Monday, August 31, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, August 29, 2015

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

Horror Movie Legend Wes Craven Dead at 76

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

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

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

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

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


Wes Craven, Horror Maestro, Dies at 76

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

Read more at: MSN

Friday, August 28, 2015

Behind the Blogger: Political Overload Leads to Apathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"These are five of their stories."

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

"Each one has been sued."

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

"Each one has received death threats from activists."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Cruz is then, quite clearly, a liar.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rachel Maddow on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Love me some Rachel, unplugged.

Over Time with Bill Maher, August 21, 2015

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

TV's Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, Dead at 78

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

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

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


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

Read more at: MSN

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vegas Vacation

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

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

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

Over Time with Bill Maher, August 7, 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read more at: BuzzFeed

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The First GOP 2016 Debate, Songified

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

FOX "News" Culls GOP Herd

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

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


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

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

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

Read more at: The Wall Street Journal

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

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

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

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


Committee approves bill to take Alabama out of marriage biz

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

Read more at:

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ed Schultz Exits MSNBC, and Does So with Class

When I think of Ed Schultz, "class" isn't the first word that leaps to mind. He's not a host for all tastes, and frankly, he wasn't to mine. As a long-time listener of liberal talk radio, I have long been familiar with Schultz. Frankly, there aren't very many liberal hosts (belying the "liberal media" cliché), so he'd pop up quite a bit when lineups were shuffled, and such. The first time I'd heard him, I thought at first he was Rush Limbaugh. And Limbaugh is nearly (remember, I said nearly) the furthest thing from class I can imagine.

So, I can't call myself a fan of Shultz. I've watched his show occasionally, more this year than before because of my new time zone and my sabbatical for full-time work. But I've really never much cared for his style, though I appreciated what he stood for. Ed can be overly strident, and so can his fans, to the point of a bluster, which does not endear me. So, I met the news of MSNBC's cancellation of The Ed Show with little in the way of sorrow. But I have to say, Ed's parting shot to his network, and his viewers changed my mind a bit. Here, at a time when he could have dynamited his bridges, he instead went out in as classy a way as I've ever seen for a person in his position.

Now, I have to say, there is another bombastic figure on the news-scape; a man who loves the word "class," who has none: Donald Trump. Trump keeps misusing that word. I'm sure he really means "crass," and just has a bit of trouble with confusing them, like I do with "affect" and "effect." And whatever I think of Ed, I think it's a shame we're losing one more voice against the Trumps of the world. I swear, if anything happens to Rachel Maddow, John Oliver or Bill Maher, I'm going to lose it! I'm just relieved that Berkeley Breathed has come back, and hopeful about the looming return of one Stephen Colbert. . .

World's Dumbest Focus Group Says Trump "Classy," "One of Us"

Herp derp. Image from Talking Points Memo
Wow. The Donald--current GOP 2016 presidential primary leader, and bombastic BS artist--sure has these people snowed. What's more, the man who speaks in vagueries, likewise seems to inspire vague reasoning in his supporters. Basically, they don't know why they support him they just do. It's a cult of personality. That couldn't be clearer, when you have this group thinking Trump is "one of us." Or confusing an unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness crassness for either "truth telling" or "classiness." It's just baffling.

It will be interesting to see how this recalibrate after the first FOX "News" debate next week. Undoubtedly, Donald Trump will be the main focus of the event. The lion's share of reporting will be about how Trump responds to debate questions, how he interacts with the other candidates, how well he bats down what they lob at him, how they try to "out-Trump Trump." He'll also undoubtedly crack a few zingers--I really hope he curses--that become the crystalizing and memorable "moment" of the first debate. But will he have a single concrete policy idea? Will there be any substance to what he has to say beyond insults, platitudes and vagaries? I rather doubt it. And given his extraordinarily undeveloped and shallow pool of extemporaneous vocabulary words, I'm hoping he comes through as the boob that he is.

He may not shed the 20-25% of the GOP nutbars who have fallen under his allure. But at least maybe the media will begin to treat him as he should be treated: as an egotistical curiosity.


New Hampshire Focus Group Fawns Over Trump: 'He's Like One Of Us'

At least 12 voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire are absolutely gaga over real estate mogul Donald Trump. Bloomberg Politics' John Heilemann sat down Wednesday night with a focus group of 12 Trump supporters in the Granite State who riffed on why they thought the billionaire was the best candidate in a crowded GOP presidential field. . . 

Read more at: TPM

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I'm Still Here!

Oh, Hi! Hey, just realized I got so busy the last few days, I didn't post anything. It's not like me to just forget, but I kind of did. And today, I'm taking advantage of one of the best things Ohio has to offer: a roller coaster park on both ends of the state. Today, we're doing King's Island, and I hope to squeeze in Cedar Point before the summer is over. Meanwhile, the blog lays vacant, and I didn't want to let the day buzz by without a note that at least says: I'm still here! Really! Didn't want it to look like an abandoned amusement park. Back soon!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Is Donald Trump Really Doing All That Well?

Image from source, the excellent NewsCorpse
Donald Trump continues to poll well ahead of his GOP competition, sometimes leading his nearest challenger by double digits. The punditry have gone from dismissing him as the joke he is, to treating him more seriously. Which shows just how quickly a political vibe can change, and how shallow the thinking of the Beltway media can be.

Listen, the Republican/conservative base is batshit crazy, we all know that, right? The extremes of any group have that tendency, and very few people would argue with the fact that the extreme has taken over the right in this country. So, capturing the top (bottom) 20-25% of conservatives should be easy-peasy for the nuttiest nutbar in the group. This is probably why so many of 2012's GOP group rose to the top briefly: so many of them were bonkers.

If the rest of the GOP field contained one, two or three other strong candidates, Trump could have the same support, and still be significantly behind in the polls. But since there are fifteen other candidates dividing those percentages, we have the illusion of a wide lead. And, naturally, the longer he has it, the stronger the illusion looks, eventually becoming sort of  a real deal, "conventional wisdom." It doesn't hurt when the candidate is as gaffe-proof as Donald Trump. So far, crazy statements about religion, veterans, race, and any other third-rail potential potholes that would sink most candidates does not dissuade Trump fans from waving his banner.

I think it's going to take a sifting out of the rest of the field to put a dent in The Donald. Or finally that One Big Gaffe that can't be shrugged off. Mike Huckabee--a prior competitor for lunacy, before Donald cornered the market--has probably made his One Big Gaffe with an ill-advised Holocaust reference. So, that field may be shrinking a bit already. I can't quite envision what Donald would have to do or say that would do that to him at this point. Maybe a Face in the Crowd open-mike moment would do it.


New Poll Shows 18% Of Republicans Are Ignorant Dupes With Severe Mental Decay
There is much being made about a new CNN poll that shows Donald Trump leading his GOP rivals in the race for the Republican nomination for president. However, there is less substance in these numbers than the media is pretending there is. What is astonishing is just how shallow the media analysis of these polls are. The ranking at which Trump finds himself can easily be explained by the clinical dementia of today’s Republican (Tea) Party. And despite these polls, Trump will never get the nomination or reside in the White House. . .

Read more at: NewsCorpse
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