Saturday, February 27, 2021

Michael Che Joke: Fragility and Reality

If someone protested against or made sarcastic jokes about apartheid in South Africa, housing discrimination in the United States, or racist soccer fans in Italy or Spain, most of us would not immediately say that the person is anti-white/anti-Afrikaner/anti-Italian/anti-Spanish. They very well could be of course but that wouldn't change the fact that there are/were problems in all of those areas which need(ed) to be addressed.
Most people recognize that it's a dishonest tactic to accuse the person drawing attention to bias of being biased himself or herself. Nobody likes to have their particular group or even a representative of their group in the spotlight for something negative. Just human nature. But no group and especially no government or nation is above criticism. Governments and even nations are not synonymous with ethnic, racial, or religious groups. There is a huge difference between criticizing a government for what it does and criticizing a group for who it is.
Unfortunately the state of Israel and its US partisans have expanded and weaponized claims of anti-Semitism to include anyone who criticizes the appalling treatment that Israel doles out to non-Jews in areas under its control, particularly the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. SNL comedian Michael Che recently made a minor joke about this and was accused of being the second coming of Hitler by some Jewish organizations.

Television Reviews: 30 Coins

30 Coins (Season One)
directed by Alex de la Iglesias
This is a Spanish language supernatural thriller that finished its first season on HBO Europe. It's subtitled for American audiences. I don't know if there will be a second season or not. The completed first season smartly tied up loose ends but also left viewers plenty of "Wait what is going to happen to so-n-so?" cliffhangers.
The last episode was marketed as a "series finale". At first I thought it was more of a season finale but after thinking about it some more and remembering how disappointing the 2nd and 3rd installations of The Matrix were in comparison to the original film, I would be content if this turned out to be a one off sort of deal. There were only eight episodes. There was very little narrative fat in this series. 
The show has something to attract everyone. There are attractive women and men who are both occasionally seen without much clothing. There are a few soap opera storylines which seem designed specifically to bring in women viewers. Those viewers who are keen on alternative or secret histories, who think that there are conspiracies carried out at society's highest levels, or who eagerly read Dan Brown books will find much to enjoy in 30 Coins. 
There's not a tremendous amount of bloodshed in most of the series but what there is is emotionally engaging. It's not just popcorn mayhem designed to meet a quota of severed limbs. Lastly, the film has some very deliberate nods to H.P. Lovecraft-both his worldview and his fictional creations. 

Movie Reviews: Destry

directed by George Marshall
This 1954 Western remake movie starred the famous WW2 hero and single most decorated soldier of all time Audie Murphy in the title role. Destry gives us a protagonist who just wants to be left alone and to do right. Unfortunately life intervenes with the man's plans.
Given that Murphy had put two hundred or more enemy soldiers in the ground there is some minor irony here seeing him as a man who eschews firearms and violence in favor of peaceful discussion and adherence to the law above all else. 
However, the 5-5 Murphy was in real life, like his character here, soft spoken, calm and quiet. That is until you tried to mess with him or his. Murphy was once tried for attempted murder after getting into a fistfight (and apparently winning) with a 6-3 dog trainer who had made the mistake of groping one of Murphy's female friends and abusing her German Shepherd. Murphy didn't deny attacking the man but basically said that if he had wanted to kill the man he would have. The jury agreed and acquitted him. So, Murphy was not a man to mess with.
Destry was, like Shane, a didactic movie. It feeds into and defines the American image of a real man as someone who doesn't go looking for trouble but doesn't run from it either. 
In Destry the sheriff of a small Western town dies unexpectedly. Very unexpectedly. The official word is heart attack though some people have their doubts. But unless those people want to have a heart attack as well they are well advised to keep their thoughts to themselves. After all, nobody asked them did they? 

Happy Dog

 Always remember to be kind to other living creatures as often as you can.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Philadelphia Teen Girls Assault and Carjack Elderly Cancer Patient

From time to time people tell me that there is never any excuse for violence against women. My response has always been that that supposed axiom is untrue. There are some women who initiate violence against other people. I think everyone has the right to self-defense. Period. End of story. 
All of my grandparents are now deceased but if someone were to have assaulted either of my grandmothers in my presence I can safely say that I would not have hesitated to defend them, with deadly force if need be. I wouldn't have worried about the criminal's gender. I want to stop them from hurting me and mine.
Although the majority of violent criminals are and likely always will be men, anecdotally it does seem as if women are becoming more aggressive in their violence. Thugs come in both genders now. Recently in Philadelphia three young women attacked a 78 year old cancer patient. 
The women doused the victim with pepper spray, punched her in the face, and threw her to the ground, before stealing her vehicle. The victim temporarily lost sight in one eye and had a heart attack. 
Two of the alleged perpetrators have been identified and arrested. Just another day in the big city I suppose. If the old woman's daughter had shot the assailants to defend herself and her mother I am pretty sure that some people would be crying and saying that she didn't need to do that.

Neera Tanden For OMB?

Did you ever joke about or insult someone at your job? Maybe you forwarded nasty comments about them over company instant messenger or email. Maybe your friends love your hilarious impression of a co-worker's nasal accent or the funny way they walk. 

Maybe you catalogued this person's mistakes or dumb ideas and gleefully referenced them whenever the person's name came up in business discussions. Maybe you didn't care if the person heard your jokes, putdowns, or criticisms because you didn't report to them. You never foresaw a time when that person or his/her friends would have any authority over you or influence over your next assignment or promotion. Life can quickly change. Sometimes the person you called a malodorous bird brained blockhead is appointed to the committee considering your hire, pay raise, or promotion. Or he or she has good friends who are on that committee. 

You will face some tough questions about your previous comments. What happens next depends on how badly you want the hire, promotion, or pay raise. If you want it, you will swallow your pride and abase yourself before the committee. You denounce your past comments.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Racist Neighbors in Grosse Pointe Park

This is just your daily reminder that racism occurs independently of a person's income or wealth. Although Grosse Pointe Park is not the wealthiest or least educated Detroit suburb, it's far from impoverished. 
If you have some minor unpleasantness with your neighbor and they immediately negatively reference one of your immutable characteristics it's not that you did anything wrong. They were just looking for an excuse to do so. In America the most charged examples of this are usually, or rather, almost always, racism against Black people.
A racist display has a community outraged in Grosse Pointe Park after a white resident displayed a KKK flag in the window of a home facing their Black neighbor Tuesday.
"I said, I know there's not a klan sign in the window next door," said Jedonna Dinges. "And I opened the curtains and I looked and sure enough, there was a klan sign in the window next door."
She initially called state and federal authorities and shared the picture of the flag on her Facebook page before local police got wind of the situation and went to the neighbor's house, urging him to take it down.

Movie Reviews: Greenland

directed by Ric Roman Waugh
This is a disaster movie. But it's not just a disaster movie. It's a possible world ending, extinction level event disaster movie. With these sorts of films there are usually two choice the writer(s) and/or director can make. One choice usually involves some square jawed hero solemnly intoning we will not go gently into the night. Along with his ragtag group of scientists, rogues, military and a dog, the protagonist desperately attempts to avert the Apocalypse by any means necessary while also trying to reconnect with his estranged wife or child. 
The other choice takes it for granted that there is nothing that can be done. The film then has the protagonist spend the entire film's running time talking to his loved ones and examining the mistakes he or they have made with each other before the inevitable happens. In either film there are usually a number of impressive effects that show the impending doom's progression. Maybe the asteroid gets closer and smaller pieces of it hit places across the world. Maybe the ozone barrier is pierced. Each day the earth's temperature climbs or drops but gets nearer to a point where humans can't survive. And so on. 
Greenland is a hybrid of these two types of films. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps because of the relatively low budget, it doesn't have a lot of iconic disaster scenes. It concentrates much more on the struggle to survive--even if survival may literally just mean one more day.

Book Reviews: A Flash Of Red

A Flash Of Red
by Clay Harvey
I think I read this book before. I bought this book from a now closed used book store. There are, as the Clint Eastwood Gran Torino character Walt Kowalksi put it, occasions when you mess with someone that you really should have left alone. A Flash Of Red gives the reader a 300 page example of that. North Carolina resident Tyler Vance is a successful author and magazine contributor. Vance is a widower with a four year old son. Vance likes classical music and life's finer things, but he's no stranger to hard physical labor. 
Vance drives to his local bank ATM to conduct some business. But there's a bank robbery in progress. Vance can't escape. One of the getaway drivers has seen the police coming and left. When the two bank robbers exit, Vance's truck is the closest to them. They try to carjack Vance. A robber points a gun at Vance's face, ordering him out of his truck. Well threatening Vance was the robbers' last and worst mistake. Vance is never unarmed. Vance has the speed and reaction time of a cobra.
I now had two viable options, in my view. One I could drop the .45 onto the floorboard and relinquish my truck, hoping he wouldn't shoot me, pistol-whip me, or secure me as a hostage. Such an alternative went against my gut feeling, my knowledge of human nature, my philosophy of social decorum, and my extensive--albeit long-past---training in handling violent confrontations. I went with option two. I shot him in the beard.
Vance wins the ensuing gun fight with the Uzi equipped second robber.  The police aren't happy. One cop is an ego driven bully who despises citizens who defend themselves. This man is peeved that Vance doesn't bow down to his authority. The higher ranking and more intelligent police officer immediately recognizes that the coolly competent Vance must have had some military or intelligence training. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Movie Reviews: Let Him Go

Let Him Go
directed by Thomas Bezucha

This is a combination Western/vigilante movie. I usually enjoy both of those genres. So I was set to enjoy this one. It hit most of the points that you expect to see in either of those types of films. But something was off. It took a minute for me to realize it but my problem was that the good guys in this film were not only breaking the law, but their reasons for doing so were weak. 
There have been some legal cases where a set of grandparents, or an aunt, uncle, cousin or other relative have attempted to obtain visitation to or custody of a child over the objections of that child's biological mother, father, or legal stepmother or stepfather. Usually absent some rather serious and chronic physical or sexual abuse, financial or medical incapacity, the parent(s) will win the case. Grandparents or other relatives do not have the right to see their minor relative unless the parent agrees.
Purely from spite a parent could take their children out of the state and refuse to let their grandparents visit. Such an action might be vile and malicious or it might be well considered and the right thing to do. But aside from the above exceptions, usually the state won't get involved.

Gorilla Glue Girl

Many people remove unwanted hair from areas of their body. But when people do that they tend not to use paper shredders, cheese graters, or weed whackers for the job. Most people shower or bathe at least once a day. But when people do that they usually don't use sandpaper for a washcloth.
Many folks use some sort of hairspray, grease, pomade or gel to style their hair, to give it the "body" they want, to give it moisture, to hold it down or make it stand up. But when most people do that they usually avoid using motor oil or industrial strength glue. 
Unfortunately Tessica Brown is not most people. You may have heard about this story. I didn't comment on it earlier because I thought no one could be that stupid. I thought the story was a hoax. It wasn't a hoax.
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for Tessica Brown, the Louisiana woman who used Gorilla Glue instead of hair spray one day in January.
She catapulted to internet fame last week after posting a video on TikTok in which she called the decision to use the adhesive spray a “bad, bad, bad idea.” 
More than 30 million people have viewed it there, along with countless more on Instagram and Twitter. They have clamored for updates and flooded her posts with words of encouragement (and criticism), all while piling on suggestions for how to help. But nothing worked. Finally, more than a month after her mishap, Ms. Brown had the glue removed from her hair, thanks to a Los Angeles plastic surgeon who spent hours on Wednesday using a homemade solvent to get the job done. 

Movie Reviews: The Set-Up

The Set-Up
directed by Robert Wise
This is a taut 1949 film noir by the man who would later go on to direct The Sound of Music. But The Set-Up is not something which is going to have anyone breaking out into song. The Set-Up is set in the brutal world of boxing. Here there are no excuses or explanations, just results. And very few of the boxers achieve anything resembling long term success. 
Many wind up barely better off than they would have been in a 9-5 job while a significant minority are worse off. The boxers are ripped off by the sport's parasitical promoters, managers, and mobsters. Some boxers end up with permanent health issues. Glory and the ability to say they took the best their opponent had to offer and kept moving forward are the motivators for all of these boxers.
Film noir mainstay Robert Ryan is aging boxer Bill "Stoker "Thompson. Stoker's no bum. He's had some ups and downs in his career, but more downs than ups. At thirty-five he's become an old man by boxing standards. He's getting hit more often than he used to, something that has not failed to escape the attention of his loyal wife Julie (Audrey Totter). Julie thinks that Stoker needs to get out of the game before he gets brain damage. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Movie Reviews: While The City Sleeps

While The City Sleeps
directed by Fritz Lang
This is a 1956 crime film noir directed by the famed Fritz Lang, who also helmed such films as M, Metropolis, and The Big Heat, among many many others. Although the film opens with a murder, which provides the surface basis for the story's events, in fact that's really something of a red herring. 
This movie is more concerned with the political and moral battles, internal and external, of a group of media conglomerate executives--think Fox News. There's also a fair amount of romance and sexual skulduggery. 
Although we may often think that women's film roles were always limited and stereotypical in Hollywood's Golden Age, actually the women in this film all have their own agency, get pretty good lines, don't take any stuff off anyone, and exude sex appeal without taking off their clothes. There are some modern directors who could learn from this. 
The film's point of view is that although men and women will often get on each other's last nerve, normal men and women like and need each other. This is in direct contrast to the murderer.
Amos Kyne (Robert Warwick) is an elderly and ailing news mogul who leads the company he founded and which bears his name. His company has three divisions: television, newspaper, and wire service. As are many such men in his position, Amos is a hard charging Type A personality who doesn't take no for an answer. Amos demands that things be done the right way--his way.

Television Reviews: Salem's Lot (1979)

Salem's Lot (1979)
directed by Tobe Hooper
This is the three hour television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name. Although it was directed by the man who became famous for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this movie was tasteful and restrained in its use of violence and sexually charged imagery. There's very little. What there is turns out to be all the more impressive because of its rarity. It's certainly toned down a great deal from King's book, where there are detailed descriptions of gore and exactly what certain perverted bus drivers or preachers want to do to the teen girls they encounter. 
Obviously a lot of these changes were for television, but I never felt the movie was holding anything back either. It manages to scare and occasionally titillate without nudity, much cleavage, or long takes of blood spurting everywhere. It also prunes away and/or combines many of King's characters, simplifies or flattens many of those who remain, and completely alters the novel's urbane but dangerous master vampire to a wordless snarling monster who can never ever ever be mistaken for anything else.