Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Lesson: Don't Wave To Police

Not posting on police violence toward U.S. civilians isn't because there's been none.  Now, when you wave to police, it risks provoking the kind of escalating confrontation that got the unarmed 17yo Deven Guilford shot seven times and killed after flashing his headlights to alert an officer that his high-intensity headlights appeared to be set on high-beam.  And don't expect the district attorney to do justice:  you and your mom (whom the police beat while tazing you) will be fed to the local prosecution machine and driven to penury fighting fabricated charges.

Apparently the only safe strategy is not to be noticed at all.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Butcher's Graphic Novel DOWN TOWN

Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, Codex Alera, and the Cinder Spires series, has just released a Dresden Files story in the form of his Down Town graphic novel collection from Dynamite Entertainment.  Fans of the Dresden Files (worshipfully reviewed here since 2008) will want to read them for completeness, but they contain enough backstory that one need not already be a fan to follow and enjoy.  (The backstory isn't heavy, and doesn't distract.)  Readability for those who don't already know the novels is an improvement from War Cry, in which prior knowledge of Harry's allies is important when help arrives in the nick of time.  Down Town feels the most solid Dresden Files graphic novel so far.  The art by Carlos Gomez gives a distinct character to everyone readers have only imagined from the novels, and co-writer Mark Powers has helped craft Butcher's concept and outline as a fully-developed graphic novel.

Down Town opens a few months after the close of White Night.  This is important, as it drives the story villain and forces Harry into confrontation/cooperation with the gangster Marcone, whom Harry just helped become a signatory to the Unseelie Accords (a treaty between the world's major supernatural forces).  Now that Marcone is the "Baron" of Chicago, and his protection rackets include guarantees against supernatural threats, he's attracted a new class of adversary.  When the action begins, Molly is giving Harry attitude about his instruction methods while, unbeknownst to most of Chicago, an awful menace threatens the city.  Mostly, because Marcone has claimed it.  Which, of course, Harry's signature made possible.


Readers of the books will immediately discover something the books don't offer: omniscient perspective.  The main story line in the Dresden Files is all first-person from Harry's perspective, which limits what Butcher can show the reader (by limiting what Harry can know without spoiling the story solution).  While this means developments can be a surprise to the reader, they limit the things the story can do to build suspends.  Remember how much more exciting it was to see a Hitchcock scene when you knew about the bomb ticking beneath the table?  Omniscient perspective lets Butcher show you what in a Dresden Files book would be the villain's off-screen action.  It helps paint the villain's perspective and motives when they're not immediate and personal.  In a work this length, it aids the setup so the story feels believable while making sure the reader doesn't miss any of the mayhem occurring anywhere in town.  Although the short stories from secondary characters' perspective offer a view into their minds, Down Town offers a view into Harry's mind, then Molly's, during the same story arc.  It's fun to watch how they (mis)understand what's going on about them and haul themselves out of one jam after another.

As with the Dresden Files novels, Down Town depicts the secondary characters with all the strengths they possess:  Marcone's iron will, Molly's quick-thinking use of less-flashy magic, and Murph's heroism in the face of unreasonable circumstance.  Down Town provides enough disasters, twists, and reversals to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and as with the Dresden Files universe when it's at its best the solution to the story's problem isn't more force but more finesse.  It's a fun story, showing Harry and his friends and frenemies pitted against a supernatural threat perfectly suited to the Dresden Files universe.

Although the story is solid enough to entertain those who aren't established fans of the books, the additional color on Molly's apprenticeship, Muphy's off-screen police work, Bob's local spirit contacts, and so forth will especially endear the story to fans who can't get enough of the characters and their world.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hilary's Worst Nightmare? Not Trump: Sanders.

In explaining his decision to run for President, Trump described himself as Hilary's worst nightmare.  Trump hasn't been reading the news.  According to CNN, Bernie Sanders would beat Trump by an even larger margin than Hillary Clinton.

Hillary's worst nightmare is a real liberal, capable of getting liberal votes instead of merely getting "Defeat the Republicans" votes.

To emphasize: Bernie Sanders had better polling against Trump than Hillary Clinton.  Among registered voters surveyed for the CNN poll,  Clinton would beat Trump 56% to 40%, whereas Sanders would defeat Trump 59% to 38%.

As for Trump, his "I'm not Hillary Clinton" candidacy doesn't seem to have done him much good among voters, even if he's got the highest name recognition in the un-thinned Republican field.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Iced Tea Report: Hungry's on Memorial Fails the Iced Tea Refill Test

If you can spot what's wrong with this glass of iced tea, you're doing better than the staff of Hungry's CafĂ© & Bistro on Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas.  (Reviews on Yelp)

Normally poor iced tea performance is balanced by something going right with the food, but the food came so slowly I am aware only that we avoided cannibalism, and can't really report with authority on how anything tasted because we'd gone feral.

Usually I stop at the Hungry's on Rice Blvd., where I'm sure the tea is larger and I've been able to persuade servers to keep it full.

Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cop Killers

A "Black Lives Matter" activist named Sandra Bland died recently in the jail of Waller County, Texas.  Sandra Bland, 28, was about to begin a new job at Texas A&M University before she was killed in custody.  Pulled over ostensibly for failure to signal a lane change, she was arrested rather than cited.  To defend itself from criticism of the arrest, the department released a video showing her arrest by an officer who later asserted the unarmed woman had "assaulted" him.  Although the video contains obvious signs of editing, the department denies that the video was ever edited.

Speaking with her mother about her new job, Bland had said, "My purpose is to go back to Texas and stop all social injustice in the South."

Well, Waller County had an answer for that, didn't it?

Instead of protecting the citizens, police in the United States have a developed a reputation for using force to coerce citizens into complying with a variety of ridiculous demands (why did Sandra need to exit her vehicle to receive a citation for failure to signal a lane change?), or skipping the demands and moving straight to the killing.  The police killing of Caroline Small emphasizes the ability of police to kill unarmed civilians with impunity even if they aren't men trying to purchase an unloaded air rifle at Walmart, or for allegedly shoplifting.  Maybe – at least in New York, when the officer is a rookie – there's at least an apology for killing a civilian for deciding to take the stairs.  The culture of killing American civilians is an epidemic among U.S. law enforcement.  Suicide by cop just doesn't work in places like the United Kingdom:  they don't kill people.  While acknowledging that the United States has a greater population (~319 million) than the United Kingdom (~64 million), the rate of police killings of civilians is vastly different than the population difference:  despite that U.S. data on police killings is incomplete because reporting to the F.B.I. is purely voluntary, the U.S. death toll from justifiable killings by police was more than 400 individuals, while British police discharged their weapons in the line of duty a grand total of three (3) times, with zero fatalities.  British shootings of civilians by police is extremely controversial even in the case of a known gangster.  In the U.S., the hypermilitarized "police" now occupying our cities seem virtually expected to kill.  For some real perspective:  U.S. police killed more people this March than U.K. police have killed since 1900.  Last year, the death toll was 1,100 killed in the U.S. compared to twenty-six (26) in the U.S.  This isn't some multiple based on population difference, it's a cultural problem in U.S. "police" forces.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

FIFA Bans Whistleblower (who's 70 and has cancer)

FIFA previously halted ethics proceedings against one of its officials who'd been caught using his FIFA office to benefit from corruption;  the 70-year-olf had been diagnosed with colon cancer and guaranteed FIFA he'd never officiate again.  However, the ex-official turned state's evidence, resulting in prosecutions that included multiple extradition requests from Switzerland, so FIFA retaliated with the gratuitous step of imposing a lifelong ban against his officiating in national or international soccer events.