"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, June 25, 2019

Today's Must-Read: The Lower Depths, Part ? (Update)

Trump's mean, vindictive policy of separating families and putting the children in concentration camps continues, and the more reports I read, the worse it sounds. This one, from CNN via Digby, is more than horrifying:

A 14-year old told us she was taking care of a 4-year old who had been placed in her cell with no relatives. "I take her to the bathroom, give her my extra food if she is hungry, and tell people to leave her alone if they are bothering her," she said.

She was just one of the children we talked with last week as part of a team of lawyers and doctorsmonitoring conditions for children in US border facilities. We have been speaking out urgently, since then, about the devastating and abusive circumstances we've found. The Trump administration claims it needs even more detention facilities to address the issue, but policy makers and the public should not be fooled into believing this is the answer.

The situation we found is unacceptable. US Border Patrol is holding many children, including some who are much too young to take care of themselves, in jail-like border facilities for weeks at a time without contact with family members, regular access to showers, clean clothes, toothbrushes, or proper beds. Many are sick. Many, including children as young as 2 or 3, have been separated from adult caretakers without any provisions for their care besides the unrelated older children also being held in detention.

We spoke with an 11-year-old caring for his toddler brother. Both were fending for themselves in a cell with dozens of other children. The little one was quiet with matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue. As we interviewed the two brothers, he fell asleep on two office chairs drawn together, probably the most comfortable bed he had used in weeks. They had been separated from an 18-year-old uncle and sent to the Clint Border Patrol Station. When we met them, they had been there three weeks and counting.

Read it, if you can stand it.

Update: And if people try to help, Border Patrol ignores them.

Monday, June 24, 2019

More on Mayor Pete

This was farther down in the same comment thread cited in the last post, and again shows what the media is not telling us and, even more so, what the "activists" being featured are ignoring:



It's worth following that whole thread to see how much support Buttigieg actually has in South Bend.

It's worth noting that, in addition to the media focusing on click-bait stories, the professionally offended are generating their own slant on events by the simple expedient of ignoring facts that don't fit their agenda. (Sound familiar?)

When News Becomes a Profit Center

Our national media has been on a downhill slide for some years now -- actually, ever since the advent of Rupert Murdoch, which in this country means Fox News. It's not just that Fox deals in propaganda -- it's much more the idea that, rather than a public service (which has become a quaint idea, at best), news should be a profit center. Those two elements together -- profit and propaganda-- have made a sad joke of the Founders' idea of an informed populace.

This comes to mind after seeing these tweets in a comment thread at Joe.My.God., courtesy of commenter Lazycrocket:



I'm sure you've seen and/or read the story about Mayor Pete being shouted down by some of his black constituents in the wake of the shooting of a black man by a police officer. The stories I saw focused on the outrage in the community and slanted the narrative to make it look as though Buttigieg didn't have much support at home, much less nationally.

That doesn't seem to be the case.

The point of this is that we don't know what's being left out of the reports, and we can no longer trust reporters, or at least a substantial number of them, to be honest. Even less so, commentators.

So much for a free and independent press -- the major outlets have become departments in major corporations, and the goal there is not honest reporting but profits, with the results that we see everyday on the news.



Antidote, Pride Edition

This story has, as they say, gone viral.



I don't think I need to add anything.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

And it's our usual eclectic assembly:

The Very First Spider-Man Film, Four Fantasies, Bees, Mouse Guard short stories, A Spanish Christmas sweet fit for year round, Dr. John Live and Some Other Matters

And it's all there just waiting for you.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Todays Must-Read: The Lower Depths, Part II

As a follow-up to this post, read this post by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo on conditions in the concentration camps.

Eyes otherwise fixed on the Strait of Hormuz Friday night caught this dispatch from a western hemisphere heart of darkness:

Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

Conditions at Customs and Border Protection's dangerously overcrowded "camps" (we'll get to that) on the southern border with Mexico continue to deteriorate. Over "45,000 people from 52 countries," refugees, have arrived over the last three weeks, the New York Times reports. Conditions are, to use a loaded word, deplorable. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Friday condemned national leaders in Washington for their inaction, “Congress is a group of reprobates for not addressing the crisis on our border.”

It's beyond appalling. It's gone past the point where I'm ashamed to admit I'm American.

Read it.

T

Better Late?

Well, it took a while, the the American Psychoanalytic Association has finally 'fessed up:

The American Psychoanalytic Association apologized on Friday for previously labeling homosexuality a mental illness.

“It is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession,” Lee Jaffe, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We all know that hearing the words ‘we are sorry’ is important to healing past trauma.”



I'm not going to go all professionally offended on this and bitch about "empty gestures," first because it's not empty -- for an organization like the APA to admit it screwed up is significant -- but also because apologies do help.

What annoys me most about that whole period in the annals of psychology (and make no mistake -- the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association -- the APAs -- were right on board with the "mental illness" thing) is that Evelyn Hooker had been doing studies in the 1950s that clearly showed that gay men who were not in therapy were as well-adjusted as anyone else. There was, however, a contingent of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, most notably Charles Socarides, whose livelihood depended on the "mental illness" diagnosis. (Ironically, Socarides' son is gay.) It took overt political action by gay psychologists and activists to get the associations to even think about it.

But at least they're admitting they were wrong.

Via Joe.My.God.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Today's Must-Read: The Lower Depths

That's the moral ground the U.S. government is occupying right now. This story beggars belief:

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?'” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

This is the kind of reasoning you get from Trump's Justice Department:

On Tuesday, Fabian asked the Ninth Circuit to reverse Gee’s findings because they added new requirements – such as giving detainees soap and toothbrushes – that were not specifically included in Flores.

“One has to assume it was left that way and not enumerated by the parties because either the parties couldn’t reach agreement on how to enumerate that or it was left to the agencies to determine,” Fabian said.

“Or it was relatively obvious,” Fletcher shot back. “And at least obvious enough so that if you’re putting people into a crowded room to sleep on a concrete floor with an aluminum-foil blanket on top of them that it doesn’t comply with the agreement.”

I'm really starting to think about emigrating. Someplace rational.


Random Observations: Pride Month in Chicago

It may seem odd to some that Chicago is very gay friendly, given the history, but that's past. As for the present:

Riding the bus down on Clark or Broadway, when you get to the historic Boys' Town (East Lakeview), there are rainbow banners and flags on the light post, which actually extend north of that on Broadway into Uptown, with rainbow banners that read "Uptown Proud". On Halsted, at least at the north end, trans banners alternative with the rainbows.

Even the CTA has joined in -- there are rainbow el trains and, I believe, buses (although I haven't seen one of the latter).

There are also rainbows in various guises in shop windows -- including J. C. Licht, a paint and supply store.

And there are occasional rainbows in shop windows down into Lincoln Park.

Strangely enough, there is no official notice of Pride in Andersonville, the other gay neighborhood, although some of the businesses are flying the rainbow.

And the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium are flying rainbow flags; the member sticker at the Field, rather than the usual blue, have a rainbow ground.

And of course, there will be the Parade, which in recent years has started in Uptown; rather than beginning at Halsted and Belmont, it now kicks off at Montrose and Broadway, which is quite a bit farther north. (We're everywhere.)

And that's the visible signs of Pride Month in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Club the Democrats Won't Use

Interesting post by Digby on why, even if the House passes articles of impeachment, Trump won't come to trial:
GOP senators say that if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump they will quickly quash them in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broad authority to set the parameters of a trial.

While McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment, which require 67 votes — or a two-thirds majority — to convict the president, he and his Republican colleagues have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials.

“I think it would be disposed of very quickly,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“If it’s based on the Mueller report, or anything like that, it would be quickly disposed of,” he added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell’s leadership team, said “nothing” would come of impeachment articles passed by the House.

Given the Senate GOP firewall, Cornyn, who’s also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he doubts that Democrats will commence the impeachment process.

“It would be defeated. That’s why all they want to do is talk about it,” he said. “They know what the outcome would be.”

(Note: She seems to be quoting from another source, but there's no link.)

Yes, we all knew that. What Digby notes as significant is this:

There was a time when Senators would say something like, "nothing I've heard so far adds up to an impeachable offense as far as I'm concerned, but of course, I will look at all the evidence before I render a judgment" (because I at least pay lip service to our constitution and legal system to show I'm not a total hack.) They don't bother with such niceties anymore --- the old "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue" thing is dead and buried. It's pure partisan power playing now accompanied by WWE style trash talk.

What strikes me is that this is the opening Democrats need to really hammer the Republicans in the next election: indict not only Trump but the whole Republican party as anti-American and determined to establish a dictatorship.

The Democrats won't pick up on it, of course.

Sigh.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Yesterday Was Moving Day

But Green Man Review published anyway:

Folkmanis’ Rat in a Tin Can, Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood, Sam Adams Seasonal Ale, A Dance & Concert by Blato Zlato, A Futuristic Riff off Holmes, Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and Other Neat Matters

So there you have it. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

I'm a bit under the weather, so this is going to be brief:

A Whiskey Review Site, The Birth of British Folk Rock, Charles de Lint digital editions, Grateful Dead live music, A Great Supernatural Novel From Robert McCammon, Rocket Raccoon & Groot and Other Rather Charming Things

Go to it.

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Day After D-Day: Remembering the Forgotten

This is something I didn't know, part of this post from Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice:

There used to be a prevailing myth that no black men participated in D-Day — by far one of the most important days of World War II.

But a closer look reveals that some African-American soldiers played a key role on Omaha Beach, and their stories still remain largely untold.

"There were no (Congressional) Medals (of Honor) given to any black soldiers for what they did at D-Day," said 90-year-old Joann Snowden Woodson. "People really need to know the truth.”

Woodson has been on a consistent mission to share the truth of D-Day with the world, as well as the service of her late husband, Waverly Bernard Woodson — one of the few black soldiers known to have served on Omaha Beach that fateful day.

Originally from West Philadelphia, Waverly Woodson was a member of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, an all-black Army unit that specialized in placing barrage balloons in battle areas during World War II. Their goal was to distract and destroy enemy aircraft and provide cover for Allied soldiers on the ground.

Waverly Woodson and his Battalion left England on June 5, 1944. They arrived on the beach in Normandy via transport boat the next day.

"He said he could see the soldiers being picked off just like flies," Joann Woodson reiterated. "Some of them were dead; some of them he had to administer the last rites. And some of them — I think he said he had to do amputations and everything."

Read the whole thing. And read Silverman's complete post as well. It's sobering when we think we've made progress in exercising our humanity.

(My dad served in the Pacific. He never talked about the war.)


Sunday, June 02, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep, it's Sunday, and that means new goodies at GMR:

Killer Robots, Dirty Rice, Gifted Children, Aaron Copland and other neat stuff

And it's all just waiting for you.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Antidote

There's a new litter of red wolf pups at Lincoln Park Zoo:

The arrival of spring also brings a litter of four critically endangered red wolf pups at Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo.

The pups, two male and two female, were born on April 13. The dam, Becca, and sire, Rhett, were recommended to breed as part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a cooperative effort among Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions to save species. This is the first litter for the zoo since 2010. . . .

Since 2005, Lincoln Park Zoo has been involved in the Red Wolf Recovery Program to try and assist the wild population with cross-fostering of zoo-born pups into wild family groups and other reintroduction efforts. Since that time, Lincoln Park Zoo scientists also conducted a Population Viability Analysis (PVA), a computer model which helped to evaluate different management scenarios for the zoo and wild populations and scientific advice to the Recovery Program. The future status of the North Carolina wild population is uncertain, but the Red Wolf SSP and Lincoln Park Zoo will continue to work toward long-term recovery efforts.


The picture's a little out of date -- they're out and about, exploring their home. I saw them yesterday. One of them got a little adventurous and went off on his own, but the rest were sticking close to mom.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Signs of the Times

Riding down Clark Street on the bus, I passed a new restaurant featuring Vietnamese and Yugoslav cuisine.

You can find anything in Chicago.

Monday, May 27, 2019

It's About Time

I may have commented before about the outrageous prices that Americans pay for prescription drugs. (Note that, by law, Medicare is not permitted to negotiate drug prices, unlike every other country in the world.) Colorado is finally doing something about it:

In a first for the country, Colorado just passed legislation putting a cap on the soaring price of insulin.

This week Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill aimed at stopping pharmaceutical companies from charging obscene amounts for the medication.

More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. That’s over 9% of the total U.S. population. And 7 million of them require insulin. Currently, diabetics in the U.S. can be charged as much as $1,000 for just one month’s supply of insulin—a cost that leads some to ration its use, leading to further health problems and even death.

According to The Right Care Alliance:

“[M]anufacturers Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk mark up the price as much as 5,000 percent and there are seven million Americans with diabetes that have no choice but to pay.

The price is so high that people are doing desperate things to get by, like using expired insulin, relying on crowdfunding to pay their bills, or taking less insulin than they need in an effort to ration their supplies.”

It's a small step, but a step in the right direction. What's more encouraging is this:

The bill goes one step further and calls for an investigation of “the pricing of prescription insulin drugs” and a report submitted to the governor by November 2020.

Now, if they expand that to include prescription drugs in general, we might begin to see some progress. And just to drive the point home:

Thumbnail


Thanks to commenter Doug105 at Joe.My.God.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

A nice mix this week:

Music from Down Under, A History of Ice Cream, Supernatural Westerns, Game of Thrones, the Great Machine, and other goodies

And it's all there waiting for you.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Today's Must-Read: "Christian Nation"

If this doesn't send a chill up your spine. . . .

Recently, a congressional staffer going about his business on the Hill encountered a couple of people who handed him a pamphlet with the scintillating title "Sexual Sin and the Aphrodisiac of Power." Sadly, this was not a post-#MeToo effort to discourage sexual harassment in the halls of Congress. Instead, the document implored "legislators, staff and lobbyists" to adopt a strict fundamentalist view of sexuality, which holds that there is no legitimate expression of sex — including masturbation — outside "the confines and commitment of a husband and a wife (a male and a female) in the bonds of matrimony."

Most urban dwellers, in Washington or elsewhere, have had these chance encounters with religious proselytizers trying to lure in the lost, lonely and emotionally vulnerable. But this was no random encounter with some true believer or doorbell-ringer. These folks were working for Capitol Ministries, a powerful right-wing group that is laser-focused on founder Ralph Drollinger's goal of recruiting public leaders and leaning on them to impose the group's far-right views on a public that overwhelmingly rejects them.


Furthermore, the group has been quite successful so far. As the pamphlet indicated, sponsors of the Capitol Ministries Bible Studies includes seven members of President Trump's Cabinet, the head of NASA, and Vice President Mike Pence. According to Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way, who has been monitoring Capitol Ministries for years now, the group has weekly Bible studies for House members and senators, as well as one for Cabinet officials.

"[Drollinger] uses this really rare and privileged access he has by doing things like a Bible study with members of the Cabinet to tell these powerful public officials that the Bible mandates right-wing economic, social and environmental policies," Montgomery told Salon.

This is what the "religious" right has been working toward for decades -- since Ronald Reagan, in his infinite wisdom, thought he could control the Moral Majority. And as an example as to how far these fanatics have corrupted the teachings of Christ, get this:

As Montgomery has carefully chronicled at Right Wing Watch, a blog for People for the American Way, this relationship between Drolllinger's teachings, right-wing ideology and Trump officials is visible in a number of policy choices. Drollinger is fiercely anti-immigration, claiming that God deliberately separated people at the Tower of Babel and, by implication, that they should stay that way. He opposes environmentalism as a "false religion." And, of course, he opposes same-sex marriage; and teaches that despite all the language in the Bible about caring for the poor and the vulnerable, programs that do so are illegitimate.

So if you were wondering about the origins of those rule changes that target the poor, immigrants, women, and sexual minorities -- minorities of all kinds, actually -- it's not just Trump's petty cruelty. It's the petty cruelty of the religious right.

Read the whole thing -- it focuses mostly on these "Christians'" attempts to control everyone else's sex lives (because, after all, they're obsessed with sex), but there's enough in there to indicate just how wide-ranging their agenda is.

Via Joe.My.God.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Review: Steven Brust: To Reign in Hell

Another Epinions orphan. There is another version at Green Man Review.

Fantasy literature as a genre seldom strays into the consideration of such literary criteria as "style." This is not to say that fantasy writers are generic – one can easily differentiate someone like C. J. Cherryh, with her lush, dense, highly colored prose and gift for dialogue from, for example, Charles de Lint, whose writing is equally lush, often equally dense, and just as captivating, but very different. But there are vanishingly few writers of fantasy who play with style the way Steven Brust does, and in Brust's hands, this means not only the quality and focus of his abilities as a wordsmith, but the assumption of style as a formal consideration that involves structure and theme. In Brokedown Palace, for example, he took the basic form and feel of a folktale and built a captivating novel of fantasy. The Taltos Cycle, a series of stories about a combination Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin (Vlad Taltos does a lot of the legwork and most of the thinking – he loves good food, but does not grow orchids) has a decidedly noir cast that brings it firmly into the camp of the classic American detective novel. His newest series, the Viscount of Adrilankha, began as an affectionate spoof of Alexandre Dumas in The Phoenix Guard and Five Hundred Years After. Throughout, Brust has displayed an ease and confidence that are truly awe-inspiring.

To Reign In Hell definitely fits the parameters. Brust's own idiosyncratic retelling of the War in Heaven and the casting down of Satan, it is in many ways a tribute to Roger Zelazny, with Dumas one of Brust's literary heroes. Zelazny wrote a glowing introduction to this book, and within a couple of paragraphs it is easy to see why he identified with it so strongly. Brust has used an episodic structure that is almost cinematic, borrowing devices that Zelazny made his own: the particular combinations of exposition and inference, direct narrative and ellipsis, become the literary equivalent of cuts and slow fades, moving the story along as though we were seeing it on the big screen. (If one has read such classic Zelazny as Creatures of Light and Darkness or his penultimate novel, Donnerjack, one can easily see the likeness.)

Brust also has a gift for characterization. His people are deftly and subtly drawn. Yaweh, in particular, moves from primus inter pares to omnipotent creator in a series of small, inevitable steps; far from being the all-knowing and all-powerful deity of Judaeo-Christian tradition, he is all too human, sometimes doubting his own rightness but ultimately acquiescing to what, he is told and comes to believe, is "necessary." This same subtlety and poignancy comes into play with most of the characters, and, while there is indeed a villain in the book, he is not the one the reader would expect – and even then, he can’t really be characterized as “evil,” merely ambitious and given to temporizing. In fact, there are really only a couple of characters who are not in some way sympathetic – the majority are all too human.

Perhaps not strangely in Brust's hands, this is not a story about "good" and "evil" – at least, not in our usual understanding of black/white, either/or, right/wrong – but is really a study of means and ends and the way that letting decisions make themselves is really a way of making decisions without the responsibility for their consequences. And, in this shades-of-gray viewpoint, integrity is not a marketable commodity. And so Satan, while trying to decide if he can wholeheartedly support Yaweh’s plan to create a completely safe realm for the inhabitants of Heaven (which is subject to periodic Waves from the surrounding flux, from which angels are created and by which they are destroyed while they battle to push the flux back outside their boundaries) in spite of its costs, is able to say to Yaweh: “I have never lied about who I was, what I was doing, or why I was doing it. You have done all of these.” Brust very neatly turns the traditional story and the traditional take on who are the heroes and villains on their heads. Both Yaweh and Satan are isolated, subject to counsel that is not necessarily bad in itself, but one-sided, leaving them vulnerable to the expectations generated by rumor on the one hand and the need for leadership on the other; the machinations of someone whose only guide is his own ambition provide the telling blow.

This is a book that can be read many ways, and there are many themes that reside in what is really a very concise, almost terse presentation of a age-old story: the ease with which we are corrupted by power, the easy perversion of sanctity by authority, the disease of fanaticism and its stomach for atrocities in the service of a "higher law,” the vulnerability of good will and tolerance. To Reign In Hell has that protean quality that is characteristic of all significant works of art – and I have no reservations about calling it just that.

Another point of comparison with Zelazny is that, while dealing with serious matters, both are known for the expert and almost surgically precise application of irony and a light touch. One senses the distance that each maintains from the heavy freight they are conveying, a stance that lets them set the issues out very clearly without ever letting them become ponderous.

The only complaint I have about To Reign In Hell seems to be built in: it's a known story, with a known outcome (although in Brust's hands, the means are something of a surprise), and even in this rendering, this known outcome is the logical outgrowth of character and events. The result from the reader's standpoint is that the climax is more than a little anticlimactic. Even with all the givens, I really had hoped for something a little grander, even while realizing that would have subverted and cheapened the book.

I don't mean, by all these comparisons with other writers, to imply that Brust is in any way lacking. Indeed, as I have read more of his work, I have come to realize that he is undoubtedly one of the finest writers in fantasy today. Even a relatively early novel such as this one (it was originally published in 1984) has a maturity and depth that many writers never achieve. I think it's axiomatic that an author can only be successful at parody if he is operating from a strong base of his own, and Brust seems to prove my point.

(Tom Doherty Associates; originally published by SteelDragon Press, 1984)

What's New at Green Man Review

The usual mix of various goodies:

Pickled Eggs, Brideshead Revisited, Maxx and Bad Apple, A Scree on Author Politics and Other Matters

And it's all there just waiting for you.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Little Ditty

Trump, Trump, Trump,
I'm so sick of Trump
I get Trump all day through
First from him, then from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

(In case you don't recognize the source, think My Fair Lady.)

That's one reason blogging has been so light lately -- Trump overload. It's inevitable when the media is focused on ratings rather than news and analysis, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The other reason is that I'm moving, and I'm completely disorganized. That's a first for me.

Today in Disgusting People: Drug Wars

Not the kind you might think. There are hearings in the House Oversight Committee on drug prices. They got a little heated. As a lead-in, get this statement from the CEO of Gilead:

“We have taken the disease from a death sentence to a manageable clinical condition, but we’re not done yet,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day told committee members. “We have to be sure that Americans get our medicines at a price that allows us to invest in research.’’

The specific topic was Truvada, the key component of PReP, the most effective AIDS prevention yet discovered. It costs, according to the article, between $1600 and $2000 a month in the U.S. And the kicker is, Gilead didn't develop the drug:

Thomas Folks spent years in his U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab developing a treatment to block deadly HIV in monkeys. Then San Francisco AIDS researcher Robert Grant, using $50 million in federal grants, proved the treatment worked in people who engaged in risky sex.

Their work — almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers — created a new use for an older prescription drug called Truvada: preventing HIV infection. But the U.S. government, which patented the treatment in 2015, is not receiving a penny for that use of the drug from Gilead Sciences, ­Truvada’s maker, which earned $3 billion in Truvada sales last year.

The divine AOC wasn't having his bullshit:



It's worth noting, regarding O'Day's explanation of the price difference, that Gilead has reportedly stymied efforts to bring out a generic version of Truvada in the United States.

And of course, it's the GOP to the rescue. First to sound off is Rep. Chip Roy of Texas (natch):

Congressman Roy called it "offensive" – not that companies are exponentially raising prices on life-saving drugs they sell in other countries for a fraction of the cost, but over Americans criticizing the drug manufacturers for making out-of-control profits while people are literally dying because they can't afford the high cost of their prescriptions. . . .

"But to sit here and attack the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicine that saves lives here and around the world?" Roy said, exploding in a rant that seemed to be designed for the cameras. Roy, no political novice, has worked for numerous high-profile Texas Republicans, including Rick Perry, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Ken Paxton.

"I mean, it is just offensive," Rep. Roy proclaimed, pounding his fists on the desk. "I mean, I just cannot possibly understand, listening, lecturing companies about making money!"

And then Rep. "Gym" Jordan:

“Rather than applaud Gilead for manufacturing this miracle drug, they wish to demonize the company for making a profit,” Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday. “The reality is that while Gilead has made money on this drug there doesn’t seem to be genuine issues with access.”

Of course, there's no problem with access for those who can afford $2,000 a month.

This is just one facet of a much larger problem: drug companies have been jacking up prices on prescription drugs over the past few years; many of those drugs were developed by researchers working under grants from the CDC, if not working at the CDC itself.

We're dealing with the newest incarnation of robber barons.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: Alan Taylor: Thor: The Dark World

Another Epinions foundling.

In spite of what you may have heard, sequels aren’t always bad. Indeed, sometimes they are better than the originals. Case in point: Alan Taylor’s take on the Thor franchise for Marvel, The Dark World.

Once, before the time of the Nine Realms, Dark Elves held sway in a dark Universe under their lord, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Then came the Universe we know, and the creatures of Light, and the Dark Elves were defeated and their deadliest weapon, the Aether, taken from them and hidden in the darkest, deepest dungeon of Asgard by King Bor.

The next Convergence approaches, and astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is falling behind the curve: she’s mooning over Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who has disappeared for two years. He has an excuse – the peace of the Nine Realms has been shattered and he’s been fighting to restore it. (And somehow, that makes perfect sense to an Asgardian.) Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), has also started dropping very broad hints that it’s time Thor stopped mooning over this very same Jane Foster and think about insuring the succession – humans don’t really last very long, by Asgardian standards. (That discussion didn’t go well.) Jane’s intern, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) has finally persuaded her that she needs to pay attention to the weird readings that her instruments are giving off. Of course she gets sucked into an anomaly she’s investigating – and just happens to wind up next to the Aether’s prison. The Aether is not about to miss this opportunity, and takes up residence in Jane. The die is cast.

I think the thing that has impressed me most favorably about the Avengers-related films coming out over the past several years is that they don’t take themselves too seriously – there are elements of humor, from snappy dialogue to near slapstick, that contribute to the general lightness of tone, no matter how dire the circumstances. The Dark World is no different.

Alan Taylor’s directorial credits seem to be mostly in television, including work on The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones. He’s put that experience to good use here -- The Dark World is a good, tight blend of adventure, drama, action, and humor, and every element, every scene, drives the momentum. Even the funeral scene (yes, there’s a funeral scene), which could have brought everything to a screeching halt, maintains the flow.

The Dark World leaves the realm of comic book superhero flicks thanks to the cast. There’s a good strong human story here, and the actors bring in a good amount of depth and a fair degree of subtlety – we’re getting subtext, loud and clear. The cast is superb -- even Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has a human dimension. We’re treated to some excellent ensemble work, too, and there are places the dialogue takes on a real edge.

Visually, The Dark World is remarkable. Aside from the visual effects and the tight control of action sequences, there are scenes that are so perfectly composed that they could easily stand alone as stills. Particularly striking are some of the panorama shots on Svartalfheim, the realm of the Dark Elves. Shot on location in Iceland, it’s an eerie landscape, and one is often stumped in trying to determine where the actual scenery leaves off and the effects begin. It’s also very beautiful.

If you’ve somehow managed to miss this one, I urge you to rectify that error as soon as possible.

(Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures,, 2013) Rated PG 13, 112 minutes. For full credits, see the listing at IMDb.

What's New at Green Man Review

All sorts of neat stuff, actually:

Another Thirteenth Doctor Figure, A Tanya Huff trilogy, Recordings by Molly Mason & Jay Ungar, A Conversation with Charles de Lint, Lots of Chocolate, ‘Saturday in the Park’ by Chicago and Other Tasty Matters

Check it out.

Trump's America Vs. The Environment, Part ?

The Trump regime >strikes yet again:

Almost every country in the world has agreed on a legally binding framework for reducing polluting plastic waste, with the United States a notable exception, United Nations environmental officials said Friday.

An agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste emerged at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals. Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and entangles wildlife, sometimes with deadly results.

Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means countries will have to monitor and track movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

I'm sure you've heard of the continent-sized plastic island in the North Pacific; there's one in the North Atlantic as well.

It's symptomatic of the Trump regime -- and the Republican ruling class -- that we would not adhere to this agreement: a) It's the UN, which the Republicans have hated since its inception, and b) it's the environment, for which the Republicans have never had any concern.

Here's the Pacific plastic island in all its glory:


It's not the only one: there are five oceanic gyres, and each one has an island of plastic:


And the stuff can be recycled: I'm sure I've mentioned before that the Nature Boardwalk at South Pond, administered by Lincoln Park Zoo, is made of recycled plastics. And more an more park benches are the same.

Of course, the real solution is not to use plastic to begin with.

Via Joe.My.God.

Music and Me, Addendum

And Moby. Don't forget Moby.


Image result for Moby, 18: the B Sides

Friday, May 10, 2019

Music and Me

You may have noticed that my "Culture Break" posts include a wide range of music. I don't know how to explain that, except that my attitude is "It's all music". I grew up in a musical household, largely thanks to my mother, who played guitar and piano (self-taught, largely) and always insisted that we watch TV programs like "You Hit Parade". I also grew up in that period when music became context rather than an event -- I still remember my first transistor radio. (This was in the days before MP3 players and iPods.) I had my first exposure to classical music when my dad brought home a surplus recording of the Brahms D Minor piano concerto from the school where he was based. (I don't remember whether he was a teacher at the time or had moved into administration.) I went nuts, aged eight or nine, and would pretend to be the conductor.

And, as I grew older, I ran into all kinds of music. My first boyfriend was a Wagner nut, and I caught the fever -- along with Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and then Mahler, the Russians. On my own I moved into the twentieth century and the really hard-core avant-garde: Subotnick, Varese, and the like, and then, when I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Philip Glass (still in his early strict serial minimalist phase; it was much easier to watch his ensemble in concert than to listen to the recordings), Steve Reich, Terry Riley.

Green Man Review, with its emphasis on traditional folk music, reinforced and broadened my taste in that area. I had been enthusiastic about artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Buffy St. Marie, and there discovered Fairport Convention and others in the Anglo-Celtic-Nordic tradition.

About the only kind of music that I can't relate to is "cool" jazz -- there's something to inwardly focused about it -- not the usual reaching out that a performer does with an audience -- that I have trouble connecting. This is not to dismiss jazz entirely -- I'm quite fond of several Scandinavian jazz artists.

I should also note that, because I became GMR's "weird music guy", due in large part to my willingness to say "Sure, I can do that", that I developed an acquaintance and fondness for such things as gamelan, classical raga, and various things that fit into the "world music" category (such as Aziz Herawi, Master of the Afghani Lute; yes, that's one of the albums in my collection).

This all comes about while thinking of my playlists. My computer claims that I have over 700 albums on it (although sometimes it says it's closer to 900); I've also assembled a few playlists that I play in the morning while I'm surfing for the news. The one that's up now starts of with Sharon Isbin's rendering of "Andecy", which I pulled off of this album. It goes on to include such artists as Nickelback (which I've termed "the band everybody loves to hate", Dead Can Dance, New Order (because of "True Faith - 94", a song I kept hearing while shopping and finally found out what it was), Fleetwood Mac, Depeche Mode, Linkin Park, Red, R.E.M., Carl Orff, and Oysterband (British folk rock).

My second playlist is three complete albums, starting with the soundtrack to Hell or High Water by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, with appearances by several country and western artists. (That's where I discovered Colter Wall.) That's follow by Last Leaf and album of traditional Nordic tunes by the Danish String Quartet, and Skikt, an album by Johan Hedin and Harald Petterson that is pretty much unclassifiable. (And I have no idea where that one came from.)

All of which leads, inevitably, to my first playlist, which I put together several years ago. This one, for some reason, is heavily weighted toward boy bands (with others, of course), starting with 98 Degrees, a band based in Florida. There are, of course, several songs from Backstreet Boys, and a few from not-boy bands: Real Life and Icehouse (both Australian bands), Foreigner, and again, Red, New Order, Dead Can Dance and Nickelback.

And so that's the story of music and me -- accumulated experience, some by chance, some by design (at one point I had a habit of walking into music stores and browsing, and would wind up thinking "That looks interesting" and walk out with a new CD).

I shudder to think what life would be like without music.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Culture Break: Fleetwood Mac: The Chain

In my humble opinion, this is one of their best songs:

Sunday, May 05, 2019

This Week at Green Man Review

It's spring (finally), and there's lots of goodies, as usual:

It’s Spring, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Time Travel, Candy, Jazz, and more

So off you go, and enjoy!

Irony du Jour

This one had me scratching my head:

A Colorado building owner who was recorded telling her tenant to find an “American person” to sublease her property instead of a Muslim father and son, now has to pay the men $675,000.

The men sued last year and the landlord agreed after she was threatened with a lawsuit for religious discrimination.

“It’s my community, it’s my neighborhood,” said Rashad Khan, co-owner of Curry & Kabob. “I have friends who live there. I lived down there since 2008.”

Khan and his father run their restaurant up in Boulder, CO.

and the punchline:

"American person,” Katina said. "American person I need. Good American person like you and me."

. . .

"These kind, type, they are very dangerous, extremely dangerous," Katina continued.

"American person" -- from someone who apparently can barely speak "American".

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Today's Must-Read: It's Not Just Sour Grapes

For those who don't believe the major media outlets have been complicit (whether knowingly or not) in Trump's assault on reality, this is a must-read:

Major media outlets failed to rebut President Donald Trump's misinformation 65% of the time in their tweets about his false or misleading comments, according to a Media Matters review. That means the outlets amplified Trump's misinformation more than 400 times over the three-week period of the study -- a rate of 19 per day.

The data shows that news outlets are still failing to grapple with a major problem that media critics highlighted during the Trump transition: When journalists apply their traditional method of crafting headlines, tweets, and other social media posts to Trump, they end up passively spreading misinformation by uncritically repeating his falsehoods.

The way people consume information in the digital age makes the accuracy of a news outlet’s headlines and social media posts more important than ever, because research shows they are the only thing a majority of people actually read. But journalists are trained to treat a politician’s statements as intrinsically newsworthy, often quoting them without context in tweets and headlines and addressing whether the statement was accurate only in the body of the piece, if at all. When the politician’s statements are false, journalists who quote them in headlines and on social media without context end up amplifying the falsehoods.

There's more. There's lots more, with pictures. Read it.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Health Care For Some

The Trump regime has done it again: HHS has promulgated a new rule for "conscience protections" for "Christian" doctors, nurses, EMTs, what have you. And of course, Trump announced it at a National Day of Prayer event:

During a speech Thursday before faith leaders, President Trump announced a new rule allowing health providers, insurers and employers to refuse to provide or pay for services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.

The 440-page rule is broad in scope, spelling out specific services that individuals and entities could refrain from providing or paying for based on their beliefs. It also emphasizes parents’ rights to refuse several specific types of care for their children.

Conservative groups welcomed what they call “conscience protections” for health care workers and others, while LGBTQ and women’s groups warned the rule would reduce services and potentially harm patients if providers refuse to deliver certain care, or treat gay and transgender people.

More red meat for the base,and probably just for show. It's already been challenged in court:

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Thursday announced he had filed suit against the Trump administration's Department of Health and Human Services to invalidate a new federal rule that would allow health care staff to refuse to provide medical treatment to people, even in emergencies.

If allowed to take effect, the rule would reduce access to health care, particularly for women; LGBT people; and other medically and socially vulnerable populations, Herrera's office stated in a news release.

I'm sure others will sue as well.

I can't help but think of possible remedies for anyone faced with a refusal to provide medical care for reasons of "conscience" -- start with a complaint to the state licensing board, a civil rights suit under state laws, or, worst case scenario, should a patient die because refused care, a criminal complaint of homicide. But then, the damage is done.

Here's the rule, if you want to wade through it -- it's 440 pages, and apparently quite specific.

Footnote: According to one source, the rule also covers advance directives, so patients may receive life support, etc., even though they have explicitly directed that they not.

Via Joe.My.God. and various commenters.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Wow!

I generally don't have the patience for something like this, but this is exceptional: Sen. Maizie Hirono (D-HI) really lets AG William Barr have it:



And here's Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is not having his bullshit:



Glad I'm not him.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Today in Disgusting People: What Took Them So Long?

I've been waiting for this to happen:

A pair of right-wing provocateurs are being accused of attempting to recruit young Republican men to level false allegations of sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The details of the operatives’ attempt emerged as one man suddenly surfaced with a vague and uncorroborated allegation that Buttigieg had assaulted him. The claim was retracted hours later on a Facebook page appearing to belong to the man.

A Republican source told The Daily Beast that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent.

The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race. The man asked to remain anonymous out of a concern that the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness.

Buttigieg should go after them for defamation. I realize there are limits on that, given that Buttigieg is a "public figure," but I have a feeling those limits wouldn't apply in this case -- there is quite obvious malice involved here, and a brazen attempt to ruin Buttigieg's reputation.

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof seems to be following my line of thinking:

This isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last of the attacks against him — we’ve already seen the phony religious grifters going after him — and you can always count on rating points if you bring up sex.

Speaking of religious grifters, he has a post on this from John Pavlovitz:

Dear Franklin Graham,

Recently you tweeted about Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, writing that the Mayor “says he’s a gay Christian.” You then immediately implied that he isn’t—as if his sexuality somehow disqualifies him.

I know that you’ve been sequestered within in the gilded gated community of your privilege and guarded by sycophants and yes-men for so long that you’re unaware of your catastrophic hubris here, so let me help you:

You’re wrong.

Pete Buttigieg is a Christian because he has chosen to follow Jesus. Full stop.

His sexual orientation is irrelevant to the matter—as is your evaluation of him because he is a gay man.

He doesn’t need your permission, doesn’t require your blessing, and isn’t waiting for your approval.

It goes on, and it's merciless.

It really is going to get worse, as long as Buttigieg is in the running.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Review: Emma Bull: Bone Dance

Another foundling from the late, great Epinions.

A good argument can be made for calling Emma Bull’s Bone Dance an urban fantasy. There is a great deal to do with the spirit world, events that are only explainable in terms of magic of some sort, and there are visitations from supernatural beings. However, the fact that it is set in a post-Apocalyptic dystopia, technology plays a pivotal role (although that is more because of its scarcity than because of its reliability), and the magic comes from “hoodoo” (Voudou is part of modern reality, for some of us at least) make me place it firmly in science fiction (which does, after all, leave room for beings with advanced mental powers).

Sparrow is the narrator, leading us through the maze of the City (which is only the City, no other name; it could, perhaps, be Minneapolis, Bull’s hometown, although a couple of references seem to place it south of The Border) a few decades after someone pushed the Button. The history is unclear, which doesn’t really matter – the damage was done, and what we must deal with is now. Life in Sparrow’s City runs on the Deal – money is hard or soft, favors are owed one way or the other, and that is the basis of trade. Sparrow is an electronics expert (although the explanation for this comes not until midway through the story) who runs a black market in old videotapes and sound recordings – black market because most of the information from before the Bang is subject to seizure and destruction by whatever authority there may be. In this case, the authority is A. A. Albrecht, who holds a monopoly on energy in the City proper. He is also one of Sparrow’s best customers for old movies, especially originals (as opposed to dupes), which bring very high prices. One of Sparrow’s haunts is the Night Market, where goods of all sorts are available from dusk until dawn; another is the Underbridge, a dance and video club of which Sparrow is one of the operators. Sparrow also has blackouts – periods of varying length that leave no memories, although Sparrow’s absence is apparently not obvious. Into this mix comes Frances, who, as it turns out, is one of the legendary and hated Horsemen, secret military weapons who could take over the bodies of others. It was the Horsemen who pushed the Button; Frances is on her way to kill Tom Worecski, who put together the plot to rain nuclear death on the Western Hemisphere and duped Frances and other of the Horsemen into participating. Mick Skinner is another who comes into Sparrow’s ken, seemingly briefly, since we discover that he has been dead since before they met. Events conspire to draw Sparrow into Frances’ search for Tom, and the interlocking relationships – Sherrea, perhaps Sparrow’s closest friend, who is a talented card reader; Theo, one of the other operators of Underbridge, who has a surprising relationship to Albrecht; Cassidy, who is setting himself up to be a victim; and Dana, who has connections – provide a fair measure of suspense.

I don’t really know what to compare this book to in order to give you some touchstones – perhaps Dhalgren meets The Maltese Falcon. The environment is near-hallucinatory, the more so because the main lighting seems to be neon (the Night Market is, after all, the Night Market). The context is very rich and detailed. Sparrow’s blackouts begin to intercut with hallucinations, involving stick figures who pass on cryptic messages; one of them is definitely Kokopelli, the trickster-hero of the ancient American Southwest, who speaks in lines from movies; another is, perhaps, Oya Iansa, who governs wind and the lightning and brings change.

Sparrow is a true anti-hero. Many of the surprises in the book come from the fact that Sparrow has an obsession about privacy, and is consequently not terribly perceptive of the details of others’ lives, even when those details are available. The reason for Sparrow’s privacy fetish is unveiled halfway through the book, along with revelations about the Horsemen: Sparrow, it turns out . . . no, I don’t think I’ll tell.

Bull is one of those writers who can pull you into a context with no effort. As hallucinatory and distasteful as this world is, you are there, and you go willingly. Her prose is tight and lucid, particularly when she is writing about the supernormal, which only makes it more real. Voudou and the Tarot form a major part of the foundation for this story, along with the key plot issue, which is energy as the operative force of the universe. Bull’s treatment of this reminds me of the philosophy of the creators of the original Whole Earth Catalogue, which was one of my touchstones during the 1970s – if energy keeps the universe turning, anything that has the potential to block the flow – like money, or too much power in too few hands (which seems to have become the same thing) – needs to be dealt with very carefully, and sometimes very forcefully.

“Coming of age” has a multitude of meanings, and it’s a type of story that I seem to have been running into a lot lately. Maybe that’s because every work of fiction is about coming of age in some sense. We move from childhood to adolescence to adulthood to maturity, and not all parts of us make the progression at the same rate. Bone Dance is a coming-of-age story as much as anything else; and Bull uses it to explore one other thing that I want to note: how our perceptions of what others’ perceptions are or might be color our reactions – often before there is anything to react to. It’s also an object lesson in how opening ourselves to the wider world – the next stage of our lives – is often costly and hurtful, but necessary unless we are to give up our responsibility as human beings to be human beings.

This is a terrific book.

(Ace Books, 1991)


What's New at Green Man Review

And more good stuff for your enjoyment:

Folklore in the Twentieth Century, Russian Music, Real Fairy Tales, Swedish Pan Pipes, and more

Here's the link. You know what to do.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

It's April 27th

The National Weather Service is predicting 2-4" of snow tonight.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Culture Break: Goeyvaerts String Trio: Arvo Pärt/ from: Stabat Mater

I've remarked before on my long engagement with the music of Arvo Part. This popped up on my playlist this morning:


This is just a small selection from the beginning -- the full piece is around 28 minutes, but it's worth listening to. And the Goyvaerts String Trio does a more than ceditable job with it.

Today in Happy Reunions

Just a reminder that good things do happen.



With thanks to commenter jixter at Joe.My.God.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What's New At Green Man Review

Yep, it's Sunday again, with more good stuff at GMR:

A History of Tull, the Polesotechnic League, Chocolate Eggs, More Tull, Payback, and other neat stuff

So off you go to feast on the goodies.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday Science: Boom!

A fairly interesting article on a recent find at the K/T boundary -- which is when the dinosaurs were wiped out:

If, on a certain evening about sixty-­six million years ago, you had stood somewhere in North America and looked up at the sky, you would have soon made out what appeared to be a star. If you watched for an hour or two, the star would have seemed to grow in brightness, although it barely moved. That’s because it was not a star but an asteroid, and it was headed directly for Earth at about forty-five thousand miles an hour. Sixty hours later, the asteroid hit. The air in front was compressed and violently heated, and it blasted a hole through the atmosphere, generating a supersonic shock wave. The asteroid struck a shallow sea where the Yucatán peninsula is today. In that moment, the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began.

The description of the events immediately following the impact is breathtaking. It's a wonder anything survived.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Culture Break: Toto: Africa

Always been one of my favorite songs:


This is the first time I've ever seen the video. Weird.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Paris is Burning

Well, not Paris, just Notre Dame cathedral, but that's bad enough.

Contrary to initial reports, the cathedral is not destroyed, not gutted, and is mostly still standing. The wooden framing is pretty much a loss, as is the wooden roof, but the vaulted ceiling is still intact, most of the stained glass is in good shape.

If you want more information, there are stories on this everywhere.

Thought For the Day

I'd never really thought about this before:

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And it's absolutely true: "pre-existing condition" is the excuse insurance companies use not to insure you.

With thanks to commenter Doug105 at Joe.My.God.

Monday, April 15, 2019

It's Tax Day

Do you know where your money went?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review: Makoto Tateno: Yellow

Makoto Tateno is a mangaka doing yaoi whose work I've learned to keep an eye out for. The first series I happened across by her was Yellow, an action-adventure series involving two "snatchers," free-lancers who recover illegal drugs for various clients, usually the police. Inside the larger story line, there are several substories of the more-or-less standard cops-and-robbers variety. Because this is one of those series that won't really support separate reviews for each volume, I am going to talk about the whole series here rather than just volume 1.

Yellow is slightly outside the normal run of BL or "bishonen-ai" manga. Both protagonists are older, in their early twenties, and one is avowedly gay (a device that Tateno makes use of in other stories). And it is definitely an action-adventure series, although yaoi in general tend to be more oriented toward shoujo ("manga for girls") than shounen ("manga for boys"). (But it's worth pointing out that even in this one the emphasis is on the relationship between the lovers.)

Taki and Goh are partners: they are snatchers and get their assignments from Tsunuga, the somewhat mysterious owner of the cafe below the apartment they share and where they take their meals. If you search this series online, you will meet a repeated blurb that claims Taki is masculine and straight, and Goh is feminine and gay. Nothing could be farther from the truth: yes, Taki is straight and Goh is gay, but both are tough, aggressive men, and Goh is not at all reticent about what he wants -- he is, in fact, the seme to Taki's uke in this story -- and what he wants more and more is Taki. Goh’s attempts to seduce Taki form an ongoing motif throughout the series. We see Taki’s resistance start to erode in Volume 2, as we also see Goh’s feelings shift from playful jokes to little more than lust to deep and very real love. This "main" story finally becomes the focus in the third volume: Taki, as might be expected, has a dark secret in his past, and when he realizes how that secret has come back into his present, in the guise of two assassins who have come to claim him, he is devastated. He also realizes that he loves Goh, whom the assassins see as an impediment to their goal, and will do anything to protect him. All the threads come together in the last two volumes -- Taki's past, Tsunuga's past, the assassins who call themselves the "Sandfish," and Taki's growing love for Goh.

It’s a treat to see in this series the interplay of character between these two, particularly as the final crisis comes and we realize just how deeply their feelings for each other run. Tateno hits a level in Yellow rare in yaoi. The long-awaited love scene, perhaps because it has been so long in coming, achieves an amazing intensity, almost poetry, made even more evocative by Taki's thoughts as he and Goh make love for the first time. The fact that Taki believes this is the last time he will be with Goh provides another layer of poignancy.

Do keep in mind that this is directed toward teenage girls (in this case, one suspects later teens rather than earlier), so it is overwhelmingly romantic and more than a little melodramatic. I also suspect there are a number of teenage boys who would find it appealing as well.

Tateno's visual style falls well within the range of typical manga styles, in her case tending toward slender young men with somewhat elfin features; one drawback is that it can be difficult to tell characters apart. She also adheres to what seems to be a manga convention of interspersing highly "cartoony" frames among the more realistic ones as humorous asides or throwaways -- meant, I suppose, to be cute, but sometimes merely annoying.

I do recommend this series highly: it’s a cut above most in this genre in the complexity of characters, and there’s a refreshingly low incidence of big-eyed waifs.

(June [Digital Manga Publishing, 2009, 2010)



What's New at Green Man Review

Yep, it's that time again, and a whole raft of goodies for your perusal:

Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

As usual, that's just the tip of the iceberg, so scoot on over and check it out.

It's April 14th

And we are having a freaking blizzard.

Twitter Thread du Jour

This one's priceless:

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I really don't have anything to add.

With thanks to commenter juanjo54 at Joe.My.God.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Today's Must-Read: Shooting Yourself in the Foot

This is an interesting story via Spocko at Hullabaloo, illustrating how not to lobby for legislation you favor:

In March gun-rights activist Chris McNutt posted rants on Facebook about lack of movement on a Texas bill allowing gun owners to legally carry handguns without obtaining a state-issued license. McNutt, executive director of Texas Gun Rights, then drove to Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen's home about 50 miles south of Houston while Bonnen was in Austin and his wife and teenage sons were home. McNutt also visited the homes of Reps. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and Four Price of Amarillo. . . .

After The Facts reported that Department of Public Safety troopers stopped Chris McNutt, executive director of Texas Gun Rights, in Bonnen’s neighborhood on March 27 Speaker Bonnen issued a written statement condemning the actions and declaring "Their issue is dead."  Advocate’s actions kill bill allowing no-permit gun carry The Statesman Bonnen’s statement came

Yes, they did kill the bill. It's an interesting read, with some detail on how these idiots think, if you want to call it that.

Sidebar: I've been binge-watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix. It's a series of murder mysteries set in the mythical Midsomer County in the English midlands, and one thing struck me last evening: it was one of the very rare appearances of a handgun. If guns appear at all, they are hunting rifles, and yet I find myself thinking periodically, as the action heats up, "If this were an American series, bullets would be flying." And yet the criminals are apprehended and sent off to their just deserts, and no one gets shot.

Yes, you can have law and order even if people aren't packing heat.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Review: Harold Zwart: Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I have to confess, I went to see Mortal Instruments: City of Bones simply because I had seen a big display at my second favorite theater. It opened at my favorite theater (close, cheap), so I went. I liked it well enough that when I ran across the DVD at the right price, I bought it.

Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is having a birthday. To celebrate, she goes out with her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan) to a poetry reading. As an antidote, she insists that they stop at a club afterward – because she saw a symbol on its sign that just like the symbol she’s been drawing. Strangely enough, no one else can see it. And somehow, she and Simon don’t really fit in, which becomes fairly obvious when she witnesses a murder that no one else sees – not even Simon. When she comes home one day to discover the apartment she shares with her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey) a sea of wreckage and said mother missing, she doesn’t quite know what to do, especially when she’s attacked by a pair of thugs and rescued in the nick of time by – the man who committed the murder she witnessed, Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower). From the fact that she can see him, he surmises that she is not a “mundane” – that is, human. She’s a Shadow Hunter, from a long line of Shadow Hunters, and she holds a secret that everyone is after – the whereabouts of a Chalice that enables the Shadow Hunters to survive. The problem is, she has no idea what it is or where it is. And it’s essential that it be found: the Shadow Hunters protect the world from demons, and without Shadow Hunters . . . well, you can guess.

Basically, this is a classic coming of age story – Clary first of all has to learn what she is and what she can do, and then how to do it. Add in werewolves, led by her mother’s sort-of boyfriend, Luke (Aidan Turner), and a mad Shadow Hunter, Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who claims to be not only Clary’s father, but Jace’s, assorted demons, and the Portal, which can transport a Shadow Hunter to anywhere he or she can visualize clearly, and you have the makings of an engaging and action-packed adventure story on top of it.

And it works. I went into this one cold – not only was I not a fan of the books, I wasn’t even aware that they existed – so I was saved from premonitions of another Twilight. I admit, I was not riveted by Collins’ performance on first viewing – flashbacks to Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman – but after seeing it a second time, I chalk that up to the meds my doctor has me on. I would have liked a bit more clarity in her growth into her powers, but I suspect the script is more than a little responsible for that – there’s doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for subtext here, which is a shame, because it affects all the characters. Bower is engaging as Jace, but somehow remote, whilte Sheehan is more than appealing as Simon, in good part because he’s really the only one who lets us into his head.

The effects are persuasive, and although the pacing is given to fits and starts, the acting is capable enough to carry it as an action/adventure quasi-horror flick.

And yet, it’s not that strong a film, largely because of that lack of subtext: the story’s engaging, the visuals are sometimes riveting, the characters are sympathetic, but when it was all over, I just said, “Well, that was nice” and went on to the next activity. It doesn’t really have the depth to stick with you.

Rated PG-13, running time 130 minutes.

(Constantin Film, Unique Features, Mister Smith Entertainment, Mr. Smith Productions, 2013)