"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bummer

The Oscar nominations are out, and although Call Me By Your Name made the list for Best Picture and Best Actor (Chalamet certainly deserves it), I was really expecting Armie Hammer to get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In my opinion (and it's not an opinion founded in ignorance -- I've been an actor, I know what's involved) he deserved a nomination, at least. He really gave a subtle, elliptical and compelling performance -- the kind of performance that leaves you wanting to know more about this person.

Full disclosure: I haven't seen any of the other films, but from all reports, Call Me By Your Name is facing stiff competition. Given the way the politics of the Academy seem to run, I'm expecting it to be shut out -- a "gay" film, Moonlight, won last year.

The full list is at Variety.

Today in Disgusting People: A Master of His Craft

His craft, of course, is lying with a straight face while turning reality on its head. I refer to none other than Tony Perkins. This story really needs to be read in its entirety to get the full impact of the man's fundamental mendacity, but this line actually made me laugh:

Evangelical Christians “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists,” Perkins said, “and I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

This is probably an accurate reflection of the attitude of the evangelical base: not giving them special status and an exemption from the social contract is pushing them around.

And anyone who can call Barack Obama a "bully" while defending the atrocity that's squatting in the White House (when he's not off playing golf) is really reaching for the stars.

Needless to say, he gets the Tony Perkins Award.

Read the whole thing. It's really one long WTF? moment.

Today in Creeping Fascism

William Donohue, d/b/a "The Catholic League," has gotten his knickers twisted over a play. Via press release:

On January 23, “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” a New Group production, will preview at the Pershing Square Signature Center, an off-Broadway venue. That morning, at 9:30 a.m., I will hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., raising objections to the play and the source of funding for the New Group. Regarding the latter, the New Group receives most of its funding from public sources, led by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

The press conference has two objectives: to call attention to this frontal assault on Christian sensibilities; and to request that President Trump nominate a new chairman of the NEA, one who will discontinue funding of anti-Christian grantees, exhibitions, and performances. The current chairman’s tenure ends in April; the president is expected to announce his nominee in the near future.

First off, the NEA, I'm told, does not directly fund theatrical productions, but then, when you've got a good snit going, who cares about facts? Here's a route into the arcana of NEA grant-making. And do keep in mind that the NEA (and the NEH) have been favorite targets of the right since they made the mistake of funding projects that the "good Christians" don't approve of.

And in that vein, commenter 2guysnamedjoe at Joe.My.God. provided this link and this quote:

"It is not the mission of art," the Führer proclaimed to the assembled crowd in September 1935, "to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint the human being only in a state of putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, or to present deformed idiots as representatives of manly strength."

I think the thing that most riles Republicans about the NEA is that it doesn't hold to the idea that politicians should be determining which art is acceptable. It wisely has left that to audiences.

Oh, and one further observation: The Catholic Church does not accept the idea of separation of church and state. Which makes the Church, as far as I can tell, officially anti-American.

Via Joe.My.God.

And just in case you're curious as to what all the fuss is about:


Be warned: it's two hours long.


Pass the Popcorn

Apparently Franklin Graham's blatant hypocrisy was too much even for some conservatives:

Evangelist Franklin Graham is being criticized for defending President Donald Trump after accusations surfaced that a lawyer for Trump had paid $130,000 to a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

"I'm afraid I have to stop recommending Samaritan's Purse. The judgment of its leadership raises too many questions," wrote radio host and editor of Resurgent Erick Erickson, on Twitter, responding to Graham's recent interview with MSNBC.

Graham is the president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

That's just the tip of the iceberg -- Graham is catching hell from all directions on this one. It's worth reading the whole article.

Via Joe.My.God.


Monday, January 22, 2018

How Times Have Changed

Here's a nice story that is perhaps more significant than you might at first think:

Two Army captains who met in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era of the military, became the first active-duty, same-sex couple to get married at West Point when they exchanged vows last weekend.

Capt. Daniel Hall, 30, and Capt. Vinny Franchino, 26, both Apache helicopter pilots, were married at the New York military academy’s picturesque chapel, the New York Times reported on Friday.

They're not the first same-sex couple to be married at West Point, but the first active-duty same-sex couple.

But what struck me is that, if you follow the link above, it will take you to Raw Story, reprinting an article from Newsweek, which references at article from the New York Times. It's not all that long ago that a story like this would have been ignored by the "mainstream" press -- unless there were a riot.

"Climate Change Is A Chinese Hoax!"

Photo:  DNAInfo
It is January 22, in Chicago. The forecast high for today is 55, with heavy rain/thunderstorms until later this afternoon. Tonight, it dips down to the lower 30s, so it can all freeze, then in in a day or two we go back up to the 40s and 50s.

There are no patterns to the weather any more. Yes, we normally have a January Thaw (in 1967, it got up to 70 degrees; the next day we had three feet of snow), but they don't go on for two weeks at a time, and the temperatures have been in the 40s for the past three or four days, and then a couple weeks ago we had another warm spell.

I wish the Chinese would lay off.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hypocrite du Jour

I could make this a regular department -- there are so many possible subjects, but today's hypocrite, d/b/a Franklin Graham, seems to have made an extra effort to hit the news:

“Reverend, you just told me that this country has a sin problem and I know you’ve no doubt heard that the president is accused of having his lawyer pay $130,000 to a former porn star allegedly for her silence about his sexual encounter while he’s married,” Witt said. “The previous allegations as well, that access “Access Hollywood” tape, does that challenge your faith in the president?”

“Does the president have a sin problem?” Witt asked.

“I can promise you he is not President Perfect,” Graham replied.

His rationale is jaw-dropping:

"Well first of all, President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person and so, this is just a news story, I don’t know if it’s accurate,” Graham deflected.

Just try to imagine what Graham would be saying if Trump were a Democrat. I guess if you're a prominent evangelical "Christian," moral standards are negotiable.

For those with strong stomachs, or who just want to watch Graham dodging and weaving, here's the video:



What's New At Green Man Review

It's Sunday at Green Man Review, and we've got something old, something new, and lots of good stuff:

Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate truffles, some Roger Zelazny reviews, Music from Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series and other matters

Be sure to check out the Coda for this week -- it's really special. (A/k/a "Earworm of the Year") Of course, the whole thing is really special, so what are you waiting for?

It's All About Priorities

Buried in an article about the dismay of White House staffers over the way things are, I found this little tidbit from Politico particularly illuminating:

And in the meantime, the White House is caught up in the congressional fight over funding the government, saving the DACA program and funding the Children's Health Insurance Program — issues that some in the West Wing and many of Trump’s outside advisers view as distracting from the crucial task of preparing for the midterm elections and charting a 2018 agenda.
(Emphasis added.)

Did anyone really think the Republicans were interested in governing?

(And please note that I refrained from making any comments about "snowflakes".)

Via Balloon Juice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Today's Must-Read: What America Is

It occurred to me while surfing through the news this morning that Trump's whole message, from the beginning of his candidacy and continuing through today, has been completely negative: his appeal is to the worst of us.

Tom Sullivan has a post at Hullabaloo that helps to put it all into perspective.

The #Resistance locks progressives into a confining frame. An energizing one, perhaps, but restrictive nonetheless. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 behind us and the first anniversary Women's March ahead, and with the next volley from a president dishing red meat for his base coming as surely as the sun rises, perhaps it is time to clarify who we are rather than simply protest what we stand against.

Ed Kilgore offers an anecdote from Rev. William Barber II's book, The Third Reconstruction:
Not long ago I was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, with one of America’s most prominent atheists. Wearing my clerical collar, I realized that I stood out among his guests. So I decided to announce to Bill that I, too, am an atheist. He seemed taken aback, so I explained that if we were talking about the God who hates poor people, immigrants, and gay folks, I don’t believe in that God either. Sometimes it helps to clarify our language.
One could say the same about what makes America great. If American greatness means slamming the golden door to fellow human beings, to refugees from places the sitting president considers "shitholes," then I am not an American either.

He goes on from there. I found this particularly tellling, a quote from our last real president:

We are called to better things. The last president, a man not born to wealth or the privilege of whiteness, had a clearer sense of who we are. Nancy LeTourneau excerpts Barack Obama's speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge:

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

To finish off, out of order from Sullivan's post, another quote from Rev. William Barber:

Trump is a symptom of a deeper moral malady. And if he was gone tomorrow or impeached tomorrow, the senators and the House of Representatives and Ryan and McConnell and Graham and all them would still be there. And what we have found, Amy, when we look at them, no matter how crazy they call him or names they call him or anger they get with him, it’s all a front, because at the end of the day, they might disagree with his antics, but they support his agenda.

Trump really is a symptom of the moral rot that has infected American conservatism since the days of Ronald Reagan, if not before. And it's not just the Republicans in Congress -- it's the billionaires who own them, who think that their own greed is the guiding force of this country, or should be; it's the "Christian" right whose lust for power has left far behind any claim that they may have once had to being real Christians; it's the small, confused people who live in fear that someone not just like them will take something away from them. I'm sure you have your own candidates for this list. And right now, they're in control.

As always, read the whole thing. It's truly inspiring.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Today at Green Man Review

Son of a gun -- it's Sunday again, and new goodies at Green Man Review:

Comfort Food, The Bordertown series, Music from Nick Burbridge and other matters

The "other matters" include a lot of Welsh music, so pop on over and have a look see.

Compare and Contrast

Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, a nice example of what we've got versus what we had.

Now:



Then:



We traded an actual human being for a puffed-up moron. (There's more at the link that's worth checking out.)

This actually impinges on Trump's perceived racism. I ran across a story that Martin Luther King's nephew, after the event honoring MLK day, noted something to the effect that Trump is not "racist" as we normally think of it -- i.e., not David Duke or Jeff Sessions racist -- but rather that, as in every other area of life (except self-promotion) he is just preternaturally ignorant. (If I can find that story again I'll include a link.)

On the other hand, there's this:
In the nineteen-eighties, when Trump owned casinos in Atlantic City, some of his managers got the strong impression that he didn’t like black employees. In a 2015 story about the faded resort town, my colleague Nick Paumgarten quoted a former busboy at the Trump Castle, who said, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor.”
He's also not very bright and appallingly incurious.

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Science: Earth, A Biography: Another Building Block

This is actually a footnote to an earlier post on this topic. It seems that researchers may have discovered the forerunners of the means by which living cells turn raw materials into energy:

Our cells turn oxygen organic compounds, especially sugars, into energy and CO2 through a process known as cellular respiration. You may have been told in school that mitochondria, the specialized organelles which handle cellular respiration, ‘burn' food to release energy, and that's a pretty functional illustration of the process. The whole picture is, however, much larger that.

Energy-producing mechanisms in our body are often referred to as cycles - one of the most common ones is the citric acid / Krebs cycle. These are usually very complicated processes, and as such, are very difficult to wrap your head around and study them in the lab. Which is a pain if you're the kind of scientist who's trying to understand how these cycles came to be, where they first started from, and how they evolved. However, new research could offer these researchers the lucky break they need.

The processes they've discovered are, by living organism standards, pretty rudimentary:

However, the team, which also included members from the Scripps Research Institute in California and two undergrads at Furman, found two compounds which could maintain a Krebs-like cycle in experiments mimicking conditions on early Earth. Christened the HKG- and malonate-cycles, the team says these processes are likely very similar to the pre-life versions of the reactions that keep us alive today.

They're hugely less efficient than the Krebs cycle, but that was to be expected, given the lack of supportive enzymes. More importantly, however, they're based on a similar chemical blueprint - both cycles turn a molecule called glyoxylate into CO2 and other molecules in the presence of an electron-capturing agent. They're so similar, the authors' hypothesis is that biology picked them up as it was and simply tweaked and improved upon them, leading to the reactionary cycles we see today.

Given that evolution spends a lot of time adapting existing structures and processes, these two processes could very well be the beginning of metabolism --- add a few enzymes here and there as you go along, and eventually, you wind up with the Krebs cycle.

As it stands, these early processes could very well have made life possible.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Best Response I've Seen

To the "president's" comment about "shithole countries":


Via David Anderson at Balloon Juice.