"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

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

Lots of fun stuff today -- great books, wild music, and chocolate! So scoot on over.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Looks Like Not Everyone's on Board

Paul Ryan and the teabaggers want to repeal Obamacare and gut Medicare as quickly as possible, before there's time for opponents to get their act together. Lamar Alexander is the second Republican I've seen saying "chill a minute."

A senior U.S. Senate Republican warned his party on Thursday against simultaneously overhauling Medicare and the Obamacare health insurance program, saying this would be “biting off more than you can chew.”

The cautionary comments from Senator Lamar Alexander came after House Speaker Paul Ryan, long an advocate of privatize Medicare, said Republican lawmakers would be discussing reforms of the health insurance program for the elderly with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Ryan's claims about Medicare are pretty much standard GOP alarmist bullshit:

Ryan earlier Thursday said that Medicare was on a path to going bankrupt around 2028, and needed reform, a repeat of his long-standing stance. He wants to convert the fee-for-service program into a system of subsidies for seniors, to buy coverage from private insurers or a scaled-back Medicare.

I'm inclined to take his warnings about insolvency with a grain of salt, at least, seeing as how he can't submit a budget proposal in which the numbers actually add up.

Just as a reminder, anyone remember the backlash when Bush the Lesser tried to privatize Social Security? Not pretty.

Yes, I Know

I haven't been commenting on the news lately. You hit a point where you just go numb, from sheer disbelief if nothing else: each nomination coming from the Hairpiece for high positions in his administration is worse than the last*, Kellyanne Conway is proving stiff competition for Tony Perkins for "Miss Mendacity," he's already started wheeling and dealing to land good deals for his companies, and there's only so much you can take.

Add in that the weather in Chicago is not helping: it's turned chilly and cloudy, which is not conducive to much.

One thing that did occur to me: Trump is pulling the same shit he pulled during the campaign: do or say something outrageous, something completely outside of any recognized norm, and the press will eat it up. He did it for fifteen months, at least in part as a smokescreen, and the press ate it up. They know he's doing it, and they're still eating it up, because it makes their bosses happy: the money, to quote one network CEO, is just rolling in.

So I am sitting here listening to some music from an online friend of old by the name of John Stone, whom I met when we were both reviewing for Epinions, before a series of acquisitions left it as part of eBay and they wiped all the reviews of items not on the eBay database and stopped accepting new reviews on Epinions. It's a selection of smaller pieces, and very nice stuff. If you should run across any of his music, I recommend it.

* The main reason to have the world's most powerful military is so that you don't have to use it. Duh. And this guy, who has not been on my radar before now, sounds like a real sicko.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Culture Break: Eric Whitacre: Cloudburst

I haven't listened to this for a while. It is rather calming, which I need right now -- I think we all do.

Whitacre is one of those contemporary composers who seems to have stumbled into composing backwards, as you can see if you read my review.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Actually Remembered

To post this yesterday, several times, but never when I was near a computer. Anyway, you know what Sunday is: What's New at Green Man Review.

It's all about King Arthur -- books (of course), movies, even music.

Welcome to Trump's America

It's not that you can't make this stuff up -- it's that you don't have to any more:

According to Ricky Berry, he and his roommate Philip Blackwell went to a CVS store in Carytown, Virginia in search of cheese.

After asking an employee if the store carried cheese, and being told it did not, Berry said the staffer and other employees who had been on floor disappeared.

“We looked around for probably 30, 45 minutes and we couldn’t find anybody,” Blackwell said, adding that they discovered another customer, attempting to purchase Oragel for a bad tooth, who also couldn’t find anyone to help him.

Berry stated that a police officer showed up and helped them search the store only to discover the employees huddled in a back room behind locked doors.

Fasten your seatbelts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Coda: This:

“I was a little firm with him, and I just told him, ‘Hey, you know, my husband and I spend a lot of money here. We’ve been using you guys for ten years. We have $3,000 worth of stone.’” Shawlin recalled telling manager. “And [the manager] goes, ‘oh, that explains it now. The faggot that voted for Hillary.’”

Another customer expressed support for Donald Trump after overhearing the conversation, Shawlin said.

The father broke down in tears remembering how the customer later followed him and his son into the parking lot.

“He basically said, ‘What are these faggots going to do to this child?’” Shawlin recalled.

This is what happens when you validate assholes.

And again. I know where that store is. In fact, I bought a picture frame there. Not the behavior I would expect from someone from that neighborhood -- it's actually very close to where I lived for a number of years, what I used to call "South Suburban Boys' Town." Sadly, there are people like that in Chicago -- I remember a bizarre conversation I had with a woman at the bus stop, commiserating about reductions in service: She was convinced it was because Obama was giving people cars. Really.

Be warned -- it's about ten minutes.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Today's Must-Read: Americans Weren't the Only Ones Campaigning

A rather sobering article from Josh Marshall, on Russian dissemination of fake news during our election season and the reaction of other governments to the news, especially Germany:

But while they are on their guard, here in the US people are already starting to forget. We're on to worrying about Trump's latest outrage, taking up our preferred position in the internecine warfare within the Democratic party, cursing the pollsters and a lot else. Indeed, it's not just that many of us are starting to move on. All along the reality of what happened - that our election was manipulated by a highly effective Russian subversion campaign - is difficult to fully process or accept.

Marshall links to this article from Buzzfeed, which you should also read -- much more detail. In fact, click through to everything he's linked to in his article.

It was only half tongue-in-cheek that I referred to Trump several times as a Russian puppet. While maybe not strictly accurate (but at this point, who can tell, considering the ways he's mixing the presidency and his own business interests), I was more on target than I knew: Putin got the president he wanted.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, the day started out overcast, which always makes it hard for me to get started. And then one of the first stories I ran into this morning was this:

Renowned indigenous historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explained this week that the Thanksgiving holiday was “never about honoring Native Americans” as many children are taught in U.S. schools.

In an interview with Democracy Now’s Nermeen Shaikh on Wednesday, Dunbar-Ortiz addressed misconceptions about the holiday.

“Actually, it’s never been about honoring Native Americans,” she remarked. “It’s been about the origin story of the United States, the beginning of genocide, dispossession and constant warfare from that time—actually, from 1607 in Jamestown—until the present. It’s a colonial system that was set up.”

It should only be that simple.

OK, by now we all know that the story of the first Thanksgiving we were taught in school was pretty much bogus. At this point, it's guesses for grabs what really happened, but I doubt it's as villainous as Dunbar-Ortiz makes it out to be.

Yes, Europeans have an appalling history vis-a-vis native peoples, not only in the Americas but everywhere else they wound up. (One of the great ironies of the fight over the Ugandan "Kill the gays" bill was the insistence in some quarters that practices that their pre-Colonial ancestors found perfectly acceptable were "not truly African." This while holding desperately on to the worst aspects of the Colonial regimes.)

But, to dig a little deeper, every society that practices agriculture has a harvest festival. Thanksgiving, although it comes a little later than most, is ours. It's gotten tied into a creation myth about the founding of the country -- one of many, as it happens -- but it's still basically a harvest festival.

So why can't we just be grateful for that?

(And, for a completely irreverent and off-the-wall aside, do you suppose that's why the white working class is, we're told, so afraid of undocumented immigrants? In light of what the first wave of undocumented immigrants did to those who were already here?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Culture Break: Tummel: This Ship Is Sinking

Sadly, I couldn't find a video of the group performing this, but the song is so appropriate for Trump's America that I wanted to post it. It's from the album Payback Time, which is one of the most outrageous things I've ever heard.

YouTube seems to have the whole album posted. Look for my review December 4 at Green Man Review.

PC Amok

I'm old enough to remember when "politically correct" actually meant something, as used by the New Left in the 1970s and '80s, and it wasn't necessarily positive: I'm not real enthusiastic about ideological purity. Now that the right has bastardized the term so that it has no meaning any more: the right uses it to mean social norms that it doesn't agree with, which is most of them. There is an element of the far left that uses political correctness as a cue for outrage -- you know, those people who make a profession of being offended. This, though, has really got me scratching my head:

In a segment focused on the words of white supremacist leader Richard Spencer late Monday afternoon, CNN's chyron read: "ALT-RIGHT FOUNDER QUESTIONS IF JEWS ARE PEOPLE." 

It was a stunning summary of Spencer's comments, which CNN posted as reading:

"One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem," which The New York Times quoted today, noting that "golem" refers "to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews."

The CNN host called Spencer's words, "hate-filled garbage."

OK, this is fairly straightforward, but it's the chyron that generated the outrage.

People, including Jake Tapper -- it was on his show, although he was away at the time -- are up in arms. You can read some of the tweets at the link above, and then there's this post from Crooks and Liars, which has hardly any substance at all. There are more tweets, but if you check out the comments, what's missing is one very basic point: The chyron is quoting a white supremacist/Nazi leader whose words are, very rightly, condemned in the discussion. The quote is attributed. Seems perfectly within the standards of normalcy to me -- not the content, but the treatment, I should say.

So, I'm sitting here asking myself, why are so many people -- including the show's host -- outraged? I mean, not only the tweets but the comments from the C&L post -- not to mention the C&L headline, which reads "Jake Tapper Annoyed His Show Ran A Chyron Questioning If Jews Were People" -- make it sound as though CNN were endorsing this garbage when, in fact, the panel did just the opposite.

That, to me, is PC run amok.