Tuesday, March 06, 2018

How bad does it have to get?

Right now the SF City Council is more concerned about bizarre elitist business regulations that artificially drive up unemployment and housing prices than they are about keeping communities safe - and now they are paying the price.  
Instead of letting the free market do it's thing, San Francisco has tried to manipulate the economy and housing to guarantee equality of outcome instead of equality of opportunity - and the result is now housing no one can afford, jobs that are no longer available and streets that are no longer safe.  
The second part of this disastrous 'progressive' formula is that instead of putting cops first and giving them the tools to fight crime, San Francisco has put leftist activism first - and the result is areas of the city that give Cartagena and Caracas a run for their money in violence and mayhem.  
Again, indifference to unacceptable behavior is mistaken for compassion - a shift of blame from personal responsibility and accountability to some nebulous social construct is why our state is letting thousands and thousands of violent felons back out on to the street. It's such a sad thing that doesn't have to be.
I just wonder, how bad will it have to get before people have had enough? It got so bad in New York in the 1990's, the crime, the homelessness, the drug dealers and the murder rate - that New Yorkers found themselves electing a Republican out of desperation. Rudy Guilianni God knows wasn't perfect - but in under four years he had utterly transformed the city from a top 5 crime center - to a city that didn't even crack the top 30 in homicides. He quite literally saved the city.
He did this with a zero tolerance policy for vagrancy - the options were shelter, treatment or jail and they were mandatory. He did this with broken window enforcement from the cops - every violation , no matter how minor, was cited, arrested and/or prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Stop and frisk was a big part of this equation. Criminal recidivists were taken off the street for prolonged periods of time. Thousands upon thousands of minority lives no doubt were saved because of this.
Today, crime in New York remains low despite the disasterous reign of mayor DeBlasio, because the NYPD has a system in place that they have fought tooth and nail to maintain. Despite roll backs in stop and frisk policing and broken window enforcement, and a plummeting morale among the NYPD ranks, NYC is at this moment in time still a very safe major city.  The mentally ill are creeping back in and taking over, urination in the streets is no longer a crime - but all is not lost. Not yet.
I pray all the time that Californians will see the light and finally demand safe streets. Conventional wisdom says that this is a very difficult problem and that there are no easy solutions. I say that is nonsense.  
I live in Burbank, and the city council and cops simply don't put up with criminals or the mentally ill. Our parks are virtually free of derelicts because they are not allowed to be there. They are given options but they must pick one - shelter, treatment, jail or a ride out of town.  
If other cities would follow Burbank's lead we could eliminate that last option - it is, I will concede by far the least compassionate of the choices. Eventually, the best case scenario would also be to eliminate jail as a mandatory alternative to the a city park or playground. But as bad as jail is, I will always argue that it is infinitely more compassionate that allowing someone to live on the streets.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Same old song...

In the wake of yet another horrific shooting the leftist media is bombarding us with the same talking points and largely disingenuous pleas for 'sensible' gun control.  And by sensible they mean meaningless platitudes that serve little purpose other than to inflame passions and divide us.

Every time there is one of these mass shooting events the cries go up - "Finally, it's time to do something!"  And every time nothing happens.  Why is that?

When Obama first came into office the democrats held the majority in both houses - and not a single piece of gun control legislation was passed.  Obama did make a hair brained executive order attempt at using the social security administration to seize guns from the elderly who were using proxies to purchase firearms.  That radical right wing group the ACLU fought Obama on this maneuver, Trump last year repealed the order and now leftists are pushing the lie that Trump wants mentally ill people to have guns.

And still the screeching continues after the tragedy last Wednesday in Florida.  Rather than address the problem directly, gun control groups simply shout to the heavens "Gun control!" and then dare anyone to say anything negative about it.   If someone does dare to question the narrative, they are simply told that 'The vast majority of Americans support gun control!"  Well that is true, but the vast majority of Americans support spending cuts in our government and yet would never allow social security or medicare to be touched.  As with government spending, the nitty gritty of gun control is - what specifically can we do to tackle the problem of mass shooting events?

The left has no answer for this beyond "We need to be like Europe because they banned guns and now they don't shoot each other."   Newsflash, liberals, we are not Europe and never will be.  We have a unique perspective on firearms, in that we won our liberty with them and we now own more guns by far than any other country in the world.  There is a firearm for every man, woman and child in this country.  Half of these guns have been manufactured and acquired in the last 25 years.  During this time period crime has dropped in half.  Not to say there is a direct correlation, that would be unscientific - but this is just truth in numbers.  Numbers that plainly present the truth that our guns aren't going anywhere.

I would posit that there was no gun control legislation under Obama and there is no specific call to action to this day from the left because this is a deliberate choice.  If liberals come out with specifics, they will be subjected to scrutiny, most likely by the majority of Americans.  It is much easier, and feels much better, to launch cowardly personal attacks on gun owners and 2nd amendment supporters.

To actually get down to brass tax on certain types of gun control, such as making it much harder for the mentally ill to get their hands on guns, a proposal that the NRA is in favor of - is a daunting challenge for gun control enthusiasts because it would definitively shelve their emotionally driven lifelong dream of somehow magically taking guns out of the hands of private citizens.

And make no mistake, this is ultimately what most liberals want - the eventual confiscation of privately owned firearms.  Many of the more savvy gun control folks will deny this if asked, but it is the only logical conclusion if you actually listen to their arguments and wildly broad proposals to 'be more like Europe'.

As we all know, mass confiscations will never happen in the US.  And yet gun control proponents are content to let mass shootings go on so they can feed their fantasy of a gun-free utopia.   They don't want to forward the debate, because the inevitable outcome will be the surrender of the state to the will of the people.


I had the chance on my private political Facebook page to engage with a good guy who is woefully uneducated in firearms and yet stubbornly insists he is just as qualified as me to weigh in on guns and the 2nd amendment.  I would say that this absolutely could be possible - that someone who has never touched a gun in their life could educate themselves to the point where they know more than I do about the subject - it is possible.  But in this case it just isn't true, he is very ignorant about guns and displayed this in plain fashion with a recent response to my thread on the Florida shooting.

"Certain guns (like the AR-15) shouldn't be available for legal purchase.  Period.  The average person doesn't need one and I don't care if they want one.  Too bad.  Get over it."

At first blush, if you are firearm ignorant this statement seems straightforward, but to someone who deals with guns in their life, it belies a tremendous ignorance.  I hammered out a response and then thought better, this is an inflammatory subject and I didn't need to inflame him any more.  But I really dug what I wrote, so Imma share it here.

Oh, there was also this gem that he wrote -

"I'm also not hearing "second amendment" it was written when modern weaponry was unimaginable..."

This is patently false, and I know this because I'm an avid studier of history and often specifically firearms and weaponry in history.   My rebuttal...


Appreciate the lengthy response _______, and your willingness to engage.

I disagree with you about the AR, if you are going to remove it from the market you are doing so based only on what it looks like - not it's lethality or effectiveness  in mass killing.

There are literally hundreds of rifles that are more powerful and fire just as rapidly and would be just as effective and maybe more effective to perpetrate a mass shooting.

Furthermore, over 90% of gun himicides in the US are committed by handguns - CDC stats show that in 2012 only 322 people were killed with rifles, the remaining 10,000 plus were killed with handguns.

So this is why I get frustrated with non-gun people, it's because of statements like 'the AR15 shouldn't be available for purchase, period."  This is on it's face absurd.  Why should it be removed when there are a ton of rifles that don't have a military look but do the same thing?  It's not logical, it's emotional and it's borne out of a lack of knowledge which comes from a lack of direct experience with firearms.

I also part ways with you on your views on the 2nd amendment.  Perhaps the most fallacious argument people use against it is that the founders could've never imagined modern weaponry.  This is simply not true - but people who don't use guns or have any interest in them wouldn't know this.

They wouldn't know that the Belton flintlock, which was invented for the revolutionary war, could fire 20 shots in under 5 seconds.  They wouldn't know about the Girandoni air rifle, another product of the revolutionary war that had a high capacity magazine.  This particular rapid fire firearm was famously delivered personally by Thomas Jefferson to Lewis and Clark for their expedition.

Then there's the Puckle gun, an early gatlin style gun that was actually made half a century before the revolutionary war and was seen in the field under the charge of both the colonists and the British at various times.

But perhaps the most well known rapid fire weapons of the 16th century (which had actually been invented 200 years prior) were the "Pepperbox" revolvers - mass produced by a variety of manufacturers.  Lethal pistols that were all capable of firing half a dozen or more rounds in the space of a few seconds.

So the idea that the founding fathers could never have imagined rapid fire weaponry is demonstrably false.  Furthermore, not only were they aware of these kinds of guns, many founding fathers were avid fans of military grade hardware being in the hands of private citizens.

One of the best examples of this enthusiasm is in the form of a letter of marque from president James Madison who authorized a merchant to equip his ship with cannons to fend off would be pirates.  This wasn't just a firearm in the hands of a private citizen, this was full on artillery!

To be fair, even without my historical knowledge, I've never bought into the argument that the 2nd amendment was crafted to carve out a narrow right to own a single shot musket just because on it's face this doesn't make sense.  The 1st amendment wasn't made to only protect quill and parchment or cumbersome printing press, it was made to be timeless and extend protection to all forms of speech, regardless of the technology delivering it.  Developing technology was all around the founding fathers over their lifetimes - and they were not only aware of it, many of them like Ben Franklin, were enthusiastic about it.


No this didn't all come off the top of my head, all credit to Stephen Crowder's youtube channel, which is where I learned about all the rapid fire weapons of the 1700s.  But the reason I learned it is that I am involved with guns and take an active interest in everything about them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Movies 2017

Time flies by fast these days!  So fast that I have even less time for movies than I have in the past - yet I still managed to drag my butt to the theater enough times to bring you this, my year end top ten movie list.

Remember; as most of you I'm sure already know - I'm not really a film guy.  Films, those pretentious and dialogue heavy things that unravel at a snail's pace and meander with fuzzy and often black & white or sepia toned shots, quite often obscured by sub-titles.

Nah.  I'm much more into movies.  Movies - big explosions, big bare breasts and bigger than life stories and adventures.  World building, heroes soaring and adrenaline pumping.  That's where I'm at.

Also, I'm not really a movie critic; that is, I seek out films that I know that I'm almost certain to like AND I go in WANTING to enjoy myself.  I would never spend money on a flick that potentially could be totally shitty.  So if you're looking for critical analysis, I'm sorry to disappoint you.

And as with the rest of this blog, there is very little editing here.  This is a first draft, basically untouched after I write it except for the occasional typo or redundant descriptive term that I switch out with a different word from the thesaurus.

As always, here first are the honorable mentions.  Movies that I loved or really really liked, but didn't quite crack the top 10.  Also included here are flicks that were trounced by the critics and/or underperformed at the box office - ones that I actually kind of dug despite their failings.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales
Okay, this one does have a few problems; but overall it's a lot more fun and well made than I  expected.  That's probably why I enjoyed it so much.  Disclaimer: I didn't pay money for this, well at least not directly.  I saw it on a Disney Cruise, and I must say, the scenes on the boats worked really well with the added realism of the actual boat we were on rocking to and fro.  Go in with low expectations and you'll have a lot of fun.

Get Out
I watched this one with a wary eye, fully prepared to be turned off by SJW nonsense, but I'd had enough conservative friends who had allayed my fears and told me this one was a blast.  I went with their recommendation, though still suspicious, and I'm glad I did.  This movie was pretty flipping' awesome.   A masterful thriller/horror that plays on our expectations.  Yes, there is a racialism component, but it's done so well and so fluidly.  This movie's obvious top priority is to entertain, not to preach, and it does so very very well.  Super fun, and scary in a good way - if you've got doubts, don't wait!  Get "Get Out!"

Awesome war movie that is both very exciting and very moving.  Nolan is a master visualist, and what he lacks in character development and dialogue he more than makes up for in shot selection, composition, editing and sound design.  Like Tim Burton, Chris is less concerned with a tight story and snappy patter - he wants to work with big themes and broad strokes.  If you're a historical nut like me, you'll love this one even more, but it's not a requirement.

War for the Planet of the Apes
I went into this one with sky high expectations, so I couldn't help but feel a little bit let down.  I still enjoyed it very much and there's tons of great moments and visuals.  I do feel the story was a bit grim simply for grim's sake - and I wish the denouement had packed more punch.  This is my least favorite of the trilogy, but it's still a ride worth taking and a worthy chapter in the story.

John Wick: Chapter 2
If you loved the first one like I did - a hyper violent, highly allegorical fable of vengeance and redemption - you will love this one as well.  Dope ass action sequences, gory and severe, but rooted in a righteous framework that keeps us riveted and rooting for the good Mr. Wick.

Alien: Covenant
This one JUST misses my top 10.  I enjoyed but didn't love Prometheus, though I will say it has grown on me over the years and I find myself re-watching it often.  This one though, this one is awesome!  Great gore, great thrills and an awesome performance by Michael Fassbender.  I love the look of the film, I really like the lead protagonist, and I love what they did with James Franco.  Brilliant!

First They Killed My Father
A magnificent film (yes, a true film) directed by Angelina Jolie (who knew?) that tells the true and harrowing story of a Cambodian child and her family's destruction at the hands of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.  Beautifully shot, and unflinching, this one is a lock for a best foreign film Oscar nom.  Yes, it's entirely in Cambodian, and for once I don't mind the subtitles at all.  It makes it all that more real and desperate.  This is not as gruesome as Schindler's list, but at times it is every bit as upsetting; it's not really what I would call entertainment, but it is a must watch for young people and for those of us old enough to remember when these events unfolded.

Blade Runner: 2049
Almost forgot this one!  Yes it was too long, yes it was slow in parts - but I was pretty mesmerized through the whole thing.  A much more compelling movie than the original Blade Runner, which I watched before seeing this - and it really doesn't hold up that well, not that I was much in love with it in the first place,  I think it's easily the most overrated movie of my generation (but that's a whole other blog post).  Really enjoyed watching this on the big screen, there's a lot going on visually but also story wise.  Looking forward to watching this again.

 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Just saw this two days after Christmas. Lots of fun and a good amount of heart. The Rock as always is great. Kevin Hart plays himself but is still good. Jack Black actually stretches a bit, playing a teenage girl trapped in a fat middle aged man's body.  And the young woman who plays Nebula on Guardians of the Galaxy is smoking hot without her elaborate makeup and a good actor as well. Had a smile on my face the entire time through this one, a very good family film!

And now the top 10.  This year is a little bit different because there's a cluster of flicks in the middle that are pretty much interchangeable with each other in my ranking depending on what kind of mood I'm in at the moment.  I love all three of them so much, and they are all connected to each other.

10 -  Kong: Skull Island
Outstanding period piece that is a tightly wound adventure and also has a bit of horror thrown in for good measure.  The characters are fantastic, the scenery chewing Sam Jackson as a bad ass military man, the always watchable John Goodman as the doomed instigator, the fantastic Loki (aka Tom Hiddleston) as a dashing leading man, and the equally luminous and just as good looking Brie Larson as the damsel who is rarely in too much distress.   This is a really great monster movie at it's heart, and I just love movies like this that take us on a big adventure to a different world and slather on the excitement, wonder and awe.  Bravo!

9 - Justice League
I loved the Super Friends when I was a kid and I love superheroes today - so this one is a slam dunk.  Even if it was as problematic as Batman v. Superman, I still would've enjoyed it I'm sure.  But thankfully, this installment is a LOT better and a lot of fun as well.  Seeing Aquaman on the big screen (finally) teaming up with Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and the Flash - what's not to love?  Tons of humor, a good amount of heart, and great action sequences with characters that I care about.  Can't ask for much more.

My expectations were low because the critics were unkind, and the neck beards were also negative - but when I finally saw this with the wife and kid, I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Can't wait to buy it and watch it again and again.

8 - Baby Driver
Hot damn is this one good!  A brilliant and groundbreaking edit is what sets this one apart from other thriller/caper/pulpish movies.  Director Edgar Wright takes an approach that I've never seen done so well - he cuts his movie directly to the music.  While others have employed this technique obliquely, Cameron Crowe, or even overtly, James Gunn, Edgar goes all in with the approach.  The cuts are on the beat, the lyrics literally show up on screen, it is truly masterful.  Plus the acting is top notch (though it's tempered a bit now that we know Kevin Spacey is a creepazoid POS) and the story is engaging.  A great time at the movies in the very best traditions of Tarantino and Shane Black.

7 - The Lego Batman Movie
Yes, this one has all the fun and humor that made the Lego Movie so enjoyable, but what kicks it up a notch higher is it's absolute mastery of the character of Batman.  The director and writers absolutely did the work here, the R&D is exhaustive and even better, the examination of the character of Batman is easily the best that has ever shown up on any screen.  That's right, a fanciful and frenetic cartoon with computer generated plastic bricks, absolutely NAILS the character of Batman better than any incarnation before it that isn't in a comic book.  BY FAR.

The ace in the hole the movie has to accomplish this is that it is able to break the 4th wall and literally look back at all of these previous incarnations.  We see Snyder's Batman, Nolan's Batman, Burton's Batman, the hippy Batman from TV and even Batman from the serials of the 1940's on screen!  And then, with a simple device of Batman looking longingly at a portrait of him as a kid and his parents about to meet their fate outside of a movie theater - The Lego Batman movie hammers home the very essence of the Caped Crusader better than has ever been done.  It is truly amazing.

Yes it's silly, yes it's goofy, but even Nolan's 'The Dark Knight' doesn't drill down as well on the character as director Chris McKay does.  Fantastic!

Okay, here we are at the cluster that I mentioned above.  This movie, and the next two, are as far as I'm concerned, interchangeable in how I've ranked them.  I will go in chronological order - but rest assured I pretty much love all three of them equally.

6. - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn has done it, he has made a sequel that is a worthy follow up to his original ground breaking and generation impacting cosmic space opera masterpiece.   GOTG 2 defies all expectations in that instead of being what most sequels are - bigger, louder and more expensive - he turns it on it's head.  This is a thoroughly character driven story with emotional resonance and satisfying arcs for every one of our heroes and a new one as well.  So much to love in this very dense and emotional movie that expertly navigates to and from each player, giving just the right amount of time to explore and observe all of them on multiple levels.  Love Nebula, love Ego, and especially love Mantis.  Good stuff!

5. - Spider Man: Homecoming
This one has all the trappings that great Marvel movies have.  A kick ass superhero that we love bolstered by equally impressive design and effects.  A story that moves and resonates.  And plenty of heart stopping moments, both in spectacle and in emotional impact.  But what elevates this one even more is -  1) It's Spider-Man, and Tom Holland plays Peter Parker and his alter ego note perfect, right out of the comics.  Yes, that Spider-Man, the one who is the biggest and most popular superhero in comics like, ever.  As great as Toby was, and as good as Andrew was, Tom is the best.  2) It's a John Hughes movie!  Simply awesome, and it totally fits.  3) The best scene in the entire movie, in a movie that is FULL of impressive action set-pieces, is a dialogue scene with two people inside a parked car.  Absolutely fantastic moment that will forever be one of my favorite scenes in a Marvel movie ever.

4. - Thor: Ragnarok
The first of it's kind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - a straight ahead, 100% comedy.  There has been plenty of humor in the MCU over the years, some fanboys say too much, but this is the first flick where comedy truly takes the lead.  From the first gag (Thor spinning slowly and telling the big baddie to hold on until he comes around) we know we are in for something different, a thoroughly fun and frothy comedy on a cosmic level.  It's like someone looked at the Guardians movies and said, "They're pretty funny but I think we can crank it up to 11 on the humor scale".  And yet for all of the silliness and irreverence (the only superhero movie I can think of that's more subversive is Deadpool) there is still a good story and great characters at play here who get us invested in the outcome despite the never ending jokes and gags.

3. - Star Wars: The Last Jedi
There's a good chance this ranking will change, as of this writing I've only seen this movie once.  Hardly enough times to truly digest and appreciate what I saw.  But what I do know after only one viewing, is that this movie is three things that I love - different, engaging and masterfully executed.  The trailer said it perfectly - "This is not going to go how you think" and boy they weren't kidding.  I was enthralled from the first action sequence, and the movie never lost it's grip on me.  It certainly isn't a perfect film, but it's fresh and original and is very dense.  Can't wait to see it again.

2. - Logan
When I think about my top ten films of the year, the ones that inevitably go at or near the top of the list are the ones that made me feel the most.  Well Logan brought all of the feels and hard.  It is grim and bleak, and yet somehow still up-lifting.  Logan is dying, the X-Men are gone, and there are no Hollywood conventions to be found.  The movie defies expectations, keeps us guessing and gets us to care not only about Logan but the young one under his charge.  Great, and I mean GREAT, action sequences that are unconventional and brutal, but so well done.  A shocking development 2/3 of the way in that I'm still amazed went the way that it did - but somehow the movie still clings to hope in the end.  Absolutely magnificent movie making.  The very best that comic book cinema has to offer.

1. - Wonder Woman
Okay, maybe not THE very best.  While Wonder Woman doesn't have the grim gravitas or even the superb craftsmanship of Logan, it does have an ace in the hole - a true north superhero who is righteous and unwavering in her commitment to truth, justice and the American way.  Yes Zach Snyder, thanks to Patty Jenkins, you guys finally got it right.  There is no moral ambiguity with the mighty Amazon of Themiscyra. Diana Prince is 100% committed to what is right and is fully dedicated to battling evil.

The movie brilliantly plays on this aspect of her character - she naively believes that a God of war is responsible for the evil in men. When she vanquishes the villain and realizes that men are still shitty, it's a very satisfying moment for the audience and a monumental moment for Wonder Woman.  A beautifully laid out and executed story.

What lands the movie at the top of my list is the chills that I got from several scenes, but none more powerful than Wonder Woman's ascendance into no-man's land to fight the Hun.  I was absolutely enthralled by Diana's stubborn insistence to climb the ladder and fight the bad guys.  The dialogue, the editing, and most of all the music, all work together to create a very powerful sequence that culminates in many goosebumps and a few tears of joy as well from this mushy old man.


And then there's a ton of stuff I still want to see but haven't gotten around to -

I, Tonya
The Disaster Artist

Molly's Game
EDIT: Saw it, loved it!  Not a 'poker movie' per se, but a thoroughly enjoyable true life story of the inimitable Molly and her amazing game.

All the Money in the World
Darkest Hour
Three Billboards

EDIT:  Saw it, loved it!  I was a blubbering mess by the end.  No doubt it would've cracked my top ten had I seen it in 2017.

Murder on the Orient Express
The Greatest Showman

And then there's a couple that I'm going to do my best to avoid -

The Post - a preachy, screechy talkathon that holds up the media as heroes for spilling military secrets.  Pass.

The Shape of Water - looks about as subtle as a jackhammer in it's virtue signaling and messaging.  Another Guillermo mess most likely.

And finally, my usual short (and this year shorter than usual) list of disappointments.

Beauty & The Beast
Please don't mistake me, the movie is well made and the story is tight.  Emma Watson is a wonderful choice, and I understand her taking the role as it gives her two once in a lifetime chances to be a role model for girls - but I really dislike Disney's latest obsession with turning all of their animated classics into shot for shot live action remakes.  It's lazy and it's boring.  I've seen this before, it was an amazing animated feature film that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  This, very simply, is not.  It's close to a carbon copy of the original, and there is next to nothing original about it.  Meh.

Transformers: The Last Knight
Another hot and bloated mess from Michael Bay.  I've enjoyed Transformer movies in the past, but really, enough is enough.  This one, like the last one, just goes on forever and is relentlessly loud and bombastic.  Even Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins can't save this leviathan.  Time to give it up Mr. Bay!

And so that's it - thankfully, no other disappointments.  There were quite a few movies that I thought were just fine, not bad, not great - but I won't blather on about them here.   The ones above, even the disappointments, are the ones that had an impact on me, and so I'm glad I get to share my thoughts on them here with you.  If you're still here, thanks for reading!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Looking Up

2017 has so far been a pretty great year, national tragedies like the one in Las Vegas notwithstanding. Last month it was made even greater when the one time greatest band on the planet (and still pretty great) released a new album.  Barenaked Ladies present - "Fake Nudes".  Ha ha.  Funny.  No, really.

It is a great record and it's replete with good stuff.  My second or third favorite track is this little ditty.

I just love that it's so optimistic and so happy and the lyrics express how grateful the band is for being rock stars.  Unusual in the rock n roll medium for sure, but oh so lovely.

Despite the clumsy attempt to diss our president in the record's title, the material is warm and inviting to everyone.  Even the most politically charged song on the record "Invisible Fence" (gee wonder what that's about?) is poppy and catchy enough to be forgiven, and the lyrics really express optimism and hope without getting too specific on any villain in particular.

There might have been a time awhile back when I would've been a bit put off by BNL's progressive infantilism, but those days are gone for me.  These days my white hot rage at the liberal lock step has cooled considerably, simply because the culture war has finally taken a turn for the better.

Americans are disgusted by the NFL, stadiums are empty and ratings are in the toilet.  Ham fisted attempts by the MSM to lionize the cowardly POS Kapernick have failed miserably.  GQ is now a laughing stock.

With the exception of the detestable Roy Moore and to a much lesser extent our president, the left finds itself in a morass of sexual corruption across the board in entertainment and more recently in the cesspool of Washington DC.

I'm not too excited that hyper-partisan hack Al Franken is out the door - he is basically Chuck Shumer's bitch and is being used as a tool to leverage pressure against Moore and Trump in the future.  I can only say, I hope it works with Moore and I know it will never work with 45.

Most likely to be discouraging is that the liberal wack job Governor of Minnesota is going to replace Stuart Smalley with someone even more extreme - and that person will be a lot tougher to vote out of office in four years.

I'm meandering a bit - but the main point of this post was to express how happy I am these days that conservative values and principles, especially fiscal, constitutional and patriotic principles, have firmly taken root in the mainstream consciousness.

I was reminded of just how embedded the liberal media used to be in this country when I watched Ken Burns fantastic documentary on the Vietnam War recently. The old school FDR progressivism was so drilled into our brains by the three networks - pretty much the only thing that was on television at the time - and the major newspapers which were still very relevant at the time.  So brainwashed was the country, including Republicans, that we jettisoned a president for crimes that were only misdemeanors and would be greatly exceeded in heinousness by Bill Clinton two decades later.  Bill the rapist would face his impeachment with a smirk and win re-election easily.

But today, we have so many more choices in how we get our information - so many choices that the conservative mindset has finally rightfully (see what I did there?) emerged front and center as not some fringe Barry Goldwater outlier, but as a legitimate point of view that also happens to be the correct one.

It's the former point - conservatism as a legitimate point of view - that I'm most gratified has finally come to pass in the mainstream American consciousness.  Oh the left isn't happy about it, they're fighting it so ferociously that they have jettisoned all traces of civility and thoughtfulness.  Everyone who defends the constitution is a racist, especially our President - and libs couldn't give two shits if they smear our founding fathers with that brush as well.

But the good news is, most grown-ups aren't buying it anymore.  At least most grown ups who don't live in the toilets that are our major coastal cities these days.   The mentally ill havens of San Francisco, LA, New York and a few others - and I mean the actual deranged junkies that now shit and piss where they want at will - are the last bastions of the dying school of thought that is progressivism.

The rust belt, fly over country, middle America, what ever you want to call the majority of God fearing patriots - I like calling us the not so silent majority,  isn't buying it anymore.  We've seen the emperor without his clothes now, plainly naked and desperate.

And now, with national attention focused on the day care centers known as Universities and the cry babies within - the conservative approach is firmly taking hold in the next generation.  And the left thankfully is speeding the process along.

With every flail and shriek, the left continues to dig it's own grave.  I know, we're racist, homophobic, ageist, sexist, genderist, whatever.   Guess what?  Good news - no one gives a fuck.

No one gives a mighty F if you discard one of your own (Franken) to delude yourself that you have a chance to pull a Nixon on Trump.  Not going to happen.

No one gives a mighty F that you routinely lie about the facts just so you can have your way.  Conservatives now have it dialed in - the Information Age has made it so simple for us.

Liberty > Equality

Freedom > Fairness

Opportunity > Guarantee

Rule of Law > Lawlessness

Facts > Feelings

See?  It's so mind-blowingly simple these days.  We have dozens of happy conservative warriors who kick ass on a daily basis - on the Youtubes and on the radio and even on a television news station that beats every other news station combined in the ratings.

The information is out there, and it is sinking in.   And for that I am so grateful.

Things truly are looking up.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Diminishment of Sex

The problem of sexual harassment isn't unique to Hollywood and has nothing to do with the leftist culture regarding sex, it has to do with men, American society and power relationships.

This is what I would say if I had succumbed to the lunacy of my hometown, Berkeley California, back in the day in my formative years.  Fortunately, I managed to escape with some of the good stuff (kindness, compassion, empathy) and eschew much of the bad (moral relativism, Godlessness, selfishness).

So I have come to believe that the feminist culture of the left has done little to protect women, in fact in some ways it has cleared a path for monsters like Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and others.

And Hollywood, as a community and an industry, is unique from other groups because it promotes this culture pro-actively in it's product.  The culture I speak of is the idea that sex is NOT sacred, that it is a simple biological need that should be fulfilled regardless of the circumstance or the people involved.  As long as it's consenting adults, the context matters very little.  I say this concept is not only shameful, it's immoral and leads very quickly to very bad situations.

By commodifying sex, and demystifying it to a merely a matter of consent - it becomes very difficult from a liberal or even a libertarian perspective to argue against the casting couch.  Why shouldn't an actor be able to trade their body for a movie role?  After all, it's their business, it's two consenting adults, no one is getting hurt... right?  

Obviously, it's not that simple.

First of all with Weinstein, he's a straight up rapist.  He's banging on your hotel room door at 2am and coming in and climbing on whether you want it or not.  I would concede that he is not typical of any culture, he's a monster.  But I do think it's important not to dismiss him as a complete aberration - as his approach has it's roots that are not born from nothing.

How many others are Weinstein-lite in Hollywood?  And what twisted moral relativism do they use to justify their predatory behavior?

The producer who takes you to dinner and says there's a part for you if you show me your parts.  You politely decline and everything is fine, except you no longer have a job.   Yes, that's bad, but not finishing into a potted plant bad, right?

And then there's the next level, offer a part for putting out, but don't blacklist her if she says no.  That's not as bad, right?

My question is, when does it become okay to barter with sex?   Where is the line?  It's very hard to find a line when you start with the premise that if it feels good and doesn't ''hurt" anyone that you should do it and not worry about it.

I think having sex for it's own sake is a truly terrible idea.   I believe we need a cultural re-set when it comes to sex.  We have to re-invest sex with value beyond just a physical transaction.  We need to remember that sex is much much more than just two people getting off.  It has meaning, it has significance and it is meant to be a sacrament between two people as the culmination of courting, falling in love and matrimony.

Failing that, for those who refuse to take it that far - I would pray for them that they would at the bare minimum see sex as a solidification of a relationship and not merely a Friday night diversion.

When you reduce the act to the latter, the moral equivalent of a ribeye steak, something to be salivated over and then consumed, digested and expunged just so you can move on to the next meal, you have set yourself up - be you a man or a woman - for all manner of heartache and depression.  You surrender a big part of your moral compass - and it can have drastic reprecussions in all other areas of life.

Not the least of which is what goes on in Hollywood on a regular basis and is perpetuated by movies and tv shows that normalize casual sex and promiscuity.  It's a cycle that feeds off itself.  "Of course two hot people should get each other off, why wouldn't they?  Hey, what's your problem?  I'm just trying to get my rocks off here, you know you want it..."

Amazingly, my fairly straightforward posit here has been met with bewilderment and consternation from some of my usually more thoughtful liberal friends.  I honestly don't think what I've said here that is out of line or incorrect.  I realize that my train of thought, especially on this blog, can be a bit convoluted - but I hardly think my views on sex are controversial.

I guess I'm really going out on a limb saying that Hollywood works very hard at de-valuing sex as a signifier of commitment and works just as hard at holding it up as a mere diversion to be enjoyed freely and at leisure by any two (or more) consenting adults in just about any circumstance.   Who knew I was so radical?

This Hollywood approach results in such stupid statements as "teach your son not to rape".   As if you're saying, "remember Billy,  when you take that puppy out for a walk, don't vivisect it with a butchers knife'. I mean really, if you have to tell your kid not to rape, my guess is that kid has some pretty serious issues.

No, my dad didn't tell me not to rape.  But he did tell me to honor women and treat them with respect.  And he taught me, both with words and by example, that to be a man means to watch out for and be concerned for the safety and virtue of women.  It is in fact, a man's job to protect women.  Crazy I know.  Protect them - not just hold a door open, not just let them get off the elevator first.  Yes, all that common courtesy stuff, but much more important is to be vigilant, not only for one's own behavior and impulses, but for the casual cruelty and demeaning words and behavior of other men.

This means that the young men today who go out to the nightclub and see it as the Serengeti, a place for conquests - are not being men.  They are exhibiting predatory behavior, even if every single female that they take home is stone cold sober and 100% willing - they are failing in their manhood.   They are diminishing the fairer sex for a chance at a piece of flesh, and they are diminishing themselves in their simplistic lust that serves no purpose other than temporary gratification.

I believe we need a cultural re-set in what it means to be a man.  To be man is to be ready to fight to protect women, to protect their honor, their virtue, and their physical safety.  If you're a young man and at a club and a beautiful young woman is drunk and kissing you and begs you to go back to her place; you can take her there...  and put her in bed and take off her shoes and tuck her in and turn out the light and take your ass home.  That is being a man.

Conversely, we need to encourage women to stop emulating the predators.  My heart breaks for a beautiful and (mostly) smart young woman who heads out to a club or a bar with her friends and in the back of her mind hopes to 'get lucky' and go home with some hot dude.  She must know that most guys who would bang a stranger are failing in their roles as men, right?  And does she understand that this kind of behavior will not lead to anything meaningful beyond a momentary orgasm (maybe, though unlikely with a guy who is selfish enough to bone a stranger) or lifelong genital warts (most probably with a guy who is selfish enough to bone a stranger).

I also live on planet earth, and I understand that biological urges and selfishness are tough nuts to crack, so to speak - but I really would hope that the lessons I laid out in the first paragraph here are not the ones that people are taking away from this whole mess.

We are not going to stop bad behavior with anything less than good behavior.  The solution to vice is virtue - not a squishy (so to speak) stance on sex.

It's time for us to step back and reexamine our values - maybe it really isn't the best idea that sex can be casual, 'as basic as breakfast' or some other such nonsense.   Sex should be sacred, ideally within the confines of marriage, but failing that at the very least as an intimate bond between two people that love each other.

It's probably a pie in the sky, but I can't help but hope that we can stop diminishing the physical act of love and start stepping back and recognize that the emotional and the physical are actually forever connected and should not and cannot be separated.  If you lay down with someone you just met with nothing in your heart and a single goal of sating lust, you are feeding into the pattern of behavior that eventually gave us Weinstein.

Man or woman, you should feel shame and regret if you simply 'bang' some hottie that you don't know or only know for a few dates and then never call them.  The walk of shame when someone sneaks out in the morning so as not to wake the stranger they just coupled with should apply to everyone regardless of gender, because you are enabling the idea that sex is cheap, that sex is like a slice of pizza - and this concept is why so many are comfortable leveraging their power for that slice.   Throw in a product like the one Hollywood makes, tv shows and movies where protagonists routinely have one night stands and we all laugh about it, and you have the perfect recipe for the Brett Ratner's of the world.

I hope you dear reader, don't take away from this that we should all be chaste and silenced on the subject of sex.  On the contrary, I much prefer folks to be open and honest about doing the deed - and I actually think sex is amazing and awesome and I have a very healthy libido.  But I think it's okay to say  "Having sex with a stranger, or someone I've just been dating for a few weeks,  or even perhaps a bit longer - is probably not a good idea. In fact, it's a really bad idea.  Yes, it would feel really good - but lots of things feel really good - eating several banana splits every day would feel awesome, but in the end it would take a very heavy toll."    

I think it's also okay to allow yourself to look at someone that is physically attractive, appreciate it inwardly and acknowledge your own biological urges, and then remember what really matters - that this hottie was and is someone's baby, they are young and vibrant and full of life and they have that entire life ahead of them.  Hopes, dreams, and yes desires.  Desires that God willing will be fulfilled by a caring, committed and loving partner.  

And if you're married or in a relationship, then the next thought is - THAT PARTNER WON'T BE ME because I'm very lucky, I've found a partner to share my life with.  It doesn't mean you can't admire someone, for all of their appealing traits, physical and otherwise.  But you are obligated to do so in a way that would never ever cause that person discomfort.  Dig deep for that empathy, put yourself in their shoes - they are young, healthy, smart and beautiful.  That's awesome.  Why would you ever want to turn that into something ugly and superficial?  That isn't love that's building up inside you, that's biology, and it is our obligation to recognize that quickly and set that aside and replace it with kindness, compassion and understanding of the most plutonic kind.

Of course we are all only human, we aren't dead, and the beast inside of us will always be there, lurking.  But I think it's a lot easier to deal with when we recognize all the forces in the world that are at work to awaken it.   The character Joey on the tv show Friends has had sex with literally HUNDREDS of women.  This is mainstream entertainment.  This is something we are encouraged to laugh at and also weirdly enough admire.  But truly, this kind of behavior in real life is abhorrent.  Actually, it's predatory.  

Let's recognize that the sexual mores of Hollywood are not what we should take to heart - we should instead stop and say "Maybe drilling everything that moves is a terrible idea." And maybe, just maybe, if we all pull together on this, we can perhaps change things a little bit.  I'm not saying that we need to have a sexless culture - certainly athletically fit and gorgeous men and women in revealing outfits don't need to disappear, I think we can all still enjoy a bit of eye candy now and again and be comfortable with ourselves as a species - but it's the more insidious stuff, the casual fornication that abounds in all of the narrative work across media, that needs to be called out more often for what it is, a slippery slope that inevitably leads to degredation and diminishment.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Morris Day and The HAIM

A few months ago I was indulging in that great time suck known as the internet, reading yet another article about Prince and his passing and the hole it has left in the lives of those who loved him.

It was an interview with Morris Day who was about to perform on the Grammys (I think) along with Bruno Mars in tribute to the great purple one.

In the interview one of the questions was about a recent performance by The Time on Jimmy Kimmel  where they were 'mashed-up' with another band called Haim. I knew about these mash-up segments, where two bands got together to combine songs and/or other elements of their act.  Most memorable for me was the OK Go-Go's (a combination of Ok Go and The Go-Go's), good stuff.

However, I had never heard of Haim.

Morris' answer to the question intrigued me. He said how happy he was that 'the girls' didn't even need to rehearse the choreography because they already knew it, being big fans of The Time.  Well that's cool, I thought, and I checked out the video.

Very fun performance.  I liked how the tall blond member of the band did the entire side-step/slide-step part of the dance (not easy).  So of course I had to search on YouTube just for the band Haim by itself.

I could not have been more shocked and blown away.  This was the first video I watched.

For me, this band is one of the most incredible musical discoveries I've made in a long long time.

I love how they sound so different, and yet they are very grounded in rock n' roll.   I also love how it's immediately apparent that they are not simply a 'girl group' (whatever that is) but a real honest to God super talented band that has clearly done the work; meaning they may have appeared out of nowhere for people like me and most of their fans, but it is so evident in their musicianship that they have been playing for a long, long, LONG time.

I knew this about 30 seconds into their David Letterman performance.  I knew that their young age belied their experience - that they had to have grown up in a very musical household.  Their looks gave away that they were sisters, or at the very least cousins.  I quickly searched for info and quickly came up with their story which is fantastic.

Their mother was a singing contestant on the Gong Show back in the 70's and won, their father was a drummer and music lover.   His last name was Haim.  He collected instruments and taught the girls basically from the time they could walk to play.  They spent most of their childhood playing gigs with their parents in a band they called RockinHaim.   When they weren't gigging, they were playing in their living room.

A similar path as another great family group that I love, one whose sound could not be more different, The Corrs.  But these girls are not from Ireland, they're from Van Nuys!  The more I read and saw, the happier I got.  I love stories like this, raw talent that has been honed over the years and then explodes and simply by being super super good, the music gets to be shared with the world.

Then I watched this video.

Absolutely blown away by their talent and sound.  Love the concussive/percussive vocals.  Love the unorthodox drum-lines.  Love the energy, love the joy that these young women radiate playing together as sisters and sharing their gift with such a large venue.  Very, very, very cool.

So weirdly enough, there's a large part of me that's grateful that Prince died.  If he didn't, who knows if I would've stumbled across this band.  They're pretty big in the States, but even bigger in Europe.  But that doesn't mean I would necessarily listen to them or know who they were.  There's lots of popular music these days that I'm very unaware of - simply because my life is full and my interests are quite varied.

Of the three sisters -

Este is the oldest.  The bass player who's as famous for her 'bass face' (endless contortions and expressions) when she plays as she is for playing well.

Danielle is the middle kid - and clearly the one with the most natural born talent.  Turns out she's not only a world class guitar player and song writer but could play drums professionally for any band as well - and she did for a time.  All three sisters have very interesting back stories in terms of what they did musically in their adolescence.  Danielle played with several other groups for a time, some of them very successful.    Thank goodness she came back to her sisters.

Alana is the youngest, sometimes called Baby Haim, and always has a sparkle in her eye on stage - of the three she often seems like she's the one having the most fun.  She plays guitar and keys.

There are also two guys in the band who tour with them - Dash Hutton drums, he is descended from rock royalty - his dad was/is a seminal member of Three Dog Night.  His skills are incredible and a good match for the girls.  (Recently Dash left Haim to join a band of his own and was replaced by another capable drummer who I haven't read up on yet.).  Not sure who the keyboard player is, but he's still with Haim, and he always seems to be having a great time on stage with them.  Good gig guys.

So after enjoying Haim on the YouTubes for awhile, I finally got around to listening to their record.  The sound was a bit disappointing - very well produced, but a little bit too electronic for my tastes.  Still, you can tell that a ton of work went into the recordings as well - so in that regard they don't disappoint at all.

Somewhere along the way to becoming a fan boy, I realized that all of this stuff with Haim happened in 2013.  They toured through 2015, but then they took a break (interrupted with occasional odd gigs) and eventually they got back into the studio.

They have a new album that just came out, and it's pretty fantastic.  Musically it definitely has stepped it up a notch - though I'm a sucker for the more conventional pop hooks on the first record.  Here's a sample of one of the more esoteric songs, that's actually very powerful - dig the Bavarian harmonies!  (Seriously, that's what Este studied in college and brings to the group on this song and others).

Notice also that they all rock it on the drums - that was the first instrument they all learned to play from Pappa Haim.   Very cool.

Here's another new track, this one more conventional and snappy.  This is the stuff I like the mostest.

In my opinion you can NEVER go wrong adding horns to the mix, and really, more horns ALWAYS makes music better.

So yes, I'm in love.  In love with this great band and their talent, and the story behind their musicianship.  I can't wait to catch them live - they are doing a show in August in Long Beach.  Unfortunately it's one of those festivals so if I go I'll have to figure out how to avoid a long stretch with a band or bands that suck.  True, they might all be good - but I'm old and cranky so more than likely the other bands will suck.  Also, I'll have to put up with standing and general admission.  Boo.  Yes, I'm old.

If I go, either to that show or one down the road, I'll report back.  Until then, I'll leave you with this, another song from the new record.  I dig the song but I love this video, shot in Van Nuys on Ventura Blvd. at what I'm presuming was 5 in the morning - either that or they spent a ton of money closing off the streets.  Enjoy.

Okay turns out they did close the streets - at 4 in the morning on a Sunday.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

To what end?

So the hysteria continues.  Since Trump took office it has been a non-stop emergency of the highest order for the Dems and their supporters.  Every week, nay, almost every day - there is another catastrophe.  And another.  And another.   This is a tragic day for our country.  Every day.  Another scandal, each one bigger than the last.  Another Watergate.

Insert eye roll here.

Really, it's been 117 days, and every day I guess is the end of the world.   I'm exhausted.  And I'm also bemused.  It would also actually be hysterical if it wasn't so pathetic.

Look, I'm still not the biggest fan of Trump personally.  His style and regular tone deafness to the world around him do grate on me quite a bit.  But my discomfort over his no filter approach has now been pushed to the bottom of my concerns in the face of the unhinged left.  A group that has grown exponentially since the Donald's election.

Growing up in Berkeley, I have a good amount of friends who are super hard core liberal - their default position when a republican is in office is "impeach immediately".  So this approach is not new to me at all.  They said it under Reagan and both Bushes, and of course they are saying it now.

But I am worried now that it just isn't my far lefty friends, it's also a lot of the regular liberals that I know.  Once reasonable, usually thoughtful left of center folks who all of the sudden have drifted towards the fringe - or rather, the fringe maybe has drifted towards them.

This is a real shame.

It's a shame because they would normally say, and I would agree - that a president's success is our success and a president's failure is a failure for all of us.

When Obama was in office - I despised pretty much everything about the way he ran the country.  I detested his limp foreign policy, his apologetic approach to other countries and his seeming inability to take action like, ever.  Domestically he also was a disaster, not only for his business killing fiscal policies but also injecting racialism into every single newsworthy occurrence. In 8 years he exponentially worsened race relations with his cavalier proclamations and ill chosen words over events that he often had no clue about.

And yet, as much as I thought he was incompetent, as much as I thought he was the most ineffectual president in over half a century, I bore no ill will towards him as a person and not once did it enter my mind that he should be impeached.

Being a shitty president is not nearly reason enough to damage our country by forcibly removing him from office.  Not nearly.

My love of my country and respect for the office of the president trumps (see what I did there) my distaste for policy decisions and leadership styles.  I couldn't stand Obama, but I understood that for the greater good that he had to be respected and his presidency preserved.

Today there is a complete absence of this basic tenant on a good amount of the left.  "Impeach" come hell or high-water, no matter what.

And what exactly then?  Trump goes away, then you have Pence - someone who is a hell of a lot more conservative than Trump.  By a lot.

If you manage somehow to dispose of Pence as well, then you have Ryan.  Another true blooded conservative, born of the tea party and very much set on his principles.

Do you remove him as well?  How far down the rabbit hole are you willing to drag our country to get what you want?

Better question - how much are you willing to alienate half the country to get what you want?

Reality check - Trump isn't getting impeached any time soon.  I've already done the 'cry wolf' blog post about this simple fact, but I am noting it here again for the record so I can reach the inevitable conclusion of this road that many liberals are determined to go down.

Hatred of the president has exceeded their love of country.   This has to be true.   There is no point in screaming 'impeach' every 10 seconds unless you want to see the USA fundamentally transformed to the point where the Conservative party is obliterated by any means necessary and we have a one party system.

Rather than recognize that half the country found Obama unbearable, and the election in November was a consequence of this - a plurality (and perhaps a majority) of liberals have decided that Trump has to go, regardless of consequence, regardless of logic or truth because feelings.

My dear friend DSR, the often lauded and often published professional writer, has a new article out that lays out a victory strategy for the Dems in 2018.  I am happy to see this, as this is the way to go for someone who loves his country - show your displeasure with leadership at the ballot box, not with riots and relentless calls for impeachment.

But alas, for him, the strategy he puts down is a surefire roadmap for a GOP sweep two years from now.  People will not vote for new blood just because the current leaders are crummy - the new blood has to sell themselves as a viable alternative.  They can't rely on pointing out how lousy the incumbent is.  Hillary tried it and failed.   Every time we saw her delightful face she was ranting about The Donald.

She never said how she was going to bring jobs back, she never said how she was going to make things better.  But yes, she did hate on Trump in a major way.   Managed to convince many of us to vote for him because at least he mixed in a good amount of hope with his Hilary bashing.

If the Dems want to have any chance at all in 2018 (for the record, my prediction right now is that they have NONE) they have to start harping on why they are the better alternative.

So far Trump has done a ton of stuff that conservatives love.   Gorsuch plus a hundred new federal judges, de-regulating bloated government departments, down-sizing them as well, pushing a repeal and replace of the disastrous Obamacare and preparing for sweeping tax reform that includes massive cuts for job creators and the middle class.  Not to mention swift action against Syria.

If the Dems want to have any hope for 2018, they have to figure out how to reach out to rust belt voters and convince them that they can do even better for tax relief, how they can specifically fix their beloved Obamacare and why they are the best choice for leading the free world abroad.

I'm not holding my breath.