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[picture credit: Irish Times]

From the Irish Times:

Read this article and watch the 2-minute video, and scare yourself shitless.

 

 

 

Oh, how the Tomatometer can be right on for me, and then completely off. Yesterday I reviewed Leave No Trace with a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I have it 4 stars.

In contrast, Blockers has a score of 83% and it gets half a star from me.

It starts out well enough, when three girls walk up the sidewalk to their elementary school on the first day of school. Three parents stand there, slightly teary eyed, seeing them off. The girls hold hands and gingerly walk up the steps of the school into their new lives. The parents realize that they may see more of each other in the years to come.

Roll forward to the “end” of school – prom night. The girls have become fast friends, and so have the parents. Spying on a chat log one of the girls leaves on in her room, the parents realize their daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. They freak out and make their own dubious pact to block this from happening.

The entire movie is a string of contrived situations, trite prom scenes that have been used in every movie about proms since movies have been made, with accents like unrealistic vomiting in the limo. I have a disdain for all movies with graphic and explicit projectile vomiting. Inexplicably, they had to add a couple of flashes of close-ups of hairy dad testicles being squeezed for no reason in the plot other than to be, well, gross. It’s hard to un-see those images once you were subjected to them. Yuck.

I watched the movie because it was late, I was too tired to read, and I kept thinking it would get better. I chuckled and laughed at times, not because it was funny, but mostly because the movie was so bad, it was a laugh of embarrassment.

83% on the Tomatometer, go figure!

Do not waste your time or money.

Will (Ben Foster) is a young homeless veteran haunted by demons most of us can’t even imagine. He lives completely off the grid in the woods outside of Portland, Oregon with his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie). By off the grid I mean under a tarp deep in the forest, hiding their footprints on the way in so nobody knows they are there. Tom’s mother died, we don’t know how, before she can remember. Will teaches his daughter survival skills as well as the laws of homelessness. She is surprisingly educated and well-adjusted.

But then they get caught, and social services closes in on them, trying to integrate them into society one step at a time. Tom takes well to her new environment, but Will cannot function in the normal world. Again and again he walks away with nothing but a set of boots, a backpack and his teenage daughter in tow.

Leave No Trace is an intense drama accentuated by brilliant cinematography and a poignant musical score. It gives us a view into the desperate world of homelessness and has us guessing about the horrible trauma a man must have gone through to end up like Will in the wilderness. And yet, the support system is not demonized in this story, the social workers are caring and giving and really trying to help. The friends they meet along their journey are a motley group of aged hippies, beaten veterans and country folks trying to find their way. We see a corner of Americana that is as real as Starbucks and freeways and iPhones, but just a few miles off into the hinterland, past a few stop lights at the edge of town. That is where life happens, accompanied by a guitar in calloused hands, stringy long hair tied in a ponytail by a scrunchy, in the shelters of beat-up trailers under giant trees.

Leave No Trace received a perfect 100% by Rotten Tomatoes and it deserves every bit of it.

Really, Rudy?

No Americans are involved in this indictment. How can a logical mind therefore conclude that Trump is completely innocent from that?

Russians were caught committing crimes against the United States, trying to make Clinton look bad and Trump look good. That’s why it’s called the “Russian Collusion Scandal” in the first place. Obviously, the attack happened. Some key Americans were involved, several have plead guilty, and one is in jail.

We have a crime. We have a number of Americans pleading guilty in relation to it. We have many Russians indicted supporting that the crime actually happened. And from that you conclude Trump is innocent?

If I were Trump, I’d be getting queasy right about now. The walls are closing in from all sides. The American people should find out, by investigators revealing the truth of what happened, one layer at a time.

Americans should not be listening to the propaganda of Trump himself and his ilk.

 

I am a Californian, and I am proud of it. We used to be the world’s 7th largest economy, if we were a country of our own. We’re now the 5th, after surpassing France and then just recently the United Kingdom. India has also edged ahead of France recently.

Germany, you’re next. Here we come!

For comparison, look at puny Russia. Putin likes to think he makes a difference, and by weaponry perhaps he does. But Russia’s economy is smaller than that of New York City.

And this is also a message for all those that keep bashing California and Governor Brown for being “liberal.” California has 12% of the population of the United States but produces 14% of its GDP. I can say that our state has a $6 billion surplus and pays into the United States treasury more than any other state. In other words, California taxpayers are subsidizing the “poor” states of our union to a large degree.

Now don’t make me put up a red / blue map superimposed over the map of the states who fund the United States treasury and those who drag on it.

And now, back to work!

Almost 20 years ago I did Flower 1 and Flower 2This year, I added three more. Each painting is on a 30 x 24 canvas. I cut raw canvas, linen or burlap into shapes, like stems, leaves, blossoms, or background areas, and glued them to the raw canvas. Each painting also got a two inch canvas “frame” around it. I gave the whole thing a coat of gesso. Finally, I painted the flowers over the glued shapes. So each of these paintings has a texture and I always invite the viewer to touch. So, Flower 1 and 2 below were done in 2000, and I just added the other three now in 2018. Is this now called a “quintych” analogous to diptych (set of two paintings) or triptych (set of three paintings)?

Flower 1

 

Flower 2

 

Flower 3

 

Flower 4

 

Flower 5

 

Pino Lella is a 17-year-old Italian boy living with his family in Milan in 1943 as World War II comes into its final chapter. To escape the draft of Italian boys into the Nazi’s war and face even odds of getting killed on the Russian front within months of deployments, Pino reluctantly volunteers and is assigned as a driver to a Nazi general. In this position he happens to be in a front-row seat to observe the war and the machinations of the Nazis behind the scenes. But along with the doubtful privilege of serving one of the top commanders comes the branding of being a traitor in the view of his Italian countrymen, friends and even family.

Beneath a Scarlett Sky is a novel, but it is dramatized around the true story of the real person Pino Lella and his actual experiences during the war.

Early on, Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler hit it off as two open fascists. When Hitler decided to wage war, he started an alliance with Mussolini and the Italy German pact was a powerful force early in the war. But Italy fell earlier, and Mussolini was captured, and then freed. He served as a puppet leader under the Germans in the latter years of the war. The Italian people were brutalized both by the Italian Fascists loyal to Mussolini, and the German occupation force that was in Italy presumably to “protect” the nation from the Allied Forces. In reality, the Germans looted Italy, both of its young men for the war effort, and later of its goods, food, manufacturing, and industrial output. As it was custom for the Nazis, Jews were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps or into forced labor. Any non-cooperating Italians were forced to perform slave labor duties until they died. The Germans called it Vernichtung durch Arbeit (destruction through labor).

Atrocities by the Germans abounded. Here is a passage describing how General Leyer, one of the central protagonists, separates a child from her mother – while he knew it was forever:

A few moments later, a woman pushed through the crowd, helping a pale, sweating little girl about nine years old.

“Tell her that I am going to save her daughter,” General Leyers said.

Pino balked a moment before translating.

The woman began to sob. “Thank you. Thank you.” “Tell her I will get the girl medical help and make sure she never comes to Platform Twenty-One again,” the general said. “But the girl must come alone.”

“What?” Pino said.

“Tell her,” Leyers said. “And there is no argument. Either her daughter is saved, or she is not, and I’ll find someone more agreeable.”

Pino didn’t know what to think, but told her.

The woman swallowed but said nothing.

The women around her said, “Save her. Do it!”

At last, the sick girl’s mother nodded, and Leyers said to the SS guards, “Take her to my car, and wait with her there.” The Nazis hesitated until Colonel Rauff shouted at them to comply. The girl, though weak and feverish, went hysterical when they took her from her mother’s arms. Her shrieks and cries could be heard throughout the station while Leyers ordered the rest of the people out of the boxcar. He walked in front of them, looking at each in turn before stopping in front of a girl in her late teens.

— Sullivan, Mark. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel (pp. 347-348). Lake Union Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky helped me understand the nature of the war in Italy so much better than I ever knew. That is actually surprising, because I could have had much more insightful knowledge of what actually happened had I just sat down with my paternal grandfather when he was still alive. He died in 1985 at the age of 80. We don’t know much about his role in the war, but he was off with the Bundeswehr all through the war, and in the final years he was stationed in Italy. He never talked about his experiences with me, or with anyone as far as I know.

But he was there, he was one of the Nazis described in Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Maybe that’s why he never talked about it.

 

 

Here is another word salad by the President of the United States. This is what he feeds to his supporters. It is really worth their while to listen to vapid fillers like this? I don’t see how you can admire somebody whose thoughts are so poorly organized that he will stand in front of a few thousand people and utter this.

Fifty percent of the people of the United States have a below average IQ. Perhaps this is what those people want to hear?

I prefer Crocodile Rock.

We have good friends who live in Hawai’i, on the Hilo side, just a few miles from the volcano. They are under alert watch, and depending on a change of direction of the flow, they might have to evacuate with only minutes’ notice. Some of the flows travel at 17 miles per hour. If the volcano is only 10 miles away, you have maybe 30 minutes to get away.

They sent us the photograph above, taken by one of their friends. This is not lava we’re looking at, but the reflected glow of the lava from the clouds above the volcano.

If you have never been near lava flow, you cannot imagine its power and its terrible force. Lava is nothing like the “red stuff” you had to jump over in the early video games of the 1980s. Lava is 2000 degrees hot, and you can feel the heat radiating off it from a hundred feet away. Standing within reach is burning hot. I have taken a stick of wood (the proverbial 10 foot pole) and poked it near the lava, and it instantly incinerates. Anything in its path is consumed by fire instantly and rapidly.

The Hawai’ians believe in the legend of Pele, the goddess of the volcano. It’s no wonder, after observing the unworldly power of the volcano, that the Hawai’ian people created legends around it.

Kīlauea is a currently active volcano that is located on the island of Hawaiʻi and is still being extensively studied. Many Hawaiians believe Kilauea to be inhabited by a “family of fire gods”, one of the sisters being Pele, who is believed to govern Kilauea and is responsible for controlling its lava flows.

— Wikipedia

[Apologies for the frequent commercials in this video]

The video above is about 13 minutes long and shows very graphic views of the lava, as well as what it does to whatever gets in its way. Roads are obliterated, covered by many feet of black lava rock. Houses in the way simply vanish. When Pele is done, there is literally nothing left.

The Hawai’ian islands have formed for millions of years, and they are still forming now. They are not stopping just because we are here now and building cities next to the volcano. Hawai’i is still growing. New land is created by the volcano spilling lava into the ocean. Decades from now, palm trees will grow on that brand new land and plant roots will start eroding the lava into black soil. And a thousand years from now, somebody will level the ground and build a resort hotel on it.

We can observe geological processes right in front of our eyes.

And we are an awe.

Thinking of translations from German has reminded me of The Panther – so I repost it here. I find it phenomenally difficult to translate a poem to another language. It’s a unique art form that way – very culture bound, unlike literature, music and visual arts.

Norbert Haupt

When I was in grade school in German class, my teacher had us memorize poems. One of the poems I can still recite flawlessly today. It is “Der Panther/The Panther” by Rainer Maria Rilke, written in 1902, and it goes like this:

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf –. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

Poetry, as always, is exceptionally difficult to translate, if not impossible. Here I found a surprisingly good translation, credit Wikipedia

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In the last couple of months I have been asked by several sites to provide contract signatures on my computer screen.

The screen shot above shows such a screen. I was supposed to use my mouse and provide my signature.

This is so utterly foolish, I can’t believe it’s happening, and I called the company and refused. I am not able to sign my name with a mouse and make it look like anything even close to my normal signature. I can’t even properly spell my name in block letters with a mouse. The best I can do is write an X.

Go try it. Open up Microsoft Paint or any other drawing program and try to “sign” your name with your mouse. It’s impossible.

I understand using a stylus and sign on a screen. We do it all the time for delivery services like UPS. I can sign my name on a smart phone app with my fingernail – sort of.

But signing with my mouse – that is completely and utterly impossible. Anyone could do it, and I could not prove is disprove it was me.

What are these companies thinking when they ask us to sign our name using a mouse?

Unemployable

Roses are red

Tacos are enjoyable

Don’t blame immigrants

Because you’re unemployable

GQ published a list of 21 books you don’t have to read. It lists Huckleberry Finn twice, so I am only showing 20 below.

Two are on my list of books I have read twice, even. Those are highlighted in green.

 

I found it surprising and refreshing that I have actually read six of the books on this list (green and yellow) and tried to read another five (orange) but couldn’t finish them.

What I found most valuable about the GQ article itself is that it provides a rich list of alternative books to read instead – and thus my reading list has just been expanded tremendously.

Beginner’s Hawaiian, by Zelie Duvauchelle Sherwood, is prominently displayed on the bookshelf behind my desk. It is there not for frequent studying of the language, but to provide me with constant and daily reminders of my love of the Hawaiian language, its sound and its music. Right behind is War and Peace, next to Savage Harvest. If you are interested, click on the links for my respective reviews. My copy of Savage Harvest is originally dedicated and signed by the author, but I digress.

Thumbing through Beginner’s Hawaiian reminded me of my post about the Hawaiian Language and E ku’u Morning Dew, which contains one of my favorite Hawaiian songs. Enjoy.

One of my friends and readers noticed my post titled Dirty Deeds and Bible Verses and promptly called me out about comparing the Bible and the Quran. I should have known better. As much as I read, I have not read the Bible nor the Quran, so I am not much of an authority. I can pull up passages with the best of them, but I cannot make a sound and winning argument. Of course, I am an atheist, so I am entitled to not knowing. Wolfgang is a linguist, a scholar, and a Christian who has written extensively about the Quran and Islam. So he shot back at me via email, which is am reprinting here with his permission.

First in the original German:

Jeff Sessions würde ich eine andere Stelle des Neuen Testaments entgegenhalten: Apostelgeschichte 5,29: „Man muß Gott mehr gehorchen als den Menschen.“ Ich kann mir kaum vorstellen, daß Gott es befürworten würde, den Kindern die Eltern wegzunehmen. Römer 13 ist deshalb problematisch, weil die Stelle vorauszusetzen scheint, daß der Staat nur das Gute befiehlt.

Du hast völlig recht, lieber Norbert, wenn Du davor warnst, Koran- oder Bibelstellen zu zitieren, um irgendeine politische Auffassung zu untermauern und sogar „Dirty Deeds“ zu rechtfertigen.

Allerdings ist ein gewaltiger Unterschied zwischen Bibel und Koran. Das Alte Testament enthält keine unmittelbar als göttliche Offenbarung an den heutigen Leser gerichteten Befehle wie der Koran („Ihr Gläubigen, tut das und das …“), sondern Erzählungen, und zwischen Neuem Testament und Koran, zwischen Jesus und Mohammed ist ein himmelweiter Unterschied. Auf der einen Seite sehen wir einen Mann, der Feindesliebe predigte, niemals zur Tötung „Ungläubiger“ oder anderer Menschen aufforderte, einen Mann, der Giganten des Geistes wie Tolstoi und Dostojewski faszinierte – und auf der anderen Seite einen Staatsführer, Feldherrn und Eroberer, der Gefangene machte und Anteil an der Beute bekam.

Überaus bezeichnend für den Unterschied zwischen Jesus und Mohammed ist die Haltung der beiden Religionsstifter zur Steinigung. Von Mohammed wird mehrfach überliefert, dass er die Steinigung für nötig hielt. In der Sammlung Al-Buhari steht das folgende Hadith (Reclam-Ausgabe Seite 451): „An einem Freitag steinigte Ali (Gott möge an ihm Wohlgefallen haben) eine Frau. Er sagte: ‚Ich habe sie gesteinigt, wie der Gesandte Gottes (Gott segne ihn und schenke ihm Heil) es in vergleichbaren Fällen getan hat.‘“ Und Jesus? Jeder kennt seine wunderbaren Worte (Johannesevangelium, Kapitel 8): „Wer von euch ohne Sünde ist, werfe den ersten Stein auf sie!“ und „Geh hin und sündige von jetzt an nicht mehr!“

Fazit: Die Menschenrechte sind mit dem Gesamttext des Neuen Testaments (auch da gibt es problematische Stellen) zu ca. 95 Prozent vereinbar. Der Koran dagegen ist ein Buch, das an vielen, vielen Stellen radikal und massiv den heute geltenden Menschenrechten widerspricht.

And here my translation:

I would counter Jeff Sessions with another citation of the New Testament: Acts 5.29: “We must obey God rather than men.” I can hardly imagine that God would support taking parents away from their children. Roman 13 is troubling because the passage seems to assume that the state only orders benevolence.

You are right, dear Norbert, when you warn about citing Quran or Bible verses in order to provide a foundation for a political view or even to justify “dirty deeds.”

There is, however, a massive difference between the Bible and the Quran. The Old Testament contains no divine epiphany directed at today’s readers as the Quran does (“believers, thou shalt do this and that…”), but instead tells stories, and there is a sky high difference between the New Testament and the Quran, as well as Jesus and Mohammed. On the one hand we see a man who preached loving your enemies, who never ordered the deaths of non-believers or anyone else, a man who fascinated giants of thought like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky – and on the other hand we see a statesman, a commander and conqueror, who took prisoners and his part of the loot.

The difference between Jesus and Mohammed is particularly highlighted by the attitude of the two founders of religions towards stoning. We know from multiple citations that Mohammed considered stoning necessary.  In the collection Al-Buhari we find the following Hadith (German Reclam edition page 451): “On a Friday Ali (Allah may be pleased with him) stoned a woman. He said: ‘I have stoned her, as the envoy of Allah (may Allah bless and praise him) has done so in comparable situations.'”And Jesus? Everyone knows his wonderful words (John 8.6): “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” and “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on sin no more.”

Conclusion: Human rights are compatible with about 95 percent of the text of the New Testament (while there are also some problematic locations). The Quran, however, is a book that in many, many places radically and massively contradicts today’s generally accepted human rights.

For further reading about comparisons between religions, and particularly strong condemnation of Islam, may I direct you to The End of Faith – by Sam Harris – here is my review written in 2009.

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