Saturday, November 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: Midsommar

directed by Ari Aster
This is another trippy, generally intelligent horror movie directed by Ari Aster, who previously directed Hereditary. Aster leaves bread crumbs throughout the movie in the forms of stylized murals, drawings, and blunt comments that hint at future events. 

Like Hereditary, Midsommar isn't the typical American horror film with jump scares, nubile young students who are murdered during sex, or people who do utterly stupid things just to move the plot forward, though some might disagree with that last point. 

Midsommar is similar to the original film version of The Wicker Man, but as the director has confirmed, much of his film's unease stems not from mayhem but rather from the mutual knowledge that a relationship is dying. If you have lived long enough you've probably been both the relationship dumper and the dumpee.  Neither one is fun. Stuff happens.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is a college student with emotional and psychological problems. She is emotionally needy because of strained relationships with her sister and parents. Dani's phlegmatic grad student boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), is unsure about remaining Dani's special rider. 

Parasitic Worms Infect Woman's Eye

The author Scott Sigler recently featured this story on his Facebook page. I thought it was worth sharing here. 

Although the story is as far as I know 100% real, it has some very obvious similarities to one of Sigler's books in which a protagonist armed with nothing else but a University of Michigan education, chicken scissors, and a very bad attitude must remove some very nasty parasites from his body. 

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Humans have enough problems. It is kind of scary that we seem to be becoming vulnerable to problems that should be reserved for completely different species. A woman went running and as runners are occasionally prone to do ran through a swarm of flies. She swatted them away from her face and spit them out of her mouth. This sort of thing happens all the time. No harm, no foul right?  Wrong.

A 68-year-old woman returned from a trail run in California with irritation in her right eye. She proceeded to do what anyone does when their eye is irritated and flushed it out with water. The woman then discovered something horrific in her eye –– a half-inch long worm, according to a new report of the case published in the journal Clinical Infectious. 

Detroit Slumlord Michael Kelly Continues to Profit

The city of Detroit, my hometown, can be akin to the Wild Wild West when it comes to basic things such as the buying, selling, renting, and maintaining of property. Local ordinances and state laws tend to be biased towards landlords and/or the wealthy. 

Because Detroit is physically a huge place, six times larger than Manhattan, twice as large as Brooklyn, and about one and half times the size of Boston, the relevant regulators lack the time or resources (or often the interest) to catch enough bad actors to enforce compliance. 

As drivers know, the mere knowledge that police whom you see and don't see are occasionally watching you can "convince" you to travel at or around the posted speed limits. But if people knew that police generally weren't watching or could only give $5 tickets when they caught someone doing 95mph, then more and more people would speed.

Many Black Detroit homeowners are caught in a vicious cycle. They weren't earning a lot thanks to job market discrimination. Banks also discriminated against Blacks by trapping them into mortgages with higher interest and fees than their credit scores justified. This left them with less money available to repair their homes or ride out job loss or medical emergencies. Making matters worse the City of Detroit maintained very high property taxes to try to make up for white flight and increasingly black flight. When downturns occurred many Detroiters ended up losing their homes and had to become renters. Many then became tenants of people like Michael Kelly.

Darlene Spells let out an exaggerated sigh as her son Corey peeled away the black tarp lining the front wall of the living room. Behind the plastic, where one would typically expect some sort of plaster sheeting, thin slats of wood lay stacked like rotting Lincoln Logs.

Michael Bloomberg Running For President?

Sometimes I wish that instead of going into the increasingly unremunerative field of accounting related information technology I had started a polling business marketed at telling arrogant billionaires what they wanted to hear. 

Because the only reason that Michael Bloomberg could possibly think that he could become President is that he paid a lot of money to have someone tell him that he could win. Bloomberg apparently believes that Americans will be lining up to vote for a supercilious paternalistic control freak with a stop-and-frisk fetish. If Bloomberg does officially enter the race and wind up on the debate stage, don't be surprised if his security detail makes an immediate beeline to stop and frisk Senator Cory Booker. Never can be too sure you know.

Michael R. Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary and is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state with an early filing deadline, people briefed on Mr. Bloomberg’s plans said.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, has been privately weighing a bid for the White House for weeks and has not yet made a final decision on whether to run, an adviser said. But in the first sign that he is seriously moving toward a campaign, Mr. Bloomberg has dispatched staffers to Alabama to gather signatures to qualify for the primary there. Though Alabama does not hold an early primary, it has a Friday deadline for candidates to formally enter the race.

Porcupine Won't Share His Corn

Did you ever see someone try to take something from a porcupine and hear the porcupine tell the person to go f*** themselves? Well now you have.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Clinton Smears Gabbard as Republican and Russian Stooge

Recently, former Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton slithered out of hiding to accuse current Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard of being a favorite of the Russians and of being groomed by the Russians. Clinton also said that former Presidential candidate Jill Stein was a Russian asset. 

The relevant quotes are below. Clinton later said she was misunderstood and that she meant the Republicans, not the Russians, were grooming Gabbard. She didn't make any corrections on her accusations about Jill Stein. 

Clinton: "Well, I think there's going to be two parts and I think it's going to be the same as 2016: ..

"They're also going to do third party again. And I'm not making any predictions but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up. Which she might not, 'cause she's also a Russian asset."

Katie Hill Resigns

Katie Hill was the US Congressional Representative (Democratic) from California's 25th District. She resigned effective November 1. 

She resigned because (1) it recently became public knowledge that she was schtupping a female former campaign staffer, (2) Hill, who is bisexual, was apparently sharing this woman with her soon to be ex-husband, (3) there are allegations that Hill was also doing the do with a male Congressional staffer, (4) Hill was apparently engaging in marijuana usage, and (5) The British tabloid/newspaper The Daily Mail featured pics of Hill in various stages of undress being affectionate with the other woman and showing off what appears to be an Iron Cross tattoo in a place that you just won't see unless Hill REALLY likes you. 

Now strictly speaking the Iron Cross is not an inherent signifier of white supremacy or racism. But so many white supremacists and racists have adorned themselves with the Iron Cross that seeing such a tattoo may give one pause. It certainly makes me think differently.

Now each person has to judge their own heart. We all have different sex drives and needs. Some people can build stable multi-partner relationships where everyone is getting what they need emotionally, sexually, financially, romantically, etc. I don't know any such people personally but I know that they exist. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult I don't care how folks get down.

Opening Funnel Web Spider Sac

These creatures were bred in captivity in part so that humans could make more anti-venom. I am a little taken aback not just by the sheer alien appearance of the spiders but more so by the fact that for some reason Mother Nature has created an animal that despite being no larger than two inches at most, can quickly kill a primate dead with a tiny bit of venom. 

And humans being primates are certainly vulnerable to this. One might think that we'd be large enough so that this venom might only be a minor irritation or that since we aren't the spider's prey that like many other animals, we'd be completely immune to the venom of the Funnel Web Spider. But no dice. Even being exponentially larger than this animal is no protection for us. 

Apparently the males do the majority of the biting and are the particularly venomous ones. This looks like something from the films Alien or The Thing but it's just real life. Unlike with puppies or kittens I don't think very many humans will be lining up to ooh or ahh over these new additions to our planet.

The bite of a Sydney funnel web spider is at first painful, due to the large fangs and acidic pH of the venom. If there is no immediate treatment symptoms may arise beginning 10 minutes after the bite. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Book Reviews: Guilty Minds

Guilty Minds
by Joseph Finder
This thriller novel was a good comfort read. I knew what to expect and it delivered. Joseph Finder is an author whom I'm starting to really appreciate, as previously detailed here and here. This is a later installment in a series, but it stands on its own. You don't need to have read the previous books to enjoy this one.

There are bits and pieces of back story doled out at certain places in the novel but Finder never allows this to interfere with the plot. There aren't pages and pages detailed what happened in prior books. 

The story is written in first person which is often, but not necessarily a hint that the storyteller survives. This story kept the reader up in the air about things as long as possible. So that was good. This book was just under 400 pages and a pretty quick read. 

The only time I thought the story pace slowed was in a few places where Finder demonstrated that he had done his research and then some on the relevant laws, technologies, and tactics which apply in the legal netherworld which he describes. All of that is important for a sense of realism but once or twice I caught myself wanting to get back to the next piece of excitement in the story.

Nick Heller is a Boston based private investigator/intelligence operative. He also happens to be former Special Forces. Nick makes a decent living helping people find the truth of matters, or occasionally helping people hide legal things they'd rather not have made public.

There is a slight chance that Nick might be working thru some guilt engendered by some of his actions during his military service or perhaps family guilt caused by having an amoral father imprisoned for white collar crimes. I'd have to read the other books in the series to see if that's truly the case. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Movie Reviews: Human Desire

Human Desire
directed by Fritz Lang
This film re-unites the cool as ice award winning stars of Lang's The Big Heat, Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. Unlike The Big Heat, which features an almost straightforward cast of good guys and bad guys, Human Desire is a more self-consciously noir film, perhaps even one with an understated proto-feminist stance. 

Once again, Grahame plays a woman for whom the John Lee Hooker lyric "She wiggles when she walks! She wiggle!" was likely invented but her character here is less self-assured and to my mind much more sympathetic than many of her other performances. Grahame is more than the bad girl with a sharp tongue and taste for furs that she was in The Big Heat.

If this movie were remade today it would almost certainly have a different ending and likely "corrected" sex stereotypes that would be just as cartoonish as some of the sex stereotypes of the 50s were. So it goes. This film's issues resonate today. I am amazed by how slender the cast was. Obviously I noticed this first in the women but very few men were overweight either. Sugar, fast food and massive portion sizes have warped our society, but that's another post.

Jeff Warren (Ford) is a train engineer and war vet. Back from Korea, a happy Jeff has resumed working. Jeff rents a room from his good friends Alec and Vera Simmons (Edgar Buchanan and Diane Delaire). 

Movie Reviews: The Crazies

The Crazies
directed by Breck Eisner
This is a Saturday afternoon movie in the best sense of the word. It's also a remake of a 70s movie. This 2010 film didn't waste much time with characterization or for that matter plot. 

It's a zombie film in all but name; the difference is that the infected don't always move slowly, have no desire to eat human flesh, and were not previously dead. 

The film touches on the paranoia that some people have about federal government. At the very minimum the film suggests that some of that paranoia might be justified. This film works the same side of the street as the Resident Evil film series. It has less action but is more realistic in terms of violence.

David (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) are the sheriff and primary care doctor, respectively, of the small Iowa town of Ogden Marsh. The couple doesn't make much, but they didn't take the jobs to get rich. They're there to help people. Sometimes this means not arresting people who are hunting out of season or letting a nurse (Danielle Panabaker) take off work early to rendezvous with her boyfriend.

Baseball is a sign of spring. At a high school baseball game many townspeople are in attendance when a man armed with a shotgun walks onto the field. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Fall
directed by Mark Robson
We often admire heroes who refuse to compromise their principles even when faced with economic ruin or physical danger. 

We can get a thrill reading about Nat Turner or Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, people who literally spit in the face of their oppressors and decided to die rather than live unfree. But most people aren't like that. Most people will compromise to continue eating. Almost everyone will compromise to continue living. People who stand up to certain death are rare. 

No one is perfect. Even heroes make mistakes. Some heroes tried to go along to get along, merrily selling out their ideals along the way, until they reached that one choice that they can't rationalize. They then rediscover what is right. They may be morally stained, but I think they're still heroic figures.

This film is based on a book written by the screenwriter Budd Schulberg, famous for his On The Waterfront screenplay. The Harder They Fall also shows the viewer an industry that is dominated by mobsters and their employees.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Movie Reviews: John Wick 3

John Wick 3
directed by Chad Stahelski
Sequels are rarely as good as the original or proceed in a way that logically grows from the original movie. John Wick 3 is an exception to that rule. The film's only negative was that the special effects created for the numerous head shots the titular character inflicts on the mostly nameless mooks trying to kill him look like video game simulations. 

That reduces some emotional intensity but that's a small quibble. This movie, which shows everybody and their brother trying to kill John Wick, reaches for but does not quite match the ferocity of the Indonesian movies The Raid and The Raid 2. It gives multiple shout outs to those films, though, both via some of the action set pieces and a cameo from an actor from those movies.

This review requires a quick recap of the first two movies. In the first film John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired assassin who formerly worked for the Russian Mafia. His wife just died. The last thing she gave him was a dog. In a particularly unfortunate sequence of events, the son of John Wick's old boss decided to steal John Wick's car. Just to be mean he also killed John Wick's dog.

Needless to say this person did not know who John Wick was. As his father explained to his sub-moronic son, John Wick was the man you send to kill the boogeyman. Mugging the Monster is never a good idea. Wick went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, eliminating every member of the organization that used to employ him. 

Movie Reviews: The Letter

The Letter
directed by William Wyler
Some people seem to believe that women can never lie about anything involving sex or that if they do it's no big deal because after all women as a group are oppressed. At the extremes some such folks express hostility towards to the concepts of innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt or an adversarial justice system. Some honestly think anyone who would defend himself too vigorously against a sexual assault charge is proving that he must have committed the crime. 

Other people have the intelligence or integrity not to go that far but point out that most rape or sexual assault charges are not deliberate lies. So some people wonder about the motives of people who become wondrously wroth over the rare proven false rape charges.

None of us are immune to bias. We believe the best of our friends, relatives and lovers. The Letter examines these biases in a 40s noir setting, one in which as normal in these films, "evil" can be a question of perspective. Although race isn't the film's emphasis it's certainly something which influences the film's settings and characters. This film is set in pre- WW2 Malaysia, in and around rubber "plantations" owned by White Americans and White Europeans. These people all live the good life, buying and selling their "plantations" among their small group. There's no war to worry about yet. 

Movie Reviews: The Day Shall Come

The Day Shall Come
directed by Chris Morris
After 9-11, or even before 9-11,  some people arrested and convicted of conspiracy or terrorism charges were either people guilty of much lesser crimes or were enticed, directed, financed and even ordered into criminal behavior by law enforcement, usually the FBI. 

More ominously the FBI, often with the assistance of local police departments, set up certain people to be murdered, rather than stand trial on flimsy or non-existent charges. People who are engaged in political activity that the government doesn't like can frequently find themselves in serious trouble. 

For the past six hundred years or so Europe has had more effective technology, especially military, than the rest of the world, particularly Africa and the New World. And to put it mildly, armed with superior technology, Europeans didn't treat their fellow humans with kindness and decency. The distance between European technology and that employed by certain non-European nations has shrunk and even reversed in some areas but most observers would note that Africa and the African diaspora are often still lagging behind. Why this is and what can or should be done about it is a book, not a blog post, and certainly not this movie review. But to understand this film's characters you should be aware of that history. 

There are many religiously minded Black people who believe in a past glorious period before white supremacy, want to minimize the impact of white supremacy in their current life, and have future plans to eliminate racism in toto. Whether they be Hebrew Israelites, Muslims, MOVE members, Five Percenters, or what have you, these groups are often targeted by the federal government.

Movie Reviews: Corporate Animals

Corporate Animals
directed by Patrick Brice
Demi Moore has a new book out where among other things, she discusses the childhood trauma of being pimped out by her mother, sexual assault, battles for sobriety, and relations, sexual or otherwise, with various Hollywood actors, some her husbands, some not. Yawn. Don't really care about any of that stuff. 

We all have skeletons in our closets. Some rattle a little louder than others. Presumably the book release was timed to roughly coincide with this film's release. This could and should have been a better movie. 

Unfortunately the writers and directors chose to go for the gross, the shocking and the salacious all throughout the film, instead of using it judiciously. Even though it is apparently a small budget film I didn't think it needed to look as bad as it did. I've seen first time directors on a lunchtime budget make better looking films than this.

The subject matter, the corporate workplace and its tensions, is ripe for parody and satire. This could have been another Office Space or even Price Check. Sad to say though when your idea of a funny scene includes a fat man's full frontal nudity, nothing for nothing, but you and I clearly don't share the same sense of humor.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Amber Guyger: And That I Do Not Forgive!

I had a discussion on my Facebook page which is interesting enough to add here. You may have heard that former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murdering Botham Jean in his apartment while he was sitting on his couch eating ice cream. Guyger received a ten year prison sentence.

Guyger will be eligible for parole in five years. Guyger can probably look forward to a lucrative post prison career as a Fox News contributing analyst, security consultant, and speaker at NRA events. 

Unsurprisingly, Guyger had a history of racism, some of which was revealed in ugly text messages with her lover, another police officer, as they mocked Martin Luther King, other Black police officers, and Black people in general. Given that there are Black people who have received similar or worse sentences for less heinous crimes, Guyger's relatively lenient sentence is nothing to celebrate.

Guyger might appeal her sentence. Who knows. The reason some people are happy is that it's very very very rare that white cops are ever charged and convicted of murdering a Black person. Her conviction is unusual. So good for that I guess. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Will Trump Be Impeached?

I certainly hope that Trump will be impeached. Impeachment doesn't necessarily mean removal from office as former President Bill Clinton would be the first to tell you.

But both substantively and politically I think it would be a good thing for the Democrats to impeach Trump. 

It is outrageously unethical and likely illegal for a sitting President to attempt to coerce a foreign head of state to start an investigation into the family of an American political rival. That's just wrong. I am not interested in hearing about what everyone else may have done any more than the cop who stops you for doing 89 MPH in a 60 MPH zone is interested in hearing your defense that you were just keeping up with traffic. 

It's wrong. You did it. Face the consequences.

Most of the people warning the Democrats about the horrible dangers of proceeding down the impeachment road do not exactly have the best interests of Democrats, liberals, or anyone other than Donald Trump on their mind. When a bully tells his victim that if the victim fights back the bully will just beat him up worse, the bully is just trying to ensure that the victim remains in a submissive defensive crouch. 

Bullies HATE the idea of victims fighting back. Similarly Republicans have gotten used to telling Democrats all of the horrible things that will happen if Democrats actually start fighting back against Republicans. Well yes, some horrible things might happen. Democrats do have some ideas that are not as popular as some people on twitter think.

Book Reviews: Seduction of the Innocent

Seduction of the Innocent
by Max Allan Collins
There is always tension among those who want unfettered free speech, those who would urge us to use free speech "responsibly", and those who dismiss the very idea of free speech as a cis-gendered, sexist, heteronormative. capitalist, bourgeois, patriarchal, white supremacist con and imposition on the true expressions of people's feelings and thoughts. 

I tend towards allowing more free speech than less. However, I would agree that there are some themes, thoughts, and pictures that probably aren't suitable for children. That's how I was raised.

Though it appears rather silly from a 2019 POV where a few keystrokes on your internet linked computer can retrieve any sort of filth, at one point in American history we had Senate hearings on the dangers of comic books and horror magazines. 

Some people thought that these publications were contributing to juvenile delinquency. Because of the Senate hearings some publications began having problems with distributors and/or went out of business. Those that remained agreed to enforce self-regulation (censorship). This code included but was not limited to:
  • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
  • Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, the gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated. No comic magazine shall use the words "horror" or "terror" in its title.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Book Reviews: Golden Prey

Golden Prey
by John Sandford
This is an installment in a series. If I had known that before I made the decision to purchase it, I may not have bought the book. I usually like to start at the beginning. However, in this case, having read the book I'm glad I did purchase it. Ironically, after getting a strong sense of deja vu while reading the book, I later discovered that I have a few other books in this series. Go figure.

This book was just under 400 pages in hardcover but these days that's short for a novel. I didn't think the story dragged at any point though there were certainly some characters I enjoyed reading about more than others. This book is not lightweight in any pejorative sense of the word. But it is good reading if you are stuck somewhere without anything intellectually stimulating. So if you must spend a few hours in an airport, an auto dealership, a hospital lounge or somewhere similar you could do worse than to have this book by your side. 

One of my cousins got me started watching some of the true crime shows on the cable network Investigation Discovery. This book was like one of those shows put in print. And I very much mean that as a compliment. Lucas Davenport is a former Minnesota cop who saved the life and political career of some national bigshots, including a former first lady who is running for President. He's also wealthy. Cashing in some chips, and still protected and watched over by aforementioned political big shots, Lucas has transferred from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation to the US Marshals service. 

Unusually, in deference to his good deeds and his intelligence, Lucas has been granted the authority to choose his own cases. He also doesn't really have to report to the local US Marshal chief.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin Football

On Saturday, September 21, at noon EST, in Madison, Wisconsin, the Michigan Wolverines will play the Wisconsin Badgers in a college football match. At the time of this writing, Michigan, my alma mater, is a 3.5 point underdog. Michigan has lost the last four games it played in Madison. Although the Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has restored the program to respectability and brought in more money, he hasn't really had many signature wins, especially on the road. Michigan hasn't looked very good this year with some mistakes against Middle Tennessee and an overtime dogfight against Army. 

That's not why Harbaugh was hired. He was hired to smash Michigan State into irrelevance, beat Ohio State, win the Big Ten Championship, and compete for National Championships. Harbaugh hasn't done those things yet, although he's paid as if he has. Harbaugh's teams at Michigan have done well but they have lapses in intensity and concentration at precisely the wrong times. Occasionally they can be left in the dust by speedier teams or punched in the mouth by stronger teams.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin may be one of those stronger teams. No one has scored on Wisconsin yet this year. Of course beating the snot out of South Florida and Central Michigan doesn't exactly make Wisconsin a champion contender but it IS what a strong program is supposed to do to a weaker program, which is more than I can say for Michigan at this point. 

Woman Bites Other Woman's Face and Ear in Sexual Assault

No means no, right? That is a ubiquitous and correct message that everyone should hear and understand today. You can ask whoever for whatever but if he or she declines your generous offer then that's it. Move on to someone else. 

Unfortunately one Allison Weaver, a South East Michigan woman, appears not to have taken that common cultural message to heart. It is important to understand that no means no. It is also important to remember that contrary to some other ubiquitous messaging, not all of the violent sex criminals out there are men.

The Oakland County Sheriff was called to the Lake Village Apartments on Norfolk in Rochester Hills around 1:30 Tuesday morning. A neighbor on the first floor reported hearing someone moaning and calling for help. When deputies arrived, they also heard someone calling for help and entered the upstairs apartment. That's where they said they found two partially naked women in a bedroom, covered in blood.

Deputies say one of the woman had numerous bite marks on her face and other facial injuries, and that part of her left ear was bitten off. The other woman, now identified as Weaver, was hovering over the victim and that they were lying on the floor, deputies said. The victim, a 48-year-old woman of Rochester Hills, was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Three Masked Teens Shot Dead in Home Invasion

Call the coroner!
There's gonna be a lot of slow singing and flower bringing
If my burglar alarm starts ringing
What ya think all the guns is for?
All-purpose war, got the Rottweilers by the door
And I feed 'em gunpowder, so they can devour
The criminals trying to drop my decimals

Biggie Smalls "Warning"

I don't think it's a good thing to be happy when people die, generally speaking. But my eyes are dry when someone who was trying to rob or shoot someone else ends up dead themselves. If the below story is true, if three masked and armed teens really shot at people and tried to invade someone else's home, then I shed no tears for their demise. 

I do believe that the teens could have been cogs in a larger social disaster of de-industrialization, self-hate (ironically something that may have led to the demise of the quoted rapper at the top of this post), fatherless homes, media glorification of criminals and on and on. I do believe that society has to continue to work to make positive changes in young people's lives so that they don't see criminal behavior as worthy. But when someone is pointing a gun at you and trying to rape you, rob you or kill you, the time for empathy and understanding is past. It's time to put them in the ground ASAP.

A Georgia homeowner gunned down three masked teens, at least one of whom was armed, on Monday during a failed robbery that could be an incident of "stand your ground" defense, authorities said. The three boys, one 15 and the other two 16, were fatally shot at 4 a.m. outside a home on White Oak Court in Conyers, Georgia, about 30 miles east of Atlanta, according to Rockdale County Sheriff's deputies.

Bill de Blasio Drops Out; Why Was He Even Running?

The real mystery about de Blasio's campaign, is not that he dropped out but what made him waste his time running in the first place? I would say the same of non-entities such as Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, among others. 

If you don't have a chance of winning, have nothing interesting to say, no ability to push an issue to the forefront, and aren't even someone other candidates might consider for a cabinet spot, then why are you wasting time and money running for the Presidency?

It all comes down to ego. And apparently de Blasio has an outsized one. Most politicians do. But you also need to know how to count. And I hear he has plenty of issues in NYC to fix. He will have time to do that now.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City who entered the Democratic presidential race on the premise that his brand of urban progressive leadership could appeal on a national scale, said on Friday that he was ending his candidacy.

Mr. de Blasio’s announcement came as it became clear he was unlikely to qualify for the fourth Democratic debate next month, cementing the notion that he lacked the support and funds to sustain his bid.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Antibiotics Become Ineffective

The problem with getting better at overcoming a problem is that often times the problem evolves and adapts. This has been the case with antibiotic usage. 

Although antibiotics are literally lifesavers, assisting our immune systems in defeating some very nasty infections, many infections (fungi and bacteria) have evolved to resist and become immune to the antibiotics and antifungals. They've done this very quickly as humans count time but perhaps not as bacteria and fungi count time. 

One reason for this problem is that people across the world (this problem is evidently most acute in South Asia) have overused antibiotics and antifungals in a wide variety of circumstances. So we're seeing more of these organisms shrug off our best attempts at killing them. It's as if prisoners started developing immunity to small arms fire. Such a thing would be an unwelcome surprise to prison guards tasked to stop breakouts.

Check out the fascinating nine minute video below which explains the dire situation we're in and how worse may be yet to come. As pointed out in the video some other reasons that this situation exists include the requirements of globalized capital and an altered food supply chain. There is nothing supernatural here but this is nonetheless a very real horror show.

Birds are Disappearing

At first I thought the numbers in the below article were off. But apparently the numbers are accurate.  What if modern life as we experience it in the so-called First World is actually not good for humans and other living beings?

What if that modern life, which is being eagerly sought after by billions of people in China, Africa, India and other so-called Third World regions or countries is incompatible with continued wildlife existence? If one-third of wild birds have vanished then what replaces their previous role in the world's life cycle? And what impact will that replacement have on us all?

Nearly one-third of the wild birds in the United States and Canada have vanished since 1970, a staggering loss that suggests the very fabric of North America’s ecosystem is unraveling.

The disappearance of 2.9 billion birds over the past nearly 50 years was reported today in the journal Science, a result of a comprehensive study by a team of scientists from seven research institutions in the United States and Canada. 
As ornithologists and the directors of two major research institutes that directed this study, even we were shocked by the results. We knew of well-documented losses among shorebirds and songbirds. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Reviews: Ma

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

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

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

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

Michigan Prosecutor Sleeps with Rape Victim

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

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

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

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

Representative Rashida Tlaib, Netanyahu and Trump

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

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

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

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

Movie Reviews: It Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

Michigan Apples Arrive

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

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

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

Detroit Public School Chess Prodigy Charisse Woods

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

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

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

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

Des Moines Iowa Lawyer Works as Prostitute; Urges Decriminalization

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Religious Freedom and 7-Eleven Foot Washing

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

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

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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Movie Reviews: Brightburn

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

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

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