Saturday, November 28, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Color Out Of Space

The Color Out Of Space
directed by Richard Stanley

This sci-fi/horror movie is an adaptation of the 1927  H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name (color is spelled "colour").  It was one of Lovecraft's finest works. A Lovecraft weakness was to use florid, antediluvian adjectives to describe his settings while being paradoxically unable or unwilling to describe the monsters themselves. In the short story however, and fortunately enough in this film adaptation an alleged shortcoming was turned into a strength. 
The protagonists struggle to describe something that is beyond human experience and perception. That seems impossible. If something falls into our visible spectrum we can see and describe it. So in that aspect there is no such thing as a color we haven't seen before--a description used by many people in this story. 
But what if something has the ability to move in and out of the human visible spectrum or perhaps its very presence temporarily or permanently alters the human visible spectrum?
Would we lack the vocabulary to detail what we saw? Hmm. In this story Lovecraft anticipated radiation poisoning and described it quite vividly. Lovecraft may have been influenced by the Radium Girls scandal, which occurred during his lifetime. The film wisely uses part of a famous Lovecraft quote from the story which sets the stage for the spooky events. 
West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.

Movie Reviews: Underwater

Underwater
directed by William Eubank 
This 2020 sci-fi thriller movie is stylish and has a reasonably well known cast. It looks good visually and even has a direct shoutout to one of my favorite and most problematic authors, that crazy old racist from Providence, H.P. Lovecraft. So what what wasn't to like? 
Well there were two things that really took me out of the immersive you are there aspects of any good movie, though I'm pretty sure that Lovecraft would have strongly approved of one of them. The first thing and most noticeable is that the sole named Black male character dies first. You barely even get to know his name before he bites the dust. And he does so in a way that's supposed to bring home the dangers of this disaster. 
That was utterly unnecessary since we have already seen various corpses and the presumed offscreen deaths of other characters. The Black guy is also, if not quite incompetent to the level of Gone With The Wind's  "I don't know nothing about birthing no babies Miz Scarlet!" Prissy, certainly less able than just about any of the other characters, especially the female ones. You wonder how he got his job as he seems to know less about his area of expertise than other people who are not even in his job family.
The author Steven Barnes has written more extensively on what this constant cinematic Black death means here. I just find it fascinating that in 2020 the underlying psychological issues that make "Black guy dies first" a common film trope are still ongoing. The fact that the Black guy deliberately sacrificed himself to save a white person that he didn't even know was silly. 

Human Steak??!!

Want to get your Jeffrey Dahmer on but are turned off by the work needed, the resulting mess, and those pesky police officers bothering you about missing vagrants? Don't worry. New advances in science have got you covered. Now you too can eat liver and fava beans with a nice Chianti without any pain in the a$$ detectives demanding DNA samples from you, arresting you at your job, or have your false friends start calling you truly hurtful nasty names like cannibal and savage.

Advancements in science and technology have done great things for the world, but as the world continues to change, some things are better left untouched. A “DIY meal kit” for growing steak made from human cells was recently nominated for the “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum, and while it could dramatically change how food is made, the makers are now assuring people eating their food is not “technically” cannibalism. 

Police: Shut Up And Submit!!!

It's a source of cynical amusement, frustration, and anger to me how some Americans think that THOSE people should always immediately and cravenly submit to any and all police demands no matter how unreasonable, humiliating, unconstitutional, or criminal while reserving for themselves the right to question, debate, defy, reject or resist police orders, whether legal or not. I am not overly fond of the police but it remains prudent advice that unless you are ready, willing and able to take things to that other level with the police and ultimately the state, you won't win most physical confrontations with police officers. 

Most people are quick to point that out when police employ violence against Black men or women. Police bootlickers smugly point out that if the Black person had just slavishly complied from the beginning they wouldn't have been shot, tased, assaulted, pepper-sprayed, beaten senseless, or curb stomped. Somehow though this critical insight seems to leave them when they are the ones being bullied or harassed by police officers on a power trip.

A Staten Island man says he’s proud of his family’s support for the NYPD — but that all changed after a rowdy caught-on-camera clash with cops outside his family’s bagel shop. Both Awadeh Nemer, 30, and police agree the Nov. 5 melee erupted about 12:30 a.m. outside Diddle Dee Bagels on Richmond Road in Dongan Hills after two officers on traffic enforcement asked to see Nemer’s ID. He refused, and was arrested. Who was being disorderly is where they disagree. 

Movie Reviews: Unhinged

Unhinged
directed by Derrick Borte
I know some people who have the patience of saints. These people never get upset while they are driving. They constantly defer to other drivers, never flip anyone off, and calmly brush off angry grimaces or foul hand signals that they may see from other people on the road. I envy those folks. I am not one of those people though I have become calmer as I have aged. Previously though, if you were doing something stupid that was hindering me, I was going to let you know about it. With age comes wisdom though. 
You never know what the other people on the road are going through to make them behave as they do. You also never know what acts they may be capable of committing. Their state of anger may be far more dangerous than your state of anger. It's worthwhile considering that before you get into a back and forth with someone on the road. Being inside a vehicle, particularly a large one, can give a driver an unwarranted sense of safety and sometimes aggression. 
This is a lesson which Unhinged is determined to share with its viewers. Sometimes chance can combine with bad decisions to just ruin your day. We all have bad days. Some people are salivating at the opportunity to share their pain with others. Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a struggling hairdresser(?).  Separated, Rachel is going thru a divorce which is on the verge of turning nasty.  Rachel is letting her somewhat fey and definitely lazy brother Fred (Austin McKenzie) and his girlfriend (Juliene Joyner) live with her rent free until Fred finds a job, something Fred doesn't seem to be too interested in doing. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Book Reviews: Cold Storage

Cold Storage
by David Koepp

This story is just under 400 pages. It's by the screenwriter and director David Koepp, among other things the screenwriter for Jurassic Park, whose work was previously reviewed here and here. Cold Storage is your typical end of the world terror thriller. It imagines that after the Skylab crash in 1979 something else came back from outer space, something that views other living beings in the same way that we would view cattle. I like these sorts of stories in general so I was positively disposed toward the story. It uses just enough science to be believable to those of us who are not biologists, physicists, medical doctors, or otherwise well trained in scientific discipline. I guess if you are interested in this sort of prose the book might be right up your alley:
"We sent up a hyperaggressive extremophile that is resistant to extreme heat and the vacuum of space, but sensitive to cold. The environment sent the organism into a dormant state, but it remained hyper-receptive. At that point, it must have picked up a hitchhiker. Maybe it was exposed to solar radiation. Maybe a spore penetrated the microfissures in the tank on re-entry. Either way, when the fungus returned to Earth, it was reawakened and found itself in a hot, safe, protein-rich, pro-growth environment. And something caused its higher level genetic structure to change."
In 1987 Roberto Diaz, a Pentagon bioterror expert, is called upon to investigate some unsettling issues in Western Australia. One co-worker dies and Diaz barely escapes with his life. A fungus that normally just attacks insects and grows slowly now has a taste for warm blooded creatures, can grow exponentially, and most ominously seems to have the ability to learn and evolve at record, maybe even exponential speeds. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trump Lost: Now What?

Joe Biden won the 2020 United States Presidential Election. There's no question about that. There is only a question by how much of a win Biden will have when all of the certifications are complete. At this point in time it looks as if Biden will beat Trump in the Electoral College by 306-232. 

The solid South cracked, with Biden winning Georgia. Biden restored the Great Lakes Blue Wall, winning Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota and throwing in Pennsylvania for good measure. More ominously from a Republican point of view, Arizona and Nevada also went for Biden. This may have been in part because of former Californians moving to those states and voting for Biden. 

In a normal time the current President would acknowledge that he lost and, even if through gritted teeth, congratulate the President-Elect and urge the various executive branch appointees and career bureaucrats to work with the incoming Administration point persons to ensure a smooth transition.

Trump of course has done nothing of the sort. What he has done is file a cavalcade of lawsuits, most of which have gone nowhere. Trump voters and sycophants are taking their cues from him. 

The far right had a dream: That one day, people who had been exiled to the unacceptable margins of American political life could play the role of Donald Trump's brownshirts.

Book Reviews: A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England

A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England
by Brenda Ralph Lewis
This coffee table styled hardcover book details the histories of the English Royal Family, or rather the English Royal Families, from the 1066 Norman invasion to the present day. Human nature hasn't changed. It will be obvious upon reading this, not that he's ever denied it, just how much this history influenced the writer George R.R. Martin, as well as many other speculative fiction or historical fiction authors. 
Although we consider kinslaying as morally disgusting, when people are vying for power they often reject any standards. If your second cousin once removed gathers an army to support her claim that she's the rightful ruler, a recurring issue in England, you might find yourself doing shifty things. 
Some Kings and Queens refused to carry out the ultimate sanction against wayward relatives, often forgiving them, fining them, exiling them, or even imprisoning them instead. Other rulers, though, had no qualms about chopping heads at the first sign of problems, blood relative or not.
King Henry I, who was present at the "accidental" death of his older brother Rufus, cultivated a reputation as a hard unforgiving man. However, he liked his treasurer Herbert. So when the king discovered that Herbert had been involved in a plot against him, the King cancelled the normal punishment for treason: hanging, drawing, and quartering. In what the King considered to be an act of mercy, he instead ordered that Herbert be blinded and castrated. 
Nice guy, King Henry. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Speaking of Rats

Dang. Didn't Stephen King write a story where something similar happened? Yes, he did. At least a few such stories he wrote. Graveyard something or the other..Sometimes relatives or friends ask me to visit NYC and I say no thank you!

A man was trapped in a hole teeming with rats for half an hour after a New York City pavement collapsed from under him last Saturday. Leonard Shoulders dropped almost 15 feet into the sinkhole and was unable to cry for help out of fear the rats would get in his mouth.

“Rats crawling on him. He can’t move. He just… it was so bad,” the victim’s brother Greg White told NBC News. “He didn’t wanna yell ’cause he was afraid there was gonna be rats going inside his mouth.” It took half an hour for the emergency services to extricate the 33-year-old New Yorker from the sinkhole.

He was taken to St Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where a spokesman said he was in a stable condition. The incident laid bare two of the problems besetting New York City, the poor state of its infrastructure and the rampant rat population.

Movie Reviews: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
directed by Ralph Singleton
This 1990 B-movie was based on another Stephen King short story of the same title which I first read in his excellent collection "Night Shift" though it was published earlier elsewhere. This tale was an example of something that worked well as a short story.
It could have worked as a 30 minute installment of an episodic tv show. But there just wasn't enough there to justify a ninety minute film. The screen story is unduly stretched out. It shows. Realizing that the original source material was sparse, the film adds in some themes of sexual harassment, though this is done to (a) make the protagonist and would be hero more well, heroic and (b) to show off mammary glands. I don't suppose I can argue with that.
The short story was laser focused on resentment that some blue collar workers might feel for someone who is college educated (apparently in his younger days King worked a fair number of jobs that did not require the college degree that he had/was in the process of acquiring). This film alters the emphasis so that the viewer is unsubtly directed to the class divide not of advanced education but that of owner/management vs worker. 

2020 Election Prediction

The Presidential election polls were wrong in 2016 because pollsters didn't account for the number of people who disliked Clinton and because pollsters underestimated the number of (especially) non-college educated whites who felt that Trump was the perfect middle finger to a world that was bypassing them. Now four years later pollsters have adjusted. Trump has seemingly lost support among college educated whites and especially white college educated suburban women. 

Despite the protestations of some about the identity of the Democratic base, it's still the white vote that will be essential in determining the victor of Tuesday's election. And from what I've seen Trump will have trouble recapturing the 2016 coalition. I believe the results will be closer than some think but Biden should win. Either way the loser will feel that they lost an eminently winnable election. Depending on how big the margin is one or both major parties may change everything about themselves. We'll see what happens. Either way though there are a lot of issues and problems that will remain regardless of which rich man wins.

Black Couple Not Allowed At Sushi Restaurant???

I don't know who coined the umbrella term "people of color" to describe, in the American context, people who may not be of clearly European descent. Too often that term is used to suggest that there is a commonality among different groups with massively dissimilar interests, goals, wealth, and histories. To put it bluntly the key dividing line in American society is not white/non-white but rather Black/non-Black. There are many groups who are not necessarily "white" as Americans define it but who still have their own histories of anti-Blackness which predate and overlap the Black American experience in North America.

Desegregation, while necessary to overturn intolerable insults to dignity, does not correct the dislike and disdain for Black people that many people share, regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality or other characteristic. Some restaurants, nightclubs, and other public gathering spots often discreetly maintain a quota of Black people allowed. 

After that quota is met other would be Black patrons might find that the establishment's employees or owner(s) will provide all sorts of preposterously inventive and totally "non-racist" reasons why the Black customer is not allowed inside. While I can't say with 100% certainty that this is what happened recently at a sushi restaurant in Buckhead, I can say that I am quite familiar with people suddenly changing their mind or changing the rules when they see me.

Monday, October 26, 2020

QAnon and Conspiracy Theories

What do you do when people say or believe things that are simply and demonstrably untrue? Do you lose your patience and call them names which question their intelligence, morality, or number of chromosomes? Well sometimes. I feel that way about people who insist that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States or believe that the world is flat and that THEY have brainwashed us into believing otherwise for some nefarious as yet unrevealed purpose. 

But in the video below the speaker makes the argument that ridicule and insult, while comforting to those who style themselves sober empiricists, don't really do anything else than to stroke the speaker's vanity and make the target of the insults hold on even tighter to the bad ideas. 

So it may well be counterproductive to tell someone in detail just how dumb they are IF you are going to need their future assistance, lack power over them, or care about what they think of you. And if you dig deep enough in most people's most cherished viewpoints and ideas, you may well find some beliefs that are also not necessarily upheld 100% by the empirical data.

It was an interesting argument. Check it out below.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Movie Reviews: Drive A Crooked Road

Drive A Crooked Road
directed by Richard Quine

This 1954 film noir wasn't super exciting. It was a little predictable all in all. But it did feature a pretty nice piece of acting from Mickey Rooney. The diminutive Rooney's height was an important part of the story. It was sobering to watch this movie and realize that actors that I only remembered as older or even elderly were young and vital once. 
Time doesn't wait around for anyone. 
I thought that there were some subplots that were either never fully developed or just cut out prematurely. The film is short but somehow manages the dubious feat of simultaneously feeling rushed and ponderous.
But as mentioned, Rooney's acting carries the film. If this film were to be remade today it would likely be more explicit which in this case, would be a good thing. Everything was implied in this film, which might have been why I felt certain portions of it dragged.
Eddie Shannon (Rooney) is an amateur race car driver and professional auto mechanic. Eddie knows all there is to know about cars. When he's behind the wheel of an automobile or tinkering with one, he's self-assured and poised. Otherwise Eddie's a depressed schlub. Eddie's especially shy and reticent around women. 

Ice Cube And The Black Male Vote

The rapper, actor, and filmmaker Ice Cube became the subject of a great deal of agita because of his meeting with some people within the Trump Administration regarding Ice Cube's Contract With Black America (CWBA) plan, which lays out some policies and plans which Ice Cube and some other Black people would like to see adopted. Now I don't have a problem with anyone criticizing the merits of the CWBA. No one is beyond criticism. No one. Never. Ever.

The problem however was that people (and by people I generally mean Black gatekeepers in predominantly white owned media and academia, disproportionately Black women) criticized Ice Cube not for his plan's alleged faults, blind spots or shortcomings, which few of them could delineate in any event, but instead lambasted Ice Cube as a chump, sellout, misogynist, and Trump supporter for having the f*****g audacity even to meet with any Republican without checking first with his Democratic (preferably Black feminist female) overlords. 
Twitter loons, left leaning media and academic favorites, few of whom were heterosexual black men, starting pushing the narrative that heterosexual Black men were the weakest link in the Black community, that Black men as a group were diehard cisgender heteronormative misogynistic patriarchal oppressive dummies who were going to mess everything up, as usual, by voting for Trump. One noted nutcase even said that Black women needed to go on a sex strike against Black men to control the Black male vote. 

Puss Caterpillars

If you are outdoors in the woods taking a walk, taking pictures, walking your dog, or just enjoying the briskness of autumn, you might see a small hairy something on a tree, a bush, or the ground that looks like a slow moving mouse or a small section of a bad toupee.

If you do see this thing, it's probably not a good idea to pick it up or to let it touch you. See this is something called a puss caterpillar, the larval stage of the southern flannel moth. And for some reason God and/or Mother Nature saw fit to grant this two inch long creature toxins which can cause extremely painful reactions in much larger mammals such as humans. I guess that is one way of ensuring that the larva survives to become a moth. 

First, it was murder hornets. Now it’s stinging caterpillars. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, foresters in Virginia are warning that if you see a caterpillar that looks like a wig on a tree, don’t touch it. The Virginia Department of Forestry said it had received reports of hairy-looking puss caterpillars in eastern Virginia. Its hairs are attached to a poisonous gland, said Eric Day, of Virginia Tech’s Insect Identification Lab. Touching it could cause a painful reaction, the severity of which can vary, Mr. Day said. Other symptoms can include pain that comes in waves, a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, according to the University of Michigan

Jeffrey Toobin: When In Doubt Whip It Out!!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who can do so are working from home. People keep in touch with co-workers via Zoom or Web-ex meetings, instant messaging, emails, conference calls, and the like. 

Working from home means that you learn a little more about your co-workers' personal lives and quirks. Perhaps you hear or see their children or grandchildren in the background. Maybe you find out what sorts of books or music they enjoy. 

Maybe you find out that your co-worker's relationship with their spouse or significant other is much different than you thought. Maybe you see someone without makeup or with uncombed hair. Maybe a co-worker is less productive because their peers or supervisor can no longer just walk into their office or cubicle to get a hands on update on their status.

Speaking of hands on, however lawyer, blogger, New Yorker magazine contributor, and CNN analyst Jeffery Toobin apparently forgot that there are some activities that shouldn't be shared with anyone else other than perhaps an intimate. 

Music Reviews: Anne Laurie: Since I Fell For You

The song Since I Fell For You is a blues/jazz standard written by jump blues pianist Buddy Johnson. I was really only familiar with the Dinah Washington interpretation. I recently ran across an earlier version sung by Anne Laurie which dated from 1947. It's not as lush as the Washington rendition but I like it just as much. Its sparseness speaks to me. 

Maybe it will to you as well. Supposedly Washington herself listed Laurie as an influence. I wonder how much of today's music will still be relevant sixty or seventy years after it was released. Perhaps the best of it will. There was plenty of crap released in whatever Golden Age of music one cares to reference. Still, it's hard for me to let go of the idea that they don't write songs like this any more. The lyrics are equally applicable to men or women. Listen below.

Michigan: Fall Is Here!

Perhaps people in every region or state think that their area is among the most beautiful. And they could all be correct. I haven't lived anywhere except the South and Midwest, specifically Michigan. And Michigan's fall season is almost always amazing. 

Even amid a seemingly never ending pandemic there is still something special about the fall colors of Michigan. 

If you are fortunate enough to live in a temperate region with lots of deciduous trees, you really ought to take the time to go outside, after putting on your mask of course, and enjoy viewing autumn's vivid colors. Perhaps it's not so fun if you also have to spend a lot of time raking and bagging leaves while getting your home ready for winter's blast, but to me that was always a fair exchange for the beauty on display. Enjoy other fall pictures here.

Judge (Justice) Amy Coney Barrett and Liberal Despair

Judge Amy Coney Barrett moved one step closer to being confirmed as the newest Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee claimed that the entire process was illegitimate and boycotted the final Committee vote. The Democrats argued that Committee rules required at least two members of the minority party to participate in order to have a quorum and conduct business. 

The Republicans said they didn't see it that way and proceeded to vote anyway. The result was that the vote was 12-0 to move Judge Barrett's nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Barrett could thus be confirmed as soon as Monday, barring some sort of last minute unforeseen stumble. Maybe someone will come out of the woodwork on Saturday or Sunday to claim that in the third grade Judge Barrett kissed him against his will and gave him cooties. That seems to be quite unlikely to say the least.

Barrett's impending confirmation makes the Democrats so mad that they could just spit. They have no way to stop Barrett's confirmation. They have also realized belatedly that the Republicans, frustrated by what they've seen as liberal courts since at least the 60s if not before, have reached what they certainly hope will be the apotheosis of a multi-decade conservative effort to seize control of the courts back from liberal judges.

So, many liberals, angered and frightened by the idea of 6-3 or 5-4 conservative Supreme Court decisions for the forseeable future and in particular the idea of a decision that overturns or further limits Roe v. Wade have floated ideas to limit the power of this reinvigorated conservative court. Some of these are silly or unconstitutional and just won't happen. Others are viable but come with their own risks.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

VP Debate: Pence and Harris

Usually the only point of a VP debate is for the potential or actual Vice-President to show that he (or she this year) can tie his shoes, walk unassisted, and won't immediately collapse into a puddle of goo if something goes wrong and he becomes President. If someone can pass that low bar then they have pretty much fulfilled their patron's expectations. This year is different because Trump and Biden are each so old that there is a real possibility that neither will be around four years from now. I write possibility. Some might say hope.

I have a dislike for both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.  I think they are both quintessential politicians without much in the way of backbones. Harris' nasal speaking tone and laugh are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Pence gives every indication of being a soulless yes man.  

Harris has a bad record as both prosecutor and district attorney. It is a sign of how desperate the Democrats are to beat Trump that while significant elements of the Democratic political and racial base are expressing disdain for "law and order" as it is currently unfairly applied to Black men and boys, the 2020 Democratic nominee for Vice-President and likely next Vice-President is an empty suit who joked about locking people up for marijuana violations, refused to prosecute dangerous cops, referred to herself as California's "top-cop", and fought to keep prisoners locked up so that they could serve as cheap labor to fight California fires. As others have pointed out Harris was no progressive prosecutor.

But I digress.

Michigan Terrorist Militia Tries to Kidnap Governor Whitmer

So this happened:

A group caught by the FBI plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wanted to take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin and try her for treason, officials said. 
Federal and state authorities have charged more than a dozen people in connection with a scheme to abduct Whitmer from her vacation home and hold her hostage, according to a criminal complaint.

Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft were named in the criminal complaint. 
Charges were later announced against Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison. Through confidential informants and undercover agents, the FBI monitored the plot for several months, and one of the plans discussed by the group involved what to do with Whitmer after the planned kidnapping, court documents reveal.

On July 27, an FBI informant met with Fox at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids, officials said. The informant was secretly recording audio from the meeting. Fox told the informant that their best opportunity to abduct Whitmer would be as she arrived at or left the vacation home or her official summer residence, authorities said. Both residents are in the Western District of Michigan. “Snatch and grab, man,” Fox said, according to the audio tape. “Grab the f****** governor. Just grab the b****, because at this point, we do that, dude, it’s over.”

LINK

Movie Reviews: 6 Souls

6 Souls
directed by Mans Marland
This older (2010) horror film also known as Shelter had a real movie star attached to it in Julianne Moore but unfortunately was hobbled by bad writing, a little too much of a European sensibility, and a really crappy and predictable ending. 
There are a lot of horror movies that are just excuses to show blood, gore, mammary glands, and special effects budgets. I've mostly grown past those as I've aged but this is a film that might have done better to have some of those things on display.
In other words this was a very low energy film. Low energy is good if you can still manage to deliver some creepiness. This film only did that intermittently before sputtering to a denouement which was cliched even by the often low standards of horror films. 
Still, if you are someone who doesn't like horror movies with geysers of blood or naked horny young people doing incredibly stupid things before being slaughtered in inventive ways you might tolerate small bits of this film. But I can't imagine that you would like it. Dr. Cara Harding (Moore) is a confident non-nonsense psychologist and widow who is both devout and scientific. She's also convinced via her experiences and the scientific evidence available that multiple personality disorder is almost always a con. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Movie Reviews: Irresistible

Irresistible
directed by Jon Stewart
This political satire should have come out earlier and been sharper. It was amusing when I expected belly laughs and cuddly when I was looking for sharp elbows. Current and soon to be former President Trump defied all expectations in 2016. Trump drew to an inside straight and became President, shocking the political establishment by cracking the blue electoral wall of Pennsylvania and some Midwestern states.
Trump won in part by portraying himself as a rough and tough round the way fellow, who despite his wealth was the standard bearer for the so-called forgotten and discarded tribes of America, that is to say white people, specifically white people without college degrees, and even more specifically white men without college degrees. That this framing was all bs didn't matter. His supporters apparently didn't care that Trump mocked them as much as any Beltway Ivy League Hollywood Elite insider. 
What did matter was that certain Trump voters felt, correctly or not, that Clinton and the Democrats hated them more, and more importantly were preparing to turn the country, the whole kit and caboodle, over to THEM. Because whites were and still are the majority electorate, a small percentage of white voters flipped the election.  Trump's election kicked off something of a dark night of the soul spiritual crisis in the Democratic Party, in particular among its advisors and analytical experts. 
Did Democrats need to make their Caucasian male Blue Dog working class types the party's face? Or was this just a one time problem?  Was Trump's victory the last gasp of dying reactionaries? Should Democrats double down on appealing to the emerging majority coalition of Black people, feminists, college educated liberal whites, gays, Hispanics, young whites, coastals, etc. Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) is a depressed Democratic Party campaign coordinator. 

Trump's No Good Very Bad Quite Horrible Week: Covid-19 and Presidential Debates

As you no doubt heard President Trump didn't have a very good week. Lagging in the polls he entered the first Presidential debate with his challenger, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, needing to show swing voters that he was not an overgrown man baby-bully with small hands who delighted in using racist, sexist, and otherwise exclusionary language against everyone who wasn't him or his. 

Apparently no one told Trump that this was the plan. I don't think that Trump was even aware that there was a plan to follow or a script to try to use as a guide. He is someone who appears to believe that accepting criticism or admitting that he's not perfect is a grave sin.

At the debate Trump behaved like a surly two year old who had just discovered throwing his crappy diapers against the wall irritated people. Trump interrupted and insulted Biden, insulted Biden's family, made fun of Biden wearing a mask, interrupted and insulted the debate moderator, refused to accept any responsibility for any negative events during his Presidency, and dodged almost every question aimed at him while attempting to blame Biden and of course President Obama for everything that had gone wrong over the past four years while Trump was President.  

Of course Trump didn't admit that anything HAD gone wrong but if it had it certainly wasn't his fault, no sir!  Trump hinted that he would unleash his supporters to invade polling stations and "watch" to be sure that ballots were counted properly. 

The Bird's The Word

Imagine that you are walking down the street when out of the blue you hear someone say "Hey you ****** ****! Why don't you go **** your *****, you big dummy!", Well you turn around to see where the insult is coming from because you're going into flight or fight mode. 

And there staring at you with what can only described as amusement in its beady little eyes, is a parrot, who again tells you to go **** your *****.  Would you think this was funny? Would you want to have a talk with the parrot's owner? Would you get into a cussing match with the bird, perhaps inadvertently teaching it some new and more effective insults? 

LONDON — When Steve Nichols, the chief executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, heard employees loudly swearing in the next room, he went over to tell them off. But there were no employees in the next room. Just the birds. He then realized that five parrots who moved to the park in the same week shared an unfortunate trait: They all had filthy, filthy mouths.

With more colorful language than plumage, the African grey parrots — Billy, Elsie, Eric, Jade and Tyson — used different curse words in different British accents, but they were all unprintably coarse. At one point, a group of women walking past the aviary thought the lewd comments shouted at them were from a hidden staff member, Mr. Nichols said. 

The park had no complaints — in fact, visitors reveled in swearing right back at the birds — but the park officials feared children and parents might not enjoy the experience as much, he said. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Breonna Taylor's Murderers Walk Free: Same Sh*t Different Day!!!

I didn't initially write in this space about the Breonna Taylor incident because it was angering and depressing to write about yet another Black person murdered by the police. It was also obvious the fix was in. I knew exactly was was going to happen. 

No one was immediately arrested or charged though Taylor was killed in March. Instead of focusing on the backgrounds, motivations and records of the police officers who riddled her with bullets the white media and especially the conservative white media tried to claim that Taylor was no angel. 

The implications drawn and inferences to be taken was that Taylor was a "bad girl". Although Taylor wasn't charged with any crime some media still painted her as an immoral or dumb woman who got what she deserved. Some people went beyond that to claim that she was a drug dealer. Not to be outdone in hypocrisy the (white) libertarian and gun rights community who normally boast loudly that (per late rapper Biggie Smalls

"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?

when it comes to police knocking down their doors in the middle of the night to search for guns or drugs, didn't support Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who upon hearing and seeing unidentified men knocking down his door in the middle of the night made the reasonable assumption that he was the target of a home invasion or that Taylor's ex was there to harm and/or kill both of them. Walker, who is not a felon, procured his legally owned firearm to defend himself and Taylor, not knowing the assailants were cops. Well Taylor is dead and to no one's surprise, the Kentucky justice system has refused to charge any of the police who killed her with you know, actually killing her. 

Can Dogs Detect Coronavirus ?

Imagine going to a friendly doctor who , without any invasive, painful, or costly tests, takes a sniff of you, tells you that yes you're sick, licks your hand and then asks you for a treat. 

Travelers arriving at Helsinki’s airport are being offered a voluntary coronavirus test that takes 10 seconds with no uncomfortable nasal swab needed. And the test is done by a dog. A couple of coronavirus-sniffing canines began work at the Finnish airport on Wednesday as part of a pilot program that aims to detect infections using the sweat collected on wipes from arriving passengers. 

Over the past months, international airports have brought in various methods to detect the virus in travelers, including saliva screenings, temperature checks and nasal swabs. But researchers in Finland say that using dogs could prove cheaper, faster and more effective. After passengers arriving from abroad have collected their luggage, they are invited to wipe their necks to collect sweat samples and leave the wipes in a box. Behind a wall, a dog trainer puts the box beside cans containing different scents, and a dog gets to work.

Trump to Nominate Judge Barrett to Supreme Court: Is it Time to Ignore the Supreme Court?

Many people were upset that thanks to McConnell and crew changing their minds about when Presidents should be able to appoint Supreme Court Justices in election years that it now appears that President Trump will be able to make a third appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
There's almost nothing that the Democrats can do to stop this. There is no longer any Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. The Democrats don't have the votes.
The latest news confirms that President Trump will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a current judge for the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to take the empty seat on the Supreme Court. Barrett is obviously a right-winger. 
Although she's not all that different from any run of the mill right wing justice that would be considered under this administration, as this Vox article pointed out, because of some inappropriate comments by California Democratic Senator Feinstein, some social conservatives consider Barrett something of a martyr. 
So they will presumably be excited to "own the libs" by getting Barrett nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, particularly if they do it before election day.
That's actually not all that interesting to me. Whatever a judge's politics may be everyone on the other side always says that if so-n-so gets confirmed to the Supreme Court that the skies will fall and the dead will rise from their graves to eat the living. Sometimes doomsayers are correct.

Movie Reviews: Secret Window

Secret Window
directed by David Koepp
This is another older movie which was based on a Stephen King novella. It had been a while since I read the King creation so I was able to watch this movie without too many expectations. 
In some aspects one might argue that this film was a little darker than the book it adapted. Either way I thought it was a worthwhile way to spend just over ninety minutes.
I liked that for most of the film there is some question as whether or not there is anything supernatural occurring. In terms of violence I would say there is not all that much throughout though as usual sensitive souls may find a few things that might give them pause.  This is not a film like Sleepwalkers where the writer and director were deliberately going for the visual or emotional grossout. 
As any review of society or business gossip pages shows there is no accounting for people's romantic tastes. People whom I think of as unattractive divorce attractive people and claim they've never been happier. People who are rich and good looking divorce each other and boast if they never see each other again it will be too damn soon. Someone who knows all too well the vagaries of love and loss is one Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), a depressed and eccentric writer, who wouldn't you know it is suffering from writer's block.
Mort just can't concentrate on his work. Mort is living alone in an upstate NY lakefront cabin. It's just Mort, his dog and an occasional cleaning lady who drops by a few times a week. You would think that this scenic isolation would be the perfect opportunity to get some work done. But all Mort can do is sleep most of the day, smoke cigarettes, talk to himself, talk to his dog, edit or erase the few words he's written and fret about the furniture placement. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Dies

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died at her home in Washington on Friday. She was 87. The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

By the time two small tumors were found in one of her lungs in December 2018, during a follow-up scan for broken ribs suffered in a recent fall, Justice Ginsburg had beaten colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She received a coronary stent to clear a blocked artery in 2014.

Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime. As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.” 
LINK

Book Reviews: Runaway

Runaway 
by Harlan Coben
Coben is a skilled creator of thrillers in which one event or piece of information changes the protagonist's life forever. This book took longer for me to finish than usual but that was no reflection on the author. It was because for the past few months I was working 80 hour weeks and didn't have the usual time for pleasure reading. This will be a shorter review than usual. It's difficult to write much about this book without giving away key plot elements and twists. 
Because I had to read this book in a somewhat disjointed fashion I didn't enjoy the book as much as I would have otherwise. Again, not the writer's fault. As mentioned, Coben's style is identifiable and familiar. I wouldn't call it formulaic per se as much as comfortable.  The reader knows what he or she is going to get in terms of the big picture if not all the details.
Have you ever been in a position where you try to help a family member or other loved one who doesn't want to be helped?  This can be frustrating. It can be especially irritating if your normal position in your family hierarchy has always included guiding, protecting, and assisting wayward or needy younger relatives.
Simon Greene is a financial advisor. His wife Ingrid is a pediatrician and former model. 
They're not quite  in the 1% but the couple does well for themselves. Simon and Ingrid have three children. Simon and Ingrid are estranged from their oldest daughter, the college aged Paige. Paige has dropped out of college. She's also become a junkie. Ingrid has refused to ever let Paige back in the family home. Paige is also a thief. Although everyone else in the family has given up on Paige, who may be homeless at this point, Simon refuses to do that. 

Movie Reviews: Clash By Night

Clash by Night
directed by Fritz Lang
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
This was one of the first movies in which Marilyn Monroe received top billing, although to be honest the camera was more interested in her beauty and physical attributes than in her acting. 
That said she did a decent job with her role and held her own with the other more experienced actors and actresses. This great film noir is something that could and should be remade, not because it was done poorly the first time but because like many great movies it has some timeless truths that ought to be revisited for the modern generation. 
On the other hand, although the basic realities about male and female behavior, needs and goals haven't really changed all that much since the 50s, what we think about them, how we react to them, and what we're allowed in polite society to say about them have drastically changed.
A director remaking this story today might feel entitled to or even be compelled to drape the story with feminist ideology or even change the dynamics of the story to a more simplistic good and evil morality play which would certainly ruin the film's entire point. People are mixes of good and evil. They always have been and always will be. And though it may appear otherwise at times, this mix is not related to someone's race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual identity. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Movie Reviews: Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers
directed by Mick Garris
This older (1992) film was written specifically for the big screen by author Stephen King, who also appears in a brief funny cameo. Sleepwalkers is not based on any of King's pre-existing books. 

This is a solid B-movie that appears to be deliberately designed to gross people out. It doesn't have any King trademarked hidden messages on tolerance, subtle paeans to childhood, or bittersweet reminiscing about the One True Love who got away all those years ago. 

So you probably shouldn't watch this movie expecting anything like that. In fact if you are sensitive to depictions of violence or perverse sexuality then you probably shouldn't watch this film. Those things don't bother me that much so I decided to rewatch this film.

This film comes across as something that could have been adapted from a "Weird Tales" story or comic, which I am guessing probably was both King's and Garris' intent. This is not a movie that requires a long analysis, description or plot detail. The characters are also, well calling them flat,  sounds accusatory. 

Let's just say that there's not too much deep introspection or emoting required or offered, with one possible exception. But really, do people really watch these sorts of horror movies for acting worthy of Shakespearean theater? Probably not, though the lead actress Alice Krige is indeed a classically trained stage actress. Basically what I am saying is that this film is the very incarnation of a low budget cheap thrills adventure with some sicko stuff mixed in for good measure.

Movie Reviews: The Desperate Hours

The Desperate Hours
directed by William Wyler
Because of the film's star and the fact that it was shot in black and white, some people consider this to be a film noir. I disagree with that.

There are no tortured heroes, no anti-heroes, no confusion between good and evil, no femme fatales, not too much in the way of depression or pessimism, and no one doing wrong to get to right or doing right and falling into wrong. I don't think it's a film noir. It's just a crime drama.

It does have the typical lighting and snappy dialogue that was common in film noir and many other movies created during the 40s and 50s noir heyday. So there is that. There is some bloodless violence and threat of same and a young woman in a tight sweater but by today's standards this would be a PG film. 

This was based in part on a true story. This film was remade in 1990 with Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Kelly Lynch and Mimi Rogers. That version ramped up the sex and violence considerably. And I suppose if the film were to be remade today there would be even more mayhem, sexual and otherwise.

The original version doesn't have all of that. It may have been less "realistic" in some ways but it certainly got its point across by using subtext for what today would be shouted with a bullhorn. The viewer can fill in the gaps if he or she so pleases.

Book Reviews: Lord High Executioner

Lord High Executioner
by Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson
I've read other books by the author, a former gangster and friend and relative to other gangsters. This book is about the late Albert Anastasia aka The Volcano aka The Mad Hatter aka Lord High Executioner. Albert Anastasia was fellow gangster Lucky Luciano's favorite hit man, which when you consider the crews Lucky ran with is saying something. Anastasia was the prototypical scary man who makes other scary men tremble and mess themselves.

Anastasia liked killing. He was convicted of murder and sent to Death Row before his 21st birthday. 

As with the fictional Luca Brasi, older and more powerful hoodlums intervened to rescue Anastasia from his fate. For Anastasia it was apparently Lucky Luciano who "convinced" the District Attorney to set a new trial and eventually drop charges when witnesses changed their story or disappeared. So the volatile Anastasia always demonstrated tremendous loyalty and respect for Luciano, even though the two men were technically in different organizations.

Anastasia rose through the Mob ranks, making a reputation for himself as the violent Mafia satrap on the Brooklyn waterfront. Anastasia would later be the partial inspiration for the hoodlum portrayed in the Academy Award winning film On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger and Karl Malden.

When Luciano decided to eliminate his own boss, Joe Masseria, Anastasia was one of the men Luciano picked for that job. Everyone in the 1930s and 1940s underworld milieu knew of Anastasia's aptitude at such work, which is why together with the similarly minded homicidal maniac Lepke Buchalter, Anastasia oversaw the Mob enforcement group later known as Murder Inc. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Movie Reviews: Pentagon Wars

Pentagon Wars
directed by Richard Benjamin
This older film is a black comedy that details the various battles in the Army over the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. 

Although military familiarity may help one understand this movie even better, ultimately the frustrations of the hero and his allies will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in any sort of entrenched bureaucracy, whether the organization's stated purpose is to kill people and blow things up or save the whales.  

Certainly design engineers or programmers reporting to clueless business managers will recognize some scenarios. The late author Jerry Pournelle conceived of an Iron Law of Bureaucracy such that: 
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. 
Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions. LINK
It's this thinking which allows auto companies to knowingly sell vehicles with defective transmissions or fuel tanks, banks to help drug cartels launder billions, or lawyers to go on vacation to islands owned by billionaire pedophiles. This mindset allows military officials to be more invested in a project's success rather than questioning if the project helps save American lives and win wars.

Congress has become irritated with the budget overruns and delays on the Army's proposed Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which by the mid 80s has been in development for almost twenty years. Congress no longer trusts the Army project updates.

Doordash Wyandotte Shooting over McDonald's Delivery

I have heard of drunk belligerent people becoming violent because someone got their order wrong, delivered their order late, or refused to take their order. 

Until recently I hadn't heard of someone becoming violent because someone delivered their order early. But now I have. And so have you.

FOX 2 - Accused of shooting at a DoorDash driver, a Wyandotte woman has been charged with assault with intent to commit murder. A Wyandotte woman was 10 feet away from her DoorDash driver when she tried to fire her first shot. The gun misfired. She tried two more times, with the third attempt firing at him, but it missed. Police say the customer was Michelle York. When Ricky got to her house, she was waiting on the porch with a man, and child. "They had a little 8- or 10-year-old boy and he was standing there for the whole thing," he said.

Movie Reviews: You Should Have Left

You Should Have Left
directed by David Koepp
You Should Have Left is in some aspects a horror film but using that descriptor makes it sound as if there's going to be plenty of blood and guts, heavy special effects, overused jump cuts, sharp violins squealing just before someone gets stabbed in the neck, disgusting deeds, bouncing mammary glands, and plenty of naive people doing stupid things so that they can move the story along. 

There's none of that here. There may or may not be supernatural elements. I think that there are but different viewers may see things differently. Maybe a psychological thriller would be a better way to describe this movie. I thought the ending was predictable, but I watch a lot of these sort of films. 

For the casual thriller or horror film viewer this movie might be a breath of fresh air. And for people who refuse to watch horror or thriller films on general principle because of the violence, this film lacks explicit mayhem.

I've written before that it must take a special person to marry and to remain married to a working musician, an actor/actress, a model. First, one spouse is often away from home for months at a time, something which just by definition would appear to make staying happily married more difficult, at least in the beginning. And the artist may not want his or her spouse tagging along on tour or shoots, even if it's financially feasible. Next, actors and/or models often appear nude, semi-nude or otherwise display body parts which their wife or husband might think that only he or she should be seeing. Even for the person who claims to lack any jealousy, this might cause some occasional issues.

Hall of Fame baseball player Joe DiMaggio was disgusted, embarrassed and angered when his then wife Marilyn Monroe, filming The Seven Year Itch, stood over a subway grate to let the hot air send her dress flying skyward while everyone took pictures. What was just business and a little fun for Monroe was apparently the last straw for DiMaggio. Later on the couple fought, divorcing soon afterwards.