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.