Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Burmese Python Invades Florida

With the advent of the modern world--say after 1492 or so- and the many resultant  migrations, exiles, conquests, immigrations, colonializations, enslavements, and easier travel, there are many animals and plants that are now found in places that they shouldn't be. Well maybe, "shouldn't" is the wrong word. But sometimes flora and fauna pop up in regions where they have no place in the food chain or no natural predators. 

These organisms, intent on survival, make their own niche, which invariably causes problems for local flora and fauna. We've heard urban fairy tales of people flushing crocodiles down the toilet only to have said crocodiles survive to become deadly predators hungry for human flesh. I think I've seen a few low budget movies with that premise.

Anyway it's not a fantasy that in the Florida Everglades, people have accidentally, purposely, and almost always stupidly released animals into the environment that have destroyed much of the other flora and fauna, thus worsening the area for everyone. The latest example of this is the Burmese python. 

A team searching under dense vegetation in the pine flatwoods of the Everglades late last year came upon a slithering sight, the likes of which no one had found before in those parts: 215 pounds of snake. It was the largest Burmese python ever found in Florida, breaking a record set by the invasive species in 2016 at 140 pounds, according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Supreme Court Decisions

The Supreme Court issued two critical rulings. Although I am liberal I have always been pro-life and believed in self-defense. In the Bruen case the Supreme Court ruled that:

"New York’s proper-cause requirement for obtaining an unrestricted license to carry a concealed firearm violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."

If you wanted to conceal carry a firearm in New York--most notoriously New York City--the authorities could require that you proved "proper cause."  

If the state didn't like guns, didn't think people of a certain race should have guns, or just didn't like you, then the state could deny you a concealed carry permit. The Court decision changes the "may issue" standard to a "shall issue" standard. New York must have objective criteria for concealed carry. People who dislike guns claim this decision will result in greater carnage. 

Most other states including my own have "shall issue" standards. Legally armed conceal carry people are not the people murdering folks. 

Movie Reviews: The Mob

The Mob
directed by Robert Parrish

This 1951 film is more crime film than noir. The leading man, Broderick Crawford, was a tad overweight, had a drinking problem, and wasn't handsome or dashing. Crawford was however a fine actor who, despite being in B-films or secondary roles for much of his career, won the Oscar for Best Actor in the 1949 movie, All The King's Men, where he played a thinly veiled fictionalized version of Louisiana governor Huey Long. 

Crawford brought energy and intelligence to his roles. Crawford's hangdog looks could evoke audience sympathy, even when he was playing bad guys.

In The Mob , Crawford is Johnny Damico, a homicide detective in an unnamed city, who wants his jeweler to lower the price for a engagement ring for Johnny's fiancee, Mary (Betty Buehler). The jeweler is initially unmoved by Johnny's pleas but finally gives Johnny a slight discount for Mary's sake. 

Movie Reviews: Tales From The Hood

Tales From The Hood
directed by Rusty Cundieff

This older horror/thriller movie anthology comes from the older Tales From The Crypt movie/series which itself was inspired by the old EC comic of the same name which in turn gave ideas to such creatives as Stephen King.

It's not my original idea but Black American history is similar to a horror novel plot. 

Being robbed of your culture, name and religion, being kidnapped from your own nation, being beaten, tortured, raped, and enslaved for a quarter of a millennia and being successfully taught to hate yourself is horrific. Tales From The Hood  is a decent non-explicit horror film, though by modern standards the 1995 special effects are horribly dated.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Movie Reviews: I'm Charlie Walker

I'm Charlie Walker
directed by Patrick Gilles

This is a short running independent movie. It was partially based on a true story. 
I have always been, well amused is the wrong word, but perhaps confusion or frustration fit, that some (Black) people today claim that they prefer open racism to hidden racism. 

That makes sense sometimes but in general I think many of the younger people who say that have rarely faced the kind of open racism that was quite common before say 1975 or so. Both covert and overt racism feed into each other. They are two sides of the same coin.

This movie took place in early seventies San Francisco. The situations and characters reminded me of tales I was told or heard about the experiences of my father, uncles, and older cousins, men from the Silent Generation or Baby Boomer generation who were often the first Black men to undergo modern desegregation. Many paid a cost.

Movie Reviews: Guns, Girls and Gangsters

Guns, Girls and Gangsters
directed by Edward Cahn
There were three top blonde bombshells of the fifties and early sixties, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and this film's star actress, Mamie Van Doren

Van Doren's appeal was more always more "bad girl" than Marilyn's wide eyed innocent schtick. For whatever reason Van Doren never had Monroe's success. 

After a number of roles in movies that didn't quite break through Van Doren began (and has since continued) to star in films that rarely pretended to be about anything more than showcasing her physical attributes. 

This short running 1958 movie shows that if Van Doren had gotten a few more breaks she could have been as well known for her acting as for her hourglass figure, platinum hair, and va-va voom looks. So it goes. 

The movie's title is truth in advertising. There's not a lot of wasted dialogue. Everyone gets his or her fair share of snarky one-liners and tough guy/gal comebacks.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Movie Reviews: Witness to Murder

Witness to Murder
directed by Roy Rowland

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation in which one person (usually a sexual intimate, trusted authority figure, or close family member) convinces his or her target that what they saw/experienced didn't happen, if it did happen then it's ok, and/or that the target is the one who is crazy/mistaken despite all evidence showing the exact opposite. 

If the man or woman employing this tactic is really skilled, well sometimes that's how you end up with men running harems or wives convincing their husbands that the wife's constant infidelity and public disrespect is all the husband's fault. If the husband wasn't such a punk then the wife wouldn't do what she did. 

Gaslighting needn't necessarily be committed by intimates though I think that's when it's most effective. One could argue that white racists have been carrying out a successful 400 year gaslighting project on Black Americans. 

The term comes originally from a 1938 play "Gaslight" that was later developed into multiple films, most notably one directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 

Movie Reviews: Black Gunn

Black Gunn
directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

This 1972 film was a foreign made entry in the American Blaxploitation boom of the late sixties and early seventies. It's not a great movie. In fact it's not even a good movie, given that its story and themes had been done many times before, even as far back as 1972. It did have a somewhat well known cast.

But as I've written before these movies were some of the few times on the big screen when Black men were portrayed as heroic, Black women were portrayed as desirable, and Black people in general could inhabit the entire spectrum of human morality and skill. Black people weren't only comic relief or sexless sidekicks who either die first or spend the entire film trying to ensure that the white lead finds happiness with someone else.

That was unusual then and is still uncommon now. I've seen this film described as neo-noir but I disagree with that. This is an action film. The lead character, played by football superstar turned actor, Jim Brown, doesn't talk much. He's not morally compromised. He's not suffering from existential dread about the meaningless of life or unhappy with his career. 

Dogs React To Owner's Fake Death

Sometimes you read stories about dogs who, upon seeing their owner in some form of sudden distress, immediately run to alert someone else in the home, call 911, and bring or push the med alert button. These are indeed good dogs. 

Then there are dogs, who apparently having confirmed with their nose that their owner is faking it, decide to take the opportunity to play along with the game. I guess these are also good dogs. Perhaps they just have a sense of humor.


Saturday, June 4, 2022

Movie Reviews: Thieves' Highway

Thieves' Highway
directed by Jules Dassin
In some respects this 1949 film is both social criticism and a morality play about the values of such concepts as love, revenge, and trust. Thieves' Highway is both a gangster and noir film, though hardly the darkest of either genre. 

Whereas some noir films like Decoy had convoluted storylines and dreamy cinematography, Thieves' Highway was simple and realistic. It was mostly shot on location in San Francisco among the produce markets.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Dassin had been blacklisted shortly after this film and forced to surrender his career in his native United States and relocate to Europe. 

Thieves' Highway may feature some criminals, even some organized ones, but this movie makes it clear to modern eyes, and apparently a few right wing eyes in the late forties, that the real crime was a system that made it only too rational to exploit workers and eliminate them if they protested.