Franken

Let me make this real quick as I have a novel that is not going to write itself. (And believe me I have tried that method.)

If there are creditable accusations, and I have not taken the time to make that judgment, then he should step down and Minnesota should hold a special election to replace him.

See, that was easy.

To conservatives who want to hide behind Clinton and Franken hoping to retain control of the Senate with that nut-job Moore.

Franken and Clinton aren’t your shields.

Moore is a direct result of the party you have built over the last few decades. When angering and trolling liberals is more important than policy or ideas then you get men like Moore and he will not be the last.

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Blogging will be Light

 

For several months there I was pretty good about some sort of update on just about every weekday but that is not going to happen these last couple of months of 2017.

This is the super busy period at my day-job as the applications of Medicare Replacement plans flood our inboxes.

This is good. I make nice extra money working overtime and truly the work is good work, but something has to suffer. I am still maintaining about 1000 words or so a day on my novel and therefore it is the blogging that will take a hit.

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The Lesser of two Evils is Still Evil

It would appear that for some Republicans and Conservatives the Senatorial effort of Roy Moore is a conundrum. Credible accusations have been laid out that he is a sexual predator. Those accusations have not been proven in a court of law and under that standard he remains innocent until proven guilty, but election a person to any public office, high or low, is more than just political philosophy, it is an endorsement of character. Character judgment does not require the high burden of proof of a criminal trail and we can still look upon the flawed character and ask ourselves ‘is this the sort of person who should have power over the lives of others?’

I have seen it argued in the pages of conservative publications that this should be a line in the sand, that to endorse this man would be a compromise too far.

Really?

The GOP has already embraced torture. It is headed by a man that many consider to be a cheat, a liar, a narcissist, and a sexual predator, but now you are trying to argue that the line you cannot cross has suddenly appeared?

Buddy, that line came and went years ago. I know I was a member of the GOP and I walked away because I will not compromise right/wrong for fell fickle politics.

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Movie Review: Murder On the Orient Express

Based upon a novel first published in 1934 this week saw the release of another film version Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Assembling an all-star cast, just had been done in 1974’s version, Kenneth Branagh stars in directs in this murder mystery.

Branagh plays world famous detective Hercule Poirot. In this adaptation Poirot is portrayed as a man who suffers from OCD before that condition had been recognized much less named, Recalled to London on an emergency he manages to get passage on a the Orient Express though all the cabins had been reserved. During the trip from Asia Minor, while traveling through the mountains of Eastern Europe the train becomes stranded and a passenger is murdered. Passionate for justice and suspecting that the local authorities would likely convict and execute the wrong person, Poirot endeavors to solve the locked room mystery before the train is freed from the snow.

Though the plot is more than 80 years old I will not spoil the mystery on the off chance someone reading this is unaware of the rather unusual nature. I will say that it stays, generally, faithful to the source material, as I understand it, including Christie’s horrible habit of withholding clues, yielding a mystery unsolvable by readers and audiences. As an additional demerit the mystery’s resolution is silliness and utterly impractical.

That said, this is a movie worth seeing, and worth seeing in a proper theater. The film is lush, vibrant, and lovely. While not all the CGI train shots work perfectly more than enough do so to transport the viewer to another time and another place. However what really makes this watchable are the performances. This movie is really a series of scenes in a confined space, so it is not abut action, stunts, or thrilling sequences, but about characters interacting and the cast is superb.

If you have the slightest interest in the film and in watching some great actors go at each other, see this.

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Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is the third stand alone film based the character of Thor, who is in turned based on the mythological Norse god of Thunder. Many people feel that Marvel studios have been floundering a bit with what exactly to di with this character. His first outing in Thor many said was a story and scope that seemed to small, too constrained for such a gran operatic character, while the second movie Thor: The Dark World many accused of trying too hard for gravitas. Personally, I enjoyed both movies and Blu-rays of each sit in my library, but they are also not my favorite films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This time out Thro is dealing with Ragnarok, the Norse myth’s end of days prophecy, and event being hastened along by Hela the Norse goddess of the death. Taking a tonal cue from the successful Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Thor: Ragnarok is a film that has serious potiential outcomes for its character and the MCU’s grander continuity while also playing many of it’s beats and scene for laughs. This is a very difficult balance to effect and while I think there were one or two miscues overall Thor Rangarok lands well and it a very entertaining movie. Chris Hemsworth, following on his performance in the remake of Ghostbuster, proves that comedic muscles he displayed in that re-envisioning were no fluke. Mastering the emotional turns of dram to comedy with flair and competence. Tom Hiddleston continue to show why he is the most popular actor in the MCU, and sadly Idris Elba continues to be criminally underused for an actor of his tremendous talents. Of course it wouldn’t be an MCU film without newcomers to welcome to the grand canvas. Tessa Thompson show good range and depth with her character, a scavenger with a mysterious toe to Asgard. However it is Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster that simply steals scene after scene, proving that while Hiddleston and Hemsworth has charisma and talent they are no match for old age and treachery. Goldblum has always guided his performances with a off-center balance that makes them difficult to predict, and in this role his abandons all pretense of balance craft a villain that is at turns comedic, threatening, and full of guile. Of course there has been plenty of chatter about Cate Blanchet as Hela. Cate is Cate and her performance is enjoyable. What a treat it would have been had Hela and Grandmaster share a scene or two.

Mark Ruffalo returns as Banner/Hulk and for the first time I truly enjoyed a Hulk sub-plot. Upping the characters’ verbal abilities and improved FX makes it possibel to have the Hulk as a character.

If you enjoyed and mix of drama, action, and comedy seen in the two Guardians of the Galaxy films then Thor: Ragnarok is likely to be a hit with you.

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Feet of Clay

Well, Kevin Spacey has long been one of my favorite actors, going all the way back to his brilliant turn as Mel Profit on the television sires Wiseguy. While I have not love nearly all of the films but a country mile his performances in them have always been stellar. His rise as a beloved actor, based on his talents, was well deserved.

And, it the reports are to be believed, he is a reprehensible human being.

Quite damming for him is that fact that this is not a single episode, but as what nearly always happens with people who behave this way, there is a long history and once people start coming forward the avalanche starts and as the Vorlon said ‘it is too late for the pebbles to vote.’

Spacey’s apparently cynical ploy of coming out to distract from the story has rightly enraged a number of people in the LBGTQ community. He attempted to use their lives, their persecution, and their pain as a shield for his own hide. That alone says quite a bit about character. We do not need to hold him over the lip of a volcano to see his true self.

The word pedophile has been tossed around but from first blush this may not be the case. Pedophilia as I understand it is defined as sexual attraction to someone five or more years younger than you and who is pre-pubescent. It sounds to me like his victims, and yes I will use that word, were post-pubescent but still quite young and immature.

When you are 24 and you seduce a 14 year old sexually, that is not a level playing field. That is not an interaction between equals. It is predation. It is using the guile, authority, and power of adulthood over someone who has none of those attributes.

It doesn’t matter if you are an A-list star, or Mary Kay Letourneau, such actions, if true, makes you a predator.

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Halloween Horror Movie #16 Night of the Living Dead 4K

No, that is not yet another remake, revision, or remix of the movie that created the modern zombie genre, but rather the 4K restoration of that original.

Before he passed away George Romero worked with the Museum of Modern Art, and with funding from the George Lucas Family Foundation, to restore from original elements that film that so many years ago made his career. Though not announced it is expected that there will be a 4K and Blu-ray release of this restoration from Criteria and that is something I am looking forward to.

The restoration screened last night at San Diego’s restored movie palace The Balboa Theater. When I first arrived in San Diego in 1981 it was part of a series of grindhouse theaters showing films 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Now, returned to it luster and glory it is an upscale venue for live performances and film.

Before the movie we were treated to a live organ concert with an impressive device that filled the theater with full rich sound without the aid of any amplifiers or any electronic circuit. Being Halloween there was brief costume contest. (My personal favorite was a pair of women doing a fantastic job the creepy twin girls from The Shinning.) Then, after a few technical glitches, we watched The Night of the Living Dead.

What can I say about this movie that has not already been said a thousands times before me? It is, though that word is never uttered in the film, the progenitor of the modern zombie genre. It is a film with a black lead made in 1968 that never once mentions race and yet the subtext of the race relations infuse every scene with that character. It is a film from the sixties with a very seventies sensibility, making this movie ahead of its time in more than one respect.

Watching it on the big screen, something I have never had the chance to do, and in a restored version, proved to be quite surprising. This is a movie with many technical faults, stilted acting by some of the cast, and clumsy dialog and yet sitting there I never once felt bored and ready to leave. It was very nearly as if I had never actually watched the movie before. (It was also clear a number of people in the audience were fresh to the film, supplying reactions and screams that would have thrilled Romero’s heart.)

It is a shame that it played only one night. Many of my friends planned to be busy on Halloween with ‘better’ activities and they missed treat.

So ends my horror film reviews for this Halloween. I do hope you enjoyed them.

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My Take on the Pulps

When I was 12 or 13 I discovered the Doc Savage novels. These were pulp adventures from the 1930s with the lead character Clark ‘Doc’ Savage and his troop is talented men that crisscrossed the globe fighting evil. For a time these were quite popular and a team of writers working under a single name churned out loads of books. There was a 1975 film, but it was lackluster and gathered no attention.

Lately it has been circling my thoughts what would it be like to write one of these pulp adventures set in the here and now? (Or at the very least a parallel here and now.) Now I can see there are people writing pulps today but they are primarily set in the 1930 and that is not what I am thinking about. I also see some novels pushed as having a pulp-like quality but in my opinion that do not quite hit that mark and are distinctly different from theses adventures books.

All of this has prompted me to formulate a set of rule for writing a pulp adventure, should I do this crazy thing.

1) Short. Perhaps it was a function of the costs of paper, or the hellish deadlines these writers worked under, but the classic pulp novel were usually around 50,000 words long and often shorter. (For comparison my military sf novels are around 90 to 100 thousand words.)

2) Third Person Objective. These novels did not get into people’s heads very much. They were plot driven with events sparking the next event in the sequence until the adventure was over.

3) Black and White. Adventures about the struggled between Good and Evil were the bread and butter of the pulps. These were not written with nuance and the villains were not the heroes of their own story.

4) No Crisis of Conscience. The Heroes of pulp adventures, fitting in with the Black and White plots, did not doubt that they were right, and they did not have temptation to do the evil thing or take an immoral short cut.

5) No Evolution of Character. The Heroes, already in their perfected form, did not grow and change due to the course of their adventuring. They ended the story exactly the same person as they went into it.

6) No Quiet Introspective Moments. These are adventures, fights between Good and Evil, not explorations into the protean nature of the human soul. Pulp book did not waste time having characters just thinking and doubting themselves for pages and pages.

7) Do the Right Thing. Heroes not anti-heroes are the name of the game and that means that the lead characters always are moral, both in spirit and in deed. They always do the right thing.

Looking over these rules, I can see writing one of these would be quite a challenge.

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Halloween Horror Movie # 15 The Exorcist

The Exorcist is the first films that I can clearly remember as something that was a big cultural phenomenon I was 12 when this R-rated film was released so I did not see it in theaters during its initial theatrical release. However I remember it was talked about, it was on the news, and it was subject to sketch comedy of the popular variety shows. In many ways it was a harbinger of the media saturation to come. Most of all it deserved that hyperbole.

Based on the novel William Peter Blatty, and adapted to the screen by the author, The Exorcist tells the story of a young girl, Regan, living in modern Georgetown possessed by a demon and her eventual exorcism. Regan’s mother Chris is a successful actress and movies star, a modern woman, a single parent, unreligious, and wholly unprepared for an ancient evil that takes up residence in her daughter. Father Karras is a Jesuit priest, trained in modernity and science, a psychiatrist and a boxer he too is a many thoroughly of the modern world of 1973 and a priest whose faith is crumbling. He too is unprepared to confront a reality of demons and possession. Detective Kinderman is a homicide cop, investigating a bizarre and nearly inexplicable death near the homes. Father Merrin is an elderly Catholic priest in poor health who has experience with this world of demons and is the films titular character. Bound together by the horror that has descended upon Regan these characters confront a world in which evil is not an vague abstract concept with the life and soul of a 12 year old girl hanging in the balance.

Blatty, principally known as a comedy writer, wrote the novel plumbing his own faith and questions as a Catholic surviving in the turbulent modern world. Excellently helmed by director William Friedkin, The Exorcist takes its time building to the ‘Roman Ritual’, which serves as the story climax. Preceding Halloween by several years, The Exorcsit does not rely upon gruesome kills and continuous violence to provoke dread and horror but rather takes the audience slowly and inexorably from a bright world of light and reason into one of darkness and the supernatural. More than 40 years old and recently revised by the director into a final cut this is a movie that still works, creating an atmosphere of dread, terror, and leaving the viewer with deep questions, it is a movie worth watching and thinking about.

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Halloween Horror Movie # 14 Dementia 13

If I were cleverer I would have worked it out so that this movie popped up as number 13, but that did not happen.

Dementia 13 is the fires mainstream feature film from acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola. It is a low budget horror/thriller intended to ride the coattails of the better-known movie Psycho.

The story concerns an Irish family that is haunted by the tragic and mysterious death of the youngest child, Kathleen. On an anniversary of her drowning, when the family hold yearly funerals for her, a scheming American woman Louise, recently married into the family, plots to manipulate the matriarch into changing her will. Louise’s plot is upended when people start dying at the hands of unidentified axe murderer.

Made for Roger Corman, Coppola was never fully satisfied with the final product and it even eventually fell into the public domain. If you buy one of 50 Horror, or Thriller, or Mystery DVD set you likely will acquire a copy of Dementia 13. Of course that will be an nth generation copy off some poor quality 16 mm print. Surprisingly someone splurged for a 4k restoration and that was what was screened at the Museum of Photographic Arts last night. My sweetie-wife and I attended, thought traffic nearly made us miss the movie. I can’t recommend this movie, it’s very uneven and convoluted but I do not seeing it in a theater instead of a poor quality dup.

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Literary Saboteur

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