21 April 2017

30 Day Movie Challenge Days 2, 3, and 4

Day 2: The last movie you watched

I used this prompt as an opportunity to watch something new that I've been meaning to watch since it was released several months ago: Hidden Figures.

I'm so glad I took the time to watch it and I can't wait for Muffin to see it. Over the spring break we took a Virginia road trip and learned a few things about civil rights history in Virginia that were really brought home by the film.

Day 3: Your favorite action/adventure movie

Hands down, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And since I'm pretty sure you've all seen it, instead of a clip I'm going to show one of my favorite GIFs.


Day 4: Your favorite horror movie

I don't watch enough horror movies to really have a favorite. I don't care for them much. But the most recent horror-like movie I've seen that I really liked was The Witch.

I wasn't going to bother watching this film until a friend posted about it on Facebook, saying he needed to turn on the subtitles because the seventeenth-century New England English was too difficult for this California boy to understand. I exclaimed that seventeenth-century New England English was practically my second language and he replied I would probably really enjoy this film, for reasons other than the language. He was right. I appreciate how they incorporated so much of the folklore and the different reasons given for episodes like the witch hysteria in Salem, such as the children faking it for fun, or the mold on the rotten corn. (Rotten lamb stew is also used as a reason for Lizzie Borden's activities a couple hundred years later. So if you live in Massachusetts, make sure your food is always fresh and free of rot or you'll be held responsible for some horrible stuff.) There's also a creepy rabbit and a creepy goat, which makes me feel betrayed because I love rabbits and goats so much.

18 April 2017

30 Day Movie Challenge Day 1: Your Favorite Movie

Because I don't have enough challenges in life I decided to take on a new one. (I'm kidding. I'm just not blogging or tweeting or Facebooking about every single challenge.) I've seen a number of friends on my Twitter feed doing a 30 Day Music Challenge lately, and I may do that one, too, but when someone suggested a movie challenge yesterday I realized it was much more my style. I'm not going to blog my movie selection every day but I will be tweeting it daily and maybe I'll follow-up with weekly posts or every few days.

Number 1 on the list easy. My favorite movie is The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. It's got fast-paced, witty dialogue. Comedy. Romance. Strong, independent women, some of them wearing pants. Reading. And drinking. So many things that make a perfect story for me.

I can't remember when I first this film it but for many years it's been my absolute favorite. I watched it last night, thinking of this list. I watch it every six months or so. I always want the ending to be different even though I know it's not going to be and it ultimately does have the right ending. This moment always has me on the edge of my seat in anticipation even though I know exactly what's going to happen:

This may seem like a spoiler but it's not. And really, the film came out in 1940 so the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts has pretty much run out.

If you're in the mood for what I consider to be one of the origins of romantic comedy in cinema, give this a chance.

Here's what's to come in the following days:

31 March 2017

Who actually represents women in this administration?

Interacting with members of the opposite sex is a part of life.  Dining alone with a woman other than your own wife or being at a function where alcohol is served without your wife is only a threat to your marriage if there are trust issues and insecurities to begin with. If you don’t want to cheat on your spouse, don’t cheat on your spouse. That’s it. It’s so basic it shouldn’t even have to be a religious mandate.

How many women have worked for or with Mike Pence? He’s never had so much as a coffee meeting alone with any of them? Sometimes you have to work late and get dinner. What does it say that he’s willing to do this with his male staffers but not his female employees or coworkers? It says that he fears women as sexual objects and does not value them as equals in the workplace.

Attitudes like this strengthen the belief among religious conservatives that sex is a woman’s fault and men are helpless beings. She was raped because she wore attractive clothing. She was raped even though she wore a burka because a man found her to be tempting. She was raped because a man was threatened by her making more money than he does. Women can’t be in the military because the strongest, most disciplined manliest of men will lose all control of themselves if a female body is anywhere near them and it will be the woman’s fault for simply being present.

Some conservative op-ed writers are saying liberals are blowing this out of proportion. That liberals defend this kind of practice among Muslims because we care more about Muslims than Christians. Um, no. The fact that in several Muslim societies women are not allowed to be out of the house unless they are accompanied by their husband or a male family member is pretty frickin’ abhorrent to this liberal. Before I read that sort of criticism of liberals I was thinking about how much fundamental Christians and Muslims have in common with that view of not being alone with women or allowing women to be in the company of other men.

I’ve also read that he should be commended for making this decision to protect his marriage. It’s true that this could be a private decision between Mr. and Mrs. Pence. But Mike Pence also made a decision to be a politician, and politicians have to attend social functions, where alcohol might be served, and, see my example above about working with women. If protecting his marriage is that important maybe he’s chosen the wrong line of work.

The Billy Graham rule that Pence’s personal decision is based on also only acknowledges heterosexual intercourse, as if male members of the church and male politicians have never been caught sexually assaulting boys or having affairs with men.

I also wonder, if Mike Pence has made this decision for himself, does the same hold true for Karen Pence? If she feels that she can safely have a meal with a man without sleeping with him is she allowed to do so? Is she sheltered from furthering any of her own goals, or simply having male friends, without bringing a chaperone along?

I have a problem with the vice president being afraid to be in the same room as half of his constituents, especially when so many of those constituents are terrified to be in a room alone with the president. Who actually represents women in this administration?

For further reading:
The Religious Reasons Mike Pence Won't Eat Alone with Other Women Don't Add Up

Ah, Nostalgia for the Days of Coal

Billy Joel sang about the depressing steel manufacturing economy in the 1980s. “Allentown” became a blue-collar anthem, especially for miners and manufacturers who were losing their jobs in the Rust Belt.

If that song wasn’t warning enough, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the coal industry has been in decline for the last 30 years, long before the regulations of President Obama’s era were put into place. Miners have had a long time to think of a back-up plan in case coal mining didn’t work out. Instead of welcoming new research, innovations, inventions, or opportunities, however; instead of thinking outside the box or pulling themselves up by the bootstraps they claim to celebrate as part of the American spirit, coal miners decided to wait for the day that time would turn backward. That day came earlier this week with the rollback of the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan was never fully put into effect because it’s been held up in legal battles, which means it can’t fully be held responsible for a decline in the coal industry. Also, eliminating the plan is going to take several more years so it’s unlikely to bring many new jobs in during the current administration reign. And, true to character for any of this administration's policies, it is light on details and likely to face legal challenges.

The plan was rolled back for the sake of nostalgia more than anything else. Innovations have reduced the number of actual workers needed for coal. It’s also ironic that a population of people who claim to loathe government interference sat around waiting for more government interference to get their jobs back.

The current administration is full of macho men with frail egos, or at least they’d like to think they are macho and they would like to appeal to that demographic of voters. In their minds, white men still rule this world and the idea of anyone else earning more money or having more economic power is threatening.

One excuse people use for wanting these jobs back is that they or their families are tied to the land. But America was built on people moving to where new opportunities are. It was built by people who found new land, a new place to start or settle their families. If it’s that important to be manly and support a family, figure it out. Move. People in the military do it. People in law enforcement do it. Even the representatives sent to Washington on our behalf make that sacrifice to either move their families or live away from them to get a job done.

With a party in power that’s happy to deregulate industry and seemingly indifferent to adequate health care, what’s going to happen when cases of chronic bronchitis and other coal dust-related illnesses begin rising? If it’s anything like what happened to oil-industry workers in Louisiana, the coal industry will hire lawyers to prove that it’s just a coincidence that there’s an abundance of these diseases among coal miners.

America was built on change, ingenuity, and exploration. It was built by people who moved forward to forge new paths rather than go backwards to outdated technologies. I have very little sympathy for a group of white men who feel sad that their health-risk and pollution-causing industry is no longer relevant because most Americans want progressive change, not regressive policies.

For further reading:
Trump Takes Aim At A Centerpiece Of Obama's Environmental Legacy (NPR)
What Trump Misses About Energy Jobs In America (NPR)
Coal Mine Dust Exposures and Associated Health Outcomes (Report by HHS, CDC, and NIOSH)
The entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby’s (Washington Post)

28 March 2017

Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American RightStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a liberal who was not surprised by President Trump's election victory. Sad and angry, yes, but I always knew it was a possibility because I do not live in the "bubble" that the media placed many of us blue-state people in. I am as equally aware of the economic situations in the Midwest and South as I am of the poverty-line populations in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

Dr. Hochschild focuses on the Tea Party supporters around Lake Charles, Louisiana. The oil industry has destroyed the environment, people's health, and ways of life for at least a generation. Yet the residents of these areas continue to support it because they believe oil brings in jobs. Dr. Hochschild provides research to show that that is not actually the case yet people continue to vote for oil and against regulation. One statistic she brings up over and over again is that Louisiana receives 44% of its budget from the federal government yet everyone she talked to wanted less federal government intervention. Governor Jindal gave away money from the education budget as incentives to oil companies but that investment was never returned in any significant way. They bring in foreign workers who don't spend money on the local economy. Much of the the company makes money goes back to a corporate headquarters in another state rather than investments in Louisiana. Tourism is sinking because it's not safe to go into most of the water. No one wants to eat the fish. Yet people persist on believing in oil.

I want to tell people that the American Dream we were sold a generation ago, two generations ago, has changed. One of the great things about Americans is that we adapt. However, this segment of people refuse to do so. And with President Trump's revoking of environmental regulations today -- I literally got the news alert as I was typing this review -- we get to regress instead of grow.

As I skimmed the other reviews for this book, however, I felt like I was joining a tide of like-minded people, and it's Trump supporters who might actually benefit from reading this book and opening their minds to some facts rather than going along with ideology. (At least read Appendix C, if nothing else. It will only take about fifteen minutes.)

This book is clearly well-researched. Dr. Hochschild considers many of the people she interviewed and visited with friends even though they are about as far apart ideologically as can be, because as humans there are more things that bring us together than tear us apart, ultimately.

View all my reviews

10 March 2017

Book Review: Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Highland PursuitsHighland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this after reading Emmanuelle de Maupassant's short story of the same name in the Because Beards anthology, but I would have read this novel anyway because I am a fan of hers. This story did not disappoint.

Ms. de Maupassant creates such a rich world in the Scottish highlands. In real life I've only spent one day in the region but I feel like I spent my entire summer vacation there after living in her world through these pages. I've always loved the humor that Ms. de Maupassant brings to her worlds, as well. Life is funny sometimes, and love and sex are part of life. Ms. de Maupassant brings us to a rich, sensuous place that I look forward to visiting again and again.

View all my reviews

19 November 2016

I'm Not Giving Up My New Balance Shoes

Thanks to some idiot fringe of the alt-right, I know find myself in the awkward position of saying, "I'm not a racist, but..."

I'm keeping my New Balance running shoes.

A vice president at New Balance praised Trump's rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came out against TPP as well. Some white supremacist group took one sentence from a New Balance executive about supporting one sentence of Trump's platform, in an interview for the Wall Street Journal where it should be obvious it's a business discussion, and turned it into a symbol of their white-power group.

And without understanding the facts, people started burning their New Balance shoes in protest because they assume New Balance supports white supremacy.

New Balance still makes its shoes in the United States when other major shoe manufacturers have moved their business overseas. I fail to see how, by supporting American workers, I'm now a racist because some other white people, who are racist, have stated they will start wearing New Balance shoes. Either they don't understand the statement was made about trade policy or they don't care. They wanted to say something ridiculous so they could watch liberals overreact and laugh at us. So they could distract us from actual issues of civil rights and equality.

New Balance as denounced this hate group more vigorously than President-elect Trump has, by the way.

New Balance executives supported one part of Trump's economic plan, which many people believe makes sense for American workers. Whether I agree with the trade policy or not, or whether it's going to actually benefit workers or not, isn't important right now. I can't blame someone for voting for what they think will offer better job opportunities and business opportunities for Americans. And if Trump's plan doesn't work out, I'll be there to listen and to be a good friend to those who are disappointed.

We need to not let some of the worst idiots on the right take over the conversation and lead us away from facts and reason. New Balance shoes are the only ones that fit me properly. I've been running for over half my life, I've put in a lot of miles, and I've tried a lot of shoes. I can honestly say that ethically I have no problem continuing to buy them. Go ahead and protest and boycott, but do your homework first.

Forbes: New Balance Gets Political
Washington Post: We live in crazy times: Neo-Nazis have declared New Balance the ‘Official Shoes of White People’
The Post Game: New Balances Support of Trump Win Triggers Sneaker Burnings

18 November 2016

Turning a Blind Eye to Steve Bannon -- Now Who Lives in the Bubble?

There's been a lot of talk of the liberal elite bubble in the last week. But what about the rural, white bubble? People are genuinely concerned about the economy, I get that. But does that mean there's no room to be concerned about racism and sexism as well? Just because these things don't happen in one small town doesn't discredit them as being national problems.

Steve Bannon is going to be toxic as the strategist who is crafting the message for our next president. Calls from the left for his removal from President-elect Donald Trump's administration will not be taken seriously unless we have support from the right as well.

Mitch McConnell literally said nothing when asked about Bannon in a press conference earlier this week. He just started ahead awkwardly until the reporter gave up. This is unacceptable. Conservative leaders have to say something, otherwise they are condoning this placement of Bannon in the administration. He's not an appointee who's going to be approved by Congress so the only course of action against his being hired is to put pressure on Conservative leaders to put pressure on President-elect Trump.

Even if you believe the alt-right is a fringe group, putting its megaphone to the ear of the president like this surely must signal to you that something bigger is going on. From National Review:
The problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream....
Principled conservatives, especially those in leadership positions, have a political and moral duty to condemn, and to work to eradicate, the animus that is the alt-right’s raison d’ĂȘtre.
You don't have to leave a comment here, or on Facebook, or anywhere else. But if this bothers you, call Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and any Republican senators and congresspersons who represent your state and your district, and tell them you are not okay with Steve Bannon being so close to the president.

If this does not bother you, then you are the one who is living in a bubble, not me.

11 November 2016

To Anger or Not to Anger. To Unite or Not Unite.

We get one day to mope and then we have to get to work.

That's the comment I left in many places around the internet Wednesday and also in person, over the phone, in texts, anyone I was talking to.

But as the day wore on and I listened to more analysis and I read more reactions, I became angry. I'm trying not to be, and I'm going back and forth on whether or not it's okay for me to be. Which I hate, that I can't feel comfortable having this emotion, let alone expressing it. I think my anger is going in a different direction than many people assume, however.

Trump supporters voted for him because they are angry. Those of us who didn't vote for him are now expected to remain calm and work together and find unity. But we have a right to our anger as well. Trump supporters felt things weren't going their way so they got angry and they did what they thought would change things. We have the same right to be angry and work to change things as well. And we will change things, for the most part legally and peacefully, because the Constitution gives us the right to do so. There will be some fiery bursts of anger that may lead to violence from some, but unlike the Trump side of things, we will condemn violence rather than condone it.

I expect that if I'm taking one day to mope and then get to work, that Trump supporters will take their one day to revel in victory, and then work to keep their candidate in check. You voted for him but your job isn't over. Your world isn't going to magically change now.

One thing that bothers me among all these calls for unity is that I feel like we are expected to be good losers while Trump supporters are allowed to be bad winners. In order to make this country work they have to be gracious winners.

Many of them are not being gracious winners. Many of them have taken the win by Trump as a free pass to be even more racist. For being publicly racist if they were privately being so before. President-elect Trump, this really is your problem now. You have to reign in your supporters and call for them to knock this shit off. You wanted to be the law and order president. You have to instill that over your own supporters now who are assaulting blacks, gays, Muslims, and Mexicans since you won this election.

Among people I know who voted for Trump I'm seeing a lot more calls for Hillary supporters to calm down and unite than I'm seeing comments condemning these violent, racist actions. Sitting quietly and waiting for it to blow over isn't an option anymore. We saw this in the aftermath to Brexit and it's what many people feared would happen here as well. I've said this a few times over the last couple weeks, that it's not the policies of a Trump president that bother me per se, because we have checks and balances. But all the policies in the world mean nothing to the people who were beat up yesterday by celebrating Trump supporters. It's happening just as many of us feared it would. And Trump himself, alongside all of his supporters who are not racists or sexist, have to speak out against this. Ellie Wiesel said, "Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

I am tired of calling for calm and unity. Calls for unity from one candidate gave us the other candidate as our president. The people calling for unity from the Trump side now certainly didn't unify under President Obama. They unified against him in order to try and block a good deal of his legislation.

Be angry if you want to be. But understand that anger and Facebook posts don't amount to real change. Find a way to support your community. Keep active in local elections. Call out racism and sexism when you see it. Send actual letters to your senators and representatives, not just tweets. Donate to the ACLU and NPR because we need watchdogs more than ever. Subscribe to newspapers to keep good journalists in business.

And scrutinize this president. For all the scrutiny the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign came under these last eight years, let it be known that a Trump presidency will be under just as intense a microscope.

23 September 2016

Book Reviews: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and an Emmanuelle de Maupassant Short Story

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here are my reviews as they appear on Goodreads.

BirdsongBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was swept up in this book from the moment I started it. I didn’t know that much about it but a trusted source recommended it. I jumped in with both feet and got lost in it. It’s sensual and romantic, then heartbreakingly depressing as the story moves from a love affair in a French town to the battlefields of World War I. The writing pulls you along and you struggle with the hero every step of the way.

Stephen Wraysford is the hero but he’s a bit of an anti-hero. He’s young and passionate. He’s weird and quiet. He loses his passion throughout the war but works hard to do his job, and job that would be difficult for most people to fathom performing unless they were there themselves. The author writes with such emotion and leads you to believe that he really was there on the battlefields and in the trenches. The dramatic tension is amped up by anyone who knows World War I history. The reader who knows which battles are coming up will be struck with a particular horror, knowing the ending before the characters do.

I had a problem with the end of the book that keeps me from giving it five stars. And I really wanted to give it five stars. Not the ending itself; I’m satisfied with how the plot tied itself up. But the last couple of paragraphs. The point-of-view changed to a character that I don’t feel deserved it.

For me, this was a summer read for lazy afternoons in the hot sun, but it’s definitely worth reading anytime. Love, war, and history, it will appeal to many.

Because BeardsBecause Beards by Kacey Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of Emmanuelle de Maupassant's story in this anthology. Ms. de Maupassant story, "Highland Pursuits," is delightful. She injects so much personality into her characters and settings and I love her combination of erotica with playful humor. I love reading how much her characters enjoy each others' company. And the story, of course, has some very steamy, satisfying moments.

I fully plan to buy the book and read the entire anthology when it comes out because it features some of my favorite erotica authors.

View all my reviews


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