming faith in God's love and the basic goodness of people were essential to most, if not all of her works and are obvious motifs in A Wrinkle In Time. However although religion in general and Christianity in particular are very important here, this book can be enjoyed by readers of any faith or by those with none at all. Unlike some other self-identified Christian writers ( C.S. Lewis), L'Engle did not beat the reader upside the head with allegory and metaphor. Well, at least not most of the time she didn't. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

F Train NYC Subway Slap

On a NYC subway train a young woman named Danay Howard, who verbally bullied a man and then physically assaulted him, had the taste slapped out of her mouth by the victim of her assault. Evidently the man, one Jorge Pena, got in touch with his inner Sean Connery. A brawl broke out. I don't think that anyone should be laying hands on anyone else in violence outside of self-defense. It's just not right. It means that rational communication has disappeared. The people involved have lost the ability to peacefully settle differences. So I'm opposed to all violence, whether it be initiated by men against women, women against women, men against men, or by women against men. Unfortunately some women have gotten the idea that they can hit or slap a man with both legal and physical impunity. This is, for most women, a very bad idea. It's especially stupid if the man is a modern fellow who thinks that a woman who strikes him should be treated the same as a man who strikes him. Why can't people see this? Putting gender aside you never know if the person that you've started "stuff" with just happens to be a MMA or amateur boxer who enjoys tuning up people just like you. You don't know if they're armed. You don't know what they would consider a fair and equivalent response to your force. They could operate under the belief that a brutal stompdown in exchange for your slap or push evens the scale. We've seen these sorts of incidents before. I don't know if they're becoming more common but it certainly seems like it. You have to know your lane and stay in it. If a man went around picking fights with other men who were about 8 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than he was, few people would shed tears when he routinely lost these fights.We might even say that the man is pretty freaking dumb. So should we feel pity for a woman who does the same thing? I don't. I feel pity for the woman for being so loud and aggressive. I don't know that I feel pity for her when she started something and got handled. I don't necessarily think we need to go back to 1940s social relationships between men and women but if you want men not to hit women then you must also teach women not to hit men. Because a woman can't step into the predominantly male arena of physical confrontation and still claim the protection of a lady. Life doesn't work that way. Nor should it.

Pena, Howard and two other people were arrested. Miss Howard got a felony assault charge for her troubles. This situation is another reason I avoid public transportation. Check out the video below.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lessons Learned: 2014 Midterm Post-Mortem

At the end of every Godfather movie there was a point when Michael Corleone's enemies, wrongly believing that the Corleone power was destroyed, learned the hard way that Michael's reach was long and that he had no use for mercy. Michael's antagonists never saw the purge coming. Although unlike the Corleone rivals, the White House and Democratic elected officials knew that a midterm defeat was likely, I don't think that they fully anticipated the depth and breadth of what went down. In fact, this was beyond even Corleone capacities. This was some Breaking Bad stuff. Across the country Democrats were shanked in the shower, thrown off balconies and beaten in the head with barbells. And only a few lived to tell the tale. This was a loss of historic, almost biblical proportions. The Republicans almost swept the field. There are more Republicans in the House of Representatives than any time since the 1920s. There will be 31 Republican governors. Republicans took back most of the South with a vengeance and made electoral gains in Midwest or Eastern states previously considered to be solid blue. Although Senator Landrieu of Louisiana survived to fight another day, the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pulling funding for Louisiana political commercials suggests that they don't think her chances for reelection in a runoff are very good.

Whether you win or lose a contest you always reveal something about yourself. You should learn something that you didn't know before. What do I think that the Democrats should learn from this debacle? Well there are a number of things that ought to be, if not taken for gospel, given greater consideration by current or would be elected Democratic politicians.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Reviews: NOS4A2

by Joe Hill
The book's title is essentially a neological homophone for Nosferatu. It is also the license plate of the book's primary villain. Joe Hill dedicated this book to his mother. I guess that makes sense as the balance of the story is concerned with the love and special bond that a good mother has for her children and how she would go through hell to protect them. I don't know what it would be like to wake up one morning and suddenly have a completely different distribution of fat and muscle, different skeletal structure, be shorter, weigh less and have a sexuality which is suddenly flipped. I don't know what it would be like to be almost by definition much weaker than half of the population.

In short I have no idea what it would be like to be a woman. The thing about good writers though, and Joe Hill is obviously among that population, is that they can very easily imagine and communicate such things. Writing from a different perspective or even being able to imagine life from a different perspective is pretty critical to creating good fiction. After all, our human similarities are much greater than our differences, even for something as fundamental to our existence as gender. Anyway, I thought that the heroine of the book and some other female characters were indeed realistic. The tense relationship between the book's primary protagonist and her mother reminded me of some folks I've known. Although some gender experiences are totally beyond the opposite gender's understanding, if you listen, watch, interact and think you can learn quite a bit about how men or women respond and react in general. But all the same I would be interested in knowing what real life women thought of these characters should they decide to read this book. 

Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. Obviously there is some of his father's voice and skill in what he writes. How could there not be. But he has his own voice and makes that quite clear in NOS4A2. The only things that reminded me of Stephen King were the facts that once I started this book I didn't want to stop and that Hill skillfully mixes the weird and frightening with the mundane. Storytelling is a skill that not every writer has. But Hill has it. Some authors bore you from almost the first page while others have you following them like children following the Pied Piper.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Rundown of All That's Happened This Week.......

I don't know about you, but this year can't come to an end quick enough. As you've probably noticed, life has taken over for most of us here on the team and we have little time to crack the nuts and bolts of our political climate. However, this week was pretty "epic" so i'm going to give a quick rundown and give my two cents.

1. The Republican's Are Now In Charge
Ehhhh! This is nothing really new and their senate wins on Tuesday were of no surprise to anyone. I'm actually glad it happened. Maybe this will force the Democrats to grow a damn back bone and learn how to play the game. This is not a time to play "Let's Point the Finger at President Obama." I was a bit checked out on this years midterms. I had to focus on the nonsense we were dealing with here in New York. However, on Tuesday I looked over some of the big Democratic loses and I couldn't help but to shake my head. Martha Coakley in Massachusetts and Charlie Christ in Florida to name a few. Who in the hell thought those were good ideas. Martha Coakley was an EPIC FAILURE in 2010 when she threw away a 25 point lead due to her laziness and self entitlement syndrome, delivering the senate race to an unknown underwear model by the name of Scott Brown. From speaking with a few folks in Massachusetts I understand that Coakley won a highly contested Democratic Primary Race. Still, why was she able to run and be taken seriously is beyond me. Right now, President Obama is on the news delivering his expected "I see room for bi-partisanship" speech. We can expect our do nothing congress to continue to do nothing. 

Majority Leaders McConnell - SMH.

2. Loretta Lynch Expected to be Named Next United States Attorney General

I'll have to rely on my fellow UP partners who are more versed in Senate rules to give guidance on how this vote will turn out. It was just announced that Loretta Lynch the current current United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York will be President Obama's pick to replace Eric Holder, as United States Attorney General. Ms. Lynch would be the first African-American woman to hold the post. I'm sure that Fox News is working feverously to come up with some good race baiting garbage on Ms. Lynch. In the meantime let's go with the feel good according to her wikipedia page. Ms. Lynch is 55-years old and a Haravard Law School Alum (look at those HLS Alums sticking together) and was already an Obama apointee. I'm not sure if she was confirmed by the senate or apart of the recess apointment scandal. Let me just say, I can't wait to watch her confirmation hearings on TV. This will be bigger than #TGIT

Detroit Squatters

Another squatter tried to take over a home in Detroit. I strongly suspect these events happen everywhere but they seem to happen more often in Detroit. All's well that ended well in this story but the fact remains that were it not for the local Fox station embarrassing the police department into doing its job this woman could have lost her home to the aggressive transsexual hoodlum. We talked about this squatters problem before in this post two years prior. I love the memory of my city. There are even today a lot of good people who live therein. Most people are good. Or rather most people don't have the audacity to think that they can just move into someone else's home without permission. But there are also a lot of people who view any sort of niceness as weakness and who are constantly on the lookout for weakness. Such people are the human equivalent of white sharks. Once they detect "blood in the water" so to speak, they attack. There have always been people like this and there always will be. That's not Detroit's problem. Detroit's problem is that people who behave like this are ever so slightly more numerous as a percentage of the population, perhaps because the authorities are overwhelmed with more serious crimes like rape, murder, assault, child abuse, and drug trafficking. So the authorities don't take crimes like this as seriously as they should. I mean we must set priorities, no?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Nov 4 Election US Senate: Democratic Disaster or Republican Rout?

According to Nate Silver's  538 forecast it appears that the Democrats are due for a solid thumping in the elections this Tuesday. The forecast currently predicts a 68.3% chance of Republicans winning the Senate. Most other forecasts I've seen suggest that it's a done deal that the Republicans keep the House and possibly even extend their majority there. A lot of the Republican likely electorate is said to be mad as hell and ready to grab the nearest baseball bat and (figuratively) beat the doggie doo out of any Democratic elected officials that they can find. Conservatives and perhaps Republicans are allegedly fired up to vote against the entire Democratic agenda. This could be why so many Democratic Senatorial candidates have done their best to keep President Obama at arm's length, with some even going to far as to refuse to confirm they voted for the man. Possibly having gotten all they can get out of the "war on women" rhetoric, the Democrats could be belatedly realizing that men also vote.  
Tuesday’s results, Mr. McInturff added, would tell “whether it is possible that the single-minded focus that most Democratic candidates attached to the ‘war on women’ meant they never conveyed an economic and jobs message that might have led a higher chunk of the persuadable male vote to vote Democrat.”

Republicans increasingly make that argument that Democrats miscalculated in their zeal to galvanize women who otherwise would not vote in a midterm election. Democrats counter that Republicans use the phrase “Republicans’ war on women” more than Democrats to stoke a backlash among older and married women who reject partisan, feminist-sounding rhetoric and lean Republican. Ms. Greenberg said Republicans were “deliberately misconstruing” Democrats’ legitimate attacks. Yet she and other Democratic strategists complain their party has not effectively espoused a broader economic agenda, when women tell pollsters their top concern is jobs and the economy.

Movie Reviews: John Wick, The Purge: Anarchy

John Wick
directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
What do you get when you combine actors from The Wire, The Matrix, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, The Warriors, Oz, The Boondock Saints, and Hanging with the Homeboys among others? Well you get John Wick, that's what you get.
This is a very good, very simple, very direct payback/revenge movie. It's no more than that nor does it try to be. So Keanu Reeves, who plays the titular character, actually has a role that plays to his strengths as an actor. Wick, who lost his wife to cancer, spends a great deal of the film in a fugue state of confusion, grief and anger. There's initially heavy emphasis on the confusion. There aren't many actors who can look confused better than Reeves can. It's virtually his default state of being. So how fortunate for him and for us that he was cast in this movie. There's very little fat in this film. It has a taut running time of around 100 minutes. There are a few predictable setpieces common to the genre with one or two exceptions these are mostly done well. And with a virtual who's who of character actors and "don't I know that guy/girl from somewhere appearances" any writing flaws are more than made up for by smooth performances. The camera work is excellent. It changes throughout the movie to help express Wick's feelings and experiences. I've learned that a horrible thing about getting older is that you attend more funerals. Some are just business affairs but when it's someone you loved the feelings of sadness, isolation and meaninglessness can be very strong. 

We are all indeed dust in the wind. The zooming crane shots at the funeral of John's wife (Bridget Moynahan) establish John's grief and make you feel it just as surely as the John Woo The Killer and Equilibrium inspired hyperactive camera work during the gunfights makes your blood pressure rise.