Saturday, January 30, 2021

Snowy Owl In Central Park

I wonder if climate change has anything to do with snowy owls being seen more often outside of their normal Great White North habitat. I've only seen one up close a few times. It's an impressive sight. Recently a snowy owl briefly visited NYC and caused a slight commotion. 

In the winter of 1890, a snowy owl was spotted in New York City’s Central Park, part of what a contemporary account called an “unusual abundance” along the East Coast of the large, strikingly beautiful predators that make their home in the Arctic tundra. “Unusual” is right. A snowy owl, according to birding records, did not show its fluffy self in Central Park for another 130 years. Then came Wednesday morning.

A birder who runs the Twitter account Manhattan Bird Alert read about an owl sighting on a tracking site and sounded the alarm. “A SNOWY OWL, a mega-rarity for Central Park,” he wrote, “is now in the middle of the North Meadow ball fields.” The owl also got the attention of the park’s avian residents. A flock of crows flew down to harass her and try to drive her out (owls sometimes eat crows). A red-tailed hawk buzzed over her head (hawks are fiercely territorial and do not abide trespassers).

But the birder behind Manhattan Bird Alert, David Barrett, a retired hedge-fund manager who started the account in 2013, said he was performing a public service and building support for conservation efforts. “If you want people to care about nature,” he said, “you should show them that it’s there and let them appreciate it for themselves.” 

By Thursday morning, the Central Park snowy was nowhere to be found.
“I’m not surprised it moved on,” said Paul Sweet, manager of the ornithology collection at the American Museum of Natural History. “It wasn’t being left alone — it was being quite bothered.” (
He was referring to other birds, not people.)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Movie Reviews: American Skin

American Skin
directed by Nate Parker
I have written before of how I despise sexual assault double standards wielded against Black men. Kobe Bryant hadn't even had a funeral yet before one white actress was calling the untried retired athlete a rapist while conveniently leaving out her gushing adulation of musician David Bowie, who allegedly seduced/raped a thirteen year old groupie. 
Similarly some people have trashed this movie by referring to Parker's acquittal from rape charges two decades ago when he was a college sophomore as a reason not to watch this film or as an argument that this is a bad film. Although we are free to believe anything we like I think that we should also try to judge art on its own merits as much as possible. I try to do that whenever I can. I will certainly do that as long as there are such racial double standards.
So, just going by the actual film itself and not what I might think of the actor, was this a must see movie? No. No it wasn't. It was uneven. It was a little bit of bait and switch. Ok, make that a lot of bait and switch. 
This might be the subject of another post, but as other people have pointed out, it is difficult to find many mainstream Hollywood films where the Black man is the hero, defeats his enemies, overcomes other internal/external obstacles, gets the girl, is not comic relief, and survives at the end. 
Also, and likely not unrelated to that phenomenon, many of the African-American heroes and great men or great women we learn about in school were those who turned the other cheek, suffered indignity after indignity, and generally went along to get along.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Trump's Coup Attempt

I take a few weeks off from this site to concentrate on the Day Job and what happens? The Orange Buffoon tries to incite the overthrow of the US government. And since it didn't work he denies that he tried it.
I don't have too much to say about this that hasn't already been said more eloquently by plenty of people on Facebook and other places. Let's review a few points that are important to keep in mind.
Soon to be former President Donald "Grab em by the p****!" Trump lost the election to Joe "If you don't vote for me you ain't Black!" Biden. It wasn't even all that close. Plenty of people on both sides came out to vote but more Americans voted for Biden. More importantly, more people voted for Biden in the precise combination of states needed for victory. 
The Republican Party is uncompetitive nationally in the Northeast and coastal West. It's starting to show weakness in the Southwest. It lost ground in the Midwest. And even in its Southern stronghold, there were some growing hairline fractures, specifically in Georgia and Virginia. Biden won by 306-232 in the Electoral College with a popular vote margin of seven million votes. 
It was a solid victory for Biden. 

Movie Reviews: Gilda

Gilda
directed by Charles Vidor
This film noir really put the actress Rita Hayworth on the map in terms of exciting sex appeal though by modern sensibilities visually the movie is at worst PG-13. Still, regardless of the times, people are always going to respond to swivel hipped women in high slit sleek evening gowns singing somewhat risque songs. So there is that if you are looking for it. In many aspects this film was a Casablanca knockoff.
There's the not so femme fatale, a nightclub operator with a hidden conscience/soft side, and threats from bossy Germans. There is also some subtext which probably wouldn't have been too far out of place in many modern films. But in modern film it wouldn't have been subtext at all. I was a little surprised to see it. More on that in a minute.
Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a devil may care American gambler and hustler. You can take that second description any way you like. Johnny has made his way down to Buenos Aires, where after having won a lot of money cheating at craps, he is rescued from a mugging and beatdown by an older gentleman. This older fellow scares off Johnny's attackers by brandishing his (ahem) walking stick outfitted with a hidden sword. The man admires Johnny's gambling skills and tells him about the best casino in town. But the man advises Johnny not to cheat there.

Casu Martzu: Maggot Cheese

Different cultures have different ideas of what is considered permissible to eat. What is kosher in one culture could be considered disgusting in another. There are too many examples of this to mention. Sometimes even the smell or description of a food which people in one culture consider a delicacy can sicken people from another culture. Some folks get on their high horse and accuse anyone who feels this way of being racist or intolerant or xenophobic. I don't think that's quite accurate. There are individuals with contemptuous feelings towards everyone who is not the same as them who nonetheless enjoy eating at a different ethnic restaurant each week. There are those who believe in all the wonders of multiculturalism who wouldn't be caught dead trying anything too far removed from their teenage palate.

I do know this, though. Although I enjoy many of the various kinds of Italian and for that matter Mediterranean cuisine I am not, repeat NOT eating any kind of food that relies upon the digestive and reproductive processes of flies to give it what some consider a wonderful taste. If I purchased some cheese from the supermarket and upon preparing to consume it, discovered maggots writhing all about inside, I wouldn't be very happy. And the store clerks, managers, and corporate bigwigs would hear all about it. But apparently if there aren't maggots in the cheese Casu Martzu, you just aren't getting your money's worth.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Last Shift

The Last Shift
directed by Andrew Cohn
This indie film is worthwhile watching despite some occasionally muddled themes. I appreciated that this movie didn't neatly resolve everything like an old episode of Scooby Doo or one of those ABC Afternoon Specials. Life is not like that. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes we don't know or agree on who the bad guys are. I thought The Last Shift was realistic, both in casting and in the character depiction and reactions. 
The writing sagged near the end. As mentioned, if you like solid conclusions where everything makes sense and everyone gets what he or she "deserves" then this movie is not that. The Last Shift is also, purposely or not, an extended herky-jerky exposition on why the "class first" focus of people like say Bernie Sanders, doesn't often work in the American political economy. 
This film is set in Albion, Michigan. Stanley (Richard Jenkins) is the night manager of an Albion location of a regional fast food franchise, Oscar's Chicken and Fish (and apparently burgers as well). 
In what could be a nod to co-actor Ed O'Neill's role of Al Bundy, Stanley took this job more or less right out of high school and has remained there for the next forty years or so, give or take. Starting at just over $3/hr back in the day, Stanley has managed to grow his salary to the princely rate of just over $13/hr. Real ambitious hard charging dude, Stanley is. Not.