Monday, May 30, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Blood of My Blood

The show has moved past the published books, but nevertheless still has a few plot lines from the published books to explore. Although I think some of these worked better than others I am impressed with how well the show does with some themes that bored me to tears on the written page. But then again there are also some story lines which seem to be pretty circular. More on that in a moment. Anyhow we open up with Meera doing her best to drag Bran and his cart through the snowy forest. But Meera is not Brienne. And Bran is not a little kid anymore. Meera does her best but the walking dead are gaining on her and Bran. Bran is time traveling again but this time he's seeing events happen almost all at once. He's seeing his father's murder, the Mad King's pronouncements and death, battles, etc. The cart gets stuck. Meera is exhausted and finally can't go on any longer. At that point a horseman with a covered face rides up. He has a flaming flail which he puts to good use against the dead. He seemingly effortlessly lifts Bran and Meera onto the horse and rides off. Later on this fellow, who doesn't quite look all that healthy, kills a rabbit for food while telling Bran the last time that he saw him he was much younger. Yes you guessed it. It's long lost uncle Benjen Stark. When last seen Benjen was leading an expedition north of the Wall looking for White Walkers. Well he found them. He got a spear through his guts for his troubles. But the Children of the Forest healed him or rather, slowed the change from human to Wight. Benjen is certainly not completely human anymore. But neither is he the walking dead. He's something else. Benjen says that the Three Eyed Raven summoned him to protect Bran. And since he says Bran is the Three Eyed Raven now it's not clear if Bran has always been the Three Eyed Raven or if Benjen was referring to the previous man with that title. Bran says he's not ready but Benjen says that the Night King will come to the Wall where Bran will meet him. Only all of human existence may rest on Bran's shoulders.That doesn't look good for the humans, let me tell you.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Movie Reviews: Exposed

directed by Gee Malik Linton 
The listed stars of this film are Keanu Reeves and Mira Sorvino. But that is a bait and switch. They get a fair amount of screen time, well at least Reeves does, but they aren't very important to the story at all. Their roles could have each been played by other people with little change to the movie. We can't really judge effort but neither of the supposed leads appear to be giving it their all in this flick. As you might expect that's much more obvious with Reeves than Sorvino. 

While Sorvino is almost doing a parody of an east coast street smart extroverted Italian-American, Reeves is somnolent throughout the entire movie. He speaks in mumbles and is hard to understand. He is one low energy dude. It would be interesting to know what attracted Reeves and Sorvino to this movie. I wonder if they just really liked the script or were doing a favor for someone or wanted to help out lesser known people by attaching their name to this movie. Or maybe JUST MAYBE the studio wanted more marketable stars (read white stars) attached to a story that otherwise is dominated by less well known black and hispanic characters. 

The movie's Black director and writer, Gee Malik Linton, apparently became so irritated by interference with his film that he took his name off the movie in favor of a pseudonym. I don't like micromanagers either. Who does? But he who pays the piper calls the tune. Anyway I scribbled all that to inform you that if you decide to see this movie because of Reeves and Sorvino, please remember that they aren't the important ones in this film. This film fails miserably as a cop thriller because Reeves can't be bothered even to pretend to have the strutting testosterone drenched swagger so stereotypically associated with members of the NYPD. Reeves was miscast. 

Canadian Geese: Pest or Danger?

I live in a semi-rural suburban development. It's not too far from both a river and a lake. And there are many small and large ponds, brooks, streams and creeks near my residence. Combined with the trees this means there are lots and lots of birds. More to the point this means there are lots and lots of waterfowl: ducks, swans and especially Canadian geese. This last group is a big problem. First off they appear to have gotten used to staying in the area year round. Like annoying in-laws or distant relatives they drop in and never ever leave. Next they produce a truly astounding amount of waste material. Between the ducks and geese you really need to watch where you walk. And their biggest irritating feature, thanks in part to people feeding them, is that the geese seem to have lost most of the fear that wild animals normally have for humans. As this is their nesting season they are particularly aggressive around this time. And a Canadian Goose is already a pretty belligerent bird. Whereas the ducks usually waddle off at the first sight (smell?) of humans or dogs the geese do not. In the early mornings some geese congregate on sidewalks like they own the place. I wouldn't put it past them to start charging tax to walk on what they clearly consider their property. It's only when a large dog gets super close and gives verbal indication of impending bloodshed that the geese will reluctantly depart the immediate vicinity. I'm not a hunter or a fan of killing animals for fun. I realize that we're all part of the circle of life. But I'm also not a fan of playing hop-scotch on the sidewalk trying to avoid goose crap or watching ponds or lakes die because of the algae build up caused by goose crap. You don't know how much you can hate an animal until you are mowing your lawn and suddenly feel that disgusting squish that lets you know that yes you just stepped into another one of their leavings. And the germs and bacteria these things carry can't be good for pets either. The way I see it these creatures are vermin. We need to reduce their population and/or convince them to leave. Maybe this means extending hunting season. Maybe this means concerted usage of dogs. Maybe this means finding predators who eat Canadian geese or their eggs and bringing them into a target rich environment. Dunno. But I do know that if I see one more green pile of s*** then that's it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

State Department Inspector General and Hillary Clinton's Private Server

Well this is interesting. If Trump's statements and actions give his detractors reason to believe that he is essentially a carnival barker who is willing to say and do anything to close the deal then Clinton's statements and actions give her detractors reason to believe that she has a post-modern relativist understanding of truth. Truth may well be what Clinton says it is at any point in time. The State Department Inspector General report on the Clinton server issue shows that if nothing else Clinton did something she wasn't supposed to do and knew she wasn't supposed to do. 

WASHINGTON — The State Department’s inspector general on Wednesday sharply criticized Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying that she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received it if she had. The report, delivered to members of Congress, undermined some of Mrs. Clinton’s previous statements defending her use of the server and handed her Republican critics, including the party’s presumptive nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, new fodder to attack her just as she closes in on the Democratic nomination. 

The inspector general found that Mrs. Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with department officials but that, contrary to her claims that the department “allowed” the arrangement, there was “no evidence” she had requested or received approval for it.  Hillary Clinton should have asked for approval to use a private email address and server for official business. Had she done so, the State Department would have said no. She should have surrendered all of her emails before leaving the administration. Not doing so violated department policies that comply with the Federal Records Act. When her deputy suggested putting her on a State Department account, she expressed concern about her personal emails being exposed. In January 2011, the Clintons' IT consultant temporarily shut down its private server because, he wrote, he believed "someone was trying to hack us." And Clinton's statements on the issue since then have been full of evasions, half-truths, misdirection and apparent lies. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 Airbnb Brooklyn Half-Marathon

2016 Airbnb Brooklyn Half-Marathon

Round 2! Saturday May 21st I laced up and ran my second half-marathon. For some reason this race was an extremely emotional race. Lots of tears and internal conversations with myself and God. However, this was definitely a much better experience than last year. However, of course there were shenanigans and setbacks leading up to the start line. 

Draymond Green Isn't Suspended

Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green avoided suspension after kicking fellow NBA player and New Zealand native Steven Adams in his kiwis. This was the second time that Green did this to Adams. I'm neither a Golden State Warriors fan nor a Draymond Green fan. Although I have a mild dislike for Green because he's a big mouth who attended a rival university to my own I don't even follow the NBA that closely these days. My favored team is still struggling to become mediocre so I don't care who wins the NBA Championship. But the NBA should have suspended Green for this action. This is not a situation when there's a battle for the ball or for position and someone gets accidentally hit. This is a deliberate attempt to prevent a man from siring children in the future. Compared to other professional sports leagues the NBA has done a great job in trying to crack down on physical play and fighting. Rightly or wrongly the NBA had to battle and I think overcome a "thug" image. But in eliminating fighting the NBA may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Baseball and Hockey each tolerate fighting after particularly egregious instances of rule breaking. Football does as well although there almost anything that goes on before the whistle is already legal. But a dirty NBA player (and Green could possibly be described as such) is only going to be stopped by serious league penalties or by the knowledge that he will quickly reap what he sows on the court. NBA teams used to have enforcers for just that purpose. If the NBA refuses to punish obvious dirty play with penalties severe enough to deter it then eventually players will take matters into their own hands. Or maybe they won't. Maybe today's NBA players are too well paid and too soft to do anything like that. Maybe this was Green's way of letting Adams know that he disapproved of Adams' recent malapropisms about monkeys. Dunno. But if I were the Oklahoma City coach, in the next game I would start the last man on my bench, the non-playing scrub who normally spends the game watching cheerleaders and congratulating starters during timeouts. His sole job would be to walk up to Green and kick him in his Draymonds. Message sent. Message received. Now let's play basketball. 

The other problem with this non-suspension is that the NBA recently suspended Cleveland Cavaliers scrub Dahntay Jones for doing the same thing to a Toronto Raptors player. The difference? No one cares if Jones plays. He rarely does. But Green is a starting member of an exciting championship team. Double standard. The NBA doesn't want to mess with the money train. Watch the video below. Does that seem like an accident to you?

Monday, May 23, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Door

Before this season started showrunners Benioff and Weiss said that they didn't see more than thirteen episodes after this season's completion. Based on how recent events are turning out I wonder if that estimate might have been generous. This show is definitely in the home stretch. It's ruthless in cutting down story lines and characters. There are multiple confirmations of some long held fan theories, some of which were a definite minority opinion. I really wish that I had been able to get most of this from the books instead of the show but as many people have pointed out GRRM works at his pace, not ours. He's made his decisions. So it goes. Anyway we open up at Castle Black with Sansa sewing something in what I am sure is a reference back to happier days at Winterfell when she showed great aptitude at needlework, unlike her tomboy sister Arya. Sansa has received a letter from Littlefinger. She goes to see him but takes Brienne along with her. Littlefinger is very happy to see her unharmed as he says. Sansa scoffs at this and wants to know if Littlefinger knew what kind of man Ramsay Bolton was. She points out that Littlefinger sold her from one group of people who murdered her family to another group of people who murdered her family. And she says that she is still damaged from Ramsay's perversions and rapes, not just mentally or emotionally but physically. Sansa says that she's sure a filthy whore monger like Littlefinger knows exactly what she's talking about even though high born ladies aren't supposed to speak of such things. Sansa says why shouldn't she just have Brienne kill Littlefinger right then and there. Littlefinger says he's sorry and would die for her if need be. Sansa says that she doesn't need or trust Littlefinger. Sansa says that she and her brother Jon will retake the North without Littlefinger's assistance. Littlefinger tells Sansa that that's all well and good if she doesn't want his help but her great uncle Brynden Tully has reconstituted some Tully forces and taken Riverrun. Maybe Sansa should ask him for help. And Littlefinger points out that Jon is Sansa's half-brother, not full brother.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Houston Road Rage Incident

Did you see the video of the road rage incident that recently occurred down Houston way?
Can't we all get along? Apparently not. Even the most mild mannered pacifist can lose his temper when he is behind the wheel of a two ton machine. While driving, people's tempers can go from zero to I'm going to stomp a mudhole in your a$$ very quickly. No one likes being sworn at, insulted or having things thrown at them. But I imagine even Mother Theresa would start cursing and throwing hands if someone deliberately damaged her car. It's a good thing that apparently neither party had a gun or thought to retrieve it. Because both parties might have accurately claimed they were just standing their ground and let the bullets fly. It looks like the couple in the truck got the worst of this altercation. The driver of the car has supposedly filed a police report. You can I guess try to suss out who bears more responsibility for the escalation. Each group bears some responsibility but the final straw appears to be the kicking of the car by the truck driver. Although I can't say I've never gotten very angry at other people's stupidity on these here US roads, I can say that fortunately things have never reached a physical level. Ultimately it's not that important. People should know when to walk away. Why risk your freedom or worse brawling with morons? This is why we have insurance. When you try to correct things yourself that is when you can get into a lot of trouble. Of course as I write this no one has deliberately rammed my vehicle or kicked and damaged my grille. If that happened would I be so level headed and calm as to not pick up the baseball bat from the backseat and go patiently explain to the driver of the other car why his act of vandalism was a bad idea? Well I like to think so. I also like to think that most people are decent and reasonable once you get to know them. Snicker...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Movie Reviews: Deadpool

directed by Tim Miller

There are a few things which are apparent from virtually the beginning of this R rated comic book movie. (1) The titular hero is a snarky sarcastic jerk who is as adept at verbal combat as he is at the physical version. Deadpool's verbal energy is like that of someone who drank three cups of coffee, chased that with some Red Bull and then took some speed. (2) The film is going to "objectify" the male body just as much as other films do with female ones. So if you have been waiting to see plenty of shots of Ryan Reynolds' gluteus maximus then you are in luck as this movie has you covered. Or uncovered. (3) This film is going to live up to its R rating for violence and sex. There is male and female full frontal nudity, a fair amount of toplessness and a virtually limitless number of bad guys who get shot in the head, skewered, beaten to a pulp or otherwise disposed of in rather unpleasant ways. This is a comic book movie but it's not for kiddies by any means. (4) The film and actor are in on the joke as Deadpool routinely breaks the Fourth Wall to express his amusement, irritation, surprise or shock at what's going on. He's in on the joke you see. This is an origin story. I'd have to check with a few relatives to see how closely it stuck to the comic book on which it's based but I didn't care enough to go find out. This was a fun movie with only a few flat notes here or there. Reynolds carries the movie virtually single handedly not because of bad acting by other people but rather because his Deadpool is gleeful, profane, anarchic and energetic in every scene. He's like a more violent Bugs Bunny. With one or two exceptions, Reynolds blows away just about every other person who shares screen time with him. But he's not chewing the scenery. The other actors are not underwritten. Well maybe some of them are. It's just that Reynolds appears to be having a blast. Sometimes certain actors and certain roles just really fit well together. And that is the case with Reynolds here. He shouldn't do any other comic book roles besides Deadpool.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Transgenders, Bathrooms and the Obama Administation

You may have heard that the Obama Administration, using a letter sent to every public school in the country has insisted, under the fig leaf of "Title IX guidance" that schools must allow children who identify as transgender access to the bathrooms, changing areas and activities which correspond to their self-reported identity. If the schools refuse to obey this diktat well then the Administration would sure hate to see those schools lose any of their federal funding. Capisce? Some school districts, for ideological reasons of their own, had started to move in this direction even before the letter was sent. In Chester, Vermont a girl who insists that she is a boy has started to use the boys' bathroom, backed up by the new school policy and now by the new Administration order.
CHESTER, Vt. — The way A J Jackson tells it, he kept his head ducked down and pretended to fiddle with his cellphone as he walked into the boys’ bathroom and headed for a stall at Green Mountain Union High School here.
But the way some of his classmates see it, A J was still Autumn Jackson, a girl in boys’ clothing, who had violated an intimate sanctum, while two boys were standing at a urinal, their private parts exposed.
“It’s like me going into a girls’ bathroom wearing a wig,” Tanner Bischofberger, 15, a classmate of A J Jackson’s, who was not one of those in the bathroom, said this week. “It’s just weird.”
A complaint about Mr. Jackson’s using the boys’ bathroom set off a protest by students advocating the right of their transgender classmate to use the bathroom of his choice. Mr. Jackson has gradually been making the transition from a vivacious girl with a big smile and long wavy locks to a husky boy with chopped hair dyed several shades of green, snakebite piercings in his lips and gauges embedded in his earlobes. His chest is visibly bound, and because he has not yet started taking male hormones — he plans to do that, and also to have “top surgery,” he says — his face is smooth and still has feminine contours. He once thought he was lesbian, and is still attracted to girls.There were practical issues. When he had his period, he wondered if he should revert to the girls’ bathroom, because there was no place to throw away his used tampons. 
This is beyond silly.
  • A square does not have five sides.
  • A woman does not have a penis or produce sperm.
  • A man does not have a vagina or experience menstruation.
"Rights" do not revoke reality. If you wish to pretend that you are a woman when you are really a man or pretend that you are a man when you are really a woman, knock yourself out. I couldn't care less. Live and let live I say. I have my own problems. But when you try to dragoon me into going along with your nonsense I will suggest that you commit an anatomically impossible though hypothetically pleasurable act. Tolerance is one thing. Active endorsement/encouragement is something else. If someone informs me that he's a dog I don't put a leash on him and order him to roll over for a belly rub. I tell him to get help.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Can Donald Trump Win? Well Yes He Can

There has been a lot of discussion online and elsewhere about whether or not Donald Trump can win the general election in the fall and why he was able to become the presumptive Republican nominee. At this time I still think that the advantage that Democrats have in the electoral college will be a bit too much for Mr. Trump to overcome. But things are changing. There were some recent polls that showed Trump tightening the race or actually beating Clinton in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Imagine that.  
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the likely general election presidential nominees, are running neck-and-neck in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, results driven by wide gender and racial gaps among voters, a new general election poll shows.
Clinton edges Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania, while Trump leads in Ohio, according to the Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.
In both Florida and Pennsylvania the poll shows Clinton narrowly over Trump, 43% to 42%. In Ohio, Trump leads Clinton 43% to 39%.
"At this juncture, Trump is doing better in Pennsylvania than the GOP nominees in 2008 and 2012. And the two candidates are about where their party predecessors were at this point in Ohio and Florida," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, in a memo accompanying the poll results. 
And despite comments about Mexican illegal immigrants that have inspired a fierce reaction from across the political spectrum Trump is currently polling slightly better among Hispanics than Romney did.  Now it's still very early. Some of these polls are outliers. It's not time to panic if you are a Clinton supporter and/or a Democrat. After all there are a few Republicans who would rather vote for Clinton than Trump

Monday, May 16, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Book of the Stranger

Well that was fun. This was both a transitional episode that set up later events and one which also moved the story forward in some very pleasing ways. I liked the balance displayed in this episode between talking and action. I hope that it continues. We open with Jon Snow packing up his belongings and preparing to leave Castle Black. Dolorous Edd is not super happy about Jon's decision, especially as Jon knows the dangers behind the wall. Jon is of the opinion that all of that is someone else's problem now especially since he has technically lived up to his vows. He gave his life to the Night's Watch. Jon still hasn't gotten over that whole my so-called brothers killed me thing. The quarrel between Edd and Jon has to be put on hold because FINALLY there is a Stark reunion. Brienne, Podrick and Sansa Stark arrive at Castle Black. Jon is shocked and happy to see Sansa. Later on they reminisce together about all the silly stupid things they did in those days before their parents were murdered, their family was scattered and war broke out. Sansa apologizes for looking down on Jon for his illegitimate status though Jon says no apology is needed. They both regret leaving Winterfell. But speaking of Winterfell Sansa tells Jon that they must take it back and eject Ramsay for otherwise they'll never be safe. Jon says he's tired of fighting and killing. Sansa says that Winterfell belongs to the Starks not Ramsay. She wants Jon to help her but she'll do it by herself if need be. In the courtyard Davos catches up with an atypically tired looking Melisandre to ask her what her plans are. She doesn't know. She says she will do whatever Jon (The Prince Who Was Promised) wants her to do. Davos says wasn't that what you called Stannis?  Now that the excitement has temporarily died down Davos finally (he's loyal but maybe not the quickest thinking fellow) asks Melisandre what happened to Stannis and by the way where is Shireen? Brienne is lurking about and interrupts, fixing both Davos and Melisandre with a cold glare. She says she was there when Renly was murdered by Melisandre's magic. She also says that she killed Stannis. She waits a moment to see if there's going to be any static from Davos or Melisandre over this. She also says she doesn't forgive or forget before stomping off. Ok then.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Reviews: Traitor's Blade

Traitor's Blade
by Sebastien De Castell
I buy a lot of books and other items from Amazon. It's quick and convenient. Often the prices are better because Amazon doesn't have the well paid labor force, tax liabilities or property, plants and equipment that your local big box or independent bookstore has to carry. However the issue with Amazon or other online retailers is that it's not really easy to just browse books online. Usually when I go online to purchase something I already know exactly what I want. So there's not a big reason to spend a lot of time online. With a physical bookstore it's easier for me to drop in and browse. I can spend hours in a bookstore. And as a result I can find and enjoy books which otherwise I would never ever have read. Traitor's Blade is such a book. It really was as simple as wandering through the fantasy section of my local bookstore and just happening to have my eye fall on this 2014 fantasy novel. That was good luck. This is a solid read. Yes it does initially heavily rely on some tropes and cliches which are well known to any reader of heroic fantasy. It's a crowded field with a long history. But I thought that the author was strong enough to find his own voice. So this book simultaneously feels very comfortable and familiar while being just different enough to justify reading. This book is the first in a trilogy, but I thought it stood on its own. I want to know what happens next. However De Castell ended his story in such a way that I would be content even if I weren't soon going to purchase the next two books. I hope that the remaining books live up to the first one. There are a tremendous number of heroic stories in which the protagonists have been cast out from their promised land, been betrayed in some cruel fashion, or simply have to grow up quickly in a cold cruel world. In Traitor's Blade, the three heroes, Falcio, Kest and Brasti, (the story is told in first person from Falcio's point of view) are Greatcoats. A Greatcoat is effectively a superhero in the low magic Italian Renaissance world which De Castell has created. A Greatcoat is something of a paladin. He, or more rarely she, is a person responsible only to King Paelis. A Greatcoat's job is to travel the land, settle disputes, dispense justice, provide/share education and ensure that everyone understands that the King's Law applies equally to everyone, rich or poor, noble or commoner. Everyone deserves dignity and protection of the law. Fighting is a Greatcoat's last option though they are incredibly skilled at combat. The Greatcoat is so called because of his titular clothing, which serves as a signifier of status, insulation and protection during bad weather, armor, and storage space for all sorts of hidden weapons, papers, devices, potions, etc.

Monday, May 9, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Oathbreaker

Jon Snow is back! And that is exactly the reaction that Davos and Melisandre (attired again in her normal revealing dress) have upon seeing him. Davos is the first to see Jon alive again. Both Davos and Melisandre are interested in knowing what Jon saw or remembers during his time in the afterlife but Jon remembers nothing. All he knows is that his fellow Night's Watch members murdered him and that Olly stabbed him in the heart. Jon is shocked and disoriented. He thinks he shouldn't be here. Melisandre thinks that if Jon is back he must be part of the Lord of Light's plan. Melisandre thinks that Jon is the Prince Who Was Promised. Jon doesn't know anything about that. Jon says he tried to do the right thing and got murdered for it so it must mean that he failed. Davos says that Jon must continue to do the right thing even he thinks he's failed. The Night's Watch members and Free Folk are suitably shocked and impressed to see Jon up and walking. Some of them think that Jon is a god. Sam and Gilly are on a ship to Oldtown. Sam is seasick. A lot. Gilly is watching him with big goo goo eyes. She is proud of being able to read. She explains to Sam her previous confusion about homophones like sea and see. Between upchucks Sam explains to Gilly that as women aren't actually allowed to be maesters he intends to take her to his former home, Horn Hill, where hopefully his kind mother will take her in. His mother doesn't actually make the decisions though. Sam's martinet father, Randyll Tarly does. So that plan is sorta iffy. Gilly doesn't care about Sam's well intentioned deception or his changing of plans without consulting her. She's like whatever Sam, just as long as I am around you. Gilly has absolute trust in Sam. Cute. Given this show's history though you wonder how long that is going to last. I must say Sam, if someone looks at you with love while you're puking your guts up then that woman is probably a keeper. Even if her son is her brother. Gilly has told Sam that she considers him to be the father of her child. And if's that not love then I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Tow Trucks and The Right to Refuse Service

This story below caught my eye because (a) it occurred near a city where I used to spend summer vacations as a child and (b) there is so much in the news these days about this or that group trying to financially harm another group with whom they disagree. It has almost become a tenet of faith among some on both the left and the right that you should not do business with people who do not see the world as you do. Obviously boycotts and the associated right to refuse service are important tools which citizens and businesses can use to bring about change in the world. I agree with some boycotts. But sometimes these tools can be used in the wrong way. I was always taught not to spend my money with people who make it clear by word or deed that they do not respect me. It is a simple thing to take your business elsewhere or if you are so inclined to start your own business to fill an unmet market niche. But what seems to be more in the news these days is that people are very angry about the very possibility of spending money with people who do not see the world as they do on every little issue. That's a completely different kettle of fish. It's one thing to decide that you're going to boycott a business because they are doing something you find objectionable or which actually harms someone or something in the world. But boycotting them because their CEO said something with which you disagree or has revealed himself to be politically aligned with THEM is not something I automatically support. Similarly a business has the right to refuse service to a customer for any number of reasons. The usual exclusions to this right are the things a customer can't do anything about-race, sex, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion etc (although even in those instances there are occasionally valid reasons for refusing service along those lines). But most businesses are trying to make money and usually don't go out of their way to refuse service for arbitrary reasons. But North Carolina tower Kenneth Shupe had what he thought were very good reasons for refusing to assist a woman whose car had broken down.
A North Carolina tow-truck driver is defending his decision to abandon a woman on the highway after noticing she was a Bernie Sanders supporter when he arrived to help her with her car.
Cassandra McWade experienced a minor car accident outside of Asheville on Monday, and local tower Kenneth Shupe was dispatched to the scene after she called for assistance. Shupe was about to load up the car, but then he noticed that McWade’s car had Sanders bumper stickers on it, and told her that he wasn’t going to help her after all.
“Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and he just said get in the truck and leave,” Shupe said. “And when I got in my truck, you know, I was so proud, because I felt like I finally drew a line in the sand and stood up for what I believed.”

Movie Reviews: They're Watching, Black Dynamite

They're Watching
directed by Micah Wright and Jay Lender

This is another found footage film. Obviously there is an immediate credibility issue with found footage films because (a) who is going to be taking pictures and video while they're running for their life and (b) who has time or interest to capture everything they're doing on a day even when they're not trying to stay alive. 

They're Watching rather adroitly steps around those issues by saving most of the mayhem for the ending and by offering a reasonable explanation for why all events before then are captured on video. You see the protagonists of this tale are a production team for a real estate show, imagine House Hunters International, who have traveled to the far reaches of Moldova to chronicle the adventures of an American woman, Becky (Brigid Brannagh), a pottery artist who has fallen in love both with a Moldovan soccer star, Goran (Cristian Balint) and a run down home in the forest that she intends to renovate. 

So obviously the production team and the Home Hunters Global star will always be recording. The team doesn't necessarily like each other all that much. The host and star of the show Kate Banks (Carrie Genzel) is a nerve grating phony when she's on camera and an annoying bully when she's not.

Her cameramen and production/sound assistants Greg (David Alpay) and Alex (Kris Lemche) have learned to tune out the worst of Kate's rants, usually by ingesting copious amounts of alcohol and chocolate but also by seeking companionship with local women. Well that last part is mostly Alex, who is unafraid of being rejected or making a fool of himself. Greg's a bit more sensitive. He's haunted by his time in Afghanistan. The group is led around Moldova by the local louche real estate agent Vladimir (Dimitri Diatchenko) who translates for them. The team returns to Moldova six months later to document for the show what Becky and Goran have done with their home. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

A House Divided

There's a weird phenomenon that happens in politics after a primary has concluded: people who were, only moments ago, kicking and punching each other to get to the nomination all of a sudden drop their weapons and start singing Kumbaya.  As human beings, it's unnatural for us to go from enemies to besties overnight.  People remember and hold grudges.  Some longer than others.  Don't believe me? Go watch The Godfather I and II.  Although this weird phenomenon is par for the course, there's something strange happening recently now that Donald Trump has effectively won the nomination for the Republican Party.  Members of the Republican Party who were at odds with Trump during the primary are not dropping their weapons.  They're not singing Kumbaya.  In fact they're doubling down on their opposition to their own party's Presidential nominee:

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he cannot yet support presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
"I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now," the Wisconsin Republican told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" in an interview.
Ryan's position makes him the highest-level GOP official to reject Trump since the real estate mogul became the last candidate standing in the party's nominating contest. His move gives down-ballot Republicans cover to hold off on supporting Trump. It could also keep his agenda in the House from being overtaken by Trump's policy positions.
Ryan said he hopes to eventually back Trump and "to be a part of this unifying process." The first moves, though, must come from Trump, he said.
Ryan said he wants Trump to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of."
"And we've got a ways to go from here to there," Ryan said.
Asked whether Trump's proposed Muslim ban, his opposition to free trade and his call to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants would preclude him from ever supporting Trump, Ryan said: "We got work to do."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cruz-Fiorina Drop Out

Per NY Times:

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than a month ago, Senator Ted Cruz seemed to have done it.
He had won Wisconsin. Former rivals were holding their noses to support him. He was dominating delegate elections, positioning himself for what seemed increasingly likely to be a floor fight at the Republican convention in July, as the campaign of Donald J. Trump fell into internal disarray.
“Tonight is a turning point,” Mr. Cruz said on primary night in Milwaukee. “It is a rallying cry.”
It was neither.
On Tuesday, Mr. Cruz ended his campaign, his loss in Indiana extinguishing any chance of denying Mr. Trump the nomination.
“Together we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got. But the voters chose another path,” he told supporters here as cries of “Nooo!” rained from the crowd. “Tonight, I am sorry to say, it appears that path has been closed.”

Sanders, You Gave It a Good Run But Time To Face the Math

I like Bernie Sanders.  No, really.  I like the guy.  He clearly has an appeal with young voters that cannot be denied, and his charisma is contagious across most other demographics.  That said, his policies are about as rooted in reality as Sarah Palin's claim to be a foreign policy expert because she can see Russia from Alaska.  Most of his ideas boil down to free stuff for the people.  Hey, who can't get behind that, right?  Who doesn't like free stuff?  If you want to pay off my student loans I'm sure as hell not going to stop you.  But that's not reality.  In the real world, SOMEBODY has to actually pay for the free stuff that the masses enjoy, and by "somebody" I mean you and me.  Or as the great Snoop Dogg once said "everybody got their cups but they ain't chipped in."  Hillary may not be the most likeable of candidates (understatement of the year) but at least she has been around long enough to know better than to make promises like free college for everybody.  Full disclosure, I'm not a Hillary fan either; she certainly comes with her own set of issues.  But let's set aside, for a moment, the subjective preferences we may or may not have towards one candidate or another.  Today I want to talk about math.  Yes, that subject that you were forced to learn all throughout your time in school but then never used again after you graduated (unless you were crazy enough to major in engineering like me, in which case you are just getting started on your never ending quest towards mathematical enlightenment).

As of today's post, love it or hate it, Hillary Clinton has 2,165 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination as the Democratic party's presidential candidate.  That's a difference of 218 delegates.  Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has 1,357 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nod.  That's a difference of 1,026 delegates.  As of today, there are 1,243 delegates still available in the Democratic primary.  Which means Bernie would have to win 83% of the remaining delegates in order to win the primary.  Conversely, Hillary would only have to win 17% of the outstanding delegates in order to win.  That's math.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Larry Wilmore, President Obama, The WHCD and Racial Slurs

Let's say that you invite a guest to your home. He says he needs to relieve himself. You inform him where the restroom is. But he says "No thanks, I keep it 100!" He then proceeds to remove his lower clothing and joyously defecate on your living room carpet. When you inform him that you have a BIG problem with what he just did he self-righteously accuses you of hypocrisy. After all, everyone has body functions. Why should he hide his? How dare you impose your hypocritical standards on him. He's a better person than you because he's honest. That admittedly imperfect analogy describes my feelings when I read that comedian and writer Larry Wilmore had used a form of a racial slur at the Saturday White House Correspondents Dinner to describe President Obama and his appreciation for the President. 

Wilmore, the host of Comedy Central's "The Nightly Report," used the term at the close of his comedy monologue at the annual glittery gathering of politicians, journalists, celebrities and dignitaries. He ended his 20 minutes of barbs with sincere personal remarks about what it means to see a black president in his lifetime. “When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback,” Wilmore said. “Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, I'm going to keep it a hundred. Yo Barry, you did it, my n---a." Wimore pounded his chest in a "peace out" gesture. Obama returned the gesture, laughed and rose from his seat to shake Wilmore's hand.
What sort of Jedi mind trick have racists done on black people so that not only do we call each other a racial slur that they created but we are proud to do so and consider it daring and revolutionary to do so in front of white people? In fact a big part of the reason that some of us want to use that word is just so we can go na-na-na-na at white people and say you can't say it so there!

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Home

Hey there. Remember Bran Stark? Well he's back. And he's apparently somewhere around 24. Ok well not really but his aging is quite noticeable. The show creators said that after this season they only think that they need maybe another 13 episodes to complete the story. They had better hurry because Bran and to a lesser extent Arya are really growing up quickly. I have a friend who is a bit perturbed that Bran's big plan seems to be to become a tree. Well there's more to it than that I hope but that is where we open up this episode. Bran and his creepy sensei the Three Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow) are in the weirwood tree roots. They are exploring the past together. Bran and the Three Eyed Raven watch a young Ned and Benjen Stark in the courtyard of Winterfell spar as their older brother Brandon offers pointers. Their sister Lyanna rides in to show off her equestrian skills before trying to get a young Hodor to practice with her brothers. It seems that Hodor was always large and good natured but he wasn't always simple. His name is Willas. He can speak as well as anyone. Old Nan puts the kibosh to Lyanna's idea, saying that Willas is just a stablehand and needs to focus on that. Bran wants to stay in the past longer and find out what happened to Willas/Hodor but the Three Eyed Raven pulls him back to the present. The Three Eyed Raven says there is danger in remaining for too long in the past. Meera is sitting outside, no doubt upset about her brother's death. Bran asks after her but Meera doesn't want to be bothered with Bran at the moment, even as a feral looking Child of the Forest girl tells her that Bran needs her. At Castle Black it's showdown time. Thorne tells the diehard Snow loyalists that either they come out or he's coming in. Davos and crew draw their swords. Ghost bares his very long and very sharp teeth. Thorne has his people start to break down the door. It's a very tense scene. But just as Thorne and company are about to kick through the damaged door, Dolorous Edd, Tormund and the wildlings arrive. They brought along one of their giant friends (Wun-Wun?) in case anyone starts to act stupid. Actually, someone does act stupid but after the giant decides to play racquetball with that man's head just about everyone else gets with the program. There's some skirmishes but Dolorous Edd orders Thorne and Olly and a few other people sent to the cells. Upon seeing Jon Snow's corpse a saddened Tormund says he will burn it.