Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bee, Noah, and Meyers examine the Green New Deal to deal with climate change, the real emergency


Two days ago I posted Noah and Meyers take closer looks at what Colbert calls 'the national emergency we didn't need'.  Today, I return to the comedy/late-night talk show host well to look at the latest version of an idea I examined only once, the Green New Deal, which Jill Stein proposed when she visited Detroit in 2016Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is advocating for the latest version and the reaction is about what one would expect, utter horror from the fossil fools.

Samantha Bee had first crack at the proposal and its reaction last week in Green New Deal | February 13, 2019 Act 1 | Full Frontal on TBS.

The Green New Deal has sparked a second red scare among the typically Christmas-loving Fox News crowd as they race to batten down their cows and protect their private jets.
As I mentioned in Colbert, Noah, Meyers, and Bee take on the State of the Union Address, Bee has probably the most distinctive sense of humor about issues; this time I can't attribute her originality to having more time.

Trevor Noah attacked the subject next in Conservatives Slam Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal | The Daily Show.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has released the ambitious Green New Deal to curb climate change, and Fox News obviously hates it.
Noah is the most skeptical of the three comics whose videos I'm embedding today.  He raises good questions about the practicality and cost of the proposals, then notes that the Republicans aren't raising them.  Instead, they're scare-mongering.  I'm not impressed.

Finally, Seth Meyers compared climate change to the national emergency to build the border wall, in last night's Closer Look, declaring The Real National Emergency Is Climate Change in .

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump and his allies freaking out about a Democratic plan to fight climate change.
I don't think all or even most of Ocasio-Cortez's goals are achievable in ten years, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be tried.  I think they should.

Also, I've seen all of this panic over an environmental goal before.  Many of the same people were freaking out over Agenda 21 six years ago, when I wrote "Agenda 21 is the new black helicopter" and Green is the New Red.  It's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle the manatee.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Michigan joins 16-state lawsuit against national emergency declaration


I concluded Noah and Meyers take closer looks at what Colbert calls 'the national emergency we didn't need' with a prediction.
I'm sure I'll be writing more about the national emergency.  For starters, 16 states are suing the Trump administration over the emergency declaration including Michigan and I expect there will be a vote in Congress to overturn it.  Stay tuned.
Here the two videos I linked to, beginning with 16 states sue Trump administration over emergency declaration from CBS News.

A coalition of 16 states led by California have sued the Trump administration Monday over his decision to declare a national emergency to secure funds to build a wall along the southern border. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes joins CBSN over the phone with the latest details.
Cordes not only reported on the 16-state lawsuit, she described the likely course of events for Congress trying to rescind the national emergency.

As I mentioned, Michigan is suing President Trump as WXYZ reports.

Michigan would be joining 15 other states in a lawsuit challenging President Trump's national emergency declaration to secure funding for a border wall.
This is one of the reasons I voted for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

WXYZ mentioned both the lawsuit and possible Congressional response in Trump protested in Ferndale.

Dozens of people took to the streets in Ferndale to protest President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build the border wall.
I can relate to the protesters, as I stood on the same corner that WXYZ reporter Jennifer Ann Wilson opened her report during the People's Climate March in 2017.  As for the demonstrators, I think they have the right idea.  Trump won't listen to them, but Michigan's Congressional delegation likely will.

I promise to have more on this story as it develops.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Noah and Meyers take closer looks at what Colbert calls 'the national emergency we didn't need'


It's time to do for the national emergency President Trump declared on Friday what I did for the polar vortex, Howard Schultz running for president, and the State of the Union Address, let the late-night talk show hosts explain it with jokes.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah aired first, so I begin with Trump Admits There’s No Emergency While Declaring a National Emergency.

President Trump takes the urgency out of national emergency and turns an already bizarre press conference into a full-blown singalong.
Trump's sing-song delivery of the likely course of events was both the smartest thing he said during his speech last Friday and the funniest.  All three of the late night talk show hosts made fun of it, as well as Alec Baldwin on SNL.  However, they all made different jokes about it and I think Noah had the best take, if not the funniest.  Trump might actually understand ideas better and make more sense trying to explain them if he sings them.

Next, Stephen Colbert titled his monologue on The Late Show The National Emergency We 'Didn't Need'.

In a strange and incoherent appearance in the Rose Garden, the President declared both victory and emergency. At the same time.
Colbert's right; I couldn't tell which of his list of silly things he rattled off was real and which he made up for comic effect.  That's the kind of news environment we're in.

Speaking of the news environment, Seth Meyers on Late Night did his best to analyze the situation in Trump Undercuts His National Emergency Declaration: A Closer Look.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump declaring a national emergency and spending a weekend lashing out at critics.
Meyers might be right about any Democrat who replaces Trump earning a Nobel Peace Prize.  I half-suspect Obama got one simply for not being George W. Bush.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about the national emergency.  For starters, 16 states are suing the Trump administration over the emergency declaration including Michigan and I expect there will be a vote in Congress to overturn it.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 18, 2019

'The Wax and the Furious' from 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' for Presidents Day


Happy Presidents Day!  I foreshadowed how I would celebrate today at the end of 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' examines the rise of authoritarianism, when I told my readers to "stay tuned" because "I plan on posting a follow-up to 'Last Week Tonight' on the now-dead Sinclair-Tribune merger and long-dead Warren G. Harding, a double Emmy nominee for Presidents Day."  I concluded that entry by writing "I can't wait to see what he does with the other four presidents."  I got my wish in The Wax and the Furious.

Warren G. Harding and his posse of presidential wax statues team up with Armie Hammer and Russell Crowe to pull off the greatest jockstrap heist of all time.
That was even more hilarious than the original.  I hope it earns an Emmy nomination, too.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' examines the rise of authoritarianism


The Emmy-Award winning "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" returns tonight for Season Six after a three-month break between seasons.  To celebrate his return, I am sharing Authoritarianism from the Season 5 finale.

John Oliver discusses the growing number of authoritarian leaders around the world, their common characteristics, and whether or not one of them is currently our president.
Yikes!  While I've written about authoritarianism before, most notably in a three-part response to Greer's series on Fascism, I haven't mentioned the term since 'Putin's Revenge' on Frontline: Looking forward to next year's Emmys 3.  It was about time I examined it again.

Speaking of examining something again, I'm not done with the season finale of "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver."  I plan on posting a follow-up to 'Last Week Tonight' on the now-dead Sinclair-Tribune merger and long-dead Warren G. Harding, a double Emmy nominee for Presidents Day.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Payless ShoeSource closing all U.S. stores, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse


Last July, I wrote Payless Shoes, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.  Since then, things have gone from bad to worse.  In November, Company Man asked The Decline of Payless...What Happened?

Payless ShoeSource is the largest store of its kind in the United States but has recently had some tough times. Within the past few years Moody's has lowered their credit rating multiple times, they've closed 800 stores, and filed for bankruptcy. This video takes a look at their rise and fall and attempts to provide explanations for all of it.
Company Man's hope that the chain's fortunes did not come to pass, as CBS Miami reported yesterday Payless To Close 2,000 Stores.

Payless reportedly plans to close thousands of stores in what could be the largest retail liquidation.
When I wrote, "the Retail Apocalypse continues, as...Claire's, Brookstone, NineWest, and The Walking Company...declar[ed] bankruptcy last year, [while] Shopko and Charlotte Russe filed for bankruptcy protection this year, and 2019 is still young," I was not kidding.  I expect more retail bankruptcies and liquidations in the months to come, even before the next recession begins.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The highest grossing political speculative fiction films of 2018


After examining the highest grossing movie dramas, comedies, and documentaries about government and politics released during 2018, it's time to recognize the most lucrative genre films about politics and government, including action films that incorporate fantastic or futuristic elements, such as fictional government agencies and countries, in addition to speculative fiction films (science fiction, fantasy, horror, or superhero), most of which I also wrote about in The highest grossing speculative fiction films of 2018.  Here they are from the top 200 at Box Office Mojo.
  1    Black Panther    $700,059,566
  5    Aquaman    $328,547,042
  8    Mission: Impossible - Fallout    $220,159,104
 20    Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald    $159,362,631
 39    The First Purge.    $69,488,745
 55    The Predator (2018)    $51,024,708
 78    Mile 22    $36,108,758
 83    Annihilation    $32,732,301
 84    Isle Of Dogs    $32,015,231
 87    Robin Hood (2018)    $30,824,628
100    Overlord    $21,704,844
102    The Happytime Murders    $20,706,452
108    Sorry to Bother You    $17,493,096
121    The Darkest Minds    $12,695,691
143    Hotel Artemis    $6,708,147   
170    Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero    $3,782,328
The number one movie, both in terms of box office and award nominations, is Black Panther, which has seven Oscar nominations: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score), Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song), Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.  In addition, "Black Panther" won two SAG Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture, two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance and Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media and two awards at the BAFTA Awards for Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects and an EE Rising Star Award for Letitia Wright.  Wow!

The only other speculative fiction film about politics or government in the top 200 to earn Academy Award nominations is Isle of Dogs with two, Best Animated Film and Best Original Score.  It's not likely to win either.  Instead, it should be happy with its Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production, its Art Directors Guild Award for Variety or Awards Show, Music Special or Documentary, its two Golden Trailer Awards for its trailer and poster, and its Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media.

Those are the best films according to the awards shows, but the worst are almost certainly "The Happytime Murders" and "Robin Hood," both of which earned multiple Razzie nominations.  "The Happytime Murders" has five Razzie Nominations, Worst Picture, Worst Actress for Melissa McCarthy, Worst Supporting Actor for Joel McHale, Worst Screen Combo for any two actors or puppets, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.  Yikes! That's worse than "Death of a Nation!"  "Robin Hood" is a little better off with three nominations, Worst Picture, Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel, and Worst Supporting Actor for Jamie Foxx.  The rest of their nominations at other awards programs testify to their awfulness.  "Robin Hood" was nominated for Sequel or Remake That Shouldn't Have Been Made by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, who nominated Melissa McCarthy as Actress Most in Need of a New Agent for her role in "The Happytime Murders."  In addition, has nominations for Worst Movie of the Year from the Golden Schmoe Awards, Houston Film Critics Society Awards, and
St. Louis Film Critics Association.  What a stinker!

Both of these movies are down there with "Baywatch," which had four nominations at the 2018 Razzies.  When I listed it among the eligible films for the first Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies, the reaction was "you just put that there to see if we were paying attention."  Pretty much, and that's the reaction I am hoping for when I list them this year, too.

I conclude with a winning song from "Black Panther" that I didn't include among the nominated movie songs at the 2019 Grammy Awards, "King's Dead" by Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future & James Blake.

Music video by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake performing King's Dead. (C) 2018 Aftermath Records
And here's Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, & Anderson .Paak Tie For Best Rap Performance.

Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake & Anderson .Paak tie for Best Rap Performance. Watch Jay Rock's speech for Best Rap Performance at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.
Congratulations and good luck at the Oscars, where I now think "Black Panther" is favored to win Original Dramatic Score.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

PBS Eons on the evolution of the heart for Valentines Day


Happy Valentines Day!  Since the Fifty Shades film trilogy is now over, it's time to return to an earlier tradition on this blog and celebrate the holiday with science.  On that note, I am sharing The Evolution of the Heart (A Love Story) from PBS Eons.

In order to understand where hearts came from, we have to go back to the earliest common ancestor of everything that has a heart. It took hundreds of millions of years, and countless different iterations of the same basic structure to lead to the heart that you have today.
That's the kind of video I can show to my students.

That's it for Valentines Day.  Stay tuned for the political speculative fiction films of 2018.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The highest grossing and most honored political documentaries of 2018


As I promised twice, today I examine political documentaries, both good and bad.  Here are the most lucrative political documentaries of 2018 from the top 200 at Box Office Mojo.
99    Won't You Be My Neighbor?    $22,835,787
117    RBG    $14,017,361
119    They Shall Not Grow Old    $13,562,516
145    Fahrenheit 11/9    $6,352,306
151    Death of a Nation    $5,885,881
The only one nominated for an Academy Award is "RBG," which has two, Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song, which   On the other hand, both "Fahrenheit 11/9" and "Death of a Nation" have four Razzie nominations each, making this field a combination of the best and worst among political documentaries, although that's not strictly true for "Fahrenheit 11/9."  It has nominations at the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, Cinema Audio Society, and Writers Guild of America in addition to its Razzie nominations for worst actor and supporting actress.  On the other hand, "Death of a Nation" has only its four Razzie nominations.

Including the other two movies in the top 200 grossing films of 2018 cements the impression of the field being a combination of the best and worst in political documentaries.  "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" was not only the top grossing documentary of 2018, it was the most honored, earning 39 wins and 34 nominations, including Best Documentary Feature or its equivalent from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Awards Circuit Community Awards, Chlotrudis Awards, Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, Golden Trailer Awards, and PGA Awards, along with numerous local critics associations and film festivals.  While it's not explicitly political, Mr. Rogers' example of kindness and civility makes for a striking contrast to the current state of political discourse.  On the other hand, "They Shall Not Grow Old" is about the British military in World War I, so it is explicitly about a function of government.  It has four nominations, including one from BAFTA for Best Documentary ("Free Solo" won) and another from the Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Awards).

Outside of the top 200, “Of Fathers and Sons” is the other political documentary feature nominated for an Oscar.  Joining it and "RBG" as political documentaries at the Oscars are four of the five nominated short subjects, "A Night at the Garden" about an infamous Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, "Black Sheep" about racism in England, "Lifeboat" about rescuing refugees from Lybia, and "Period, End of Sentence" about ending the stigma of menstruation in India.  If the members of the Motion Picture Academy wanted to send a domestic political message, they could vote for "A Night at the Garden," but "Black Sheep," "Lifeboat," or "Period, End of Sentence" winning would make statements about racism, xenophobia, and sexism, respectively, so they might work nearly as well and one or all might be better movies to boot.

Since I mean this entry to be a way of compiling a list of eligible documentaries for the Coffee Party of Entertainment Awards for movies, I'm going to add the political and government movie nominees from the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, Cinema Eye Honors Awards, and International Documentary Association not already mentioned.*  From the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, the nominated films are "Crime + Punishment," "Dark Money," "Hitler's Hollywood," "John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Science Fair," and "The Sentence," all of which I discussed last October.  The Cinema Eye Honors Awards add "On Her Shoulders" about Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, "The Final Year" about the last year of the Obama Administration, and "This Is Home: A Refugee Story" about Syrian refugees in the U.S.  Finally, the International Documentary Association contributes "Sky and Ground" about Kurdish refugees, "Jane Fonda in Five Acts" including the actress's activism, and "Mercury 13" about the women who were also initially selected to fly in space.

I think that's a complete enough roster of documentaries for this year's awards, but I could be surprised.  Last year's winner was "Saving Capitalism," which would not have made a comparable list as it didn't earn a nomination at a major awards show until it was nominated at the 2018 News and Documentary Emmy Awards.  I'll see what the voters nominate.

That's it for documentaries.  Stay tuned for the political speculative fiction films of 2018 after Valentines Day.

*Including TV movies, but not series.  I'll save those for an entry about the eligible works for the television awards later this year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Kunstler, K-Dog, and I discuss prehistoric mammals for Darwin Day plus paczki on Fat Tuesday


Happy Darwin Day on Fat Tuesday/Paczki Day!* For today's double celebration, I'm going to be a good environmentalist and recycle three comments and their replies I left at Kunstler's blog recently in response to Kunstler mentioning extinct mammals.

I begin with my comments and their responses to Forecast 2019: Ding Ding ! Margin Call USA in which extinct mammals play a central role.  I began with by expressing my appreciation for Kunstler's use of a paleontological similie.
As a paleontologist, I also have to credit our host for likening Trump to "a behemoth land mammal of the Oligocene."  The largest land mammal ever to walk the face of the planet was Paraceratherium, which lived during the Oligocene and was twice the size of an elephant.  Still, any metaphor can only go so far, as I would like to think the beast was more majestic than Trump ever could be.
Here is a reconstruction of a Paraceratherium compared to an African Elephant and a modern human.


K-Dog, my favorite commenter at Kunstler's blog who I've mentioned here and has commented on this blog, responded with "Giant ground sloth I think."  That prompted me to reply.
Happy New Year, K-Dog!  Now that you've brought up the topic, you've made me realize that I've never written about ground sloths at my blog.  Their living cousins the tree sloths have earned my attention instead.  I'll have to correct that oversight, especially since there is a PBS Eons video about them.  Maybe for Darwin Day.  If so, I'll try to remember to thank you.
On that note, I present How Sloths Went From the Seas to the Trees from PBS Eons.

The story of sloths is one of astounding ecological variability, with some foraging in the seas, others living underground, and others still hiding from predators in towering cliffs. So why are their only living relatives in the trees?
Thank you, K-Dog.  Now for the rest of my response to you.
Also that's an apt comparison, right down to size, shambling gait, and being as stupid and more dangerous than it looks.  The only problem is that the giant ground sloths are Pleistocene critters, not Oligocene.  I worked among their fossils when I did my M.S. thesis at Rancho La Brea.
Kunstler responded to both of us, much to my astonishment.
I actually wrote a novel about the giant ground sloth: “An Embarrassment of Riches,” (Doubleday, 1985). Wasn’t well received. Set in 1805. My two heroes, uncle-and-nephew botanists from Phila, are sent on a mission to the Southern wilderness by Jefferson to find Megatherium, the giant sloth. They have many peculiar adventures…. It was fun to write — JHK
Here is my favorite cover to the book out of three versions.


Now I'll actually have to read it.

Kunstler mentioned ground sloths again in State of the Union.
"[L]ocal hero rapper Big Boi’s triumphal entry in a limo, nearly lost inside what looked like the pelt of a giant ground sloth — an eight-year-old’s idea of what it means to be important" — once again, a paleontological reference!  Keep them coming, I love them!  I'll be sure to remember them for Darwin Day, which is next week!
True to my word, I'm posting them here.

That's not all.  Follow over the jump for another exchange involving Kunstler, K-Dog, and prehistoric animals.