Thursday, October 30, 2014

Parenting, The Shining and The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie and The Shining share more in common than you think. Stories, whether told, written or filmed, can be read in many different ways with the observer becoming part of the story through his or her interpretation. I have long loved the Shining. It is one of the few films that truly scared me. It is a great movie that people go bonkers over. With a small son sick for a weekend, I was introduced to the Lego Movie. It is a children's movie. For a children's movie, it is tolerable for adults. After the fifth viewing of it with my son, the simple "Working dads, you be good to your kids" message could be eye rolled quick enough to think about the movie's weird "the lego is alive" section. The Lego Movie and the Shining are about the same problem, the gifts fathers and sons share, yet the Lego Movie is about a reconciliation of its duo's awareness of said abilities while the Shining is about a split.

This could very easily become stupid, so if you are wary of it, stop reading and enjoy the rest of your day.

In the Shining, Jack and Danny both have a gift. They can both Shine. We know Danny can because the cook explains the secret to us. Without the cook, every ghost moment where Jack or Danny interact with something is purely in their minds. Jack has the gift, just like the cook and his gramma. Danny has the shine amped to '11'. Wendy runs around the hotel spooked out by things, yet never gets cobwebs from the skeletons on her closes or has any splotches of blood from the elevator. The father and son react differently to the evil hotel built on an Indian burial plot. As I wrote recently, their shine mingles with the Overlook, and they react differently. Jack discovers his son has the same abilities as him, and does not want him to ruin his paradise. They love each other, but Jack loves what the hotel does for him. It seduces him, and takes his soul.

In the Lego Movie, the son and father both are gifted Lego builders. They are creative, smart, and organized. It is all a kid's tale to make a nobody who doesn't feel special suddenly important in the eyes of lord business (Daddy, pay attention!). There is a weird little catch though. The lead Lego guy, Emmett, moves on his own in the real world. Maybe it is psychic powers. Maybe it is purely frustrated energies between the father and son. This is a grown man pushed into his basement to play with kids toys. This is his fun zone. His son tramples on his enclave and fantasy world. He recognizes the expert and innovative creativity that his son has, which he has himself. He also sees the improvisational skills his son has that do not require following instructions. He recognizes the limitations he has placed on his son. They can reconcile this ability, their ability. They love each other, and the father decides to accept his son and share the experience.

Your kids are a part of you. Many of your strengths and weaknesses will be their strengths and weaknesses. People worry about not being as good as mom or dad at something. That is small potatoes. A true crisis is what does an adult do when the child proves to be superior. That is a fully formed, adult ego a child or teen is crushing. The parent can always pat a struggling child on the head, "there there, it's okay, not everyone can be awesome". What happens when Junior can destroy dad at his favorite game or is a better singer than mom? The Great Santini shows what happens, and it is not pretty. Jack yelling at Wendy to not ruin this job for him because she might secretly want him doing humiliating work is nothing compared to the reaction Jack has about Danny possibly taking away the world of the Overlook from him. How dare he. It's his retro-paradise where everyone needs him and values him. The Shining is one of the best horror films made and the Lego Movie is a cute children's film. There is no evil hotel to meddle with the family in the Lego Movie, but at its core, the movies deal with a similar conflict. It's a conflict most parents will face.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Overlook Hotel Pulls Them In

This week's horror/thriller review is the final one. I started with the mindgames and masculinity issues of Vertigo, then the mystery of Mulholland Drive, then the link to our time in the retro horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Let's send the month of right.

Halloween is this very week. As the nights get longer and air crisper, the scary movies start screening in my home. My wife loves horror films as do I. Old black and whites as well as newer films make an appearance on our television. An all time favorite is "The Shining". It legitimately creeps me out. I wrote about the obsessive individuals who make up the narrators in the documentary Room 237. They see some wacky things in the movie. Like any piece of art, it hits everyone differently. It is all up for interpretation, but really what is this specific horror story about? Stephen King did not like what Kubrick did with his material, and when you look at the horrible King books turned movies that King had creative veto power over compared to the Shining, you have to wonder if he did not like it because Kubrick told a better story. This is not about King's book as it has explanations, more back story and a different ending than Kubrick's reinvention of The Shining. What is the story and what does it tell us? Let's take a ride with Kubrick.

A man takes his family to a hotel, working as the caretaker in the off-season. He and his son start seeing ghosts of sorts in what turns out to be a maliciously haunted. The ghosts then make physical contact with them, seduce dad, threaten son, expose themselves to mom. The spirits eventually claim dad as he dies while son and mom flee, leaving the hotel standing victorious. The nutty folks in Room 237 have crazy interpretations of the film's message, but there are some nuggets of viability in each one (except the moon landing one). One they overlooked is the simple crisis of post-scarcity, post-sexual liberation masculinity. Jack is jobless. He has a schleppy wife. He bums around with odd jobs to take up the caretaker role that he doesn't really perform. He explicitly yells at Wendy about her messing up this opportunity and sending him back to crummy jobs like she has ruined his life. He is a writer. Of course it was Stephen King's avatar (right down to lame wife, drinking problem + one kid at the time). What does he need to do though in society? We have an overabundance of everything? He wants the party life, s3x with a desirable woman and freedom. He does not want responsibility. "All work and no play". Wendy and Danny move along fine without him. Wendy ends up doing the caretaker work. Can we even nail down when Jack grabbed Danny and hurt his shoulder? Wendy and Jack refer to that moment as happening at a different spot in time (jack when talking to the bartender, Wendy when talking to the doctor). Are either of them trustworthy? Does Wendy care? When Jack came back from Room 237 and said he found no one so Danny must've done it to himself (a lie but still she can't verify), Wendy automatically sides with her kid who has some weird tendencies, not Jack. In the very end, Wendy and Danny do not even look back abandoning the husband and father who has gone crazy. They do not flinch.

What exactly is going on? How come the hotel even bothers with Jack and Danny? One could argue that it is purely cabin fever and in Jack and Danny's head as just about every ghost interaction is suggested to Jack beforehand, and Danny might just be a psychopath. The idea of a party as well as the Grady episode was implanted by the manager to Jack. A dead young hiker is on the news before Jack's interaction with the woman in room 237. Wendy never gets blood on her despite a river of blood rolling towards her out of the elevator. I will stop. The ghosts are real. We know from the cook (Dick Halloran) that the ghosts are legit. The cook confirms that Danny is not just a kid who faints and sees things. The cook explains that the hotel knows about people who shine because he's scared of Room 237. The cook has a good reveal that Grady confirms later. The cook and his gramma both could shine. Grady's daughter tried to burn the hotel down, and Grady was in communication with the hotel. There is a genetic, inherited component to shining. The hotel does not mess with every caretaker or guest, only the ones who can shine. If a caretaker comes with family, odds are they have a kid who may catch some of those Overlook shine radio waves.

Why does the Overlook scare the kids off while pulling in the adults? Danny and the Grady daughter both get the bad juju or heebie jeebie vibes while their fathers do not. The hotel starts with little girl images and a ball rolled towards Danny, and then grows darker. The hotel says, "Come on, you belong here, it'll be a blast, you've always belonged here". It doesn't work on kids who are new to the world. That message is a strong one to middle aged men taking an off-season caretaker position that by definition is not permanent. That position is not the normal caretaker. Who would that job attract? Oddballs, guys between jobs, and with all that space, a guy with a family. A guy with a family taking odd jobs is probably hitting that mid-life crisis and lacks a steady career. Just look at how the woman in Room 237 approaches Jack vs. Danny. She attacks Danny, while approaching Jack with sex first. Is it the same ghost? We do not know. We know Danny went into the room just as Jack went into the room. The hotel can seduce easy with the mirages. Kids aren't going to be seduced by July galas and naked women in bath tubs. They are kids. They have their life ahead of them. These men need that feeling of belonging. They need to feel that they matter. Now this is completely ridiculous when they have taken a job that obviously needs their attention. The job itself is a duty, but they are seduced by the hedonism and air of the hotel. They are selfish. All of Jack's escapades are for him alone. He talks to the bartender, he walks through the gala, and he alone enjoys these things. He is the caretaker, but he never does any job duties while in fantasy land.

Playing on the idea that Jack and Danny both have the shine, and are affected in similar manners, note Jack's behavior as Wendy runs to get him about the woman who attacked Danny. She is running, wailing and panting towards Jack through an empty hotel. She is running towards a man who is facing a mirror, so he could see her coming. He doesn't. He could hear her. He doesn't.  Watch when she gets to Jack. She practically wakes him up when she gets to him. He didn't turn around anticipating her arrival. The Overlook was casting its spell on him, and similar to Danny's blackout moments, Jack was dazed as he spoke to Lloyd the bartender. Jack and Danny are experiencing the Overlook with the same illusions, but reacting differently. Jack wants to stay, while Danny wants out. Jack is told his son has a gift by Grady, and rather than talking to him about it and trying to solve the mystery, Jack just wants to eliminate the obstacle to him enjoying the Overlook. "You and I both have this gift, so why aren't you digging this? Why are you ruining this for me???" or even "I'm not going to tell mom about Room 237, but I saw the woman there, Danny. What did she look like to you?". He cannot be bothered to talk to his son about this, yet he has plenty of time to do so and no one else who knows about this to talk to.

There is something to Kubrick's Shining's interpretation that makes the horror so great. There is the horror of the external, the hotel, the world around them and there is the horror within themselves. The hotel, the very spot they are trapped in, is a beautiful yet terrifying place with a dark history. It will proactively meddle with humans. It engages people rather than the visitors entering and disrupting the environment with horrific consequences (see all slasher, monster, and ghost films). This horror is compounded by the horror of the personal. Jack and Danny are gifted with the shine, but they make choices with how to react. Danny never discusses the girls. He chooses to go into room 237. Jack, at any point, could walk away. He could choose his family over the hotel. Jack and Danny could discuss the hotel's quirks and bug out. The terrible screaming in Jack's sleep and frightened attitude when he wakes up is a conscious admission that to give in to the hotel's seduction is wrong. He still does it anyway despite crying to his wife that he does not want to do so. While the hotel's seduction works, it works because he was a willing and open target conflicted by the choice.

This horror of the external and the personal is critical in amplifying the tension of the movie. The audience gets more invested. The protagonists actually mattering is something all filmmakers and screenwriters understand except M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan just sets up a weird situation and maybe the leads matter to solving the problem or maybe they do not. However well written their story arc is outside the main situation is what will pull you in. Signs and The Village are horrible alien and monster movies that could've been awesome in the post-9/11 fear of the unknown era, but Shyamalan wastes the idea. Kubrick makes it clear Jack and Danny trigger the Overlook. Jack and Danny matter, and Jack and Danny have a choice. Giving in involves some horrific acts. Acts that one would never do or claim to never want to do. Jack will tell Lloyd the bartender that he would not hurt a hair on his kid's head, but by the end of the film, he's chasing him through the snowstorm with an axe in hand to kill him. Danny may resist the horrible hotel, but dad may come to get him.

Besides the story, the Room 237 narrators all look for the visual clues to their interpretations. They are comical in some respects but entertaining. American Indian genocide, the Holocaust, the Moon landing and minotaurs all sound a bit goofy. They look for clues in tiny little things like typewriters, cans of food or posters on walls. I too enjoyed the visuals of the film. The vast space of the sets for the hotel added to the "all alone" creepiness. The Overlook itself is a character. In To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf spends several pages describing the process of nature taking back the summer house. It is the personification of the house itself into a character in the book, not just a setting. The fools Wikipedia editors must not have read the actual book. The Overlook is a character that you can buy because Kubrick painstakingly worked the visuals. Those empty hallways were just begging for Danny to turn a corner and bump into something scary, which is accentuated by the decision to use a "big wheel" camera angle. Set design was important for this film because Kubrick had to nail the personification of a hotel that conjures ghosts out of thin air and is malicious. The hotel has to be a living thing and should look appropriate. A viewer is not going to buy ghosts popping out of the walls of a standard issue hotel. A pre-fab Holiday Inn from 1980 doesn't look the part of a hotel that could be considered enchanted and seductive. If the walls are going to talk, they better be interesting walls. That is part of the seduction of the place. Rooms are large with huge bathrooms (room 237). There are interesting Indian patterns and design. Gigantic rooms for all sorts of parties are there at the Overlook. The hotel itself, barring some room color choices, is a bit out of time compared to the 1980 production date. This adds to the setting of illusions.

Kubrick is an interesting film maker, and he reworks King's The Shining well. Bad things happen at the Overlook causing it to shine per Dick Halloran, but is he ignorant of the Overlook's construction? He might be. If he is, he's missing the first mover: the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground. Stephen King loved that cliche. Must have been the rural Mainer in him. I grew up hearing tales of the Saco River Curse (3 whites will die each year in the river), and King, growing up in the forest in Durham, Maine, probably heard a tale or two about stepping onto sacred Indian spots. Now it is easy to slip that into the interpretation that this is about American Indian massacres. Is it? Is it more about the primary, foundational conflict here. Putting a swanky hotel on top of an Indian burial ground is an alien group forcing civilization and a place used for leisure on top of the natives' most sacred spot. It is a massive trespassing for those who believe in anything holy. That crime will be punished by the spiritual side, and those who can see, those who tap into that world, those who "shine" will be witness. If drawn in deep enough, participate.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Counter to German Claims

I have a lot of respect for Germans. When I have interacted with them in an academic or business setting, their behavior has always been courteous, sharp and after a while, friendly. They are not warm, but I have had plenty of nice chats with Germans. Sometimes World War Two has come up, allowing for really interesting stories from the other side. One thing that strikes me is how almost all of them mention how crazy Hitler took them down the path to destruction and that the White Rose society was bigger than recorded. If only that bomb had not been moved 5 feet before going off, the war would have ended sooner. Unconditional surrender aside, had the Germans understood how to cripple their war machine, they would've killed persuaded Speer and Krupp of the futility of carrying on the war effort.

Scholars are split on the Nazi state and Holocaust in the camp of Crazy Hitler-Himmler types made it happen or that it was an institutional issue where the bureaucracy was set up to one up each other and execute on what had been decades of ups and down in anti-semitic or anti-other feelings. Seems that run of the mill Germans like to use the Crazy Hitler excuse. That discounts decades of pogroms and other anti-semitic actions. That discounts the fact that Germans loved their Fuhrer up until he started losing. It also discounts how the German officers disagreed on strategy but no one mentioned surrender. It is self-serving lies on a national scale.

The other thing it avoids is mentioning that all Hitler did was take over a state that had a fully functioning and orderly bureaucracy, military and history of being led by a monarch. Like Stalin becoming the Red Tsar, Hitler became the People's Kaiser. Had the German leadership truly wanted to end the war, they could have talked Krupp and Speer into their camp. Krupp was the genius leader behind Krupp industries. Alfried Krupp was so valuable that despite overwhelming evidence, after the Anglo-Soviet split, the Americans found a way to release him from prison after three years and get the German economy moving again. Good thing he had a senile father to blame the worst of the war crimes on. Speer had turned the German war economy into an efficient machine despite Allied bombings. Peaceniks mention how Allied bombing did not reduce German economic output. True. What is also true is that Speer took over from Goering the industrial organization of the economy and made everything more efficient. Goering was an idiot who spent more time comparing blues for his dress uniforms than looking at getting iron in the air. In some instances, Speer's changes were as simple as having multiple shifts at a factory. Krupp and Speer both wondered why the Allies never concentrated bombing strategies and seemed to bomb in odd, scattered patterns. Targeted bombings at critical points could have ended their manufacturing in a heartbeat. Likewise, had the German leadership involved in the July 20th plot to kill Hitler just talked Krupp and Speer into their camp, the war would've been over immediately.

We will still hear German claims of "shucks our leadership fooled us". Their speeches were out in the open. They had millions of supporters and millions of mitlaufers. To paraphrase what Speer wrote, at a certain point you don't even have to write speeches because you know exactly what the audience wants because what you are saying is not what you are thinking or believe but what they think and believe and want to hear. World War Two was really resolving who would be the dominant 20th century European model to impose on the world: British parliamentarian politics or German autocracy. Germans wanted their system to win. They can blame Hitler, but another autocrat would have taken his place had he died in World War One. The fortunate thing for Germans is they have the biggest of boogeymen to blame everything on. In a world with a decreasing number of people willing to look deeper, this provides the Germans with a renewable cover story.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Pardons Reveal

Pardons are a presidential power that usually generate interest as a president leaves office. Pardons were at the heart of the Nixon Watergate situation as Nixon would not promise a pardon or would dangle the promise of a pardon in front of men. Gerald Ford famously pardoned Nixon despite Nixon not being convicted of anything. George W. Bush never pardoned old Scooter Libby, which many pundits expected. Bill Clinton pardoned some minor figures and then Marc Rich. Rich's ex-wife had donated millions to the Clinton library. No corruption there. Clinton and Bush both pardoned, individually, two men involved in a smuggling crime from the '40s. No media outcry or much attention, yet it reveals more about America's geopolitical stance today.

Charles Winters and Al Schwimmer were buddies involved with smuggling three B-17 bombers from the US to newly formed Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Winters claims that he did this because of his friend Schwimmer for what he felt was right and received no compensation. These bombers were credited with helping the Israelis win the war and acted as the start of their air force. Schwimmer was the father of the Israeli Air Force and Winters the Godfather. Once the smuggling was discovered, Winters and Schwimmer were punished. Winters went to jail for eighteen months, Schwimmer was fined but never spent time in jail. These are pretty lenient sentences for violating the neutrality act and smuggling bombers to another nation. While there was a strong push within the US for recognizing Israel, Truman debated this and waffled on it. Even when he signed recognition, there are scratch marks on what exactly was the name of the nation he was recognizing. America had an Arabist and a Zionist wing to foreign policy. Fifty years later, the pro-Israel side had won out. While Schwimmer himself never sought a pardon, Clinton gave him the pardon. Despite being dead for over a decade, Bush pardoned Winters. It was symbolic. Israel, the US has your back, always.

Times had changed. What changed exactly? These two men broke a law. The law enforcement of their time punished them, if lightly, and did not pardon them when the crime was fresh. They were not pardoned even after the US had bailed Israel out in Nixon's day. Nothing about the law changed. What changed was AIPAC's stranglehold on Congress. What changed was the idea of Israel being the source of multiple questions at presidential debates. What changed was that breaking the law for Israel was not such a bad thing as long as it did not put the US at risk. These men are dead. The pardons have little tangible meaning but plenty of symbolism. Touchdown celebrations have no value except to taunt the other side. It is okay to get outraged by the pardon of Marc Rich. It is okay to wonder if Bush would pardon old crony Scooter Libby. Just don't discuss the history, the odd push and the lobby behind the pardon of two old smugglers.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ukraine Narrative Fell Apart

Exactly how much of the Ukraine propaganda is being flushed down the toilet? The media appears to be pulling the plug on this propaganda campaign. It has been a little over a month after the truce was enacted that Putin designed. The EU is backing away from a trade pact with the Ukraine. The NY Times released an article that the Ukrainians did use cluster bombs as Putin alleged. The Germans just cleared the Russians of downing MH 17. Another leak shows that Putin did not offer parts of a carved up Ukraine to Poland ("overinterpreted") as the former Polish foreign minister alleged. American media has, once again, revealed that nearly everything they claimed and trumpeted in the past is false, and that which they called lies is truth. There will be no consequences. There never are. The better question is why is this happening?

Europe's economy is a mess and sanctions actually hurt them. It does not hurt the entire realm, but it hurts the heavy hitters doing the pulling to keep their whole system afloat. Russian gas fuels German industry, and the Germans, idiotically after Fukushima, decided to shut down their nuclear reactors. Where's the cheap electricity now, frau? Russia also made a big move that turned the natgas game in their favor. Russia inked that huge natgas deal with China, diversifying their consumer base. Providing China and possibly other Asian manufacturing centers with natgas makes Europe less important. It is not just foreign moves that matter, as this is the USG's show. If Putin starts strutting again, the situation can be restarted anytime Soros and company wants. The War Party now has their military industrial complex expenditures in the Middle East. Billions can be spent on the rapidly expanding, long slog to beat back ISIS. Ukraine itself is to blame. The Ukrainian military was so inept and terrible that they were losing to rebels on the ground and starting to look bad in the media war. Once people start seeing the neo-nazi side of the new leaders in Ukraine, it will scare them off since the media will say "Shoah", and no one wants a Shoah. Never again. It is also late October. Winter is coming. It will be cold in Ukraine without Russian gas. New governments with tentative holds on their nation fighting the perception of Washington puppets want to keep their people warm.

This might not go away though because of one man. George Soros is desperate. He fired off an op-ed calling Russia an existential threat, begging asking for $20 billion towards the war effort. Females in the lion pride do the hunting and fighting, but when the pride is in mortal danger, the big poppa lion comes out to fight. Soros showing his teeth in January was enough to tip off people that he was worried. This letter, demanding $20 billion from the IMF, is an angry man that knows he is losing. His word choice is closer to a despot extracting money for his war, "immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice". Like so many other things progressives want or believe, Soros thinks if he says it enough, it will come true. It may still happen, but not fast enough for old George. One correction to the Soros letter is that Europe is broke, taking in too many toxic immigrants and drunk on hedonism facing a self-inflicted crisis.

The media is laying the groundwork for the eventual sabotaging of the current Ukraine regime and an arrangement that conforms to Russia's desires. The bad publicity right now for Ukrainian efforts combined with the positive leaks and revelations for Russia bolsters Putin's side. The rebels were reckless, the Ukrainians are using dirty weapons, Putin never made secret deals. These are all items intended to portray the eventual resolution that fits Putin's checklist as something the international community wants, too. Soros sees this and is angry. Americans will not pay attention though because they are barely registering that ISIS has been supported by our Gulf allies for years and received aid from the US when it was an anti-Assad force yet now we must bomb them. If Soros and company want to restart a fight in Ukraine once the Middle East military expenditures drop off, the stove can be turned back to high. Some fake military convoys, a shot down plane that was the only plane sent on that flight path over disputed territory, and Putin = Hitler comparisons should be enough to make the American public forget all about the systemic Ukrainian lies of 2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014

They Tried to Prog My Aunt's Funeral

This is a personal post so you can stop reading if you don't care to read ramblings on dealing with death. I had an aunt who called me monthly. I had an aunt who sent me care packages in college loaded with candy that made my rich friends envious. I had an aunt who would talk to me about anything. I had an aunt who made it a point to spend time with, welcome in and get to know my wife. I had an aunt who commented on every damn Facebook picture or video upload of my kids. I was lucky enough that I had all of that in one woman. I am from a big family full of aunts, some great and some meh, but I lost my favorite. She died in July. I was thinking of her this week when the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" was on the radio in my car, and I heard my son singing back up with a little "woo woo" in time. I instinctively thought how she'd laugh at that. Everyone grieves differently and at different paces. This is part of it for me.

My aunt had no kids but poured her heart into her nieces and nephews. My sister and I were incredibly close to her because we were the oldest grandkids, and knew her when she could walk. We both spoke at her funeral. To show how perverse people are politically now, my aunt in charge of organizing speakers told my uncle, and thru my sister me, to lay off the religious stuff because my dead aunt wasn't into organized religion. It's a funeral. If someone speaks, be thankful they shared you idiots. That side is way too left, but "just win" left unlike my aunt who was so far left that her leftness and my rightness met at the "burn the system down to start anew" point. My sister took the comedy angle, while I played the sentimental. I wasn't going to lie, and neither did my sister. I loved my aunt dearly but she frustrated me so much. She had major flaws and made some bad decisions, and she would point them out for those of us younger than her to not do. She was in a biker gang out west, had done God knows what horrible things, and yet, always found a moment to send me a letter, a post card or a box with Fool's Gold in it, and always signed "Love you". When she finally kicked her drug habit and moved home, my sister and I were so happy. I told stories to explain to our family just how much she and I shared, but I wasn't going to pretend my Harley riding, jailbird, night owl aunt did not exist 25 years earlier. I filled the eulogy with special stories. One was training my kid to say goodnight and her nickname in time for her birthday, which with his speech delay and my secrecy was a pleasant shock for her that brought her tears of joy. There were two stories I couldn't share; I'll put them here as this blog is really for my mental release.

I couldn't share with my family the fun of being in a big family is that when a crisis hits, you see the informal networks. My sister's wedding reception table seating was like a Twitter network diagram because of who likes who and who hates who at that moment. In a big family, you can tell relatives to flip off because there are 5-10 other siblings to go buddy up with after that. My dad grew up dirt poor, and just about every dysfunction (substance abuse) or positive stereotype (hard working strivers) you associate with a poor upbringing is found in one or the other relative. My aunt and I, despite being a generation apart, were a major conduit of information. It was a back channel for approaching problems. About 8 years ago, she caught on that a younger cousin of mine, who was 13, might be gay. I had that suspicion, too. One dinner she talked to me and my wife about it, and voiced a specific concern, "with how much her mother made gay jokes, I don't see her accepting X. You're both young, you know gays. How'd your friends' parents handle it". I gave her the "things are different now" speech, and mentioned that the final confirmation of it hits anyone hard. I also said that if it happens, we still let X know that we love her, and she is still family. My aunt made a crack about her own problems in the past and people accepting her back. Years later, my cousin came out, and thanks to a decade extra of Hollywood brainwashing, it's all "super-awesome" and my cousin's parents' attitude about gays in the '80s and '90s is down the memory hole.

The other story, I had actually written into the eulogy. When I came to that part, I told them I couldn't read it because it came true and had hit me too hard. On the night I picked up my wife's engagement ring, I had a business dinner, so I had to get the ring right after work then go to the meal. As dessert came, I got a call. It was my aunt. She was in tears. I told her where I was and asked for 5 minutes. I hung up, said my good-byes to my business guests, and then spent an hour in the parking lot of the Cheesecake Factory in Burlington, Massachusetts. It wasn't a call aunts and nephews should have, but she and her husband were going through hard times (lost job, money, health, etc.). My aunt had poor health due to very poor lifestyle decisions she made and her smoking habit. I hit her with it. I told her how I was proposing, hoping to elope and that I worried she "would not live to see my children". She was in her late 40s when I said that to her. Now my aunt ended up dying a week before I brought my baby girl home to meet the big family for the first time. From the moment I heard the news of her death to when my wife arrived with the kids in Maine, I thought of how that worry came true.

When my relatives tried to prog the funeral, I thought, " Who did she call in her dark times? Not your spirit warrior prog self. Me. One of the few Christians". It's my relationship with her to share with them at that moment. They were fortunate to hear it. I am thankful for the time I spent with her. I am still angry that she missed out on my kids. I'm angry that I saw it coming and she knew that I saw this coming, but she could not kick her final habit. I will eventually let that go. Willpower was not her strength. It will sting for the near future as my kids do little things like drum solos to Pink Floyd songs or just being a 6 month old night owl that make me think of her. That pain will go away. She'll become a wild character for my kids to learn about, and for them to know that she loved them even if for a short while.

She loved Halloween, so I'm thinking of her because she loved the family costumes we have come up with (this year, it's all four of us). My aunt went out west for several years, raising hell yet always finding time to send my sister and I something. After she lost a leg, she sent a postcard that had a picture of a tombstone that said, "Here Lies the 1 Legged Bandit". She wrote on the back "Bastards have a spot picked out for me!". Always signing that she loved us. When she came back, we wondered how she'd be with us and were very happy to know the letters were real, the feelings were true, and it was what helped bring her back. She is part of why I believe in redemption, and giving people a second chance. Despite not believing in organized religion, she had seen enough to believe in the soul and that there was something out there tying us together. I know not everyone has kids. Some can be self centered, and some can make an effort to connect. After calming down and cleaning up, my aunt made a great effort to connect and love. I hope that at some point in all of your lives that someone unexpected can love you in an unexpected way.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Racism Stories Sportswriters Avoid

The media loves to talk about race. Loves to only talk about it in ways that fits the official narrative. Evil whites, oppressed blacks, nonexistent Asians and Hispanics, and nothing ever changes from 1865 unless it is a good white doing something for an oppressed black (sorry Asians and Hispanics, you don't exist to journalists). Sports writers love a good race story. The great white hope (boxing), the great black hope (quarterback), why aren't there any blacks in baseball, breaking color barriers are constant stories. One story that never gets explored is "why are blacks so racist when it comes to sports".

Just in the last month, two interesting news leaks or quotes have been out there that the media is delicately handling and not taking a moment to analyze or dig deeper. This is in comparison to the deep dive of American racism from leaked Richie Incognito texts that when fully revealed, show Incognito to be not the horrible racist the media portrayed him as and hinted at Jonathan Martin's agent knowing the media would portray it one way. Rookie Nik Stauskas said, "I understand that I'm a rookie and I'm white, so people are going to attack me at all times". After the Percy Harvin trade from the Seattle Seahawks, it has leaked that some players in the Seahawks organization feel Russell Wilson isn't black enough. Keep in mind we have a black president so white he makes Bryant Gumbel look militant.

The Stauskas comments have not created a firestorm of soul searching by NBA writers. The Russell Wilson comment is not putting blacks under the microscope for the concept of black enough. Stauskas is an NBA player voicing the idea that a white will have special focus from other players. I deliberately linked to the NY Daily News article because that writer, in true liberal fashion, managed to avoid the issue of black racism entirely and turn it into a way to talk about white racism. I tip my hat to the mental gymnastics that essay forced him to perform, and the fact that he will have to wake up knowing he is a whore in the service of progressive politics not a sportswriter. How many white kids shy away from basketball due to black behavior? How many American white males over 6'6" as a percentage of population are in the NBA compared to European white males over 6'6"?

Wilson's dilemma is sad. It is partly sad due to the accusation being a slight echo of the "cornball brother" comments about RG3. RG3 was a bit conservative and had a white girlfriend that he married before knocking up. Blacks once again question the blackness of someone, not due to genetic black lineage, but due to not conforming to behavioral norms. Could a single sportswriter connect the two and maybe, just maybe, expand the idea out to the broader cultural problem of black dysfunction? Nature and nurture work to mold people, and if NFL quarterbacks will get the "you are not one of us" treatment for having white friends or being well spoken, what chance does your black friends kid have if he wants to do well in school?

These are simple questions. White kids probably do avoid some sports. It's not all of them, but at the margins. Professional sports like anything elite are a giant funnel. Fewer kids going in means not as many will come out at the end. Let's reverse this. If a liberal is going to tell you that simply the institutional legacy of slavery that ended 150 years ago can affect a modern black kid's SAT scores, why can't tribal aggression on the court influence a white kid to put the ball down? If a million dollar quarterback will get questioned about belonging, any kid can and most kids will want to belong to the crowd. Trayvon and Michael Brown both had dads in their lives, but something happened where they still felt the need to shake down convenience store owners, steal stuff at school, charge cops and/or fat neighborhood watch guys. Let's not talk about that though. Only Southern white coaches can be racist. Everyone knows that.

Cross posted at SWPL Sports Review

The Perfect Retro Horror Film for Our Era

The whole world changes around you. You're the only one to notice the change, and no one believes you. This is the premise of one third of all Twilight Zone episodes. It is well used in the 1950s classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film is a classic science fiction, horror film that holds up well for a variety of reasons. My wife fully expected a 1950s movie that would be borderline Mystery Science Theater 3000 cringe-worthy. She was surprised and enjoyed it. I have watched it multiple times, and appreciate the flick. It is helped by having only one recognizable face (the lead) and being in black and white. Invasion holds up well also because it is focused on the story and less on the effects. It is also a postcard of an America long gone. Let's think about the Invasion because sometimes it does feel like we are living in the movie today. 

Invasion was an adaptation of a science fiction novel. It differs from the book with less action fighting aliens, and less involvement by the FBI, but this was probably due to the limited budget and maybe a focus on the human element. Invasion is set in the small, fictional town of Santa Mira, California, with the small town farming feel to it combined with Main Street USA at Disney for the town center. It is set up as a frame story with a man raving about weird shenanigans. The madman is Dr. Miles Bennell, and this is his tale. Dr. Bennell returns home after being away for a while to some towns people he knows well complaining that their loved ones just ain't right. Something is the matter, but it is hard to point out. It is like they are another person, but everything appears normal. A second doctor, Dr. Kauffman, assures our hero that this is just mass hysteria, like a flu going around the town. Dr. Bennell has a love interest, Becky, a smoking hot brunette divorcee, and Dr. Bennell is divorced himself. They were college lovers, and there is plenty of flirting but it is cute 1950s kind of flirting. They even go out for a date to go dancing. "Dad, there were places people could go for dinner, drinks and classy dancing?" The film takes a turn when Bennell's friend Jack has a "thing" with his features in his home just lying around. They investigate the oddity. When Bennell returns Becky home, something she said and her father tinkering in the basement sends him back to investigate her cellar. He finds a duplicate of her in a cellar compartment, dunh-dunh-dunnnnnnnh. 

He calls the authorities, who come to find no duplicate, and the duplicate of his friend Jack (Jack's wife is played by young, bright eyed Morticia Adams) was just a madman killed in a barn later. Later Bennell finds pods out back that hatch not fully formed duplicates of him and his friends. They try to call the state capitol and the FBI, but the phone operator is one of them and won't put them through. Bennell sends his friends to make a run for it, and he and love interest try to recruit his nurse. She is one of them too, and they are installing the pods near the regular people to take over! There is a fight and they make a getaway. Eventually they get cornered by the authorities, and yes, they turned his friend Jack into one of them. See, the pod people come from spores in space, and they replace you, but you don't quite feel it. In fact, you don't feel anything. Feelings are gone. You are calm, cool and rational. No more conflict or stress. Why love? Love just leads to conflict. They place pods nearby, but the Doc has a few tricks up his sleeve. He and Becky overpower the trio. Straightforward action scene that feels more realistic than today's jump cuts and fast movement ADD scenes. Becky even helps Dr. Bennell take the trio down, but not in an obvious "this is some girl power" way, just simple strategy and fighting. 

The lovers make a run for it through the hills with pod people following. In the end, Becky falls asleep and is replaced by the pod person (vague on the replacement mechanism). She changes but not before sexy Becky says, "I don't want to live in a world without love or grief or beauty, I'd rather die". It is actually a touching scene, because they are alone. It's just them holding out. She changes though as she just could not stay awake. They get you in your sleep. Dr. Bennell must go it alone. Bennell eventually gets caught in traffic at night with the famous "You're next" scene. Do the authorities believe him? Come on, this is the 1950s. He is proven correct, and not mad, and the FBI is going to come in to tackle the problem. The pods may be on the move, but the FBI is on the case now. Aliens, watch your back. 

I would recommend this just for the black and white alone. Black and white has one major advantage over color: playing with shadow and light. There are shots in this movie that use shadow in a great way to convey menace, fear or get your attention. In color, it would not be possible. In black and white, light can appear where there should be no light source. Watch Strangers on a Train for the love canal scene to see shadow in black and white used to perfection. Another great example of this black and white advantage is in Schindler's List when the kid jumps into the outhouse toilet. It's obviously dark, yet when he is down in the crap, there is a perfect circle of light on him to show how he is alone and the other kids in the crapper don't want him there. There should be no light, but this is the beauty of black and white. Powerful. If you consider film one of the arts, black and white can be when film is deployed at its best. This film holds up better than other '50s sci-fi or horror because there are no special effects beyond the pods and the hatching of the pods. This is about a story, a mind switch. The story's power and fear helps Invasion hold up better than every "man in a rubber suit" or "pie plate flying saucer" movie. 

The wonderful thing here lost on many people is that the hero still trudges onward and does not give up despite having nothing personal to save. The '60s would also change film where rebels and flipping the old order for a loop would be portrayed heroic. In essence, that is the core message of Pleasantville that was set in the '50s but made in the '90s. If Invasion were made in the '70s, the heroes would have committed suicide, died, or been defeated. Amazing coincidence, Invasion was remade in the '70s and that is exactly what happened. The futility of any heroic effort was a theme to '70s flicks that Star Wars pushed back into the cellar. Even made today, there would have to be some personal reason the hero trudged on (a kid, his lover, etc.), unlike Dr. Bennell's sole purpose of fighting on for himself and to warn society. Bennell was part of something that he wanted to preserve and save. He was facing long odds, but he was not going to give up. He was going to try despite every pod alien telling him no, telling him he'd be better converting and telling him that it was inevitable. Audiences in 1956 identified with that obligation. After all, many of them were war veterans who had grown up in the Depression. Newer films' heroes need that personal reason, because we 21st century people need that reason. Being atomized, individuals seeking self actualization does not create selfless heroes to take out aliens when you have nothing left to protect. 

Something not lost on viewers of today is the obvious messaging, but here's where the horror goes deeper for us. Academics look at this and discuss the elements of fear of subversion but harp on the echoes of McCarthyism and hysteria. Normal human beings look at this and see this for what it is, those dirty commies could be next door and you would never know because they look and talk like us but there is something off about them. The fact that the FBI is called in as a reliable force is a signal for us normies since the FBI was the sole USG entity that even attempted to go after Communist infiltration on our shores in that era. The horror is that we have academics willing to push the McCarthy angle and disregard the slap you in the face obviousness of commie invasion. Our academics are the pod people. They see McCarthyism as a hysteria in this film when really the characters with the hunch something is wrong are correct, which is like McCarthy but not the meaning they want to assign McCarthyism.

Our invasion is ongoing. Just think back to your family members telling gay jokes 20 years ago, and listen to them prattle on how much they support same sex marriage now. They will practically exile you if you are not carrying the HIV blood stained rainbow flag. "But but my dad... he's the same... same look, same voice, same memories... he was against the Iraq war on principle but now he supports droning anything Muslim that walks and overthrowing Middle East dictators... he just loves gay guys now, not romantically, but he'll fight to the death for them to marry... he doesn't even know any gay guys! Worst part is that he won't even admit that he has changed. I'm not goin' mad am I, Doc? He changed overnight and is not the same person!" The Overton Window that moves left and sucks in your loved ones still leaves them behind intact except something is off. But you're not changed, and they won't admit it. In fact, when you try to tell them anything about the change, they look at you weird and say "yeah, well we evolve, man". 

You cannot even discuss the obvious changes because the pod people stop you. Simply looking at the avalanche from our borders should stop anyone cold for the rapid changes. Look at Invasion's setting. Santa Mira is a slight change from the real life Santa Maria, California but is the stand in as the town was used for exterior scene filming. What has happened to quiet little Santa Maria that was a cute All-American town in 1956. There was an invasion. Looking at the 2010 census, the town is now 70% Hispanic, and that is up from 47% in 2000. Roughly 45% of adults now have less than high school for educational attainment. They vote much more reliably Democrat now (Gore 47% in '00, Obama 57% in '12). Crime has popped up a bit after 2000, so the generational decline Pinker discusses is not being felt here. Santa Maria's invasion was an invasion of squatters. Guess the body snatchers got to them after all. 

The America in Invasion is lost. Nothing ever stays the same, change is always constant. The body snatchers walk amongst us, but at least now they have visual markers to signal their status, making it easier for us than Dr. Bennell. The mind virus that is progressivism is a horror, and it could happen to you. You could be next. Your lover... your kids. The subversion promises the gift of no more conflict, no more worries, no more struggle. It is a lie. It is a cheap bribe. Remember, Becky says she wants grief, not just love and beauty. Struggle, pain, enduring and overcoming are what make us human and what make us whole. Those trying times develop your soul. That is what Dr. Bennell and Becky were fighting off, the removal of their souls. Keep your wits about you, and fight. Dr. Bennell saw everyone he knew and cared for replaced, but he still trucked on to warn others. You might feel alone, but you're not. There are things worth fighting for, and you do belong to something greater than yourself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Oddities at Kenema Hospital in Sierra Leone

American panic over ebola has subsided a tiny bit. The government has responded with plans to get the military involved for rapid responses to new cases, limited airports that will take passengers from infected nations, an ebola czar and beefed up screening process. It all seems half assed. America still only has 117 hospital bed units that can handle level four contagious diseases. Even a spread to 150 people would be a major problem for our medical system. Things do not appear to be going well in west Africa either as case numbers still rise and officials claim more are dying, but the dead are just hidden now. Conspiracy theories are running wild now because of massive distrust in the USG, the locals involved and the connections between USG-ebola-ground zero. The Kenema hospital in Sierra Leone is a focus for west African anger and has odd connections to the USG.

This is not a conspiracy theory. This is just to lay out some odd stories and facts about the Kenema hospital, which is right near ground zero along the Guinea-Sierra Leone border. The Kenema hospital also has a research facility attached to it. The Kenema hospital was a partner in the Viral Hemorrhagic Consortium, based in the US, because of its specialty in handling Lassa Fever. They have expanded their research to include ebola. The research is done is a special, unattached building with specific protective protocols to prevent contamination between the hospital and the research facility. Kenema expanded research to include other hemorrhagic diseases, including ebola, and just in January had received a deal worth $140 million with the Department of Defense and the pharmaceutical company Tekmira to conduct trials (Phase 1 style) for an ebola vaccine. Do vaccines sometimes get tested on people in devious manners? Yes. Do third world countries have worse health infrastructure? Yes. Has this new ebola virus even overcome first world hospital protocols? Yes.

The Viral Hemorrhagic Consortium is a new creation. It was started in 2010 after Tulane University received a five year $15 million contract from the NIH. The focus was on Lassa Fever due to its possibility as a biological weapon. From day one, Kenema hospital has been a part of the consortium due to its proximity to so many infectious hemorrhagic diseases. What is interesting is how the money the Kenema hospital received for various contracts did not improve their containment capabilities. Besides proximity to disease sources, why put such a risky research facility in an area where people have an odd understanding of modern medicine sometimes still using traditional mystical ways? Whether improperly blamed or not, the hospital was a source of frustration for locals as the ebola outbreak happened. This is the Sierra Leone hospital that required military protection as the locals blamed it for the virus spreading and rioted. Supposedly, a mentally deranged nurse spread a rumor that the facility was infecting people with ebola. The facility is now abandoned. The odd coincidence is that new cases of ebola in Kenema have dropped to almost none. This is after cases exploded in the summer time.

This is not to blame the outbreak on a medical research facility. That is straight out of Resident Evil. There is enough confusion and misinformation out there about what is going on or went on in west Africa. A main point is that this ebola virus is different, is mutating different, and is spreading differently. There could be absolutely nothing to the Kenema research facility and ebola or there could be a connection. Transparency would be appreciated. There is probably nothing to this. The overreaction by locals is most likely just a scapegoat moment for a disease that is horrible and has no cure. The problem is that we will never get an official explanation or revelation and this little research facility with shoddy looking buildings will become part of a west African myth about the outbreak of ebola in 2014.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How They Keep Enterovirus 68 Numbers Down

"You know your child might have that enterovirus that is going around. Wellllllll the test for it takes time and there is no antibiotic or special treatment for it. It just has to run its course. Just check for wet diapers and make sure your baby is hydrated. Thanks, buh-bye."

That is the gist of how the doctor talked to my wife when she brought our daughter in for a really weird emergency a few weekends ago. My daughter had an eye irritation. Wife brought her to the clinic. She was around plenty of sick kids there. She developed what seemed like a cold, which my wife caught as well. A few days later, my daughter was acting funny. Her breathing was off. We put her down for a nap, then she woke up crying, shaking and running a fever. She felt cold to the touch and her lips and hands were purple. I run warm, so I held her, but she quivered away. Her temperature got to 102 at the hospital, but it eventually came down. She came home, and the worst had passed. She slowly got better. My wife kept coughing for a few weeks.

That weekend doctor speech flew under our radar until that little boy died from enterovirus 68. I share this just to say, whatever the case count is for enterovirus 68, it is a massive undercount. They are probably getting away with this because there is no cure, it is a lot like the flu and rarely does it kill. They can keep official numbers down to the high risk kids; those with asthma or bronchial problems. It would be incredibly bad optics for our CDC if the enterovirus was running rampant through the nation while they are suppose to be the knights in medical suits to protect us from ebola.

People might also ask about how this virus that rarely happens has had a massive outbreak in the US this fall. People might also wonder about the tales from doctors and nurses that tell of government officials criticizing them for publicizing any medical problems with the little kids who somehow made it up from central America through Mexico to the US completely without the aid of adults. People might also find that those types of viruses are common in Latin American countries that are the source of these parentless immigrant children. At least one politician noticed it, but he's just a xenophobic right winger. Nothing to see here, move along.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Oil Weapon Can Backfire

The oil weapon has a long history. It pre-dates the 1973 oil embargo. The oil weapon was first used when the US placed an oil embargo on Japan in 1940. This set the ball in motion for war in the east as Japan had two years worth of oil stored. A Pacific with different European powers, America and Japan all having interests was replaced with an American dominated Pacific. The oil weapon is making a comeback now in a weird repeat of an urban legend from the '80s. Geopolitical battles involve many different types of weapons, and in the age of American military dominance, will force others into other competitive realms. Per recent reports, the Saudis are pumping oil with no regard for how low the price goes in hopes of punishing both Iran and Russia. This has the chance for major blowback and unintentionally wrecking the petrodollar system.

The price of oil is dropping like a rock, which is partly due to supply and partly due to trader manipulation. With the full force of the printing press backing trades, the FED can fiddle with the price of oil if it wants. Besides that, economic activity is clearly stalled or looking shakier than official statistics show. Supply of oil is still going strong, so we have more oil than demand. The Saudis do not want to cut back, which ahem, makes no sense given their repeated claims before that the world should get used to $100/barrel oil. With a drop in the price of oil, it ruins the balance sheets of Russian, Iranian and every single other nation that depends on oil revenues for government expenditures. Russia and Iran need high oil for their governments, but Russia's debt to GDP ratio is incredibly low, so a temporary deficit situation could be easier to weather. This looks like a poorly planned and public version of the '80s Reagan administration-House of Saud deal to pump up supply while the US reduced consumption to flood the world with oil and destroy Soviet balance sheets, bankrupting and ruining the USSR.

This is poorly planned because history is not a perfect repeat cycle. Right now, the US is far more leveraged in all regards. The US Dollar system itself is in a weaker position. The Saudis also have to maintain a high price of oil for their own peasant pacification programs, and a Saudi prince has expressed his displeasure with this. Other petro-states are in a similar bind. No entity is a monolith, and the Saudis are no exception. The Saudis also needed the US more in the '80s. There is another quirk at play. As I wrote before, the US petrodollar system has been boosted recently by the massive jump in oil production through the shale plays. The stabilization in our oil import bill gave our global financial efforts some credibility. If oil drops from $100 to $70, how many shale rigs shut down? How much production goes away? How many shale firms running on massive cheap debt go under? If they go under and production drops, our import bill will rise even if the price drops because how many companies will restart or re-drill since well depletion is so quick? It might not happen if the knock on effect of shutting down shale production creates a problem for the dollar and interest rates.

That is the core of the problem. The US elite may be getting to clever by half by resorting to this old weapon. The move will hurt Russia and Iran. The move will hurt Saudi Arabia in return. The move may hurt the US balance of payment issue and cause further concern by others that the dollar is not secure. Interest rates are tanking again, so maybe the lords of the universe have a bit more time to hoodwink the world out of more loot and maintain control indefinitely. It is an oddball coalition for Team America both domestic and foreign. America has interests, not allies or enemies, and the American regime's interests is maintaining control. That is also the interest of different ruling cadres for our allies, so how far are the Saudis willing to go before they have to roll the tanks out again on their people? The tools are the same, but the environment is different now. All things come to an end. All regimes fall. This one is no different.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

China Can Deploy Sanctions Too

There has been much trumpeting of US sanctions against Russia for uhhh, gays, uhhh Ukraine, uhhh the Crimea, whatever the excuse is for a nation resisting American borg assimilation. Russia has made nice with China to the tune of hundreds of billions in economic deals. If not soon, when China fully confronts the US, someone will write a "Who Lost China Part Deux" column. Forgotten will be moves in the '90s that allowed for China to have more independence and American self inflicted wounds, and Putin will get some credit for seeing the Chimerica split. Sanctions go both ways, and not just with Russia's counter-sanctions on imports. China recently hit an American ally, Australia, with a pretty stiff coal import tariff.

Australia is not to be laughed at as an ally. It is an important commodities producer. It is part of the Anglosphere. It has also participated in each military engagement led by the US after World War Two (including Vietnam). America has a military presence there, and has a long history of cooperation with the Australian military. They are an important Pacific partner. They also have had a huge housing bubble, sucked in tons of Chinese money the last decade, and have been feeding the dragon with raw materials for a long time. Australia has invested immense dollars and resources into developing their coal sector to meet Chinese demand. China hit them with a 3% import tariff on coking coal and a 6% tariff on non-coking coal. China had been shifting coal import sourcing already, but this stings Australia's mining sector. If you think this is worldwide on China's part, they gave Indonesia a nice exemption for coal imports since the Indonesian coal is cleaner. Not hard to piece together the fact that Russian natural gas could further reduce China's use for Australian coal.

The global chessboard truly is a big board with many players and different moves. While the dominant player for now, America and her allies have weak spots and can be subject to pressure just like Russia and China. Australia's commodities boom has strengthened their currency, has fed the housing boom and boosted their consumer sector. With the leverage in place in Australia, it would not take much of a reduction at the margin for foreign commodity demand to pop their entire bubble economy. After all, the US financial crisis of 2008 was started because by late 2005, we had run out of greater fools to buy homes in sand states and the Ponzi buyers had lost the asset inflation power to sell for higher to cover their borrowing costs. We are just in the phase of sanctions and minor trade war moves. Looking at moves on the back pages, and not just from the regime's propaganda shills, is a good indicator of who exactly is hurting whom.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Open David Lynch Thread

After writing about David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, I thought I would leave this post open for any comments on what you would consider his best work. I do not have many comment droppers, but you lurkers are invited to leave a quick suggestion or explanation for what you consider his best film or work. I have not seen everything he has done, but enough to be familiar with the probable works selected. 

I'll take your comments and paste them into the blog entry with your name to identify your choice. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wind Along Mulholland Drive

Week Two's entry for horror-thriller month focuses on Mulholland Drive. Last week was Vertigo.

In the wake of David Lynch's announcement of a return to Twin Peaks, I thought I would rewatch an amazing Lynch film that still intrigues me: Mulholland Drive. I wrote about Drive in 2007 after watching it twice in two days, both tv edit and original cut. I focused more on the mood and atmosphere of that film. Drive was part of the genre of "what is real" films that flooded theaters in the late '90s and early '00s. It is also a mysterious film with a fantastic, David Lynch mood that really draws people in. I will gladly listen to any interpretation of it. Is it all real, is it half dream, half real, is it a Mobius Strip, is it back to back dreams, et cetera because there is something for every interpretation. Tis the season for scary movies, so let's walk with sweet Betty and sexy Rita down Mulholland Drive.

Drive is an unwanted television pilot Lynch filmed that he eventually slapped on roughly forty five minutes of story and released as a film. That could go horribly wrong, but Lynch turned the busted play into a touchdown. I personally love anything that will make me think a week after experiencing it, and here I am a decade later, still intrigued by it. The film is rewatchable because of the multiple ways of interpreting it, and for Lynch's storytelling combined with interesting visuals (and a Roy Orbison song as always). The blue box, the use of red, the female protagonists' make up and costuming conveying mood or status, the "cowboy", and the evil being behind the Winkies diner. Who or what is that thing? The mood is wonderful and tense. Not all Hollywood productions have to be Aaron Sorkin or Kevin Smith verbal diarrhea fests. Lynch creates a world centered in Los Angeles, that while a completely canned Hollywood product, feels a bit dirtier, sleazier and more real than the facade we are presented with daily. We know something is wrong with Brian Singer but it is unconfirmed what exactly it is but we kind of know, yet Hollywood wants to tell us he's just an awesome guy who likes to make superhero movies. Drive wants to show you the scenes of Singer with even younger men and even worse drugs, that still produces a product that people will eat by the gallon.

So what are the theories on what exactly we are seeing?
1. All Real - Time moves forward.
2. All Real - Time is jumbled.
3. Mobius Strip
4. All Dream
5. Betty/Rita dream, Diane/Camilla real
6. Two dreams back to back
7. Pre-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is an afterlife way station for Diane, Post-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is the reality that creates her suicide

8. And many more...

I am open to all interpretations. All have some support with the film, so you could talk me into each of them. I will listen. I have a preferred theory, but here's a back up. "It is all real." The first part of the film is post-hit attempt, but the second part of the film is what led up to the hit. Camilla makes her way to the apartment complex that her mother in law runs, and hides out in an apartment. She takes the name Rita from the poster. Betty is a hallucination from her concussion. Check when Betty has scenes on her own; they are prefaced by Rita falling asleep. Betty is the chipper newbie Camilla envisioned Diane was. She remembers Diane and goes to find her. She finds her body dead from suicide. She figures it out at Club Silencio. The film after the zoom into the blue box is Rita snapping out of her temporary amnesia and piecing it all together.

That kind of makes sense from a straightforward human point of view. That is not Lynch though; it's not his style to be straightforward. Had this been a series, the first part would have been real and story lines would have unfolded from there. Had HBO picked this up and used it as the hour long drama in between Sopranos season, we would have watched and Lynch, learning his lesson from Twin Peaks, would not have killed the golden goose so early and left Rita a mysterious and dangerous person to be around for seasons. So what is it about? Here is my pet theory.

Diane gets confirmation of the murder of Camilla from the box behind Winkies, has snorted some ungodly amount of drugs and passed out in her bed. The Betty/Rita portion of the film is Diane remembering her arrival in LA, and her whirlwind romance with Camilla. People love to get high to forget or go to a happy place. The darkness is too much for her drugged out, dreaming mind. The weird parts get mashed in that tie into the hit she later arranges on Camilla is her guilt piercing through to invade her dream. In real life, she secretly hates Camilla for the big break she got in the The Sylvia North Story. In real life, she sees Melissa George's character kissing Camilla at the dinner party and is hurt and jealous. Bingo, the "this is the girl" forced selection for the Sylvia North role in the dream is named Camilla Rhodes but Melissa George is playing her. This is why the unibrow goober is so afraid of the man behind Winkies. In real life, Winkies man is playing with the blue box that Diane found, which fit her key and horrified her. In the dream, Rita/Camilla is completely dependent on Betty/Diane for everything. In the dream, she needs Betty/Diane, the only name she can think of is Diane's, and she is a magnet for evil putting good, naïve Betty/Diane in trouble. When Diane wakes up, we see a series of events that build up to her putting the hit on Camilla, and then in guilt over being an utter failure and killing the one thing good in LA that she found, loved and lost, she kills herself.

The horror, besides evil being behind the Winkies diner, is in the dirt that goes on daily and how deep that dirt is beneath the very thin layer of *Hollywood* in the lives of players big and small. The mob is not dead in America, well at least the Jewish Mafia that runs Hollywood is not dead. They will go to any ends to get their way, and they will necessarily have a toolbox full of weapons to use for different circumstances. The horror is that love can fill you with every emotion, including ones that lead to murder. You can only properly know hate once you know love. You will hate someone who wrecks your love, whether an interloper or the object of your desire simply rejecting you. Lynch is very explicit in his discussions of Drive to say this is a love story. Diane is told when you find this (the blue key), you will know it is done. She finds the key, but to what? It would gnaw at her, and she may doubt the scruffy looking hit man. She'd ask, and he'd tell her where the key goes. She'd find that box, the real box, behind the Winkies. What is in there? I don't know, but if someone doubted I did a hit, I'd leave proof behind where only they could find it. That realization of what is done being final could send someone already on the edge to suicide. The old couple (perhaps the grandparents who raised her) being the final demons chasing Diane are the same old folks who wished her well in her dream as "Betty" arriving in Los Angeles. This is your life Diane, and it was one horror show.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Royals' Cinderella Story

One of the best set ups in sports is when the dominant, powerhouse team takes on the scrappy underdog. It sucks in marginal viewers, listeners and readers. The story is easy to sell, and plays on two American loves. America loves the powerhouse colossus that destroys all, and it pretends to be a hard fighting underdog that with a little moxie and improvisation, can pull through in the end. Baseball will miss out on this with the elimination this post-season of all big market teams, but it has a Cinderella story that usually one finds only in March Madness. The Kansas City Royals are rolling through the playoffs, and everyone is loving the small market team improbably beating up bigger and better foes each round. There is one catch though. The Royals are still spending a ton of money on their roster.

In the minds of sports fans, the small market team is by definition a small television market team from a mid-tier city. The association with small market is small payroll. In baseball this contrast was best exemplified a decade or so ago as the Yankees and Red Sox bankrolled teams for more than $150 million per year, and occasionally met the Athletics or another team with a payroll half or less than half of Yankees/Red Sox levels. The Royals are not near the top of the payroll charts, but they are also right in the middle at a rather inflated payroll of $92 million. Sure, the big market teams spend more than small market teams, but the increase in spending by smaller teams is large. Just this year, all but two teams spent $77 million or more on payroll. That is far different than ten years ago when there was a greater spread in spending. If the Royals are a have not, they are a free spending have not. A key thing from the link on the Royals spending is that they are breaking even with this high payroll despite a poor television deal and an increase in attendance but still not a maximum capacity attendance situation. They probably even have room to increase ticket prices if they wanted to for next year. They can spend this much and still survive.

This is good for the game, and most likely the outcome of better regional television contracts and the league's revenue sharing. Baseball has changed the revenue sharing with time and added a luxury tax. It is not the hard cap of the NFL or the silly, somewhat non-existent cap of the NBA, but it must be doing the trick for teams if Baltimore, St. Louis and Kansas City can all break even or make money with payrolls above $90 million that a few years ago would've been considered rich. The more amazing thing with baseball salaries is that despite overall inflation of the roster totals, the top earners are not signing ridiculous contracts compared to the A-Rod deals of years ago. Kansas City is still the Cinderella. Those powder blue uniforms look pretty on-screen, and Kaufmann Stadium is a beautiful park as well. Even though I am a Baltimore Orioles fan, I will pull for the Royals in the World Series. Nearly nine figure payroll or not, I hope this Cinderella story has a few more pages to it.

Cross posted at SWPL Sports Review

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Progress or Change: Kim Novak vs. Kim Kardashian

Last week, I wrote about Vertigo. It is classic Hitchcock because it is suspense and it has the quintessential American pair. Hitchcock considered America in the form of a couple to be a tall handsome man with a blonde younger woman. Most of his movie pairings are that with Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh and Grace Kelly filling the fair haired female role. Novak was the blondie for Vertigo, and seemed destined for stardom. Did not happen. A little hiccup happened.  It reveals a little bit about old America vs. new America. Novak fell in love with Sammy Davis Junior, and her career petered out. The studios would not handle an interracial relationship for its stars in the 1950s; no matter the participants nor the talent.

Kim Novak performs very well in Vertigo. She has to sell you at first that she is a rich, classy but slightly crazy lady. Her switch up is then selling you on her just being a regular girl around town, not wanting to play the part of the classy, elegant dame. She has to fight becoming Madeleine for Scottie. She is not just a pretty face or romantic lead in this one because she is in on the con. Novak's career never took off, and 1950s attitudes is why. Vanity Fair ran a long, great article on the Novak-Davis romance. It is pretty stunning to read today, but maybe not if you watched a little known cheesy docudrama called "Hollywood Babylon". Hosted by Tony Curtis, Babylon would tell the darker tales behind old Hollywood legends. Each show ended with "A Moment with Tony", which he'd start with "have ya gotta minute" and would be related to the subject. The show was terrible but incredibly entertaining, and on VH1 or E! in the early '90s. They did an episode on Novak-Davis. Mob gave him a roughing up session. The Vanity Fair article goes into greater detail as Davis was saved by his Rat Pack friends and forced to marry a black woman quickly. It was not so much about Davis as it was Novak who was going to be Columbia's fresh faced female to push. She would be damaged goods with al the implications of an affair with Davis. America wouldn't go for it no matter how powerful the hype machine.

The progressives who hold the megaphone tell awful lies about the past, but as Steve Sailer is quick to mention, it was "I Love Lucy" not "Louis loves Marilyn". Desi, white with an accent, could be paired with Lucy, but no way was America going to watch Louis Armstrong and Marilyn Monroe play house. Odd coincidence, Lucille Ball had an episode on "Hollywood Babylon" about how she walked all over Desi because she was the star, and he was just the husband. She was the first woman with a production studio. Her studio, not Desi's. Some of the past we are fed is fraudulent, but some taboos did exist. Novak's private life made her career a victim of one. She also crossed an incredibly powerful media mogul.

It is also quite the contrast to today. Look at the Kardashians. How do we know them? Not from papa's legal work on the OJ Trial. If that were the case, you would have known about the girls before a sex tape leaked out of daughter Kim having sex with a black guy. Nothing left to the imagination. Not Sammy Davis Jr. level A Lister, but a D List pseudo-celeb himself. This has launched the Kardashian family into pop culture and paparazzi crack fame, earning them millions and creating terrible role models. In the late '50s, a powerful studio like Columbia could not work with Novak because of a private relationship with a well respected black star. In the 2000s, Kim Kardashian has earned her family millions ($40 million for 3 years of their tv show alone) all because her mom leaked a video of Kim in flagrante delicto with some black nobody. What would be implied in Noak's era was revealed for a t see with Kardashian. Progress? Change? Decline.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What do we know? What do we think? What can we prove? Ebola Edition

"What do we know? What do we think? What can we prove?" That is a great scene in And the Band Played On as Dr. Curran  tries to stop the hysterics, the guesswork and the fear within the CDC about the early days of HIV-AIDS (GRIDS) and focus on reality. We are in a similar spot here with ebola. I'm going to say ebola is worse as it kills quickly, and there is no therapeutic wonder drugs like HIV-AIDS has currently. Even in its peak for killing, once a person caught AIDS, the average patient's life span was three years. Ebola seems to bring death three days after you show symptoms. We also exist in an even less trustworthy era. Recall that decades ago, governments did try to shut down bathhouses that were prime spreading areas, whereas now the government will not perform the simple feat of stopping flights from infected nations, quarantining passengers who travel through infected nations and mandatory quarantines for anyone who travels to those nations. Once again, what do we know, what do we think, what can we prove?

What do we know?

Ebola is spreading at an exponential rate in the infected nations.
Ebola is spread through body fluids.
Health care infrastructure was already weak in those nations before ebola, and is significantly weaker today. There were 51 doctors in all of Liberia (pop. 4 million) in 2010. 51. That is less than the doctors in Belfast, Maine (pop. 8,000).

Kill rate is only 50%, not the normal 80% like other outbreaks and this is in nations with terrible health care systems.
Locals are acting less than stellar. Aid workers were hacked to death by one set one locals. A special ebola health station was looted by locals. handling of bodies after death has been poor.
Nigeria did have a few infected cases, but did contain the infections. They have had 20 cases and 8 deaths.
Africans will try to come to the West for treatment in desperate attempts to save themselves without regard for spreading the disease to anyone else.

Ebola can remain in the semen of survivors for a few months, which could cause later flare ups. Guess the condoms stop HIV talk in Africa did not work, maybe condoms stop ebola will.
American officials are not closing the door on Africans. Planes will continue to come in with no quarantining.
The media has already framed quarantining and stopping flights as racist and xenophobic. Multiculturalism > safety.
Health workers are contracting ebola despite wearing hazmat suits and following protocols. This was true in Africa and is true now in Spain and the US.
This is the largest ebola outbreak in history, and was already the largest months ago.
If you sneeze and yell out "I have ebola" on a plane, no one is taking chances and the hazmat suited men will come in to remove you immediately.
Humans are still animals that can talk and walk upright. Humans will do stupid things.

What do we think?

That something is different with this ebola outbreak.
That unreported cases are 2-5 times higher than official numbers for infected nations.
That ebola's transmission mechanism is different this time and possibly airborne.
That the doctors are not using full disclosure with the reason medical professionals are catching it despite being suited up.
That possibly ebola's quick burn out rate prevented us from having a huge body of knowledge about this virus.
African corruption and political problems exacerbated the outbreak initially as the WHO staffs in those nations were political appointees.
Infected nations will get more desperate as the body count rises and demand much more from an all too compliant Western power structure (both left and right).

Our officials are not taking every precaution and leaving the door open for more spread through carelessness.
The current ruling class wants immigration reform, which in reality involves amnesty for illegals and quick steps to citizenship for current legals.
The ruling class, with media cover, will down play this as long as possible (see enterovirus D68 right now) to provide political cover to allow for an executive amnesty by Obama in case nothing comes out of Congress.

What can we prove?

That Western leadership will put open borders ideology over basic safety. We have an ocean to separate and save us, but our leaders are allowing modern technology, planes, to carry this disease to our shores earlier than ever needed. Besides that, we can prove nothing. This is all guess work for us little people. Even the facts, as reported, are conflicting. How can a hospital follow all protocols yet staff gets infected? Why do they say all protocols are followed but then say they were not followed once an infected nurse pops up? This actually adds to the fear. Straight answers and full disclosure is needed. Liberals always stress the need for more education and awareness. This is actually a situation where more awareness, education and information is needed. Our psychopathic elite will need to swallow their pride though and shut down the flights, impose travel bans and put safety first... but first, they must be threatened by it.

I'm not optimistic.

* That is my attempt at a creative way to do a links post.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Scene From the Next Zombie Flick

>Well lit office in DC that has old woodwork but modern crappy office trappings. Our young lead is a curly haired wunderkind working in the Oval Office. He taps a pen as his elders discuss the ebola scare.<

"So exactly how do we organize our response," asks young Avi Greenburg.

"This is small potat-," starts the NIH director.

"Small potatoes? Are you shitting me you moron," cuts in the president's svengali Val, "How the fuck am I going to cajole lazy bones into amnesty now? That's out the window with immigrants bringing in explosive bloody vomit. A few thousand indio kids could play up the pity part but no one screened them back at the fruit nation airports."

"We paid a pretty penny for those charter planes," cut in the DHS Secretary, "Cut into our hooker fund. I told my boys no Secret Service welching on this year's whores just cuz funding was cut."

"Yes you made the funny 'black box budget' joke last year," chimed in Avi, "Black hookers, brilliant, better value. My dad always says he gets 2 for 1."

"Focus assholes," Val spat, "Those kids were gonna be our shield, our excuse, but fuck if I know where they are now. You asholes can't give us photo ops. Now I got bleeding blacks the rabble can get fired up over and fucking midterms are a month away..."

Val droned on and with the mention of photo ops, young Avi took out his phone and started texting a useful media outlet.

Avi: Hey Matt

Matt: You want me to come over again ;)

Avi: Knock it off. I let you blow me so you'd publish that ridiculous defense of our econ policy

Matt: Wha? Me cuddle with my cat now

Avi: Get Ezra, jump on the new "List" + round up usual suspects for why outbreak is happening and deflect why we ain't doing shit on it. They have no ideas here!

Matt: I'll use racism

Avi: Might be too cliché. But you're such a cheap whore.

Matt: You know it.

Avi: I'm deleting these. Don't need my gf to see this and start thinking.

Matt: My wife doesn't care. Toodles. Gonna make a list of 10 things to know why ebola will never kill an American.

>The fact that the core of USG has no organized plan being the scoop of the year is lost on the journalist, who is just happy to do the Oval Office's bidding. Avi re-enters the conversation with Val still yelling.<

"... and that fucking bitch in Texas had to run a Goddamn advertisement pointing out her opponent's disability. Doesn't she know disabled nice guy, even if he is a cishet, trumps bitchy, divorced abortioning bitch who didn't get custody of her kids? It's a fucking sinking ship. Soros is really pissed that he has to push more money into these midterms instead of his hedges in the market. Speaking of which, we can't have the stock market tank right now as it's the only thing we can point to that looks better than January of 2009."

"Yes, the people have caught onto the dropping unemployment rate through lower Labor Force participation," added Isaac Rosenstein, the domestic policy advisor who 3 months ago was just a speech writer.

"Has anyone called the poof-tus or is he unreachable on the golf course again with his favorite boy toy. Can he be less faggy this fall," asked the 60 year old 3 star general. The room goes silent. Everyone stares at the general.

"You know Tom," Val sighed after using his first name, "you made it six years. Six years as you saw your peers culled. I thought you'd make it. Faggy? I don't care how many of us question our 'poof-tus', you can't use the word faggy. I will expect your resignation in the morning. Look, how can we spin this..."

As Svengali Val began a long tirade on the reliable organs turning on the dear leader, Avi excused himself and made a quick phone call. He had to go to an old college pal who he knew was in biotech.


"Avi, if this is about the Giants' winning the NFC East, I don't have the time," Mike Fairlane half-joked.

"Michael, what the hell can you tell me about ebola," Avi sounded weak, like when he admitted to Mike in college after he was busted having sex in the basement bathrooms in the library in a fit of experimentation, "Someone here mentioned that Glaxosmi-"

"Oh wait, lemme guess GlaxoSmithKline has a vaccine and a cure all set up that hasn't been through FDA testing and just needs the Feds to put in an order for 1,500,000 units," Mike jumped in, "It's bullshit. It won't work, but you suckers will pay them off and cover a bunch of R&D expenses they incurred in some dead ends. Pay off some bad small firm acquisitions they made."

"Can you help," Avi asked almost begging, "Anything, any suggestions?"

"Look Avi, Jimmy Chen and I jumped ship from Merck to make a fortune in anti-aging meds because no one wants to die and not looking like Blake Lively makes women think they will die soon. Remember Jimmy and I were money grubbing middle class kids while you'd run the world with the other shits into campus politics. I'm no help," Mike answered, "What you could do, and should do is simple methods from days of yore: quarantine and stop taking in people who travel from infected nations. Dead Africans is one thing. Dead 10 year old Americans will probably spark that coup you're always scared of."

"Of which I am scared, Jesus Christ Mike, your English is terrible," Avi answered slipping into college pedant mode, "Thanks a ton, later."Avi hung up and jumped back into the meeting. Avi felt pretty good about Mike' simple idea as it was low cost and sensible. Val was still pissed and ranting about the bungled Ferguson narrative that crumbled and isn't sparking black ladies in Ohio and Florida to the polls.

"Forgive if someone has suggested this. Have we simply thought of banning flights from nations with reported cases and quarantining those who come in for the incubation period," Avi refrained from looking smug for the suggestion. Mike was always good for his common sense POV.

"Ooooh it might be bad for the economy," chipped in the former Citigroup executive and now Treasury Secretary, "The West African economies will be hit hard, which would have knock on effects and I don't think we could keep every plate spinning for long."

"Isn't ebola hitting their economy hard," Avi asked, "Quarantine at the least would work-"

"Avi, you are too young to even know this," started the CDC head, "Once, a long time ago, there was a quarantine in 1892. That quarantine was followed by anothah quarantine in tha same year in New York City. You know why they quarantined?"

"Legitimate health concerns," asked Avi.

"No, they were anti-semites. Sure the diseases were brought over by Eastern European Jews," the CDC director continued nearly approaching tears, "but they quarantined our people and that created the groundwork for the Shoah."

"But that makes no sense the quarantine was in New York and the Holocaust was in Ger-"

"Shut up," the CDC stood up, "We can't stop the free flow of anyone, even if they are Africans bleeding out their asses with ebola-AIDS. There cannot be anothah Shoah!"

"Director Frieden is right," Val said as she wrapped an arm around the CDC Director's shaking frame, "We can't let another Shoah happen. Keep the planes coming, let's just use the media to spin this shit our way. All this medical spending will juice GDP anyway. We can get Krugman on that, right?"

"Next Sunday," answered the Treasury Secretary, "Krugman's gotta do some tv spots to support his Rolling Stone essay on how Obama's been a super successful president."

The room erupts in laughter.

"Let's go team, we've got a disease to blame on right wing whites and immigration amnesty to sell," Val clapped her hands as the meeting broke up to guffaws.