Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Reviews: Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy's Button Box
by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
When some people see the King name they immediately think that there will be heavy horror with all sorts of grossouts interspersed throughout the doorstopper text. Well that is not this book. And that's not necessarily King either though that's a different discussion. This is a short novella that can quickly be read while you're waiting for someone at the hospital or doing anything else that requires you to burn some time. I couldn't tell which author wrote which parts. The story felt seamless. You can complete this book in less than two hours. I didn't think it was among King's best work, but it is a good story. It left questions unanswered. But "Gwendy's Button Box" should feel very familiar to the reader, particularly if they have read Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life" or seen the classic Twilight Zone adaptation of same.

In 1974 twelve year-old Castle Rock Resident Gwendy Peterson, a tall athletic girl inclined to fleshiness (the local bully calls her Goodyear, after the Blimp), meets a strange man dressed in all black, except for his white shirt. He knows her name and knows things about her family. This man's name is Richard Farris, a name that serious King fans should recognize. He gives Gwendy a box with several colored buttons and levers on it. This box dispenses special chocolates and old coins. The chocolates satisfy all of Gwendy's hunger. The man informs Gwendy that some of the buttons are associated with various continents while other buttons have different purposes. He's giving this box to Gwendy because he has a special feeling about her. When Gwendy asks what the other buttons do the man smiles unpleasantly and advises her to not ask questions to which she already knows the answer.

Over the next decade Gwendy will undergo some changes, mostly for the better. She becomes beautiful and popular. And both Gwendy and the reader will ask themselves what would they do if their creative and destructive powers were greatly enhanced. As Peter Parker learned, with great power comes great responsibility. I thought that this book was also an extended metaphor on writing. The story was mostly non-violent with one or two exceptions.

Miss Black Texas and Racist Road Rage

There's so much shit in Texas, I'm bound to step in some
Goin' back to Dallas, take my razor and my gun
If there are people lookin' for trouble, sure gonna give 'em some
I load up my revolver, sharpen up my knife
Some redneck messin' with me man, I'm bound to have his life
Down to Dallas, take my razor and my gun
Man, people there lookin' for trouble, sure gonna give 'em some

"Dallas" Johnny Winter
American segregation wasn't just the attempted physical separation of blacks from whites. It was the zealously enforced rule that black people were inferior and had no right to contradict whites, talk back to whites, displease whites, complain about being cheated by whites, testify against whites or do anything that would set their will against any white person, regardless of age, gender, status, right or wrong.To do otherwise would be to be considered "uppity". And to be considered uppity meant that a black person ran the high risk of assault or worse by local outraged whites, often with the tacit assistance or open cooperation of law enforcement. Supposedly the changes which took place in the 1950s and 1960s put an end to that sort of foolishness. But unfortunately racism doesn't just go away because the law changes. There are still a lot of white people who really do hate black people. 

And when that hate is combined with a badge and a gun, bad things can happen. Recently in Texas (and why am I not surprised about this) a white police chief and his friends behaved as if this were 1917 and not 2017. 

Pepperoni Pizza and Jelly Beans Lawsuits

I was raised with the injunction never to tolerate disrespect in small things or large. I was taught to get what you pay for. I was taught never to think that someone is doing me a favor by taking my money. I learned that if I ordered X to make sure I got X, not Y.

I would have a bigger problem with my parents than anyone else if I meekly accepted shoddy treatment or crappy goods from a business. And I wasn't the only one. Just recently I watched as an elderly irate profane gentleman explained to a clerk at the local grocery story that they had sold him a rotten onion. And even though he had to make a 10 mile round trip he wasn't going to let anyone sell him a rotten f***** onion, by God. 

I appreciate a customer who stands up for himself or herself. However the proper resolution is usually for the store or business to apologize, refund your money, or provide the good or service you initially purchased, occasionally at a discounted price or for free. I'm not sure that the customer needs to file a $100 million lawsuit.

A Muslim man is suing Little Caesars for $100 million after he says he was served and then accidentally ate pepperoni made with pork, a food prohibited by Islamic law. The complaint says Mohamad Bazzi of Dearborn ordered halal pizza twice from the shop on Schaefer in Dearborn. The boxes were labeled "halal," but the pies inside were topped with regular pepperoni. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nolan Bruder Rapes His Teen Sister: Judge Gives Him Probation

There have been oodles of studies that show that black people accused of or convicted of crimes received harsher treatment at every level of the justice system,up to and including sentencing. The flip side of that harsher treatment for blacks is more lenient treatment for whites. Regardless of race I tend to take the approach that if you can't do the time, don't do the crime: especially when it comes to crimes like rape or murder, when something is done that can't be undone. But Judge William H. Follett apparently doesn't believe in punishment, at least when it comes to white male rapists.

A judge in Northern California apparently thought the "stigma" of being a registered sex offender was punishment enough for a man convicted of drugging and raping his sister when she was 16 and he was 19. On May 17, Judge William H. Follett chose to sentence the now-20-year-old man to the lowest possible sentencing option — three years in prison — and granted him probation. Follett also sentenced him to 240 days in county jail at half time for the crimes of rape by use of drugs or intoxicating substances and incest. District Attorney Dale Trigg said the sentencing will likely mean the convicted rapist serves just 120 days in jail — and no time in prison.

Trigg told CNN that Follett, a justice in the Del Norte Superior Court, not only referenced during the proceedings the stigma the convicted rapist would face as a sex offender but also discussed the fact that the girl was not unconscious during the assault and had removed her own clothing during the assault. Trigg said those comments were "out of line" and blamed the victim.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HBO Game of Thrones Season Seven Trailer (3)

HBO has released some more images and the first proper trailer for the shortened Season Seven, due to start on July 16th. Things are finally drawing to a close, as this trailer seems to hint at. I am still feeling some sort of way that the show will detail the ending of the story before the books but such is life. Enjoy.

Book Reviews: Last Don Standing-The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale

Last Don Standing-The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale
by Larry McShane and Dan Pearson
Many people have written books about the Philadelphia Mob of the last forty years. That organization has been in constant chaos since the 1980 murder of boss Angelo Bruno, known somewhat inaccurately as the "Gentle Don". This latest foray into that milieu details the story of Bruno loyalist and enforcer, later boss and government witness, Ralph Natale. Natale was imprisoned during many key events in the modern Philly mob's timeline. Natale describes many happenings he heard about or confirmed via other mobsters. Presumably, the authors have researched and verified Natale's stories. Something that the book emphasizes is that despite their evil, many mobsters, like anyone else, love their families. Mobsters want their families provided for during their incarceration. As most hoodlums can't qualify for or use unemployment insurance for this purpose, they often rely on their mob partners and/or bosses to do this. 

Theoretically it's a best business practice for a Mafia Family to support the relatives of incarcerated members. People who know that their families are safe and financially stable are less likely to take rash steps like starting mob wars from behind bars or worse, begin blabbing to the FBI.

In fiction, for example, the  Corleone and Prizzi bosses paid the wives or mothers of imprisoned employees the same income the men earned when free. And upon a gangster's release from prison, a high level family leader, perhaps even the boss, would stop by the man's house to drop off some bonus money and to congratulate him for keeping his mouth shut. These actions kept morale high and discouraged informing. Some real life bosses understood the benefit of having engaged employees. But generally this gangster insurance didn't happen. Mobsters are far too selfish. In real life only the meanest bosses and/or the most savage killers could be sure that their income stream would be uninterrupted by prison terms. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Movie Reviews: Allied, The Bye Bye Man

directed by Robert Zemeckis
Prizzi's Honor set in World War Two. Reminiscent of classic films.
In the film Prizzi's Honor, Charlie Partanna, the melancholic top hitman and underboss for the Prizzi Family, makes the mistake of falling in love with a woman who is like him, a thief and murderer. They get married. But the Family discovers that its interests and the wife's interests do not coincide. The Family boss and his oldest friend, Charlie's father, order Charlie to do the unthinkable. Similar to that movie, Allied imagines that two WW2 undercover operatives marry but find that the affairs of the heart are subordinated to state affairs. With the exception of a blink and you'll miss it side glance of a Cotillard breast and a brief showing of Pitt's bottom, this movie would have fit well in smoothly with 40s and 50s classic Hollywood films. Everyone, most especially Pitt and Cotillard, is dressed to impress. The dialogue is rich if not especially snappy. Cotillard has the meatier role. Pitt, while not exactly the film's straight man, is in a position where he has to react more to events than actually be the hero who makes things happen. No knock on Pitt. It's just that the story requires that he's usually one step behind things. This movie is not too violent but the violence that does take place is emotionally real. 

Allied is worlds apart from Pitt's over the top performance in Inglorious Basterds but here, as there, familiarity with language or customs that only a native speaker possesses can be the difference between life and death.  A non-American might not know or care about the differences among US accents and cadences. However, if you claim to be from Peoria but speak English with a Charleston, South Carolina accent, an American will notice immediately. If you lie about your origins what other deception might you attempt? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Vezmar Date Lawsuit

Despite all of the changes that have taken place concerning the dance of life between men and women, one thing that hasn't changed is the general expectation that the man is supposed to pay for the date, at least at first. A man who doesn't do that or tries to split costs before the woman is convinced that he's even worth any of her time or money is often derided as cheap or a loser. Good, bad or indifferent that's just how things are. Even many staunch feminists suddenly become Victorian England style ladies when faced with the idea of spending their money to meet men. If the man and woman don't like each other's company or independently decide that they'd be better off elsewhere or conclude that the date was a serious waste of time, money and resources then the man just has to eat the loss of whatever money he shelled out. And though it ought to go without saying, taking someone on a date doesn't guarantee anyone anything. Not one doggone thing. There is nothing implied other than the opportunity to determine if you like someone's company or not. If you spend $17 on a date but discover that someone is not up to your standards most people (men) would count that as the cost of dating and write it off to the game.

But 37 yr old Brandon Vezmar is not most men. Brandon went out on a date with a 35 yr old lady. Things didn't go well.

June Chu and Debbie Massey: Foul Behavior or Free Speech???

People across the political spectrum dislike the free speech concept. They claim that some speech, which is always speech they oppose, is not so much speech as it is weaponized hate or discrimination, which is not protected by the First Amendment. Others even drop that fig leaf and argue that "hate speech" in any form can be banned, even if it has no provable impact on anyone. Although the most vocal advocates of this approach tend to be on the left, witness the brouhahas over right-wing intellectuals speaking at colleges, arguably many of the most powerful advocates of this approach are on the right. There is a right-wing movement to criminalize advocacy of BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction the state of Israel) in America. So it goes. Humans being human, we will always be tempted to outlaw viewpoints we don't like. Limits on institutional ability to criminalize, punish, prohibit or restrain speech usually are only legally present on government institutions. Private institutions can set their own rules. And they often do. The government can't jail me for writing something nasty about my employer. But my employer, upon reading my screed, might decide that it wanted to fire me. Right now. And if I am in an at will employment state there's probably not too much I could do about that. 

Two recent events illustrated how someone's honest opinions got them in trouble. Well it might not be so much their honest opinions as the disdain that lay beneath them.😒

Music Reviews: Smith Connection - I've Been A Winner

(I've Been A Winner, I've Been A Loser) I've Been In Love
Smith Connection
I was listening to the Invictus box set again and ran across this song which for whatever reason I hadn't paid attention to before. It's funny how that works. You can have something for years and discover new treasures. The Smith Connection was made up of a trio of brothers who hailed from St. Louis, not Detroit but it's a good thing that they came to the attention of the Detroit based label owned by famed producers/songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland (HDH). At the time H-D-H were doing their best to compete with their former employer Berry Gordy and his iconic company Motown. This song was very similar to contemporaneous work coming from Philadelphia groups like the Delfonics or Chicago groups like the Chi-lites. But the deep bass and scratch guitar mark it indelibly as a Detroit based production. I like the voices and harmony, which are very masculine albeit in the higher range. The song is not blues but it is bluesy. There's no guitar or horn solo. All the focus is on the vocals. Michael Smith, who I believe is the lead singer here, later went on to modest acclaim as a songwriter, producer and solo singer with Motown. The lyrics express sadness, love, maturity, regret and hope all at the same time, which I think is a pretty neat trick. I also enjoy that there's a lot of space in the recording. No one instrument dominates. Nothing is too loud. There's something to be said for the old maxim of keep it simple, stupid.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Confederacy Redux

Recently, in the South people have begun removing some noted Confederate monuments from places of honor.  There are so many of these though that it would take forever to do it. Some US federal institutions are named after Confederates. It's important to remember that the Civil War was started by Southern white supremacists who feared that Northern whites were insufficiently dedicated to the twin causes of black slavery and white supremacy. So the South tried to break apart from the United States. The South started the bloodiest war ever experienced by the United States. Ironically, in their desire to defend and expand their right to own, whip, rape, exploit and murder black people, the Confederacy ineptly but fortunately brought about slavery's demise earlier than otherwise would have been the case. 

With the exception of the honest white supremacist, many present day defenders of Confederate monuments, flags and namesakes do not like to admit what it is they are actually defending. The United States is not a white man's country. Black people actually do have rights that white men and women must respect. And despite Kris Kobach's best efforts Black people get to vote. How about that? All of this was anathema to Confederates, then and now. For Confederates blacks were slaves. Period. End of story. There was a Supreme Court decision which established that blacks had no rights whites needed to respect. How much more clear does someone need to be. At its core the Civil War wasn't about tariffs or balance of powers between the Federal government and states. It was about enslavement and exclusion. This isn't a modern revisionist idea.

Blissfully unencumbered by any political niceties, after all they were about to start shooting people, Confederate politicians detailed for posterity their purpose in seceding. If we weren't living in a post-truth society this evidence would prevent particularly malevolent or obtuse people from arguing that the Civil War from the South's POV wasn't about slavery and white supremacy.

Turks Attack Washington D.C. Protesters

Generally speaking, and all the lawyers who are qualified to speak on it can chime in if they wish, if you are are an official representative of one country doing official business in another, you have diplomatic immunity. Unless your home country decides for its own reasons to waive such immunity you usually aren't subject to prosecution by your host nation. All they can do is expel you. Consider this a form of guest right, if you will. No one kills, arrests, or otherwise harms the messenger. It's bad form. It would open up your diplomats and representatives to similar treatment if you went around, justifiably or not, arresting or abusing foreign diplomats. But the deal in having diplomatic immunity is that the foreign diplomat or other representative is supposed to live by the laws of of the host nation. Some diplomats or other representatives have a problem doing this. 

The latest example of this, and it's by no means limited to Turks, occurred recently in Washington D.C. where members of the Turkish President's security team and apparent Turkish embassy staff, charged through a line of D.C. police officers to kick, punch and pummel a group of mostly Armenian-American and Kurdish-American protesters. For whatever reason the D.C. police did not use deadly force. Arguably they should have done so. American citizens have been killed by police for far less. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bear Wants Brownies

In literature the cute bears Paddington and Winnie the Pooh are always on the lookout for marmalade and honey, respectively. Neither one is rude or capable of doing harm to anyone. The harshest thing that Paddington will do to you if you get on his nerves is give you a hard stare. But in real life bears are not small, cute and cuddly. They don't ask politely for what they want. And what they want apparently isn't marmalade but brownies. A woman in Connecticut was baking brownies when one of the local fauna apparently caught the scent of the chocolate goodness and decided it wanted some.  AVON, CT (WFSB) -
Avon residents called police after a bear tried to get into a home this weekend and one neighbor got the whole incident on camera. Neighbors talking to 911 dispatch stated that the bear was trying to gain access into a home on Stagecoach Road. "My neighbor across the street just came over in a panic. She's a little old lady, screaming that a bear got on the back porch and is slamming on her glass door," one call to 911 stated. Members of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were called to the scene. They said a bear "spent considerable time on a deck and was reluctant to leave." This incident was especially terrifying for the female homeowner who was baking brownies as the bear pressed up against her glass door.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Democrats: What Now?

I recently read that the NY Attorney General plans to sue if House healthcare legislation becomes law. There are some things to consider about the current state of American politics. These ideas apply equally to people across the political spectrum but given the way power works it's usually the people out of power who have cause to take them to heart.

Legislatures decide policy, not constitutionality. The courts decide whether something is constitutional or not. Courts (usually) do not pick among different policy choices. Just because someone is pursuing a policy preference you truly despise doesn't automatically mean it's unconstitutional. The courts can't and shouldn't rule on the political merits of a given policy. There is a whole universe of policy initiatives that I don't like but which are not unconstitutional. In short, the courts will not save you from all of the effects of a Trump Presidency and Republican control of both chambers of Congress. Only the people can do that. Like it or not Trump won. Right now the only people who can legally remove him from office are other Republicans. That's because, drunk on moral certainty, starting around 2010 Democrats forgot how to win seats. 

On policy questions, no political party or movement can accomplish much without winning over voters. Obtaining voter support doesn't mean that you must agree with every "deplorable" voter stance. It does mean though that you must visit the voters, listen to them, be seen to work on their issues, and build both a logical and emotional argument on why you and your policy are their best options. Hectoring them and lecturing them don't work.

Book Reviews: Dracula vs. Hitler

Dracula vs. Hitler
by Patrick Sheane Duncan
As filmmakers use the found footage trope to introduce movies, authors can use the found diary or found documents trope. In real life Duncan is an HBO producer, an author and director of the documentary series Medal of Honor. Duncan writes that he found these strange documents when he was researching female spies and partisans in World War Two. These documents were so strange and important that Duncan felt that they deserved to be shared. Sometimes a book's title tells you the exact story. This is one such title. It's truth in advertising. Romania originally joined the German side during World War Two.

Romania only switched sides after it had become clear the Nazis were going to lose. Like F. Paul Wilson's book The Keep, Dracula vs. Hitler asks the reader to imagine what would happen if the upstart Nazis ran across an older entity that views them as trespassers.

This book starts in 1896. Professor Abraham Van Helsing, with the help of Quincy Morris and Jonathan Harker, has defeated Prince, not Count, Dracula. But Stoker's story was wrong. Dracula is only immobilized, not destroyed. Van Helsing tells himself that it's because of scientific curiosity that he decided against destroying Dracula. By 1941 Van Helsing is an old man who has settled in Romania. He has a beautiful young adult daughter Lucille or Lucy upon whom he dotes. Lucy is no shrinking violet. She's a well traveled fiery feminist who's insistent upon proving she's just as good if not better than a man in every endeavor. Lucy's a skilled saboteur, spy, linguist and would be artist. Lucy and her father are leading Resistance members. Initially they run circles around the incompetent German and Romanian soldiers. They make such an impression upon the British that Great Britain, desperate to put mud in the German eye, sends over British special forces agents to deliver supplies, coordinate attacks and gather intelligence. 

The British leader is the grandson of the original Harker, also named Jonathan. Jonathan volunteered for this assignment. Having been unable to learn about Dracula from his grandfather, Jonathan is eager to meet Van Helsing and get the real story.

Bates Motel Series Finale

This A&E series lasted for five years. It didn't overstay its welcome. It featured very intense story lines and acting by the two leads (Farmiga, Highmore). But every recurring character in this story was well written. Even the minor characters fit well into the story. This series may have started out as a prequel to the Psycho film but the producers and writers made it clear that Bates Motel was much much ambitious than a prequel. It was something that may have been inspired by Psycho but was not tied down by that film. It was a re-interpretation and reworking of the Psycho movie. Although there was the obvious bad guy the viewers also came to understand that the man, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) was not in control of himself. He was a very disturbed one. He was capable of great kindness upon occasion. He ran into more attractive women than you would expect a weird loner to find. But Norman was never going to enjoy happiness for long because he was increasingly divorced from reality.

At the end of Season Four a depressed and angry Norman decided to kill his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) and himself in a murder-suicide. However although his mother died, Norman didn't. In a stroke of luck for Norman the authorities, with Norman's connivance, assumed that the breakup note that Norma wrote for her husband Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell ) was actually a suicide note.  So everyone believes that Norma was actually the crazy one who tried to kill her son via gas poisoning. Well that is everyone except Alex. He knows how dangerous Norman is. He blames Norman for his wife's death. And he intends to do something about it. He's put people in the ground before. Unfortunately for Alex though before he could make his move some of the evidence of his corruption has caught up with him. He's arrested and later convicted.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Elderly Woman Body Slammed At Pool Party

You must be able to get along with other people. You don't have to like them but you must live with them. Our actions continually impact other people. When you are neighbors with someone you recognize this. You and your neighbor can't solve every dispute by shouting and fisticuffs. When you are neighbors with someone there's a good chance that neither of you is going anywhere anytime soon. You and your neighbor may need each other's help someday, whether it's something as prosaic as your neighbor plowing your driveway during the Winter Deathstorm of 2017 or you being willing to let the police know the license plate of the van that was parked outside your neighbor's house while it was burglarized. 

So when your neighbor asks you to turn your music down you might be annoyed. But if you are normal you'd remember the time that your neighbor helped you to change a flat. You'd probably turn down the music. Even if you didn't know your neighbor from Adam, you might consider granting their request because, as mentioned, reciprocity often works. You and your neighbor will be in a position to help and hurt each other for a while. 

But people who aren't neighbors and who aren't normal may not recognize the benefits of relationship reciprocity, as 68 year old North Lauderdale, Florida resident Nancy James discovered when she asked a group of teens to turn down their music at a pool party. The teens, many of whom did not live in the complex, didn't appreciate her request.

Friday, May 5, 2017

China Destroys Ocean Fisheries

When people say globalization they usually are referring to the greater corporate economic integration between and among the so-called Third World and Europe and the US. Depending on whom you are speaking to, this can be a good or bad thing. The problem however is that different nations on the planet have different footprints in their economic impact on the planet. Numbers matter. If one or two people cut across your lawn once or twice a week it might not be worth your while to make a big stink about it and get into a nasty fight with the trespassers. I mean life is short right? Why waste your time in conflict? But if a few hundred people decide to do the same thing every day then you have to do something or soon you won't have a lawn. You might have to show a more unpleasant part of your personality. China is not the source of all evil in the world today. Not by a long shot. But China's immense population and ever growing demand for natural resources are putting immense stress on resources that may not be as renewable as we once thought. 

Joal, Senegal — Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe. A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say. But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans. 

Book Reviews: Carter & Lovecraft

Carter & Lovecraft
By Jonathan Howard
This story is miles apart from some of Howard's earlier work reviewed here. It doesn't have quite the same sheen of sarcastic humor laid over everything. That makes sense as the subject matter is different. This is another story in a crowded field of works inspired by the late writer H.P. Lovecraft. Although it has a few Grand Guignol scenes for the most part this story stays true to Lovecraft's trick of implying what was wrong as opposed to coming out and saying it. The mood is more important to this novel than some of the events. Of course Howard is a better writer than Lovecraft so his characters are better developed. Even though I didn't enjoy this as much as Howard's Cabal series I still thought it was worthwhile reading. The book is just over 300 pages and has more than a little in common with the film Angel Heart in some aspects.

The author H.P. Lovecraft lived at a point in time when science was rapidly advancing and overturning previously closely held myths. Einstein's theories of general and special relativity along with other later discoveries made some people think that maybe they weren't at the center of the universe after all. Worse, the idea of quantum physics made people deal with the idea that reality itself was random and unknowable and an illusion. Lovecraft didn't write down, as later speculative fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke did, the dictum that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" but it is a concept which pervades many of his stories, most famously "Dreams in the Witch House". If reality itself is only a set of probabilities and creatures or events can exist in mutually exclusive categories before we actually observe them, what would happen if someone or something was able to hack reality? What would that look like? What would happen if someone could alter reality via his understanding of advanced mathematics? These and more are the questions which are raised in this book. 

Babies Eating Lemons For First Time

This is a pretty clear example of why it's remarkable that any kids ever trust adults. People say that when life gives you lemons make lemonade. I say why would someone you trust give you a lemon to eat in the first place? That right there would ruin my faith in parents.😱 Are there any foods you won't eat under any circumstances?

Stephen King Dark Tower Trailer

Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has been made into a film which opens on August 4. The trailer looks interesting. I have not read the whole series which inspired this film. I understand that the series touches many (most?) of King's other works. I believe that King once wrote that this series contains many hidden and not so hidden sequels to some of his best loved novels. Certainly in many of his novels there are references to the Dark Tower and some of the characters within. Additionally, if I remember correctly, King also updated The Talisman and Black House to fit within the Dark Tower universe. The series touches on just about all of King's interests. It's not just horror. This movie is something that will be on my radar screen for the fall. This film will also provide an example of color reversed casting. The Gunslinger in the books is Caucasian. Idris Elba is not. Although an older white person I know tentatively expressed some concern over this I don't think that will make a tremendous difference in how most people approach the story. Either the movie will be good or not. From what I've read the film is not a straight adaptation of any of the books in The Dark Tower series but instead takes high points from the first and third books as well as mixing in stuff from the final book. 

I like that the book and movie accept that revolvers are just better. There is something particularly and peculiarly American about the longcoat clad gunslinger standing alone against onrushing evil. It's fascinating how creative types use our common myths and archetypes to spin brand new stories that yet seem so familiar.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Texas Cop Kills Black Child

You might ask yourself why some white cops are so quick to use deadly force against unarmed Black men and boys. You then might ask yourself how long it would take the cops to arrest a non-police officer who fired shots into a police car that was moving away from him. And after you pondered those questions you might wonder if the system would indict a cop who killed a child for no reason at all or if the jury would convict such a cop or if the judge would give such a cop the same punishment that he or she would grant to any other similarly situated criminal. But this is 2017 America so if you're honest with yourself you probably already know the answer to those questions. But hope springs eternal. We shall see what happens to Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver who, upon responding to reports of a disturbance at a house party, shot dead an unarmed 15 year old black boy, honor student Jordan Edwards, who was a passenger in a car that was leaving the location. Oliver and/or his police department initially *misspoke* (lied) and claimed that the car was backing up aggressively towards the officer. But apparently the video shows otherwise. The police department has since fired Oliver, who of course is trying to get his job back. At the time of this writing there hasn't been any arrest of Oliver. It's important to point out that Jordan Edwards was killed in front of his brothers who were also jailed for absolutely no reason. Imagine, as a child, watching your sibling die in front of your eyes, killed by the very people who are sworn to "protect" you. What sort of issues are you going to have throughout life?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Clinton And The 2016 Election Redux

Clearly former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hasn't gotten over losing the election to Donald Trump. There's nothing wrong with that I guess. I'd be upset as well if I lost something I had been lusting after the better part of two decades to someone who apparently capriciously decided he wanted it after a dressing down at a dinner. That loss would burn any of us. Despite what her detractors might say Clinton is all too human, just like everyone else. No the worry for Democrats ought to be that the next Democratic Presidential candidate, whoever that might be, will spend too much time inhaling Clinton's sense of entitlement and grievance, and not enough time recognizing that people outside of the coastal areas, even white ones, get to cast their votes along with the rest of the nation. And no matter what you might see on MSNBC the Electoral College wasn't a Trump conspiracy cooked up just in time for the 2016 election. Clinton gives lip service to the idea that she could and should have done some things differently but what obviously still grinds her gears is alleged Russian influence in DNC hacking and the resulting investigation of her private server by FBI director James Comey.

Hillary Clinton delivered her most forceful critique of President Donald Trump's 2016 victory on Tuesday, taking personal responsibility for her failed campaign but also pointed to the timing of a letter from FBI Director James Comey and Russian interference as factors.
"If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president," she told CNN's Christiane Amanpour at a Women for Women International event in New York.