Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Greenlee Gazette Takes Vacation from Vacationing. . .

Funny, right? I'm going on "vacation" from my life as a layabout.  I should have been blogging my arse off over the past several weeks, having taken a break from working for a while. And given how many huge newsworthy events are going on right now, ridiculous that I haven't been more prolific. And now? I'm going away for a family wedding with The Other Half! Holy crap, am I ever going to get this blog going full steam again? Well, yes. But not right now.

I will very likely be posting soon though, because we've got a huge Supreme Court argument coming up, and crazy developments in the 2016 presidential race. There's gonna be stuff to talk about. I'll find time, as soon as I can. Honest.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, April 17, 2015

In case you missed it: Bill Maher and his guests – Judith Miller, Neera Tanden, Jon Meacham, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Clay Aiken.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Official Trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I've kept my disclaimers of my big move on the page to explain why my blogging has been sporadic, because I've still not settled into a habitual blogging pattern since leaving Las Vegas. And the more I look at them, they more they look like excuses and whining! So, whether or not I've got my feet under me again, there is simply no excuse for not having posted something about the new Batman/Superman movie, with the trailer having leaked. So, here it is!

I've complained a lot in this space about Warner Brothers' seeming cluelessness as it regards their DC Comics properties. While Marvel manages to rock the entire world with their sprawling cinematic universe, which has managed to have an interconnected continuity over a dozen or so films and now three or four TV shows, Warner has struggled. To give credit where it's due, DC has for years done very well with animated fare. But animated fare is seen as "for kids" moreso than live action, and certainly doesn't have the impact of epic movies.

The Dark Night series was of course hugely successful, and there have been other DC properties that have been successful. There are some that I feel were unfairly maligned (I still don't understand the hate for Superman Returns or Green Lantern, which you'd think would have gotten some credit for at least trying amid a DC-character drought). And then, there were big successes like Man of Steel which still managed to critically disappoint. Finally, with Man of Steel though, we got the first hints that DC was finally going to start their own interconnected universe. Woo-hoo! We found out Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman would all be in the same stories, and that it would be in a sequel that would set up the Justice League of America! Awesome!

However, my feeling that Warner Brothers would screw it all up remains. There are several reasons for this (besides, you know, past precedent). Amid this fledgling universe, a few different things happened. It was decided to reboot Batman again, and then hire Ben Affleck to play him (I'm cool with this, many others had reservations, to say the least). A new version of Green Arrow was brought to TV, also rebooted, and different from the one in the long-running Smallville. Arrow was a hit, so far as they exist on the CW network, big enough to warrant spinning out its own universe. Arrow begat The Flash--an even bigger success--and the two shows are on their way to creating combined universe Justice League, as well as other spin-offs. We've also got Gotham, a show about Batman as a boy, that is unmoored by continuity to any of the other properties. And a new Supergirl show that may or may not be connected to other established continuities.
The DC TV universe is flourishing, probably by surprise.

On the horizon are a movie version of The Flash that is separate and apart from the TV version, the coming JLA movie (also separate from TV), and if all of that works well, presumably all of the other big DC characters. So, why complain? After decades of rare gems from DC properties, amid scads of crappy product (when we got any product at all), we have a wealth of options!

Well, because we comics fans are nerds. We complain endlessly about things we like as much as things we don't. But we feel justified because it just looks like they're making a mess of things.  We've got two simultaneously blooming main DC Comics universes, big screen and little screen. We've managed to live with this before, with separate continuities for Superman with each new TV show (Adventures of Superboy, Lois & Clark, Smallville), that sometimes overlapped with Superman movies on the calendar. But, will the public be able to sort out two completely different versions of The Flash at the same time? Two Supermen (assuming Supergirl on TV still is his cousin)? And yet another rebooted Green Lantern? Maybe two? We're supposed to also get Shazam! on the big screen, but will they also want him on TV? Will either of them be properly called "Captain Marvel," even though Marvel is introducing their own character with the same name?

Comic geeks can rationalize and "fan wank" anything away, if they like it. They'll complain about it all even if they like it. But you need a broader audience, and if you start out by confusing them? It just seems like a bad idea. And why exhaust ideas or risk repeating yourself with competing versions of the same characters? I just really don't get it. I'd like to see someone at Warner Brothers take the reins like Marvel has done, and make a cohesive whole out of all of it, even if it's a "multiple universes" connection. That would be the most "DC" thing they could even do!


Friday, April 17, 2015

The Gay Thing: Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz Get "Would You Go to a Gay Wedding" Question

Human irritant (and redundantly named) Hugh Hewitt asked two of the many human irritants running for the GOP presidential nomination, about whether or not they'd attend a gay wedding. Predictably, they give pander-to-the-base answers, but at least Rick (don't Google me) Santorum comes right out and says it: NO. His logic is a mess, but at least he gets right to the point, even if he tries to make his reasoning less douchey than it actually is. Ted Cruz just goes full politi-speak douche.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Old is the Earth? 2016 GOP Candidates Refuse to Say

Image from source, Wonkette
Pandering, thy name is Republican. Well, either pandering or ignorance, I suppose some of it could be ignorance. Or blind faith (which is--I'm sorry--not a virtue). If you've got another reason why a candidate for the highest elected office in the country (and leader of the free world) would refuse to say how old the earth is, I'm open to it. I've known the answer was 4.5 billion years since freshman earth science. But these candidates have to pander to their "base," which believes strongly that the earth is 6,000-ish years old. Which is preposterous on its face.

The recipe for beer is older than that. How these people explain thing like fossil fuels, or--you know--granite forming in such a short time would be interesting. Or mind-numbing.


How Old Is The Earth? Golly Gee, Republicans Running For President *Just Don’t Know*!

. . .To understand any of these issues requires some basic familiarity with the established science behind them. Only raging morons would put someone unfamiliar with the most rudimentary tenets of an issue in charge of making decisions about that issue. (What? Really? The guy with the snowball is chair of the Environment Committee?) Only the majority party in both houses of congress would put someone unfamiliar with the most rudimentary tenets of an issue in charge of making decisions about that issue. But I repeat myself. . .

Read more at: Wonkette

Abraham Lincoln Died 150 Years Ago Today

Image from source, Mother Jones
The fact that Abraham Lincoln's death by assassination happened 150 years ago today is a little stunning when you think about it. In the scheme of things, that really isn't that long ago. I'll be 50 next year, and it's hard for me to believe that just three of my life-spans separate the here and now from Civil War America.

It's also roughly the same amount of time that it took to go from basically no modern conveniences to the world of today. There were some important inventions in use at the time of course, from photography to locomotives to telegraphs, but if you plunked a Millennial kid into 1865, he'd pretty much find it to be a dystopian nightmare. Similarly, if you plucked Lincoln out of Ford's Theater, and into 2015, he'd be mortified by the modern Republican Party.

In many of the discussions about civil rights (spurred by either a gay rights issue or Ferguson and the other racially charged controversies with police), I've seen countless conservative Republicans go on about how it's the Republican Party that blazed the civil rights trail. They'll start with Lincoln, and go all the way up to the Civil Rights Era. They'll point to George Wallace and other Democrats as proof. They're not wrong. . .but they're not right either. They disregard the massive shift both parties went through over the issue, and the fact that the "Dixiecrats" jumped ship and effectively overtook the Republican Party.

Look at a map sometime of the red and blue states, particularly in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Look at a map of the progression of same-sex marriage states. They echo closely the map of Confederate States vs. United States of Lincoln's time. I don't think that's a coincidence.


Lincoln Died 150 Years Ago Today and If He Were Still Alive He Wouldn’t Have Been a Republican

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. Lincoln died the following morning, just six days after General Robert E. Lee had surrendered and the Civil War, which lasted four years and killed an estimated 750,000 soldiers, officially ended. . .

Read more at: Mother Jones

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blast from the Past EXTRA: Reunion's Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)

I've been remiss in getting back to my regular Blast from the Past weekly feature, and will try to start that up again next weekend. In the meantime, this song popped into my head, and I decided to look it up. I'm really glad I did! Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me) by Reunion is both more and less than what it seems.

It's "more" because even though it's a little bubble-gum sounding, and sounds a bit like gibberish, it's actually very, very clever. The lyrics are stuffed with callouts to music, artists, DJs and other famous music-related pop-culture references from the early days of Rock & Roll, to where it was at the time of the recording. The snappy, fast pace--seemingly without room for the singer to breathe--makes learning the lyrics tough, but fun. And as the song fades out, several songs (Baby I Need Your Loving, Uptight (Everything is Alright), Celebrate and I Want to Take You Higher) are woven together, while the lead singer continues to patter. It's quite complex.

It's "less," because Reunion isn't really a band at all. It was an ad hoc collection of studio musicians, something that seemed to happen a lot in the late 60s and early 70s. The lead singer, Joey Levine, is a voice you'd know from other 70s novelties like Yummy, Yummy and Chewy, Chewy by Ohio Express (also not a "real" band). Still, the song is undeniably catchy and clever. And somebody named "abmcw" on YouTube saw fit to make a video that's almost as clever as the song. I'm sending it out to my brother-in-law Todd, who is similarly gifted in creating these sorts of videos. It made me think of him. So, without further ado, here is Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me) by Reunion. And for the heck of it, the remake by Tracy Ullman.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hillary Clinton to Announce 2016 Presidential Run This Weekend?

Image from source, Business Insider
In 2008, I wasn't campaigning for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Having seen all of the early candidates up close and personal at a campaign event in Las Vegas, I'd hitched my wagon (however briefly and embarrassingly) to John Edwards. Hey, he had a great presence and message, his wife was fighting a cancer battle with poise and dignity and he was cute. Sue me, I didn't know he was a scumbag. In any event, when we caucused (a bizarre little event in itself), Edwards didn't get enough support, so--as was required--I had to realign with another candidate.

Here, I was presented with a coin toss. I really liked both Obama and Clinton. I considered our slate of candidates an embarrassment of riches (not knowing what Edwards had been up to, naturally), so ranking them was tricky business. What sealed the deal for me, was the caucusing. The Edwards people (and the rest of the scattered re-aligners) were for the most part of good spirit, and happy to realign. The Obama camp was cheerful, energetic, enthusiastic. And the Hillary contingent was strident, pushy and borderline rude. Remember that air of "inevitability" everyone talked about then? That's how they were treating the caucus, and it gave their pitches a feeling of aggressive entitlement.

Maybe I was inferring a little too much negativity to them, I don't know. But at the time, their attitude was enough to influence my decision to side with the Obama camp. When your choice is a 50/50, you have to find a reason, and that was mine. And afterward, from Clinton supporters throughout the primary, I saw a lot of that same sort of behavior and attitude. It was a bruising primary, and throughout it, my feelings of negativity from Team Clinton grew, and solidified. Though I didn't assign them to the candidate--merely her team, and her supporters--a bit of that couldn't help but rub off, and sour me a bit on Hillary.

So, I'm glad that there have been two presidential terms between then and now. In that time, Clinton had time to grow as a candidate, and distance herself from her 2008 persona. I imagine there are still some from Team Obama who nurse hurt feelings and resentment over that primary, but am confident that Hillary will be able to grab the lion's share of the president's supporters easily, and the rest grudgingly. A surprise entry by--say--Elizabeth Warren might change my mind. But barring that, I'm prepared to hop aboard the Clinton train. But something tells me this is going to be a bumpy ride.


Hillary Clinton will announce her 2016 campaign this weekend

A source with knowledge of Hillary Clinton's plans has confirmed that she will officially announce her 2016 presidential bid on Saturday or Sunday. This will be imminently followed by campaign travel. . .

Read more: Business Insider

Monday, April 6, 2015

2016 GOP Clown Car Update #1

Tuesday, Sen. "Dr." Rand Paul (KY) is supposed to be joining Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the GOP 2016 Republican clown car. Every four years, I think the load of clowns can't get more ridiculous, but while compiling the graphic here, I came up with 15 serious* contenders, and can see a lot of crazy going on there. There is not--yet--a Michele Bachmann or a Herman Cain, though some batshittery is sure to fly out of one of their mouths to give us a clue as to who will have the heaviest comedy quotient. Of course, there is Rick (don't Google me) Santorum to kick around again. I'll try to update this list as people are added, as they declare, and as they bow out.

This could be very entertaining. And terrifying.

*Incidentally, typing "serious" in explaining this bunch is perhaps not the best word choice, I know.

The Gay Thing: Here is Why Religious Objections to Gay Marriage are BUNK

Yes, The Gay Thing again. Sorry for being sort of a one-track-blog lately, but this topic just keeps bobbing up to the top. And the level of stupid amongst blogs, social media, Right Wing World and even from elected officials, is really starting to irritate me to the point of distraction.

I've struggled with writing a streamlined rebuttal to all of these "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that keep cropping up, and with the arguments behind them. Then I realized, there is a very simple reason why "marriage" isn't some special, sanctified, sacred, religious haven immune to ordinary laws. And here it is:

Attention RFRA Supporters: Not a church.

Civil marriage and "holy matrimony" have coexisted for decades, centuries even, and have not heretofore presented a religious conflict for wedding and formal event vendors.

That's it. That proves, a) that the perspective of the religiously sensitive cake baker or florist is anti-gay bigotry wrapped in religion, and b) that legal protection for their position is unnecessary.

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church, for example, has been free to ignore the validity of any couple's marriage that they don't deem to fit with their doctrine. Even congregants in good standing have been denied a "church wedding" within its walls. This is still true now, and will remain true unless the Vatican changes its mind on the subject, not whether or not the United States changes its civil laws. The same is true for any church or religion, as it pertains to what they consider valid in their religion.

Wedding reception hall (cakes, flowers, catering):
Also, not a church.
At the same time, many marriages have either no formal religious endorsement, or no religious component at all. There has been no recent prohibition against marriages by atheists, agnostics, interfaith couples, previously married couples, excommunicated Catholics or really, hardly any combination of unrelated, consenting adults. These marriages have co-existed with those considered to be religiously sanctified for time immemorial. These people have purchased cakes, flowers, catering, photography, tuxedos, dresses, hired reception halls, been listed on gift registries, been featured in newspapers, and managed to do it all without creating  religious crises for any of the vendors involved.

The fact that now--now that same-sex marriage is a reality, and soon probably a nation-wide one--suddenly "requires" special exemptions to laws, and protections for religious belief ought to be very telling to everyone what this is really all about: anti-gay bigotry. How can all of the above be true, and this simple fact not be obvious? These vendors managed to ignore any "sincerely held beliefs" about their clients' private lives and personal morality before. Why has that suddenly changed for this particular category of "sinner?" And how can it possibly be legally justified?

Well, it can only be justified if you ignore precedent, logic, reason and go merely for truthiness and "gut-feel," and if you have a tendency to feel squishy about religious teachings. Because even if we did have to bend over backwards for religious belief in any and all case law, Christians have thus far been unable to present which commandment or bit of doctrine forbids selling wares to "sinners" in the first place. But, now I'm off on a tangent. Here, read this excellent article that tends to back me up, won't you?

Image from source, Think Progress

Why The Christian Right May Never Recover From Indiana

Maurice Bessinger built his fortune serving barbecue. At the half-dozen locations of his Piggie Park restaurants, customers could enjoy meats slathered in the yellow, mustard-based sauce unique to South Carolina. That is, of course, unless they were black, for Bessinger was also a proud racist. As late as the twenty-first century, Piggie Park distributed tracts to its customers claiming that the Bible is a pro-slavery document — one of them claimed that African slaves “blessed the Lord for allowing them to be enslaved and sent to America.” After Congress banned whites-only restaurants in 1964, Bessinger reportedly put up an uncensored version of a sign warning that “[t]he law makes us serve n***ers, but any money we get from them goes to the Ku Klux Klan. . .”

Read more at: Think Progress

SNL Getting Good Again

Saturday Night Live has gone through another season-and-a-half or so of basically holding itself together out of habit and routine. After a mass exodus of long-time cast members (with a few long-timers hanging in there, spanning the gap), there was the addition of a massive number of new hires, then a gradual shedding of dead wood (some of it good wood). Finally, now that we're heading toward the end of a season, it feels like SNL has gelled again. This weekend's edition felt like a well-oiled machine, with a real identity.

That doesn't mean everything worked, or that it was knee-slappingly funny. It's rarely been that way, despite what you may remember. That's the nature of a live comedy show. But, it does feel like everything was on purpose, like the writing matches the acting, and like they know what they're doing. That's new, with this cast. Even Weekend Update feels "settled" again, with Colin Jost and Michael Che finally feeling less like "the new guys," and more like seasoned players. Now, let's see if they can hold the feeling into season 41. . . Meanwhile, here are some of the better clips from this weekend's Michael Keaton episode.

CNN's programming was skewered, along with current news stories.

They made fun of Scientology (referencing HBO's Going Clear documentary) with a spot-on parody of the "religion's" cheesy inspirational videos.

Taran Killam's "Jebediah Atkinson" colonial media critic character manages to remain unexpectedly funny every time.

And while I'd characterize many of the skits on Keaton's show to be more odd than laugh-out-loud funny, there was a certain polish to the whole proceedings, and Keaton was game for anything, giving the whole episode a professional, cohesive feel it hasn't had in a long time.

One thing I particularly like, is that while the show still has the one obvious male lead (Killam) per usual, the show now feels less like a boy's club, which has been a persistent problem in the past. The women of SNL are now very, very strong, particularly Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and now, Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones. Zamata in particular came out of the box as though she was a seasoned player, and the more they give Jones to do, the more I like her.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Gay Thing: After Extreme Silliness, Louisiana Deadly, Seriously Anti-Gay

Even though I haven't blogged very much of late, most of it has been on the same theme: anti-gay legislation by Republicans. There is a "gay panic" going on over the perceived imminence of a Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Religious conservatives are desperate for a way to wiggle out of having to recognize, acknowledge, "participate in" or even catch a glimpse of legal same-sex marriage.

Some of these new stories manage to take hold in the public, and take over news cycles, but they veer wildly from righteous indignation (on the LGBT/ally side) to hyperbolic shrieking (on the religious nutbar side), to extreme knee-jerk overreaction (on both sides) to extraordinarily stupid analogies (mostly on the nutbar side), and eventual subject burnout. I'm exhausted by the subject at the moment. But then, it suddenly gets real again.

Now, I've written in this space how difficult a topic this is to tackle, because there is so much wrong with the right's straw man arguments. There is sort of a field full of straw men, each assembled from so much wrong stuff, there's no straight-ahead approach to mow them all down. I keep trying, but it ain't easy. Suffice it to say that the conservative case for discrimination-as-freedom side is 10 kinds of wrong. Check my previous recent posts for further info on the subject, the tangent is too long to get back into here.

No, the subject of this post shows that the silliness of the pizza place (now fat with cash, thanks to bigot-bred fundraising) story was an aberration. The real danger is still steaming down the tracks, and the latest train comes from Louisiana, which is poised to go "full Indiana" on us, only they've cranked it up to 11. They've done us the favor of actually singling out gay people though, which may finally unwittingly shine a truth flashlight on this thing, that can't be dodged.


Extreme ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill Could Make Louisiana The Next Indiana

Louisiana is the latest state considering adopting a religious freedom bill, after state Rep. Mike Johnson (R) introduced legislation Friday that could allow businesses to refuse service for same-sex weddings and deny benefits to employees in same-sex marriages. The legislation follows bills passed in Indiana and Arkansas that led to outcry from an array of businesses and conventions, and according to experts who spoke to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “would be a license to the private sector to refuse, for religious or moral reasons, to recognize same-sex marriages.” But while Indiana and Arkansa’s Religious Freedom Restoration Acts safeguard business owners who might discriminate, the Louisiana bill, titled the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” specifically endorses that discrimination. . .

Read more at: Think Progress

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Gay Thing: "Memories Pizza" is First Indiana Business to Publicly Endorse RFRA

So, apparently there is this mom-n-pop pizza joint in Indiana. And they are either a) courting controversy to drum up business, b) really want to jump on the "fame by martyrdom" conservative lecture circuit or c) want to go out of business. Perhaps it's some combination of those. The business has allegedly been around for nine years, but had to this point only ever garnered a couple of Yelp reviews.

Not anymore! They are full to the edge of the crust with Yelp reviews now! And many of them are hilarious. My favorite:

(Hilarious) image from source, Yelp reviews.
"Ever since this business came out against homosexuals i worry about it. I worry that people will order carry out over and over and over with out picking it up. I think this would ruin this fine establishment and these fantastic people. That would be super duper wrong. These fine Christlike people also deliver. Please DO NOT use your gay powers to call in fake deliveries. This would be equally detrimental to a heterosexual business struggling to make its way in an increasingly homo world."

Read for yourself: Click here: Memories Pizza - Walkerton, IN | Yelp
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