Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Film Fare 2016


Recently my wife and I watched some films that would make good summer viewing. We prefer to get our DVDs from Netflix rather than use its streaming service. The DVDs often contain some interesting bonus features and sometimes a director’s commentary. They also can have subtitles if needed. Here they are the films in no particular order.

Pam Grier as Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown:

Jackie Brown is an underworld drama made by director Quentin Tarentino just three years after his breakthrough film, Pulp Fiction. I don’t think it has received the attention garnered by the first film but it does include great performances by Pam Grier and Robert Forster, who one an Oscar nomination for his role. He and Grier have great chemistry and turn a crime drama into a love story. Samuel L. Jackson is at his villainous best. The film was a faithful adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, and so contains some foul and racist language, as well as one brief, gratuitous sex scene that is more pathetic than erotic.


Mud stars Matthew Mc Conaughey as a drifter hiding out on a deserted island in the Arkansas River backwaters. Jeff Nelson directed the gritty drama that is somewhat like a modern Huck Finn especially since McConaughey’s hideout is discovered by two of the best young boy actors you will ever see in an American film. A barely recognizable Reese Witherspoon is also featured. The Arkansas dialect was so thick that I found it useful to turn on the subtitles.

Failure to Launch:

Matthew Mc Conaughey  stars in Failure to Launch, a lightweight film about a growing American phenomenon: the reluctance of grown young men to move out of their parents’ home where they have all the comforts of home and no responsibility. Mc Conaughey’s parents, played by Terry Bradshaw and Cathy Bates, hire Sarah Jessica Parker to entice their son our of their home. It’s what she does for a living in this fun flick.


Barcelona is one of a trilogy about the life and mores of 1980s yuppies by director Whitman Stillman. This one, however, is set in Barcelona where the protagonist is a conservative young American salesman who represents his company in the hip Spanish city. Things get out of hand when he is forced to put up his neer-do-well cousin whom he has disliked since childhood. Like the other films in Stillman’s trilogy, it explores the ramifications of the sexual revolution.

The Big White:

The Big White is described by Netflix as “quirky’ and it certainly is. It stars Robin Williams as a travel agent in frozen Alaska trying to cash in on his long-missing brother’s life insurance policy. Williams hopes to use the money to get his wife (Holly Hunter), who suffers from a rare nervous disorder, out of Alaska to somewhere warm. Unfortunately, his efforts to claim that a frozen corpse is his dead brother are thwarted by an overzealous insurance adjuster and a couple of hit men.

The above films are a mixed bag but they all have one element in common. They present us with likable characters who we can care for and hope for.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers' Day 2016

Today is Fathers' Day in the USA.

A boy asked his father for help with his homework. "Dad, what's a parasite?' The father answered, "someone who lives in Paris." Then, the boy asked, "what's Malaria?' The father answered, "Oh, Malaria is a country in Africa." The boy said, "gee, thanks Dad, I hope you don't mind me asking you all these questions," and the father replied, "Son, how else are you going to learn, if you don't ask questions." 

Seriously, is there any more difficult job than the one faced by fathers today? On this day our society pays lip service to fathers but on every other day they are mocked and vilified. Everywhere around us we see men abandoning, and abusing their children, and even urging that their children be aborted. Let's pray today that fathers will deny themselves, and take up their cross and do their work.

Here is a little prayer for fathers;

Our Father in Heaven, we thank you for all the fathers on earth who,
like St. Joseph, accept the responsibility to care for and love their children.
May you strengthen them with the kindness, patience and wisdom they need
to encourage and guide their children.
May they be supported by a steadfast wife, a caring family and good friends.
Most of all, may they know that you and you alone are the source of all that is
good and truly valuable in this world.

"For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but ruin or lose himself?

Happy Father's Day to my sons and sons-in-law.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando Massacre

It is hard to write about anything else this week than the shocking and tragic massacre of 49 patrons in gay bar by a heavily armed homophobic young Islamic man in Orlando, Florida. Three years ago I wrote about the massacre of children and teachers by a heavily armed mentally ill young man in nearby Newtown, Connecticut. Then I suggested that it presented an opportunity for people to come together and compromise in order to prevent future disasters.

Even though I know that it will be futile in today’s heavily charged political atmosphere, I would like to again suggest some other areas of compromise in the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando. So far the responses on the right and left have been predictable. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat candidate for President, has called for more and stricter gun control measures. Democrats in the House of Representatives pressing for gun control shouted down Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, after he called for a moment of silence to remember the dead in Orlando.

On the right, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate for President, renewed his call for a pause in all Moslem immigration into the United States. He castigated Hillary Clinton and President Obama for their failure to use the term “radical Islam” as the source of the terrorist attacks on the USA since 911. The shooter in Orlando was apparently born in the USA of Moslem immigrant parents from Afghanistan. Trump blamed the Obama administration for its ineptitude in vetting immigrants from Moslem countries.

After the massacre in Newtown I argued that both sides might be right and that if they would only listen to each other and try to deal with each other’s legitimate complaints, they might find a common ground. If you really want to achieve your goals and not just make points, it is never good to demonize your opponents or just shove your solutions down their throats.

For example, people on the left should refrain from characterizing gun owners as hillbilly rednecks. They should understand that people on the right not only love their guns but that they also fear, with good reason, that if they are forced to give up their guns, then only criminals will have guns. The incredibly high murder rates in cities like Chicago demonstrate that despite strict gun control laws, we have not been able to keep guns out of the hands of criminal gangs. People on the right also believe that politicians and activists on the left are increasingly hamstringing police from doing their work. Those on the left might want to reconsider their opposition to stop and frisk laws that proved so effective in lowering the murder rate in New York City.

On the other hand, those on the right could offer compromises on the right to bear arms like the semi-automatic AR-15, the weapon of choice for terrorists. We banned the use of machine guns in the 1930s and the AR-15 is practically a machine gun in its ease of use, and firing capacity. I fail to understand why a hunter or sportsman would need to fire off 30 rounds in less than a minute. Rather than a complete ban, why couldn’t the manufacturer limit the magazine to six bullets, and make it not so easy to reload?

In the case of Islamic extremism, why is it hard for President Obama and other people on the left to recognize its existence and call it what it is. Late night television hosts and Hollywood films routinely insult and condemn Christians and Christianity, but rarely say a word about Islamic extremism. Why has it been so hard for the liberal media to notice the thousands of Christians brutally murdered, raped, and enslaved by ISIS Moslem militants in Iraq and Syria? Members of the homosexual community have regularly participated in public displays of ridicule directed against Christianity. Some have been known to disrupt services in Catholic churches but never in mosques. But is Christianity the real enemy?

In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who herself was forced to flee to the USA to escape threats from Islamic fanatics, argued that “homophobia is an integral part of Islamic extremism.” Here is just one example she cited from a Moslem cleric speaking at the Husseini Islamic Center outside Orlando in 2013.

Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a Shiite cleric educated in London, declared of homosexuality in 2013: “death is the sentence. We know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”

On the other hand, people on the right should understand that Islamic radicals represent a very small percentage of the Moslems already in this country, or of those who wish to come. Here is part of a statement from a Moslem group in Meriden, Connecticut.

As Muslim Americans who believe in the Messiah Ahmad of Qadian, we sincerely advocate how our faith condemns the tragic shooting in Orlando that affected so many innocent lives and fellow Americans. We wholeheartedly join Muslims and Americans, domestic and abroad, in offering sincere prayers for the victims and their families, especially during Ramadan. This terrorist attack was not only inhumane and disturbing but wholly un-Islamic and un-American. Neither the Holy Quran nor the U.S. Constitution call for violence in any shape or form towards homosexuals or any community unjustly. On the contrary, both the Holy Quran and the U.S. Constitution teach sanctity of each and every life irrespective of their orientation. The Quran actually equates the murder of one innocent life as the slaughter of all humanity. It further declares the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as "a mercy to all people," not just straight people, and Allah as “the Lord of all the worlds,” not just who we deem worthy. That's how we live by our motto "love for all hatred for none," the true essence of Islam. *

It is good to see Moslems speaking out against terrorism. I think that it would be a good idea if all churches, synagogues, and mosques in this country were required to issue such a condemnation of terrorism or else lose their tax-exempt status. The government that can put a bakery out of business for refusing to make wedding cakes for homosexual marriages should rather direct its attention to radical imams spouting hate speech in mosques.


*Here is a link to the full statement by the Meriden Moslems.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Donald Trump and the "Mexican" Judge

Judge Gonzalo Curiel

The latest Rasmussen poll shows Hillary Clinton with a one-point lead (39-38) over Donald Trump among the Nation’s electorate. At this still early stage in the campaign national poll numbers do not mean that much although it is interesting that about 20% of those polled are undecided as yet. I suspect that the numbers might change if Clinton is upset by Bernie Sanders in today’s California primary. They will probably split the California delegates but a loss to Sanders might further tarnish Clinton’s image.

However, Clinton strategists seem to believe that it will do her no good to attack Sanders or his proposed policies. More and more, she is focusing her attacks on Trump. She read a carefully crafted speech last week that was supposed to lay out her views on foreign policy but was in reality just an opportunity to attack Trump. I was in the gym when she delivered it and watched a good deal while on the treadmill. Donald Trump later characterized her speech as boring and I would have to agree. She shows no passion or conviction when speaking and the teleprompter just makes her delivery more stilted. Even the fans in the audience could hardly bring themselves to applaud at the appropriate moments.

It’s no wonder that Trump’s remarks this week about the judge trying the Trump University suit caused more interest on the news than Clinton’s major foreign policy speech.  Trump complained that the judge was treating him unfairly in the case and attributed the judge’s conduct to the fact that he was a “Mexican.” Actually, Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ancestry is Mexican but he was born in the USA to parents who were born in Mexico.

Trump’s remark sent shock waves through the media and the political class. Charges of racism were leveled against Trump but rather than apologizing he doubled down on his initial remark. Trump claimed that the many irregularities in the case could only be explained by the judge’s prejudice against him for his proposals on Mexican immigration.

It is not impossible for a judge to be biased. Judge Gonzalo Curiel was an Obama appointee in 2014. It is hard for me to imagine that Judge Curiel’s Mexican and Hispanic ancestry was not a factor in his appointment to the Federal bench. It is also hard for me to imagine that when newly elected President Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, her Hispanic ancestry was not a factor. It is true that she is a member of the Democrat party but why appoint her unless it was believed that someone on the bench would need to be sympathic to Hispanics?

In his seven years in office how many Republicans has President Obama appointed to the bench? Isn’t it expected that these appointments will show some bias? When the Trump University class action lawsuit came into his jurisdiction, Judge Curiel appointed a prominent law firm that had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrat politicians to represent the plaintiffs. Moreover, it is a common practice for lawyers in big money cases to search around for friendly venues and judges.

Does an accusation of bias in one judge constitute racism? Those who like to level charges of racism are often guilty of a kind of reverse racism. How often do we hear that it was the race of a white policeman that led him to shoot a black suspect? How often do we hear that a white teacher cannot teach Black History? Should Asian applicants to prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford complain that they have been rejected solely because of their race.

Finally, Mexicans do not constitute a race at all. Nor do Hispanics all of whom can trace their ancestry back to European Spain. When Trump says that he is as proud of his heritage as Judge Curiel, he may not realize it but they both belong to the same race despite differences in their ethnicity. On the other hand, maybe Trump does know what he is doing and is using a little Machiavellian ploy to make the judge bend over backward to avoid any appearance of bias in the future.