Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Trump Doesn’t Fall Too Far From The Tree

Anyone watch the Tammy Duckworth/ Mark Kirk debate last night?  Anyone?  Hello, is this thing on?  Well, let me tell you, you missed something.  You want to know how the Republican party got to Trump?  Look no further than Mark Kirk.  Kirk, for all intents and purposes, is Trump’s more restrained brother.  He is the friendly face that Republicans put forward to hide the rot just beneath the surface.  Kirk dropped that friendly face last night.

Really, you should go watch it (part 1) (part 2) (part 3).  It’s only 90 minutes and the recording kind of sucks at points, but still worth it.  What better do you have to do?  If you want an object lesson on what white male privilege, look no further.  Here are some notes to watch for:

He actually cuts Duckworth off in the middle of her answer when she’s saying that his stroke does not disqualify him from being a Senator.  Well, the stroke doesn’t, but your rudely interrupting for no reason certainly should.  He does this throughout.  It was also weird how he was always looking away from her when she talked.  Not sure what’s up with that.  He also mocked Duckworth’s family’s immigration story.  That’s probably when he’s most Trump-like and what should cause him the most harm.  One thing that will probably not get much traction, but should, is Kirk’s mocking dismissal of Duckworth’s plan for free college tuition and its $60 billion price tag which he compares to the moon landing which cost $25 billion.  This shows a criminal ignorance of inflation.  NASA says that it would cost $104 billion to send someone to the moon today.  He either doesn’t understand transgenderism or is uncomfortable talking about it because he switches to gay rights when asked about transgender protections.  “She is so arrogant” before getting cut off for speaking out of turn.  Again, visions of Trump dance in my head.  Another telling moment is when Kirk refers to “real Republicans and real Democrats” implying that Duckworth is not.  Duckworth’s expression when Kirk asks if she’d go to 23 and Me to verify that nominees fit the check boxes that she wants is priceless.  The whole “can’t we just find the best person for the job” is so ignorant.  Yes, we should, but there is no such thing as “the best”.  There are a bunch of people equally qualified and wanting to find an equally qualified Asian woman for the Supreme Court instead of a white male is just common sense.  He interrupts the one female panelist when she’s asking a question about Congressional approval ratings.

You can see in Kirk the steady march to Trump.  He is so dismissive of Duckworth in both mannerism and speech.  Kirk doesn’t by any means represent the beginning of the march to Trump, but he is indicative of how we got to where we are today.

And wow is Duckworth polished.  “Families like mine are the ones who bleed first” when talking about letting people know the costs of war is one of the best line I’ve heard in a long time.  I also liked “if you need a high capacity magazine to go hunting, you’re a very bad hunter.”

As an aside, it would be awesome to see an ad campaign featuring “The Trump Doesn’t Fall Too Far From The Tree” which highlights Trump apples falling off the tree while spouting his brand of nonsense and then other Republican candidates spouting the same nonsense while falling off the tree as well.

Donald Trump Accomplishes The Impossible

After the dust settled from the Presidential Primaries, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be voting for Hillary Clinton.  This wouldn’t be a “hold your nose” vote, nor would it be a “lesser of two evils” vote (which dumbs down the definition of evil to ubiquitousness).  She is accomplished and fire-tested over 30+ years.  She has a decently detailed plan for her vision for the U.S., even if that plan is a little wishy-washy around the edges.  In other words, she is the consummate politician.  That is not a compliment.  But nor is it a condemnation.  It is simply a recognition of a reality that should be obvious to all if it weren’t for the mythology that has been built around the Clintons throughout the preceding decades, only a fraction of it truthful.  Yes, there are some serious head scratchers in that fraction of truth, but not a single bit of it is outside the realm of what anyone with 30+ years of public service while in the limelight of the 24-hour news cycle would find attached to themselves.  Unlike everyone else running for President this year, it is nigh impossible to make the case that Hillary Clinton is unqualified to become President of the United States unless you throw a heaping spoonful of lies and deceit into your argument.

Like most Presidential elections, with the glaring exception of Obama’s first term, this would be a vote where I do my duty, choose the best person for the job, and vote.  That person this year would be Hillary Clinton.  Sure, there was a twinge of excitement that I would be voting for the first female President of the United States, but mostly this would be an unemotional vote for the correct choice.  Then came Donald Trump.  I have been asking for decades why anyone thought Trump was a good anything.  Even if his businesses were wildly successful (which they aren’t), he has always been a blowhard and a bully and yet people of all spectrums looked up to this man as a paragon of capitalism.  It baffles me that the sheen is still on that polished turd of a man for 40% of the population, but it feels good that he is finally being shown to millions as the horrible human being he always has been.  In fact, he is worse than even I could have imagined.  Republicans have been playing around the edges of the basest fears of the United States’ psyche for decades now, but Trump has cannonballed right in, gotten out of the pool, shook like a wet dog getting everyone soaked and then cannonballed right back again and repeated that cycle ad nauseum this election cycle.  It’s been like a horrible accident that you can’t look away from.

Given all of the above, I have gone from studiously making the right choice to absolutely gleeful that I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.  A feat, I would not have predicted going into this election.  Congratulations, Donald Trump, you have accomplished the impossible.  FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, BITCHES!  I actually donated some money, which again is the only time besides Obama’s first term that I have done so.  Hillary winning is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point unless she gets unmasked as an alien or something equally ridiculous, but I think it is important not that Hillary win in a landslide, but that Trump lose in a landslide.  I am happy that Trump has exposed this face of the United States.  I think it is a necessary part of healing wounds that have festered for decades, but it is equally important for the rest of us to stand up strongly and declare that Trump is not who we are.  Republicans especially need to make this clear.  You may disagree with Hillary on almost every issue, but it is better to have someone you disagree with in the Oval Office than it is to have someone who cares only for himself in that seat behind that desk.

As a final aside, I made a prediction at the beginning of this campaign that Clinton would defeat Trump by somewhere close to 20% of the popular vote and an electoral landslide.  It is shaping up to be an electoral landslide with Clinton decently ahead in almost every battleground state, but as to the popular vote, well, not so much.  Clinton is starting to push +10% ahead in some national polls, which is still amazing, but the third party candidates are staying stubbornly strong at 7% of the popular vote, which is also amazing.  Normally, support for third parties drops as the vote gets closer.  There has been some shrinking of third party support, but not nearly as much as previous elections.  Since this election has broken so many norms, it is hard to predict what the outcome would be if it were a two person race, but despite popular belief, third party votes tend to pull proportionally from both parties (no Nader was not a spoiler for Democrats, get over it) so if Clinton’s +10% margin continues you can assume that 55% of the third party votes would go to Clinton and 45% would go to Trump.  In other words, Clinton would get a bump of around 5.5% and Trump 4.5%, which doesn’t help my prediction much.  This means I grossly overestimated how many people would see through Trump’s facade.  There’s still time for a miracle on that front, though, and if anyone can pull it off, it’s Trump

Book Review: The Other Half Of The Sky edited by Athena Andreadis

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars

This may be the single best collection of multi-author science fiction short stories I have ever read.  I would recommend each and every story in this collection to anyone who enjoys sci-fi.  While some are obviously better than others, each and every story is unique, imaginative, and compelling.  Let’s get into why I like this book so much.

Women are criminally underrepresented in science fiction.  Both as authors and as protagonists.  The main theme of this book is women.  Almost all of the authors are women and every story has a woman as the protagonist.  For better or for worse, women see and interact with the world differently than men and that can be seen in their writing, which in this case is definitely for the better.  This book treats you to some completely different worlds that you won’t find in the minds of men and even those worlds that could come from the minds of men are seen in a polarized light that reveals a different side of familiar scenes.

I have a passion for language.  And by that, I mean that you don’t want to get me started on how stupid gendered nouns and pronouns are and how they reinforce gender stereotypes.  That’s why it was pleasant to see that some of the stories in this collection embrace gender fluidity as a norm.  It is a concept somewhat on the fringes of sci-fi and only normally used as an afterthought to shape a world instead of being front and center as it is in the stories in this book.  Given the gender fluidity of humans, of course aliens may be much more gender fluid, of course future humans may fully embrace their own gender fluid nature.  Reading these stories it’s kind of a “well, duh” moment that these ideas would be explored but it’s good to have them explored nonetheless.  And while it may be somewhat discomfiting to some, reading gender neutral pronouns like zie and zir and zem in a story, it is a great introduction to those who still think of gender as binary.

If you like science fiction, you should run out and get this book right now.  If you like the stories in this book, you should run out and get more books by the authors in question.  I haven’t had a feeling of such pure delight reading sci-fi in quite some time and this book completely put me in my sci-fi happy place.  That said, this is also what I would call softer science fiction so it is also very accessible to those not really into science fiction.  I don’t mean that to sound like an insult, as the worlds created in this book are rich and complex, but they are told more from a viewpoint of taking the advances in technology for granted, like we would if we were writing a story where someone calls someone on their cell phone, instead of getting bogged down in technical details of warp drives and tachyon fields and such.  That’s how I define soft vs. hard science fiction.  Regardless, everyone should buy this book and give the authors all their monies.

Movie Review: Birth Of A Nation

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A somewhat faithful retelling of Turner’s Rebellion with some campy Hollywood crap thrown in for kicks.  Pretty good acting, though.

Turner’s Rebellion is a very strange footnote in history to build a narrative reclaiming movie over.  “Narrative” isn’t the right word, but I can’t come up with a word that fits.  For those of you who don’t know, the original “The Birth of a Nation” movie was both groundbreaking movie making and pretty racist in its portrayal of Blacks as lesser human beings and the KKK as righteous protectors.  So when a Black filmmaker/writer/actor creates a movie called “Birth of a Nation”, as Nate Parker has done, there are strong overtones of reclamation of a racist past in the hopes that people will remember the latter instead of the former.  That’s why it’s strange to me to use a story of a religious zealot who led a failed slave revolt that indiscriminately killed slave-holding families and resulted in the brutal subjugation of both slave and freed Black as a vehicle to reclaim that narrative.

Then there’s Nate Parker’s unfortunate history of taking advantage of a drunk and passed out woman as a sophomore in college, of which he was acquitted of rape charges, of which he also shows no remorse even though he admits it was morally wrong, whatever that means.  Though horrible, this wouldn’t be germane to the movie at all if it wasn’t for Parker’s use of two ahistorical rape scenes (one absolutely brutal) to drive Nat Turner’s quest for vengeance.  Using the rape of a woman as a plot device for a man to take revenge is lazy film-making at its worst.  It’s inexcusable in modern film.  Especially for a film which has Oscar buzz.  Doubly especially for a film created by a man who you can’t help but wonder is saying, “What I did isn’t rape, THIS is rape”.

Despite all of its baggage it’s a decent enough movie, though I’m not sure why there were such rave reviews leading up to its release.  There are some brilliant moments, capped in my mind by the hauntingly sad rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, and great acting all around.  These pluses kind of get overshadowed by pointless Hollywood moments like “the face-off” and “the betrayal”, of which the former is eye rolling and the latter is ham-handed.  All of this leads me to the conclusion that “Birth of a Nation” will only be remembered for Nate Parker’s unfortunate choices both in life and in story choices and not as a narrative redefining film.

America’s Penis Is About To Get Blown

Hurricane Matthew is currently bearing down on Florida’s east coast and it’s still a doozy.  140 MPH sustained winds and showing signs of possible strengthening.  Current forecast shows it moving straight up the east coast of Florida, tickling Georgia and South Carolina and then circling around for a possible second hit of Florida.  Ouch.  There’s also a possibility that it will then cross Florida and hit the Gulf of Mexico whose warm waters might turn it into a hurricane once again, but that’s too far in the future to predict with any accuracy.  You can check its progress here.

This is shaping up to be a very serious threat to Florida.  Not only will southern Florida have to deal with the hurricane surge itself, but it may come just as it is also experiencing high tide in the middle of the night.  You’ll recall what happened to New York when a similar scenario happened with hurricane Sandy which only had 70 MPH sustained winds at the time.  If you know anyone in eastern Florida, be sure to let them know that this isn’t a hurricane to mess around with.  Get away from the sea and stay indoors.

If Matthew does strengthen and continue along its projected path, we could be getting an early glimpse of what the state of Florida will look like in 50-100 years with the predicted sea level rise due to general warming and the ice caps shrinking.  Of which, the Arctic just experienced its second lowest ice extent minimum by the way.  So yeah, things are really shaping up for planet Earth.

Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A movie with some charm but pales in comparison to the 1960 version.  A little long but still better than “Seven Samurai” in that it didn’t waste an hour showing a peasant crying in a barn.  “But look at Kurosawa’s masterful use of lighting and shadow”, blah blah blah.

I can really sum up this review by just saying go see the 1960 version of the movie and be done with it.  But that might just be nostalgia talking so a reviewing I shall go.

When looking for when the original movie was released, I discovered that there was also a TV series with the same premise back in 1998-2000.  So yeah, this ground has been covered quite extensively.  And there’s good reason for that.  It’s a compelling story filled with a motley bunch of do-gooders and over the top bad guys and underdogs who persevere despite adversity.  Really, though, it’s the motley bunch of do-gooders that we’re here to see.  2016 doesn’t disappoint in that respect.  The cast of misfits, led by Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, are entertaining if a little flat around the edges.  The villain, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is sufficiently over the top without being cartoonish.

The biggest issue with this movie, and maybe the original suffered from it as well but I do not recall, is one of motivation.  Why are these seven people helping these poor villagers in what is almost certainly a suicide mission?  The only two that really make solid sense are Chisolm’s (Denzel Washington), pride and revenge, and Jack Horn’s (Vincent D’Onofrio), piety and righteousness.  Jack Horn is probably the best character in the film and despite little face time, he manages to tell a complete story.  The rest vary from “to get my horse back” to “I am a Comanche” to “I’m with him”.  More depth here would have been much appreciated and it is the one thing I appreciated about Kurosawa’s original.

My one other major complaint is how lazy the action was.  The final fight was kind of an underpants gnome version of a plan.  We’ll put almost everyone out in front of the town and somehow this will lead the bandits into the middle of town where we can pick them off.  This abhorrent plan could be forgivable if it led to some cool, if useless, action sequences, but there was not much to really see.

Like I said at the beginning, just go see the 1960 version if you’ve never seen it.  Barring that, just wait for this movie to appear on your favorite streaming service.  It’s not a bad movie, but it’s been done before and better and you have better things to do with your life.

Oh, and funny story.  For the longest time I thought Jack Horne was played by the guy that played Hodor on “Game of Thrones”.