Saturday, April 24, 2021

Ma'khia Bryant Shooting

I rarely have nice things to say about the police. I think police are a necessary evil. Often conservatives and racists (which is almost redundant phrasing these days) defend obvious police brutality and misconduct against Black Americans by piously bleating that police save lives, make split second decisions, and are legally authorized or occasionally obligated to use force, even deadly force.
This is true, but irrelevant in the cases conservatives champion, which often involve police officers using force when it's not required simply because they feel like it, don't like Black people and/or want to make the point that Blacks have no rights police need to respect.  
Conservatives who champion this gratuitous anti-Black violence are often the same people who claim that they will shoot any police officer who attempts to take their guns or enter their home without a warrant. It is what it is. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. 
When I first heard about the Ma'khia Bryant case I assumed it was another case of a white cop reacting to a non-existent threat, flexing on unarmed Black people to feed a racist fragile ego, or shooting someone by mistake. But it wasn't any of those things. Ma'Khia Bryant was trying to stab another Black woman when Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon shot her four times and ended her life.
Let's repeat that. Bryant was trying to stab someone. You can't handwave that away.

Movie Reviews: Jakob's Wife

Jakob's Wife
directed by Travis Stevens
Barbara Crampton is horror/B-movie royalty and has been since her work in Re-Animator as well as her more recent turn in the inventive You're Next. I liked Crampton's acting, but I didn't care for this movie as much as I thought I would. 
There are many reasons for that but I think the most relevant one is that Jakob's Wife is not as much a horror or thriller movie as it is a pandering would be feminist treatise about the evils of marriage for women. A second reason is that even if I freely grant that horror movies can, have been, and even should be used as social critiques and political consciousness-raising tracts, I though this film didn't deliver a good mix between entertainment and commentary.
The filmmaker must make the antagonist worse than a morally dubious protagonist to win viewer sympathy. The Godfather did this well. Though Coppola depicts only criminals, he deftly shows us events through the Corleone eyes. Coppola details antagonist sins but not the Corleone crimes. The viewer identifies with the "good" Mafia Family. Coppola was reportedly concerned by how thoroughly he accomplished this; he therefore went out of his way in the sequel to emphasize that the Corleones were the bad guys. 
Rob Zombie pulled off  a similar trick in The Devil's Rejects. His protagonist family is evil but the members love and sacrifice for each other. The final reason I wasn't that impressed with Jakob's Wife was that once again the Black person (in this case a Black woman) died first.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Big Heat

The Big Heat (1953)
directed by Fritz Lang
This earlier film starred film noir standouts Gloria Grahame and Glenn Ford, who were later seen together in Human Desire, also directed by Fritz Lang. 
It is one of the better noir films narratively and visually. 
Although the film is set during a time in what later generations view as either a wonderful highpoint or ugly nadir of male supremacy where women stayed in the kitchen and men made all the decisions, The Big Heat's male hero compliantly washes dishes, does other household chores, and apologizes to his wife when he gives offense. 
The man may be bringing home the money but if he rules the roost, it's only because that's how his wife wants it. It's pretty clear who makes most of the final decisions at home and it's not the man. The hero views his role as provider and protector, not necessarily as boss. 
Although the hero talks tough and upsets the applecart because he's set on justifiable revenge, it's the women whose actions drive the story and make things happen. It's also, for good or bad, the women who often pay the price. This last is so pronounced that one could make an argument that the hero is something of an unwitting "femme fatale" ( homme fatale?) himself. 
Many people are worse off for knowing him. The hero tries to do the right thing, even when he's on his roaring rampage of revenge, but he often inadvertently makes things worse for other people, especially women

Tax Preparer Pulls Gun On Customer

You know, for most people who aren't millionaires, independently wealthy, earn a living from profits, rents, and interest instead of salary, or have business interests, income, and property in multiple states and nations, I have never thought that it made much difference whether they did their tax returns themselves or paid for professional tax prep.

Everyone wants to minimize their taxes owed, whether they are barely surviving or have so much wealth that they forget how many cars or homes that they own. 
But when you're a salaried schlub, the government usually already knows to the penny how much income you earned last year. In that case, I don't see much value in paying anyone significant amounts of money to prepare your taxes. Still, many people do.
However, if I were to hire someone to prepare my tax return, giving them my social security number and other privileged information, I'd want to ensure that this person was trustworthy. I wouldn't hire someone who had recently been in prison for robbery. But we all have different risk preferences I guess.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Police Continue to Attack Black Men: Antone Austin and Caron Nazario

I could change only the names and dates in the two stories in this post and the events would be identical to other incidents of police assault on Black men in America during the past four centuries. 
Police see a Black man and attack the Black man, even if the Black man was not committing any crime or civil violation. Police use or threaten deadly force when neither the use of force or the threatened escalation was legal or necessary. 
Police dismiss objections by saying the Black man deserved it for not immediately falling to his knees and begging massa not to whip him. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 
These incidents can occur any time, any place. When police receive a call about a man violating a restraining order they should obtain information on who the man is, his name and description, his clothing and location. But apparently LAPD officers don't bother with those details. They select a Black man in the general vicinity and attack. Though the alleged violator of the restraining order was White, it was the Black man who was choked and beaten. 
Music producer Antone Austin says his life was turned upside down about two years ago when police officers arrested him and his girlfriend outside his California home in what a federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles claims was a case of racial profiling, excessive force and unlawful arrest.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Michigan Home Inspector Assaults Elmo

Although it's tough to beat Florida as a source for weird and wacky stories , it seems like my home state is making a pretty good case for having FAR more than its share of nutjobs.  

Although former New Yorker writer and CNN analyst Jefferey Toobin made news for getting in touch with himself during a Zoom call, at least he had the weak sauce argument that he was in his own home and supposedly thought that the call had completed and the camera/audio was off. Supposedly. But Michigan home inspector Kevin Wayne VanLuven didn't even have that fig leaf of an excuse. No, VanLuven was doing a home inspection and apparently found the prospect of a little me time with an Elmo doll to be too good to pass up. Unfortunately for this puppet molester, he didn't realize that his tickle me Elmo caper was caught on camera. 

A 59-year-old home inspector caught on camera during a home inspection allegedly pleasuring himself with an Elmo doll was charged in district court Wednesday on two misdemeanor counts. VanLuven was arrested Wednesday without incident by members of the Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Team. His arrest stems from a March 12 incident at the home of an Oxford Township couple who were having their home inspected by VanLuven prior to its sale at the request of the prospective buyers.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Black F-22 Pilot And Racial Discrimination

I think that many Black men in America could tell some tales about discrimination that falls short of explicit racial hostility in the form of "I hate n*****s and think we should kill them all!" . That thing is not uncommon but discrimination that appears in the form of discomfort, different standards and expectations, and simple failure to connect on a human level is more frequent. This lowkey animus is dangerous to both health and career goals.
Obviously high performance is important to everyone. But your soft skills are almost as important as performance. If, because of your race, people don't like you and never really trust you, it's more difficult to rise in your chosen field. The story that Air Force Major Daniel Walker told resonated with me. I have heard the same sort of stories in different contexts for decades. 
Walker is leaving the Air Force. We each must choose our own path. I bet that Walker will find the same sorts of challenges in his next career. Being Black, your whole life is an "uphill battle against racism." There's no escaping that.
Walker, a Dallas, Texas native, comes from a legacy of stealth fighter pilots. He grew up hearing stories about his great-uncle Norman Scales, a Tuskegee airman who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service to the country during World War II. Walker followed in his great-uncle’s footsteps, and attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado before continuing on with pilot training. But once in the ranks, Walker quickly learned how he was perceived by his white counterparts. “You’re big, you’re Black, with a deep voice. You’re intimidating,” he told Martin.

Dutch Street Performer

Music is life.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Movie Reviews: Decoy

Decoy
directed by Jack Bernhard
This is an older and lower budget film noir that nonetheless stands tall as one of the most unabashedly hardcore noirs, with a femme fatale who runs rings around all of the men she encounters. This lady is cold and nasty but also extremely attractive. 
Her beauty allows her to get away with things because nobody believes until it's too late that she will turn on him. You might say that this film is a homage to the power of femininity gone wrong or conversely, an examination of how stupid men can be when women are concerned. One minor character finds the word 'dichotomy' in the dictionary and is fascinated by its sound and meaning. He mispronounces it and repeats it over and over again. He's talking about Jean Gillie's character though he doesn't realize it. The audience certainly will though. There is a serious dichotomy between Gillie's character's looks and words on the one hand and her character's actions on the other. 
I've written before that people do themselves a disservice if they dismiss all older movies as having poorly written female characters. I think too often people believe that women must behave as men behave in order to be strong. That's wrong. Gillie's character won't ever be mistaken physically or otherwise for a man. She won't be cursing, punching people out, or mouthing feminist platitudes. Gillie's character gets the most screen time, is perhaps the best constructed, and is fully in charge of things, from the beginning to the end.