Friday, December 25, 2020

Keller Texas Cops Needlessly Arrest And Pepper Spray Father And Son

I don't begrudge anyone for having a bad day. Depending on the job I may not take it personally if a person is occasionally a jerk. I have mentioned before that a worker at my neighborhood post office is not the nicest woman in the world. She is abrasive, abrupt, and condescending. I am not the only local who has complained about her attitude. But there is a massive difference between being an unpleasant post office worker and being an unpleasant police officer. I can avoid post office workers. 

I'm unconcerned about a post office worker jumping over the counter and assaulting me because I didn't follow an unlawful order quickly enough or looked her in her eyes without fear. Given that police officers have the legal authority to use violence, up to and including lethal force, society can't tolerate officers, who because they are in a bad mood, take it out on their fellow citizens. Police officers must follow the law and treat everyone the same, not make up laws and assault people for not obeying them. 

A North Texas man is suing two officers in the Keller Police Department following his arrest in August. Keller PD demoted Sergeant Blake Shimanek for his role in the incident. The arrest occurred Aug. 15 when 22-year-old Dillon Puente was pulled over for making a wide right turn. Puente was on his way to his grandmother’s house when he was stopped in the Riverdance neighborhood.   

Bodycam video shows Shimanek ask Dillon to get out of the car before he places him in handcuffs. In a police report obtained by WFAA, Shimanek said he detained Dillon because he was worried about his safety. “He was ticketed and taken to jail for a wide right turn,” said Dillon’s dad Marco Puente in an interview with WFAA.  

Marco Puente was following Dillon to his grandma’s house, and he pulled up his vehicle after he saw his son was pulled over by police.  (Watch Video Below)

Movie Reviews: Murder My Sweet

Murder My Sweet
directed by Edward Dmytryk
This was the first film adaptation of one of novelist's Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe's detective stories. Leading man Dick Powell, previously known as a baby faced song and dance light comedian type played against type as the hardboiled detective Marlowe. This film mostly worked I thought. Powell's version of Marlowe is different than the Marlowe I knew as interpreted by Humphrey Bogart.
Although both actors convincingly bring across Marlowe's cynicism, distrust and quick witted snarky one liners, in my opinion Powell doesn't quite show Marlowe's occasional ruthlessness or menace the way that Bogart did. But YMMV. 
One good thing about this film is that despite sharing a lot of themes and even plots with the Chandler inspired movie, The Big Sleep, it is INFINITELY easier to understand.
Watching movies like this can make one wonder at just how influential writers like Chandler and a few others were at establishing the basic outline of modern American based detective thrillers. So this film may not have too many surprises for the modern viewer other than how familiar and up to date it seems.

Old Time Snowball Fight

When's the last time you were involved in a good old fashioned snowball fight? Sometimes there's nothing better as this recently colorized video from 1897 Lyon, France shows. This short film was shot by the Lumiere Brothers, who despite being among the very first filmmakers in the world, thought that the film business was a novelty game that would never go anywhere. So they got out of it about a decade after they shot this footage. Although they couldn't predict the future, as indeed none of us can, this film they left behind is another demonstration of the fact that regardless of differences in time, culture, and nation, humans are more alike than different. I liked how dude on the bicycle almost made it through the gauntlet. 

Television Reviews: Britannia Season One

Brittania
produced by Pippa Harris and Sam Mendes
Season One previously aired on British television and Amazon prime almost three years ago but just started running on American cable channels this past year. Some people made an immediate positive comparison to HBO's Game of Thrones. I don't think that was an accurate comparison. Britannia's writing is not as high quality as that of the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. Britannia does not convince the viewer to see one group as the protagonists or good guys. It's more of a descriptive show.
The show's sets weren't that extravagant though it makes up for that drawback by spending as much time possible outside-to be fair the narrative often requires it. I liked the lush outdoor camerawork. If you are an outdoors nature loving person you will enjoy this aspect of Britannia. The show was shot on location in the UK and the Czech Republic. 
Britannia concerns the Roman invasion of the titular island in or about AD 43. It's a historical drama with few battles though there is violence. This could be because of budget or just because of where the writers and producers wanted to direct the viewer's attention. This is NOT an action packed drama full of swordfights. Those happen rarely.

Britannia is coy about magic. The show smartly flips back and forth between depicting magic as superstition and fear, something that only seems real because of copious psilocybin mushroom consumption, con man/con woman tricks, or (later in the season and definitely in second season) as something very real and dangerous.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Trump Lost The 2020 Presidential Election

Trump lost the 2020 Presidential Election. Trump lost because enough people in enough states decided that Joe Biden was the better choice.  Trump lost because the Republican Party is on a national level non-competitive in the Northeast and starting to show cracks in the South and Southwest. 
Trump lost because the Republican Party has reached the current limit of political popularity that it can have throughy open appeals to white racist resentment, white nationalism, anti-intellectualism, anti-urban feelings, conspiracy theories, and various other dubious emotions or stances. Trump lost because even some otherwise Republican leaning voters looked at Trump's general corruption and specific ineptitude combating the coronavirus pandemic and decided that enough was enough. 
Trump lost because his support slipped among white men, his most devoted base. Trump lost because he is congenitally unable to frame appeals to people that are not rooted in hate. Trump lost because he's unwilling to reach out to people who are not his base. Trump lost because he's incapable of conceiving a scenario where he loses. His ego can't accept that possibility.

Chicago Police Raid Wrong Home And Hold Naked Black Woman At Gunpoint

The Chicago Police are notorious for both brutality and for getting things wrong. When you have the legal authority to detain, arrest, hurt and even kill people getting things wrong more than a few times is not something that society can tolerate. 
I have noticed that it seems as if a disproportionate percentage of the times the police get things wrong they do so with Black people. It's rare that I read about a mistaken militarized police raid in a white and/or wealthy area. 

The city of Chicago attempted to block a local news station from airing recently obtained body camera footage of police mistakenly raiding the wrong home with guns drawn and handcuffing a distressed, naked woman.
CBS2-TV released body camera footage on Monday night of officers forcing their way into the home of Anjanette Young nearly two years ago. The 50-year-old clinical social worker, who helps victims of violence and mentors people of color going into her profession, had just finished her work shift at a hospital and was undressing in her bedroom when a group of male officers broke down her door with a battering ram.
In the disturbing Feb. 21, 2019, footage, officers appear to have their guns drawn while they yell for Young to put her hands up. She can then be seen in the video fully naked with her hands raised, looking terrified and confused (CBS2 blurred parts of the video in which Young was shown naked). One officer puts Young’s hands behind her back and handcuffs her, leaving her with no way to cover herself as police search her home.

Movie Reviews: Jailbait

Jailbait
directed by Ed Wood

I am always looking for a good film noir to watch so I decided to check this one out. It quickly became apparent that this 1954 movie wasn't a good film noir. In fact it wasn't a good film of any kind of genre. This was because as I later learned this film was both written and directed by Ed Wood. I wouldn't have watched this film if I had known Wood directed it. The crossdressing Wood became infamous not only for his fetishes but for being unquestionably the worst director to ever work in Hollywood. Hands down. Think about whatever inept writer or director comes to your mind and then realize that Wood was worse. Far worse. He's probably the worst director to ever work on this planet. 
People who have no skill, experience, or even interest in directing, camera work, acting, or writing could fly out to Hollywood tomorrow and create much better work than Wood ever did. It is difficult to express in words just how horrible this film was. I later discovered that the version I saw, bad as it was, wasn't even the worst variant. There is an edition out there where either Wood or his southern film distributors decided to insert a lengthy blackface performance by a white comedian, his wife and a minstrel band. All of this was completely unrelated to the narrative. Someone evidently thought that white people of the time, particularly in the South, would find it drop dead funny.

Landlord Removes Tenant's Door Because Of Late Rent

As the pandemic continues to rage we will see more stories like this. How many of us could lose our job or other source of income or savings and be just fine for a significant amount of time?

A Missouri woman who lost her job amid the coronavirus pandemic said this week that her landlord temporarily removed her front door after she fell two months behind on rent payments. Hannah McGee told Fox’s St. Louis affiliate station, KTVI, that she has struggled to keep up with living expenses after losing her restaurant job. 

McGee, who has lived in the same apartment in Fenton, Mo., for three years and whose mother has rented the apartment next door for over a decade, said she now owes her landlord $1,000. “He’s always been a good landlord. I guess it just took one slip up,” McGee told the outlet. “I’ve lived here without a problem, no incidents whatsoever, I’ve been on time every month, but since COVID happened, I lost my job.” 

McGee said she began using her closet doors where her front door used to be, with her 4-year-old daughter forced to stay at her grandmother’s apartment in order to stay warm. “At night it gets definitely really cold, it’s kind of unbearable without it [the door],” McGee added.

Watching Morning Television

Scanning morning television while working from home over the past nine months I learned a few things. These include:
1) I need to call the Medicare Coverage Hotline right now to make sure I'm getting everything I deserve!!
2) I must immediately buy gold because these are uncertain times.
3) Jon Taffer can solve any problem by yelling at someone until s/he does better.
4) For just 3 easy payments of $24.99 I can have the best non-stick pan ever invented.
5) I should call a local ambulance chaser law firm because they're family.
6) Apparently people who badly lost their House, Senate, or dogcatcher race are the go to political experts on every cable channel.
7) Mike Lindell is interrupting this post to give a you a special deal on MyPillow!
8) With exceptions noted, to be an anchor on Fox News a woman must prove she has an unbroken line of "Aryan" descent to at least the 1700's. Male anchors can not have an IQ over 80.
9) Special guests on cable shows must always have their library as a backdrop to emphasize what a "SERIOUS" intellectual they are.
10) The IRS is going to come get me unless I call this tax relief firm and pay them a small fee.
11) If I order right now I can get an extra 20% off!
12) Fox News is convinced that whatever bad happens in America is either Black people's fault or is not as bad as whatever Black people are doing at this exact moment. Be scared. Be very scared!!! 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Book Reviews: My Work Is Not Yet Done

My Work Is Not Yet Done
by Thomas Ligotti
I hadn't read anything by this Detroit born author though I heard good things about him. So I decided to read the 2002 titular short story/novella. It also comes packaged with two other short stories. This is probably a horror story but that's just an easy surface description. This is weird fiction. This work owes some debts to people like Poe, Dunsany, and Lovecraft but is not a pastiche or homage. 

Ligotti is a singular voice. I will read the story again to fully understand events and their meaning. The writing is very atmospheric. There is a very dream like aspect to the descriptions. Even before the obvious supernatural elements intrude upon the reader, the reader might wonder about what is real and what is in the protagonist's head.

The protagonist, one Frank Dominio, opens the story by saying he has always been afraid. This turns out to be integral to the story because Frank is a very unreliable narrator, whether from fear or other failings. Frank is not entirely a schmuck but he's close. I think that many people may recognize themselves and/or their co-workers in Ligotti's description of Frank and his work associates.

In my own experiences, I didn't immediately realize that in work environments, rivals and enemies don't often reveal their hand and attack you openly and honestly. Some do, but that is rare. More often it's the "accidental" exclusion from business lunches or after hours conclaves, supposed jokes that are always at your expense, the damming with faint praise, a grudging meets expectations review, or an assignment to a task or path that gets little respect and no upper management visibility that limit someone's rise on the corporate totem pole.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Twerking at True Kitchen Restaurant

Let's say you invite a guest to your home. The guest puts her bare feet on your couch, throws her chewed meat bones on your carpet, and writes her name in permanent marker on your walls. When you politely ask the guest to stop this behavior she ignores you. 
She continues to disrespect you and deface your home. Upset, you eject the guest from your home, using some harsh language in doing so. This is not really news. It becomes news when other people who have the same warped values as the ejected guest blame you instead of the guest for the situation.

Kevin Kelley, owner of True Kitchen + Kocktails, tells TMZ that his anti-twerking speech has had a positive impact on his eatery. The Grio previously reported Kelley was filmed yelling at Black female patrons who were twerking and dancing on the furniture. In the clip, he makes clear that he is running a restaurant, not a club.
‘We’ve received an outpouring of support that we did not anticipate online and in person.’The Dallas restaurant owner who went viral for cursing out his customers over a twerking incident says business is booming.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Movie Reviews: Five Against The House

Five Against The House
directed by Phil Karlson
Although some consider this a film noir, I don't. It looks like one but it's just a heist movie and not one that's very engaging, with the exception of Kim Novak. It has some comedic asides about college life. It has some muddled thoughts about post traumatic stress disorder and what society owes to those veterans suffering from it. 

Five Against The House has Novak for the va-va voom factor. She definitely brought that element but had little else to do. There's no real conflict in her character or in her interactions with any of the other actors. She was no femme fatale. Not every noir movie has a femme fatale of course but they are common enough in the genre to be noticeable when absent. 

The film's other failing was that except for Novak the actors were simply too old to be believable as college students. The film addresses this problem by making the older looking characters law students instead of regular underclassmen but I still thought the other would be college students looked too old. 

There are some actors and actresses who can get away with playing 18-22 year olds well into their late twenties or early thirties but I didn't think any of these guys did that here. Four college students from Arizona take a weekend trip to a Reno casino. They have fun but obviously lose money. That is after all the point of a casino.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Movie Reviews: Unhinged

Unhinged
directed by Derrick Borte
I know some people who have the patience of saints. These people never get upset while they are driving. They constantly defer to other drivers, never flip anyone off, and calmly brush off angry grimaces or foul hand signals that they may see from other people on the road. I envy those folks. I am not one of those people though I have become calmer as I have aged. Previously though, if you were doing something stupid that was hindering me, I was going to let you know about it. With age comes wisdom though. 

You never know what the other people on the road are going through to make them behave as they do. You also never know what acts they may be capable of committing. Their state of anger may be far more dangerous than your state of anger. It's worthwhile considering that before you get into a back and forth with someone on the road. Being inside a vehicle, particularly a large one can give a driver an unwarranted sense of safety and sometimes aggression. 
This is a lesson which Unhinged is determined to share with its viewers. Sometimes chance can combine with bad decisions to just ruin your day. We all have bad days. Some people are salivating at the opportunity to share their pain with others. Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a struggling hairdresser(?).  Separated, Rachel is going thru a divorce which is on the verge of turning nasty.  Rachel is letting her somewhat fey and definitely lazy brother Fred (Austin McKenzie) and his girlfriend (Juliene Joyner) live with her rent free until Fred finds a job, something Fred doesn't seem to be too interested in doing. 

Police: Shut Up And Submit!!!

It's a source of cynical amusement, frustration, and anger to me how some Americans think that THOSE people should always immediately and cravenly submit to any and all police demands no matter how unreasonable, humiliating, unconstitutional or criminal while reserving for themselves the right to question, debate, defy, reject or resist police orders, whether legal or not. I am not overly fond of the police but it remains prudent advice that unless you are ready, willing and able to take things to that other level with the police and ultimately the state, you won't win most physical confrontations with police officers. 

Most people are quick to point that out when police employ violence against Black men or women. Police bootlickers smugly point out that if the Black person had just slavishly complied from the beginning they wouldn't have been shot, tased, assaulted, pepper-sprayed, beaten senseless, or curb stomped. Somehow though this critical insight seems to leave them when they are the ones being bullied or harassed by police officers on a power trip.

A Staten Island man says he’s proud of his family’s support for the NYPD — but that all changed after a rowdy caught-on-camera clash with cops outside his family’s bagel shop. Both Awadeh Nemer, 30, and police agree the Nov. 5 melee erupted about 12:30 a.m. outside Diddle Dee Bagels on Richmond Road in Dongan Hills after two officers on traffic enforcement asked to see Nemer’s ID. He refused, and was arrested. Who was being disorderly is where they disagree. 

Movie Reviews: The Color Out Of Space

The Color Out Of Space
directed by Richard Stanley

This sci-fi/horror movie is an adaptation of the 1927  H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name (color is spelled "colour").  It was one of Lovecraft's finest works. A Lovecraft weakness was to use florid, antediluvian adjectives to describe his settings while being paradoxically unable or unwilling to describe the monsters themselves. In the short story however, and fortunately enough in this film adaptation an alleged shortcoming was turned into a strength. 
The protagonists struggle to describe something that is beyond human experience and perception. That seems impossible. If something falls into our visible spectrum we can see and describe it. So in that aspect there is no such thing as a color we haven't seen before--a description used by many people in this story. 

But what if something has the ability to move in and out of the human visible spectrum or perhaps its very presence temporarily or permanently alters the human visible spectrum?

Would we lack the vocabulary to detail what we saw? Hmm. In this story Lovecraft anticipated radiation poisoning and described it quite vividly. Lovecraft may have been influenced by the Radium Girls scandal, which occurred during his lifetime.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Human Steak??!!!


Want to get your Jeffrey Dahmer on but are turned off by the work needed, the resulting mess, and those pesky police officers bothering you about missing vagrants? Don't worry. New advances in science have got you covered. Now you can eat liver and fava beans with a nice Chianti without any pain in the a$$ detectives demanding DNA samples from you, arresting you at your job, or having your false friends start calling you hurtful nasty names like cannibal and savage.

Advancements in science and technology have done great things for the world, but as the world continues to change, some things are better left untouched. A “DIY meal kit” for growing steak made from human cells was recently nominated for the “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum, and while it could dramatically change how food is made, the makers are now assuring people eating their food is not “technically” cannibalism. 

Movie Reviews: Underwater

Underwater
directed by William Eubank 
This 2020 sci-fi thriller movie is stylish and has a reasonably well known cast. It looks good visually and even has a direct shoutout to one of my favorite and most problematic authors, that crazy old racist from Providence, H.P. Lovecraft. So what what wasn't to like? 
Well there were two things that really took me out of the immersive you are there aspects of any good movie, though I'm pretty sure that Lovecraft would have strongly approved of one of them. The first thing and most noticeable is that the sole named Black male character dies first. You barely even get to know his name before he bites the dust. And he does so in a way that's supposed to bring home the dangers of this disaster. 
That was utterly unnecessary since we have already seen various corpses and the presumed offscreen deaths of other characters. The Black guy is also, if not quite incompetent to the level of Gone With The Wind's  "I don't know nothing about birthing no babies Miz Scarlet!" Prissy, certainly less able than just about any of the other characters, especially the female ones. You wonder how he got his job as he seems to know less about his area of expertise than other people who are not even in his job family.

The author Steven Barnes has written more extensively on what this constant cinematic Black death means here. I just find it fascinating that in 2020 the underlying psychological issues that make "Black guy dies first" a common film trope are still ongoing. The fact that the Black guy deliberately sacrificed himself to save a white person that he didn't even know was silly. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Book Reviews: Cold Storage

Cold Storage
by David Koepp

This story is just under 400 pages. It's by the screenwriter and director David Koepp, among other things the screenwriter for Jurassic Park, whose work was previously reviewed here and here. Cold Storage is your typical end of the world terror thriller. It imagines that after the Skylab crash in 1979 something else came back from outer space, something that views other living beings in the same way that we would view cattle. I like these sorts of stories in general so I was positively disposed toward the story. It uses just enough science to be believable to those of us who are not biologists, physicists, medical doctors, or other well trained in scientific discipline. I guess if you are interested in this sort of prose the book might be right up your alley:

"We sent up a hyperaggressive extremophile that is resistant to extreme heat and the vacuum of space, but sensitive to cold. The environment sent the organism into a dormant state, but it remained hyper-receptive. At that point, it must have picked up a hitchhiker. Maybe it was exposed to solar radiation. Maybe a spore penetrated the microfissures in the tank on re-entry. Either way, when the fungus returned to Earth, it was reawakened and found itself in a hot, safe, protein-rich, pro-growth environment. And something caused its higher level genetic structure to change."

In 1987 Roberto Diaz, a Pentagon bioterror expert, is called upon to investigate some unsettling issues in Western Australia. One co-worker dies and Diaz himself barely escapes with his life. A fungus that normally just attacks insects and grows slowly now has a taste for warm blooded creatures, can grow exponentially, and most ominously seems to have the ability to learn and evolve at record, maybe even exponential speeds. One co-worker dies and Diaz barely escapes with his life.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Book Reviews: A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England

A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England
by Brenda Ralph Lewis
This coffee table styled hardcover book details the histories of the English Royal Family, or rather the English Royal Families, from the 1066 Norman invasion to the present day. Human nature hasn't changed. It will be obvious upon reading this, not that he's ever denied it, just how much this history influenced the writer George R.R. Martin, as well as many other speculative fiction or historical fiction authors. 

Although we consider kinslaying as morally disgusting, when people are vying for power they often reject any standards. If your second cousin once removed gathers an army to support her claim that she's the rightful ruler, a recurring issue in England, you might find yourself doing shifty things. 

Some Kings and Queens refused to carry out the ultimate sanction against wayward relatives, often forgiving them, fining them, exiling them, or even imprisoning them instead. Other rulers, though, had no qualms about chopping heads at the first sign of problems, blood relative or not.

King Henry I, who was present at the "accidental" death of his older brother Rufus, cultivated a reputation as a hard unforgiving man. However, he liked his treasurer Herbert. So when the king discovered that Herbert had been involved in a plot against him, the King cancelled the normal punishment for treason: hanging, drawing, and quartering. In what the King considered to be an act of mercy, he instead ordered that Herbert be blinded and castrated. 

Nice guy, King Henry. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Movie Reviews: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
directed by Ralph Singleton
This 1990 B-movie was based on another Stephen King short story of the same title which I first read in his excellent collection "Night Shift" though it was published earlier elsewhere. This tale was an example of something that worked well as a short story.

It could have worked as a 30 minute installment of an episodic tv show. But there just wasn't enough there to justify a ninety minute film. The screen story is unduly stretched out. It shows. Realizing that the original source material was sparse, the film adds in some themes of sexual harassment, though this is done to (a) make the protagonist and would be hero more well, heroic and (b) to show off mammary glands. I don't suppose I can argue with that.

The short story was laser focused on resentment that some blue collar workers might feel for someone who is college educated (apparently in his younger days King worked a fair number of jobs that did not require the college degree that he had/was in the process of acquiring). This film alters the emphasis so that the viewer is unsubtly directed to the class divide not of advanced education but that of owner/management vs worker. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Music Reviews: Anne Laurie: Since I Fell For You

The song Since I Fell For You is a blues/jazz standard written by jump blues pianist Buddy Johnson. I was really only familiar with the Dinah Washington interpretation. I recently ran across an earlier version sung by Anne Laurie which dated from 1947. It's not as lush or as busy as the Washington rendition but I like it just as much. Its sparseness speaks to me. 

Maybe it will to you as well. Supposedly Washington herself listed Laurie as an influence. I wonder how much of today's music will still be relevant sixty or seventy years after it was released. Perhaps the best of it will. There was plenty of crap released in whatever Golden Age of music one cares to reference. Still, it's hard for me to let go of the idea that they don't write songs like this any more. The lyrics are equally applicable to men or women.

Judge (Justice) Amy Coney Barrett and Liberal Despair

Judge Amy Coney Barrett moved one step closer to being confirmed as the newest Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee claimed that the entire process was illegitimate and boycotted the final Committee vote. The Democrats argued that Committee rules required at least two members of the minority party to participate in order to have a quorum and conduct business. 

The Republicans said they didn't see it that way and proceeded to vote anyway. The result was that the vote was 12-0 to move Judge Barrett's nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Barrett could thus be confirmed as soon as Monday, barring some sort of last minute unforeseen stumble. Maybe someone will come out of the woodwork on Saturday or Sunday to claim that in the third grade Judge Barrett kissed him against his will and gave him cooties. That seems to be quite unlikely to say the least.

This made the Democrats so mad that they could just spit. They have no way to stop Barrett's confirmation. They have also realized belatedly that the Republicans, or at least a sizable minority of them, frustrated by what they've seen as liberal courts since at least the 60s if not before, have reached what they certainly hope will be the apotheosis of a multi-decade conservative effort to seize control of the courts back from liberal judges.

So many liberals, angered and frightened by the idea of 6-3 or 5-4 conservative Supreme Court decisions for the forseeable future and in particular the idea of a decision that overturns or further limits Roe v. Wade have floated ideas to limit the power of this reinvigorated conservative court. Some of these are silly or unconstitutional and just won't happen. Others are viable but come with their own risks.

Michigan: Fall is Here!

Perhaps people in every region or state think that their area is among the most beautiful. And they could all be correct. I haven't lived for long anywhere except the South and Midwest, specifically Michigan. And Michigan's fall season can often be amazing. Even amid a seemingly never ending pandemic there is still something special about the fall colors of Michigan. 

If you are fortunate enough to live in a temperate region with lots of deciduous trees, you really ought to take the time to go outside, after putting on your mask of course, and enjoy viewing autumn's vivid colors. Perhaps it's not so fun if you also have to spend a lot of time raking and bagging leaves while getting your home ready for winter's blast, but to me that was always a fair exchange for the beauty on display. Enjoy other fall pictures here.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Jeffrey Toobin: When In Doubt Whip It Out!!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who can do so are working from home. People keep in touch with co-workers via Zoom or Web-ex meetings, instant messaging, emails, conference calls, and the like. 

Working from home means that you learn a little more about your co-workers' personal lives and quirks. Perhaps you hear or see their children or grandchildren in the background. Maybe you find out what sorts of books or music they enjoy. 

Maybe you find out that your co-worker's relationship with their spouse or significant other is much different than you thought. Maybe you see someone without makeup or with uncombed hair. Maybe a co-worker is less productive because their peers or supervisor can no longer just walk into their office or cubicle to get a hands on update on their status.

Speaking of hands on, however lawyer, blogger, New Yorker magazine contributor and CNN analyst Jeffery Toobin apparently forgot that there are some activities that shouldn't be shared with anyone else other than perhaps an intimate. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Movie Reviews: Drive A Crooked Road

Drive A Crooked Road
directed by Richard Quine

This 1954 film noir wasn't super exciting. It was a little predictable all in all. But it did feature a pretty nice piece of acting from Mickey Rooney. The diminutive Rooney's height was an important part of the story. It was sobering to watch this movie and realize that actors that I only remembered as older or even elderly men were young and vital once. 
Time doesn't wait around for anyone. 

I thought that there were some subplots that were either never fully developed or just cut out prematurely. The film is short but somehow manages the dubious feat of simultaneously feeling rushed and ponderous.
But as mentioned, Rooney's acting carries the film. If this film were to be remade today it would likely be more explicit which in this case, would be a good thing. Everything was implied in this film, which might have been why I felt certain portions of it dragged.

Eddie Shannon (Rooney) is an amateur race car driver and professional auto mechanic. Eddie knows all there is to know about cars. When he's behind the wheel of an automobile or tinkering with one, he's in full alpha male mode. 
He's in his element. Otherwise Eddie's a depressed schlub. Eddie's especially shy and reticent around women. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Michigan Militia Tries to Kidnap Governor Whitmer

So this happened:

A group caught by the FBI plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wanted to take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin and try her for treason, officials said. 

Federal and state authorities have charged more than a dozen people in connection with a scheme to abduct Whitmer from her vacation home and hold her hostage, according to a criminal complaint. Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft were named in the criminal complaint. 

Charges were later announced against Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison. Through confidential informants and undercover agents, the FBI monitored the plot for several months, and one of the plans discussed by the group involved what to do with Whitmer after the planned kidnapping, court documents reveal.

On July 27, an FBI informant met with Fox at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids, officials said. The informant was secretly recording audio from the meeting. Fox told the informant that their best opportunity to abduct Whitmer would be as she arrived at or left the vacation home or her official summer residence, authorities said.

Both residents are in the Western District of Michigan.

“Snatch and grab, man,” Fox said, according to the audio tape. “Grab the f****** governor. Just grab the b****, because at this point, we do that, dude, it’s over.”

LINK

Movie Reviews: 6 Souls

6 Souls
directed by Mans Marland
This older (2010) horror film also known as Shelter had a real movie star attached to it in Julianne Moore but unfortunately was hobbled by bad writing, a little too much of a European sensibility, and a really crappy and predictable ending. 

There are a lot of horror movies that are just excuses to show blood, gore, mammary glands, and special effects budgets. I've mostly grown past those as I've aged but this is a film that might have done better to have some of those things on display.

In other words this was a very low energy film. Low energy is good if you can still manage to deliver some creepiness. This film only did that intermittently before sputtering to a denouement which was cliched even by the often low standards of horror films. 

Still, if you are someone who doesn't like horror movies with geysers of blood or naked horny young people doing incredibly stupid things before being slaughtered in inventive ways you might tolerate small bits of this film. But I can't imagine that you would like it. Dr. Cara Harding (Moore) is a confident non-nonsense psychologist and widow who is both devout and scientific. She's also convinced via her experiences and the scientific evidence available that multiple personality disorder is almost always a con. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Trump: Debate and Covid

As you no doubt heard President Trump didn't have a very good week. Lagging in the polls he entered the first Presidential debate with his challenger, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, needing to show swing voters that he was not an overgrown man baby-bully with small hands who delighted in using racist, sexist, and otherwise exclusionary language against everyone who wasn't him or his. 

Apparently no one told Trump that this was the plan. I don't think that Trump was even aware that there was a plan to follow or a script to try to use as a guide. He is someone who appears to believe that accepting criticism or admitting that he's not perfect is a grave sin.

At the debate Trump behaved like a surly two year old who had just discovered throwing his crappy diapers against the wall irritated people. Trump interrupted and insulted Biden, insulted Biden's family, made fun of Biden wearing a mask, interrupted and insulted the debate moderator, refused to accept any responsibility for any negative events during his Presidency, and dodged almost every question aimed at him while attempting to blame Biden and of course President Obama for everything that had gone wrong over the past four years while Trump was President.  

Of course Trump didn't admit that anything HAD gone wrong but if it had it certainly wasn't his fault, no sir!  Trump hinted that he would unleash his supporters to invade polling stations and "watch" to be sure that ballots were countered properly. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Movie Reviews: Irresistible

Irresistible
directed by Jon Stewart
This political satire should have come out earlier and been sharper. It was amusing when I expected belly laughs and cuddly when I expected sharp elbows. Current and soon to be former President Trump defied all expectations in 2016. Trump drew to an inside straight and became President, shocking the political establishment by cracking the blue electoral wall of Pennsylvania and some Midwestern states.

Trump won by portraying himself as a rough and tough round the way fellow, who despite his wealth was the standard bearer for the so-called forgotten and discarded tribes of America,  that is to say white people, specifically white people without college degrees, and even more specifically white men without college degrees. That this framing was all bs didn't matter. His supporters apparently didn't care that Trump mocked them as much as any Beltway Ivy League Hollywood Elite insider. 

What did matter was that certain Trump voters felt, correctly or not, that Clinton and the Democrats hated them more, and more importantly were preparing to turn the country, the whole kit and caboodle, over to THEM. Because whites were and still are the majority electorate, it only took a relatively small percentage of white voters to flip the election.  Trump's election kicked off something of a dark night of the soul spiritual crisis in the Democratic Party, in particular among its advisors and analytical experts. 

Did Democrats need to make their Caucasian male Blue Dog working class types the party's face? Or was this just a one time problem?  Was Trump's victory the last gasp of dying reactionaries? Should Democrats double down on appealing to the emerging majority coalition of Black people, feminists, college educated liberal whites, gays, Hispanics, young whites, coastals, etc. Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) is a depressed Democratic Party campaign coordinator. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Breonna Taylor's Murderers Walk Free: Same Sh*t Different Day!!!

I didn't write about the Breonna Taylor incident because it was angering and depressing to write about yet another Black person murdered by the police. It was also obvious the fix was in. I knew exactly was was going to happen. 

No one was immediately arrested or charged though Taylor was killed in March. Instead of focusing on the backgrounds, motivations and records of the police officers who riddled her with bullets the white media and especially the conservative white media tried to claim that Taylor was no angel. The implications drawn and inferences to be taken was that Taylor was a "bad girl". Although Taylor wasn't charged with any crime some media still painted her as an immoral or dumb woman who got what she deserved. Some people went beyond that to claim that she was a drug dealer. Not to be outdone in hypocrisy the (white) libertarian and gun rights community who normally boast loudly that (per late rapper Biggie Smalls

"Call the coroner!
There's gonna be a lot of slow singing and flower bringing if my burglar alarm starts ringing!
What ya think all the guns is for?

when it comes to police knocking down their doors in the middle of the night to search for guns or drugs, didn't support Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who upon hearing and seeing unidentified men knocking down his door in the middle of the night made the reasonable assumption that he was the target of a home invasion or that Taylor's ex was there to harm and/or kill both of them. Walker, who is not a felon, procured his legally owned firearm to defend himself and Taylor, not knowing the assailants were cops. Well Taylor is dead and to no one's surprise, the Kentucky justice system has refused to charge any of the police who killed her with you know, actually killing her. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Trump to nominate Judge Barrett: Time to Ignore Supreme Court?

Many people were upset that thanks to McConnell and crew changing their minds about when Presidents should be able to appoint Supreme Court Justices in election years that it now appears that President Trump will be able to make a third appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

There's almost nothing that the Democrats can do to stop this. There is no longer any Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. The Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate. 

The latest news seems to confirm that President Trump will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a current judge for the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to take the empty seat on the Supreme Court. Barrett is obviously a right-winger. Although she's not all that different from any run of the mill right wing justice that would be considered under this administration, as this Vox article pointed out, because of some inappropriate comments by California Democratic Senator Feinstein, some social conservatives consider Barrett something of a martyr. So they will presumably be excited to "own the libs" by getting Barrett nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, particularly if they can get it done before election day.

That's actually not all that interesting to me. Everyone on the other side always says that if so-n-so gets confirmed to the Supreme Court that the skies will fall, the dead will rise from the graves and eat the living, and you wont be able to download updates on your phone. And sometimes such people are even correct.

My take is that if I and those I care about make it home without being harassed, assaulted, or murdered by the police then it's been a good day. And liberal or not, Supreme Courts are unable or unwilling to do much about that. So though I didn't care about the specific partisan reactions I was very interested in the fact that many people who are, very broadly speaking, on the same (left) political spectrum as I am, started calling for some changes to how courts are shaped and populated and how the Senate is constructed.

Movie Reviews: Secret Window

Secret Window
directed by David Koepp
This is another older movie which was based on a Stephen King novella. It had been a while since I read the King creation so I was able to watch this movie without too many expectations. 

In some aspects one might argue that this film was a little darker than the book it adapted. Either way I thought it was a worthwhile way to spend just over ninety minutes.

I liked that for most of the film there is some question as whether or not there is anything supernatural occurring. In terms of violence I would say there is not all that much throughout though as usual sensitive souls may find a few things that might give them pause.  This is not a film like Sleepwalkers where the writer and director were deliberately going for the visual or emotional grossout. 

As any review of society or business gossip pages shows there is no accounting for people's romantic tastes. People whom I think of as unattractive divorce attractive people and claim they've never been happier. People who are rich and good looking divorce each other and boast if they never see each other again it will be too damn soon. Someone who knows all too well the vagaries of love and loss is one Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), a depressed and eccentric writer, who wouldn't you know it is suffering from writer's block.

Mort just can't concentrate on his work. Mort is living alone in an update NY lakefront cabin. It's just Mort, his dog and an occasional cleaning lady who drops by a few times a week. You would think that this scenic isolation would be the perfect opportunity to get some work done. But all Mort can do is sleep most of the day, smoke cigarettes, talk to himself, talk to his dog, edit or erase the few words he's written and fret about the furniture placement. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Can Dogs Detect Coronavirus?

Imagine going to a friendly doctor who , without any invasive, painful, or costly tests takes a sniff of you, tells you that yes you're sick, licks your hand and then asks you for a treat. 

Travelers arriving at Helsinki’s airport are being offered a voluntary coronavirus test that takes 10 seconds with no uncomfortable nasal swab needed. And the test is done by a dog. A couple of coronavirus-sniffing canines began work at the Finnish airport on Wednesday as part of a pilot program that aims to detect infections using the sweat collected on wipes from arriving passengers. 

Over the past months, international airports have brought in various methods to detect the virus in travelers, including saliva screenings, temperature checks and nasal swabs. But researchers in Finland say that using dogs could prove cheaper, faster and more effective. After passengers arriving from abroad have collected their luggage, they are invited to wipe their necks to collect sweat samples and leave the wipes in a box. Behind a wall, a dog trainer puts the box beside cans containing different scents, and a dog gets to work. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Movie Reviews: Clash By Night

Clash by Night
directed by Fritz Lang
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
This was one of the first movies in which Marilyn Monroe received top billing, although to be honest the camera was more interested in her beauty and physical attributes than in her acting. 

That said she did a decent job with her role and held her own with the other more experienced actors and actresses. This great film noir is something that could and should be remade, not because it was done poorly the first time but because like many great movies it has some timeless truths that ought to be revisited for the modern generation. 

On the other hand, although the basic realities about male and female behavior, needs and goals haven't really changed all that much since the 50s, what we think about them, how we react to them, and what we're allowed in polite society to say about them have drastically changed.

A director remaking this story today might feel entitled to or even be compelled to drape the story with feminist ideology or even change the dynamics of the story to a more simplistic good and evil morality play which would certainly ruin the film's entire point. 

People are mixes of good and evil. They always have been and always will be. And though it may appear otherwise at times, this mix is not related to someone's race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual identity. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Book Reviews: Runaway

Runaway 
by Harlan Coben
Coben is a skilled creator of thrillers in which one event or piece of information changes the protagonist's life forever. This book took longer for me to finish than usual but that was no reflection on the author. It was because for the past few months I was working 80 hour weeks and didn't have the usual time for pleasure reading. 

This will be a shorter review than usual. It's difficult to write much about this book without giving away key plot elements and twists. 

Because I had to read this book in a somewhat disjointed fashion I didn't enjoy the book as much as I would have otherwise. Again, not the writer's fault. 

As mentioned, Coben's style is identifiable and familiar. I wouldn't call it formulaic per se as much as comfortable.  The reader knows what he or she is going to get in terms of the big picture if not all the details.

Have you ever been in a position where you try to help a family member or other loved one who doesn't want to be helped?  This can be frustrating. It can be especially irritating if your normal position in your family hierarchy has always included guiding, protecting, and assisting wayward or needy younger relatives.

Simon Greene is a financial advisor. His wife Ingrid is a pediatrician and former model. They're not quite  in the 1% but the couple does well for themselves. Simon and Ingrid have three children. Simon and Ingrid are estranged from their oldest daughter, the college aged Paige. Paige has dropped out of college. 

She's also become a junkie. Ingrid has refused to ever let Paige back in the family home. Paige is also a thief. Although everyone else in the family has given up on Paige, who may be homeless at this point, Simon refuses to do that. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Book Reviews: Lord High Executioner

Lord High Executioner
by Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson
I've read other books by the author, a former gangster and friend and relative to other gangsters. This book is about the late Albert Anastasia aka The Volcano aka The Mad Hatter aka Lord High Executioner. Albert Anastasia was fellow gangster Lucky Luciano's favorite hit man, which when you consider the crews Lucky ran with is saying something. Anastasia was the prototypical scary man who makes other scary men tremble.

Anastasia liked killing. He was convicted of murder and sent to Death Row before his 21st birthday. 

As with the fictional Luca Brasi, older and more powerful hoodlums intervened to rescue Anastasia from his fate. For Anastasia it was apparently Lucky Luciano who "convinced" the District Attorney to set a new trial and eventually drop charges when witnesses changed their story or disappeared. So the volatile Anastasia demonstrated tremendous loyalty and respect for Luciano, even though the two men were technically in different organizations.

Anastasia rose through the Mob ranks, making a reputation for himself as a violent mob representative on the Brooklyn waterfront. He would later be the partial inspiration for the hoodlum portrayed in the Academy Award winning film On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger and Karl Malden.

When Luciano decided to eliminate his own boss, Joe Masseria, Anastasia was one of the men Luciano picked for that job. Everyone in the 1930s and 1940s underworld milieu knew of Anastasia's aptitude at such work, which is why together with similar homicidal maniac Lepke Buchalter, Anastasia oversaw the Mob enforcement group later known as Murder Inc. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Desperate Hours

The Desperate Hours
directed by William Wyler
Although because of the film's star and the fact that it was shot in black and white, some people consider this to be a film noir. I would disagree with that.

There are no tortured heroes, no anti-heroes, no confusion between good and evil, no femme fatales, not too much in the way of depression or pessimism, and no one doing wrong to get to right or doing right and falling into wrong. I don't think it's a film noir. It's just a crime drama.

It does have the typical lighting and snappy dialogue that was common in film noir and many other movies created at the time. So there is that. There is some bloodless violence and threat of same and a young woman in a tight sweater but by today's standards this would be a PG film, heck maybe even G. 

This was based in part on a true story. This film was remade in 1990 with Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Kelly Lynch and Mimi Rogers. That version ramped up the sex and violence considerably. And I suppose if the film were to be remade today there would be even more mayhem, sexual and otherwise.

The original version doesn't have all of that. It may have been less "realistic" in some ways but it certainly got its point across by using subtext for what today would be shouted with a bullhorn. The viewer can fill in the gaps if he or she so pleases.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Movie Reviews: Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers
directed by Mick Garris
This older (1992) film was written specifically for the big screen by author Stephen King, who also appears in a brief cameo. It is not based on any of King's pre-existing books. 

This is a solid B-movie that appears to be deliberately designed to gross people out. It doesn't have any King trademarked hidden messages on tolerance, subtle paeans to childhood or bittersweet reminiscing about the One True Love who got away all those years ago. 

So you probably shouldn't watch this movie expecting anything like that. In fact if you are sensitive to depictions of violence or perverse sexuality then you probably shouldn't watch this film at all. Those things don't bother that much at at all of course so I decided to rewatch this film.

This film comes across as something that could have been adapted from a Weird Tales story or comic, which I am guessing probably was both King's and Garris' intent. This is not a movie that requires a long analysis, description or plot detail. The characters are also, well calling them flat,  sounds accusatory. 

Let's just say that there's not too much deep introspection or emoting required or offered, with one possible exception. But really, do people really watch these sorts of horror movies for acting worthy of Shakespearean theater? Probably not, though the lead actress Alice Krige is indeed a classically trained stage actress. Basically what I am saying is that this film is the very incarnation of a low budget cheap thrills adventure with some sicko stuff mixed in for good measure.