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.” 

Book Reviews: 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

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.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Movie Reviews: Galveston

directed by Melanie Laurent

This 2018 neo-noir movie was the English language directorial debut of Melanie Laurent. You may remember her from her role in Inglorious Basterds as Shoshanna, the Jewish cinema owner, who is seeking revenge on the Nazis for murdering her family. Apparently Laurent is something of a Renaissance woman, being a director, actress and singer among other things. On the surface the Galveston movie may seem familiar to you.
After a chance encounter a bad man feels obligated to defend a broken angel of a woman from even worse people. In so doing he may rediscover his own humanity, find redemption and/or even find the love that he has convinced himself he doesn't need, previously lost, or will never have. And as in many films of this type a road trip is included. So yes, we've all likely seen that story before. 

Galveston follows that basic outline before deviating. This film was an emotional gut-punch because it defied typical Hollywood conventions even as it teased the viewer into thinking that they would be upheld. The best way I can describe this film visually is that it hearkens back to some late sixties early seventies films. Things are literally very dark on screen at times, which reflects some of the characters and the decisions that they make. 

This is not a Hollywood action film. No one gets shot in the shoulder and declares in a deadpan manner "It went straight through. I'll be fine." When people get hurt, physically or emotionally, they stay hurt for a while. 

Laurent takes her time establishing character reactions and feelings. There's a fair amount of silence throughout the film as we watch people react to each other, express feelings, or just survive ordeals. This film is based on the novel of the same name by Nick Pizzolatto (creator of True Detective), who also wrote the screenplay under a pseudonym. I think I would like to read that book now. Have you ever had a job where your boss doesn't like you? That's not good. It can be worse if you are unaware of your supervisor's ire.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Outpost

The Outpost
directed by Rod Lurie
This is a war movie based on a non-fiction book by Jake Tapper that details the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh between Afghanistan Taliban forces and US Army forces. 

If you are into war movies you will like this film, no doubt. If you are not into war movies, this film won't really be your cup of tea. 

That said although there is violence aplenty, a great deal of the film details the boredom and frustration of the isolated American soldiers, the stress they feel and their distaste for what appear to be foolish or even contradictory orders. But orders are orders. 

The US brain trust at the time apparently felt that it needed to have a lighter touch in Afghanistan while simultaneously maintaining the ability to respond quickly and decisively to Taliban activity. That might have been a good idea, strategically. But the implementation of that went wrong at Combat Outpost Keating.

One of the stated objectives of the troop at Combat Outpost Keating was to engage the local population in community building and thus turn the locals against the Taliban. The other objective was to kill Taliban. These two goals could occasionally be in conflict since many of the locals were Taliban or at least sympathetic to Taliban. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Hagia Sophia Becomes A Mosque

Something that remains near constant across time and cultures is that when one group of people successfully invades, dominates, displaces, or conquers another group of people, members of the victorious group often, not always but often, decide to build their important political, social, or religious buildings and monuments on top of those of the defeated peoples, change the functions of those older buildings to something more in line with the values of the winning side, or just gleefully destroy the older structures altogether. 

It's a spike of the ball in the end zone complete with touchdown dance. It's hanging on the basketball rim after a particularly vicious dunk. It's watching the baseball soar out of the stadium, glaring at the pitcher, flipping the bat and taking a slow jaunt around the bases. In other words, it's something specifically designed to let the other group know that they lost and there's not a damn thing they can do about it. It's not a very nice thing to do. And that's the entire point. 

It's not often remarked upon or noted but Islam like Christianity, has its own history of invasion, conquest and imperialism. The Turks, who are originally from Central Asia, not only conquered the region known as Anatolia, now modern Turkey, but also much of Eastern Europe, including the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine), Constantinople, renamed Istanbul. 

Movie Reviews: The Big Town

The Big Town
directed by Ben Bolt
This 1987 neo-noir film wasn't earth shattering in terms of story, acting, or direction. The viewer can call out most of the twists and turns ahead of time. I still found it entertaining. 

A fatherless young man has an awesome once in a life time skill. Supported and trained by his enigmatic father replacement figure the young man decides he's ready for the big time. Becoming (in)famous the Kid proceeds to shock and awe his rivals while making time with two attractive ladies. 

One lady is a good girl, the other not so much. The Kid must determine which woman is good for him and not just good to him. The Kid learns that people aren't always what they seem. Eventually the Kid must make some life and death moral choices. 

This movie's brash young man is J.C. "Cully" Cullen (Matt Dillon, who apparently has aged only slightly in the intervening thirty three years: good genes and clean living or deals with Infernal Powers?), a small town Indiana gambler and gas station worker who wants more. 

Although his mother discourages it, Cully loves hearing stories of gambling and fun times in Chicago from his mentor, Carl Hooker (Don Francks) who, along with Cully's father, once ran with the Windy City's gamblers. 

Hooker has looked out for Cully ever since Cully's wastrel father died. Hooker thinks that Cully is the best craps player he's ever seen. Hooker believes Cully will be far better than Hooker ever was. Cully quits his job. Armed with Hooker's lucky silver dollar, Hooker's enthusiastic support, and his mother's reluctant approval, Cully departs for Chicago. 

Movie Reviews: The Rental

The Rental
directed by Dave Franco
The Rental is Dave Franco's directorial debut. Franco wrote it with director/actor Joe Swanberg (The Sacrament, You're Next).

It is inspired in part by some dodgy experiences that Franco had in hotels or private rented homes as well as some even more negative experiences that some of Franco's non-white friends or acquaintances had when trying to rent lodgings. 

It is true that it is illegal to refuse to do business with someone because of their race, religion or ethnic origin. It's also true that such discrimination can be difficult to prove. This discrimination remains so common that often it's not worth the time or trouble to take someone to court, which is usually what the offenders hope will be the case. 

Franco and his co-writers combine those elements and mix them up with a few more generic thriller cliches to make a quality story that doesn't set the genre on fire. It was fun to watch and had the requisite misdirection. I think that because the cast was small with a very tight focus the viewer was able to understand the characters better. That doesn't necessarily mean that the viewer will sympathize with the characters. 

I thought two of them did despicable things. The other two are only marginally better. But they are very real. People make mistakes. People act selfishly. If you dig into anyone's past you're going to find a few things that might give you pause. So it goes. 

Movie Reviews: The Hunted (1948)

The Hunted (1948)
directed by Jack Bernhard
This is a workmanlike noir movie. It hits most of the major noir themes, alienation, loneliness, untrustworthy femme fatales, uncaring or corrupt officials and of course a few criminals. 

But it rushes through all of those plot points, rarely giving its two leads a chance to bite down into them. It looks great though.

From a purely visual standpoint if someone wanted to know what film noir looked like, you could show them this film. The framing of light and shadow, the blinds, the darkness, the streetlights, all let the viewer know that he or she is in an untrustworthy world. This could have been a better movie with a larger budget and stronger secondary actors. 

Johnny Saxon (Preston Foster) is a world weary homicide detective. He's just learned that his former special rider Laura Mead (Belita) has been paroled from serving her prison sentence for her role in a robbery. It seems that not only were Johnny and Laura an item but Johnny was the one who arrested Laura. 

Despite her protestations of innocence Johnny thought Laura was guilty. He apparently didn't even bother to visit her during her stint in the Big House. As you might imagine this has caused some strain in their relationship. Laura has sworn to murder Johnny and her lawyer Simon Rand (Pierre Watkin) once she gets out. And since she's out her parole officer feels legally and morally required to warn the two men. 

DJ Fluker Victim of Domestic Violence from Girlfriend Kimberly Davis

Baltimore Ravens lineman DJ Fluker is 6'5" and well over 325 lbs. As a professional football player he performs in a sport of unrelenting aggression which may take years off his life and/or leave him with brain damage. 

Fluker is expected to bench at least 300 lbs, squat over 400 lbs, and play through all sorts of pain, including broken bones. Absent immediate self-defense I don't see myself becoming violent with him. And yet his girlfriend Kimberly Davis apparently continually did so, slapping, punching and drawing blood. And this evidently wasn't the first time that she had done so.

REISTERSTOWN, Md. (SBG) — A Baltimore Ravens lineman has allegedly been a repeated victim of domestic abuse, according to police documents. According to police reports obtained by WBFF, D.J. Fluker says he has been the victim of several assaults over the course of his long-term relationship with Kimberly Davis, who he has a child with.

Davis was arrested following a July 13 incident at the couple’s home in Reisterstown, Maryland, after she allegedly punched Fluker in the nose over an argument over social media. The responding officer observed dried blood coming from his nose and a photo obtained by WBFF from that night shows blood on Fluker’s face. LINK

If Fluker had done the same to Davis or retaliated to her violence there would be another million editorials, tweets, blog posts, and cable segments talking about the evil NFL black ape thug and how savage he is. Fluker could become a billionaire philanthropist, cure COVID-19, cure cancer, and die bringing food to the hungry. Obituaries written would ignore all that to center his domestic violence issue.

Friday, July 31, 2020

America's COVID-19 Response Under Trump

It helps to get peer feedback on your actions. Other people can let you know if your actions and decisions actually make sense to them. 

If these people are doing worse than you are, you might not care about their thoughts. But if they are doing at least as well or better than you, then you should listen to some things that they have to say. It has become painfully apparent that the US response to COVID-19 has been pathetic. Over 150,000 Americans have died. 

President Donald Trump has at various times claimed that he takes no responsibility, inquired about injecting or ingesting cleaning materials, called the virus a hoax, continued to emphasize the pandemic's Chinese origin, boasted that by this date the virus would have disappeared, dismissed medical experts, refused to wear masks or endorse the wearing of masks, blamed the spread on Black and Brown people, and said that too much testing is a bad idea. Trump takes all bad news on COVID-19 as a personal attack. Since Trump lacks the maturity to deal with bad news, he must pretend it doesn't exist.

All of this has been echoed and amplified by Trump's mini-mes in the Republican Party at the state and local levels. It might be useful to hear what some foreigners think of all of this.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Movie Reviews: Lights Out

Lights Out
directed by David F. Sandberg
This 2016 movie is one that showed that horror films can be simultaneously inventive and traditional. It was the director's debut. Lights Out shares its title with the famous old time radio show. 

Although it doesn't appear to take inspiration from the H.P. Lovecraft story, "The Haunter of The Dark" it still reminds me of the monster of that story, something that only appears when it's dark.

Lights Out lacks excessive blood and gore, gratuitous toplessness, or characters who do incredibly stupid things (well with a few exceptions) to serve the story. Lights Out goes back to the basics. There are many jump scares and what was that bump in the night shivers, but these are successful in this movie. Sometimes keeping stuff simple really does work best.

The film has a few information dumps but fortunately I didn't think those ruined the story. Unsurprisingly darkness plays a significant role in the movie. You could make the case that this film's title refers to darkness which is the absence of light and the metaphorical darkness which is what we experience with familial or romantic loss and depression. Here one darkness leads to the other. And both seem to be where evil thrives.

The movie's intro was like the intro to a lot of older Supernatural episodes in which the monster of the week kills someone or takes over their body. The Winchester brothers then have to figure out what happened and how to beat the bad guy. Well this movie doesn't have the Winchester brothers. 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Responds to Ted Yoho's Insult

Bullies usually prefer to pick on people they think won't fight back. As a male bully, if you get too far out of pocket with another man, there is always the possibility that the man will take things to a different level. And that might not end the way you were expecting things to end. So it's better to pick on people that you think can't fight back, you know like employees or women. Sometimes even that backfires. Even though the target of your ire might not be able to rearrange your face and "learn you" some respect she can still make it clear to all who are interested what a piece of s*** you are.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently pulled the sheets off of Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) for profanely insulting her.

Run with the Buffalo!!!

Bison and buffalo are actually different animals. I suppose if you are a zoology expert and got very close to a male bison in say Yellowstone National Park you could probably point out all the minor and major differences between the two species to a novice such as myself. 

All the same you should probably remember a few things. First, bison, particularly male ones, are rather protective of their herd, their land, their young, and their personal space. Second, if a bison should happen to become dangerously aggressive against any humans it thinks are violating its boundaries, I don't need to outrun the bison. I just need to outrun you.

A recent visit to Yellowstone National Park nearly turned into a catastrophic experience for two friends when they had to run for their lives when a bison charged at them. Video of the frightening encounter shows the moment when the bull starts chasing after the two women, who haven’t been identified, while terrified bystanders look on. 

Movie Reviews: Each Dawn I Die

Each Dawn I Die
directed by William Keighley
This was a 1939 crime movie that shades over into film noir territory. It featured superstars James Cagney and George Raft. 

Raft was the boyhood friend of notorious mob boss and hitman Bugsy Siegel. Raft had not only grown up around gangsters but also allegedly had spent some time on the mob fringes before finding success as a dancer and actor. Even during his successful reign in Hollywood, Raft maintained some friendships (and business relationships?) with mobsters such as Siegel, Lepke Buchalter (head of Murder Inc), and Mickey Cohen, among others. So Raft's work here as an imprisoned mobster certainly seemed to have the whiff of realism. Raft is cool, debonair and charismatic. 

There weren't many actors who could hold their own onscreen with the lightning in a bottle force that was Cagney but Raft was certainly such a man. And he did it seemingly without effort. Where Cagney is boom-zip-bam all over the place at 150 mph, Raft is laconic, behind the beat and as mentioned cool....

Michigan Beekeeper Explains His Work

It is strange how so much of what we consider clean or unclean is based on often arbitrary cultural standards. I don't eat honey as often as I used to do. But that has nothing to do with its origin as nectar which is stored by bees, partially digested, regurgitated, and altered until it becomes the substance we know as honey.

That doesn't bother me at all. But if you told me that tonight's dinner would be some lettuce that a cow had chewed on for a week or some crickets that you had gathered from the backyard last night, I would be disgusted. Cultural taboos are something else.

Anyway, a Southeast Michigan man explains below how his hobby/business of beekeeping works. He's working with bees that are somewhat docile, though not so docile that he doesn't wear a protective suit. It's good to know where your food comes from so that you understand how the natural world works.

Michigan Woman Sets SUV On Fire

Apparently some women have been watching Waiting to Exhale too many times without understanding that (a) setting someone's vehicle or other possessions on fire to express your disappointment with them is illegal and immoral and (b) gasoline vapors are just as flammable and as dangerous as liquid gasoline. 

I'm sure the next time one Ms. Sydney Parham decides to set an "acquaintance's" vehicle on fire she will consider using a fuse and/or ensuring there are no witnesses or surveillance cameras around. 

You learn all about such things when you go to prison, which is hopefully exactly where this nitwit is headed.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Loft

The Loft
directed by Eric Van Looy
"If you don't like my loving woman, you sure don't have to stall/Cause I can get more pretty women than a passenger train can haul!"
This older film is an English language remake of the Belgian film of the same name helmed by the same director. It shares some DNA with similar late 80s and early 90s erotic thriller films starring such women as Shannon Tweed, Shannon Whirry, and Tanya Roberts among others. 

It tries to be a little smarter than such films but only briefly succeeds. The film can't rise above what I thought was a silly premise and a few wooden acting performances. It was a little fun until the melodrama became terminal, resulting in an ending that saw all involved competing to chew up the scenery.

As recent revelations about certain couples' private lives have shown, you never know what's going on behind closed doors. Certain people aren't meant for monogamy though they may otherwise be great spouses.
Some people would say that it's by definition impossible to be a good spouse, let alone a great one, if you can't devote yourself to one person, forsaking all others. It's in the freaking wedding vows, for goodness sakes. Some think that providing a stable lifestyle for the children and the spouse is all that anyone can expect, especially once the initial infatuation has disappeared. Some would forgive their spouse his or her (non-public) trespasses. Others wouldn't forgive a single doggone thing. 

Aurora Colorado Police Kill Elijah McClain And Make Jokes

So many Black men and boys are accosted, harassed, assaulted, and murdered by their local police departments that it's difficult to keep up with the numbers and stories. Somehow Black men and boys lack any patriarchal privilege to protect them. More on that later.

One August night in Aurora, Colorado in 2019, an anemic massage therapist and violinist named Elijah McClain was walking home from the convenience store, having just purchased an iced tea for his brother. Unfortunately Mr. McClain was Black. McClain was wearing some sort of face covering to protect himself against the cool night air. That was enough for some other citizen to call the police to report McClain as suspicious. Aurora's finest rushed to the scene and immediately choked out McClain as he begged for his life.  

The police called paramedics, who injected McClain with the sedative ketamine. McClain had a heart attack and died three days later. McClain was unarmed and as far as I know had no criminal record. Unsurprisingly the coroner claimed that the cause of death was undetermined, while the district attorney promptly declined to charge any of the police or paramedics involved. 

Move along folks, nothing to see here. We didn't kill him. All we did was cut off his airflow and overload him with sedatives. Him dying is between him and God. Apparently irritated by any grief over McClain's demise, some other police officers thought it would be hilarious to take pictures of themselves mocking McClain's death near a memorial set up to honor McClain.

Three Aurora, Colo., police officers have been fired over photos that show two of them grinning and mocking the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist who was arrested and placed in a chokehold last August. Mr. McClain died several days later.

Detroit Starter's Bar and Grill: Wear a mask!!

How often do you go out to eat? I used to do so at least once every two weeks or so. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine orders I stopped doing that. Living is more important than that perfect Caprese salad.

Even with the slight relaxation of the governor's orders regarding COVID-19 I haven't gone out to eat. And I don't think I have any intention of doing that any time soon. The juice isn't worth the squeeze in my opinion. There have been a number of situations across the country where people have entered establishments without masks and confronted or been confronted by employees or other customers who are wearing masks. Some of these encounters have turned violent. Well in Detroit we do things differently. 

Instead of a scofflaw entering an establishment without a mask and demanding service, a woman wearing a mask entered a restaurant/bar and asked an employee not wearing a mask to start wearing one. This apparently aggrieved the bar employee so much that she started making threats of imminent body harm to the customer. Fortunately this time, it didn't come to that.

DETROIT (FOX 2) - As people get used to the mask mandate there has been no shortage of tension over who is or is not wearing one. The latest confrontation went down at Detroit's Starter's Bar and Grill bar when a bartender refused to wear a face covering. It appears to have been an isolated incident but Starter's is not taking it lightly. The employee in question has been suspended.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Donald Trump and Chuck Woolery are Evil Stupid People!

/sarcasm on
I don’t know about everyone else but whenever I encounter a strange new easily transmitted deadly virus for which there is no cure or vaccine I ALWAYS check with game show hosts, not doctors or scientists, to find out the real deal.

It gives me a warm happy feeling that our President is spending time retweeting game show host and certified nutjob Chuck Woolery instead of telling people what they could do to stay safe, asking scientists what they need to speed up vaccine availability, or reviewing some best practices from nations who have slowed transmission.
/sarcasm off

Donald Trump defended his retweet this week of Chuck Woolery’s claim that Centers for Disease Control officials and others are “lying” about the coronavirus. CBS News Catherine Herridge asked Trump, “You reposted a tweet yesterday saying that CDC and health officials are lying. You understand this is confusing for the public. So who do they believe? You, or the medical professionals like Dr. Fauci?”

“I didn’t make a comment,” Trump told Herridge. “I did. I reposted a tweet that a lot of people feel. But all I am doing is making a comment. I’m just putting somebody’s voice out there. There are many voices. There are many people that think we shouldn’t do this kind of testing, because all we do, it’s a trap.”

In a tweet on Sunday, Woolery wrote, “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Movie Reviews: A Good Woman Is Hard To Find

A Good Woman Is Hard To Find
directed by Abner Pastoll
This is yet another entry in the "slight woman is underestimated by everyone and takes bloody revenge" genre so if that theme leaves you cold then you know what to do. 

It is a little bit different than many other similar films in that the violence, even when deserved is NOT played for laughs or shown as explicitly being some sort of political statement. 

This movie does make a link between committing violence and being willing to stand up for yourself in some very dodgy situations but in some ways that's true in real life isn't it. Although we all hope not to, sometimes we run across people who mean us harm and simply won't be deterred by kind words or appeals to morality. 

There's only one language that they understand. Also the film spends a lot of time showing the basic challenges a young widow with two small children might face, whether it be dealing with her bossy judgmental mother or needing batteries in a hurry.

This movie is set in the UK. I think it's supposed to be in Northern Ireland somewhere but I am not familiar enough with the various accents to state for sure exactly where the events are taking place. That's not really that important. What is important is that Sarah Bolger (Sarah Collins) is an impoverished widow who lives on an estate (public housing). She has two small children, a boy and girl. The boy saw his father Stephen, Sarah's husband, murdered, and hasn't spoken since then. 

My Name Is Phuc Bui!

If you encounter a name that is difficult for you to pronounce the polite thing to do is to ask the person for the correct pronunciation and use it going forward. 

It is disrespectful to continually mispronounce someone's name after you've been told the correct pronunciation more than a few times. 

It's similar to being frequently mistaken for the only other Black man in your department when you differ greatly in age, height and looks, but I digress. 

Not every name in America will be of European origin. If Americans can pronounce Polish, Hungarian, or Russian names that are seemingly stuffed to excess with z's, y's, s's, and c's, if Americans know that Spanish generally lacks what we would consider a "j' sound and that Jose is pronounced "Ho-zay" and not "Joe-sie" then Americans can correctly pronounce names of non-European provenance.

Sometimes life imitates art. In the review of the film The Gentlemen I mentioned that there were jokes that were ethnically/racially based. The Gentlemen film used the exact example of what recently occurred to a young college student of Vietnamese origin, who like a film character, happened to have the name of Phuc.

A community college professor in Oakland, Calif., is on administrative leave after asking a Vietnamese-American student to “Anglicize” her name because he felt it sounded “offensive” in English. In a Wednesday night email exchange that was quickly shared to tens of thousands on social media, Matthew Hubbard, a professor in the Laney College mathematics department, repeatedly asked the student, Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen, to “Anglicize” her name because it “sounds like an insult in English.”

In response, Ms. Nguyen told the professor that his request “feels discriminatory” and that she would file a complaint with the school’s Title IX office if he could not call her by her given name.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Quarry

The Quarry
directed by Scott Teems
This movie teams up two very good character actors who have occasionally ventured into leading man territory. Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham have often worked together, most notably in Boardwalk Empire. 

They are two actors who I am always interested in watching because they bring depth and realism to their characters. 

No matter how over the top or strange the character may be written, these guys find a way to ground their depiction and make you feel that you know their character, even if on balance the person is despicable. Each man shines in this movie. However the film is slow moving. It's as if the writer/director decided to just throw these actors in the Texas setting and told them "Do something!"

The results were mixed. I thought a while about this review because I initially thought I might be judging a slow neo-noir thriller by action film standards. And upon further reflection I decided that no I wasn't. Even by the standards of thrillers aimed at adults with attention spans longer than thirty seconds The Quarry meanders and wanders. One might argue that the seeming pointlessness of many occurrences is actually the movie's entire point and that yours truly was just too dumb to see it. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Lives can be changed by just one random decision. I have a relative who enjoys pointing out what he considers to be Christian hypocrisy. He thinks that Christians must live exactly by the teachings of Jesus, no matter how difficult.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Movie Reviews: Becky

directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
In the mid seventies this would have been the sort of movie that might have had Jodie Foster as its star. Children should not watch this film. That includes its titular child lead actress. The short description of Becky might be Home Alone meets Saw. In other words, if you are at all sensitive to depictions of violence, this is not, repeat NOT the film for you. Got it???

Even if you are inured to gruesome violence, this film goes over the top showing the violence suffered, but mostly committed by its teen anti-heroine. I'm not joking. This film is not comedic except occasionally in the most over the top way that might appeal to the most jaded horror/thriller viewers. The only deference to viewer sensibilities is that we are spared sexual assault, which given the circumstances, could have been expected.

Since at least River Tam and proceeding thru Arya Stark there have been many occasionally tongue in cheek but often serious filmic or novelistic depictions of young, small, teen or preteen girls who are often able to outwit or outfight one or more fully grown male adversaries, or at least hold them at bay until the cavalry arrives, so to speak. Becky takes that trope, turns it up to 11 and stomps on the distortion pedal. But it also very broadly hints that the ability to commit violence is not something to be admired or sought after. This little girl has some problems. 

Movie Reviews: The Hunt

The Hunt
directed by Craig Zobel
This is another film that (a) had a female lead and (b) had its debut delayed and possibly ruined by the emergence of the coronovirus pandemic and (c) was seized upon by some conservatives, especially the dummy-in-chief, who thought it unfairly demonized them.

This last point is almost too stupid to comment upon but it's worth mentioning that this movie is in part a satire of fraught relationships between conservatives and liberals. The Hunt doesn't actually endorse kidnapping your political enemies and hunting them for fun anymore than the Godfather movies suggest to people that they should build a multi-generational international criminal empire. Given some recent real life incidents one might even argue that this satire doesn't go far enough.

If you have to explain satire, you've likely already lost half the audience. Much as Blazing Saddles used jokes about racism, anti-semitism, and stereotypes in general to suggest that those things were, you know, actually harmful to human beings, The Hunt uses political and regional stereotypes to suggest that sometimes conservatives and liberals share negative traits. This could be read as a both sides cop out. One film writer said as much.

Movie Reviews: The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen
directed by Guy Ritchie
Guy Ritchie is a predictable writer and director, particularly when he's examining the milieu in which he made his name, the British underworld. Depending on how much you enjoy this style you might consider this film a welcome return to form. 

Or you might decide that fast paced tough guy/tough gal banter, sudden ultraviolence, music video style quick cuts, British slang, double crosses hidden inside triple crosses, and racial/ethnic/sexual slurs played for jokes is overdone and last year's/last century's news. I generally enjoyed this movie but I have a tolerance for some of these otherwise problematic things in movies if I don't think they're coming from a place of contempt or hatred. 

Presumably Ritchie and/or the other writers would say they're making fun of everyone. I'm not so sure about that, watching it a second time. Still, this is light entertainment, not anything award winning or something that is supposed to make anyone think too much. 

Michael "Mickey" Pierson (Matthew McConaughey) is an American former Rhodes Scholar, who upon arriving in Merry Olde England, soon discovered that he could make more money and meet a higher class of people by selling marijuana than by hitting the books. Fast forward about twenty five years and the middle aged but still trim Mickey has become a multimillionaire marijuana producer and distributor. He has avoided heroin and cocaine because of their associations with violence and because he thinks those drugs are too addictive. Mickey is a nice guy.