Jon Cazares

Jon Cazares

The 90th annual Motion Picture Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 4th, with show host Jimmy Kimmel leading the way.  Here is list of all the nominees. As someone who graduated from film school and freelanced in “the biz” on and off for twenty years, the Oscars once held a special place in my heart. I never cared for the glamor of it all, and “What are you wearing?” is the most vapid question I can think of. No, it was my pure love of cinema that drew me and forty million of my closest TV watching friends to Oscar night. And for a long time I believed that the Academy Awards always - got it right!

 

But now, “meh” - I don’t really care that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch them. And then, like so many years past, will be unable to recall who won best actor, best picture, best adapted screenplay in, like, three months.

 

Perhaps the failing memory of age is why I can’t remember recent Oscar winners. Perhaps it is the dumbed down formulaic construction of Hollywood movies that make them all mediocre and there for - quite forgettable. Maybe it’s a combination of both.

 

I used to think the Oscars would go to - you know - the actual best actor, actress or movie - in each category. Isn’t that the idea? It’s just not true though, Academy voters rarely vote for “the best” of anything. Instead they vote for their friends. They vote for sentimental reasons. They get too get caught up in politics and targeted marketing campaigns sway their minds. Many voters don’t even watch all the movies that are nominated despite getting free screener copies of all of them. Many older voters don’t “get” movies that young folks make. The Oscars is nothing more than a popularity contests where, occasionally, and quite by accident - voters select the best choice in any given category.

 

Do you know how many times movies win the “Best Screenplay” award because voters are like, “I should probably vote for this for Best Picture but I’m not going to so I’ll just give it a screenplay prize.”

 

Do you know how many times an actor loses for a performance that should have earned them an Oscar only to win the following year for a lesser performance because voters go, “Whoops. I really should have voted for him last year - guess I’ll just do it this year.”

 

About fifteen years ago,  maybe longer, the Hollywood Reporter started a “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” column. Usually they would find four voting members of the Academy - an actor (or actress), a producer, a writer and a director. And, given total anonymity have the four voters say who they are voting for and why.

 

Here is this year’s, “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot.”  A few samples:

 

Dunkirk looked great, but it was a little confusing, there wasn't enough of an emotional thread, and the drone of the airplane through the whole fucking movie just drove me crazy. For me it just didn't fully work.”

“... I grew to dislike Lady Bird because of its fucking social media campaign. They pounded the drum too much. They put a magnifying glass on everything — like, how they shot the scene at the airport in one take. They shot the scene at the airport in one take because they fucking stole it!” (“Stole it” means they didn’t have permission to shoot there and did it quickly before getting caught).

 

Talking about best director:

 

“Christopher Nolan got involved with a huge undertaking [Dunkirk], but he made a confusing film, so he failed. [Jordan Peele's] Get Out is well done, but let's not get carried away.”

 

And so on and so forth. To be honest, this one is a bit tame by previous standards. There is usually more swearing, racism, sexism, finger pointing and laughing at ridiculous nominations. I remember one year a long time ago a voter saying they flat out hate Jim Carrey and would never vote for him in anything he ever does. Ever. No matter what. Probably in reference to Man in the Moon, or Truman or Eternal Sunshine...

 

Um. Okay. But that kind of invalidates the idea that the Oscar goes to the “best of.” Sure, a lot of voting for a “best of” is subjective and your “best of” might be different than my “best of.” But much of it is objective. Consider this - who is the better actress - Meryl Streep or Paris Hilton?

 

You can argue subjectivity as much as you want but there is a quantifiable difference between the two and we know it. Now, if I were to ask you - who is the better actress - Tilda Swinton or Cate Blanchett - well, um … that’s a little more difficult.  And now who gave a better performance - Tilda in movie A or Cate in movie B?

 

We are now arguing degrees of 1% and in that scenario, coming up with "who’s better" is, frankly, kind of silly. But that’s precisely what award shows do. Year after year. Sometimes Academy voters get it right. Often times they don’t. I don’t remember who else was nominated for Best Actress in 2010 and I don’t need to look it up because - I guarantee you that each and every one of them gave a better performance than Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

 

And it’s not because Sandra Bullock is incompetent. She’s not. She’s a very adequate actress. She has a lot of skill. She knows how to hit marks and find her light and says her lines. I certainly wouldn’t call her talented. Meryl Streep is talented. Sandra Bullock is adequate.

 

And Bullock should not be an Academy Award winning actress. But she is because she is very well liked amongst her peers. And when they saw their charming, lovely friend Sandra Bullock on the ballot, they overwhelmingly voted for her. Not because she gave the best performance of the year by an actress. No. They voted for her because they personally like her. A lot (and she really does seem to be a stand up person. I mean, did you even see her acceptance speech at the Razzie Awards for worst actress of the year?! You should). Anyway, her friends voted for her to win an Oscar because they universally thought, “When is dear Sandra ever going to get another chance?” Which means all the other great actress performances that year both nominated and un-nominated lost out to Hollywood nepotism.

 

So, while I moderately enjoy the much too long Oscar awards, and I’m occasionally surprised by a few excellent nominations and wins, I’m usually underwhelmed by the final result.

 

That being said, this year there really is no clear front runner. The Shape of Water has the most nominations and that usually means it will win the most awards. But the various end of the year movie awards shows have divided up the movies, actors, directors and screenwriters to multiple films and people.

There are also a lot of milestones to be seen at the Oscars this year:

  • The first woman to be nominated in the cinematography category - Rachel Morrison for Mudbound. (Although, hopefully Roger Deakins finally wins for Blade Runner 2049. Sorry Rachel).
  • The first transgender director to be nominated - Yance Ford for feature documentary Strong Island.
  • First black writer / director / producer to be nominated for all three in the same year - Jordan Peele for Get Out.

 

All great! Baby steps in the right direction!

 

And maybe this is the year where Academy voters honestly cast their vote without pride or prejudice. Maybe this is the year where they get it all right!

 

But I won't hold my breath. I’m now "Oscar cynical" enough to just expect that Academy voters will, you know - disappoint and get it wrong.

 

And I still do not fucking care what they are wearing.

 

On Monday, while speaking about gun control to a gathering of US governors at the White House, President Trump claimed he would have rushed into Stoneman Douglas High School (FL) to stop shooter Nikolas Cruz from attacking his former school and killing 17. “I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that too,” Trump told the governors.  

 

*sigh*

 

Rich, safe, white man Donald Trump would SO NOT have run into that school. The very comment makes me eye roll to Pluto. Donald Trump actually had a chance to show combat bravery during the Vietnam war. He was in the draft. And now he’s being called “Five deferment draft dodger Donald Trump” by military members, some of whom now serve in Congress and the Senate.

 

If you are unfamiliar with President Trump’s case, he, like many other (mostly white) middle to upper class men had plenty of legal ways to opt out of the Vietnam draft. President Trump received four student deferments while he attended University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and a fifth medical deferment for “bone spurs in his heels.”

 

Um, okay. His recent White House medical examination, which passed him with flying colors - don’t mention any bone spurs in the President’s heels but, whatever.

 

Rich, white male easily dodges draft - nothing new.

 

In a 2017 interview with the ladies of The View, Sen. John McCain threw some shade at President Trump’s deferments saying that Trump, “found a doctor that would say that he had a bone spur,” to avoid the draft.

 

Later in the interview he followed up, “I don’t consider him so much a draft dodger as I feel the systems was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country.”

 

In a separate interview a few days after, McCain further clarified. “One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

 

Obviously, Donald Trump is not the only person to take student deferments but the point being - he was not going to go to a war zone and risk his life and so he found a legal way out of the draft.

 

And yet, for some reason - we should expect he would rush - unarmed - into a school during an active shooting?

 

I call bullshit.



I mean, did you hear that there was an actual “good guy with a gun” at the school? Apparently, there was an armed sheriff at the school while the shooting was active. The sheriff took up position outside the building, but never entered.  The trained, armed, armored sheriff who was stationed at the school didn’t run into the building during the attack (he has since resigned)! That’s right, the oft repeated, “All you need to stop a bad buy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” took a slap to the face.

 

If trained armed folk won’t rush into a building while an active shooting is happening, I find it doubtful, and frankly, insulting to my intelligence, that President Trump expects us to believe he would rush into a building where bullets are flying.

 

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not surprised President Trump made the claim! He is, after all, by self admission - pretty much the best at everything. And stable. And really intelligent. And we know this because he reminds us every chance he gets. Again, I'm not surprised he made the claim - but there is no way in hell he would ever actually do it.

 

Anyway. The sheriff on site is being vilified as a coward. Anyone with reason and common sense knows exactly why that sheriff didn’t enter the building - fear. Yes, he should have gone in to help! That’s exactly why he was stationed there. But he feared for his life. And perhaps he thought about his family and he didn't want his own family to grow up without a father / husband. And so he didn’t go in.

 

President Trump, armed or not, would feel the same fear - and run the opposite direction.

 

Any by the way, did you know that the police do not have a constitutional duty to protect you? True story, man. Google that sad news up. The police do not have to help you if you are in danger! Which means said sheriff, who did not enter the building to assist those kids - did nothing illegal.

 

Despite that, I’m willing to suspect most of us are on the same page, - the sheriff on site should have gone inside and killed the hell out of the shooter. Or died trying.

 

But that’s easy for us to say from the comfort of our couch.  

 

The law may not require police to assist people in danger but they should do it anyway, and many of them do - because it’s moral, and just and right.

 

And those kids needed help. The onsite sheriff failed them. And President Donald Trump wouldn't have helped them, either.

International sensation Fergie has apologized for her sultry, jazzy, downtempo take on the National Anthem - opening the NBA All-Star Game. If you have not heard it, you should take a two minutes and listen. Fergie took a beating on social media for her version of the Star Spangled Banner. Even stars didn’t hold back. SNL’s Leslie Jones tweeted, “Meanwhile back in the states... I leave for a couple of days and y’all lose your muthafucking mind!! Why did this happen? Not everyone supposed to do this y’all! You might as well should have ask me to sing. Wtf?!”

 

I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of Fergie’s version, either. But then I thought - hell, at least she took a chance. And that’s awesome, because you can’t make great art without taking chances. So, good for her. That being said - her rendition is still awkward. I’ve read that she was, perhaps, trying to emulate Marvin Gaye’s 1983 version of the Star Spangled Banner.  I just listened Gaye’s take on the Anthem. Gaye’s version is also odd and not for me.

 

I’m not really going to go into if the Star Spangled Banner is racist, or not. Much has been written about that and if you want to learn more, you are one Google search away (but verse three, which is seldom sung, is pretty racist).

 

The Star Spangled Banner has a specific musical tone. Stray too far away and people get angry. Stray really far away and people get really angry. But, again, art can never be great art unless it has the capacity to anger, or frighten people. So, at the very least, I get what she was trying to do.

 

Fergie has since apologized, saying, “I've always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem, and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I'm a risk-taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn't strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best."

 

Her apology is also getting roasted but honestly, I’m fine with it. It’s just a song. And it was only a basketball game.

 

Though, to be honest, I actually thought Rosie O'Donnell's 1990 HATED comedic take on the song was … well, kind of funny. Not super funny. But kind of funny. And, obviously - not for everyone. She sang it at a baseball game. Her performance lampooned how fans behave during baseball games. And after all, they hired fucking Rosie O’Donnell - to sing! You know - professional comedian, satirist and performance artist Rosie O’Donnell. Honestly, what the hell were they expecting?

 

Look, all I’m saying is, I get there is a history to the Star Spangled Banner. And a tradition. And some folks want that history and tradition to be taken very, very seriously.

 

Fair enough.

 

But … it’s only a song, after all. Fergie’s version of the song was fine. So was Marvin Gaye’s. So was Rosie’s. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe not for you. Maybe not even for me.  

 

But just fine.

 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 19:46

America's Top Dog, 2018

The surprise “best in show” winner at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is Flynn, a bichon frise. A surprise pick too as, according to The Associated Press, "Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favorites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her choice." Well played, little underdog Flynn!

There were almost 3000 competing dogs representing 200+ breeds but it was little fluffy Flynn that brought home the purple ribbon. The other winners, by breed:

A few fun facts about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

According to Wikipedia:  

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an all-breed conformation show that has been held in New York City annually since 1877. Currently, the breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are held at Piers 92 and 94, while the group and Best in Show competitions are held at Madison Square Garden.”

 

Since 1877! That means the Westminster Dog Show is older than Shredded Wheat, automobiles, stop signs, bottle caps and zippers!

 

Also, according to Sports News, “The first show consisted of just gun dogs by a group of hunters who met regularly at Westminster Hotel. Original prizes for winning the show varied, with one such reward being pearl-handled pistols.”

 

And for some reason the Westminster Dog Show has traditionally, and heavily  - favored terriers, who have won best in show 46 out of the 103 times the prize has been given since 1907 with male dogs winning 71 times.

Finally, dog shows are not without their controversy. Some animal activist groups don’t like dog shows and want them banned. The major concerns revolve around negative breeding practices, which certainly happen; and the fact that the dogs, when going through the grooming process can be jostled around too much in ways that might make them uncomfortable.

This seems to be a fair argument but I doubt dog shows will be “banned” anytime soon. Furthermore, I suspect the overwhelming majority of dogs within said shows are lovingly handled and cared for. Perhaps, additional common sense care requirements can be implemented to weed out some of the more ridiculous grooming practices (like - dog eyeliner).

Other than that, dog shows are extremely popular and are here to stay. So if you find yourself organizing or participating in a dog show - keep those canines healthy and happy.

 

And they’ll do the same for you.  

 

Movie Pass has been around for a few years but I’m just now catching on. It started out as a monthly subscription for $50 per month and with it you could use your Movie Pass card to see unlimited movies at your local theater. And by “unlimited” I mean one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day. Most of your local theaters, including some of the big chains (AMC), accept Movie Pass.

 

It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t really catch on. So it took Movie Pass almost two years to get about 20,000 subscribers -- mainly, die-hard cinephiles.

 

Well, back in August that all changed when Movie Pass dropped the monthly subscription fee to $9.95 per month with the same deal: most of your local theaters accept Movie Pass, and you can now see one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day.

 

Suddenly, Movie Pass is a lot more appealing, and since the August price drop, added 1.5 million subscribers, including me. I have only just signed up and have not even received my Movie Pass card yet. But when I do and begin to use it, I’ll write a follow up and let you know what’s what. But for now, after reading up on Movie Pass for a few days, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

The Good: It will actually save you a lot of money … if you use it.  

 

CNN reports that the average cost of a movie ticket across the country is roughly $9, according to the trade organization National Association of Theatre Owners, which means you need to use Movie Pass about twice per month in order to save money. Obviously, if you see more than two movies at the theater per month you will save even more money. I usually see a movie once per week at about $10-$12 per movie. Which means an annual Movie Pass subscription will save me approx. $300 per year.

 

I like this deal already.

 

Here’s exactly how it works.

  1. You subscribe on the Movie Pass website.
  2. Download the Movie Pass App on your phone.
  3. Wait for your Movie Pass card to arrive in the mail (a few weeks)
  4. Use the Movie Pass App to check in to the theater you are attending
  5. Let the Movie Pass App know the movie and show time you wish to attend.
  6. Movie Pass App confirms you have not seen another movie today using your Movie Pass - if you have not, Movie Pass loads X amount of $$ onto your Movie Pass card where X = the exact cost of the ticket you have selected.
  7. Buy your ticket at the theater and use your Movie Pass as a credit card to pay.  

Okay, I see a few minor hurdles. You need the App, you need the internet, and you have to be within approximately 100 yards of the movie theater you are attending. These hurdles seem minor to me. But how is this sustainable? Movie Pass CEO Mitch Lowe had an interview with CNNMoney and answered this is exact question.

 

"MoviePass is kind of a movie insurance program. Our service is really low because we are going to use our understanding of you as a customer to be able to give you relevant suggestions that you might find valuable in your life. We might say there's a great restaurant across the street from the movie. If you go over there and show them your card, you're going to get a free appetizer."

 

Ah hah! There’s the rub! They sell user data to third parties to make money. Some might be bothered by the privacy concern this raises. Me -- not so much. If Movie Pass notices I watch all the sci-fi movies I can shake a stick at and then offers me Blu-ray, sci-fi movies and/or sci-fi soundtracks, I might be interested.

 

But then again, I might not. I don’t really buy concessions at the movie theater, so Movie Pass might lose a lot of money -- on me. But Movie Pass is counting on the “gym membership model,” in that folks might binge at first but eventually keep paying the monthly subscription for something they hardly use.  

 

Plus, Movie Pass is negotiating with theater chains for a sales percentage of concessions, since that’s where movie theaters make the majority of their money, and Movie Pass claims they are bringing people back to the theaters. (No, seriously, did you know that it costs a movie theater about four cents to make that large bag of popcorn that you just bought for $8?).

 

Movie Pass says that one in 35 movie theater customers are now using Movie Pass, and that number is rapidly increasing. It seems like fair leverage to get a tiny fraction of a percentage point for concessions. With the explosion in subscribers that Movie Pass has had in the last six months I expect (well, I hope) it doesn’t go anywhere soon.

 

The Bad: In order to get the best deal you have to pay for the full year membership - up front.

 

So, at $7.95 per month, plus a $19.95 one time processing fee you will be charged up front: $115.35.

 

Hrmmm. That’s a little obnoxious. But if you’re thinking, “Ah-hah! They’re going to grab your money and run!” Well, I too thought that for a moment. But then I saw their press release where they partnered with Fandor, which is a legit independent movie website (you should check it out) where they have some pretty great programing. I’ll reprint the full press release below.

 

The Ugly: Their customer service sucks. Like, seriously.

 

Via Movie Pass CEO’s very own mouth, he admits that the company didn’t expect to suddenly expand from 20,000 subscribers to 300,000 subscribers to one million and then, less than one month after reaching one million subscribers, exploding to up to two million subscribers. Their customer service department wasn’t able to keep up with their growth. Costumer service emails or calls went unanswered for months and months. He’s very aware of the problem and he speaks about it candidly in the CNNMoney interview linked above.

 

And, of course, they can print and mail cards to you only so fast. Customers are told to expect their Movie Pass card in five to seven business days, but it sounds as if the wait is more like two to four weeks. I find this annoying, but not so annoying that I will be passing up this deal.

 

The Final Skinny: Sign me up. 

 

Movie Pass was a good deal at $10 a month. Movie Pass + Fandor is a really good deal at $7.95 per month (but remember, that’s $115 up front). I suspect Movie Pass is right - people aren’t going to use the Movie Pass card as much as they expect. But I bloody well will!

 

Keep in mind, the Movie Pass + Fandor for $115 up front is only a limited time offer. If you don’t want to pay the full up front fee - wait until the limited offer is up and Movie Pass will return to a $9.95 per month deal. There will still be a processing fee of $20 but then your first charge will only be $30 for month one, $10 for month two, etc, etc.

 

Either way, I signed up. I have to wait a few weeks for my Movie Pass card, but I’ve downloaded the App and plan to start watching Fandor films tonight.

 

As a final note, you may cancel your Movie Pass subscription at any time, but then will not be allowed to re-subscribe for nine months.

 

To learn more about Movie Pass and / or sign up visit their site here.

 

--

 

The Movie Pass / Fandor Partnership Press Release:

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MoviePass™, the nation's premier movie-theater subscription service and a majority-owned subsidiary of Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: HMNY) (“HMNY”), and Fandor®, the streaming service with the largest collection of independent films, documentaries, international features and shorts, are introducing a new annual subscription plan. This new MoviePass subscription plan will allow movie-goers to visit the theater every day for a year, and have access to the full Fandor content library for a year, for just under $116.

This new annual offer lowers the MoviePass monthly price from $9.95 to $7.95 and is coupled with an annual Fandor subscription. This combined offer is back after testing a limited time run in November 2017; it is now being reintroduced as a limited time offer nationwide.

“MoviePass is not only a phenomenon in the entertainment industry, but it has sparked a movement, now two million people strong,” said Ted Farnsworth, Chairman and CEO of HMNY. “With this new offer, we can make the movement even more accessible to movie-goers. I believe our annual subscribers will become influential movie consumers and an amazing asset and bellwether for the film industry as a whole.”

"Fandor is excited to be part of the disruptive wave redefining how audiences consume entertainment, making a broad range of movies available to our movie-loving subscribers," said Larry Aidem, President and CEO of Fandor. "We look forward to continued collaborations with MoviePass in the coming year."

MoviePass presently drives more than 5% of the total nationwide box office and continues to grow contribution as new subscribers join.

“We’re thrilled to continue innovating and reinvigorating the film and movie theater industries with MoviePass and Fandor,” said Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass. “With more than two million MoviePass subscribers, and new ones joining every day, it’s clear that this is a tool moviegoers need and want. This new offer allows us to continue to reach more subscribers.”

Subscribers who sign up for this new offer will be billed $115.35 ($7.95 a month + $19.95 processing fee), and will receive one full year of MoviePass and one full year of unlimited streaming from Fandor.

 

President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union speech tonight, Tuesday the 30th at 9:00pm (Eastern).

 

I will go out on a limb and proclaim the speech will be filled with lies, rhetoric, childish insults and insanely unrealistic predictions of what the President himself can accomplish.

 

He is, after all - by his own admission - the greatest. At pretty much everything.

 

His bombastic nature alone should turn the majority of reasonable folks off. But it doesn’t. There are plenty of poor, working class folks in small towns all round the country who actually believe that billionaire Donald Trump is going to somehow magically transform their lives for the better.

 

They are welcome to their dreams. They are welcome to continue to vote against their economic interests, too. And Donald Trump will continue to ignore them. Actually, “ignoring them” is probably giving the President too much credit. Ignoring them would mean he actively thinks about them and then makes a decision to not help them. Donald Trump does not give a rats ass about impoverished small towns. At all. He does not think about them. At all.

 

Though, to be honest - when was the last time you heard of the Democrats doing much to improve the lives of impoverished small towns?

 

The DFL is supposed to stand for Democratic Farmer Labor party. Well, the DFL, to my knowledge, certainly supports Labor rights. I doubt they’ve done much for small farms in the last fifty years. When asked about this very subject, DFL chairman Ken Martin says to MinnPost.com,  

 

“The ‘F’  matters to us. The ‘F’ for us is fighting for the family farm; fighting for the little guy. ... But I’m not going to lie to you. It’s difficult right now. Young people can’t afford to get into farming anymore. It’s big agri-business now and that’s changed the face of the rural areas of the state.”

 

And if young folks can’t get into it - it’s a dying business.

 

All I’m really saying is the DFL used to take care of farmers but now it seems that rural areas have been overwhelmingly Red States for decades. During the campaign Donald Trump said to West Bend, a small town north of Milwaukee:

 

“I am fighting for you. When we talk about the insider, who are we talking about? It’s the comfortable politicians looking out for their own interests. It’s the lobbyists who know how to insert that perfect loophole into every bill. It’s the financial industry that knows how to regulate their competition out of existence. The insiders also include the media executives, anchors and journalists in Washington, Los Angeles, and New York City, who are part of the same failed status quo and want nothing to change.”

 

And they bought it. Trump literally does every single thing on that list - he's a rich insider, he looks out for his own interests, he uses lobbyists, he uses every perfect loophole to his own benefit, and he wants nothing to change. Well, he wants nothing to change for everyone else expect for him.

 

Poor small town folk all over the country bought into the new Red Scare. In that, the conservative Red media can scare impoverished small town folk into believing the Dems are everything evil and the Republicans are everything good.

 

And something about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

 

But I digress.  

 

The State of the Union will be nothing new. President Trump will continue to say the things he always does, “I’m the best. I’m the smartest. I fight for the little folks. I’ve cleaned the swamp. I win. You win. We all win together. You will not find another person who respects women more than I but Rosie O'Donnell is a big fat lezbo pig. My vocabulary is the "bestest there is" and I didn’t have sex with that porn star and pay $140k to cover it up. I was married at the time. I would never cheat on my wife. The democrats are evil. Make America Great.”

 

There it is. His legit speech, tonight at the State of the Union. You read it here first.

 

As for the wide spread impoverished rural community that voted him into office, I honestly feel bad for you because you literally have no one looking in your direction and offering help. Not the Democrats. Not the Republicans. And certainly not President Donald Trump.

 

Bernie Sanders probably would have though.

 

Just sayin.

 

Burger King hit viral gold with its recent ad riffing off the repeal of net neutrality rules. Let’s face it - a lot of people don’t know, or don’t care, what net neutrality is. But they should. And Burger King, apparently, is just the sort of giant company to tell you all about it.

 

Very basically, net neutrality forces all internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Which is precisely how the internet has worked since Al Gore created it (That was a joke! But if you just felt your blood pressure rise upon hearing the oft repeated Fox Fake News Story that Al Gore “claimed” to create the internet - I will go on a limb and say you probably don’t know a thing about net neutrality, either).

 

Burger King claims the ad is filled with real people, not actors but my Spider Sense tingles at the idea. These people might not be trained, professional actors but I suspect some (if not all) of them were in on it from the get go.

 

But that doesn’t really change the point of the video. In it - when customers order a Whopper they are told there are different price depending on how fast you want the Whopper cooked - the MBPS (making burgers per second) speed. If you want to wait for twenty or thirty minutes - your Whopper will be $5.  If you want your Whopper in 90 seconds - your Whopper will be $26.

 

Same Whopper. Different price. Net Neutrality at it’s finest. But Burger King employees make it clear - these are not our rules - we just have to enforce them. Watch the above linked video as customers get more exasperated and furious.

 

And why do we have this ridiculous ad? Because the FCC repealed Obama-era neutrality rules and now internet provider giants can throttle and / or block websites that don’t pay the fee for faster speeds.

 

Internet providers can even block or throttle websites that do pay the faster fee. I mean, I don’t know about you but I swear to God that my Netflix streaming has sucked since Jan 1. It was like over night too. And Netflix has paid the faster streaming fees to the internet provider giants.

 

I used to be able to watch HD streaming with - well, you know … perfect HD quality! Now, half the time, the picture is so pixelated, HD looks like a bad, out of focus print from the 1920’s.  I kid you not.

 

But maybe that’s just me. I’m sure with net neutrality rules gone Netflix will clear right up ASAP.

 

A California couple has been busted for torture, abuse, child neglect and false imprisonment against their 12 children. On Sunday, one of the teenage daughter captives scrambled to freedom by crawling out of a home window and dialing 911.

It was an escape plan, two years in the making.

After receiving the distress call, two deputies and a supervisor arrived on the scene and found a filthy house in unlivable conditions, a bewildered mother who just couldn’t understand why the police where at her house, and twelve neglected and abused children - some of which were still chained to their beds.

Police wasted no time arresting the two soulless ghouls responsible - the parents - David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49. Now both are facing charges of torture, abuse and false imprisonment. Two parents who were, by admission, homeschooling Christians.

On January 18th the married couple pled not guilty to:

  • Frequently beating and strangling their children.
  • Allowing the children only a single shower per year.
  • Not providing medical care, including dental.
  • Nightly - tying the children to their beds; however, upon noticing that the children were able to slip rope knots, began chaining and padlocking them to their beds.
  • Rationing the children’s food and allowing them only one meal per day - which led to severe malnourishment up to and including the 12 year old child who weighed as much as an average seven year old and the eldest 29 year old who was 82 pounds. Not to mention that several of the children have cognitive impairment and "neuropathy, which is nerve damage, as a result of this extreme and prolonged physical abuse." - quoted lead prosecutor.

And those are just the crimes they committed. And it doesn’t even mention that their “homeschooling” was ludicrously lacking as the children, when rescued and questioned, didn’t have a basic understanding of things. They didn’t know what a police officer was. They didn’t understand what medication was.

It just goes on and on.

Now, I didn’t bother added the word, “allegedly” even though the law presumes the Turpin’s are innocent until the state proves them to be guilty.

Fair enough.

But I’m not part of their legal trial so I will go out on a limb and say these two fuckers are guilty, guilty, guilty as sin. And I want them to pay.

Lock them up. Throw away the key.

Or as Rust Cohle says to a child molester in season one of True Detective, “The newspapers are going to be tough on you. And prison is very, very hard on people who hurt kids. If you get the opportunity -- you should kill yourself.”

That being said, I hope those kids are now surrounded with care, love and support. They have their entire free lives ahead of them now and I hope they can recover from their trauma and go on to accomplish great things.

 

Tuesday, 09 January 2018 21:29

The NFL Divisional Playoffs 2018

Late November I wrote my snotty predictions for the playoffs and, to be honest, I was pretty accurate. But so were most sports pundits. It wasn't too hard to predict by then.

 

Then: the four major players in the NFL were the Eagles, the Patriots, the Steelers and the Vikings with the Saints as the number one wild card team.

 

Now: The four major players have proven to be: the Patriots, the Saints, the Steelers and the Vikings.

 

Sorry, Philly fans, as soon as your QB1 went down in week 15 your fate as a one and done playoff team was sealed.

 

On the other hand I think every football fan was shocked to see the Tennessee Titans snatch a victory away from KC with their 18 unanswered points. KC fans were probably sick about that.

 

And speaking of the Chiefs - what idiot breaks news that you are open to trading your star quarterback hours before your playoff game? You know, your star QB that led the fucking NFL in passer rating, averaged almost 6 yards per rush and wins your division for you?

 

Yeah, let’s get rid of that guy. And let’s tell the world about it a few hours before he plays for us in the Wild Card playoff match.

 

Sheer. Genius.

 

But I digress. We have eight teams left in the playoffs:

 

NFC (National Football Conference)

 

Atlanta (11-6) vs. Philadelphia (13-3) and New Orleans (12-5) vs Minnesota (13-3)

 

AFC (American Football Conference)

 

 

Tennessee (10-7)  vs. New England (13-3) and Jacksonville (11-6) vs. Pittsburg (13-3)



Tennessee Titans vs. the New England Patriots

 

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. The Tennessee Titans are worst team in the line up. Through sheer determination, luck and the “Chief’s can’t win a fucking playoff game to save their lives” curse - the Titans barely squeaked into the Divisional round but that’s where their season ends.

 

Prediction: New England will crush the overwhelmed Titans.

 

Atlanta Falcons vs. The Philadelphia Eagles

 

The second easy one. With Carson Wentz injured the Eagles are no longer a Super Bowl contender with QB2 Nick Foles leading the team. Foles has had a long decent, though inconsistent career. He’s a fine QB. He is not the man that will beat the Falcons.

 

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons -- but the game will be a closer than  most suspect.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. The Pittsburgh Steelers

 

This is little more difficult to predict. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger is on fire and the Steelers put up the number three offense in the league behind only the Patriots and the Saints. But Jacksonville put together the most uncanny defense the league has seen in a while. Seriously. My roommate had Jacksonville for defense on his Fantasy Football team and he told me about it every week for the entire season:

 

“The Jaguars got me another fifty points on defense! Fifty points! That’s more than Tom Brady!”

 

By comparison the Steelers have the 5th ranked Defense and Jacksonville has the 6th ranked offense. Though, that #6 rank for Jacksonville has mainly been because of the Jag’s excellent running game. In fact, Jacksonville’s QB1 - Blake Bortles had a rather mediocre year being ranked 17th in passing offense - 3,687 yards, 7 yards per throw, 230 yards per game, 21 TD / 13 INT.

 

I just don’t see Bortles cutting up the Steelers defense and I expect Pittsburgh’s pass rush to keep Bortles on the ground. A lot.

 

BUT -  if Jacksonville’s crazy, madman defense shows up healthy, I can see Jags eeking out a win over the Steelers.

 

I think this game could go either way but I’m giving the edge to the Steelers.

 

Prediction: The Steelers in a moderate to low scoring game.

 

New Orleans Saints vs. The Minnesota Vikings

 

Finally. The game of the week. Maybe the most evenly matched game the playoffs will see this year.

 

Hey, remember up above when I talk about that crazy awesome defense the Jag’s put up?  Well, the Jag’s ended up with number two defense of the year. The best defense of the year belongs to the Minnesota Vikings.

 

The Vikings are first in per game points allowed (15.8), first in per game yards allowed (275.9), second in per game pass yards allowed (192.4) and second in per game rush yards allowed (83.6). The Vikings are crushing opponents on critical third down plays. Case Keenum is having the season of his career. Adam Thielen is a wide receiving super star. The front line is healthy and the running game is solid.

 

The Vikings are a solid football team.  

 

Of course, the Saints have Drew Brees. They also have Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara - the duo backs who have crushed defenders this year and became the first ever combo to surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.

 

The Saints are also, a solid football team.

 

On the other hand, the MN Vikings have Harrison Smith. Now, even if you’re a casual fan of the NFL you’ve probably heard of him. And you’ve probably heard he’s good. Or maybe you even think he’s really good.

 

And so did I. But someone recently convinced me he might be the best current player in the NFL. And that’s not hyperbole either.

 

Well, I mean - I’ve always thought Smith was an elite player and believe he was a total snub for the Pro Bowl this year. But, I mean - best player in the NFL? Come on!

 

And then someone went and put together Smith’s numbers for the year and posted, “No matter how good you think Harrison Smith is, he’s better than you think he is.

 

From the article:

 

“Harrison Smith had a passer rating allowed of just 22.0 this season … Just to be clear, that’s not normal. Earl Thomas, arguably the best coverage safety in the NFL, had a passer rating allowed of 80.9 this season. Smith was four-times better than that. Throwing the ball into the dirt on every snap would grant a quarterback a passer rating of 39.6. And yet that would still be nearly twice as good as throwing the ball at Harrison Smith.”

 

And later,

 

“Smith didn’t give up a touchdown in coverage all season, and he had five interceptions and 17 pass deflections. Smith was targeted 42 times on the season, giving up just 23 receptions for 140 yards. For comparison, Earl Thomas gave up more yards (160) on less than half the amount of targets. Smith’s 0.25 yards allowed per coverage snap is among the lowest of any player at any position in the NFL, and his passer rating allowed is absolutely unprecedented.”

 

Bloody hell! That can’t be right! Right? Let me Google some more Harrison Smith information and see if that above information is accurate.

 

Google. Google. Google.

 

Dear God! It is! A QB could throw the ball into the dirt and have a better passing rating than throwing the ball to a receiver covered by Harrison Smith! Holy, insane!

 

Here is what the Pro Football Focus (PFF) has to say about Harrison Smith:

 

“There has been no better player across all positions than Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, who has been the field general for the league’s best defense over the course of the year. Smith’s overall PFF grade of 98.8 was the best mark in the league not only among safeties, but at any position, and is the highest mark we have ever given a safety in over 10 years of grading. His ability to play all over the defense for the Vikings – lining up at both free and strong safety on more than a third of his defensive snaps and even covering the slot against both tight ends and receivers – allows that defense to scheme up virtually anything they want, knowing that they have the moveable chess piece to make it happen and get the right players in the right spots.”

 

Fair enough. I’m sold. (Read the above ”No matter…” link for even more unreal Harrison Smith statistics).

 

Which brings us to:

 

Drew Brees. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Vikings are the more rounded, better team but the Saints have Drew Brees. You know what I’m talking about.

 

It’s like being a fan of a team that has to go against Joe Montana, or Dan Marino, or Tom Brady, or Brett Favre, or Aaron Rodgers. And sometimes you have to go against those QB’s twice per year!

 

That’s painful!

 

And that’s what brings us to the game of the playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints met in week one with the Vikings taking that game 29-19 but that was seventeen weeks ago. Both teams are radically changed and more mature.  

 

If this were a pure numbers game I would say the Vikings have the edge. But there’s that ol’ “clutch” word that gets thrown around the NFL basically meaning, “when it really, really matters - you come through in the clutch.”

 

Drew Brees is serious clutch.

 

But then again, so is Harrison Smith.

 

Prediction: The Vikings in much too close game for my nerves to handle. But, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints win. I’ll be disappointed, but not surprised because - Drew Brees.

 

Second prediction: Whoever wins the Viking / Saints matchup will win the Super Bowl.

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If you like this you might like GCN's very own sports show, View From the Couch

 

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 20:17

New Year, same old Midwest freeze

Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” to a large portion of the country ranging from mid Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.

 

Of course, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold as we’ve all been living with it for more than a week now. Just last week GCN’s guest medical columnist Dr. Daliah Wachs wrote “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating the cold front.

 

Last week temperatures in MN plunged to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica (-16C) and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes in his novel, “The Martian:”

 

“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”

 

Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)

 

Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors or keep their outdoor activities to the bare minimum, and dream of warmer days.

 

They are not so far away.


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If you like this you might like The Dr. Daliah Show