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.