Monday, November 12, 2018

A brief distraction

Too much sucks, so distract yourself with this amazing close-up magic performance by 2018 World Champion Magic, uh, guy, Eric Chien.

Really spectacular.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Universal Monsters #1: Dracula

Last year I bought a box set of Universal's classic monster movies, restored for Blu-Ray, because I've never seen most of them and I know they're not only incredibly influential films, but also really good. Unfortunately, it's taken me a year to finally start watching them. Carol and I settled down the other night for the first of them, 1931's Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

I'm not a great reviewer so I'll just offer a couple of thoughts. If you'd like to read a quality film review, check out my friend SJHoneywell's review here.

Given that this was made in 1931, I didn't have a lot of hope for the scope and the special effects. Shockingly, however, right off the bat the film feels big and broad and the (few) effects almost seamless. For example, there's a scene where Renfield (not Jonathan Harker as in the book) is travelling to Castle Dracula. It starts with some excellent outdoor location shooting and moves into a phenomenal matte of the castle road as his carriage approaches. It looks great.

Then there's the interior of Castle Dracula with this incredible set design. Remember, this is 1931!

Storywise, the movie truncates the plot considerably, starting in Transylvania then moving to England, but never coming back. The book and other Dracula movies feature a thrilling race back to Castle Dracula between the vampire and the heroes, but this movie doesn't go there, ending rather perfunctorily in England.

One of the things that bothered me as I watched was that some of the action took place off-camera. For example, when the ship carrying Dracula to England arrives, the crew is dead. They don't actually show this, the camera just shows the ship's wheel while off-camera voices describe the carnage. These kinds of scenes are littered throughout the latter half of the movie. It turns out that this movie was based on a stage play, rather than the book itself, which explains why it was filmed this way. But it's disappointing as the movie seems to become smaller and smaller in scope, especially after the great beginning.

The script also leaves out a few crucial plot beats. Poor Lucy is "killed" by Dracula and her best friend, Mina Harker, doesn't even get a scene to react to Lucy's death. The next time we see Mina, she seems perfectly fine. It's a bit jarring.

Finally, without giving any spoilers (as if I could), this Dracula, the most iconic of all movie vampires, is the easiest to kill in cinematic history. And the death happens off-screen. Come on, 1931!

Still, Dracula is a classic, groundbreaking film that has quite a few surprises. It's absolutely well worth seeing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Status Alert!

It was widely expected that Trump would wait until after the mid-terms to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. So, right on cue, Jeff Sessions was fired today, less than 12 hours after the election ended. Trump obviously couldn't hold it and had to evacuate Sessions prematurely.

First off, screw America's most racist Keebler elf. Sessions should never have been a Senator, much less Attorney General, so if this causes him pain and humiliation, great. We're all better off in the long run with him gone and seriously, fuck that guy.

Second, this should put Rod Rosenstein, second in command at DOJ, in the Acting Attorney General's chair. But in a transparent move, Trump appointed Session's Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, to the post, putting him in charge of the Mueller investigation. This is bad news because Whitaker has been publicly opposed to the investigation. It's a sure bet that Trump appointed Whitaker in order to kill the Russian investigation.

Don't know who Whitaker is?  Here's a recent pic.

And here he is a few years ago getting punched in the face by Indiana Jones.

Third, the good news is that Mueller is a brilliant man and has undoubtedly prepared for this. Watch for indictments to come down this week. Trump might try to interfere with the investigation (a clear obstruction of justice) but he won't stop the legal tidal wave that's coming.

And finally, we're damn lucky the Democrats took the House yesterday, because in January, they'll have some power to stop the shenanigans. In the meantime, watch for Trump and the Republicans in Congress to spend the next two months trying to get away with every single evil, awful thing they can while they still hold power.

So, where does that leave us today?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The only way things are going to get better

We've had almost two years of total Republican rule. During that time, the Republican congress has shown time and time again that they will not discipline, investigate, or serve as any kind of check on the worst instincts and actions of our treasonous Commander in Chief. The Republican party has wholly become the Party of Trump.

The number of scandals and outrages perpetrated against the American people and the world is truly staggering. There has been so much bullshit from the Trump Administration that, for example, hugely troubling disclosures that Trump's entire family fortune was criminally passed along from his father to his children without paying taxes, gets only a few days of discussion before fading into the craziness of the next scandal. Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress continue to investigate Benghazi.

Just as a reminder, here are just some of the many, many horrible things done by the Trump White House and the Republican Congress.
Lies, lies, lies. So many lies
A tax break that took money from the poor and gave it to the rich
The Muslim Ban
A tax break to the rich that exploded the deficit
An (alleged) rapist jammed through the Senate to the Supreme Court
The politicization of law enforcement
Destruction of improved relations with Cuba
Pulling out of the Paris Accords
Destroying the Iran no nukes agreement (which was working)
Ongoing violation of the emoluments clause
The Transgender ban
Horrific hurricane responses
Embracing of racist, neo-Nazi rhetoric
The President calling for violence against his "enemies"
The demonization of many different groups
Sending U.S. troops to the southern border for political reasons
Obstruction of justice
Collaboration with America's enemies
Voting over and over and over to repeal healthcare for millions
The President expressing admiration for murderous dictators
Going after Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
All the stupidity
All the racism
You get the point.

We have a chance to stop a lot of this, but we have to act now. On Tuesday, if you haven't already, vote for Democrats. Vote to replace these "Nationalists" who are destroying this country. Vote to protect minorities and those Americans who aren't white Christians. Vote to protect refugees, the poor, and the sick. You know, all those things that Trump's evangelical supporters are supposed to care about.

I used to be a Republican until my eyes were opened during the occupation of Iraq. Since then, the Republicans have become more and more extreme. Rather than learn after their defeat in 2008, they've gone even farther to the right to the point where the family values, rah-rah America party is ripping apart families, calling for the assassination and jailing of political opponents, and embracing a Russian dictator.

This has to end.

I live in Maryland and we have a moderate, successful, Republican Governor, Larry Hogan. He seems like a good guy.

He needs to go. He needs to lose.

Why? Because the Republican party has lost all legitimacy. It needs to die so that something better replaces it. Hogan gives the Republicans some cover, some semblance of normal government. He needs to go. Besides, he's vetoed important progressive legislation during his term, forcing the Democrats to override his veto. Why do we need a Republican who's going to veto progressive legislation? Screw that.

The country won't get off this runaway train until we have a responsive, responsible government. The Republicans are not capable of providing good government or serving as a check and balance to a treasonous, moronic, dictatorial President who knows nothing but lies and his self-serving ego.

Vote the bastards out on Tuesday. Retake the House, retake the Senate. Retake the Governerships. Retake the state houses. Vote Democratic for EVERY SINGLE RACE. It's the only way to stop this. It's the only way to retake the country from these corrupt, racist assholes.

Vote, America. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Kindness takes at least two

Carol and I go out to eat a lot. We enjoy it, we often don't have time for anything else, and we're lucky enough to be able to afford to.

Three weeks ago, we went to a small, family restaurant we recently discovered and had a nice dinner. I understand how hard food service workers have it, so I always tip at least 20%. I did on this night, and it was around $10. Or so I thought.

The other day I was looking through some receipts and found the receipt from that restaurant. The receipt was filled out by me, complete with tip, and signed. At the bottom it said "Merchant's Copy". Uh-oh. I accidentally brought home the wrong receipt. I had left the unsigned, no tip, "Customer Copy" on the table. I checked our bank account and, sure enough, the restaurant had charged us for the meal, but not the tip. Because I walked out with the piece of paper authorizing the tip. Oy.

I felt bad about stiffing the guy (I DON'T stiff people), so tonight I drove over there to make it right. The guy who waited on us was behind the counter. I told him what happened and he expressed shock that I had driven over specifically to make up for a missed tip from three weeks ago. He said that I could tip him by coming back again. I told him that I appreciated good service and owed him the tip. But I couldn't convince him; he wouldn't take it.

I think he was trying to be kind. Or maybe he felt weird taking ten bucks from some guy walking in off the street. I probably put him in an awkward position, I'll admit that. But I honestly felt that I owed him the money.

As I walked out, with $10 still in my pocket, I realized that I felt bad. I had tried to be kind and instead of the guy just saying, "Thanks" and taking his earned tip, he wouldn't let me be kind.

I have a rule I follow which, coincidentally, most often comes up with dinner checks. The rule is, "If someone tries to be kind, let them be." With dinner, that means that if someone says, "I've got this," and takes the check, I let them.

For years when we were younger, Carol and I would argue with our relatives who offered to pay for dinner - "No, we've got this." "Why don't we split it" etc. - and it always resulted in arguing that hurt people's feelings. (After all, I don't like it when people argue with me when I'm being generous.) So I put a stop to it. If someone wants to pick up the check, I let them.

(This principal applies to other acts of kindness, not just dinner-related ones).

Tonight, I tried to be kind and wasn't allowed to be. I don't begrudge the guy, his intentions may have been good. Or maybe I insulted him. I don't really know. But I do know that I was hoping for a win/win when I went in there. Instead, no one won.

Are you there, Vlad? It's me, Donald.

I'm just going to get this out of the way right now.

Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them.  Link
Our President is a treasonous, moronic, dipshit, who won't even take the simplest actions to safeguard highly confidential information. If Obama had done this, Republicans would have impeached him shortly thereafter (and rightly so).

Help restore the checks and balances of our government. Vote Democratic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

And there you have it.

"A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can't have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It's called a nationalist. And I say, really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, OK? I'm a nationalist.
"Nationalist. Nothing -- use that word. Use that word." 
Donald Trump

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. 
Charles de Gaulle

We fought World War II to defeat nationalism. de Gaulle certainly understood that. Trump doesn't understand or doesn't care.

Remember what the N in Nazi stands for?

This evil must stop.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

This week in hate - gender edition!

These guys never, ever rest at being the worst human beings possible.
The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.
[T]he Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.
The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.  Link
Because one of the biggest problems in America is our newly-found and still developing tolerance for transgender people.

I have one thing to say, and I'll let Jesus speak for me.

The world just became a little bit better

You know what I hate?

Nuclear treaties that restrict or eliminate nuclear weapons. I loved growing up under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation (something to look forward to!) and the fear that a hothead or a malfunction could eradicate human life on Earth. I was really sad not to be able to share that experience with my kids.

So, you can imagine how pleased I am to hear this:
Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out."
Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.  Link
Whew! For a few years there, I really though that my family would live out our natural lives without instantly being turned into a 500 million degree vapor. I mean, how cool would this be?

Thanks, Trump!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

America's moral standing and the man responsible for it

If you haven't read the details of Washington Post Reporter Jamal Khashoggi's murder  in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey, here you go. Warning, it's graphic:
Saudi agents were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into their country’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.  Link
They're not sure if he was dead or not when they started cutting off his fingers. Some reports suggest he was still alive. When the Saudi Consul complained to the assassins that they were messing up his office (what with all the limb severing and all) one of the security agents threatened his life.

After Saudi Arabia initially denied it, our President, defender of American morals in the world, said that maybe "rogue killers" murdered Khashoggi, an excuse the Saudis would offer shortly after, but Trump did it before them. Then he said this:
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told The Associated Press. “I don’t like that.”
“We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned,” the president said.
It's pretty clear the the Turks have an audio recording of the actual murder. The murder of an American resident. It's also clear it was under the direct order of the Crown Prince and Jared Kushner pal, MBS.

Here's the deal. Trump will NEVER take the side of the powerless against the powerful. He openly admires murderous dictators while insulting their victims. He is incapable of empathy but sees himself in bloody autocrats. This is a man who says he LOVES Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, a man who had his uncle executed with anti-aircraft guns and has starved thousands (millions?) of his people.

So do the difficult thing and impose sanctions on a country that has personally given him millions of dollars? Take a stand for decency and morality?

He will never do it.

Remember the hurricane that destroyed a lot of the Florida panhandle? Where's Trump on that problem? He visited the area for a few hours. Have you heard anything more from him? Where's the leadership? He showed up and apparently the problem has been solved.

And in case you think he's capable of learning.
The president said the spate of storms would not prompt him to rethink his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, repeating his contention that the agreement’s requirements would handicap the United States in its economic competition with other countries.  Link
Money is more important to Trump than human lives, American moral standing, what's right, and pretty much everything else. Including the very future of the human race.

Monday, October 08, 2018

A stain on the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Country

The Anita Hill hearings during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation in 1991 were a travesty. They've gone down in history as the prime example of a bunch of arrogant, elitist men's contempt for women, destroying the reputation of a woman who was sexually harassed but courageously came forward to prevent her harasser from becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

And now we've done it again with Brett Kavanaugh, but this time it's worse. Because now we should know better. Have we made no progress on women's issues in the last 27 years?

Christine Blasey Ford, showing more courage than any of the Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee who had to hire a woman to ask questions for them, lest they looked like the misogynists they are, was completely believable when she testified that Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school. She was honest and compelling.

Brett Kavanaugh's testimony was not only unbelievable, but belligerent, aggressive, petulant, arrogant, and entitled. He also verifiably lied numerous times.

The FBI's hamstrung "investigation", which didn't even extend to interviewing the two principal parties, was a joke, solely intended to provide cover for Republicans to vote for Kavanaugh. It was yet another debasement of law enforcement in this country by the President and Republicans.

And of the many, many Republican spins on this, the idea that Dr. Ford was attacked, but that she's got the wrong guy, is not only insulting, but actively evil.

What message does this send to the women and girls of America and the rest of the world?

Here's the thing:

Even if Dr. Ford was mistaken (she isn't)
Even if Brett Kavanaugh didn't try to rape her (he did)
He still shouldn't be on the Supreme Court because of his diatribe during the hearing, where he threatened Democrats with retribution and blamed the accusation in part on the Clintons. Any way you slice it, this should be disqualifying for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. But Republicans want power more than they want to govern morally, so now we're stuck with this guy for decades.

Oh, and in case you thought that any of this penetrated the thick skull of our Molester in Chief:
“Now they’re thinking about impeaching a brilliant jurist, a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats,” Trump told reporters. [...]  “It was all made up, it was fabricated, and it’s a disgrace,” Trump concluded. “And I think it’s really gonna show you something come November 6th.”
Trump has gone from "She was credible" to this was a hoax set up by the Democrats and a disgrace.

It's a disgrace all right, just not the one he thinks it is.

Let's show HIM something come November 6.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

If only

We're back! I'm (hopefully) going to make some posts on our pretty awesome vacation, but want to quickly post this. I'm pretty sure it's already gone viral. Because it's hilarious.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elara (@elarapictures) on

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ipecac vacation update

Hi! We arrived last Wednesday in Orlando. We spent a few days bumming around, visited a relative and spent two days at Universal Studios.

Today we arrive at Disney World!

That's all I have time for now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What are you going to do now, Ipecac?

I'm going to Disney World!

Carol and I are empty-nesters and this is our first real trip alone since Ben went off to college (he's a Junior now!). We're doing a couple of days at Universal Studios, including their Halloween Horror Nights. I'm super excited about seeing the half of the Harry Potter world we haven't seen, and the TEN haunted houses at their Halloween event. And then, Disney World!

I've been planning out the details for a few months now and have all our reservations and Fastpasses set up. Since September is a low attendance month, our dining plan is free! That means one sit down meal, one counter service meal, and two snacks per day. Plus drinks (alcohol). Yes, free drinks. All our reservations are for restaurants we've never tried before and we're pretty excited about that, especially the incredibly hard to get into, Be Our Guest restaurant where we're having breakfast one day.

We're also going to ride the new Avatar rides at Animal Kingdom, see the new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, and all our usual favorites. Low attendance means we'll probably get to ride a lot.

We're staying at Disney's Yacht Club for the first time. The coolest thing about the hotel is that it's a short walk to EPCOT's back entrance and a short boat ride to Hollywood Studios. There's also what's considered the best hotel pool at WDW, Stormalong Bay.

Our schedule is to leave this Saturday afternoon (Sept. 15), and ::record scratch::

Yes, we were supposed to be flying out of DC on Saturday, when Hurricane Florence is supposed to be parked over North Carolina, directly between DC and Orlando. So we jumped through a bunch of hoops today and rescheduled our departure for tomorrow night, getting us ahead of the storm. We'll spend a bunch of money on additional days with the rental car and hotels, but it's pretty clear that the Saturday flight will be cancelled due to the storm. So we pushed the date up. Now we have to decide what to do in Florida for a couple of extra days. I'm thinking maybe we'll vote.

I would like to point out at this time that Disney is hella expensive these days, even with a free meal plan, and Carol and I are privileged to be able to afford it. I find it sad that most people can't afford it, because it's a wonderful place.

Hilariously, once you reach a certain price point, Disney suddenly becomes much cheaper. We were originally going to stay for five days but we found a couple of extra days. We called to find out how much those two extra days would cost us. This included Park Hopper passes to go into any park at will, and the dining plan. The cost was $11 per day for each of us. Yes, $44 for two people to go to any and all Disney parks, with food, for two days. Naturally, we took the two extra days.

New blog posts will probably be scarce for a couple of weeks. Follow my Instagram (tasteofipecac)  to see pictures as I post them, or check out the box on the right of my blog.

Oh, and I haven't decided if I really want to see President Soon-to-be-Indicted in the Hall of Presidents. I think the urge to boo and throw things will be pretty hard to fight.

Keep things honest while I'm gone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Best People Strike Again

So we just had a huge double whammy of "inside the White House" shenanigans revealed with the excerpts released from Bob Woodward's new book, Fear, yesterday, about working inside the White House, and an anonymous White House Senior Official publishing an Op-Ed in the New York Times this afternoon.

First, let's have some excerpts from Woodward's book.
In one National Security Council meeting that took place on January 19, Trump questioned why the U.S. was spending money on having a military presence on the Korean Peninsula, which included an operation that would detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds. Defense Secretary James Mattis told the president, “We’re doing this to prevent World War III,” according to an excerpt from the book published by the Post. 
After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’
Kelly: He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had.
The thing is, this shouldn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention over the past 18 months. But still.

And now the New York Times Op-Ed, by an anonymous White House senior staff member. This is an unprecedented act by any Administration Official.
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
Allow me to interject at this point. Excuse the French, but FUCK this dude and his associates.

If they want to do the right thing, go public. Expose all of Trump's craziness and demand that Congress do something. Stop enabling this monster and actually take a stand and work on ending his presidency. They think that this makes them heroic, the "adults" in the room, when in reality, they want to have their cake and eat it too, which makes them opportunistic assholes.

Oh, and fuck this too:
Don't get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.
There are NO bright spots to this administration. They are looting the country, giving everything to the wealthy and corporations, screwing over American workers, alienating our allies, gutting the environment and the amount of graft and corruption is staggering.

Let's review another item in the news.

Obama, whose administration had ZERO convictions of major officials for eight years and who was elected twice by millions of votes, didn't get to have his Supreme Court pick confirmed during his entire last year of being President. While Trump, who LOST the popular vote, has had dozens of confederates indicted and several convicted of felonies, and is known by his own cabinet and White House to be a mercurial, narcissistic, petulant moron gets his Supreme Court pick rushed through the Senate by traitorous Republicans who would rather protect the Republican Party than act like patriotic Americans.

This was a BIG week in Trumpland. The wheels are coming off bigly.  

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

Carol and I went to see Crazy Rich Asians on Friday night (Moviepass lives!).

I had a lot of trouble with this movie. For one thing, there were like three white people in the entire movie and two of those three people were racist assholes. Clearly, the movie was itself racist against whites, especially since they cast Asians in all the lead roles. What the hell, movie? Yet another politically correct move to placate the libs. You should always cast the best actors as the leads and I had only heard of four of these people! How many of these people had Oscars? Clearly, not the best actors. It makes me sad to think how much better this movie would have been with Emma Stone or Scarlet Johansson as the lead, probably opposite one of the Chris's (Hemsworth, Pine, Evans or Pratt). It just sickens me to see Hollywood pandering to the SJW's like that.

Okay, that's about all I can type of that drivel. In case you're tone deaf, that was a (probably lame) satire of the way butt-hurt males feel about every movie that doesn't star white people, and, more specifically white men. If anything, what I just wrote was tame compared to their bitching about having women heroes in Star Wars, or the recent Ghostbusters. They're generally giant man-babies and they really, really suck at being good people.

I thought Crazy Rich Asians was wonderful. The cast was funny, charming and the story rich with strong, some nuanced, performances. I didn't get all the cultural sub-text, nor was I expected to, but that's okay, because what happens is completely understandable ON A HUMAN LEVEL. What a shock, many experiences are universal. If I got a small taste of how Asian audiences may not always grok Hollywood movies because of their distinctly American sensibility, that's an opportunity for me to learn and grow.

I am immensely gratified to see Crazy Rich Asians doing well. I loved it.

I've said it before. If you can't put yourself in the shoes of other people and can only relate to people who look and sound like you, you are a garbage human. Grow up. There's a big world out there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

In Jesus Name

For my entire life (and before), Christians have claimed to have a monopoly on morality. Other religions are wrong, and those without religion have no morality at all. This is, of course, despite thousands of years of contrary evidence.

The reality is that anyone can be a moral person, and religion conveys no morality whatsoever.

Even so, in America, none have been more vocal about Christian morality than the Evangelical Right. From the party of "family values" has come condemnation and censure of even the slightest perceived (or invented) moral failings by Democrats. While Republican failings are either ignored completely, swept under the rug, or embraced fully (see Mark Sanford, David Vitter and Roy Moore).

On Monday evening, 100 evangelical leaders met with Trump in the White House. Not to call him to task for his flagrant, ongoing, hugely immoral behavior, but to receive their marching orders.
Donald Trump met with evangelical leaders on Monday evening, urging them to push their flocks to the polls to vote Republican in November. In fact, Trump went further, saying he’d gotten “rid of” the law that calls for churches endorsing candidates to lose their tax-exempt status—even though the law remains in place, and Trump simply told the IRS not to enforce it. Translation: you owe me, so get out the vote, and let’s both just ignore the law here, okay? Link
And here's what he said:
“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Mr. Trump told the group of about 100 evangelical ministers. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — if they don’t vote we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”
Again, please note that this is ILLEGAL under U.S. law and thus, presumably, immoral. (Frankly, if they want to give up their tax exempt status, I encourage them to do this.)

When I was growing up as a United Methodist, I was pretty fascinated by the idea of the Antichrist and the Apocalypse. I always imagined Christians fighting against an ever encroaching evil led by a charismatic, brilliant politician on the non-religious side. Even now, that's how most evangelicals see the Antichrist.

Meanwhile, their leaders embrace and follow a non-charismatic idiot who:

  • is a serial adulterer
  • paid off a porn star and a playboy model to keep quiet
  • lies ALL THE TIME
  • cheats business partners and employees out of money
  • regularly attacks those weaker than him
  • venerates himself above all others
  • is not religious, but fakes it in as obvious a manner as possible
  • afflicts the afflicted
  • harms the poor
  • works to take healthcare away from millions
  • shifts money from the poor to the rich
  • advocates for war
  • and basically just sucks as a human being

Yeah, a real sterling role model you've got there, evangelicals.

I've said it before. While you Christians never really had it, you have lost ALL rights to claim moral authority from now until the end of time. I am happy that people are leaving your church in droves and look forward to the extinction of your hypocritical, self-serving, manipulative, evil religion.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain

I'm not sure how I feel about Senator John McCain.

McCain used to be someone who could speak truth to power and occasionally stepped up to earn his "maverick" nickname, such as when he saved Obamacare. He was also a vigorous opponent of torture, having survived years of it in Vietnam, a tool which modern Republican Presidents seem to love.

His best days were during the time when he goodheartedly appeared regularly on The Daily Show and called Jon Stewart a friend. But he was also a warmonger, the biggest Senate cheerleader for the war in Iraq, and behaved pretty badly during the Obama Administration, seemingly at times driven by revenge for having lost the election. After the election, he stopped appearing on The Daily Show.

So upon his death this weekend and plaudits raining down from both the Left and the Right (notably NOT from our Toddler in Chief), I was feeling ambivalent.

Until I read this:  The Myth of John McCain

I think it pretty accurately lays out how McCain had a positive reputation, despite his actual votes on a host of bad policies. Rather than me repeat the whole thing, just go and read it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Media Bias

Want to see American institutional bias in action?

Want evidence that the media furthers bias against people of color in America?

Check out these two Tweets. These types of contrary images can be seen every single day.

Be aware when you see/read the news. View the news critically and remember that images can make an impression on you that you may not even be aware of.

Corruption Update! 08-22-18

Just a reminder of some of the close Trump associates who are indicted, plead or found guilty in a criminal case, or resigned in disgrace because of corruption.
  • Trump Campaign Chair, Paul Manafort: Guilty
  • Trump Lawyer/Fixer, Michael Cohen: Guilty
  • Trump Deputy Campaign Manager, Rick Gates: Guilty
  • Trump National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn: Guilty
  • First Trump congressional backer, Rep. Chris Collins: Indicted
  • Second Trump congressional backer, Rep. Duncan Hunter: Indicted
  • HHS Sec. Tom Price: Resigned
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: Resigned
  • VA Sec. David Shulkin: Resigned
Tick, tock, Trump.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A reminder - 752 days in Hell

Just a few notes.
Trump has been bragging on and on about black employment, saying he's been better for African Americans than any other President. Yeah, not even close.

And here's how much the great Republican tax cut helped your average working American.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Tipping? An idea whose time has passed

Here's another, very interesting, reason to pay waitstaff a real, living wage and eliminate tipping. Tipping may result in higher salaries for some high end restaurant workers, but it's a terrible and unpredictable system for millions of others who aren't so lucky.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Spring and Summer Movie Roundup

On March 4, I posted a list of the movies I want to see this year. I thought this might be a good time to review that list to date.

Before I start, this has been an interesting summer because it was the summer I had Moviepass. Here's Moviepass from Wikipedia:
. . . the service allows subscribers to purchase a single movie ticket per day for a flat subscription fee per month, quarter, or year. The service utilizes a mobile app, where users check-into a cinema and choose a film and showtime, which results in the cost of the ticket being loaded to a prepaid debit card, which is used to purchase the ticket from the cinema as usual.
When Moviepass lowered their price last year, I hesitated before joining, fearing it would crash and burn. But as the number of subscribers skyrocketed, I bought in earlier this year, paying $90 for a full year's subscription. For that year, I can see one movie a day, paid for by the company. But I can only see each movie one time on Moviepass.

I have gotten my value out of Moviepass, so far seeing 11 movies, which means a total cost of around $8 a movie. I hope the service will continue long enough for me to see a few more, but it looks like Moviepass won't survive much longer.

I've noted which movies I saw on Moviepass with an MP. Some of these I saw more than once, but only once with Moviepass. A few minor spoilers below, but nothing important.

A Wrinkle in Time
Decided not to see it due to lukewarm reviews. (pre-Moviepass)

Tomb Raider (MP)
Not a fantastic movie, but I really enjoyed it. (Even though the final action sequence was stolen from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). I like that it was based on a specific Tomb Raider video game title, and I'm sorry it didn't do well enough to merit any more films in the series. I'd like to see more.

Pacific Rim Uprising (MP)
A pretty big disappointment. A poor followup from the original, and the human villain (no spoilers here) was a HUGE mistake.

Ready Player One (MP)
I've never read the book and had few expectations, but I liked it. The virtual reality visuals were pretty incredible and the story, while mostly a stock "rebels against the empire" plot grafted onto a buttload of pop culture references, worked for me. I look forward to seeing it again on video.

Avengers: Infinity War (MP)
The movie of the year. Incredible. A miracle that it works and it works hugely. Saw it four times in the theater.

Deadpool 2 (MP)
I haven't decided yet if I like this better than the original Deadpool or not. Still profane, still very funny, the plot here is more convoluted than the first and dives even deeper into the X-Men mythos,  with some broader MCU digs thrown in. Also, Domino is one of the greatest superheroes in film. Saw it twice in the theater.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (MP)
I think this deserved to do better than it did. Another fun movie that worked for me, with a great cast and some incredible visuals. Any movie with Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover is a winner in my book. And Glover was GREAT as Lando.

Incredibles 2 (MP)
A direct continuation of the first movie, the Incredibles family takes a big step back before moving forward. Some of the visuals here, particularly involving the Screenslaver are just, well, incredible. And of course, more Elastigirl and more Frozone are very welcome. Loved it. Saw it twice. Hopefully we won't wait 14 years for the next one.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (MP)
The strangest Jurassic Park movie takes the franchise off the island, forever. They obviously realized they couldn't keep doing the theme park/post theme park back and forth. Some fun moments, but no humans are as stupid as the ones in this movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (MP)
Loved it. A great, hilarious, lighter MCU outing to help people heal from Infinity War. Still, watching the first end credits scene on opening weekend with an enthusiastic crowd was one of the best theater experiences I've EVER had. The audience reacted with puzzlement for a few seconds and then erupted into a huge gasp. Really, really great. Saw it twice.

I did see a few more movies that weren't on the list, almost certainly because they were free via Moviepass.

Ocean's 8 (MP)
You know the formula for the typical heist movie. A criminal mastermind gets his crew together and they plan a big, complex heist. Things seem to go wrong, but in the end, it was all part of the plan. Now, take that basic formula and remove the "things seem to go wrong" part and you have Oceans 8. I liked the all-female cast, but the heist plan went exactly according to plan, with nothing going wrong. What?

A Quiet Place (MP)
A great horror movie about a family living in utter silence after an invasion by alien bugs that can hear but not see. Really well done, one of the best movies I've seen this year.

Rampage (MP)
Everybody likes Dwayne Johnson, he's great fun to watch. Unfortunately, this story, based on the great Rampage video game, doesn't have enough fun making the game into a movie. The relationship between the two is pretty perfunctory, so it's mostly disaster porn with a likable lead. It also contains a horrible, unnecessarily misogynistic death.

Still to come on the list:

X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2