Saturday, December 21, 2019

Movie Reviews: Don't Let Go

Don't Let Go
directed by Jacob Aaron Estes
This is a nifty little film that raises some questions about causality and predestination. Unfortunately the writing is not quite up to the level I expected, leading to some cliches and predictability in the film's final section.

Although my understanding is that some advanced physics argues that our perception of time is limited and in some respects "wrong", for humans time only moves in one direction, forward. We can't unbreak the egg. We can't journey back in time with knowledge of the winning lottery ticket or with massively advanced medical knowledge that will save a parent afflicted with heart disease or cancer. 


Our cells decay and eventually break down. We can't turn back the clock on that process.  We can't warn our past selves not to take certain actions that later proved to be very poor decisions. Nope. What's done is done and can't be changed. Period.

But what if that wasn't the case? What if the batter's current day self had knowledge transferred from the future of exactly where the pitcher would throw the ball? And thus, so armed with such knowledge he could change the future? Or at least change one possible future? 


Another quirk derived from some physics theories is that there are an infinite number of futures which are each built from the decisions that every human being has ever made at every single point in his or her life. Don't Let Go asks what would happen if information could be transmitted both ways between the past and future.

Snowy Owl Rescued in Northern Michigan

As I have mentioned before if you happen to be a wild animal in some distress it definitely pays to have a look that humans find attractive, cute, or striking. 

People will go out of their way to rescue you and put their thumb on the scale as to whether you survive or not.


If on the other hand you happen to be a blobfish, naked mole rat, or monkfish and find yourself in need of human assistance, you will likely get more comments along the lines of "Dear God what the bleep is that nasty looking thing?? EWWWW!" than "Awww. It's so cute. Let's take it home, heal it, feed it and pretend that it loves us!" statements. If you are an ugly animal you will get little sympathy and likely die with the last words you hear being horrible insults about your God given looks.


DRUMMOND ISLAND, MICH. -- A struggling snowy owl found stranded along a Michigan roadside has been given a new lease on life, thanks to some quick-thinking locals and a little luck. 

The owl was discovered late last week sitting along M-134 on Drummond Island, off the eastern coast of the Upper Peninsula, by a resident who pulled over in her car to photograph it, not knowing the bird was unwell. 

Book Reviews: Neon Prey

Neon Prey
by John Sandford
This is another installment in the Lucas Davenport series. It is very similar to a previous book in that series, Golden Prey, reviewed here. The Cliff Notes version of this series is that Lucas Davenport, an independently wealthy and politically connected US Marshal decides which cases to take. Davenport usually chases the most dangerous and violent felons. 

Lucas is often assisted in his cases by the salt and pepper team of US Marshals Rae Givens and Bob Matees. Rae and Bob are good (platonic) friends with each other. They are more down to earth with more street experience than Lucas. They often good naturedly point out flaws in some of Lucas' plans. But there's nobody that Lucas would rather have watching his back when it goes down hard.

In this installment a scary and racist Louisiana based loan shark collector, enforcer,and hitman named Clayton Deese is tasked by his affable boss, lawyer, loan shark, and businessman Roger Smith to put a highly specific hurting on someone who owes Roger money. This time, Roger doesn't want the victim dead. 

Roger still has hopes of recovering his money. The problem is that the victim has not only refused to pay his debts but has also publicly told Roger to commit unpleasant and impossible acts of auto-copulation. Roger can't let that go. Other debtors might decide not to pay. Other criminals could conclude that a weak Roger can be chased from the business or even forcibly, painfully and permanently "retired". 

So Roger orders Clayton to make an example so that everyone can see what happens when you **** with Roger. It's nothing Clayton hasn't done before. Clayton's only concern is that he's not supposed to kill his target. He would much prefer to do that.

Kim Hill and The Black Eyed Peas: No Regrets

When you think about your career path, your romantic life or other critically important life aspects do you ever have regrets? Do you think about the road not taken? Well many people likely do at some time or the other. 

However sometimes what some people call success is not the only thing you care about. Or to put it another way there are some requirements that might be necessary for material success that you simply aren't willing to do. 

I'm not just talking about clearly immoral, unethical or illegal things either. It could be something as simple as not wanting to move to your employer's Berlin office for eighteen months, being unwilling to laugh at a supervisor's unfunny jokes, or being utterly unavailable for work assignments on weekends or after 5 PM. We all have to make judgments every day about how important certain life goals are and what we're willing to do to accomplish them.

I vaguely remember Kim Hill. She was a member of the Black Eyed Peas before that group hit superstardom with a different sound and a different female singer. But Kim says she has no regrets. I thought her take was interesting.

In the mid-1990s, the singer and songwriter Kim Hill met a young rapper who suggested they start making music. That rapper’s name was will.i.am, and his group was a rising Los Angeles underground hip-hop crew called The Black Eyed Peas. The rest is history — or is it?

Friday, December 20, 2019

President Trump Impeached: Now What??

As you have heard the House of Representatives recently impeached President Trump on two different charges. No Republicans voted for impeachment.

On the first article, for the charge of abuse of power, the vote was split almost entirely along party lines, 230 to 197. Two Democrats sided with Republicans: Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew, who has indicated that he plans to switch parties and join the Republicans. Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party to become independent, voted for the article, and Tulsi Gabbard, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted “present.”

On the second article, concerning obstruction of Congress, the vote was 229 to 198. Members voted the same way as in the first vote, except Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine, who voted “no.”


The next move is for the House to formally send the charges to the Senate. The Senate is then obligated to have a trial and vote yea or nay. The problem, from the Democratic point of view, is just as the Senate can't tell the House what is a good reason for impeachment, who to call to testify, or how to run the impeachment process, the House can't tell the Senate how to run the impeachment trial, how to vote or which witnesses to call. 

A few Republican Senators have made it crystal clear that they have no intention of voting to remove the President from office or taking any advice from the House on just whom to call or not call as witnesses. As far as they are concerned this is all nonsense. And they can't wait to vote to acquit Trump. This is the Senate. And in the Senate, Republicans, not Democrats, are in charge.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Book Reviews: The Institute

The Institute
by Stephen King
I don't think that Stephen King has lost too much speed off his fastball. There are certain repeated themes, phrases and subplots that are recognizable in The Institute from several of King's other works as well as a few deliberate callbacks to creations or adaptations that King liked, or in the case of Kubrick's The Shining, did not like at all. 

King remains a master at quickly creating realistic characters with minimal description who nonetheless feel as if you've known them for years. So you care when good or more often, bad things happen to them. At a little over 500 pages in hardcover this is not a short investment in time but because King is such a compelling storyteller I think most readers will feel that time flies past while reading. 

King is really good at writing from a child's perspective. It's hard to describe it but I think readers of both genders may recognize bits and pieces of themselves and/or people they knew all those years ago when they were young.

Well, what's it about? I don't want to talk too much about that. In some respects it's a mashup of King's previous novels Firestarter and Dead Zone, with a little Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort thrown in to complement a hefty base of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series--that is Harry Potter if an even more sadistic Dolores Umbridge was in charge of everything. There might be some Nurse Ratched elements as well. 


Twelve year old Luke Ellis is a certifiable genius whose intelligence is off the charts. Even by gifted standards, he's an anomaly. But that's not his most unusual trait. No, Luke has telekinesis. His telekinesis is weak, but it's noticeable. 
When Luke concentrates or is under severe emotional strain, he can move things with his mind. His parents know about this but just accept it as part of his nature. They are more astounded to learn just how smart their son is.


Musical Tribute To Detroit: One Nation Under A Groove

What better way to remind everyone that Parliament-Funkadelic (P-Funk) was a Detroit band?
The Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Choir performs P-Funk's "One Nation Under A Groove" at various iconic Detroit locations.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Movie Reviews: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Directed by Frank Oz
This older film (released in 1988) is actually a remake of a sixties film. It is a comedy about the misadventures of con artists. As is the case in many such movies, the con artists are shown to be, if not exactly decent people, at least people who have some standards.

It makes it ever so much easier to identify with people, who, if they don't exactly live up to the movie's title, are still people who can be trusted to always put their self-interest above just about anything else. The film is a comedy but thankfully lacks the gross out sleaze that would shortly become quite common in such films. 

I think this would have been aimed at an adult and/or slightly more sophisticated audience. No one has sex with a pie. There are a few routines when Steve Martin gets close to going over the top but ultimately doesn't. I wouldn't say this was continuously drop dead funny. I wasn't rolling on the floor laughing when I rewatched it. But I did chuckle and smile quite often while viewing. And there were more than a few belly laughs. 

The film proves that a writer or director can intelligently challenge and often subvert viewer expectations without coming across as political, didactic, or hostile, something I think many modern film makers could stand to learn how to do again.

Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is a cool, calm and collected British con artist who lives on an estate in the French Riviera. He doesn't like to be called Larry. It's Lawrence if you please. Lawrence views the French Riviera as his stomping grounds. A suave sophisticated man of a certain age, Lawrence specializes in fleecing often morally degenerate rich widows or spinster heiresses of their money. 

Woman and Lover Fired After Lover Shares Sexy Pics/Text

I guess you probably ought to be careful sending out certain pictures. Not everyone knows how to keep their ever loving mouth shut. And when people start to talk, who knows where things will end up. One minute you're having a work affair and enjoying life while sending your good-n-plenty naughty texts, interesting pictures and double entendres. 

The next minute you've been fired, have your name in the newspaper as an example of what not to become, and are being sued for court costs by your former employer. So it goes. Some people can't be trusted. If nothing else this shows yet again just how powerful certain urges are, for both men and women. Like the song goes, Everybody wants some!!

A woman was fired from her job after her co-worker shared their sexts with four colleagues. Now, the woman’s former employer is hitting her with $25,000 in legal fees, The New York Post reports.

Jennifer Ricketts sent explicit text messages, “including intimate images and videos” of herself, to co-worker Stephen Nazario last year, but he ended up sharing those messages with four of their co-workers on Dec. 11, according to court documents. “I felt humiliated when it first happened,” Ricketts told The Post.

Movie Reviews: Requiem For A Dream

Requiem For A Dream
directed by Darren Aronofsky
Let's get two things straight right from the top. First, this is an older masterful film with an incredible soundtrack that both stands on its own and makes the accompanying scenes even more intense. The movie's split screens, speed, montages, and close ups all add up to create a hyper-reality that washes over the viewer.  I have to believe that Aronofsky was at least somewhat familiar with similar techniques displayed in Hype Williams' film, Belly.

Second, this is not a film that is made for people who can't abide depictions of emotional or occasionally physical brutality. This film is based on a Hubert Selby book after all. Like his work, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem For A Dream is concerned with mostly sad or disgusting people caught in a brutal spiral of bad decisions. In some respects, this is the most powerful anti-drug film ever created. 

The director however, has always insisted that this film investigates addiction and need in general, not just drugs. The viewer can decide, I think. I can't imagine anyone wanting to consume any mood or mind altering substances after watching this film. That's the film's first level. The film's second level may indeed be how the absence of love, not just in the erotic or romantic sense but the larger love of self, and true recognition or acceptance from others, can indeed invite in more dangerous forms of obsession. 

Aronofsky created this film in 2000. Selby wrote the book in 1978. But Aronofsky shoots the film in such a way that you might be hard pressed to tell which decade he's depicting. Some of the cars could be from the 60s while certain party scenes scream 80s. Still other scenes reference the 90s. Again, the film sucks you into its own world.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Kamala Harris Drops Out of Presidential Race

California Senator Kamala Harris just dropped out of the Presidential race. I never thought she had a chance to win the nomination. But more than that I never understood why she was running in the first place. Her campaign was poorly organized. It lacked a coherent message.  

Harris couldn't explain to voters what she brought to the table other than not being Trump. Harris rarely had any ideas that got traction with anyone. 

Harris' nasal voice and irritating habit of laughing at her own jokes before she had even finished telling them likely didn't help her win friends and influence people outside of California, or perhaps even inside of California. And Harris couldn't make inroads with the Democratic base. 

Senator Kamala Harris of California dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday after months of low poll numbers, a deflating comedown for a campaign that began with significant promise. The decision came after upheaval among staff and disarray among Ms. Harris’s own allies. She told supporters in an email on Tuesday that she lacked the money needed to fully finance a competitive campaign. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” Ms. Harris wrote. 

The announcement is perhaps the most sudden development to date in a Democratic presidential campaign where Ms. Harris began in the top tier. She opened her campaign on Martin Luther King’s Birthday with comparisons to historic black politicians like Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm. 

OSU Dominates U-M Again

On Saturday November 30th, the Ohio State University football team defeated the University of Michigan football team by a score of 56-27. And to be honest it wasn't really that close. Ohio State beat the ever-loving stuffing out of Michigan in every physical and mental aspect of the game: defense, offense, special teams, tackling, blocking, running, passing, catching, and coaching. It was, more or less, a repeat of last year's beatdown.

Ohio State featured a first year coach, Ryan Day, but Day evidently had his players fired up and ready to lay a stomping on Michigan. It was the eighth victory in a row by Ohio State over Michigan. In the past sixteen matches between the two schools, Ohio State has been victorious in fifteen of them. 

There are high school football players, heck even graduate students who really don't have a memory of a time when U-M was even competitive in this series. This rivalry has become less of a rivalry than a yearly ritual thrashing and blood sacrifice. 

A rivalry requires that each team sometimes gets some victories over the other. A rivalry requires that win, lose or draw, each team gives it all they've got. A rivalry requires that after the game, both teams know that they've been in a serious fight. U-M head coach Jim Harbaugh was hired to do three things on the field-- win the Big 10 championship, make U-M at least occasionally relevant for the National Championship conversation, and oh yes, BEAT OHIO STATE.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Book Reviews: Talon of God

Talon of God
by Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman
I had mixed feelings about this book. It started out one way and then immediately went another. At some points it was something less than a book and more like a screenplay. The good part about the book is that it has a particular point of view and strongly argues for that. 

The bad news is that a great deal of the book is not interesting plot development or even fun mindless action but rather pages and pages and pages of theodicy-that is arguing for the existence of an all powerful all good God even though the world is crammed full of evils, big and small, random and deliberate, human and otherwise.

While I don't mind going down the rabbit hole that these questions pose and debating them with people I know and respect that really wasn't what I was expecting or hoping for from this book. I was expecting, and briefly got, a superhero that was very reminiscent of Snipes' best known film role, Blade.

Unlike Blade, however this hero is something of a goody two shoes, whose abilities are not primarily martial, but rather moral and emotional. This paladin is much more interested in faith, forgiveness and love than in smiting evil. He's not quite a pacifist , not running around with a broadsword, but he's pretty close.

In Chicago there's a new drug that just hit the streets. The young attractive doctor Lauryn Jefferson sees the impact of this drug first hand when a heretofore friendly homeless man is injected with the drug and starts to turn into something not of this world. 

However, even though she doesn't know how she did it, with the help of the mysterious sword armed man, known only as Talon, Lauryn is able to heal the homeless man and bring him back to himself. 

Biden Urged to End All Deportations

I don't see deportation of illegal immigrants from the United States as an a priori moral outrage. I've written why elsewhere at length and won't belabor the point again.

Every national political community is bounded. Nations have rules for who is a member and who isn't, who can stay and who can't. Politics require boundaries. Almost every nation on the planet has boundaries that were at some point established or defended by violence. Every single Western Hemisphere nation was created through some combination of European invasion and settlement, African enslavement, Indigenous subordination and/or genocide. Every last one. 

The US Federal government and corporations have long turned a blind eye to the continuous arrival of various illegal immigrants, many of whom originated from Spanish speaking nations. The US only has the funds to deport a small fraction of the estimated 11-22 million illegal immigrants currently resident.

Unsurprisingly some advocates for illegal immigrants view this forbearance as exploitable weakness. Some demand an end to all deportations. Current Democratic Presidential candidate, former VP Joe Biden was recently hectored to commit to ending all deportations. Biden refused to do so and acerbically suggested that the speaker go vote for Trump.

Old Iowa Man Shoots Up Strip Club Parking Lot

We should never underestimate how stupidly men will act in order to get attention from women or even just look at women. It's a weakness, but one which is probably required for the human race to continue recreating itself. 

Women have compatible, though not identical weak spots. But at age sixty-seven, at a time when natural testosterone is in free fall while wisdom and experience should be close to their maximum, I wouldn't expect that a man would be all that interested in or capable of causing a ruckus at a strip club.

Well I was wrong.

In Iowa recently a dirty old man was upset that his debit card was declined in a strip club. So like some men forty years younger, he decided to pull out his gun and do some shooting. 

A 67-year-old Iowa man opened fire outside a strip club after his debit card was rejected following a lap dance, according to authorities. James Wells fled following Friday night’s incident at the Porsches Theater of the Arts in Waterloo and was busted by police on the University of Northern Iowa campus following a short chase and struggle. 

Music Reviews: The Dead South

The Dead South is a Canadian band whose music can be described as a both satirical and earnest take on American/Canadian/British folk, bluegrass and blues with some 90s style alternative sounds added for seasoning. If you're someone who can enjoy both Mumford and Sons and Otis Taylor, you might be willing to explore The Dead South. I discovered the band by falling down a youtube rabbit hole that started with Otis Taylor, progressed thru Fairpoint Convention and ended with The Dead South. The band members dress like stereotypical American Southerners/Westerners circa 1935 or so. 

The song "In Hell I'll be in Good Company" is about a wife murderer about to be hanged, who is happy that when he gets to hell he'll see his unfaithful wife again. The song "Banjo Odyssey" attracted some controversy that the band addressed on their Facebook page. The band said the song is about a consensual albeit forbidden relationship. The doomed(?) lovers are trying to escape. That explanation may have been the writer's intention but I didn't get that impression at all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Indiana Judges Shot at White Castle Brawl

I have always held the opinion that not much good happens at 3 AM in White Castle parking lots. But of course I am not an Indiana circuit court judge so I am by definition not too smart. 

Indiana judges, being much smarter than I, know that there is nothing wrong with getting drunk and starting or escalating fights with people with unknown capacities and sincere desires to put a hurting on someone.

Three Indiana judges recently decided to demonstrate the wisdom, soberness and character that shows why we extend such deference to judges in general. After their show of probity all three judges were suspended from the bench. So I guess at least for a little while they won't be able to enjoy such job perks as telling people to sit down and be quiet, having everyone stand up when they enter or leave the room, threatening to put people in jail for disagreeing with them, interrupting other professionals any time they feel like it, or lecturing grown men and women in tones dripping with condescension. Oh well.

The judges’ plan, if there ever was one, was to enjoy a couple of drinks with their colleagues the night before a judicial conference in Indianapolis.

But by 3 a.m. the next morning, three Indiana circuit court judges, by way of a failed attempt to enter a strip club, were brawling with two strangers outside a White Castle in a drunken melee that ended with two of the judges shot and in critical condition in a hospital.



Racist Police in an Indiana Nordstrom

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg recently threw his hat in the Presidential race. African-American NYT columnist Charles Blow wrote a column excoriating both Bloomberg for his stop-and-frisk policy and those people who supported him. Many self-identified otherwise liberal commenters responded negatively to Blow's column. 

They suggested openly and in code that they were willing to ignore the Fourth Amendment rights of Black men and boys in NYC because it made the white commenters feel safer. And anyway stop and frisk was good for Black people, regardless of what Black people seemed to think.

It's probably important to remind people what it looks and sounds like when an armed agent of the state stops a citizen and attempts to harass or bully him solely because of the color of his skin. This being America, one doesn't have to wait long for such an example. In Indiana a suburban Indianapolis police officer decided that two Black men looked suspicious because they shopped at Nordstrom. 


Apparently Deputy Constable Daryl Jones doesn't think Black men should be stopping at Nordstrom. The officer is sending the message that he doesn't want Black men in that area. And given that this person had both a gun and a license from the state to use it, things could have gone very badly for the two Black men. Fortunately they are still alive and unharmed. Still, it is my hypothesis that the continual flight or fight responses engendered by hostile racist encounters, and the adrenaline and cortisol produced, likely play a role in the higher hypertension rates and earlier death rates experienced by Black men in America. Notice that Jones becomes hyper agitated when the men stand up for their rights. This leads me to believe that the real issue is that like a typical racist Jones believes that whiteness makes him always right.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep
directed by Mike Flanagan
Doctor Sleep is a thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, previously reviewed here. King's novel is a sequel to his previous novel The Shining

Doctor Sleep is also a thriller film that is a sequel to the Stanley Kubrick movie , The Shining, which was based on King's novel. 


King was not a fan of Kubrick's adaptation, and wasn't shy about stating so to any and all.


King thought that Kubrick made some bad mistakes with King's story, perhaps deliberately. It could be why King spent the time and resources to produce his own television version of The Shining. There are nonetheless some iconic and truly frightening scares in Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining, some of which were taken directly from King's novel, and some of which were not. Got all that? Good.


Flanagan walked a fine line to adapt King's Doctor Sleep novel while exploring themes from The Shining novel that King thought Kubrick missed. Additionally Flanagan still referenced Kubrick's work. Occasionally the strain of juggling different demands and conflicting sources shows but two performances are so good, that people might well (ahem) overlook inconsistencies or problems. 


In The Shining, as a boy the psychically gifted Danny Torrance barely escaped being murdered by his father. His father Jack was possessed by one or more spirits inhabiting the Overlook Hotel. The Overlook was eager to kill Danny and take his power. Danny and his mother Wendy survived; Jack Torrance did not. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: Midsommar

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.