Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Guide to the Halloween Movie Franchise

Here's my take on the Halloween movie franchise. Keep in mind, the ratings are genre-specific, and don't necessarily apply to other movies in general.

Image from Wikipedia
Halloween (1978) - John Carpenter struck gold with the original in the series. He created the faceless killing machine (Michael Myers), the "you're dead if you have sex/drink/party/do drugs" horror cliche. And Carpenter's score for the film is amazingly creepy. Easily the best in the series, in fact the best of the genre. And Jamie Lee Curtis was fantastic, as was Donald Pleasence. ****

Halloween II (1981) - Picks up immediately after part one, and holds very close to the tone and the quality. More gore, more violence and more inventive kills are a consequence of the other (copycat) slasher pix being made at the time, and the reason many dislike this entry. Curtis and Pleasence still are in top form, and Michael Myers seems to utterly meet his end. In fact, unless you're fanwanking, you can't really explain his later resurrection. Also notable for the fantastic soundtrack, an improvement on the original. Great to have on the stereo to creep out the trick-or-treaters. ***

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) - The creators decided to drop the storyline, and try a different sort of Halloween movie, which was pretty good, but disappointed most fans. It had nothing to do with the previous films, other than the producers, and similar eerie music. Had it been successful, there were supposed to be other unrelated, Halloween-themed movies in the series. The film had one of the coolest logos in the whole series, as seen in the image on the right. **
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) - They went back to the original story (and dropped the roman numerals), which continued the storyline of Michael Myers, and ignored the ending of the second movie, where Michael Myers clearly died. The great thing about Halloween 4 was that the characters reacted like normal people--trying to get the heck out of dodge--and died anyway. Very close to the tone of the first two, and a great performance by Pleasence. ***

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) - OK, but weaker than the previous films. Continues the storyline from part 4, but adds a psychic angle, shifting the tone of the series. **

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) They dropped the number, and tried to add new elements that weren't in the previous films (Michael was a Druid?). The series was running out of steam. *
Halloween: H20 (1989) - 20 years into the franchise, this entry tried to reinvigorate the storyline. Donald Pleasence had died, but Jamie Lee Curtis was back, and parts 4, 5 and 6 were pretty much ignored. They even brought in Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis' real mother, and star of Psycho). H20 was an improvement, but the concept was really running on fumes. **

Dreadful. From Wikipedia.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002) - The less said about part 8, the better. It attempts to update the series for the internet era. Not an improvement. Don't bother. *

Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007) - This film was ultimately unnecessary, as the original was impossible to top. The attempt to reboot the series, and bring it into the 21st century isn't a total misfire, but is kind of pointless. As far as remakes go, it isn't bad.  Malcolm McDowell does an okay job as Loomis, but nobody can replace Jamie Lee Curtis.  **

Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009) - Terrible. That is all. Zero Stars

So, to sum up, if you want to see any of the films in this series, go for the original part I, probably part II, and if that isn't enough for you, part 4 and the first remake. Beware 6, 7 and 8 as well as the second remake, and only watch III for the curiosity factor. And there you have it. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Horrors: Razor Blade found in Candy in Reynoldsburg, Ohio (My Town)

Since I was little, back in the 70s (and for a long time before), there have been stories about tainted Halloween treats. Well-meaning neighbors would make caramel apples, popcorn balls and other homemade treats, only to have parents chuck them in the garbage, in the unlikely event that they contained needles, poisons, razor blades or other potentially  lethal items.

Everyone heard stories, but no one believed them. Parents would rifle through our candy sacks (usually a pillowcase), in the name of finding tears or needle pricks in the wrappers, but really just to steal the best chocolate. The rare occasions when there would be an actual case of tainted goodies would invariably turn out to be a hoax or a prank, either by a kid or a parent looking to scare people or garner attention. If you check out, they back me up on this.

But, especially after the Tylenol scare in the early 1980s, communities started changing Halloween. They'd have X-ray machines to run candy through, they'd hold mass indoor events instead of allowing trick-or-treating, they'd hold "trunk or treat" events, where kids got candy out of the backs of people's cars (and my, my, folks, doesn't that sound like a perfectly idiotic idea to teach kids?). A lot of over-the-top "safety" over a handful of mostly urban legends and hoaxes.

Well, last night it happened not only in the state of Ohio--where I recently returned after 20 years in Las Vegas--but right down the street from me. Seriously, we walk the area almost daily. It's a legit case, insofar as the Reynoldsburg police are treating it seriously, and there are actual photos of the Snickers bar with what looks like the razor blade from a disposable safety razor inside. But, I smell a rat. There was one piece of tainted candy found, period. That doesn't sound like a crazed lunatic trying to hurt people to me. It sounds like almost every other case like this, like a hoax or a prank gone too far. I'd lay money on it.

For the record: yes, central Ohio has "Beggars Nights," on various dates ahead of Halloween, a tradition dating back to the 1950s (with several origin theories). And no, I didn't pass out Snickers bars from my house, only Kit-Kats and Twix. Honest!


Reynoldsburg police: Razor blade found in Halloween candy

Reynoldsburg police are asking parents of children who trick-or-treated in the suburb to check all candy tonight, after a razor blade was found in a candy bar. Lt. Shane Mauger said police have no reason to believe the situation was a hoax. He said that the razor blade was in a Snickers bar. . .

Read more at: Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Horrors: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's Nightmare on MY Street

Here's one you may not have thought of in a while. If I remember right, Will Smith got in trouble from New Line Cinema for using the musical cues without permission. But I suppose that could all have been part of the publicity. Anyway, some YouTuber put together a nifty video to go with it, perhaps a trifle long, but if you are a Nightmare on Elm Street fan, you'll dig it.

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Guide to the Scream Franchise

More from the vaults, my take on the Scream movie series. Not the TV series, which I've yet to watch, but the original four films.


News has come out recently that Wes Craven's and Kevin Williamson's Scream movie franchise is coming to the small screen as an MTV series. Questions about why MTV has become what it has aside, that's good news if they manage to keep it in the same vein. The series influenced nearly every horror movie that has come since, if not within the films themselves, at least in the movie posters and DVD/Blu-ray box art. That lineup of attractive stars in front of a splashy logo, some drippy, bloody and/or torn looking graphic? Scream did that first. It spawned I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and countless other imitators, many (including Scream itself) with a string of sequels.

What set Scream apart from earlier slasher movies was a subversion of horror movie cliches, a winking "genre savvy"-ness by characters within the film, a writer that was raised on  pop culture (hell, he created Dawson's Creek), a mixture of humor and horror, and the biggest thing of all: known stars. In the old days, horror movies--especially the slasher type--might have a marginally known character actor (Hope Lange, John Saxon, Betsy Palmer), but were mostly stocked with a bunch of unknowns. Your Kevin Bacons and Johnny Depps became well known of course, but nobody knew them when they starred in the first Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, respectively. Scream started the trend of stocking a horror movie with a roster of up-and-coming young (typically very attractive) actors, often from hit teen TV shows. And all of this new stuff was put into the hands of the very capable Craven, creator of Nightmare and several other standout horror classics.

But Scream was a long time ago now. All of that novelty has been absorbed and trodden and retreaded to death by now. We've segued through (and passed?) torture porn like Hostel and the endless Saw series. Scream--often thought of as something of a horror parody itself--was parodied in the first of the also endless Scary Movie (which curiously was the working title of Scream) films. Indirectly, Scream is responsible for the horrible stream of parody "Movie" movies that came after. So the movie that started all of that, and its sequels, are now part of nostalgia, with a patina of prestige and respect. But, how do they hold up?

 [Here there may be minor spoilers]

Scream (1996) starts the ball rolling in a seemingly novel (but cribbed from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho) way, by killing off the seeming star of the flick early on. Neve Campbell turns out to be the central figure (the last girl, in slasher-speak), and she is aided by bitchy newswoman Courtney Cox and goofy cop, David Arquette. This sets up a sort of triad of stars that runs through all of the films, including the new one.  As in many old 80s slasher pics, the new murders happen one year after another terrible event. Not surprisingly, the events are related in obvious and not so obvious ways. The movie misdirects you into thinking several people could potentially be the killer, and also plainly directs you to doubt yourself. Along the way, several characters comment on the events as though they know that they are in a horror movie. They mostly die anyway. Nothing about the movie hints that there is an inevitible sequel.

Scream 2 (1997) picks up a couple of years later, with Neve's character now in college. Her genre savvy pal (Jamie Kennedy) is there with her, being one of the few to survive the first movie. Neve's got a hotty boyfriend (Jerry O'Connell) and new friends, and she's a budding actress in the college play. And then, suddenly people start dying again, seemingly at the hand of the same ghost-faced killer from the original story. The problem is, the original killer(s) died. Of course, in a horror movie, dead doesn't always mean really dead. Is it the same guy(s)? Is it the new boyfriend? The surviving pal? Goofy cop Dewey? Bitchy reporter Gale? Cotton (Liev Schrieber), the guy who almost got executed when Neve's Sydney character misidentified him? Or someone else? The answer(s) feel a little out of left field, or at least they did on my first viewing. But today, in context with just having watched the first movie, it didn't feel like such a bad fit. Not as good as part one, but pretty good.

Scream 3 (2000) looks and feels different, and indeed it is largely written by a different person. The setting has also changed from small town America to Hollywood. The movie-within-a-movie idea began in part 2, with Stab, a slasher picture based on Courtney Cox's character's tell-all book. Here, Stab 3 is in production, and much of the action takes place at the movie studio, which has rebuilt the original small town on a set. Movie in-jokes abound, such as "Jennifer Jolie" playing a version of Cox's reporter, and being told "sorry it didn't work out with Brad Pitt."  There are new characters, an old character that comes back (sort of) even though he's dead. And the killer still looks the same, but is a different person, that manages to tie in to the rest of the story.  By itself, Scream 3 is an enjoyable movie. But it suffers in comparison to the first two.  Also, Neve Campbell is at best a supporting player in this one, with Arquette and Cox (the latter with an atrocious hairdo) doing the heavy lifting.

Overall, they did a commendable job of tying the three films together. It stretches credulity a little, that the killer in the third movie motivated the killers of the first. Much like Back to the Future Part III, where they managed to create back story that worked, and Saw (from part 2 forward) where it got too convoluted, Scream 3 uses story elements from the first movie, and substantially rewrites what really happened, without contradicting anything. One thing I have to wonder though, is if they ever considered casting Neve's brother, Christian Campbell for the role that Scott Foley played? It would have been a very good fit, but might have given away the ending too easily.

Scream 4 (2011) - I'll confess that "SCRE4M" doesn't stay with you as well as the first three, maybe because I haven't had repeated watchings over years. But here are my impressions: it manages to keep the same flavor of the first three while bringing it into the modern day. It develops some new characters should there be further sequels (unless the series makes that all moot). And it manages to surprise and delight, very much like the first one did. I think it accomplished what it set out to do, but was just a little bit underwhelming. It's certainly worth a view, and a must if you liked the first three.

Scream: highly recommended
Scream 2: highly recommended
Scream 3: if you liked the first two
Scream 4: a must if you liked what came before

(Unfortunately) Old News: Dick Cheney to Be Charged in Halliburton Corruption?

UPDATED TO ADD: Unfortunately, schadenfreude can make you too excited to notice that an article is old. Daggone it. For whatever reason, this story--at a legit site--came up today as though it was new. And I got all twitterpated, and published before I realized it. I almost struck the post, just deleted it into the ether. But you know what? It's Halloween time, and there's nothing scarier than Dick Cheney. So, I'll leave it up, and we can go on wishing that this (or something) would come to pass.


Schadenfreude. According to Merriam-Webster:
noun, scha·den·freu·de often capitalized \ˈshä-dən-ˌfrȯi-də\ 
: a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
A pretty horrible thing, ordinarily, right? But in certain contexts, for certain, specific people? Maybe not so bad. Certainly not in the case of my feelings for Dick Cheney. Of all of the odious people in or
associated with the George W. Bush administration, Cheney would be at the top of my list for
 "people I'd punish if I had super powers." I don't know if I'd banish him to a hell dimension, transport him to a planet of horrible smells, strand him at the bottom of a pit filled with vermin, or some other creative punishment, but I'd come up with something. Nothing lethal, mind you, just something horrible and preferably gross.
Image from source, Christian Science Monitor

Barring that? The greybar hotel would be so very nice. I mean, I know this thing is coming from Nigeria, and that Darth Cheney won't likely ever come to justice, but a guy can dream.

Dick Cheney to be charged in $180-million Halliburton bribery case

Nigeria's anti-corruption police said on Thursday they planned to file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in a $180 million bribery case involving a former unit of oil services firm Halliburton. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday summoned the country chief of Halliburton and last week detained 10 Nigerian and expatriate Halliburton staff for questioning after raiding its Lagos office. . .

Read more at: Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Horrors: Rating the Horror Remakes

Reruns, kids, reruns of my annual horror movie guides, which have grown voluminous over the years. I even had a Blast from the Past featuring many of the movie trailers for these remakes (and their originals). You see can that here (hopefully, most are still live). And if you're interested in watching any of the full movies on Halloween night, read on. . .


I've finally over the last year or so, gotten to viewing a slew of the new remakes and reboots of classic horror films.  There have been quite a few, and some are better (or worse) than others. Here's a handy guide for you, to help you out with your holiday video viewing.  (*Star ratings are for within-the-genre only)

Greenlee Gazette Modern Horror Remakes Guide

The Thing (2011) - This one is almost brand new, having only been around for a couple of weeks. Apparently it isn't tearing up the box office records, but then neither did the 1982 installment. If you liked the original, I can't see why you wouldn't like this one. There is no big Kurt Russell-type star. But it's basically the 1982 version, spruced up, and with improved effects. It has genuine suspense, and in some ways is more satisfying than the original one was. And if you hate the cold? You'll have a little more to shiver about. The 2011 Thing is more gooey, and more gross, so of course I recommend this one. Be sure to watch through the end credits. Something happens there that could potentially make this one inappropriate for this list. But whatever. ***

Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007) - If there was ever a horror series that needed a change, it was Halloween. Though the original is an all-time classic, and there are a few enjoyable sequels sprinkled in there, the last three sequels run the gamut from bad to worse.  But Zombie's reboot of the franchise isn't promising. The movie itself is fine, and if it had no legend to live up to might be rated higher.  It is tied to the previous series--interestingly enough--by having the star of parts 4 and 5 as one of the actors.  But you won't be scared by this one, and anything promising for a new series is trashed by the immediate Halloween II remake, which is bizarre and confusing, trying too hard to shoehorn in supernatural elements.  You could certainly do worse, but you can do so much better by renting or buying the original.  **  (Sequel: No *)

Friday the 13th (2009) - This reboot had no real legend to live up to.  The Friday the 13th series is an interesting mixture of nostalgia and "so bad, it's good" in the pantheon of horror, and literally couldn't be wrecked.  Also, Jason Voorhees' character and back-story were already muddled, and continuity between editions was so loose, re-starting the story is no big deal.  You might call it more of a ret-con than a reboot. Anyway, this is by far the highest quality, best produced edition of the series.  You've never seen such clarity and crispness in a Friday film, which were usually muddy and dark.  Acting is better than the original series, and the effects are fun.  This is really a remake of Part 2 of the original series, which was one of the better ones, and it's really not bad.  They fleshed out Voorhees' background, adding in a couple of odd elements, neither improving or detracting much from what we know. It has a few surprises, and a couple of jolts. But scary? Not so much.  More fun than later Friday sequels (except for maybe Freddy vs. Jason). Amazingly, this film still doesn't explain why Jason's mother thought he was dead, how he survived, or why he was there to witness his mother's death!  Any future sequel would play like an extension of the first series, rendering the reboot kind of moot.  ***
Image from Wikipedia

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - This one had me the most worried, going in.  The original Nightmare is an undisputed classic. Sure it was low-budget, had some problematic acting, and is hopelessly mired in the 80s. But it was so original, mixing the dream world with reality, relatable nightmares and a terrifying villain in Freddy Krueger. Later sequels kind of neutered Freddy though, so a reboot, Wes Craven's New Nightmare was made several years ago.  New Nightmare was not a success, even though it was critically praised, so this remake came to be, recasting and rebooting the entire franchise.  It's a mixed success. There's a new guy playing Freddy, and while he did a fine job, Robert Englund is a tough act to follow.

This isn't like the other horror franchises, with masked killers.  Englund was Freddy. That's the toughest aspect to get around.  I was surprised that they didn't focus on Nancy's house much at all, which was such an iconic aspect of most of the original series.  Also, Freddy is made more creepy and disgusting than scary.  He was always a "child killer" but the implications of that were obscured before. Here, he's very definitely a pedophile and killer, which makes you more queasy than terrified.  All in all, a decent remake, but the original is still better. **

The Hills Have Eyes - You couldn't really damage the original in this Wes Craven flick.  Hills falls into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wrong Turn sub-genre of films, with ordinary people finding themselves in desolate places ruled by murderous, cannibalistic mutants/hillbillies/inbreds.  It's nasty, it's bloody, and you will want to cover your eyes in parts.  If you like it messy and nasty, this belongs on your rental list. The sequel falls right in line, playing like an extension of the first. Not Shakespeare, but what horror is?  *** (Sequel **1/2)

April Fool's Day (2008) - The original is a personal favorite, though not very well known. By the same people as the Friday the 13th series, April Fool's Day was a novel twist, with better acting, humor and an interesting premise of a "murder mystery weekend" going horribly wrong (or did it?).  The "remake" is really in name only. There's some decent gore, and even the acting isn't too bad. But it's a terrible movie. No stars.

Image from Wikipedia
The Last House on the Left (2009) - Another remake of a Wes Craven film, and this one is better than the original.  The old one was gritty and dirty, and disturbing, feeling almost like 70s porn.  This one is more standard-issue modern horror, but more disturbing than your typical slice & dice.  The acting is terrific, with Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) and Garrett Dillahunt almost unrecognizable as the bad guy, Krug (apparently based on the same bully of Craven as Freddy Krueger).  The film--though it does have a few typical "oh, they wouldn't do that" horror movie moments--is quite engaging and suspenseful, and is only marred by an ending that seems kind of out of left field.  It's satisfying, gory and nasty, but not entirely believable. Overall though, the best of this list. ****

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - Unlike the other remakes in this list, I've never seen the original Tobe Hooper film.  I've caught a handful of the sequels though, and this one is better than any of those.  Some decisions by main characters are completely unbelievable, but that's a critique of most horror films, so it goes with the territory. This one plays like a better-produced installment of the never-ending original franchise.  **

There are others, of course.  George Romero's Dead series of zombie films has the unique distinction of having different folks produce remakes of each of the original three movies, and even sequels to them.  There's Prom Night, Psycho, Children of the Corn. . .but a good rule of thumb is this: get the original.  It's almost always better.

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Scary Movies to Avoid

With most of my movie lists, I'm telling you which films are worth a view for your Halloween weekend. In this case, I'm going to tell you what to avoid.

Images from source, Wikipedia

Some movies are so bad, they're good. This list is of horror movies so bad, they're just bad. Some of them may have one or two redeeming features, maybe one memorable scene. But by and large, anything on this list should be avoided. Do not get the DVD if it's at Big Lots for $3. Do not get it for 50 cents at a yard sale. Do not watch it on cable while you're laid up with the flu. Avoid. As in don't watch.

Greenlee Gazette's Top 10 Scary Movies to Avoid

In no particular order. . .

1. The Happening (2008) - This movie was marketed as sort of a psychological thriller/sci-fi/pseudo-horror film, you know. . .like every other M. Night Shyamalan movie. This overrated director/producer/writer hit his nadir with this one, one of the worst major studio films ever made. Technically, it doesn't look so bad. It's not the cinematography or the editing. I'll even give Shyamalan props for the production values in general. That does not make up for the utterly unbelievable, unconvincing and strange dialogue, plot and acting by all concerned. Mark Wahlberg couldn't even save this one. See my full review here:
DVD Movie Review: The Happening

2. Soul Survivors (2001) - This one slid under my radar for a long time. It has cover art evocative of practically every teen horror film of the last dozen or so years, with its lineup of sexy young actors, lead by Eliza Dushku. Or rather, she's featured most prominently on the box, but is a supporting actress in the movie. The film tries to do too much, tries to make itself deep, and in doing so, comes off as a convoluted mess. In fact, it feels like I've seen a similar concept in a different film. It has the type of ending that leves me thinking, "Okay, so why did I just watch that?" Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley are cuties, and I'm a huge Dushku fan, but this one is worse than just "meh." It's a waste of time.

3. The Fog (2005) - Don't ask me how I've avoided the original version of this film for 30 years, but I've never seen it. All the better then to watch the remake, right? I mean knowing nothing about the story, it could work all on its own merits. No. Dreadful. Boring. Pointless. I tried to make it through, and shut it off before it was over (possibly with 5 or 10 minutes to go, seriously). It's long, it meanders, and is not at all what it seemed to promise. John Carpenter has done much, much better than this. Sorry, even Superboy/Superman Tom Welling wasn't enough.

4. Cloverfield (2008) - Given the people behind this film (J.J. Abrams and Drew Goddard), and the premise (big monster attacks Manhattan, in real time), this should have been great. It's not. There are things of technical interest, the way the film is shot and constructed. But the story? No.

5. April Fool's Day (2008) - Unlike the original (see here), this movie isn't particularly funny, nor is it entertaining. It's only nominally a remake, and utterly skippable. Do so.

6. War of the Worlds (2005) - Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and a concept by H.G. Wells. What could go wrong? Everything. As a long-time Wells fan, I've liked many different versions of this story, from the book to the 80s TV series. But this big, Hollywood "event movie" was even a bigger letdown than Cloverfield or The Happening. Not as bad as The Happening mind you, I just had higher expectations.

7. Psycho (1998 Remake) - Gus Van Sant remade--shot for shot--Alfred Hitchcock's beyond classic original. Why? Nobody knows, not even Vince Vaughn or Anne Heche.

8. Fear Dot Com is a pointless, convoluted, headache-inducing, mess of a movie that isn't worth anyone's time, ever. Not for free, not even if the only other things to watch are The 700 Club, The Nanny, Cop Rock and According to Jim. The acting is odd, the photography is drunken and dark, the plot is threadbare, even the soundtrack sucks.  Play Scrabble by yourself.  Vaccum under your sofa cushions. Count the kibble in your dog's dish. Clean out your freezer. Do anything else besides watch this festering pustule of a movie.

9. Rob Zombie's followup to his remake of Halloween, Halloween II. Terrible.

10. Any post-Scream horror film, with DVD cover-art consisting of 4-6 pretty young actors, lined up for a glamor shot (see Soul Survivors, above).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hillary vs. Congress: There's Something About Benghazi

A picture paints a thousand words. Hillary Clinton and Trey Gowdy.
On Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endured an eleven hour grilling before a Congressional committee. It was the umpteenth inquiry into the Benghazi attack by Republicans, in a quest to discredit and politically ruin the president or Mrs. Clinton (they'd be happy with either). It's long been obvious that the Benghazi investigations have been far more political in nature, than any real effort at fact finding or future safety. Several Republicans have even said so, whether purposefully or not. Regardless, Clinton fared very well, and Republicans left pretty much empty handed.

In Mrs. Clinton's previous appearance before a Congressional panel, she famously uttered the phrase, ". . .what difference, at this point, does it make?" It was in response to the repeated insistence that the administration initially pointed to an anti-Islamic video as a spark for the attack. At the time she said it, I stood up an cheered, because I agreed: what difference does it make? I still don't really know. But it is perhaps the single biggest "outrage" left in the whole deflated Benghazi outrage balloon.

In fact, if there is one thing I'd like answered about Benghazi, it would be precisely that. Why does Right Wing World have such a woody for the video? Seriously, can somebody tell me? I mean, from yesterday's grilling, I gather that they think Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama and/or Susan Rice was trying to minimize damage to the 2012 election prospects of Obama's re-election effort, by downplaying the events at Benghazi. So?

Really, so what? I'm not being flip here. Every administration does the very same thing about virtually every single event and situation. Everything is spun to the advantage of whatever candidate is doing the spinning. It's normal.  Every member of Congress grilling Hillary Clinton yesterday has paid staff that does it for them. Beyond that, it is also common for there to be an "official" story for the public that ends up having slightly or even vastly different elements once the facts come out. There are also things withheld from the public for national security reasons. Is there a single "breaking story" that we get the 100% unvarnished truth on, right as it happens? Virtually never. Moreover--though even today, the video may have played a part however small--remarks about the video were in the initial hours and days after the attack. It is no longer five days after the attack, and they are not still pointing to the video! It would seem Right Wing World is stuck in a time warp.

I keep seeing that Clinton "lied over the caskets of the Benghazi dead, and blamed the attack on the video." The phrasing is suspect, but the lie is. . .pointless. Let's say she did, she straight up lied, knew it wasn't the video. What then? Does it change the death, the grieving, the sacrifice, does it change anything? Does it somehow belittle or diminish the lives of the dead? I don't see how. I still don't see the relevance. What difference does it make?

Inside Hillary's thought balloon. . .
If the aim on Thursday was to cement the idea that Hillary Clinton is a "liar," then the committee lied about their aims, and all of the time and money spent was also done by lying. If the aim was to prove that "lie," and use it to prove it had something to do with the deaths of the four diplomats, or that their deaths could have been prevented absent the lie, they failed. And if their aim was to hurt Hillary's 2016 run, they failed at that too. They didn't land a single punch. Video or no video.

Incidentally, I thought the aftermath of all the questioning was very telling. FOX "News" hosted a few of the Republican Congresscritters afterward, each very proud of their lines of questioning, as though they'd been brilliant. The Drudge Report focused on the fact that Clinton had a coughing fit at almost 11 hours in (even though they had to admit that she put a lozenge in her mouth, and soldiered on). And virtually every other source everywhere short of the Right Wing blogosphere hailed Hillary as the victor.

Even Conservatives Realize Hillary Clinton's Benghazi Committee Hearing Was Ridiculous

Republicans and Democrats have long been divided on the purpose of the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. GOP lawmakers, particularly the committee's chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), have insisted the panel is focused on investigating potential wrongdoing leading up to the attack, while Democrats have alleged that the GOP-led committee is a political stunt targeting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. . .

Read more at: Huffington Post

Monday, October 19, 2015

Editor in Autumn

Blogging will be sparse, while I do a little driving in the country, observing the autumn leaves for the first time in about 20 years. May return soon, maybe in a few days!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, October 16, 2015

Bill Maher and his guests – Johann Hari, Katrina vanden Heuvel, John Feehery and Lawrence Lessig – answer viewer questions after the show.

SNL: The Democratic Debate

All in all, not bad. Pretty funny, actually, particularly the choice of Larry David for Bernie Sanders, and Alec Baldwin's Jim Webb. I'm still not a huge fan of Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton, which is funny, but not very realistic. Still, it was the best skit of the night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First Democratic Debate Brings Out Bernie PUMAs

Image from USAToday
The first Democratic presidential primary debate was held in my old hometown of Las Vegas on Tuesday Night. By all accounts, it was a sober, serious affair, in stark contrast to the three-ring circuses held by the GOP in recent months. While there was some expected disagreement, and the occasional dig from one candidate to another, but the tone was noticeably more adult, more mature and more presidential.

Better yet, both of the leading candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton acquitted themselves well, and made their own fans very happy. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanders increased his brand, since fewer people know it as well as the Clinton brand. And Clinton put many minds at ease with her personable, sharp and "ready" performance. It didn't have the zazz of the GOP free-for-alls, but it was more in line with what one of these things is supposed to be.

My assessment was that both Sanders and Clinton came off well, but that Clinton had the edge. Sanders got tripped up a few times, and Clinton for the most part didn't. The media, by-and-large, agreed with me, widely hailing Clinton as the winner, and proclaiming (without irony) that after months of media criticism, she now had a big boost. Sanders was acknowledged to have done well, with the same observations I made, where he could have prepared better.

But that's not the whole story. There's been something bubbling under the surface for a while now that really came to a head after the debate. Bernie Sanders supporters, who have long felt ignored, are making more noise than ever, and are not showing the decorum of their hero. Quite the contrary.

Okay, little sidebar here. I've contributed to a few message boards over the past 24 hours, using some of the arguments I'm using in this column. Doing so, I have incurred the wrath of Bernie supporters. This kind of proves my overall point, but I'm going to attempt to squelch what I can here, by saying: 1) I'm not referring to all Bernie supporters; 2) I make no comparison between Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders as candidates; and 3) I'm a progressive liberal Democrat who happens to like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

In online polls, Clinton didn't win the debate. In many cases, she came in third or fourth (which is preposterous). Sanders won, and not just by a little. By a lot. By an absurd lot. By an old MSNBC Ed Show text poll margin. By a "Saddam Hussein won an election" margin. In one of the polls, it was Sanders at 81%. That's not normal, and it's not remotely believable. So, it was off into the blogosphere and social media to figure out what was going on.

Image from source, New York Times
Doing so was akin to wading into the piranha-filled waters of a NewsBusters or Breitbart message board. Inexplicably, the Bernie fans are filling the role usually played by extremist Tea Baggin,' Palin lovin' conservatives. The love for Bernie overflows, and the venom against Hillary is flowing freely, with spittle, foam and maybe a little blood. It's just bonkers.

My conclusion is this. Whereas in the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton had her "PUMAs" (which stood for "Party Unity My Ass") and Ron Paul had his disciples who would rig polls, use trickery and even break the law to try and engineer a win for their candidate, Sanders has his own "Feel the Bern" cult.  It's not too much of a stretch to believe that these extra-energized, strident and driven supporters will be more likely to participate in an online poll. So, I won't go so far as to say any of the polls have yet been rigged, or even that any shady business has happened. But I do believe these polls are overly lopsided due to a practice called "FReeping." It's completely legal, but it's not particularly accurate.

That said, I'm more than a little worried that this is going to get worse. I've already encountered Bernie supporters who loathe Clinton with every fiber of their being, and refuse to vote for her if she's the nominee. They're doing their level best to convert people not just to their candidate, but to their view of Mrs. Clinton. They don't save their vitriol for her either, questioning the intelligence and integrity of her supporters. Their abrasiveness and invective tarnish not only their own candidate, it spills over into the entire Democratic effort at electing a candidate.

Here's a response I got from someone I agreed with on the hostility level:

 "One told me to die in a fire on this board. Also said that if Bernie doesn't get the nomination, he doesn't care if the whole country burns. Kind of a fire theme. I don't think Bernie would tolerate such cultish behavior, and I wouldn't be surprised if he regrets creating this monster." (Source)

And that pretty much sums up my concern. It's their way or the highway, they will not vote at all if their candidate doesn't win the primary, they will trash the other candidate, and take no prisoners along the way. This is not needed when the Republican side is in such disarray. I hope that Bernie notices, and says something about it. And I hope the Hillary supporters don't take the bait.


Who Won and Lost the Democratic Debate? The Web Has Its Say

Bloggers, commentators and the Twitterati quickly weighed in on the first Democratic debate, scoring the winners and losers. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the clear victor, according to the opinion shapers in the political world (even conservative commentators). . .

Read more at: New York Times

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Conservative Group Attempts Humor, Leading Into First Democratic Debate

Stop trying to be funny, conservatives. This is an attempt to make the Democrats look silly, and I can't fault them for that. But with the shenanigans going on, on the right side of the political world right now? They need to do a whole lot better than this.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, October 09, 2015

Bill Maher and his guests, Energy Sec. Ernest Moniz, Rob Thomas, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Andrew Sullivan and former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy.

Was Andrew Sullivan as much of an ass during Over Time as he was on the actual Real Time show? Watch with me and find out!

SNL Skewers FOX & Friends Yet Again

One of my favorite Saturday Night Live recurring segments is their semi-regular skewerings of (the very oddly named) FOX & Friends. It must be quite difficult to parody an already ridiculous and idiotic program, but they never fail to make me laugh. Particularly when they run "corrections from the previous hour."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Kevin McCarthy Drops Out of Contention for Speaker of the House

I have to wonder if the withdrawal of Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House has more to do with a) his accidental revelation that the Benghazi/email investigations were about hurting Hillary Clinton; b) Rachel Maddow's very effective campaign to show that the potential "Speaker" doesn't speak very well; c) the Tea Party faction and their resistance to the establishment; or d) that Mr. McCarthy is possibly about to have a sex scandal. Time will tell, but it's kind of fun for a Democrat.

It's just the icing on the cake that McCarthy managed to mangle a metaphor in his announcement.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Keith Olbermann Returning to MSNBC?

Image from source, Examiner
I'm leery of getting too excited about this one. So far, the sources I've read have seemed skeptical themselves. But if it's true, it's very good news. With the loss of Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (we keep Stephen, but it's not quite the same, is it?), having a good strong voice for progressives. Crossing fingers, I guess time will tell.


MSNBC working to bring Keith Olbermann back to the network, report says
After falling behind Fox News and CNN in the ratings, the liberal leaning MSNBC has struggled to rebound. While the network has shifted to a more centrist position, it appears one of the most popular liberal hosts in the channel's history could be making a comeback.

MSNBC started to make changes in the summer, dropping "The Ed Show," "Now with Alex Wagner," and "The Cycle," and replacing their mid day opinion shows with a more traditional news format. Veteran news anchor Brian Williams, and host of "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd, have also returned to the network to provide a more balanced approach. With these changes also comes the possibility that the network is not done fine-tuning their brand. According to Mediaite on Oct. 6, Keith Olbermann could be returning to the front of the camera. . .

Read more at: The Examiner

Breaking News: Wednesday is Judgment Day, Goodbye Everyone!

Wow, if I'd realized that Wednesday was it, I might have had more fun this weekend. Hey, at least I got to watch the premieres of The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So, I wonder what time the end is coming? Everyone have their hell-bound handbaskets ready to go? I think it's safe to say, that's where most of us are headed, right?


Christian group predicts the world will be 'annihilated' on Wednesday

While our planet may have survived September’s “blood moon”, it will be permanently destroyed on Wednesday, 7 October, a Christian organization has warned. The eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered near Philadelphia, has based its prediction of an October obliteration on a previous claim that the world would end on 21 May 2011. While that claim proved to be false, the organization is confident it has the correct date this time. . .

Read more (with video) at: The Guardian

Sunday, October 4, 2015

SNL: Taran Killam's Donald Trump is HUGE on Premiere Episode!

All summer, I've thought that Lorne Michaels and Darrell Hammond would be just itching to get back on the air, so that they could skewer Donald Trump. I was half right. Hammond--who returned to replace the late Don Pardo as announcer last year--didn't get to play Trump, one of his signature impressions. But current SNL male lead, Taran Killam--bizarrely named, but very talented--had clearly been spending his summer perfecting his Trump impersonation, because it is spot on. Cecily Strong also continued to prove that being moved out of Weekend Update and back into prominence in sketches was the right move. She's terrific too, as Trump's most recent immigrant wife.

Over Time with Bill Maher, October 2, 2015

Bill Maher and his guests, Richard Dawkins, Angela Rye, Adam Gopnik, Matt Welch and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

SNL Scores with Hillary Clinton Appearance

This weekend marked the 41st season premiere of Saturday Night Live, and there I was, just as I had been for season one, watching live. It's the first time in a long time for me, since I've been in the Pacific time zone for the past twenty years. But I have watched most season openers, even if they were on tape delay. And usually--oddly--the first episode is shaky, like a bad first day of school. This one wasn't, in my opinion. It was fairly strong. Particularly the political stuff.

One of the best bits was something SNL does fairly often, but not often well: the appearance of a real-life presidential candidate in a sketch. In this one, Kate McKinnon, whose Hillary impression is getting better but not on the mark yet, meets with the real Clinton for some fairly good--and politically effective--banter. Good job!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Computer Woes: The Un-Googleable Computer Problem That Only Affects YOU

This happens to me all the time (and I'm barely exaggerating): I have a computer problem. It can be a common, irritating problem that occurs on more than one computer (work PC, home PC, laptop), on more than one platform (PC, Mac), on more than one browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari), using more than one internet app (Facebook comments, Twitter, Disqus). I seek out help, via Google or elsewhere, and nobody else seems likewise afflicted.

Oh, other "computer gurus" will try to help, always with the same "well, what were you trying to do when it happened?" or "what programs/services/apps are running?" They're fishing. They don't know the problem or the solution at this point. If they did--if they had any idea what my problem really was--they'd start with a list of solutions, and not be trolling for more information.

By far, my biggest annoyance with my usual surfing/blogging and other online activities is with what has got to be the simplest, most basic computer function: typing. I'm a touch-typist, and have been for over 30 years. I type almost as fast as I can think. But I'm constantly thwarted by a typing delay. The cursor suddenly stops moving. Sometimes, it will catch up, and everything I have typed will just appear in an instant. Other times, random letters will have been skipped. Still other times, everything between the initial pause in typing, and when it "catches up" will have been lost, and the typing will resume.

This happens most often when typing in comments via Disqus or Facebook commenting (either within Facebook, or on a site that uses their system). It also can happen in Blogger (a blogging platform), or in any other internet area that might require typing, such as a petition or any other form requiring input. As previously stated, it happens to me fairly regularly irrespective of platform, browser or system. It happens more often on a PC than a Mac, more often in Internet Explorer than any other browser, but it can actually happen anywhere.

The only thing that I do on computers that the more common user doesn't, that I can think of, is that I commonly have more than one browser open at a time, and it's not uncommon for me to have several tabs open at once. I realize this uses processor power. But I'm not using bargain basement Celeron PCs with 1 GB of RAM either. My home PC has a high-mid-range AMD quad processor, with 16 GB of RAM! My laptop is a MacBook Pro Intel i5 with 8 GB of RAM. Not top-of-the-line, but not hand-me-down Tandy TRS-80s either.

Typing is just about the most basic thing a computer should have to do. Processor power should never be so bogged down that something that basic gets caught in a time warp. And if it does? If there is so much processor power being hogged by something, that it's causing this much drag? Shouldn't--by now--there be a friggen' E-Stop button, program, or notification that let's you just DUMP whatever is causing the problem?

If I could beg a programmer to come up with a new function for the next version of any operating system, I think that would be it. A big, red E-Stop button, like on an amusement ride panel, whether hardware or software. A button that just dumps you out of whatever processor hog is doing. Something better than CTRL+ALT+DEL or the Apple equivalent. Something that looks at the thing that is causing soooo much drain, and asks you in plain English: "Stop [level 3 diagnostic, or whatever] to free processor?" Something better than "Service Host: Local System (Network Restricted) (12)." Something that gets you out cleanly. Even if it includes the option, "Exit all running, non-system required processes and programs."

In the meantime, I'd love an answer to what's going on with my specific typing pet peeve. I'd love an answer that doesn't start with fishing. Something that starts with a solution, or a list of possible solutions. Anyone?

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