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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

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A female Grant’s Zebra, named Niara, was born at Zoo Basel on December 16. Her name means ‘one with high purpose’, and this lively little girl can be found out-and-about, with purpose, in the Africa Enclosure.

This little mare is the first offspring for mom, Jua (age 5). Initially, the inexperienced mother was unsure of little Niara stretching her head under her mother’s stomach from the side to nurse. Hunger made Niara creative, and she eventually was successful in her attempts by reaching from the back.

Niara’s father, Tibor (age 7), is also a member of the Zoo’s herd. The Zebra herd also includes the foal’s grandmother Chambura (12), Lazima (3), and little Nyati (1/2).

Niara will soon be getting to know the little Ostriches, who share her herd’s exhibit. The Ostriches and Zebras are currently making alternate use of the Africa Enclosure, as Zebras are very inquisitive and like to play at hunting the smaller birds.

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4_za_170117_03Photo Credits: Zoo Basel

The Zebras at Zoo Basel have become acclimated to the wintery temperatures and are not really bothered by the current cold weather. Heated stalls are currently available for animals that do not cope well with the cold.

Grant's Zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) is the smallest of six subspecies of the plains Zebra.This subspecies is currently listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

There are more Grant’s Zebras in the wild than any other species or subspecies. Grant’s Zebras eat the coarse grasses that grow on the African plains, and they are said to be quite resistant to diseases that often kill cattle in the African savannas. However, recent civil wars and political conflicts in the African countries near their habitats have caused regional extinction, and Zebras are sometimes killed for their coats, or to eliminate competition for resources with domestic livestock.

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Cartoon by Mark Fiore -- Trump has a dream, too
  • What’s coming up on Sunday Kos …
  • Do we think we are morally and intellectually superior, by Susan Grigsby
  • Evangelical Christian quits over Obamacare: I discovered I could no longer believe any of it, by Egberto Willies
  • Kentucky passes bill telling unions how to spend voluntary dues; House speaker can’t explain why, by David Akadjian
  • Media offers wide range of opinions on how to cover Trump, by Sher Watts Spooner
  • Criminal charges against executives who break the law protect us from greed. What say you, Trump, by Ian Reifowitz
  • ‘I’m not your negro’ will introduce James Baldwin to a new generation, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • Lincoln’s heir, by Jon Perr
  • Betsy DeVos, dangerously unqualified to be education secretary, by Mark E Andersen
  • Welcome to the new American kleptocracy, by Frank Vyan Walton
  • It's complicated: Reflections on Obama's legacy from a black progressive woman, by Kelly Macias

Jailed former House Speaker Dennis Hastert says a man who accused him of sexual abuse should return $1.7 million in hush money because he broke his silence by talking to the feds.

  • Wow, this really is a miracle:

Six people were found alive and rescued from underneath the rubble of an avalanche-crushed hotel in central Italy on Friday, including two children, and there were hopes more survivors had been found. 

  • Sob:
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shinyjenni: Close up of Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond (jaylah)
[personal profile] shinyjenni posting in [community profile] vidding
Title: Brighter Than The Sun
Fandom: Star Trek
Music: Colbie Caillat
Content notes: A few bright flashes
Summary: "Lightning strikes the heart", or, me/Star Trek OTP

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2017 Edgar Awards Nominees

Jan. 20th, 2017 07:51 pm
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Posted by Mike Glyer

The Mystery Writers of America have revealed the nominees for the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2016. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners on … Continue reading
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Posted by Keith DeCandido

batman-surf01

“Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episode 10
Production code 1714
Original air dates: November 16, 1967

The Bat-signal: The World Surfing Championship is coming up, and it’s going to be held at Gotham Point. Barbara’s old friend Skip Parker is a favorite to win the championship, and she watches him ride a wave and compliments him on his form. The Joker shows up in his Jokermobile with two henchmen, Wipeout and Riptide, and he radios his moll, Undine, at the Hang Five, a surfin’ hangout run by Hot Dog Harrigan. (The radios actually are in the shapes of hot dogs, for whatever reason.) Riptide and Wipeout put Hot Dog in a bag and then send Undine to tell Skip there’s a phone call for him. Skip enters the Hang Five and Joker gasses him and takes him off to his secret HQ.

However, Barbara sees Skip being kidnapped, and calls her father, who calls Batman. The Dynamic Duo take the Bat-copter to Pelican Cove and then walk from there to Gotham Point just like normal people. (Landing the copter on the beach is dangerous and ostentatious. Also, they don’t have footage from the movie of the copter landing on a beach.)

Joker has Skip tied up and hooked up to a Surfing Experience And Ability Transferometer, which will transfer all of Skip’s surfing knowledge to Joker.

After an hour of useless surveillance of the Hang Five, Batman and Robin return to the Batcave and consult the Bat-computer, which points them at the Ten-Toe Surf Shop, which is long abandoned, as being Joker’s new hideout.

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But Joker’s ready for them, and he, Riptide, Wipeout, and Undine all throw sea-urchin spines at them, leaving them vulnerable to Joker, who ties them down and leaves Riptide and Wipeout to turn them into surfboards. They escape that trap and chase the henchmen off, then rescue Skip, only to discover that Joker stole his surfing mojo.

Batman sends Robin back to Wayne Manor to change back into Dick, and return with his surfboard. Joker’s prowess has scared off all the other competitors, but Dick enters Batman (on behalf of Bruce, who’s the head of the surfing commission, because of course he is) so that there’s an actual competition.

They surf, and while Joker finishes first, Batman wins on points. Then someone finally notices that Hot Dog is in the trash can, and Joker and his people beat a hasty retreat. However, his attempt to hide in the Hang Five fails, as Dick and Barbara ran into the locker rooms first and changed into costume.

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Fisticuffs ensue, and Joker is wiped out (har har). Skip is restored to his old self and all’s right with the world—although there’s a theft of Her Majesty’s Royal Snuffboxes in Londinium that will likely garner our heroes’ attention…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Bat-copter makes a triumphant return, while Alfred has reprogrammed the Bat-computer to provide pictures instead of punch-cards. Batman uses a portable ultraviolet Bat-ray to ignite the resin and make his surfboard covering explode. (How he made Robin’s explode is left as an exercise for the viewer.) Best of all, we get the Bat-shark-repellant, as Batman uses it to keep a shark away from the competition.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! When the Bat-computer gives our heroes a picture of two bare feet, Robin mutters, “Holy ten toes!” When Joker and his crew hit them with sea-urchin spines, Robin cries, “Holy pin-cushion!” When they’re turned into human surfboards, Robin on-the-noses, “Holy human surfboards!” When they escape that trap, Robin yells, “Holy detonation!”

Gotham City’s finest. Gordon and O’Hara go undercover as surfers on the beach named Duke and Buzzy, wearing the world’s goofiest sunglasses, and totally miss Hot Dog in a trash can, even though Hot Dog signals them repeatedly.

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Special Guest Villains. Cesar Romero makes his first third-season appearance as the Joker. He’ll return, teamed up with Catwoman, in “The Funny Feline Felonies.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. All the extras this week are in bathing suits, as are several of the regulars and guest stars. It’s probably the most exposed flesh on any Batman episode, with a good chunk of it coming from Sivi Aberg as Undine and Yvonne Craig in a very sexy one-piece when she’s Barbara.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“A funny thing, isn’t it? That I know more than you’ve forgotten.”

–Joker getting all philosophical on Skip after stealing his mojo.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 56 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Dan Greenfield of 13th Dimension.

The surfing footage was all taken from the surfing documentary The Endless Summer.

Johnny Green and the Greenmen appear as themselves as the green-haired band performing on the beach. Green also was one of the musicians who played on the show’s theme song, and the band was still together as of last year (though their web site hasn’t been updated since 2010, they do have a Facebook page).

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Riptide is played by Skip Ward, who was William Dozier’s first choice to play the title role in The Green Hornet, a role that eventually went to Van Williams. Based on his acting here, I’d say that the right choice was made in the end.

Sivi Aberg (Undine) previously appeared as Mimi in “The Devil’s Fingers” / “The Dead Ringers.” John Mitchum (Hot Dog) previously appeared as Rip Snorting in “Come Back, Shame” / “It’s How You Play the Game” (and also had a recurring role as Hoffenmueller in F Troop).

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Cowabunga! Begorrah!” There are a few things to like about this episode. There’s the hilarious visual of Batman and the Joker wearing their baggies over their costumes. There’s Gordon and O’Hara undercover as elderly beach combers and doing the worst job ever. There’s the Bat-shark repellant. There’s Yvonne Craig and Sivi Aberg in bathing suits.

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Yeah, that’s about it. It’s pretty much the same dumb plot we’ve already gotten in “Ring Around the Riddler,” “The Sport of Penguins” / “A Horse of a Different Color,” and “Louie, the Lilac.” Like Riddler and Penguin, Joker is taking on a sport to master in order to, like Louie, win over the youth of Gotham as a stepping stone to greater power. It’s less clear how, exactly, winning a surfing championship will lead to Joker’s plans for world domination (at least Riddler and Penguin had some cash attached to winning, and Louie actually actively tried to recruit the flower children), but then this is a guy who invents time machines and devices that can transfer someone’s surfing skills and athletic ability, yet hasn’t become incredibly rich selling these things to the highest bidder. Go fig’.

Joker runs away because he’s accused of kidnapping Skip and Hot Dog—but everyone knew he’d kidnapped Skip. So why was he even allowed to enter the race? Why didn’t Gordon and O’Hara—sorry, Buzzy and Duke arrest him right off? Why did Hot Dog finally being let out of the garbage can make the Joker scared when his more well known kidnap victim was standing right there?

And how come the surfboard that Riptide and Wipeout encased Batman and Robin in was thinner than their bodies could possibly have fit? How did Batman’s portable ultraviolet ray affect Robin’s surfboard? Why did nobody fix the left ear on Batman’s cowl that was very obviously falling off after the surfing competition?

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Cesar Romero does the best he can with the material—even when he’s standing around pretending to surf in front of a bluescreen, he’s a delight—but this is just an incomprehensible mess.

Bat-rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido has never gone surfing a day in his life.

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Posted by Liz Bourke

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Martians Abroad is a new stand-alone novel from Carrie Vaughn, the author most famously responsible for the Kitty Norville, werewolf radio host series. Set in the not-so-far future, it features a solar system where humans have habitats on the moon, colonies on Mars, and habitable stations further out, but Earth is still the wealth-and-culture capital of everything.

Polly Newton is the teenaged daughter of the director of Mars Colony. Her one dream in life is to be a pilot, and she has her future planned out. When her mother decides to send her and her “twin” brother Charles to the exclusive Galileo Academy on Earth, though, Polly’s plans are derailed. Unlike Charles—a genius and a manipulative wee asshole—Polly doesn’t adjust well to the new environment. Isolated and homesick, things aren’t going too well for Polly even before a string of dangerous accidents starts putting her powerful and well-connected classmates at risk. Something is rotten in Galileo Academy, and with their next class trip taking Polly, Charles, and their classmates to the moon, another accident may kill them all.

One of the ways in which I know I’m getting older is that I’m getting pickier. Or possibly crankier—not that I didn’t start out plenty cranky to begin with. And Martians Abroad, for all that it’s readably fun, makes me more cranky the more I consider it.

Let’s start with the voice. Polly recounts her adventures in the first person. And while I’m pretty sure Polly is supposed to be sixteen or older, her voice makes her sound about thirteen. In fact, as far as comparanda go for the tone and voice of the novel, I leap immediately to Sophia McDougall’s middle-grade novel Mars Evacuees—though Mars Evacuees has a lot more whimsy and delight, its voice is similarly naively young and breezy. The difference is, Polly feels unnaturally young and naive for an older adolescent, and her fish-out-of-water experiences with fellow students in Galileo Academy seem apt only for someone who has never experienced human group dynamics on any scale before.

I do like Polly’s natural competence, her growing friendship with the Earther Angelyn, and her thoughtless bravery. And her struggles with living under heavier gravity than she’s been used to her whole life are interesting. It doesn’t change the fact that she seems very young.

And let’s talk about Galileo Academy. A very exclusive boarding school on Earth (perhaps the most exclusive boarding school on Earth, the narrative implies), it offers a three-year programme of studies. It draws its students from the families of the elite, both on Earth and in the rest of the solar system—so presumably even the Earther students come from pretty diverse regional backgrounds and cultures, right?

It’s hard to tell. The general culture of the novel is, for all its effort to make the names sound international (apart from the protagonist and family) pretty solidly American. My suspension of disbelief kept having a weird kind of background bafflement: clearly there are cultural and some physiological differences between the Earthers and the Spacers, but it doesn’t appear that this international (inter-solar-system) boarding school story put much thought into the constraints and cultural differences that intervene when you educate people from different natal cultures together—unless there are no different natal cultures in this future apart from Earther and Spacer, which is a creepy-as-all-hell possibility that the novel doesn’t spend much time exploring. (Where’s the accommodation for religious differences? Dietary restrictions? Cultural norms around clothing?)

It just feels very… old-fashioned. It feels, in fact, rather like Vaughn set out to write a modern Heinlein juvenile—and the finished product has some of the flaws, as well as the virtues, of the form.

Not that Martians Abroad isn’t fun and entertaining to read. It is. But it’s a shallow and flat sort of entertainment, a stale sugar-rush rather than a delicious meal. I’d hoped for a more substantial read.

Martians Abroad is available from Tor Books
Read an excerpt here on Tor.com

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Find her at her blog. Or her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign.

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Posted by Grady Hendrix

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Welcome to Freaky Fridays, your fifteen-foot tall, 1,500 pound, fur-covered guide to the dusty old out-of-print paperbacks of yesteryear. We eat our weight in fresh salmon every day.

Bears are the most employable members of the animal kingdom. Kuma is the bodyguard for Heihachi Mishima. Billy Bob Brockali leads the Rock-afire Explosion Band at Showbiz Pizza (his evil cousin, Freddy Fazbear does the same over at the pizza parlor bearing his name). Fozzie Bear is a professional stand-up comedian for the Muppets. And Smokey is the most famous park ranger of all time. Then there are the questionable bears. The illegal immigrant bears (Paddington), the freeloaders (Yogi), the addicts (Winnie the Pooh), and those stupid lazy polar bears who just sit on their butts and drink Coca-Cola all day long.

Far worse, however, are the thug bears.

These bears grew up in neighborhoods so failed there aren’t even buildings to live in, just trees. There are no supermarkets, the public schools are so bad they’re non-existent, there are no fire or emergency services, very little tax base, and life is cheap. It’s a “survival of the fittest” situation where might makes right and baby bears don’t even learn how to read! The list of stone-cold super-predators that come out of these wildernesses reads like a roll call of the damned. There’s Kesagake, the serial killer bear. The Sloth Bear of Mysore. That bear in the Werner Herzog documentary. Even worse, is an ethics free entertainment industry that glorifies bear crimes in motion pictures like Grizzly (1976) and books like Marian Engel’s perverted Bear. Some of these so-called artists say they’re just telling the truth about the gang-banging lifestyles these bears lead on the streets, and that their movies and books have redeeming social value. Tell that to the bears. They see these depictions as glorifications of their lifestyles and after watching them they’re inspired to go out and commit even more bear crimes! Case in point, Kodiak, a disturbing, ultra-violent book that will leave the reader convinced that the time has come to get tough on bears.

Written in 1978 by Malachy McCoy, freely adopted from the original screenplay by Derek Robbins we’re told on the copyright page (but never made into a movie, thank god), Kodiak starts in Glennallen, Alaska as a bunch of fellows go looking for their buddy, Sam. They all work for an oil company, known only as The Company, that has a big refinery up here and the grizzled old timer, Charlie Ostermeyer, is leading the hunt. Well, they find Sam…torn to pieces. Then word comes in that a prostitute’s head and torso have been found 40 miles away. Making it worse, she’s been mutilated in a “sexual frenzy.” Normally, when I’m reading a book and encounter a foreign (Alaska is basically Canada’s appendix) serial-killing pervert bear on the rampage by page 10 I buy all the copies I can find and set them on fire, but for your sake, I’m going to keep reading. If you have any little ones reading along with you, now’s the time to go let them go watch something more wholesome on the internet, like snuff videos or C-SPAN.

According to Johnny Sianook, the suspect is a Kodiak bear, which he’s seen and describes as being 15 feet tall and weighing 1500 pounds. There are a lot of reasons to discount his so-called eyewitness testimony. First of all, he’s an Athabascan, which is a kind of indigenous Alaskan most notable for being hard to pronounce. Second of all, he’s very old and old people are liars. Third of all, he has six wives and fourteen children, which is completely irresponsible unless you’re Strom Thurmond. But then two young hippies, Robert and Betty Reardon, are snowmobiling into town from their commune when they run into the Kodiak with their snowmobile and it promptly bites off Betty’s breast. So, maybe we all should have listened to Johnny Sianook after all.

Charlie Ostermeyer and his boss, Mr. Sneed, want to kill the bear, which makes sense. But also employed by The Company is a pinko liberal college professor, Oscar Langsdorf, and he wants to capture the bear and that’s just crazy. Even crazier, he’s dating a librarian. Not so crazy, he hires Johnny Sianook to help him hunt the bear alongside Johnny’s half-white son, Dan-Jack.

“There are many mysteries with bears,” Johnny says, which is such a typical Athabascan thing to say. Translated into into normal people talk that means: bear hunting is messed up. Right from the get-go, this bear hunt is a line of dominoes made of stupid getting knocked over by a drunk monkey. Betty Reardon is in a coma and probably going to die, which makes her husband go crazy. He shows up with a gun to demand that Johnny Sianook take him bear-hunting so he can beat the Kodiak to death with his outrage, but wife #6 bashes the screaming hippie over the head with a log and knocks him out. Then Johnny goes off bear-hunting alone without even waiting for his professor friend or a plane.

The Kodiak finds Charlie Ostermeyer’s bear-hunting blind and casually tosses it off a 100 foot cliff, then raids a pumping station along the pipeline just for fun and is helping himself to the human buffet when Mr. Sneed tries to ram him to death with a bus, misses, hits the pipeline, and unleashes a 50,000 gallon of crude oil flood that drowns any survivors. The Kodiak heads into town and starts sidling up to bars, setting fires, getting drunk, and not once does someone ask for his ID. The mayhem escalates until a bleak final shitshow of a showdown that involves near-decapitation by plane propeller, a pilot accidentally knocked unconscious at the worst possible moment, combat on a frozen lake that’s cracking apart, an ill-timed sexual fantasy about librarians, and a delusional hippie with a gun.

Cynical, blood-thirsty, and the kind of book that refers to all its characters by their last names, this is basically a Walter Hill movie in novel form, all stripped-down, minimalist action and mean-spirited machismo without an ounce of fat on its sinews (it runs a brisk 141 pages). And that’s a bad thing. Because as long as pop culture insists on glorifying thug bear behavior, we’re going to have thug bears breaking into our picnic baskets, eating our scientists, and taking our jobs.

best-friends-exorcism-thumbnailGrady Hendrix has written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today; his previous novel was Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and his latest novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, is basically Beaches meets The Exorcist.

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Posted by chaunceydevega

In the weeks between Election Day and Donald Trump’s inauguration, I have found a new hobby. On a daily basis I read various newspapers, magazines and websites in search of stories about Trump voters and how they are surprised by their hero’s broken promises, scared that he may take away their health care or worried about his troubling connections to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. I then bookmark these news items in my Internet browser for later use. As Nero fiddles and his public dances I can at least try to find small joys and pleasures in the music.
This is my version of liberal Schadenfreude — with slightly more hostile intent. I doubt that I am alone in adopting this new distraction and source of pleasure.
The butcher’s bill is due.
There are many examples of Trump’s voters and their increasing pain and anxiety.
I am particularly fond of this explanation from a Trump voter who benefited from President Barack Obama’s health care reforms:
I’m not really a fan of [Obama’s] policies, but I like the fact that he gave me health insurance. And I have been worried about the fact that, you know, is it going to go away because, like I said, we’re in a situation now where I can’t afford to pay $1,200 a month. And I can’t go without insurance because [a family member] has to have it in order, you know . . . a transplant could be a million dollars. . . .  Well . . . we liked [Trump] because he just seemed to be a businessman.
The Instagram site Trumpgrets is also a source of great entertainment.
Many Kentucky coal miners supported Donald Trump even though he will likely take away their health care.
In the end, I voted for Trump because he promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that was the most important issue to my own life. Looking back, I realize what a mistake it was. I ignored the pundits who repeated over and over again that he would not follow through on his promises, thinking they were spewing hysterics for better ratings. Sitting on my couch, my mouth agape at the words coming out his mouth on the TV before me, I realized just how wrong I was.
There are many explanations for why a voter would might choose a candidate who is likely to do that person harm. The American electorate, to put it kindly, is not particularly sophisticated. The country’s schools are broken: A high percentage of graduates of either high school and college lack critical thinking and reading skills. Many graduates also cannot read and properly evaluate a newspaper editorial, or discern if a story is from a reputable source or is “fake news.” Voters also privilege different issues in their calculations. For committed conservatives, winning the “culture war” may be more important than basic pocketbook or bread-and-butter issues.

Social scientists have repeatedly shown the ways that American voters reason backward from their conclusions and ignore inconvenient information. The vast majority of Trump voters received their information from Fox News: Disinformation and lies are taken as truth; the phenomenon of circular and self-limiting knowledge that social scientists call “epistemic closure” creates right-wing political zombies. Racism, authoritarianism, bigotry and ethnocentrism are a toxic (and politically intoxicating) mix.
And perhaps the most basic truth is that Trump’s voters simply wanted to elect a human grenade as president. They pulled the pin and then forgot to run away from the explosion, likely because they were fascinated by the spectacle and eager to witness the harm that they believed Trump would do to their enemies.
The butcher’s bill is due.
Donald Trump’s proposed policies will not make America great again.
Rural Americans will suffer because of Trump’s environment, trade and agricultural policies. Wealth and income inequality will become more extreme, thus punishing and constricting the life opportunities of the vast majority of Americans of all races and backgrounds. Efforts to roll back and destroy Obamacare will deprive millions of health insurance and may lead to the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Potential deportations of undocumented immigrants will further damage the economy by raising the cost of food and services while also requiring large expenditures of federal money. The expansion of the “stop and frisk” Terrordome against black and brown communities will likely increase the number of people killed and brutalized by police while also draining public coffers to pay for the prison-industrial complex as well as to settle innumerable lawsuits against police.
As philosopher Henry Girioux has repeatedly warned, the “dead zone of capitalism” will only be expanded by Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s obsessive advancement of predatory capitalism and austerity. Red state America is already economically unproductive and parasitic, largely dependent on the taxes and economic activity generated in blue state America. As such, Trump’s policies will disproportionately punish his greatest supporters.
Well-intentioned liberals and progressives insist that we should empathize with Trump’s semi-mythical “white working-class” voters. These progressive and liberal dreamers reference examples of interracial alliances that struggled to advance shared class interests. Of course such alliances across the color line have occurred in the United States. The United Mine Workers union offers an important example of interracial, if uneven, collaboration and cooperation. At times, white and black sharecroppers across the South and elsewhere worked together against the planter-class plutocrats of the 19th and 20th centuries. In Texas, the “white scourge” of cotton was indeed king, but laborers — whites and people of color — found ways to work together to advance their shared economic interests.
Unfortunately, such interracial alliances are not common in American history. Poor and working-class white Americans have all too often chosen the psychological and material “wages of whiteness” instead of allying with people of color in the same economic class, even when the latter option would have lifted all boats. These white Americans were not tricked or hoodwinked or conned or bamboozled. They made a decision that loyalty to whiteness took precedence to  a shared sense of humanity and the common good. This is a persistent feature of American history from long before the founding of the republic through the era of Donald Trump.
When Trump’s administration fails to fulfill his promises and leaves the country worse off than before he became president, his voters will be faced with a choice. Will they continue to support him? Will they turn on their champion? Can the Great Leader successfully spin and obfuscate his failures?
M.T. Anderson, in a recent essay comparing Joseph Stalin and Donald Trump, offered the following prediction:
As Trump fumbles that economic transition, we can assume that his opponents, both in Washington and on Main Street, will be cast as “elites” who are, supposedly, causing the problem in the first place.
Trump’s voters will follow along in lockstep. They will blame  Obama, focus their anger on “illegal immigrants” or simply default to blaming “lazy blacks” and “inner-city residents” for the country’s problems. This is a product of the deeply ingrained right-wing ideology and white identity politics that Trump leveraged to win the White House.
Author William S. Burroughs offered the wisdom, “Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.” Showman P.T. Barnum supposedly said there was a sucker born every minute. Both observations are appropriate for explaining how Trump’s apparatchiks and supporters are likely to react to his imminent crisis and failure.
The butcher’s bill is due.
American conservatives love to preach the gospel of “personal responsibility.” Perhaps Trump’s voters will have the opportunity to reflect on their personal responsibility for what is to come, in the very near future, from their president and his administration.
Today is Inauguration Day. The butcher’s bill has come due. America, how will you pay it?
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Posted by Brian Tallerico

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Sundance programmers are smart enough to know that many people attending the festival this year would be bringing their own personal storm cloud related to the new President’s inauguration falling on the first full day of this year’s event. Perhaps that’s why they programmed a special screening of one of the most purely enjoyable romantic comedies in a long time and a world premiere of a wacky, broad, gigantic ensemble laugher that equally allowed movie goers to leave the real world behind for 90 minutes. Both of these flicks are often remarkably funny, and they do something similar in the way they play up to the strengths of their talented casts. Not every comedy needs to break the mold, and many of our best in the genre worked because they were designed for the people who fronted them.

Such is the case with “The Incredible Jessica James,” from Jim Strouse (“People Places Things,” “Grace is Gone”), which the writer/director admitted in his introduction was created for “The Daily Show” veteran Jessica Williams. And it shows. She is fantastic, and one truly hopes this film opens dozens of doors for her. It is a movie wildly and unapologetically in love with its leading lady. It’s not that it presents its title character without flaws but that even her insecurities and anxieties come across as so genuine that the people around her love those parts of her as well. It’s a simple film—about a woman getting over one relationship and into another, while also dealing with the delayed gratification that often comes when one pursues a life in the arts—but that simplicity can be deceiving. This is not an easy balancing act. If it was, there would be more quality romantic comedies like it.

Williams plays, of course, Jessica James, a character introduced dancing her way through her apartment, up the stairs, and to her Bushwick roof. She is all energy—fast-talking and faster-thinking. She is defiant in the face of societal norms—a scene in which she gives her younger sister a book about defying the patriarchy for a baby shower is perfectly in tune with the character—but she’s struggling in two areas of her life. She just broke up with her boyfriend Damon (Lakeith Stanfield, great here and in the also-at-Sundance “Crown Heights”) and she gets daily rejection letters in her attempts to become a playwright. She works at a theater for children interested in playwriting and does some odd jobs with a friend (Noel Wells of “Master of None”). Said friend introduces her to a recently-divorced guy named Boone (Chris O’Dowd), and the two help each other get over their recent break-ups.

“The Incredible Jessica James” is genuinely funny, but not in an aggressively bit-driven way. Strouse is too delicate of a filmmaker for that, although there are some wonderful broad comedy scenes, including several dream sequences Jessica has about her ex. For the most part though, the humor is character-driven, and this is what’s lacking from most modern rom-coms—relatability. It’s so hard to see ourselves in most romantic comedy characters, but it’s easy to picture checking your ex’s social media feeds obsessively or casually walking by your ex-wife’s house every night just to see what’s up. And Williams conveys the artistic drive of this character beautifully. She doesn't write because she wants to, she has no other choice. And she puts that energy into everything. Jessica and Boone are likable people (O’Dowd hasn’t been this funny since “Bridesmaids”) and it’s just a pleasure to hang out with them for 90 minutes and then move on. It’s not a movie meant to change the world, just to give you a little bit of joy. Try not to smile.

The same could be said about Jeff Baena’s wacky “The Little Hours,” a film with echoes of Mel Brooks in its non-contemporary setting, broad physical comedy, unexpected punchlines, and gigantic ensemble (seriously, every other face is a recognizable one). Baena uses one of the stories of The Decameron as the inspiration for a comedy of religious people who don’t exactly have the expected moral code for a film set in a 14th century convent. Baena may have used The Decameron explicitly but he’s also inspired by physically-driven comedies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, with echoes of “The History of the World, Part 1” and Monty Python’s work. It’s often hysterically funny, especially when allowing its talented cast to play up to their individual strengths.

That cast is led by Alison Brie as Sister Allesandra, living a simple life in a convent, although her sisters are jealous of her greater creature comforts courtesy of her father’s (Paul Reiser) donations to the church. Said sisters include the foul-mouthed and possibly sociopathic Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and the more demure and chaste Ginerva (Kate Micucci). Their simple life is interrupted when a young man named Massetto (Dave Franco) takes up residence as a handyman in their convent. Hidden there by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), Massetto pretends to be a deaf-mute (again, so Brooks) so as not to raise suspicions. Of course, this only makes him more fascinating to the sisters, who all try to sleep with him. Molly Shannon co-stars and Nick Offerman and Fred Armisen practically steal the movie in just a few scenes.

Again, much like “Jessica James,” a review of “The Little Hours” can be summarized in the word "enjoyable." I laughed, multiple times. And that’s really all Baena wants here. He’s not making any grand statements about religion or sexuality. He just wants you to laugh. And I did. A lot. At this Sundance, more than most years, that seems like a gift.


[syndicated profile] roger_ebert_feed

Posted by Nick Allen

Thumb_pop-aye-sdance-2017

Sundance’s reputation for cultivating interesting filmmakers is by no means a domestic-only effort, as proven again by this year’s World Dramatic Cinema lineup. In its first two days, the festival has presented the world premiere of two different films from vastly different writer/directors, but whose projects are united by an interest in challenging viewers with primary elements like pacing, character and atmosphere. “Pop Aye” and “Free and Easy,” from Thailand and China, respectively, are two competing titles that offer strength in vision from their respective filmmakers. 

Selected as an opening night film for the festival, “Pop Aye” is a charming, ambling mid-life crisis about a city architect in Thailand and the elephant from childhood he is reunited with. It’s a loaded pitch, and given a thoughtful execution from writer/director Kristen Tan. The elephant is a great hook, as beautiful and compelling as the animal is, but the story boasts a striking human element that does not bank on sympathy. 

Tan is a writer/director who is thrillingly playing with risks. “Pop Aye” challenges a lot of the conventions a viewer might expect from a movie about a man named Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) and his elephant (Bong) on a journey. For one, though the actor who plays Thana makes him initially sweet, a graying man with glasses and an endearing gentleness towards his massive animal friend, seeming like an underdog being pushed out of the city architecture business due to gaudy new ideas, Thana is not an entirely sympathetic character, especially with the way that he thinks of women, despite his charitable, sincere actions in other ways. His strained relationship with his wife is especially cringe-worthy.

In a way that gives the film its own energy, it is not a tidy film with how it treats people or shares its big heart, adding further credence to this story being more like, in animal movie terms, “Au Hasard Balthasar” than “Operation Dumbo Drop.” The movie gains charm from constantly complicating characters one might assume to be simple pit stops. 

When telling this story, one risk that doesn’t work and might provide some confusion is the non-linear editing. It challenges the straightforward idea of a journey with reflections of the past, but doesn’t have the clear cut nature to be determined. There are some logic loopholes too (which can’t be spoiled, but you might notice them) that hold back this type of tight depiction of unpredictable, real life that it wants to be. 

“Pop Aye” is able to occupy its own tone, in which it isn’t particularly funny or a huge downer, despite its potential to take either path. It paints some thoughtful images, especially as its theme of urbanization comes beautifully with the idea that things change permanently, in spite of our pain from the past that we carry in the present. It’s quite a treat to see this all play out as a story about a man and his elephant, with no heavy-hand in sight. 

“Free and Easy” imagines a world where people seem to be inherently bad; it would be a cold, empty, lifeless place. The setting is a Chinese industrial town that was beat up and left for dead—as introduced with somber location shots of a horrible nothing. It’s a striking empty canvas that director Jun Geng presents the audience with, only to then add slight brushes to it with a few characters and their acts of manipulation. Many of the characters have their schemes, but with seemingly no other world for them to strive for, it’s more akin to survival. If this movie takes place in a world that seems post-apocalyptic, it is also that of post-empathy, post-warmth. 

It’s by no coincidence that “Free and Easy” is designed with the openness and lawlessness of a western. But it’s not a cowboy who rolls into town in the beginning, its a traveling soap salesman (Zhang Ziyong), who offers free soap to people that knocks them out when they smell it—enough time to rob them. He’s revealed to not be the only con in the area, which is populated with the likes of a monk who offers talismans (Xu Gang), a Christian who offers prayer (Gu Benbin) and a man whose bizarre job is planting trees (Xue Baohe), but someone keeps stealing them. As the script further elaborates itself, you can see some overly-calculated allegorical ideas, where power moves are currency. The characters with the most dialogue are not particularly sympathetic, but you don’t want the worst for anyone. And the way they are connected makes for its more memorable passages, and a surprising third act that registers as extremely dry comedy. 

Even as the movie resists action, watching Geng’s vision with script and character unfold is often enough to hold interest. Characters take on the attributes of the environment he’s set them into, and speaking very little between extended beats. When they do interact, they’re blocked like statues facing each other, with Geng’s static camera allowing his memorable casting choices to linger. The ideas that he gives them, some of them better sponsors of his poetry than others, makes for a film that’s rich in atmosphere. Though I’d love to see what Geng does with a lot more, the spaciousness of “Free and Easy” is one of its most striking traits. 

shinyjenni: Close up of Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond (jaylah)
[personal profile] shinyjenni
Title: Brighter Than The Sun
Fandom: Star Trek
Music: Colbie Caillat
Content notes: A few bright flashes
Summary: "Lightning strikes the heart", or, me/Star Trek OTP
Download: here (3:54 minutes, 172MB) | subtitle .srt
Also at: Youtube | AO3 | Tumblr

Notes: For More Joy Day. Thank you to [personal profile] cosmic_llin, [personal profile] purplefringe and [personal profile] anoel for betaing!

As I may have mentioned about two or three hundred times already, I REALLY liked Star Trek Beyond, and the subsequent avalanche of feelings precipitated something of a full scale Star Trek feelings renaissance (A++ would recommend). So this is a vid about that, and about all* the things I love and have loved about Star Trek over the last decade or two. ♥

*well. Not all. They wouldn't all fit. Call it a representative sample?

streaming and lyrics under the cut )

Chapter Eleven: Boogeyman

Jan. 20th, 2017 02:38 pm
ladyofleithian: (mood: cynical)
[personal profile] ladyofleithian
In which Snoke meets baby Jaina for the first time.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Notes: Part of Snoke's backstory was pretty influenced by Jeremy Jahns' review of TFA. He actually speculated that Snoke was old enough to basically have hung out with Yoda, and that got the gears in my mind going.

Hello, small one. )
[syndicated profile] dailykos_feed

If you were watching the White House website at the moment of the inauguration, the changes were swift, and in some cases, brutal. Within minutes of Trump’s ascension, the contents of the page on climate change were replaced with these highly appropriate comments reflecting Trump’s thoughts on the topic.

The energy plan has been replaced with Trump’s America First Energy Plan, but the page on climate change is simply gone. As for the rest of the plan, it does mention taking action—action to stop any effort to address climate change.

Instead, the White House website features Trump's energy talking points from the campaign. The page—titled, "An America First Energy Plan"—makes no mention of climate change, other than to say, "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years."

[syndicated profile] dailykos_feed

It would have been difficult to find a picture of a densely enough packed crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration, so it seems they took the easy route:

x

Trust me, guys. A lot of us would rather relive that day than this one, too. But now that people are paying attention, I’m sure there are minions scouring the photos for something to make today’s crowd look like something it wasn't.

[syndicated profile] file770_feed

Posted by Mike Glyer

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has released the Preliminary Ballot for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards®. This is not the list of finalists, but the list which HWA members will choose among when they vote to determine the finalists. The final … Continue reading

2017 Philip K. Dick Award Shortlist

Jan. 20th, 2017 07:12 pm
[syndicated profile] file770_feed

Posted by Mike Glyer

The six finalists for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award have been announced. CONSIDER by Kristy Acevedo (Jolly Fish Press) HWARHATH STORIES: TRANSGRESSIVE TALES BY ALIENS by Eleanor Arnason (Aqueduct Press) THE MERCY JOURNALS by Claudia Casper (Arsenal Pulp Press) … Continue reading

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cynthia1960: me from Wiscon Chronicles v. 3 (Default)
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