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    Saturday, December 19, 2015

    Format Thoughts

    If I am going to be using this more, I really need to update the visual format.

    Bernie Stans and the Disconnect from Reality

    So, when the seriousness of what the Sanders’ staffers did finally sinks in, will Bernie Stans: A - Admit that the campaign did something incredibly wrong and deserved to have access temporarily suspended until it complied with the request for information; B - Completely ignore the fact that four separate staffers conducted 25 searches of Clinton data throughout early primary states in order to obtain information that would help the Sanders campaign and that the Sanders campaign manager made claims about Clinton staff accessing data that he had to immediately retract because he admitted he had no knowledge whatsoever of such a breach occurring; or C - Continue with the persecution complex and delusional fantasies? I’m going with C, because that seems to be the Bernie Stans response to any information that is the least bit critical of Bernie, a man who continues to prove that even if there were no other issues disqualifying him from the office – and there are a ton of other issues disqualifying him from the office – his temperament alone makes him fundamentally unsuited to be president. 

    Friday, December 18, 2015

    My Fantastic Four Thoughts

    I love the Fantastic Four. The first Marvel comics I got were Fantastic Four comics, and those early issues are still among the pride of my comic collection. I came to this movie completely invested in these characters. I also came to this movie fully aware of the reaction to it.

    The first 60-70 minutes of this film are good. Really good. Not good in a ‘better than expected’ way, but good. It’s not necessarily my Fantastic Four, but it is legitimately A Fantastic Four. (My main complaint with Man of Steel is that it isn’t a Superman movie. It’s a movie featuring some character with powers like Superman.) Yes, there are some things I would change – more Ben Grimm between the time he takes Reed to the Baxter Building and the time Reed calls him to take part in the experiment; make Susan an active participant in the trip instead of removing her agency from her; and for God’s sake, while you need to have Reed and Doom linked, you don’t need to have Doom get his powers at the same time as the Four. But that’s the difference between the first two acts of the film being really good and the first two acts of the film being great.

    Unfortunately, the film has three acts.

    The last act of the film is as bad as the first two acts are good. As with anything, it doesn’t matter how good it opens – it matters how good it closes. And this, well, this does not close well. There’s final act is an extended generic action sequence, except most of the action has been replaced with bad exposition. The action that is there is basically bad CGI. Any sense that these four characters are a family (and that is the element that sets the Fantastic Four apart) is lost. Yes, the narrative is about how they’ve moved apart and then they come back together as part of the final battle, but that’s told to you, it isn’t shown.

    It’s hard to say who owns this failure. The first two acts seem to clearly be Trank’s film. The final act seems to be the studio stepping in because they didn’t get what Trank was doing. Or maybe it’s just that Trank’s script fell apart at the end. Maybe he didn’t know how to end it so the studio jumped in. It will be a nice story to read when it eventually all comes out.

    I liked this film, far more than I thought I would. I liked the beginning a lot, enough to make me really dislike the wasted potential. This could have been a great film. Even with the ending, I would have been willing to watch another Fantastic Four movie with these characters. 

    Sunday, December 06, 2015

    Bernie Bros to the Rescue!

    Salon is having an internal contest to see which of its Bernie Bro columnists can write the stupidest piece. This is in the running. It is always - ALWAYS - the case that the people who make the 'Maybe it needs to get worse' argument are people WHO WILL NOT SUFFER IF IT GETS WORSE!!!!! There's enough white male privilege in this piece to choke a herd of elephants.

    There are a ton of reasons not to support Bernie Sanders and though the arrogance, idiocy, misogyny, and racism of a HUGE CHUNK of his supporters isn't the most important reason not to support him, it is a big part of why I support him to win the nomination. (It's interesting to me how this is a mirror of 2008. In 2008, the PUMAs turned off a lot of Democratic voters and help drive them to support Obama instead of Clinton. In 2016, the Bernie Bros are turning off a lot of Democratic voters and helping to drive them to support Clinton instead of Sanders.)

    But here's the thing. Despite the fact that I think he would stand no chance of winning if he gets the nomination (he'd be eaten alive in a debate with Trump and we would all have the pleasure of seeing commercials crying 'Socialist!' 24/7, particularly if he doesn't change his stance on financing and he runs out of funds in mid-September), despite the fact that I think he would be an absolute disaster as president (the man's signature accomplishment in 27 years of being in the House and the Senate is that he never changed his party affiliation - there isn't one piece of legislation he can point to and say 'Me! That happened because of me!' and just look at the hissy fit he and his campaign threw when CBS wanted to change the opening of the last debate from the economy to terrorism - being able to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances is one of the most important qualities needed in a president, and he has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks that ability, not to mention that he has repeatedly shown that the slightest bit of criticism sends him flying off the handle, and any Democratic president is going to get tons of criticism), I will vote for him if he is the Democratic nominee and support him if he is the president.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Sad News Part Two

    Peggynol’s Alaskan Gundog – aka Bobo, aka G-Dawg, aka G, aka Old Man, aka Handsome Boy, most commonly known as Gunner. 07/17/99 – 09/24/15

    As if the Magic news wasn’t bad enough, Gunner has also been deteriorating rapidly lately. Over the past year he has started having spells where he has no physical strength and he is mentally gone. They’re becoming more frequent and lasting longer, coming now at a pace of about one a week, lasting about a day. The one he had this last weekend was especially bad, and he’s only partially back. He’s quit eating and has great difficulty breathing.

    After a long talk with Lesa after I told her about my decision with regard to Magic, she suggested that maybe it was Gunner’s time too. My mother had suggested the same thing. I hated to agree, but I knew they were right. The vet is going to put Gunner to sleep at the same time he come for Magic.

    I’ve already explained what these dogs have meant to me, so rather than belaboring that, I’d like to share some of my favorite Gunner memories.

    I wasn’t there for this, but Lesa likes to tell how she chose Gunner. Or rather, Gunner chose her and Drew. A friend of Lesa’s was a breeder of Welsh Springer Spaniels who’s main dog had a litter. She told Lesa she could come pick out a dog. Drew was about 20 months old at the time, and was roaming around like toddlers do. The puppies ignored him, except for Gunner, who followed Drew around wherever he went. Lesa’s friend told her that Lesa didn’t have any choice in which puppy to choose because one puppy had already chosen them.

    Another memory I love is from a few years back. Springer Spaniels get their name from the way they approach game. They spring at birds, causing them to take flight. Bot Magic and Gunner are jumpers, but Gunner much more so than Magic. I had the dogs in the front yard one late spring day, and the birds in the oak tree were chattering at the dogs. One bird took to swooping down and buzzing them. It was coming in for another round when Gunner jumped at it, hitting it with his paw and knocking it out of the air. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. He wasn’t trying to hit the bird, he did it accidentally. He went running after the bird, but it was able to straighten itself out and take off before he got there.

    But my favorite Gunner memory is this: It took a couple of weeks after we brought Ethan home from the hospital before he would sleep in his crib at night. But once he did, Gunner slept beneath the crib every night til Ethan moved to a bed. It was as if he was saying to us ‘It’s okay, you get some sleep. I’ve got this.’

    I love both of these dogs so much. It’s only hours now til they’re both gone, at least from this physical plane of existence. (My father is going to have a lot on his hands when they join him in heaven.) I hope Gunner has had a good life, and that he knows how much he was loved and how much he will be missed. 

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Sad News Part One

    Samson’s Merry Magic – aka Circus Dog, aka Little Miss Magic, aka Dammit Magic!, aka Magic Stop!, aka Magic No!, aka Magic Don’t!, aka My Girlie Girl, most commonly known as Magic. 11/27/01 – 09/24/15

    Magic has had numerous medical difficulties, starting in July 2010 when I rushed her at night to Bright Eyes, Bushy Tails in Iowa City. She having trouble breathing, shaking, clearly in discomfort. She was there for four days, they having discovered that she was suffering both from Lyme Disease and a completely non-functioning thyroid.

    Approximately 14 months later, she collapsed while in the front yard. By then I was taking her to Farm and Family Vet in Victor. Dr. Cheney - a great, great vet - recognized that she had the symptoms of Addison's Disease, a disease vets so rarely catch that they call it the Great Imposter due to it presenting as several different diseases. There is only one treatment, and she started on it as soon as tests confirmed that's what she had. For the last several years, I've spent about $140 a month on meds, an amount I'd gladly spend forever. Unfortunately, time had other plans. 

    Magic had a small stroke the night we had off before we opened Death of a Salesman at ICM. She had a major stroke the week after the show closed.

    The stroke really affected her balance and her sense of direction. It didn’t help that she was already nearly blind. Dr. Cheney said that if she didn’t begin to recover within the first two weeks of the stroke, she wouldn’t recover at all.  I spent the end of May and the first part of June thinking any day would be the day I would have to make the decision to have her put to sleep. But she gradually recovered a lot of her abilities. Not all. She couldn’t climb the steps to the bed anymore, meaning I have had to lift her onto the bed. She also never was able to walk in a straight line, meaning no more running free outside. She seemed to like being on the leash after that, though. I imagine it made her feel safer, knowing someone was there near her.

    I worried that she wouldn’t make it through the summer, that I would need to say goodbye while Ethan was still here. But she made it through, and was still doing okay til a couple of weeks ago. That’s when I noticed her ability to walk at all was deteriorating. Shortly after that she began having trouble standing, and most recently trouble breathing at times.

    English Springer Spaniels always look sad. That’s their thing. But there’s a light in their eyes, a spark behind the sadness. This past weekend I realized the spark had gone. She seemed tired, weary. I had silently promised her that when she was ready to go, I would do the right thing and not hold on to her for my sake. So today I called the vet, and made the arrangements. He’s going to come here on Thursday, and that will be it.

    I’m writing this with a broken heart. She has been my constant companion since Lesa and I got her in January 2002. I have spent more time with her over these 13+ years that I have with any other living creature, even Gunner (who was with Lesa in Pennsylvania for about half a year). Magic fit in a baseball cap when we first got her, and now, as I tease her when I have to lift her upstairs on onto the bed, she’s a ‘heavy heavy dog’. I love her.

    I cannot overstate how much she, and Gunner, have meant to me. I went through some very dark times when Lesa took the boys out east. There was a good three year period where I felt so meaningless, so insubstantial that a breeze could have carried me away. Many was the night on the way home, especially after Ethan had just left here to go back to Pennsylvania, where I was tempted to just keep driving until the money ran out and just start over someplace else, with no contact with anyone I knew. Magic, and Gunner, stopped me from doing that. They were my anchor, my tether to this life, my sanity. I don’t need them for that anymore, fortunately, but that doesn’t make the pain any less acute.

    She’s laying on the floor right now beside me, licking my feet as she likes to do. Of course this has been one of the rare recent days where she seems engaged with life. But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter what I do, she’s not long for this world, and I’d rather let her go out on good days, with dignity, then prolong it. I owe her that.

    I can only hope she’s enjoyed her life, that she knows how loved she has been and will always be. She will always be a part of me. 

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Required Reading on Race

    Racists React To Things Are Just Passive White Supremacy by David Brothers is one of the most important things I’ve read in the past couple of years. I read it at the time it was posted, and have come back to it several times since then, including recently after seeing the response from Sanders supporters to Black Lives Matters activists. This piece, along with Coates’ The Case for Reparations, has shaped my thinking about racial issues. Here’s two pretty key passages:

     The racism this story depicts is binary. It’s on or off, is you is or is you ain’t this racist, and that encourages the idea that racism isn’t something you personally do or are. It’s something other people do. You don’t do that, right? So you aren’t racist!

    But any colored folk can tell you that’s not how racism works. Everybody is a little racist. There are hundreds of learned reactions to different groups of people to unlearn, not to mention the areas of society where racist sentiment is implicit instead of explicit, like zoning laws or the prison industrial complex or the war on drugs. It’s in all of us. We’re gonna have to live with that racism until we fix it and our selves, and viewing racism as a binary personality choice doesn’t allow for that.

    That’s why people react so strongly to being called “racist” when they say something totally racist or suspect, or their work being called “racist,” or occasionally even just hearing the word “racist” in like a fifteen meter radius or something and their “I’m Not A Racist!” alarm goes off. They aren’t like those people, no, not at all. Their personal definition doesn’t allow for internalized racism. Which is adorable. (Emphasis in the original)

    and later

    Things go around online occasionally that make people go “This is what racism looks like.” Sometimes it’s a young black male being shot down by an old white man, sometimes it’s a burning cross. It’s true: those are often indicative of racism. But by that level of racism is seen as the only level of racism. “Hey, this dialogue you wrote–that’s kinda racially suspect, isn’t it?” isn’t a personal attack, but every time I say it, no matter how hard I try and soften the blow (and I spent years pulling punches and getting blown up at anyway), somebody gets mad because their personal definition doesn’t allow for any type of racism, even accidental or incidental or institutional.

    Racism is intentional and unintentional, and that’s why looking at race like a binary proposition sets up ideas that end up hurting everybody in the end. You have to be willing to accept that a little of the poison is in you, too, if you want to understand why these ideas persist after all this time and in so many different areas of our life. (Emphasis mine)

    Read the whole thing. It’s a wonderful piece of writing. (And read The Case for Reparations as well.) 

    Thursday, July 09, 2015

    Donald Trump is Leading the Republican Presidential Candidates at the Moment


    *pause for air*


    No, sorry, this is a sad commentary on the nature of low-information Republican primary voters who have time and time again been proven to have the least amount of knowledge of both current affairs and historical trends and the way the party has leaned over backwards to pander to them and to encourage them and to deny reality and instead turn partisanship into a goal that insists on Republicans supporting the most insane possible policy positions and ultimately it's not good to have one party living in a fantasy world where things like tax cuts for the rich and starving the federal government help the economy as opposed to the real world with real history and real evidence where a higher level of taxation and higher rates of government spending have, in each and every historical period where they take place in our country's history, have actually driven the economy to its highest possible levels and


    (pausing again for air)

    Anyway, although God loves me, God doesn't love me so much that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. But man, he is reinforcing how out of touch the Republican party is with mainstream american thoughts and beliefs and oh is he killing any Republican Latino support for the near future, therefore ensuring that we'll see President Hilary Clinton voted into office next year.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    On The Proper Care And Handling Of Infants

    If you bring an infant to a baseball game - and seriously, who the hell brings an infant to a baseball game? - and a ball comes your way, and you do ANYTHING with your body other than shield your infant in such a way to make absolutely certain the ball can't hit your infant, but ESPECIALLY if you wrap your arm around the infant's chest and hold said infant without support so you can try to catch a ball THAT'S STILL IN THE FIELD OF PLAY, then you are a shitty father and you should get a visit from Child Protective Services. You should not have the clip of said CATCH WHILE NEARLY CHOKING YOUR CHILD aired all over ESPN and other outlets while the announcers make jokes about it. We're calling Child Protective Services on parents, usually it's unfortunate but important to point out on poorer black and brown parents, who let their kids play outside, sometimes OUTSIDE THEIR OWN HOUSE. Let's call Child Protective Services on this white dude who is wealthy enough to get box seats at the remodeled Wrigley who ENDANGERED HIS KID'S LIFE ON TV.

    (And before someone whines out a 'Why you gotta bring race into it?', I'm not bringing race into it. I'm pointing out that race is an important element of why people, generally speaking but not always white people, call Child Protective Services on children, generally speaking but not always brown and black children, who are playing outside unattended. If you think race isn't a huge part of that, you're either naive as fuck or in denial.)