Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Movie Reviews: Traffik, Truth or Dare, Laws of Attraction

directed by Deon Taylor
It is ironic that a movie designed to horrify us at the modern day plight of women trapped in sex slavery, and which makes some hamfisted allusions to the rape of Black women by white men during slavery, and which was produced by its Black female lead, also spends a lot of time showing off said female lead in a manner which invites the (male) viewer to do a lot of leering. 
Not that I'm complaining. Patton does look really good in Daisy Dukes and tight low cut tops. There's no doubt about that. The problem is that the story's writing and some of its acting weren't enough to make this movie a real winner. All the closeups of Patton's legs or cleavage, wonderful as they are, can't save this film. 

Traffik was an update of similar 1970s movies that starred such Black actresses as Tamara Dobson or Pam Grier. Like those cinematic forerunners Patton combines victimization with a willingness to fight back. I liked the grindhouse style/close up camera work. I liked the invocation of fear that many Black citizens can experience when they are surrounded by whites who have made it clear that they aren't welcome. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Another Black Man Dead: Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

I don't have a problem with people using deadly violence to defend themselves anywhere from the threat or reality of deadly violence. Whether you are in your home, car, or walking the street I don't think that you must let someone initiate and continue felony violence on you and wait and see what their intentions are. I have little sympathy for the carjacker who gets shot in the face by his would be victim, for the rapist who gets stabbed in the yarbles by a woman armed with a knife, for the burglar who gets ripped to pieces by the homeowner's trained Rottweilers, for the mugger who makes the mistake of trying to assault an unassuming kung fu expert..Those criminals knew the risks of their trade; they paid the price. So it goes.

But "Stand your ground laws" ,at least in the case of Florida, seem to be something different. Self-defense should be about using defense proportionate to the attack AND making sure that there is an attack. If someone steps on my shoe, depending on both our moods that day, I may just keep moving and say nothing. I may say something. The offender and I both may end up yelling obscenities at each other or worse. Stuff happens. But whatever happens most people would agree that even if the person deliberately stepped on my shoe I would be (no pun intended) jumping the gun to pull out my firearm and shoot him dead. 

Even if I thought that this person might be a later threat at the time that I used deadly force against him he was no threat. So self-defense doesn't apply. Also I shouldn't be able to go around deliberately stepping on people's shoes and shooting the first person who responds physically, claiming I was standing my ground. In practice however, Florida's stand your ground law gives the benefit of the doubt to the shooter, regardless of the circumstances, especially if the shooter is white and the decedent is black.

LARGO — Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump stood in front of the Pinellas County Justice Center on Thursday and demanded justice for the family of Markeis McGlockton.
Flanked by the slain man’s parents and girlfriend, Crump told reporters that McGlockton’s shooting death last week was "cold-blooded murder ... by the self-appointed, wannabe cop Michael Drejka."

Samantha Bee Spoofs Dana Loesch

The NRA has largely won the national debate on gun restrictions for now. Things have trended away from tighter restrictions since the House and Senate decided not to pursue another Federal Assault Weapons ban. Especially since the election of Trump and appointment of presumably Second Amendment friendly federal judges, the NRA has walked an unsteady line between gloating triumphalism and its more natural default state of paranoid fears of gun confiscation and Caucasian extermination. You can't really drive up financial support for your agenda if you admit you've gotten most of what you want. So, the NRA in the presence of one Dana Loesch, recently put out an ad that was simultaneously a cultural and literal call to arms, a grievances list, a threat, a warning, and a reason why you [stink] rant aimed at anyone to the left of say Tucker Carlson. The ad was as much hilarious as it was a disturbing insight into the minds of those who would find the ad emotionally validating and intellectually convincing. 

The NRA released this ad before it became widespread public knowledge that Russia was supposedly attempting to use the NRA and other right leaning or conservative groups to sway American political and cultural opinion, or at least American right wing political opinion in a direction more amenable to Russian interests. Some white racists have indeed responded favorably to these overtures. One Russian who allegedly accepted this task was Maria Butina.

Maria Butina, whose years-long mission to build ties between Russia, the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party led to her arrest this week, has ties to Russian intelligence, federal prosecutors alleged on Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Movie Reviews: The Equalizer

The Equalizer 2
directed by Antoine Fuqua
This film is the first time that acting icon Denzel Washington has acted in a sequel. This sequel, like most sequels, wasn't as good as the preceding film. It was still enjoyable, just predictable. And when it wasn't predictable it was confusing. I think this was a function of the writing. If you intend to make someone's demise look like an random accident or crime that is unrelated to their family or work do you then subsequently attempt to murder their relatives or co-workers? No. You don't do that because even the slowest bear in the woods will realize that the previous incident was no accident. 

There are a few other head scratching moments like that throughout the film but as with most good action films the viewer can ignore most of them. This film has to do more heavy lifting than the first insofar as in the first movie, the viewer is surprised to see Denzel set his stopwatch to test his reflexes and skills before badly injuring or killing people who have chosen to harm innocents. In this movie all of that is already expected. It's baked into the cake. The director uses that technique a few times just to remind people of what a bada$$ Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is, but the balance of the film is really a detective movie in many aspects.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Police Officer Sexually Assaults Black Man in Washington D.C.

What exactly is the proper protocol to use when someone attempts to sexually assault you? Well there isn't any one correct response for every situation. Some victims may fight back; others may try to escape or run away. Still others may freeze and just attempt to survive. 

It all depends on the victim's perception of his or her circumstances. It's all very easy to say what someone should have done if you're not that person, weren't in their situation, and have never been so violated. Sheep can talk a lot of nonsense about what they would do to the wolves...right up until the time that the wolves show up. 
Stop fingering me though, bruh!” That’s what one Washington, D.C., man told a metro police officer during a body cavity search on Sept. 27, 2017, according to the ACLU. Now the civil rights group is helping him sue the police department, calling video of the incident “shocking and unjustified.”

The lawsuit says it began when officers drove up to 39-year-old M.B. Cottingham and friends as they sat on folding chairs on a public sidewalk. There was an open bottle of alcohol nearby, and they were celebrating Cottingham’s birthday, according to the lawsuit.

Officers pulled up and asked whether the group had weapons, and they said they did not. The lawsuit says it was not clear why the officers pulled up in the first place, as the open bottle of alcohol was “was on the ground at the curb behind a parked car” and not visible from the middle of the street.

Waitress Body Slams Groping Customer

Don't hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself!
-The Georgia Satellites
One Mr. Ryan Cherwinski was evidently so infatuated with the backside of one Miss Emelia Holden, a waitress at a restaurant that he was patronizing that he decided to reach out and touch it. Well that turned out to be a very bad idea, not only morally but consequentially. Holden reached out, grabbed Cherwinski and body slammed him before giving him a piece of her mind. Cherwinski was later arrested and charged with sexual battery. Now, not only will Cherwisnki get his fifteen minutes of fame as a man who's unable to keep his hands to himself, but he will also be known as a man who got his butt kicked by a woman. 

Emelia Holden, 21, didn’t hesitate to take matters into her own hands when a man groped her during her shift at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s in Savannah, Georgia on June 30.
In surveillance footage of the incident, 31-year-old Ryan Cherwinski is shown grabbing Holden’s backside as he walks behind her. Holden immediately turns around and grabs him by his collar and slams him into a counter.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Movie Reviews: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
directed by John Krasinski
A Quiet Place is a thriller/sci-fi movie starring a real life husband and wife. This is an intelligent, well acted, empathetic film that makes judicious and limited use of special effects. This is the type of scary yet dramatic film that showcases the best that Hollywood can do when good writing, directing, and acting all come together. Most stories explain or question who we are, why we exist and how will we survive. A Quiet Place does that. 

Another thing which A Quiet Place does which is rather unusual in today's zeitgeist is to show equal respect for the different and complementary traditional family roles played by men and women even as the film winks at us by having both men and women step into the other's role during emergencies. A father is no less manly for nurturing his children while a mother protecting her family can be just as dangerous as any man and yet still feminine. The film focuses on a small number of characters in a limited environment, but the viewer never feels bored. This works because this isn't just a monster movie. This is a a drama about a family. The quirk was that a family that has a tremendous amount of pain, love, and other primal emotions to share can't speak to each other. Now for someone like me who thinks that most people talk way too much anyway, this would initially sound like a pretty good idea. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sickly Newark Grandmother Dies When Power Company Shuts Off Electricity

In the movie Goodfellas mobster Henry Hill, as played by Ray Liotta, explains in voiceover that the animating ethos of the Mafia, as exemplified by local Mob boss Paul Vario (Paul Sorvino) is "F*** you, pay me!!. The Mob exists to extract profit from its clients victims. There is no other reason. Utility companies on the other hand are not just only  supposed to make money from customers. These companies actually do have a charge to help people and provide a public service. Profit should not be the only or highest purpose. When the Mafia deliberately kills someone or is indifferent to a person's death as a cost of business no one is surprised. That organization is working as designed. It is after all a criminal organization.You don't blame the shark for biting you. You blame yourself for swimming with the sharks. When a utility company does the same, though, it is not acting in concert with its charter. 

NEWARK — Linda Daniels had fallen behind on her electricity bills, her meter run up by medical equipment going around the clock and increasingly hot weather. But on July 3, her family said, they pulled together $500 to pay down her debts, believing it would maintain her service. Two days later, her electricity was shut off. It was a sweltering day and temperatures in Newark soared into the 90s. Ms. Daniels’s house was stifling, the air so stuffy that her daughter said it was difficult to breathe. Even more serious: Ms. Daniels relied on an oxygen machine, and it required electricity. 

Ms. Daniels, 68, had various ailments, including congestive heart failure, her relatives said, and in recent months she had been placed in hospice care as her health declined. Her doctors had not given her any indication of how long she had to live, relatives said, but her family wanted her to be comfortable and to be at home. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Lions Kill Poachers

Poachers are horrible human beings who kill rare animals, often driving them to extinction in order to sate the Western appetite for trophies, or the Chinese and African appetite for medicines or foods of dubious medicinal or nutritional value. Poachers thus add to the destruction of African wildlife and ultimately impoverish that continent in ways that are becoming increasing obvious. So when I read these stories I wasn't exactly saddened. I was wondering though if the stories were really true. Both stories seemed like something out of a Kipling story. But some fact checking verified that although the events in one story had actually taken place in February, not June, everything else happened more or less as

So although I am not happy that the poachers are dead sometimes that's the only way to stop bad people from doing worse things. The poachers knew the risks and paid the price. Perhaps if more things like this happened humans wouldn't be needlessly killing so many animals. Although there is a certain grim reciprocity in poachers being killed by lions ultimately the only fix is to convince people that killing animals for medicines that don't work or stupid religious reasons is not a good thing to do. And that understanding can't be imposed from the outside of a particular culture. It has to come from within. And obviously people have to believe that the benefit from poaching isn't worth the cost. That's going to take a while. But until then perhaps poachers should tread a bit more lightly. The Lion isn't sleeping tonight.

A suspected big cat poacher has been eaten by lions near the Kruger National Park in South Africa, police say. The animals left little behind, but some body parts were found over the weekend at a game park near Hoedspruit.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP.

"They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."

Black Men Don't Belong Here!!!

I don't know if these sorts of incidents are actually happening more frequently or if we are just hearing about them more often but they give the lie to the bromides that (1) people don't notice race or (2) that Black American men get any sort of benefits from patriarchy. In both cases referenced in this post the unfounded fears or aggression of white women led them to confront and invoke the threat of state violence against Black men. 

Fortunately for the men involved they managed to avoid being shot or assaulted but it could have just as easily gone the other way. It is impossible for me to imagine social sanction for a Black woman claiming to be in fear of her life by the mere presence of a white man or seeking to bully him out of the public space if all he was doing was minding his own business. In both instances white women made automatic assumptions that blackness was not allowed in their surroundings and needed to be expelled. 

There are of course younger Black people who look back at the responses of Black Americans to state sponsored segregation and violence before 1970 or so and find them lacking. If these sorts of incidents continue to occur we'll find out who really is ready to stand up to the Beast, so to speak, and who was just flapping their gums. If you're Black in America, particularly a Black man, you have to be ready for this sort of thing. It can happen any time any where. We've seen a white woman in South Carolina assault Black boys at a pool, a white man in North Carolina demand to see a Black family's pool id, a white woman in Tennessee try to kick a Black family out of the pool, a white woman in Yale call the police on the fellow black student taking a nap, and too many more incidents to mention. Clearly most white do understand just whose side the police are likely to take. I do think that Trump's election has given permission to certain people to share their true feelings. 

(FOX 11) - A man told his story about an experience he described as racial profiling in a neighborhood where he was parked in his car. Ezekiel Phillips said if he weren’t black, a white woman would have never felt threatened by his presence. “You don’t have to call 911 on me. Talk to me. Ask me my name,” Phillips said.

Married Woman and Alleged Lover Die in Carbon Monoxide Accident

I imagine a spouse would have a number of emotions upon learning that their better half was cheating on them but had also just passed away. I mean how do you process that sort of information? 

A woman who died inside her Newark garage had reportedly been having sex in a running car with her mechanic lover when her body was found by her husband on Monday night. Law enforcement sources told NBC the woman, 39-year-old Tameka Hargrave and a 56-year-old man believed to be her mechanic, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The sources said they believed Hargrave had been paying the man to fix her car by having sex with him. Her husband, Kahali Johnson, told ABC he found their bodies inside the garage, along with had been left running in a closed garage, and called police just before 9pm.

Johnson said he went to investigate after a strong gas odour entered his apartment before 9pm on Monday, and found the pair 'laid out'. He claimed when he found them, they were both outside the car, which had been left running.

'As I tried to open the last garage door, I see the mechanic, he's laid out,' Johnson said.'She's just a few feet away, she's laid out. And pretty much I had to call 911, because at this time, with that level of emissions, I knew that they were gone.' 

Movie Reviews: High Noon

High Noon
directed by Fred Zinneman
It's ironic that this film's title for a time became short hand for the sort of high handed right wing shoot first ask questions later macho cowboy vigilantism which some people argued that animated such politicians as Ronald Reagan and inspired such film series as Death Wish or Dirty Harry. At the time of its release many people who saw it understood High Noon as a left wing allegory about McCarthyism and blacklisting. Right wing iconic actor John Wayne, who was in favor of blacklisting, if not necessarily black people, hated High Noon, calling it unAmerican. Wayne boasted about helping to run High Noon's writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country. 

High Noon bothered Wayne so much that he went so far as to help make an answer movie to High Noon, Rio Bravo. In Wayne's mind Rio Bravo "fixed" a lot of the problems with High Noon. Some people consider Rio Bravo at least as good as High Noon while others say High Noon is in a class by itself. Well you've have to watch both movies to make that call but I think, politics aside High Noon remains one of the best Westerns ever made. It's also a matter of some irony that the film's lead actor, who was in his own right a icon of American masculinity, Gary Cooper, was also quite conservative in his personal life and a friend to John Wayne,. It just goes to show that art can make strange bedfellows.

Although this film was directed by Fred Zinnerman it was produced by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kramer who was famous for such social message films as The Defiant Ones, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Inherit the Wind and of course the slapstick It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What is Obama's Legacy?

In the days of Pharoahs, Kings, Sultans, and Emperors, occasionally a new ruler would take the throne who had a bug up his or her butt about some previous ruler. Maybe the new tyrant had some unresolved Daddy issues. Maybe the fellow had seized power through a violent coup and wanted to demonstrate his utter disdain for the former ruler. Maybe the new ruler had a well reasoned long standing political or religious grudge against the previous line of rulers and wished to convert the population to an entirely new way of thinking. Whatever the case, throughout history there have been autocrats who have gone far out of their way to downplay, deny and even delete any records of their predecessor's accomplishments. 

Sometimes loyalists to the previous regime who were brave enough to continue to speak the truth as they saw it found themselves exiled or like Trotsky, facing the business end of an icepick.

As far as we know President Trump hasn't started issuing kill lists for American citizens who cherish President Obama's legacy. Not yet anyway. But President Trump has been on a significant rampage to wipe away most of President Obama's initiatives or accomplishments. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Modern Day Loansharking and Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Mister Banker Mister please, how much does money mean
Won't you reconsider Mister Won't you do this thing for me
Mr. Banker 

-Lynyrd Skynyrd
I've written before that if you were a criminally minded sort in today's environment you'd be a fool to join the Mafia or other illicit organizations. These days, the benefit is no longer worth the cost. Working outside the law you have to worry about informants, violent paranoid co-workers, electronic surveillance up the wazoo, and long prison terms. That's no good. If you have wicked urges be smart and work inside the law. For example, if you want to assault or kill people, become a cop. You will be virtually untouchable.

If you want to help people gamble away their cash so that you can make a profit, open a liquor store and run the state sponsored lottery. People will give you money for nothing and thank you for the opportunity. And if you want to loan money at extortionate rates, changing or reinterpreting contract terms to your benefit while emptying your client's sucker's pockets, then do what former Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did and open up/run a finance company that markets predatory loans to impoverished and/or desperate people.

The check arrived out of the blue, issued in his name for $1,200, a mailing from a consumer finance company. Stephen Huggins eyed it carefully. A loan, it said. Smaller type said the interest rate would be 33 percent.

Way too high, Huggins thought. He put it aside.

A week later, though, his 2005 Chevy pickup was in the shop, and he didn’t have enough to pay for the repairs. He needed the truck to get to work, to get the kids to school. So Huggins, a 56-year-old heavy equipment operator in Nashville, fished the check out that day in April 2017 and cashed it.

Woman Bites Off Ear At Chinese Restaurant

Over the years I've had people occasionally get my food orders wrong. Usually it's a no harm-no foul sort of deal. Of course sometimes you run into unreasonable aggressive insulting people who will not take responsibility for mistakes and/or who will not refund your money or make your order correctly. And on the flipside, although we say that the customer is always right, customers exist who go out of their way to cheat, insult, harass and even assault the people who make their food. People of all types can have quick tempers and resort to violence for no good reason. I don't know the truth of what took place at the China 1 restaurant at Mt. Clemens. I do know that language barriers combined with poor service mixed with impatient, angry or demanding customers can cause tempers to flare. The question that must be answered is who threw the first punch. Or more precisely, who bit whom first?

MT. CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) - A woman was arrested for allegedly biting off part of a man's ear during a fight with the man at a Macomb County Chinese restaurant on Thursday night. According to deputies, they were called to China 1 Restaurant in Mt. Clemens around 9:40 p.m. When they arrived, they found a man with his ear partially bitten off and a woman with a large bump on her forehead. 

Deputies say 24-year-old Jade Anderson walked into the restaurant complaining about her order. She was complaining to the owners, who are also the victims in the assault. Due to a language barrier, the victim's son translated what Anderson was saying to his parents. That's when Anderson allegedly pushed the son and threw her food onto the floor. She then started assaulting the female victim, and the male victim stepped in to protect his wife.

Unpublished Letters From Nelson Mandela

Former political prisoners read unpublished letters from South African freedom fighter and later President, Nelson Mandela. It's important to remember that no matter what life throws at you, you can't let it break you.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Carjacker Learns That You Don't Mess With Texas

Unfortunately the world is full of people, who as the character Blade opined, are always trying to iceskate uphill. There is not really a way to reason with such people. They don't understand reason and/or don't respect it. All you can do with such folks is attempt to avoid them. And if you can't avoid them then you must use force to stop them from hurting you or yours. 

This is ugly. But this is life. There is a saying that you don't mess with Texas. A would be carjacker named Rickey Wright found this out the hard way, when a mother, unable to convince Mr. Wright not to steal her SUV with her children inside, used a more persuasive argument that ended the confrontation.

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A suspected carjacker is in the hospital after a North Texas woman shot him as he tried to take off in her SUV with her two children in the backseat.
The incident happened just after 10:00 p.m. Wednesday, when Dallas police say the woman stopped for gasoline at a Shell station on Camp Wisdom Road.

The mother, who does not want to be identified, left her children in the SUV while she ran inside the convenience store. Before she returned a man jumped into her vehicle and tried to drive away, but the woman saw what was happening and jumped in the back seat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Music Reviews: I Gotcha and Baby It's Cold Outside

I really like most of Joe Tex's work. I also like the Ray Charles-Betty Carter version of the standard "Baby It's Cold Outside". Recently on Facebook a relative posted the Joe Tex song "I Gotcha!" which Joe Tex performed on Soul Train, well rather danced and lip synced, with Damita Jo. I love this song and had never had a problem with it. The character whom Joe Tex is singing about is horny and wants to get down to business. There's no doubt about that. But is he a threat? Is he a would be rapist? Some women I know said they found this song distasteful or even intimidating and offensive. I was surprised. I never saw it that way. But everyone has different perspectives and responses. There's no accounting for taste. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the music you like or do not like.

I always thought that the song "Baby It's Cold Outside", particularly as sung by Carter and Charles, was about two sophisticated adults who were doing the dance that almost every man and woman have done at some point in their life with someone they like. I didn't see any coercion or threat. Unlike with "I Gotcha" I was aware that some people thought that "Baby It's Cold Outside" was a misogynist's how-to guide for rape, but some of the people who think that also seem to be hostile to any hint of male heterosexuality so I didn't pay them too much mind. 

In any event by today's lyrical standards in popular music both "I Gotcha" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" are quaint and damn near innocent bedtime lullabies. So it's difficult for me to see how anyone could see these songs as menacing or intimidating. For me that's a reach, but I could be wrong. I'm not a woman. So there's that. What's your call? Are these songs harmless ditties or sexist threats?

Book Reviews: Blood Song

Blood Song
by Anthony Ryan
This older novel was the author's debut into a pretty crowded field and the first in a trilogy. I think it kind of stinks that so many publishers and authors shoehorn stories into a trilogy when so many of them would be just as well served by having one stand alone story. However, I do admit that this story left me wanting more, which I suppose is all a reader can ask. The  story themes will be familiar to anyone who has read high fantasy; there's not too much that's new here. The book's enjoyment comes not from brand new ideas but in how the author weaves together some classic tropes and storylines.

The author sets the story in a world much like our own High Middle Ages. Countries that are fantastic versions of England, France, Wales, The Ottoman Empire, Songhai, and other Eurasian or West African nation states vie for economic and political primacy. Ryan uses a framing technique in which the person we believe to be the protagonist tells the story of his life to an enemy who will shortly it is believed, oversee his execution.

The protagonist is Vaelin Al Sorna, Sword of the Realm to King Janus of The United Realm, aka Darkblade, Young Hawk, and Hope Killer. Vaelin has been captured by his enemies in the Alpiran Empire and is going to be executed, or so everyone believes. Curious about the life of Vaelin and how he became one of the greatest warriors of the Sixth Order, the caste created to defend and expand the Faith, the Alpirian Imperial Chronicler decides to take down Vaelin's story. Vaelin's story starts when he is just ten years old and is abandoned by his father, the former Battle Lord to King Janus, at the gates of the Sixth Order castle.