June 7, 2019

Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Ashley 0

The Miley Cyrus episode of Black Mirror is better than the stupid review from critics:

“Cutsey?” “Cartoonish?” “A mediocre disillusioned-pop-star story fused with a mediocre awkward teen story.”

Hmmm…that almost sounds like, gee, I don’t know? Like a live-action Disney channel show?

Or, golly, I don’t know, maybe a really bad direct-to-dvd Disney channel live-action movie designed to milk tween’s parents of money?

You know, like something that someone like Miley Cyrus would have done when she was a prisoner of Hannah Montana and her father’s control?

Hey, Miley Cyrus is in this episode playing someone who...WAIT A MINUTE! That couldn’t have been, I don’t know, maybe part of the point of the episode could it? Naw…

June 5, 2019

Outlander on Netflix

The first two seasons of Outlander are now available on Netflix in the US.

If you haven't watched it, check it out...it's so much better than it has any right to be. There's romance, there's drama, there's fighting and battle scenes, there's fascinating historical stuff, and there's time travel. It's well acted and beautifully shot.

May 28, 2019

March 18, 2019

To Challenge The Warfare State

Smedley Butler fought in a whole host of military actions and wars. Most of them you’ve probably never of: Philippines, China, Haiti, Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. When he retired from the US Marine Corps, he retired with the highest possible rank then awarded. At the time of his death, he was the most decorated Marine in history. To this day, he remains one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

His men called him Old Gimlet Eye after he contracted a tropical fever that left his eyes bloodshot while fighting in Honduras. His tattoo was legendary (an eagle, globe, and anchor piece that started at the bottom of his throat and ended at his waist). At the bequest of the mayor of Philadelphia, President Calvin Coolidge awarded Butler special leave from the Corps in order to help clean up the notoriously corrupt city. His manner was non-sense and brusque.

You undoubtedly have a particular image of this man in your mind. Odds are: your image is wrong. Butler became an activist, socialist, and author of the anti-war classic War is A Racket (1935).

“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

You are probably far more familiar with Eisenhower than Butler. But there are some things you may not know about the last general to hold the office of the president. When the United States emerged from WWII as a super power, President Truman gave us the first of many bloated military budgets: $71.5 billion dollars. This unheard of amount was all because of a report called NSC-68. Written by a cadre of confirmed cold warriors, this report convinced the Truman that the United States needed the ability to fight multiple land wars all at the same time. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because the two Generals who masterminded this scheme resigned when Eisenhower tossed their plan out the window but were recommissioned by JFK’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara).

When Eisenhower took office, the first thing he did was help negotiate an armistice to the Korean War. Then what did the General who oversaw the single largest land invasion in history do? He started slashing the military budget. Eisenhower believed a massive military force was not only completely unnecessary but the money spent to maintain such a massive force was spent at a great detriment to the well-being of the entire country. Eisenhower believed a modern military needed to be small, quick, and mobile, able to respond quickly in concert with his theory of massive retaliation using ballistic missiles.

Early in his presidency, following the death of Stalin, Eisenhower gave his Chance for Peace speech (this is where he uttered the famous “humanity hanging from a cross of iron” line), in which he explained:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

During his eight years in office, the entire time facing attacks from the Democrats for “weakening the country,” Eisenhower entirely reorganized the military and slashed the Pentagon’s budget by 30%.

In his final address to the American people as president, Eisenhower warned us us of the dangers of the military-industrial complex:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

We have not listened to either of these two men.

The US has engaged in a disastrous foreign policy for decades. We’ve overthrown countless governments. We’ve sent our troops around the globe to die to make a bunch of rich men richer. We’ve yet to meet a target we don’t want to drone strike. We’ve destabilized the globe and birthed countless terrorist organizations. I barely remember a time when the US was not at war. The final cost of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict is estimated to be nearly $7 billion. We have a military budget of $700 billion. All while most people I know barely make it from paycheck to paycheck, and then only if nothing unplanned happens and they manage to stay healthy. All while we face the existential threat of climate change.

There is only one Democratic candidate challenging the war-machine. There is only one Democratic candidate challenging the warfare state. And that’s Tulsi Gabbard (no surprise she’s served in a war-zone). If you know what’s good for us, you’ll take a minute right now, and send her a donation – even it’s only $1-5 – to ensure that she can set foot on that debate stage. 

February 21, 2019

Schmidt's Naturals

About two years ago, I discovered I had developed an allergy to propylene glycol after my underarm deodorant left my armpits red and blistered.

The worst part is propylene glycol is in most every deodorant I looked at (actually it's in a ton of crap). And unlike some people, I have to use deodorant because when I get hot, I sweat; when I sweat, it smells.

Had the worst time finding something that didn’t leave me blistered, dealt with the sweat, and smelled good without giving me a headache from artificial scents. First, I tried, this "all natural" crystals thing. That was worthless. To get it to do anything, I had to put on repeatedly during the day and even then it didn't work very well and left my armpit feeling gross, like their was something caked on by the end of the day.

I did finally find something that worked a lot better. But I was never really happy with it because it had no smell whatsoever and if it was a particularly hot day it would struggle to deal with sweat.

So when I saw a new deodorant in the store that checked off all my boxes, I picked it. And after using it for, probably four months, I have to says Schmidt's Naturals is hands down the best thing I’ve found.

Hands down.

It feels like a “normal” deodorant, it lasts through the day and deals with my sweat, it smells good and doesn't give me a headache, it doesn’t leave me with a weird buildup of gunk under my arm, and it isn't ridiculously expensive.

I highly recommend it.

February 19, 2019

Nathan's Karma

I watched Dazed and Confused last night on Hulu. It remind me of my brother Nathan. 

I have two older brothers. Nathan was 12 years older than me, and Kevin (he’s the one who has spent most of his life in jail) was 11. (If you can’t tell, I was an accident.) 

Nathan was good-looking and popular. Friendly and loved by everyone. I was closer to him than Kevin. I think because Nathan was the oldest and much nicer, and by the time I reached a certain level of awareness Kevin was already having trouble with his mental illness and his temper and his propensity for violence and I was, honestly, afraid of him. Fear does weird things to you...We lived out in the country, the middle of nowhere, and I remember Kevin telling me once about how there were things in the woods at night and they’d follow him and whisper and urge him to do terrible things. 

When I was seven or eight, Nathan was killed by a drunk driver. He had went to help some friends, broke up a fight at a party, and was giving people a ride home, and as he drove onto a bridge at the top of the hill, a drunk driver was coming the opposite direction much too fast. She struck him on the bridge and sent his car through the railing. The other two people walked away from the accident. Nathan didn’t.

I remember that women always liked Nathan. When he was much much younger, my mom had to go to the school a lot because, like the boys who pulled pigtails, girls would chase Nathan around the playground and kick him in the shins...repeatedly. When he was in the hospital after his car went off the bridge, the girls in the senior class came en masse and gave blood. Much later, when I was in high school, I can’t count how many pretty substitute teachers would stop in the middle of the attendance and ask if I was Nathan’s brother. And when I’d say yes, they’d always smile.

But people just liked him.

Sometimes too, when I visited my mother during the lunch shift at the restaurant she used to own, a man would come through the line and she’d say, “Chad do you remember So-and-so?” And of course I didn’t, so they’ll introduce themselves as a friend of Nathan's and they’ll always say something about how they’ve never known someone nicer.

I remember when I was maybe 5 or so...Nathan would have been right at 17. We were out with his friend Jack Freese. After dropping our parents off at the grocery store, Jack was driving us to get tacos--tacos was my and Nathan’s thing. On the way back from Taco Bell, Jack took the back way around the shopping center. There at a four-way stop by a bridge, another driver blew through their stop sign and slammed into the truck.

Nathan saw what was happening and knew he couldn't stop it. He grabbed me by the collar and threw me into the floor board as he moved to shield me. The truck slammed into us. The force of the impact snapped my collar bone. Nathan was slammed around the cab. His head dented the passenger side window, concussing him, while his body struck the dash hard enough to bruise his kidneys and they started bleeding. I don’t remember what happened to Jack Freese, except he was able to leave the hospital before we were.

I'd be dead if Nathan hadn't thrown me.

What’s weird though?

The thing I remember the most? Empire Strikes Back... Nathan was friends with this kid named Mark Gassaway. We lived in the boonies with only an antenna but Mark lived in town and had cable with the premium movie channels—AND EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WAS GOING TO BE ON HBO! I was supposed to go with Nathan that Saturday night, but when Saturday morning rolled around I ended up hideously sick with a sore throat and fever so I couldn’t go with him.

At the time, I had that big action figure case that was shaped like Darth Vader’s head. The case came with an insert that listed all the action figures that were currently out with pictures and names of the characters. That night was the first time that Nathan saw Empire Strikes Back (because really he didn’t give a shit about space stuff and aliens) and I had never seen it.

When Nathan came home that night, he woke me up, and sat next to me on the floor with his back against the bed. He used the character list insert to tell me what happens in the movie. “So then…this guy right here takes Solo away…”

I remember this so clearly. I can’t tell you what his voice sounded like or if he wore cologne or even how tall he was or how much money he made at his shitty line cook job. But I remember this so clearly. This act of kindness and care. This is what resonates. This is what lasts. His manner. His actions. His relationships. His kindness. No one ever remembers the other shit. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. It’s behavior and actions and your connection to people, who you chose to let in your life and how you treat them.

You want to understand karma?

It’s not the universe keeping a naughty and nice list and doling out reward and punishment. It’s not some nebulous force judging you. It’s this. The effect of your actions and behavior. The expression of your best self and what it does and how it affects the people you chose to be in your life.

This is all Nathan’s karma.

I am Nathan’s karma, as I am only here because his first thought that day behind the shopping center was protect Chad.

February 14, 2019

Hickory Wind

Was listening to music on the way into work and Gram Parsons’ song “Hickory Wind” came on. This is one of my favorite country songs ever and it’s been covered by pretty much everyone. Hearing it this morning got me thinking about music, about Parsons, and about friends.

Parsons came from money but had a terrible personal life. After attending an Elvis Presley concert, he threw himself into music to deal with his disintegrating family. Parsons had so-so grades but wrote a stunning admissions essay to Harvard. He attended the Ivy League School for only semester (that’s what happens when you attend none of you Gen Ed classes) but it was there he discovered country music when he heard Merle Haggard for the first time.

When the Byrds later toured England, Parsons become good friends with Keith Richards (the two reportedly spent a lot of time alone listening to and playing along with obscure country albums). Through the Stones, Parsons met and became close friends with a guy named Phil Kaufman.

Kaufman is a tour manager, record producer, and author. He started as an actor with a number of bit parts in some big Hollywood films like Spartacus, but a felony charge for smuggling marijuana got him sent to Terminal Island (where he befriended fellow inmate Charles Manson). When Kaufman was released from prison, he lucked into a job driving for Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful who were in LA for the mixing for the legendary Beggar’s Banquet album.

Parsons called his style “Cosmic American Music” (a mix of country, blues, soul, folk, and rock). He was hugely influential on music. He played with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and had a solo career (that included a lot of amazing duets with Emmylou Harris). His influence extends beyond rock. If you like “country rock” and “alt-country” at all, then you should think the ghost of Gram Parsons.

However, Parsons had two problems. His financial success with music never matched up to his critical success (he lived on a large trust from his grandfather’s estate) and a longtime battle with drugs.

Beginning in the late 60's, Parsons fell in love with and vacationed quite frequently at Joshua Tree. And it was there, he died from an accidental overdose in 1973.

Now, everyone knew Joshua Tree is where Parsons wanted to be buried. He frequently told his friend Kaufman that when he died he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered at Cap Rock. The problem was Parson’s stepfather stood to inherit a lot of money from Gram’s trust, if he could prove Parsons was a resident of Louisiana. So the stepfather arranged a quickie private funeral ceremony (in New Orleans without any of Gram's friends) and for the body to be transported to Louisiana.

Kaufman was having none of it.

Knowing his friend's wishes, Kaufman and another friend borrowed a hearse. The two stole Parson’s body from LAX and drove it to Joshua Tree. They set the coffin up at Cap Rock and doused it in 5 gallons of gas and tossed a match…resulting in a massive fireball shooting through the night sky.

Kaufman and his friend managed to escape the police initially but were arrested several days later. Luckily for them, they had borrowed the hearse, and there was no law at the time against stealing a dead body, so they got off with a $750 fine for stealing the coffin and not charged at all for stealing the body and managing to scatter 35 lbs of Parson’s remains across the national park.

February 13, 2019


Red Dead Redemption 2 confession — I pet literally every dog I see.

February 12, 2019

Love for Outlander

I'm finishing up Season 4 of Outlander now. It remains a wonderful period/romance/adventure/drama with time travel in the background. It's lavish, well-shot, well-acted, well-written, sweet, sexy, dramatic, lots of great adventures and wonderful historical detail. Absolutely love so many of the characters.

Whether you've read the books or not (I haven't) and you're felt remotely interested in the show but haven't given it a chance, you should.

I'm actually a sucker for romance and relationship drama (especially period) if it's done right. The show has stayed good and avoided so many of the things that tend to annoy me with shows like this (stupid melodrama, twists that make no sense, confrontations that weren't earned, dumb and inconsistent character actions to set up plot points, and never allowing anything good to happen). I was fully expecting to be annoyed with Outlander by now but I'm still totally invested.
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