Hope He Drives an Automatic

A 15-year-old Pakistani boy cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy, only to be celebrated by his parents and neighbours for the act, police told AFP Friday.

Local police chief Nausher Ahmed described how an imam told a gathering at a village mosque that those who love the Prophet Mohammad always say their prayers, then asked who among the crowd had stopped praying.

Mohammad Anwar, 15, raised his hand by mistake after apparently mishearing the question.

The crowd swiftly accused him of blasphemy so he went to his house and cut off the hand he had raised, put it on a plate, and presented it to the cleric, the police chief said.


In Other News

“A thoughtful, serious argument about why single-payer isn’t the best path forward would have won Clinton more fans than this kind of obvious pandering.”

What follows is one of the finest deconstructions of Hillary Clinton’s bizarre recent attack on Bernie Sanders’ position on healthcare policy. It is a mightily clarifying piece, and you should read it.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t trust you (Vox, by Ezra Klein)


Ah, so that explains it. Thanks, Gizmodo. Why We Become Such Assholes When We’re Behind the Wheel

…and…Simpsons tattoos

That Seems Like A Pretty Good Idea To Me

I’ve been sitting on this stuff a while. Here. Go see funny and interesting things on the Internet.

New blog I done found called Adequate Man sez

“After that meltdown, did the Bengals just “out-Browns” the Browns and take the throne as the “Brownsiest” team in Ohio?

No, that’s not possible. The Browns would have to win a title before the Bengals could truly usurp their THRONE OF MISERY…”


“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.” (Chuck Pahlaniuk)

Note to self: Find “The Way” by Jill Scott MUST HAVE THAT TRACK

Steelers-Bengals

Bengals: Oh, hey, Steelers, how are you?
Steelers: Not good.
Bengals: How come?
Steelers: Well, see, we were beating you guys the whole game pretty much and then you guys scored and now you’re like totally gonna win the game.
Bengals: Oh, that’s terrible!
Steelers: Indeed.
Bengals: Well, I wish there was something we could do to help you out with that.
Steelers: Well…
Bengals: What? Don’t be shy. Just ask.
Steelers: Well, you could commit a flagrant foul in the last minute of the game.
Bengals: Hey! There’s an idea! Say if we…hmmm…popped one of your guys in the head after the play ended?
Steelers: Yeah! That’d be good for at least 15 yards and a first down!
Bengals: Okay! We’ll do it!
Steelers: Sigh.
Bengals: Now what?
Steelers: It’s just that…that’s a might long ways away for a field goals, still.
Bengals: Oh, right. I see what you mean…Okay. I have an idea.
Steelers: What?
Bengals: How about after we commit the flagrant foul, four or five of us will ARGUE WITH THE REFS ABOUT THE FLAG!
Steelers: Oh, wow! You’d do that for us? Could one of you really get in the ref’s face? Maybe even a little bit of touching?
Bengals: Why not?
Steelers: Wow, that would really put us in range for a field goal! That would be great, thank you!
Bengals: No, Steelers. Thank you!

Why I’m On Team Hillary

I don’t often engage in politics here, not directly; I have a whole other Web space for that, but it’s under a pseudonym and it’s a shared space, so I think that writing it here offers some level of clarity. This is me talkin’. Not Brady Bonk.

Now, if you know me, you know I won’t be voting for any Republicans any time soon. So that makes my process easier, especially since the Democratic field has been thinned to three now. I have certainly considered, briefly, the possibility of the fellow from Maryland; he seems like a fine candidate and should be on the short list for running mate, but there’s a gravitas deficit there somehow. No, I think for me as well as for many in my party, it comes down to Bernie v. Hillary.

And most of the folks I know are batting for Bernie. As a regular listener of The Thom Hartmann Program, I can understand why. Bernie Sanders is a fierce, effective, outspoken advocate for vital progressive issues, most specifically correcting America’s insane trade policies, expanding the availability of health care, ceasing insane and never-ending wars, investing solidly in education, getting tough with Wall Street, et-chetera. There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders is correct on a buncha issues and that he’s an effective advocate for them. I’m a fan of his. Big-time.

That doesn’t mean he’s convinced me he’s the best person to run for this office.

In 2008, I was a rabid Obama supporter and in fact a fairly early adopter (I crafted my endorsement of Mr. Obama in February 2008). My logic on this was fairly straightforward: We had just got our asses handed to us running a candidate from the Senate who had voted for the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. Why, when Iraq was still a hotly contested political issue, why would we do that again?

Now, I can’t tell you the Hillary wouldn’t have won, necessarily. But I can tell you that my political calculus made sense, and that the candidate we nominated has since been one of the most electorally successful people to run for the office in recent history. I know, to paraphrase the man himself, because he won both of them.

He also cleared that political trap for Mrs. Clinton. Iraq is a hot political issue no longer. Her vote, though still unfortunate, is no longer a political liability. And, she has admitted to the error and has apologized. Not that she doesn’t have new political baggage, of course. With Clintons, there’s always baggage. Always. But not like the Iraq vote at that moment in time. Nothing like that, nosiree.

So, let’s do one of those list things that the kids are all reading on the Internet these days. We’ll start with

1. Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for the office, not just among her Democratic counterparts, not just among the whole bag of candidates this year, but than has ever run, certainly in my lifetime. In 2008, when people would level the charge that Barack Obama was not “experienced” enough and that Hillary Clinton had all this “experience” brimming out every pore of her body, I cried bullshit, and I was right. The candidates’ resumes, when objectively compared, were actually quite equivalent, considering that aside from her Senate experience at the time, Mrs. Clinton had never served in elected office.

Since then, though, she’s been kinda busy.

As Secretary of State:

  • Hillary Clinton was the last person to get representatives from Israel and Palestine in the same room together.
  • She was primarily responsible for creating the sanctions that brought Iran to the table.
  • She successfully led an effort to restore the reputation of the United States worldwide after the bufoonery of the Bush years.
  • She helped secure ratification of the START treaty.
  • She influenced President Obama in the decision to end Osama bin Laden.

Was Hillary Clinton’s record at State perfect? No. I have found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. She leaned strongly toward the NATO effort in Libya, which like or not ended disastrously, and she wanted the United States to intervene more strongly in Syria, on which she was thankfully demured.

The best analysis I can find of Mrs. Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom are here, in a piece by Walter Russell Mead. He believes it to have been a fairly mixed result.

Regardless, she is the only Democrat running who has served in such a global capacity. In terms of international issues, Hillary Clinton will be crafting and executing policy where Bernie and Martin will be trying to figure out which fork to use.

2. The next Democratic President needs to be able to go nose to nose with Republican intransigence and needs to be able to whip its ass. In my circle, we have a joke, based on a surreal line from the long-running animated show “The Simpsons.” It is: “I’m not not licking Republicans.”

President Obama has been a vastly effective executive. But only recently has he seemed to come to the realization that the political opposition is nothing but that: Opposition. He has operated much of his administration on the mistaken notion that he would be able to achieve consensus with his political frenemies. This mistaken notion has sometimes led to horrifying disaster, such as his seeming willingness to accept Chained CPI as a policy matter, or his extension of the Bush tax cuts, which he has promised to allow to sunset.

I am a big fan of the Obama years, but we need a cleanup batter now, someone with no illusions about bi-partisan warm fuzzies, somebody who will kick ass and who will take names. If only there were some instance I could point to in order to show that Hillary Clinton is the person who can fulfill this requirement, like, say, 11 hours of testimony in front of the House Benghazi committee in October 2015.

Or, say, her often-pilloried but as it turns out TOTALLY ACCURATE coining of the term “vast right-wing conspiracy” in 1998.

Remember, Obama came to office with a vision of “…one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America…”

Mrs. Clinton won’t come to the office quite nearly as wide-eyed. And she has concretely shown that she is uniquely suited to manage, disorient, and destroy the Republicans’ obstructionist agenda.

3. Nothing would piss off conservatives more than another Clinton administration. Besides maybe another black guy, of course, but that ship has sailed. No, I have witnessed first-hand the burgeoning spiky forehead vein that is created when a “conservative”-minded person refers to a Clinton who is occupying the White House. It cannot be eclipsed by any other visceral experience for a “conservative.” Nothing would cause their eyeballs to boil in blood more readily than at least four more years of somebody named “Clinton” in the Oval. Such a thing makes me giggle like a little girl.

4. Houston, June 2015. One of the first campaign events of Hillary 2016 was a stunning speech given at Texas Southern University, deep in Rick Perry country, in which she declared the really weird idea that Americans should be allowed to vote. In fact, she called for what may ostensibly seem like a radical idea: Universal voting registration for every American adult. You can watch the speech here (you can skip to about 18 minutes to get through all the grip-and-grin bullshit). It is a seminal speech and an impressive campaign kick-off.

5. The Planned Parenthood endorsement. Yes, it’s that important. As an organization, as an issue, as an advocacy group, the Planned Parenthood endorsement is that incredibly important. The political fire PP has taken of late makes its endorsement ring that much more clearly. They cite her stances on family planning, on abortion, and on the vital nature of Planned Parenthood itself and concluded they had to endorse for the first time ever. I for one am not surprised they picked the one with the uterus. Not sure why other folks are. But their endorsement carries more weight in my opinion than any others.

Trust women.

6. Because My Grandma asked me to. My 92-year-old Grandma was a Clinton supporter in 2008 but gladly came around to support Barack Obama despite her misgivings, and she’s become an ardent Obama supporter since. She makes a strong case for Hillary in 2012 as well, and this year, I am right with her.

I mean, if I don’t include among my reasons that I would like for my Grandma to see a woman in the Oval Office in her lifetime, I’d be lying. I would really like that. So yes. That is one of my reasons.

7. You Bernie PUMAs are really pissing me off. It’s odd that the PUMAs are in the Bernie camp this year, and they’re just as annoying as they were in Hillary’s camp in 2008. Generally, they are saying they will write Bernie in if he doesn’t get the nod, which is a terribly destructive stance that I find horrifying. You can believe that if Mr. Sanders garners the nomination, I will be first in line to cast my vote for him in November, but for some reason among Bernie boosters, that courtesy does not extend in the other direction. And specifically, I’ve seen these people source Breitbart hit pieces on Hillary Clinton and go SEE? SEE? SEE? It’s ridiculous. Mainly, though, this threat to write him if Hillary is the candidate? Fine. Don’t come crawling to me when President Trump rounds up all the brown people and frog-marches your ass to church.

8. Bernie Sanders is not a Jedi Knight. I’m not sure what Bernie boosters think he will be able to accomplish in office that Mrs. Clinton won’t. He will still face an obstructionist legislative body unless we can turn some results around there. He will still face the same inevitable political pressure every President faces from the inside. He will still be bound by law and precedent. As powerful as the Presidency is, it still has its limits and its powerful challenges. Bernie boosters act like the man has a magic wand he’ll wave at 1 p.m. January 20 and then peace and love and free vasectomies for everyone. SO besotted are they of this notion that they’re willing to mount a write-in effort and derail a nominee’s chances?

Yep. I’m Team Hillary ATW now. Do yer wurst. If she can take it, I sure can.

Hippy New Year

So last night I spent most of my dreaming writing a treatment for Star Wars VIII. Then I dreamt I accidentally drove my car into an ocean. So it was kind of a mixed bag. The treatment is pretty good, though, I think.

    But first:
  • Happy New Year, which is always an odd greeting as you are wishing a person future happiness. I ran over to the Farm after the workday and we ate steak and I was in bed by 10. Very exciting.
  • I heard the word “festooned” used twice on NPR this morning. Methinks Steve Inskeep got a thesaurus for Christmas.


So, now I’m going to write about my treatment for Star Wars VIII. It should go without saying that there be spoilers ahead. K?

My story is essentially about the attempted redemption of Ben Solo.

Dig it: Kylo Ren is a villain motivated strongly by his intense faith in the Dark Side of The Force and what that power can accomplish. He dedicates his life to this. He serves masters for it. He sacrifices family for it, committing the ultimate Oedipal act, mainly to convince himself and others of his conviction.

Then, he meets Rey in battle. And this has to inform him greatly about what she is. Has to tell him that this person is the most pure person ever to have been in The Force, that she is yet untrained and yet mightily powerful, and that she has found more power in the un-Dark Side than he could ever imagine having in his widdle finger. This is a unique experience for Ben Solo to this point; none of his minions have experienced Rey’s place in The Force.

I imagine that, for him, this encounter with Rey might be nothing short of revelation.

Ren has after all labored under the Dark Side’s influence for a many years, having been seduced to it as a youngster. He must think of the Light Side as a weakling stance, and then this person humiliates him in the field, and she’s not even trained, and she’s not even been Force Aware for like five minutes. However, she demonstrates that she is powerful strong in the Light Side.

So, in my story, this encounter drastically changes Ben Solo. It drives him to want to defect.

And this is something we’ve never seen in the Star Wars universe. Vader was redeemed, of course, but only briefly before he stopped refusing to die. You’ve not seen a character yet who gets indoctrinated to the Dark Side and then comes back. This is significant because so far, we’ve been led to assume that the dominant side to The Force is the Dark Side, that those who go there stay there and never return. An attempt at redemption for Ben Solo would be something we’ve not seen before.

It would also present the character with a significant challenge. He is, after all, pretty much neck-deep in with the First Order. Action based on his new thinking would be bound to get him killed or jailed. Which is where I think we take up Ben Solo’s story in VIII. Ben Solo has attempted to help the resistance and has been jailed and is being question by Captain Phasma. We can wonder about his motivation until he inevitably escapes and is driven to find Rey. Perhaps he’ll beg to once again become Luke’s Padawan, a difficult sell considering.

This also begins to resolve some problems with the Kylo Ren character. Ren does not resonate as powerfully as his inspiration, so much that the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter feed just had to be created. I mean, it could nearly be argued that Adam Driver’s character in HBO’s Girls is more awe-inspiring than is Kylo Ren. So why not turn this mensch to the other side?

I like it, considering that the most embiggened criticism of the movie is that it’s heavily derivative. My theory on that is that what’s in theaters right now is just the setup, necessary as a palate cleanser for the horrible no-good awful Lucas prequels and re-masters. Now that we’ve been reminded of the old story and its majesty, they can now tell us a new story.

I like mine. Though I’m sure Rian Johnson will do an adequate job.

Amy and The Force Awakens

DOD and I managed to fit in two movies between last night and today, the first being Amy, the Debbie Downer of a documentary about the recording artist Amy Winehouse, and the much-anticipated return of the Star Wars franchise directed by J.J. Abrams. I can’t help but want to blog about these, starting with the former so I can spare you the spoilers.

My take on Amy Winehouse has always been that, with the Back to Black album, she sort of luckily careened into a creativity singularity. I think she was talented but not that talented, but that for one album, yeah, she was that talented, and so were the producers and session musicians around her, and the style, the instrumentation, the market, the people yearning for something new, the timing, her emotional state at the time…

Sadly, though, I think had Winehouse lived another 20 years, she would not have replicated the feat. Back to Black was a one-time deal.

The film is quite the downer, especially if you’ve ever been as haunted by the Back to Black album as I have. You realize how utterly mismanaged she was after her success, how the relentless paparazzi contributed to her downfall, and how, surprising to me, how much bulimia likely contributed to her untimely death as did her fondness for various substances.

The movie missed a few things. I would have wanted more about the making of Back to Black; I’d want to know more about the technical aspects of making that fine album and more about the personnel. I’d also like more made of her collaborations with various 2-tone bands at the end of her life. It would have been nice had she been able to carry out a 2-tone renaissance and prove me wrong.

Anyway. On your bike. Let’s talk about STAR WARS. Which I can, finally. Cuz I went and seen it.

I have been chanting lately, as I consider this Abrams approach to the Star Wars tale, I’ve been chanting, chanting, chanting…please let him fix it. Please let him fix it. Please let him fix it.

I mean, George Lucas had this beautiful thing, this wonderful creative vision masterfully executed. Then came the prequels. Which were horrible. As documented, say, here, for example (Mr. Plinkett’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Review).

So. Did he fix it?

That and beyond, my friends. That, and beyond.

Interesting challenge J.J. Abrams had, the way I figure. Dude had to appeal to two distinct audiences: Old farts like me who saw the first one in the theater when he was 11. And, younger farts who grew up initially exposed to the prequels and thinking that was what Star Wars was.

Hee-hee. Jar-Jar stepped in poo.

True story: I was opposed to seeing Star Wars when it first came out. I was 11. I did not want to see it. Because I was an aspiring peace-nik, even then. And the movie was about wars.

But I ended up going, accompanied by my DOD, and I still recall the experience as a wonderful, visceral thing. It was probably a seminal normative experience. I think it was for many people; I think it’s why people cling to the franchise so tensely.

Star Wars upped the game.

Just by watching this film, you became a better person, a more sophisticated consumer of film. You walked out changed. You would, from that point forward, require more from your cinema. Because while Star Wars gave more, it also demanded more. It made you infer and question and cast curiosity. And just watching it informed you about what works.

Star Wars titilated us. But it also formed and informed our tastes. That, I think, is why it resonates as it does.

J.J. Abrams gets it.

In The Force Awakens, Abrams essentially re-tells the original story. Like, all over again. It’s recast, there are adjustments eked, but all of the essential elements are there. Evil guy in a dark suit and mask with bidding minions the stromtroppers. The unrealized, unrefined protagonist with an unexpected quest presented, who soon discovers abilities previously unknown. The large evil weapon the size of a world and the desperate fight to stop it. The familial complications and their ties to the larger universal forces at work.

I could go on and on with the parallels. But I don’t need to because I’ve told you: It is essentially. The same. Movie.

A genius stroke, because as I’ve indicated, there are two large audiences with whom Abrams has to connect. He has to draw out the inner skinny child inside of us old farts, and, more important, I think, he has to shake from the younger folks the bizarre disillusion that the prequels had anything to do with Star Wars. This movie both excites the fan-boy in me and clues in the youngsters, letting them know that this, kids, is how it’s supposed to be. And he does it well, and it is precious, and

and

See, when I was a kid watching that movie for the first time in the theater, I felt a certain way. I remember it. I gripped the arms of the chairs at times, I grimaced and moved to the side sometimes, I put off the urge to pee because that was not a possibility I could not miss this not one minute

This movie made me feel like that again.

A few specific notes:

~ The only change, the only change I would have made would have been to throw R2 and 3PO out the air lock. Goodness. They were pure fan service, even the um “purpose” they were there for was horribly anti-climactic (DIDN’T SEE THAT COMIN’ FROM FIFTY MILES AWAY) but their existence in the franchise at this stage in the game is puzzling, I mean, just technically.

The 3PO unit is, simply put, a horribly unreliable piece of technology. Even in this iteration he shows up damaged. I mean, in 1977, you kind of expect a brass-plated humanoid style robot to be walking around in a a film like this. It was kind of required. Now? It’s like I watch Robocop of 1987 and I’m like WHY IS HE DRIVING A CAR?

No, a humanoid style robot is not useful unless you can build that sucker like Data of Star Trek Enterprise, or like a Cylon from the reimagined BSG. I cannot imagine the maintenance issues involved with a system that complex and yet so vulnerable. And the thing is, the movie audience would dig that.

C’mon. Every person in every audience has more computing power in their pockets than that of those two morons put together. Enough fan service.

And you can say but what about the BB unit? Eh, that little guy kinda makes sense, a Dyson take on a droid in this universe. At least with the sphere he can move faster than my adopted Grampa Harry. Can’t say that for 3PO and the other one, who spend this entire movie um, SITTING IN A ROOM.

R2-D2 and C3PO are obsolete. Sorry.

* And, oh, by the way, they do manufacture beings in the Star Wars universe who are more reliable than the 3P0 units: They’re called “clones.” How about making some clones for the purpose of handling protocol, training them, and then setting them off? Hmmmmm?

~ The ending scene is so brilliant. It is brilliant, and I know this because during it I was internally screaming “END THE MOVIE NOW END THE MOVIE NOW PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE THIS HOW IT ENDS PLEASE PLEASE NO MORE”

and the credits rolled.

Thing is. She’s handing it to him. But from what you’ve seen of her that isn’t right. And you know darned skippy he’s gonna be handing that thing right back to her next.

Those are my thoughts now. What I know is that I haven’t been this excited about a movie since Django Unchained, or maybe American Hustle. You owe it to yourself to see it, just to be reminded that movies, no, heck with that, to remind you what movies can be, what they should be, that it should be something so good it leaves you in a snotty pile on the floor for an hour after.

May the force be with you.

Envelopes

So I had these envelopes in the back seat of my car. Big ones. You know. For mailing presents.

See, where I live, I have to park in a garage across the street. So there is no quick “running out” to the car. You have to get dressed, lock up, go down an elevator, jaywalk across a busy street, go up an elevator, and to your car. So I figured when I woke up today, I’d go to get the envelopes, but first I’d go get my favorite slice in town and then go get a piece of fish for dinner.

So I got dressed.

And I ate lunch.

And I went to the grocery store.

And I came back to my apartment.

Do you notice what I didn’t say I did?

But my day otherwise was just stupid. How about yours? ::putting my f’ing coat back on::

Frank and Frank

Regarding the 100th birthday of one Frank Sinatra and this, Zappadan 2015, I’ve been looking for a corny crossover.

Thank you, Internet. I give you “The House I Live In” versus “Little House I Used To Live In.”

Compare and contrast.