Thursday, February 28, 2019

HBO Game of Thrones Final Season: Starks, Tullys and Arryns

HBO's Game of Thrones series, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire starts its final season on April 14th. The Starks, Tullys, and Arryns all intermarried with one another. The Starks are the first family introduced and get the majority of the POV characters for much of the series. They are clearly the people with whom the viewer and/or reader are meant to identify. And yet the Starks more than any other House, at least for much of the series, take it on the chin. They lose the War of the Five Kings. Their home is burned down. Later their home is under the control of monstrous rivals. Still there are a few Starks left alive and as Arya Stark pointed out "Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe."

  • Ned Stark: Dead. Murdered by Joffrey, most likely with Littlefinger's encouragement.
  • Robb Stark: Dead. Murdered by Roose Bolton and Walder Frey.
  • Catelyn Stark (Tully): Dead. Murdered by Walder Frey.
  • Talisa Stark: Dead. Murdered by Walder Frey.
  • (unborn baby) Ned Stark: Dead. Murdered by Walder Frey.
  • Rickon Stark: Dead. Murdered by Ramsay Snow.
  • Jon Snow: Alive then dead (murdered by the Night's Watch) then alive again-resurrected by Melisandre.
  • Bran Stark: Alive but crippled and moving swiftly beyond human concerns.
  • Sansa Stark: Alive and survivor of rapes, beatings and betrayals. Generally PO'd.
  • Arya Stark: Alive. See Sansa Stark x 10 for description of personality.
  • Brynden "The Blackfish " Tully: Died fighting in last stand for the memory of his grand-nephew and king, Robb Stark.
  • Edmure Tully: Last seen under Frey imprisonment. Unsure of status given that Arya eliminated most if not all male Freys. Most Tully soldiers were also murdered along with Stark soldiers at Red Wedding.
  • Jon Arryn: Dead. Murdered by Lysa Arryn and Littlefinger.
  • Lysa Arryn (Tully): Dead. Murdered by Littlefinger.
  • Robin Arryn: Alive.
  • Summer: Dead.
  • ShaggyDog: Dead.
  • Lady: Dead.
  • Grey Wind: Dead.
  • Ghost: Alive.
  • Nymeria: Alive and staying far far far away from any Starks.

Music Reviews: Pacific Gas & Electric

Pacific Gas & Electric,later known as PG&E after some unpleasant interactions with the utility company of the same name, was a late sixties/early seventies band based in blues-rock with a side order of soul and gospel. The band wasn't one which I think really stood out for instrumental virtuosity or songwriting skills. I think the band was worthwhile because of the soulful voice of the primary singer, Charlie Allen. The band was unusual then and now because it was integrated. 

I suppose this made it more difficult to get radio play as Allen's voice was unmistakably "black" while some of the guitar work sounded very "white". So perhaps the band was often too "black" for white radio and too "white" for black radio. So it goes. The band had broken up by the mid seventies. I don't think any of the band members ever hit the big time. That's life. But there were two songs of theirs which I liked a lot. The first is "Death Row #172". a bluesy lament in which a Vietnam Veteran on Death Row wonders about his approaching end, how he got there, and what happens next.

I like this song because it's a reminder that people can do evil things and yet not be evil themselves. I also love the bass line. Bass should always be heard and felt I say. The lyrics are pretty introspective. I'm not on death row but I do occasionally find myself listening to this song when I'm wondering about life decisions.

Howard Webb Delivers Spicy Salsa

How well do you know the people who handle your fast food delivery or orders at a restaurant? Do you think that they like you? Because some of them don't like you very much.

Are you confident that your immune system is in tip top condition? Are your body's white blood cells just fighting fools ready to kill anything in your body that isn't you? If they aren't then you might consider avoiding food that you didn't prepare yourself. 

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Howard Matthew Webb is not the kind of guy you want delivering your food, if a Blount County warrant is to be believed. A complaint prepared Feb. 22 by Maryville Police Department Investigator Rod Fernandez alleges Webb rubbed his testicles in a cup of salsa during a Dinner Delivered food delivery.

He faces a felony charge of adulteration of food, liquids or pharmaceuticals. Webb was taken into custody Feb. 22 and was still being held Tuesday in jail.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Movie Reviews: Overlord

directed by Julius Avery
By WW2 Germany had one of the most scientifically advanced military forces in Europe and therefore the world. It is a fortunate irony that the Nazi anti-Semitism caused many European physicists, Jewish and non-Jewish, to flee to the United States, thus severely retarding German nuclear weapon research and development.

However, even without Jewish scientific assistance, German military scientists, doctors and technicians produced advanced deadly weapons such as the assault rifle, a speedier machine gun, thermobaric bombs, jet aircraft, Pervitin, and the first ICBM's. There were rumors of even more outrageous weapons and plans, such as a death ray mirror that would use the Sun's energy to incinerate cities, anti-gravity and time travel devices, and stealth fighters. Some of these were discussed in the fiction book Swastika by Michael Slade.  Overlord imagines that American paratroopers, tasked to destroy a German radio tower on the eve of D-Day, discover a secret sinister Nazi military program.

Overlord, much like Tarantino's WW2 film Inglorious Basterds, is unashamedly anachronistic. The hero is a Black paratrooper serving in an integrated unit.  The company first sergeant is also a Black man. In real life, all US military branches were officially racially segregated during the war. Although some segregation broke down during combat, there weren't any units that were by design integrated. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Lake Michigan Waves

This is what 40 MPH winds and 15 foot waves look like. The Great Lakes are more inland seas than what most people think of when someone uses the word lake. There's a lot of natural beauty in the world if you only take time to appreciate it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Movie Reviews: The First Purge

The First Purge
directed by Gerard McMurry
In his satirical novel Breakfast of Champions the late author Kurt Vonnegut wrote that many White Americans thought of Black Americans as obsolete farm machinery which they sadly couldn't discard. There are other novels and movies which have depicted a dystopic future in which the Black American population is reduced, transferred, or eliminated.

President Abraham Lincoln proposed encouraging Blacks to go to Africa. Many people across the political spectrum have agitated for formal separation between Black and White. And there are some people who, convinced that there are simply too many Blacks breathing up the white man's air, want to get rid of Blacks permanently. This latest installment in the Purge series is a prequel, thus the title. But it is also the first film to unabashedly center Black people and make it clear that the primary purpose of the purge is to reduce the number of Black people in America. 

This movie unsubtly reminds the viewer that until the 1930s~1940s or so "race riots" usually meant that large numbers of white people would violently attack much smaller numbers of Black people for the slightest provocation, real or imagined. It was only in the 1960s that "race riots" came to mean blacks rioting, burning and looting. This movie might not exist if not for the commercial success of Get Out. The movie lacks white heroes, something unusual for American films. The First Purge shows the viewer  a possible future where, under the guise of colorblind policy, America decides to reduce the "useless eaters" population, aka Black and Brown people.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Symone Sanders tells Black Men to Shut Up

It's difficult to imagine a mainstream commentator rhetorically wondering who asked all these big mouthed Black women for their opinion, asking why they kept popping up, and then insulting a particular Black woman's intelligence and credentials simply because he happened to disagree with the point she was making.

It's almost impossible to imagine someone saying that about White Women, Jewish Americans or almost any other group and moving on like nothing took place. Usually the person would have to apologize. And if the apology was not sufficiently abject, the person who had made such comments would likely lose their job. In fact there are people who would insist that apology or no, the person should lose their job. But if you dismiss Black men as alleged political commentator Symone Sanders recently did then you can usually avoid making any retraction or apology. And losing your job isn't even on the agenda. 

This is yet another reason why I think it's beyond stupid to talk non-ironically about "black male privilege" or "black male patriarchy" in America. Those things don't exist. If they did then the sentient tugboat that is Symone Sanders would be sure to keep a more civil tongue in her head when it came to black men.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Alabama Newspaper Calls For KKK Murders

Although with Mississippi in the running it will always be a tough battle each year I think that Alabama has temporarily regained its spot as Number One Shi*hole state. 

Officials in Alabama are calling for a small-town newspaper editor to resign because of an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize Washington, D.C. Goodloe Sutton, the editor and publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Ala., wrote the editorial titled “Klan needs to ride again” that ran in the paper last week.
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” read the Feb. 14 editorial. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. They do not understand how to eliminate expenses when money is needed in other areas. This socialist-communist idealogy [sic] sounds good to the ignorant, and uneducated, and the simple minded-people.”
“Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there,” concluded Sutton. “They call them compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Police Tase Man 11 Times Just For Fun

Although the most charged scenarios of police brutality which get the most community attention often involve white cops and black citizens there is a deeper problem with police across the United States that sees far too many of them ready, willing, and eager to harass, bully, brutalize, sexually assault, humiliate, and even kill anyone who is not a police officer, race not withstanding. This recent example of white-on-white police violence in Glendale came to light. The disturbing things are 
  1. How the police are wrong on the law and attempt to breeze past that by resorting to the "Because I said so! " response (passengers in traffic stops are not required to give id)
  2. How quickly the police move from semi-aggressive language to ultra-violence. For too many police any response that doesn't start and end with "Yassuh boss" is reason for beating, tasing and/or arrest. 
  3. How sexually sadistic the police are in this incident-pulling down the man's pants and underwear to apply the taser to his behind and genitals. Think about it. A police officer who is sworn to uphold the law decided that it would be a good idea to tase someone's genitals.
This was rough to watch and even more frightening to experience I am sure. It is critically important that Americans stop hero worshipping the police. Some police are just thugs with badges. We must demilitarize the police. We must train police better on knowing the law and following the law. And we must harshly punish police when they break the law. Perhaps the fact that in this case the victim was Caucasian will convince some people to get their head out of their fundament as far police violence goes. The victim is not an angel. But he did not deserve what happened to him. Of course if Wheatcroft had been Black the police would probably have just shot him thirty times and called it a day. So there's that I guess. State sponsored brutality that is encouraged and tolerated against Black people often ends up being employed against white people.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
This is a remake of an early seventies film. It's a dark romantic comedy. The film has some low rent humor. But that is part of the Farrelly Brothers schtick. 

Unlike most genre films this movie didn't shy away from making at least two of the people in the love triangle unpleasant, occasionally or completely. YMMV on this but it's absolutely essential to the story. This movie reverses the usual "..and then they lived happily ever after" motif  to investigate what happens after two people meet and fall in love. It's a different challenge/question. 

It's easy to fall in love with someone when they are clean, dressed to impress and shaking their tail feathers. It's more difficult to stay in love and accept someone else's occasional bad moods, unpleasant biological functions and irritating habits that over time could drive even the most patient spouse into sputtering incoherent rage. The first is infatuation. It may not last that long. The second is actual love, but usually takes more time to develop.

Eddie (Ben Stiller) is a San Francisco sports shop owner. Eddie is lonely, but afraid of settling down and getting married. His widower father Doc (Jerry Stiller-Ben Stiller's actual father) is a playboy. Doc's been in the game for years. He's not looking to get tied down again.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Homelessness, Poverty and Groundcover

How are we going to solve the problem of poverty. Is it just a question of bad individual choices? For some people, it certainly is. For others it's not. An overemphasis on individual decisions can lead people to miss the big picture. 

MLK wrote that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Doing the work of "restructuring" is very dangerous and very tiring. Sometimes it is easier to concentrate on the small changes that you can make. And there's nothing wrong with that I think.  Although it is good that this non-profit organization is taking individual steps to assist people I still think that the entire society must make institutional changes so that people who have reached advanced age or who have fallen on hard times have a more robust safety net.  

I'm not sure that selling papers in freezing weather is all that different from panhandling. But if this project has helped some people transition into business owners or higher paid employees I can't say anything negative about it. We all just need to do more, that's all.

Michigan Fan Keeps It Real

It's very important that from an early age a person learns how to stand up for his beliefs, no matter how many people say that he's wrong. After all as the possible apocryphal saying goes, one man with courage is a majority.

ANN ARBOR, MI – It’s an unspoken rule that wearing maize and blue is a no-no in the heart of Buckeye country. That didn’t stop second-grader Jackson Winters from fearlessly dressing head to toe in support of his favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, during a recent “dress in your favorite team colors” day at Tree of Life Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.
Seeing him rocking a fleece Michigan blanket as a cape to show his powerful love for the Wolverines amid a sea of scarlet and gray, made Jackson’s father, Kyle, beam with pride.
“It’s a total battle of nature vs. nurture,” Kyle Winters said. “We are trying to train him in the way we believe he should be brought up - as a Wolverine - but obviously living in a town that is saturated with Buckeyes.” Jackson’s courageous maize and blue ensemble was rewarded with a first-place prize during the recent spirit day. “They were pretty nice about it, but they gave me a hard time,” Jackson said. LINK
Good for Jackson for having the courage to be himself and good for the other children who are secure enough not to try to bully everyone into thinking and behaving as they do. Likely some people on twitter could learn a thing or two from these kids

Movie Reviews: Wetlands

directed by Emanuele Della Valle
Adebisi and Rollergirl come together to make a middling modern noir.
How many movies feature a oncoming storm as metaphor and warning for the changes that are about to impact the characters and alter their life forever. More than I can remember right this instant. It's a pretty common plot device. 

This film uses that device. It is reminiscent of the pseudo noir Key Largo, recently reviewed here. In Key Largo, a gangster trying to recover past glories holds the guests of a hotel hostage while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall. In Wetlands, a troubled cop is held hostage by his past failings and must try to move beyond them--while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall.

I thought the movie might have gone a little too far in making the protagonist so morally dark. A lot of the dialogue was meh. There is violence but it's not shown as anything other than something which is horrible. It leaves marks on people-both the people who suffer it and those who commit it. 

Unfortunately the director and cinematographer made a very visually dark movie. It can be difficult to see what's going on in many scenes. Obviously they likely did this on purpose to impress upon the moral murkiness of the goings on in the story. I just thought they overdid it.

Florida Woman Harasses Men

Often when there are stories about a (usually attractive) female teacher or corporate exec harassing or propositioning the teen boys or men that she instructs or supervises, we'll see a sizable proportion of comments apparently from men wondering where these teachers were when the men were young or suggesting that if their female boss or supervisor looked that good she could harass them to her heart's content and then some. I don't think this particular incident will bring out too many comments of that type.

MADEIRA BEACH — In a move that echoes national #metoo headlines, former City Commissioner Nancy Oakley was strongly censured and reprimanded by her former colleagues for violating state ethics rules by groping and licking the face of a former city manager. In issuing the reprimand, the City Commission Wednesday night also accepted Oakley’s resignation submitted to the city the previous day.The incident that led to Oakley’s resignation occurred more than five years ago during a prior term in office. Oakley apparently objected to a growing relationship between Crawford and his assistant, Cheryl McGrady, who are now married.

Oakley, who has admitted she had been drinking, demanded at one point that McGrady leave a public event. Later, Oakley took a swing at McGrady, who had complained that she was sexually harassing Crawford, including licking his face starting at the base of his neck. Crawford did not file a formal complaint until much later, when Oakley ran for office again.

Trump Tax Hike on Middle Class

Some Trump voters are shocked and upset that the Trump Tax Cut is hurting them.

It’s February which means it’s officially everyone’s favorite time of year: tax season! And while most of us will be putting off tracking down our W-2’s until early April, some people have already managed to file their taxes. And among those early birds, many in the middle class have been shocked to find that instead of the nice little chunk of change they were expecting with their return, they actually owe money to Uncle Sam. What’s the reason for this financial switcheroo? 

It stems from President Trump’s tax reform, which was passed in 2017 and was touted by Trump and the GOP as a win for the middle class. However, with the new tax system now in place, Americans are discovering that most of the tax relief from the bill is actually being experienced by corporations. 

Meanwhile, many people are seeing an increase in taxes due to the bill eliminating many of the deductions that were used by middle-class families in order to lower the amount of taxes they were required to pay. Most notably, the tax reform placed a cap on deductions for taxes on both state and local levels.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Movie Reviews: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks
directed by Bruce Evans
Sometimes actors can get bored doing the same type of roles. This 2007 movie was a definite step away from the serenely moral aw shucks folksy patriarchs that make up a lot of Kevin Costner's filmography. 

However, this film still lets Costner play a protective decent family man, although a very twisted one.  

It was a fine piece of acting and perhaps something you should watch if you've never seen Costner portray wicked characters. This wasn't really a hit IIRC. Some would argue that's because Costner isn't a very compelling actor. I would disagree with that. It is true that this film wasn't what most people wanted to see from Costner.But Costner's alleged lack of range works for this role as his character is very tightly wrapped indeed.

Earl Brooks (Costner) is the middle aged CEO of a packaging/boxing company. Earl is a good man, or so it seems. Earl is a philanthropist. He's solicitous of his workforce; Earl has so far resisted selling out to East Asians or outsourcing work overseas. Although Earl is a multimillionaire he's evidently still married to his first wife Emma (Marg Helgenberger), a woman in his own age range, instead of a much younger secretary or supermodel.  Earl is faithful to Emma. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Crackdown on Birth Tourism

The United States is one of the few nations in the Western developed world to still offer birthright citizenship in which anyone who is born here is a citizen regardless of their parents' status. Most other nations, both in the "West" and beyond it, don't do that. Although the original intent of birthright citizenship was rooted in the immediate post-Civil War attempts to grant African-Americans full and unqualified citizenship in the United States, this legal tradition proved quite attractive to the people arriving in the post-Civil War waves of immigration to the United States, first from Europe and then later from Asia, Africa, Latin America and other places. In most nations, particularly in Europe, the "nation state" is synonymous with control and demographic dominance by one or at most a few ethnic/racial groups. The United States may have started with the same intent but because of slavery and the presence of the Indigenous people, the United States was never going to be a nation of one race or failing that even of one ethnic group. 

I have my doubts about the current wisdom of birthright citizenship during a time of mass immigration from the Third World but that's a different post.  Today's problems is that some people are gaming the system to get the benefits of American citizenship for their progeny and later themselves without making the slightest contribution to the American political or economic framework. If someone is born here but spent all of their formative years as a citizen of China or Russia, are they really an American?  There are a lot of different foreign nationals getting involved but for years Chinese and Russians have been the biggest practitioners of birth tourism. 
Three people who operated multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses in Southern California were arrested Thursday in the biggest federal criminal probe ever to target the thriving industry, in which pregnant women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become American citizens.

The businesses coached their clients to deceive United States immigration officials and pay indigent rates at hospitals to deliver their babies, even though many of the clients were wealthy, investigators said. Some Chinese couples were charged as much as $100,000 for a birth-tourism package that included housing, nannies and shopping excursions to Gucci.

Fraud Fakes Fall and Faces Felony

You have to wonder about people who spend so much of their time, energy and resources trying to rip off other people. It seems that it would just be easier to make your money legally like most other people. But some folks think that they are smarter than everyone else and don't need to be restricted by the same rules. 

Occasionally those people get away with it. Some even get elected President. Other times though they just make a fool out of themselves and wind up facing the judge. One Mr. Alexander Goldinsky forgot that you don't see everybody who sees you.

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A New Jersey man is facing charges after he was caught on camera throwing ice on the ground and faking a slip and fall in an alleged fraud scheme. The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Alexander Goldinsky, 57, was working as an independent contractor at a business in Woodbridge when a security camera recorded the incident. The footage shows Goldinsky throw ice on the ground, carefully arrange himself on the floor and then wait to be discovered. 

Gay University of Michigan Professor Accused of Rape

It is important to remember that no matter what we might hear from the more hysterical types in this #metoo era that immoral and criminal behavior can occur among both genders and in any sexuality.

Predation is not by any means something that only heterosexual males do to women. This latest story made me wonder if the University of Michigan might not have some explaining to do and/or even a little housecleaning. As always we should always grant every accused. male or female, gay or straight, the presumption of innocence. This particular alleged incident goes against the preferred media narrative. I have no idea if the powers that be at the University of Michigan knew of the rape allegation or all of the other sexual harassment allegations detailed in the story below. I would hate to think that people turned a blind eye to certain facts because they were eager to score a skilled performer or because they didn't want to be the ones to sound the alarm on a couple who were the poster boys for the country's acceptance of gay marriage. One minute you're on top of the world. The next minute, you're being extradited to Texas, which is not a phrase most people ever want to hear.

A jailed University of Michigan professor and his husband, accused of drugging and raping a man in 2010, won’t fight extradition on charges they face in Texas.

David Daniels, a 52-year-old opera singer, and William Scott Walters, a 36-year-old conductor and singer, both of Ann Arbor, waived their right to extradition hearings during brief appearances in Washtenaw County Trial Judge Carol Kuhnke’s courtroom Friday, Feb. 1.

Racist Detroit White Cop Humiliates Black Woman

Racism isn't just about committing genocide or hurling racial slurs in a never ending Tourette's spasm. It's also about refusing to extend the same courtesy to someone else that you would extend to a member of your own or more preferred group. It's about enforcing the law to the full extent without exceptions when it comes to THEM but being reasonable when it comes to US. Although Michigan is a great state it is also in many ways the Mississippi of the Midwest when it comes to race, though Indiana and Ohio are always in the running. One thing which my parents and other older people always stressed to me was to follow rules as best I could because usually many of the people enforcing the rules would have no mercy on me for even a minor violation. They wouldn't give me the benefit of the doubt. I learned that to be true. 

What strikes me about this story is not the fact that the officer made a legitimate traffic stop. It's that the white officer took pleasure in humiliating and insulting a black woman. Yes, regardless of race, everyone should always keep their driver's license, vehicle registration and insurance paperwork up to date and paid in full. I certainly do. But I think that in this case the officer would have found something else with which to harass the young woman.

Detroit — A Detroit police officer has been reassigned while the department investigates racially-charged comments made during a traffic stop and posted to the officer's social media this week. The alleged incident happened during a traffic stop near Joy Road and Stout Street on the city's west side Tuesday night, police said. Officer Gary Steele pulled over Ariel Moore, 23, for an expired registration on her license plate and seized her vehicle. He told Moore to exit the vehicle and that it would be towed. Moore walked about a block to her home in below freezing weather.