Friday, September 12, 2014

HBO Series Review: The Leftovers

Gone.  Just fucking gone.
I don't remember how I heard about this gem, or what even prompted me to actually watch it.  It's an HBO series based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perotta.  I typically don't enjoy just straight drama on television, but I have to say that this series turned out to be well worth my time.

Set in the modern day, The Leftovers follows the residents of Mapleton, a little town in New York, and how they cope with what they call "The Departure."  What is the Departure?  Well, on October 14, three years before the events of the show, 2% of the world's population--roughly 140 million people--mysteriously vanished into thin air.

There is no rhyme or reason for who vanished.  Men and women.  The young and the old.  The good, bad, and the ugly.  Relative unknowns and celebrities.  Hell, even the Pope.  The just and the corrupt, the rich and the poor.  All of them gone, just gone.  And it all happened in an instant.

Now, you might think that this is the premise for some silly sci-fi trip, but this show is anything but.  The show itself does not focus on the answer to what happened.  In fact, there will never be an answer as to what happened to the Departed, where they went, or why it even happened.  The Leftovers is concerned with the world-wide existential crisis that followed, and how the residents of one small town attempted to cope with it.

Think about that.  As if there wasn't enough unanswered questions in life, you are suddenly overburdened with the completely inexplicable and brutally sudden loss of someone you love more than anything.  After three years, there is no indication that you will ever see that person again, and you come to the painful realization that not only is that person gone, but there is nothing to mourn over.  Your closest human connection vanished into thin air, and you will never know why or to where he/she went.

The show mostly focuses on the Garvey family, headed by Mapleton Police chief Kevin Garvey (played by Justin Thoreaux).  I won't spoil anything, but suffice to say, the Garveys have their fair share of misery despite not losing any of their immediate family members in the Departure.  But it also spends time with some other residents of Mapleton, most tragically Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family (husband and two small children) in the Departure.

Well, if the premise didn't indicate well enough the tone of the show, I can tell you right now that The Leftovers is not for the faint of heart.  If you're the type of person that has to have a happy ending, then I wouldn't recommend this show.  There are few, if any, happy endings in the Leftovers, and the show has met some negative criticism because of this.  Truly, it is a show that is all about pain, misery, and a general feeling of "what the fuck does anything matter anymore."  Despite the endless oceans of suffering, there are still little glimmers of hope here and there.  But make no mistake, there is more pain than pleasure.

But this is one of the show's strong points, the fact that it focuses specifically on the characters and their slogging journeys through uncertainty and doubt.  The actors are superb, and fortunately they were all handed a hell of a script that cuts through the heart with biting, gritty dialogue.

My verdict?  The first season--which runs 10 episodes--is something of a masterpiece.  Although the viewer is repeatedly slugged with one depressing scenario after another, if you allow yourself to be immersed in the premise, and if you fully invest in the emotional journey of the characters, you will walk away satisfied.  I'm not one to cry, but this show brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.  For me, the whole plight of humanity in The Leftovers is summed up in one of the early scenes in the season finale in which Kevin Garvey reads a passage from the book of Job.

If you're like me, and you enjoy thought experiments and exploring the most tormenting existential quandaries that could easily shatter even the most resilient human mind, then you'll love this show.  If you can't handle that sort of thing, then you may want to move along.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Because Guns Are Bad, Right?

From The Daily Caller

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An Ohio woman who is licensed to carry a gun but had only recently started carrying one for protection put it to good use earlier this week.

Dinah Burns was out walking her dog, Gracie, on a path near an elementary school in Lancaster on Monday when two men approached her with a baseball bat and threatened to abduct her.

“Two gentlemen came out of the woods, one holding a baseball bat, and said ‘You’re coming with us,’” Burns told WBNS, adding that Gracie was little help in deterring the men.

Thankfully, Burns had something else for protection.

“I said, ‘Well, what do you want?,’ and as I was saying that I reached in to my pocket and slipped my gun out, slipped the safety off as I pulled it out,” Burns said.

“As I was doing that the other gentleman came toward me and raised the baseball bat. And, I pointed the gun at them and said, ‘I have this and I’m not afraid to use it.’”

The men backed off and left, Burns told the news station.

“I think if they’d gotten any closer, I probably would have fired,” she said, citing her concealed carry training which taught her “to get out of a situation, back out, get out of it as much as you can without having to discharge your firearm.”

“[I'm] very thankful that it turned out the way it did, and hope it doesn’t happen again, but I will be prepared,” Burns said.

Ohio, which began issuing concealed carry permits in 2004, has experienced a massive surge of new concealed carry permit requests. According to an article from the Columbus Dispatch earlier this year, 96,972 new permits were issued in 2013 — a 50 percent increase from 2012. Permit renewals quadrupled over the same time span to 48,370.

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And a bit of editorial . . .

And to think, if only guns were outlawed here in America, this vile woman would have had the opportunity to fend off her would-be assailants with strong words!

But no, we live in a country where barbaric citizens, like this woman, are audaciously allowed to own firearms to "protect" themselves from the honest, hard-working criminals.  The right to bear arms!  What a barbaric, terrifying, out-dated notion!

Please, write your congressmen and women and tell them to take away our guns!  We simply cannot afford anymore instances where free citizens are allowed to use guns to defend themselves against the sweet and innocent criminals that stalk our streets!

Monday, August 25, 2014

To Al Sharpton: What about Dillon Taylor?

Al Sharpton, you're so mad about unarmed black men being shot by the police, why aren't you so angry when unarmed white men are shot by the police?  To everyone upset about the Michael Brown incident, I ask you:  What about Dillon Taylor?

Also, there seems to be some sort of conjecture about the nature of murder in America in terms of the race of the offenders.  I'm all about using hard, statistical data in my arguments, here are a few links to the FBI's official murder statistics for 2012.  Also included is some violent hate crime stats from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Interpret the stats however you will.

Murder Offenders 2012:

Total:  14,581
Males:  9,425
White:  4,582  (Accounts for 31% of all homicides in 2012)
Black:  5,531  (Accounts for 37% of all homicides in 2012)
Other:  240
Unknown:  4,228

Race of the Victim and Offender 2012:

White Victims:  3,128----Race of Offenders on White Victims: 2,614 White; 431 Black
Black Victims:  2,648----Race of Offenders on Black Victims:  193 White; 2,412 Black

Bureau of Justice Statistics 2012 Violent Hate Crime Stats:

Race of Offenders:  White-34; Black-32
Race of Victims:  White-52;  Black-13

Population Percentage by Race in the US 2010:

White:  72.4%
Black:  12.6%

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Calling White People "Racist" Is Racist

When I was a student at Ohio Dominican University, there was a race incident.  One of the students thought it'd be a good idea to put up a "Whites Only" sign in one of the dorm bathrooms.  This sparked outrage among all of the students, myself included, and it spawned protests from the black students at ODU.

The black students at ODU were upset because they felt that the administration did not do enough to investigate the incident and catch the person responsible.  They also used this as a backdrop to highlight what they perceived to be a "lack of diversity" at the University.

I remember in a sociology class of mine, some of the black students who were sort of spearheading the protests expressed their concerns.  From what I heard from them, they were mad that there was not an "African Studies" program at ODU.  Now, mind you, Ohio Dominican University is a small school, maybe 4,000 students total, many of them adult students trying to get their MBA.  There were not many black undergrad students there, and it certainly was not because of a lack of effort on ODU's part.

Diversity was always a big deal at ODU, even before the protests.  For small universities, it can be difficult to create new major programs because of the money and resources that go into offering an accredited major course of study.  Of course, these subtleties were lost on the students protesting.  I don't blame them.  They were your average know-it-all 18 year old college kids.

At any rate, the incident and the protests made it into the Columbus Dispatch.  The whole damn city knew about it, and Columbus is a fairly big place.  It didn't bother me until one day when I was waiting at the crosswalk to go over to the school parking lot.  The crosswalk is at a very busy section of Sunbury Rd..  One particular afternoon, a car approached the crosswalk where myself and another white girl were waiting patiently for our chance to cross.  The car slowed down, and a black woman in the passenger seat shouted at me and the girl: "racist assholes!"  True story.

The girl and I, whom I didn't really know, gave each other a look mixed with equal parts befuddlement and offense.  We shrugged, gave an uneasy laugh, and went about our lives.  I didn't just go about my day, though.  That moment has stuck with me to this day.

If I walked up to a black person and said to him, "I bet you love fried chicken and watermelon," then I would be branded a racist.  If I went up to an Asian person and said "hey, I want you to make me some egg rolls," I might be branded a racist.  If I said to a Hispanic person "I bet you're an illegal Mexican immigrant," I would most certainly be branded a racist.  Now, the funny thing about those statements is that while they might be considered to be racially charged, they are true for some members of those racial/ethnic communities.

Yes, there are in fact black people who love fried chicken and watermelon (I love both of those things myself).  It's no secret that the people making the egg rolls in Chinese restaurants are, in fact, Asian.  And I'm sorry to say it, but the illegal immigrants coming from Mexico are Mexican--people of Hispanic/Latin descent.  But the problem with those statements is that they are considered to be racial stereotypes and therefore offensive.

So I have just one question: why is it not considered racist to call a white person racist?

I didn't know that woman who called me a racist, and she didn't know me.  Yet for some reason, just by looking at me, she somehow determined that I must be racist.  What was the basis for her assumption?  The color of my skin.

Just apply a little logic to this concept.  If it is racist to make a generalization on someone because of their race, then one must accept that to assume a white person is racist is, itself, racist.  And no, it's not "reverse racism."  There is no such thing.  If you have a hard time wrapping your brain around that, then consider this.  To be racist means that you have a sense of superiority over another race of humans.  Tell me that the woman who erroneously called me a racist didn't feel a sense of superiority over me, a white man she assumed is racist.  Since her assumption was based solely on my skin color, then ultimately what was the source of her sense of superiority?  My skin color.

What a twist, eh?  For the reasons of closure, the Ohio Dominican University administration did conduct an investigation of the "Whites Only" sign incident.  As it turned out, it was actually one of the black students at ODU that made and posted up the sign.  He confessed to it.

Go figure.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Crooks and Liars" Proved So Gullible That They Will Literally Believe *Anything*

This is a story that is somewhat old, but I wanted to cover it because this problem needs to be addressed.  A few weeks ago, a story came out about how "progressive" and "liberal" websites fell for an obviously satirical story about Michelle Bachmann calling for "Americanization Centers."  One of the sites among them?  Crooks and Liars.

I publicly follow that site, but only ironically.  I used to actively participate in their "discussions," but I quickly discovered the futility of it all.  I faced all manner of insult from these so-called "enlightened" individuals.  The regulars on that site called me racist, a plant, and regularly insulted my intelligence.  There were a few who actually engaged me in polite discussion, but for the most part, I was branded a troll.  And for what?  For daring to disagree with the obvious and unapologetically biased  groupthink?

Anymore, I mostly just read their headlines.  That's all it takes to confirm that they are not, in any way, interested in reality or Truth.  After a while, it was apparent that the folks at Crooks and Liars would literally believe anything negative said as long as it is directed towards someone who is not a Democrat.  It doesn't matter how outlandish the lie: if it paints conservatives in a bad light, they will believe it.

Now, the good part is that if the information is shown to be a complete fabrication, they will at least admit that they were duped.  But of course, in typical pretentious fashion, their admission comes with a caveat.  When asked for comment about being complete dumbasses in believing the Michelle Bachmann satire, the spokesman for C&L had this to say:
"Yeah, I got pwned," the author wrote. "How sad is it that it was just this side of realistic enough to believe in the first place. When you have a reputation for making outrageous and ridiculous comments, it becomes easier and easier to believe something that should have been dismissed out of hand."
Yes, how sad indeed.  Notice how the author shifted the focus away from the fact that he is so blinded by his ideological bias that he can no longer distinguish between reality and farce.  And notice how he shifted that focus onto Michelle Bachmann, like it's somehow her fault that the author failed to fact check before believing something he read on the interwebs.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Michelle Bachmann is an incendiary fool who reaps political gain from saying outrageous things to America's uninformed masses.  But if I were dumb enough to believe in a satire piece about her, I would at least have enough integrity to stop and ask "how could I allow myself to be such an idiot?" rather than blame someone else for my own intellectual short-comings.

When I read about the story, I pored over the C&L headlines to find the article in question.  Either it happened so long ago that I just can't find it, or C&L took the article down once they realized their epic stroke of public foolishness.  It's likely that they took the article down not just to cover their own asses, but to cover the asses of the hundreds of comments from their intellectually bereft commenters who also blindly took the bait.  Just as well, there was no article of apology in the matter.

Crooks and Liars is living, breathing proof that even educated men and women (many of them claim to hold graduate degrees) can be complete idiots.  C&L is a place where intellectual integrity goes to die.  It's a place where men and women who have given up on objectivity and truth go to engage in dangerous, nigh unbelievable groupthink.

It doesn't matter how ludicrous the idea: if it supports the narrative that conservatives are ignorant, racist assholes who are somehow able to perpetrate a vast right wing conspiracy (thank you, Hillary Clinton) for the purpose of destroying American liberty, then they will believe it.  They will believe it, report it as fact, and circle-jerk each other on how they "get it," and everyone else is just an uneducated slug.

It would be infuriating if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some Call It "Justice," I Just Call It "Looting"

The events surrounding the shooting incident between adult Michael Brown (he was 18--a man in the eyes of the law--but media outlets insist on calling him a "teen") and Ferguson police officer Darren Williams have made it very clear that there is still a race problem in America.

I don't believe that anyone thought for a second that racism had vanished from the hearts and minds of all Americans, but let's face it: America has come a long way since segregation.  As far as we've come, race tensions still hold fast.  However, the race issues of the 21st century are not your grandma's race issues.  The problem today is that any time a non-black person kills a black person, the immediate assumption is that the killing was racially motivated.

Allow me to illustrate my point.  It's pretty safe to assume that just about everyone is aware of the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case; and now it's likely that most Americans are aware of the Michael Brown and Darren Williams case.  But how many people know about the case of Robert Arnold and James Whitehead?

I never heard about it until today.  Apparently, it was not a big deal, because when I attempted to conduct research on this incident, I couldn't find any information about it on any of the major news outlets.  Low-hanging fruit I suppose.

At any rate, Robert Arnold was an Orange County Police captain who shot James Whitehead, an Iraq War veteran, in an O'Reilly's Autoparts parking lot.  Arnold is black, Whitehead is white.  Arnold was off duty, and was at the store.  Whitehead was getting into a verbal altercation with a store employee because the part he bought didn't work.  Arnold attempted to stop the altercation, and he asked Whitehead to step outside.  A verbal altercation ensues, and Whitehead is physical enough without actually attacking Arnold that Arnold felt the need to draw his off-duty gun.

Long story short, Arnold shoots Whitehead.  All accounts indicate that Whitehead was an asshole, but all accounts indicate that Whitehead was trying to leave while Arnold prevented him from leaving.

My point is, a black, off-duty, police officer shoots and kills an unarmed white man, and the nation does not hear so much as a peep about it.  Where were the race riots?  Where was the burning and looting of businesses?  Where was the civil rights investigation?

The race problem in America is that whenever a black person is shot by a non-black, the African American community surrounding that particular victim attempts to pain the victim as some sort of saintly angel who was just innocently strolling down the street until an evil, sadistic, racist white guy rode up to brutally execute the victim.  Nevermind that in both of these cases--Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown--that both victims had a history of violence and social deviance.

Hell, there is a video showing Michael Brown robbing a convenience store the same day he the incident with Officer Williams took place.  Are we honestly supposed to believe that an officer with no prior record of violence--with no complaints against him at all, and who had just recently received a medal for exemplary service in the line of duty--just got mad at a kid that punked him and decided to execute him in full view of "witnesses"?  Or is it more plausible that Michael Brown--a man who had just violently robbed a convenience store that same day--engaged in a physical altercation with an officer of the law?

Regardless of what happened, many African Americans in Ferguson felt the need to start burning and looting local businesses.  Some report that it's out-of-towners doing all of the damage, but the crowds of rioters--by all reports--are predominantly black.  The same people calling for "justice" think that justice comes in the form of committing crimes against innocent citizens.

They call for justice, they call for greater equality, and non-blacks are left asking them "how much more equality do you want?!"  Non-blacks are already passed over for job offers and promotions because of Affirmative Action.  Being white does not get you preferential treatment for college acceptance, but being not-white can get you to the head of the line.  Whenever a black person kills a white person, we don't hear so much as a peep.  But when a white person kills a black person, it makes national headlines.

The race problem is that all whites--whenever they make a decision that adversely affects a person of color--are accused of being racist.  Well guess what: that is racist.  If I stated that "every black male is a gangsta thug niggah," I would immediately be branded a racist.  If a black person says that "every white male is a racist cracka," everyone just agrees and moves on.

The riots and the looting should be evidence that many calling for justice and equality don't even really understand those concepts.  They're using events like the Michael Brown shooting as an excuse to literally do as they please under the guise of "peaceful protest."  As if it couldn't be any more ridiculous, they then complain about being tear gassed as they burn down the convenience store that Michael Brown robbed.  A man gets robbed, and so his store gets burned down.

Yeah, that's justice alright!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Actor and Comedian Robin Williams Dies, 63

Robin Williams was found dead today from an apparent suicide.  The coroner ruled it as death by
asphyxiation.

According to reports, Williams had been suffering from depression as of late.

I don't know about anyone else, but I find this to be immensely tragic.  Yes, people die every day--hell, people even commit suicide every day--but that a man who brought laughter and joy to countless millions could not save some for himself, that is a particularly gut-wrenching irony.

Perhaps when the whole story of his life is revealed, we will see that all along he was a sad clown, but for now we should remember him as a man for the ages.

Truly, Robin Williams was one of the great comedians of our time, and an awful lot of people are appreciative of the first class entertainment he gave to humanity.