Saturday, March 23, 2019

Movie Reviews: Never Grow Old

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

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

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

Andre Williams Passes Away

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

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

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

Grand Rapids Police and Teens Walking In Street

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

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

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

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

More Flat Earth Dummies

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

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

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

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

Why People Watch Birds

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

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

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: Unfriended 2: Dark Web

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

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

Movie Reviews: King of Thieves

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

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

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

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

President Trump and The Pimp

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

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

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Glass Wall

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

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

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

Movie Reviews: The Hole in the Ground

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

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

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

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

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Lannisters, Greyjoys, and Tyrells

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Lannister
HBO's Game of Thrones series, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire starts its final season on April 14th. The initial antagonist family pitted against the proud but sternly moralistic Starks was the sybaritic and equally proud but more numerous, wealthier, and far more vindictive Lannisters. Rich as a Lannister, A Lannister always pays his debts, and Hear Me Roar were just a few of the sayings associated with the Lannisters, who maintained firm control over the Westerlands and successfully made a power play for the Iron Throne, cuckolding the Baratheon King and arranging his death. 

The noble but hapless Ned Stark failed to prevent this. After all of the wars, murders, attempted murders, backstabbing, taboo breaking betrayals, intra-family squabbling and patricide, a Lannister still sits on the Iron Throne. Utterly pragmatic, Lannisters will use any tool to win-force, lies, money, sex, treachery. Just win baby.

As it turns out the Iron Throne may not be worth anything because Winter Is Coming And This Time We Really Mean It but Cersei Lannister has never been known for her ability to let go of old resentments. Nursing resentments is after all a Lannister family trait.  Cersei may be a mean drunk, not as intelligent as she thinks, and a nasty brother-f****r but she does seem to have learned something from having been previously outsmarted by the High Sparrow and her little brother Tyrion. In the last season it was Cersei who outplayed Tyrion, despite having an objectively weaker position during Daenerys' return. 

House Lannister is hanging onto power by a thread but as Cersei Lannister patiently explained to both Ned Stark and Littlefinger, maintaining power is the entire point of her existence. Either you have it or you don't. So where does House Lannister stand as the end game begins?

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Trailer #1

April 14th. Be there or be square dudes and dudettes!

Selfmade Kash Performs Self Own

You know, if you're going to be a criminal it's probably not the smartest thing to do to let everyone know that you're a criminal, brag about your criminal success, offer to teach others how to become successful criminals, and do everything just short of leaving a notarized confession of your crimes at the local police station to make sure the police and prosecutors know exactly who, what, when, where and why you've been doing. This kind of extravagant law breaking and taunting tends to annoy and embarrass the local police and prosecutors (especially if you didn't make sure they got their cut); they will go the extra mile to make certain that you are arrested, jailed, prosecuted and convicted. 

The most powerful and successful gangsters are usually the ones you either never heard of or who have everyone scared to say their name. The criminals who last aren't the ones on youtube or Instagram boasting about what they do. It is amazing to me that some people have such massive egos that they would rather let the entire world know of their alleged actions, even if that means they're going to be doing their thing in jail or prison. To this day no one knows who committed the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, who murdered Jimmy Hoffa, or who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. The people who did those things were smart enough to keep their f****g mouths shut. It remains an open question as to whether rap music causes low IQ or if people with low IQ cause rap music.

Detroit — Federal prosecutors threw shade at a Detroit rapper and self-professed god of credit card fraud Thursday by indicting the man, who fancied jewel-encrusted necklaces made out of credit cards and bragged about his alleged crimes on Instagram. Jonathan Woods, 25, who raps under the nickname “Selfmade Kash,” was charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of unauthorized access devices. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Boulder Police Officers Hold Black Man at Gunpoint For Cleaning His Own Property

Police detained a black Colorado man who was picking up trash outside his own home. A Boulder police officer questioned the man after spotting him Friday morning picking up trash with a clamper in a partially enclosed patio behind a “private property” sign, and he asked whether the man was authorized to be there, reported The Daily Camera.

The man, whose identity has not been released, told the officer he lived and worked in the building, and presented his school identification card, but the officer detained him for further investigation and called for additional assistance, saying the man was uncooperative. A roommate began recording the encounter, and video posted online shows the man trying to explain that he lives in the building and did not have a weapon.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me, because I’m picking up trash,” the man says. “I don’t have a weapon! This is a bucket, this is a clamp.”
“I’m not sitting down and you can’t make me,” the man says as additional officers arrive. “This is my property, this is my house — I live here.”

These incidents are exactly the sort of thing that made the Black Panthers form in the first place. They are excellent examples of how racism works. A  racist white person sees a black person and immediately assumes that the black person is up to no good. The white person then initiates force against the black person while also assuming that the black person is dangerous and has a weapon. Racism warps the mind so badly that items like cell phones, wallets, keys, skittle bags, or garbage-pickers are transmogrified into guns. And what happens when racist whites see a black man with a gun? Well, often this sort of incident ends with the black man being beaten or shot. Perhaps the only thing that prevented that in this case was the cops' knowledge that another white person was filming them.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Starks, Tullys, and Arryns

HBO's Game of Thrones series, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire starts its final season on April 14th. The Starks, Tullys, and Arryns all intermarried with one another. The Starks are the first family introduced and get the majority of the POV characters for much of the series in the books. They are even more the "good guys" in the TV series. They are clearly the people with whom the viewer and/or reader are meant to identify. And yet the Starks more than any other House, at least for much of the series, take it on the chin. They lose the War of the Five Kings. Their home is burned down. Later their home is under the control of monstrous rivals. Still there are a few Starks left alive. As Arya Stark pointed out "Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe." The Vale, under Littlefinger's influence, stayed out of the war. The Tullys also lost control of the Riverlands to the Freys (and Littlefinger). Which characters from these three Houses are still standing? Let's review:

Movie Reviews: Overlord

directed by Julius Avery
By WW2 Germany had one of the most scientifically advanced military forces in Europe and therefore the world. It is a fortunate irony that the Nazi anti-Semitism caused many European physicists, Jewish and non-Jewish, to flee to the United States, thus severely retarding German nuclear weapon research and development.

However, even without Jewish scientific assistance, German military scientists, doctors and technicians produced advanced deadly weapons such as the assault rifle, a speedier machine gun, thermobaric bombs, jet aircraft, Pervitin, and the first ICBM's. There were rumors of even more outrageous weapons and plans, such as a death ray mirror that would use the Sun's energy to incinerate cities, anti-gravity and time travel devices, and stealth fighters. Some of these were discussed in the fiction book Swastika by Michael Slade.  Overlord imagines that American paratroopers, tasked to destroy a German radio tower on the eve of D-Day, discover a secret sinister Nazi military program.

Overlord, much like Tarantino's WW2 film Inglorious Basterds, is unashamedly anachronistic. The hero is a Black paratrooper serving in an integrated unit.  The company first sergeant is also a Black man. In real life, all US military branches were officially racially segregated during the war. Although some segregation broke down during combat, there weren't any units that were by design integrated. 

Music Reviews: Pacific Gas & Electric

Pacific Gas & Electric, later known as PG&E after some unpleasant legal interactions with the utility company of the same name, was a late sixties/early seventies band based in blues-rock with a side order of soul and gospel. The band wasn't one which I think really stood out for instrumental virtuosity or songwriting skills. I think the band was worthwhile because of the soulful voice of the primary singer, Charlie Allen. The band was unusual then and now because it was racially integrated. 

I suppose this made it more difficult to get radio play as Allen's voice was unmistakably "black" while some of the guitar work sounded very "white". So perhaps the band was often too "black" for white radio and too "white" for black radio. So it goes. The band had broken up by the mid seventies. I don't think any of the band members ever truly hit the big time. Few musicians do. That's life. But there were two songs of theirs which I liked a lot. The first is "Death Row #172", a bluesy lament in which a Vietnam Veteran on Death Row wonders about his approaching end, how he got there, and what happens next.

I like this song because it's a reminder that people can do evil things and yet not be evil themselves. We can all fall from grace. I also love the bass line. Bass should always be heard and felt I say. The lyrics are pretty introspective. I'm not on death row but I do occasionally find myself listening to this song when I'm wondering about life decisions. Hope can sometimes arise in what looks like hopeless situations.

Lake Michigan Wind and Waves

This is what 40 MPH winds and 12 foot waves look like. The Great Lakes are more inland seas than what most people think of when someone uses the word lake. There's a lot of natural beauty in the world if you only take time to appreciate it.

Howard Webb Delivers Spicy Salsa

How well do you know the people who handle your fast food delivery or orders at a favorite restaurant? Do you think that they like you? Because some of them don't like you very much. And occasionally they are eager and willing to show how much they don't like you.

Are you confident that your immune system is in tip top condition? Are your body's white blood cells just fighting fools ready to kill anything in your body that isn't you? If they aren't then you might consider avoiding food that you didn't prepare yourself. Anyone stupid enough to film this kind of stuff probably isn't smart enough to be preparing or delivering your food anyway. I guess we're just lucky this fellow didn't add any special sauce. 

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Howard Matthew Webb is not the kind of guy you want delivering your food, if a Blount County warrant is to be believed. A complaint prepared Feb. 22 by Maryville Police Department Investigator Rod Fernandez alleges Webb rubbed his testicles in a cup of salsa during a Dinner Delivered food delivery. He faces a felony charge of adulteration of food, liquids or pharmaceuticals. Webb was taken into custody Feb. 22 and was still being held Tuesday in jail.

Women File Class Action Lawsuit Against Yale and Fraternities

I think that many reactionary rants against today's litigious society are often veiled attempts to defend someone doing wrong. If a corporation is price gouging for insulin or deliberately selling bad meat to an unsuspecting public then the courts and lawyers absolutely have a role to play. 

But there are some complaints and conflicts where I believe that the courts and lawyers and state should stay out. If a man attends a "gentlemen's club" of his own free will it is ridiculous for the man to turn around and sue the club for sexual harassment because young women lacking clothes displayed themselves to him. That's the point of such clubs. It would also be a reach for the man to sue the city where the club was located for allowing this supposed sexual harassment. And it would seem unbelievable for the man to claim that the club was the only social venue in town and thus he had no choice but to go to the club.

And yet something very similar is happening at Yale.

Three Yale students who claim they were groped at fraternity parties have filed a class-action lawsuit against the university, arguing the school has fostered an environment where alcohol-fueled gatherings at off-campus fraternity houses dictate the undergraduate social scene.

While the New Haven, Conn., university presents itself as a campus where fraternities are not a major presence, the lawsuit states that few options besides fraternity parties exist for women who want to socialize and meet other students. Joan Gilbride, a lawyer for the fraternities named in the lawsuit, said the accusations are “baseless and unfounded,” and that the fraternities and their national organizations would vigorously defend themselves against the claims.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Movie Reviews: The First Purge

The First Purge
directed by Gerard McMurry
In his satirical novel Breakfast of Champions the late author Kurt Vonnegut wrote that many White Americans thought of Black Americans as obsolete farm machinery which they sadly couldn't discard. There are other novels and movies which have depicted a dystopic future in which the Black American population is reduced, transferred, or eliminated.

President Abraham Lincoln proposed encouraging Blacks to go to Africa. Many people across the political spectrum have agitated for formal separation between Black and White. And there are some people who, convinced that there are simply too many Blacks breathing up the white man's air, want to get rid of Blacks permanently. This latest installment in the Purge series is a prequel, thus the title. But it is also the first film to unabashedly center Black people and make it clear that the primary purpose of the purge is to reduce the number of Black people in America. 

This movie unsubtly reminds the viewer that until the 1930s~1940s or so "race riots" usually meant that large numbers of white people would violently attack much smaller numbers of Black people for the slightest provocation, real or imagined. It was only in the 1960s that "race riots" came to mean blacks rioting, burning and looting. This movie might not exist if not for the commercial success of Get Out. The movie lacks white heroes, something unusual for American films. The First Purge shows the viewer  a possible future where, under the guise of colorblind policy, America decides to reduce the "useless eaters" population, aka Black and Brown people.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Symone Sanders tells Black Men to Shut Up

It's difficult to imagine a mainstream commentator rhetorically wondering who asked all these big mouthed Black women for their opinion, asking why they kept popping up, and then insulting a particular Black woman's intelligence and credentials simply because he happened to disagree with the point she was making.

It's almost impossible to imagine someone saying that about White Women, Jewish Americans or almost any other group and moving on like nothing took place. Usually the person would have to apologize. And if the apology was not sufficiently abject, the person who had made such comments would likely lose their job. In fact there are people who would insist that apology or no, the person should lose their job. But if you dismiss Black men as alleged political commentator Symone Sanders recently did then you can usually avoid making any retraction or apology. And losing your job isn't even on the agenda. 

This is yet another reason why I think it's beyond stupid to talk non-ironically about "black male privilege" or "black male patriarchy" in America. Those things don't exist. If they did then Symone Sanders might keep a more civil tongue in her head when it came to black men.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Alabama Newspaper Calls For KKK Murders

Although with Mississippi in the running it will always be a tough battle each year I think that Alabama has temporarily regained its spot as Number One Shi*hole state. 

Officials in Alabama are calling for a small-town newspaper editor to resign because of an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize Washington, D.C. Goodloe Sutton, the editor and publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Ala., wrote the editorial titled “Klan needs to ride again” that ran in the paper last week.
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” read the Feb. 14 editorial. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. They do not understand how to eliminate expenses when money is needed in other areas. This socialist-communist idealogy [sic] sounds good to the ignorant, and uneducated, and the simple minded-people.”
“Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there,” concluded Sutton. “They call them compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
This was a remake of an early seventies film. It's a dark romantic comedy. The film has some low rent humor, typical for the Farrelly Brothers. 

Unlike most genre films this movie didn't shy away from making at least two of the people in the love triangle somewhat unlikable. YMMV on this but it's essential to the story. This movie reverses the usual "..and then they lived happily ever after" motif  to investigate what happens after two people meet and fall in love. It's a different challenge/question. 

It's easy to fall in love with someone when they are clean, sharp dressed, and shaking their tail feathers. It's more difficult to stay in love and accept someone else's occasional bad moods, unpleasant biological functions and chronic irritating habits that could drive even the most patient spouse into sputtering incoherent rage. The first is infatuation. It may not last that long. The second is real love, but usually takes more time to develop.

Eddie (Ben Stiller) is a San Francisco sports shop owner. Eddie is lonely but afraid of settling down and getting married. His married friends treat Eddie with pity and contempt. Eddie's widower father Doc (Jerry Stiller-Ben Stiller's father) is a playboy. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Glendale Police Tase Man 11 Times Just For Fun

Although the most charged scenarios of police brutality which get the most community attention often involve white cops and black citizens there is a deeper problem with police across the United States that sees far too many of them ready, willing, and eager to harass, bully, brutalize, sexually assault, humiliate, and even kill anyone who is not a police officer, race not withstanding. This recent example of white-on-white police violence in Glendale came to light. The disturbing things are 
  1. How the police are wrong on the law and attempt to breeze past that by resorting to the "Because I said so! " response (passengers in traffic stops are not required to give id)
  2. How quickly the police move from semi-aggressive language to ultra-violence. For too many police any response that doesn't start and end with "Yassuh boss" is reason for beating, tasing and/or arrest. 
  3. How sexually sadistic the police are in this incident-pulling down the man's pants and underwear to apply the taser to his behind and genitals. Think about it. A police officer who is sworn to uphold the law decided that it would be a good idea to tase someone's genitals.
This was rough to watch and even more frightening to experience I am sure. It is critically important that Americans stop hero worshipping the police. Some police are just thugs with badges. We must demilitarize the police. We must train police better on knowing the law and following the law. And we must harshly punish police when they break the law. Perhaps the fact that in this case the victim was Caucasian will convince some people to get their head out of their fundament as far police violence goes. The victim is not an angel. But he did not deserve what happened to him. Of course if Wheatcroft had been Black the police would probably have just shot him thirty times and called it a day. So there's that I guess. State sponsored brutality that is encouraged and tolerated against Black people often ends up being employed against white people.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: Wetlands

directed by Emanuele Della Valle
Adebisi and Rollergirl come together to make a middling modern noir.
How many movies feature an oncoming storm as metaphor and warning for the changes that are about to impact the characters and alter their life forever. More than I can remember right this instant. It's a pretty common plot device. 

This film uses that device. It is reminiscent of the pseudo noir Key Largo, recently reviewed here. In Key Largo, a gangster trying to recover past glories holds the guests of a hotel hostage while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall. In Wetlands, a troubled cop is held hostage by his past failings and must try to move beyond them--while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall.

I thought the movie might have gone a little too far in making the protagonist so morally dark. A lot of the dialogue was meh. There is violence but it's not shown as anything other than something which is horrible. It leaves marks on people-both the people who suffer it and those who commit it. 

Unfortunately the director and cinematographer made a very visually dark movie. It can be difficult to see what's going on in many scenes. Obviously they likely did this on purpose to impress upon the moral murkiness of the goings on in the story. I just thought they overdid it.

Movie Reviews: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks
directed by Bruce Evans
Sometimes actors can get bored doing the same type of roles. This 2007 movie was a definite step away from the serenely moral aw shucks folksy patriarchs that make up a lot of Kevin Costner's filmography. 

However, this film still lets Costner play a protective decent family man, although a very twisted one.  

It was a fine piece of acting and perhaps something you should watch if you've never seen Costner portray wicked characters. This wasn't really a hit IIRC. Some would argue that's because Costner isn't a very compelling actor. I would disagree with that. It is true that this film wasn't what most people wanted to see from Costner. But Costner's alleged lack of range works for this role as his character is very tightly wrapped indeed.

Earl Brooks (Costner) is the middle aged CEO of a packaging/boxing company. Earl is a good man, or so it seems. Earl is a philanthropist. He's solicitous of his workforce; Earl has so far resisted selling out to East Asians or outsourcing work overseas. Although Earl is a multimillionaire he's still married to Emma (Marg Helgenberger), a woman in his own age range, instead of a much younger lady. Earl is faithful to Emma. 

Florida Woman Harasses Men

Often when there are news stories about a (usually attractive) female teacher or corporate exec harassing, seducing, or propositioning the teen boys or men that she instructs or supervises, we'll see a sizable proportion of comments apparently from men wondering where the hell these teachers were when the men were young or suggesting that if their female boss or supervisor looked that good she could harass them to her heart's content and then some. I don't think this particular incident will bring out too many comments of that type.

MADEIRA BEACH — In a move that echoes national #metoo headlines, former City Commissioner Nancy Oakley was strongly censured and reprimanded by her former colleagues for violating state ethics rules by groping and licking the face of a former city manager. In issuing the reprimand, the City Commission Wednesday night also accepted Oakley’s resignation submitted to the city the previous day.The incident that led to Oakley’s resignation occurred more than five years ago during a prior term in office. Oakley apparently objected to a growing relationship between Crawford and his assistant, Cheryl McGrady, who are now married.

Oakley, who has admitted she had been drinking, demanded at one point that McGrady leave a public event. Later, Oakley took a swing at McGrady, who had complained that she was sexually harassing Crawford, including licking his face starting at the base of his neck. Crawford did not file a formal complaint until much later, when Oakley ran for office again.

Trump Tax Hike on Middle Class

Some Trump voters are shocked and upset that the Trump Tax Cut is hurting them.

It’s February which means it’s officially everyone’s favorite time of year: tax season! And while most of us will be putting off tracking down our W-2’s until early April, some people have already managed to file their taxes. And among those early birds, many in the middle class have been shocked to find that instead of the nice little chunk of change they were expecting with their return, they actually owe money to Uncle Sam. What’s the reason for this financial switcheroo? 

It stems from President Trump’s tax reform, which was passed in 2017 and was touted by Trump and the GOP as a win for the middle class. However, with the new tax system now in place, Americans are discovering that most of the tax relief from the bill is actually being experienced by corporations. 

Meanwhile, many people are seeing an increase in taxes due to the bill eliminating many of the deductions that were used by middle-class families in order to lower the amount of taxes they were required to pay. Most notably, the tax reform placed a cap on deductions for taxes on both state and local levels.

Michigan Fan Keeps It Real

It's very important that from an early age a person learns how to stand up for his beliefs, no matter how many people say that he's wrong. After all as the possibly apocryphal saying goes, one man with courage is a majority.

ANN ARBOR, MI – It’s an unspoken rule that wearing maize and blue is a no-no in the heart of Buckeye country. That didn’t stop second-grader Jackson Winters from fearlessly dressing head to toe in support of his favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, during a recent “dress in your favorite team colors” day at Tree of Life Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.
Seeing him rocking a fleece Michigan blanket as a cape to show his powerful love for the Wolverines amid a sea of scarlet and gray, made Jackson’s father, Kyle, beam with pride.
“It’s a total battle of nature vs. nurture,” Kyle Winters said. “We are trying to train him in the way we believe he should be brought up - as a Wolverine - but obviously living in a town that is saturated with Buckeyes.” Jackson’s courageous maize and blue ensemble was rewarded with a first-place prize during the recent spirit day. “They were pretty nice about it, but they gave me a hard time,” Jackson said. LINK
Good for Jackson for having the courage to be himself and good for the other children who are secure enough not to try to bully everyone into thinking and behaving as they do. Likely some people on twitter could learn a thing or two from these kids.

Homelessness, Poverty and Groundcover

How are we going to solve the problem of poverty. Is it just a question of bad individual choices? For some people, it certainly is. For others it's not. An overemphasis on individual decisions can lead people to miss the big picture. 

MLK wrote that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Doing the work of "restructuring" is very dangerous and very tiring. Sometimes it is easier to concentrate on the small changes that you can make. And there's nothing wrong with that I think.  Although it is good that this non-profit organization is taking individual steps to assist people I still think that the entire society must make institutional changes so that people who have reached advanced age or who have fallen on hard times have a more robust safety net.  

I'm not sure that selling papers in freezing weather is all that different from panhandling. But if this project has helped some people transition into business owners or higher paid employees I can't say anything negative about it. We all just need to do more, that's all.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial/NFL 100 Commercial

Super Bowl 53 wasn't that exciting unless you are into defensive struggles. Most viewers probably aren't. And it was questionable as to whether the defenses were that good or the offenses were that bad. The New England Patriots won 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams, giving Patriots QB and University of Michigan alum Tom Brady his 6th championship ring, possibly cementing a claim to be the best QB of all time. 

I thought most of the Super Bowl commercials were blah and boring, just like large portions of the game. There were two commercials which I thought were amusing. Both of them required that the viewer was familiar with famous events/people from NFL history or iconic dramatic moments from HBO's current signature series. I liked that. At least in that way neither commercial insulted the viewer's intelligence.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

IRS Scammer Prank Call

For at least a decade and a half if not longer there has been an apparently lucrative scam business originating primarily from various locations in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) in which telemarketers call American citizens and pretend to be the IRS or Social Security Agency or some other federal agent. The script is unvarying. 

The fake agent claims that the citizen hasn't paid his taxes or that his SS# has been used in a fraud and cancelled. The fake agent may not even have the citizen's real SS# which is why they are usually quite eager to get it from the citizen. The scammer threatens the citizen with immediate arrest. Of course the scammer can fix this problem if the citizen will transfer some money into an account, give the scammer access to his or her bank account, or best of all transfer money onto gift cards. But the citizen had better do this quick because the police are on their way right now. 

This is of course all bs. But evidently enough people still fall for it for people to keep on doing it. The obvious foreign accents, horrible pronunciation, and utter unfamiliarity with the basic facts of American life and culture should be enough to clue anyone in on the fact that this is a scam, let along the fact that the FBI, IRS or SS Administration do not call people and shake them down for gift cards. But every year, particularly at tax time, people get these calls.

(WXYZ) — Authorities in Novi and Northville are warning residents of an ongoing phone scam circulating in the area. Police say an individual claiming to be an IRS representative demands that you transfer money in the form of gift cards to avoid being arrested. The scammers are able to generate phone numbers with local area codes, increasing your likelihood of answering.

Police departments will not call residents to discuss tax issues. Also, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or threaten to arrest you. Do not give out your personal information, police say.

Book Reviews: November Road

November Road
by Lou Berney
You may or may not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who murdered John F. Kennedy and Officer Tippit before being murdered in turn by Jack Ruby. It is a fact that powerful mob bosses Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santo Trafficante Jr. of Tampa both despised JFK and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. In 1962 and 1963 each boss made impassioned predictions (really threats) to their associates that JFK was going to be murdered soon and implied that they and/or their friends would have something to do with it.

Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby had tenuous connections to both southern mob bosses. Ruby was also a low level flunky to the Chicago Outfit fronted by noted psychopath and JFK hater Sam Giancana. All three Mafia leaders were involved with the anti-Castro Cuban exile movement and CIA sponsored abortive attempts to murder Castro and invade Cuba. So there's a lot of smoke there. November Road asks the reader to imagine that there's not only smoke but also fire.

Frank Guidry is a loyal (well loyal to money and himself) lieutenant of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Frank doesn't handle murder or any heavy work. Frank is a fixer and arranger. He greases the corruption wheels to get things done across Carlos' domains. Frank and Carlos go back. But Frank's first loyalty is to Frank. When an old friend suddenly pops up begging for Frank to hide him from Carlos' executioners, Frank offers help but promptly divulges his friend's location to his bosses. People might have seen them together; Frank doesn't want any misunderstandings with the notoriously exacting, brutal, and unforgiving Carlos. Frank wants to live, dammit! He may only have a life of empty hedonism but Frank believes that's better than the alternative.

But when another New Orleans mob associate catches a sudden case of death, Frank is worried enough to look for some similarities. The common thread is Dallas. Each man had performed some task in Dallas that, however minor, could be linked to the JFK assassination. Frank dropped off a car in Dallas. Frank didn't think anything of it at the time. He wore gloves while driving the car, but there are people who might remember him. Frank is smart enough to guess who later used this car.

Fraud Fakes Fall and Faces Felony

You have to wonder about people who spend so much of their time, energy and resources trying to rip off other people. It seems that it would just be easier to make your money legally like most other people. But some folks think that they are smarter than everyone else and don't need to be restricted by the same rules. 

Occasionally those people get away with it. Some even get elected President. Other times though they just make a fool out of themselves and wind up explaining their story to the judge. One Mr. Alexander Goldinsky forgot that you don't see everybody who sees you.

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A New Jersey man is facing charges after he was caught on camera throwing ice on the ground and faking a slip and fall in an alleged fraud scheme. The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Alexander Goldinsky, 57, was working as an independent contractor at a business in Woodbridge when a security camera recorded the incident. The footage shows Goldinsky throw ice on the ground, carefully arrange himself on the floor and then wait to be discovered. 

Racist Detroit White Cop Humiliates Black Woman

Racism isn't just about committing genocide or hurling racial slurs in a never ending Tourette's spasm. It's also about refusing to extend the same courtesy to someone else that you would extend to a member of your own or more preferred group. It's about enforcing the law to the full extent without exceptions when it comes to THEM but being reasonable when it comes to US. Although Michigan is a great state it is also in many ways the Mississippi of the Midwest when it comes to race, though Indiana and Ohio are always in the running. One thing which my parents and other older people always stressed to me was to follow rules as best I could because usually many of the people enforcing the rules would have no mercy on me for even a minor violation. They wouldn't give me the benefit of the doubt. I learned that to be true. 

What strikes me about this story is not the fact that the officer made a legitimate traffic stop. It's that the white officer took pleasure in humiliating and insulting a black woman. Yes, regardless of race, everyone should always keep their driver's license, vehicle registration and insurance paperwork up to date and paid in full. I certainly do. But I think that in this case the officer would have found something else with which to harass the young woman. He could have let her go with a warning. He could have written a citation and kept it moving. He chose the most serious penalty (impounding) and also chose to insult the woman.

Detroit — A Detroit police officer has been reassigned while the department investigates racially-charged comments made during a traffic stop and posted to the officer's social media this week. The alleged incident happened during a traffic stop near Joy Road and Stout Street on the city's west side Tuesday night, police said. Officer Gary Steele pulled over Ariel Moore, 23, for an expired registration on her license plate and seized her vehicle. He told Moore to exit the vehicle and that it would be towed. Moore walked about a block to her home in below freezing weather.