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.