Monday, August 31, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, August 29, 2015

Bill Maher and his guests, Rick Santorum, Robert Costa, Wendy Davis, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Michael Weiss.

Horror Movie Legend Wes Craven Dead at 76

Image from source, MSN
It's hard to relate how much horror maven Wes Craven impacted my life. As a pop culture sponge, I was particularly fond of the horror films of the 70s and 80s. I came from my late teens into early adulthood at precisely the same time as the home video boom. And as a rather shy and retiring sort, I spent a lot of my scant money and ample free time on weekends watching movies gathered from the local West Coast Video.

As luck would have it, home video was driven by two forces in those days, porn (naturally) and horror movies! And horror movies were available in abundance. The horror trend was powered by Halloween, ripped off by Friday the 13th, and then beaten into the ground by further ripoffs. And then there was A Nightmare on Elm Street. Even my easy-to-please early 20s self could see this was a whole new, much more creative entry into the field.

Nightmare took horror movies into a whole new realm, from what had been a rather mindless, plotless killer stalking nubile teens, into a mind-bending, complex and unpredictable area. The first film was really groundbreaking and impactful. On first viewing, the viewer is unsure of just what is a dream, and what is reality. Wes Craven was the man responsible for this revelation, but he of course didn't start his career or make his first mark with Freddy Krueger.



If Craven had only ever invented Freddy Krueger,
he'd be a horror legend on that alone.
He did that back in the 70s, with what is arguably one of the most disturbing films of the era, The Last House on the Left, and the nearly-as-creepy The Hills Have Eyes. And he kept going, obtaining a whole new level of fame, and relevance with Scream. Needless to say, though all of these films had sequels and or remakes, and countless imitators--both good and (often) bad--it's the ones Craven had a hand in that were the best installments.

Of all the films in my video library, Craven's are among the ones with the most repeat viewings. His passing was one of those "oof" punch-to-the-gut ones for me, and those are rare for this jaded soul. RIP, Mr. Craven. You left a mark. A big, messy, bloody mark. And we loved it!

[Excerpt]

Wes Craven, Horror Maestro, Dies at 76

Wes Craven, the famed maestro of horror known for the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises, died Sunday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76. Craven, whose iconic Freddy Krueger character horrified viewers for years, died at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced. Survivors include his wife, producer and former Disney Studios vice president Iya Labunka. . .

Read more at: MSN

Friday, August 28, 2015

Behind the Blogger: Political Overload Leads to Apathy

Wow, this is what you don't want to happen. I'm so sick and tired of every Donald Trump utterance being at the top of the news, I'm starting to tune out. The media clearly loves having Trump around, and is currently employing double standards aplenty for him.

For instance, Hillary Clinton--still the Democratic front-runner, though not the only Democratic candidate--is rarely talked about in anything but negative stories, even if there is no new news. Her negative polls are up! Even though she's still beating every one she's matched up against. Even though her standings in any polls that matter have barely budged. Even though we're well more than a year out from the election. She compared GOP candidates to terrorists! She needs to apologize! Even though she really didn't, and even though Trump says several worse things each and every day and never has to apologize.

I've detested this man since the EIGHTIES. It would be easy
to blame my blogging apathy on him! Image from Huffington Post.
For instance, Bernie Sanders. . .crickets. He's packing stadiums and auditoriums, has enthusiastic supporters, actual policy positions and details, and is every bit as unfiltered as Trump. Almost no coverage, other than as a curiosity.

But, Joe Biden might run! Curtains for Clinton! What? Biden has run twice before without making much of a ripple. He's even older than Bernie, Hillary or Trump, and his positions are virtually identical to Hillary's. And good grief, on the GOP side, SEVENTEEN major candidates are running! So what if Biden runs? Run, Joe, run, if that's what you want to do. Though, truth be told, I'd rather see him end his career on a high note, than with an ugly campaign.

And outside of presidential politics (and yes, other things are actually going on out there), we have a wildly see-sawing stock market, with impossibly skittish, cowardly investors freaking out over their own shadows. Tell me that between 3:00 pm on an odd Tuesday things are looking rosy, then by 4:00 pm the world is coming to an end, and then the next morning, rally! I mean what the actual fuck, you guys?

People being shot on live television, and the shooter turns out to be both black and gay, which is confusing (and rare). Liberals want to bring up gun control, conservatives finger-wag that it's "too soon," and it's "politicizing a tragedy." And yet, they're simultaneously politicizing the tragedy by whining about the prospect of gun control, and--bizarrely--trying to equate the rainbow flag with the Confederate flag. Attention conservatives: you do not understand humor, sarcasm, irony nor analogies.

Closed caption is wrong! It's "meh." M-E-H.
So, clearly, there is no shortage of things to write about. So why is the blog languishing with nary an update for days at a stretch? Well, beyond burnout, change of life circumstances, change of residence and environment, and more, I'm just feeling apathetic about it. Yes, I've been horrible at updating the blog all year pretty much, but I'm blaming the Dog Days of August. Life is feeling that way, or rather, my online life is. Actual life is going pretty well.

I'm trying to plug back in, at least better than I have been, but it's a toughie. It's like rolling that rock uphill sometimes. I also find myself participating in smaller, nugget-sized ways via Twitter, Facebook comments sections and other social media. I'm going to have to curb that a bit if I want to get back to something resembling a daily blog again. So, I'll try. As I said before, it's not like I don't have the time these days, being on semi-sabbatical. I just need the oomph, the zazz. The blog's not going anywhere, I just am having difficulty with putting new stuff on it!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Gay Thing: Ted Cruz's Disingenuous "Religious Freedom" Video

Several times on the blog, I've written about the issue of the bogus "religious freedom" campaign being pushed by anti-gay activists. It's a response to the then imminent and now reality of 50-state legal marriage equality for same-sex couples. When it became evident that the anti-gay marriage movement was going to lose, they shifted gears to this "sincerely held belief" issue, which is--as I've said often--100% bullshit.

Ted Cruz has never taken a picture where he
didn't look creepy.
The quest for legal exemptions from public accommodation laws, and the right to "opt out" of servicing gay couples is quite simply no more about religious freedom than was the sincerely held belief that blacks were inferior. The fact that this issue is fraudulent is evident in nearly every argument made for it. Starting with the fact that virtually every telling (and endless re-telling) of this handful of cases, is strewn with misstatements of facts, distortions of reality, and disingenuousness. Lies, in other words.

This would be par for the course, were it not for the fact that mainstream politicians are picking the issue up, as though in has an ounce of merit. In an effort to get their sorry carcasses to bob to the surface of the GOP 2016 stew being stirred by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz--in particular--is wedding himself to this artificial cause. He's even released a video short on the subject, trotting out the usual suspects. Here's my deconstruction of the video.

It starts with this quote, "Today, the U.S. Government is forcing people to violate their beliefs on marriage and sexuality."

Please note that they rarely if ever--in this video, or anywhere else--articulate which beliefs are violated, how they are violated, or anything resembling a legal argument. They also state that "U.S. Government" is involved which is rarely if ever the case. In fact, I don't believe the federal government has anything to do with most of these cases.

One of these people is apparently "Sweet Cakes," and
the other one "Melissa?" Image from NewsForage.com
It continues, "Across the country, Americans are being told to change their religious beliefs or lose their livelihood."

No one has been asked to "change their religious beliefs," and in most cases--if a business has been lost--it has been the decision of the vendor. No one else. Also, the implication of "across the country" still amounts to a small handful of cases.

"These are five of their stories."

Yes. There are maybe five or six others, at most.

"Each one has been sued."

Not entirely true. Often, these cases are actually made pre-emptively by the alleged "victim," usually at the behest of a group like The Alliance Defending Freedom, or one of any of the groups with "family" prominently in their name.

"Each one has received death threats from activists."

Again, a stretch. Activists? Really? Can they name even one? While "death threats" are always wrong, it is the rare subject of an internet story that hasn't gotten hostile comments, up to and including death threats, usually along the lines of drop dead. But activists? Not buying it, nope.

"Chief" Kelvin Cochran, former Fire Chief - Suspended and terminated for "his faith." Says "not for any wrongful action, but because of his Christian beliefs.

The owner of Arlene's Flowers is "Baronelle?" Achtung!
Image from Heidelblog.net
You know what he did? He self-published a book wherein he compared gays and lesbians (who he calls "perverts") to pederasts and people who have sex with animals. And passed them out to his employees. Those are actions, not beliefs.

Sr. Master Sgt. Phillip Monk - Fired for "expressing a traditional view of marriage" and says he cannot violate a "tenet of his deeply held religious belief."

He claims he was fired for opposing gay marriage, though doesn't explain how civil marriage violates his religious beliefs (they never really do). What he was actually doing was drilling his anti-gay bias into his trainees. Also, he wasn't fired, he was reassigned. And sued? Don't think so.

Blaine Adamson, Managing Owner Hands on Originals - Printer told he must "promote messages that conflict with his faith."

First of all, his name sounds sorta gay, which is a cheap shot, but there you go. But seriously, this guy actually had a case, and ultimately won it. It's the rare case of a vendor being asked to print a message they disagree with. It's been argued and won before that printers and the like don't have to do that. Just because someone tried to sue him over it does not equal "persecution." I agree that he shouldn't have to print it, but since he didn't. . .what's his story doing here? [Story continues below]



Melissa and Aaron Klein, Owners of Sweet Cakes - Lost a public accommodations case for not selling to a gay couple.

This case takes the cake (ha!) for disingenuousness. It transpired before same-sex marriage was legal in their state, but is held out as a consequence of legal gay marriage. So, right there, it's dishonest. The couple broke a state law against discrimination in public accommodation. And they've never explained how selling a cake for a commitment ceremony reception violates (or even has a single thing to do with) the bakers' religious beliefs, sincere or otherwise. The couple also got a little bit punk'd by reporters who pretended to inquire after cakes for all manner of other "sins," which the Kleins were more than happy to provide! The--ahem--icing on the cake is that due to crowd funding, the Kleins got rich off of the story, and are now on the conservative speaking circuit. Boo hoo.

Baronelle Stutzman, Arlene's Flowers - Also lost a public accommodation law case for refusing to sell goods to a gay couple.

This one is almost a carbon copy of the Sweet Cakes story. And just as disingenuous. Ms. Stutzman has also been enriched by the experience and become a celebrity.

As you can see, for such a short video, there is quite a lot of truth stretching going on. And zero explanation for or evidence of any "sincerely held religious beliefs" being trampled, changed or squelched. By the U.S. Government or by anyone else. Also ignored: the sincerely held beliefs of the customers and other gay people on the other sides of these stories, the fact that there are religious that support same-sex marriage, or the fact that no matter how the Supreme Court ruled, all of these cases would have had the exact same result. There was no causality.

Ted Cruz is then, quite clearly, a liar.
 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rachel Maddow on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Love me some Rachel, unplugged.


Over Time with Bill Maher, August 21, 2015

Bill Maher and his guests – Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Donna Edwards, Marc Maron, Charles Cooke and Dan Buettner.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

TV's Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, Dead at 78

It seems like bad form to think of yourself and your own mortality when someone dies. But the death of Yvonne Craig, best known as Batgirl from the 60s TV version of Batman, does just that. It makes me sad for a piece of my childhood dying. It makes me realize how old I am, given that the youthful and vibrant actress I remember was 78 years old at the time of her death. But mostly it just makes me sad.

Image from source, MSN
I was surprised to find out that Craig only appeared on 22 episodes of Batman, given her impact on my childhood memories. Unknown to me at the time, was that she was added in season three of a very short-lived fad of a show.  To me, a child of the 70s, pretty much at the birth of cable TV (when that meant simply having channels 2-13, rather than just 3 or 4 stations), I knew the show from reruns. There could have been hundreds of episodes, I had no idea. They aired them out of order, showing two-parters (from seasons 1 and 2) Monday through Thursday, and then a Batgirl episode on Fridays. I didn't know at the time that she had been added to boost already flagging ratings, and that they'd pared down to a single episode per week in season 3, rather than the cliffhanger and resolution from the first two years. But I did realize that Craig was also the green slave girl that wooed Captain Kirk on Star Trek, another relatively short-lived faddish show.

To me, and many of my era, Craig will remain that beautiful girl, who made a splash that had many ripples beyond the relatively scant number of episodes we watched her in. That's more than most people can claim. RIP, Ms. Craig.

[Excerpt]

TV’s Batgirl Yvonne Craig Dies at 78
 
Yvonne Craig, the actress best known for her role as Batgirl in the 1960’s “Batman” TV series, died on Monday. She was 78. Craig passed away at her home in Pacific Palisades surrounded by her family, according to her spokesman. She had been suffering from breast cancer that metastasized to her liver. . .

Read more at: MSN

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vegas Vacation

Oh, hi! I forgot all about you guys! I've returned (for a short time) to my old stomping grounds in Las Vegas to pick up The Other Half, who has finally finished work obligations, and will be moving back with me to Ohio, at long last. And I plumb forgot about this here bloggy thing in the process. I meant to get back here, drop by with a brain nugget or two, and it has just completely fallen by the wayside.

Apologies of a sort. . .I mean, this is after all my hobby blog, and I say right up top that I blog when the mood strikes. But thought I'd better put up something to let folks know that I'm just away, not gone gone.

I'll be back with more later in the week, maybe sooner if something strikes me. Ciao for now!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, August 7, 2015

Bill Maher returns! And none too soon, when you factor in the loss of Jon Stewart. Bill's not everyone's taste, but at least, he's still around.

Bill Maher and his guests: Michael Mann, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mary Matalin, Steve Schmidt and Caitlin Flanagan.

Is Donald Trump Campaign Paying of Right-wing Website for Positive Coverage?

Payola? Image from source, BuzzFeed
Whoa! Could a site founded by a man more odious than Donald Trump himself, have found itself in a scandal? The late Andrew Breitbart's network of sites is apparently being accused--from within--of taking payment in exchange for favorable Trump spin! Which is awesome. I'd say that Breitbart is spinning in his grave from outrage, but he had no morals whatsoever, so he'd only be upset that they may have gotten caught.  Anyway, popcorn time!

[Excerpt]

Breitbart Staffers Believe Trump Has Given Money To Site For Favorable Coverage

As Donald Trump faces a growing backlash from conservative media over his recent attacks on a Fox News host, one prominent right-wing outlet remains firmly in his corner: Breitbart News, which has set itself apart by plastering its homepage with fawning headlines about the candidate, and all-caps assaults on his critics. . .

Read more at: BuzzFeed

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The First GOP 2016 Debate, Songified

They used to call this stuff "Auto Tune the News," but now it's "Songified." If you don't know what that means, watch the attached (or the opening theme to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). This one's kind of cute, some real effort put in to make it a song with a chorus and everything. And I love the little bobble-head action from Jeb! Bush.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

FOX "News" Culls GOP Herd

Image from source, Wall Street Journal
Get the popcorn ready folks. Lots of it. The first GOP primary is on Thursday, and FOX "News" has finally announced how it's going to do it. Faced with an unprecedented number of "top tier" candidates, and apparently unwilling to use my game show idea, FOX will have a main debate and a kiddie table debate. They probably should have basically drawn straws and left it to chance, but instead made the controversial choice to pick a "top ten," using selected poll averages. Which means, essentially, they could crunch the numbers (depending upon which polls they used) and let anyone in--on the low end--that they wanted on stage.

We're having a party in our family. Not sure if we'll do a drinking game. If you use any Trump key words or phrases ("by the way," "huge," "biggest," "rich") you could find yourself very, very drunk. We're packing a bag.

[Excerpt]

Fox News Announces Prime-Time GOP Debate Lineup; Rick Perry Out

Setting the stage for the first formal debate of the 2016 presidential primary season, Fox News on Tuesday announced the lineup for its Republican debate Thursday in Cleveland—dealing a blow to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry by denying him a coveted slot on the main prime-time stage.

Fox gave a boost to the late-starting campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the flagging candidacy of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by giving them both a place in the debate, which the network limited to 10 of the 17 announced candidates based on national poll rankings. . .

Read more at: The Wall Street Journal

Jon Stewart Delivers Blistering Final (?) Rebuke of FOX "News"

Jon Stewart's rants on FOX "News" are legendary, and have undoubtedly done great damage to their reputation, over the years. His "Bullshit Mountain" moniker is sure to linger long after he's gone. It's one more thing I will miss him for. His successor on The Daily Show has already declared that FOX will get less of a thrashing going forward, and that's a damned shame. Savor this clip. It's delicious.

Civil Marriage to End in Alabama to Thwart Gay Marriage Ruling?

Okay, first of all, this doesn't make very much sense. Secondly, it would probably be unconstitutional. It is also pretty much the definition of "cutting off your nose to spite your face," and "taking your toys and going home, if you don't get your way." But overall, it doesn't really seem to fundamentally change anything either. I'm not sure what problem this "solves," if people can still sign a marriage contract. Apparently, they're just eliminating the licensing step? I would think the only effect is to deprive the state of some fees. But, I guess symbolically, they get to prove--yet again--that Republicans are mean, and that legal discrimination is a central tenet of the GOP/Evangelical religion.

[Excerpt]

Committee approves bill to take Alabama out of marriage biz

A state Senate committee has approved a bill to take Alabama probate judges out of the wedding license business following the U.S Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. . .

Read more at: WIAT.com
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