Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Golden State Outlasts OKC & Head to NBA Finals Again

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

Yes, the Golden State Warriors were one of those rare teams all season long, pushing the boundaries of what we had previously known was possible.

They raced out to a record 24-0 undefeated start, best of any professional sports team in North America throughout history. They continued on a hot pace all season, managing to become the first NBA team in history to avoid losing two straight games all season regular season long. Finally, they managed to complete a 73-9 record, thus surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that had held the previous mark for regular season success with their 72-10 season, which many felt would be impossible to improve upon.

The Warriors followed this script more of less through the first two rounds, beating Houston and then Portland 4-1 in each series, respectively.

Then came this tough series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had just managed to dispatch another historically dominant team in the San Antonio Spurs. They looked like a dangerous team and, indeed, it was immediately apparent that the Warriors would have their hands full against them.

Golden State lost the opening game, but then managed to win the second one to tie the series up at 1-1.

But when the series shifted to Oklahoma City for Games 3 and 4, the Thunder suddenly seemed to own all of the momentum. They dominated the Warriors, and suddenly, it almost felt like Golden State's dominance last season and throughout this season might as well have been a distant memory. Quite frankly, it was hard to see how the Warriors could come back and make a series of it, let alone pull it out.

Still, it was time to take things one game at a time. That Golden State did as the series shifted back to the Bay area. The Warriors managed to pull off a solid victory there, as they stopped the bleeding a bit, pulling the series to 3 games to 2, in favor of OKC.

Game 6 was perhaps the biggest deciding game of the series. If OKC was going to pull off what would amount to a shocking upset, it would have to be here. But Kevin Durant did not have a particularly good game, and OKC in general just seemed a little flat, particularly in the game's final minutes. OKC had a lead of seven points as the game approached the final minutes, but it was all Golden State towards the end, as they (and particularly Klay Thompson) hit clutch shot after clutch shot. In the end, they managed to pull off a difficult road win to force a decisive Game 7, which they had the privilege of hosting.

It was an intense Game 7, but you could sense that the Warriors just refused to give up after having gone through so much just in this series alone.

So now, the Warriors move onto the NBA Finals, for a rematch of last year's Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

Golden State won last year, but the Cavs were hurting at the time. Right now, they look fully healthy, and despite a tougher challenge than expected against Toronto, Cleveland should feel quite well rested entering into this series.

That said, Golden State has been tested now more than they had really been last year, and they are probably a better team for it. Also, they have been here before, and know what it is like to win. So, they have some decisive advantages, as well.

This is going to be a great series!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Chris Cornell Scores Huge Legal Victory to Obtain Rights to Temple of the Dog Material

It has now been a quarter of a century since Chris Cornell produced music in the wake of the death of former Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood, to serve as a sort of musical eulogy for him.

The album ended up a huge success on every level, and helped make both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam that much bigger, at a time when the Seattle grunge bands were exploding into international prominence already.

The sole album of this makeshift group exploded into prominence and heavy rotation on the MTV video circuit, as well as on radio stations across the country, with "Hunger Strike" in particular.

Man, I'm sure it would be too much to hope that Temple of the Dog might release some new stuff together. Maybe even another album?

Getting ahead of myself, I know, but we are entitled to hope, right?

It would be a bit strange to see them come together again, and I wonder what the older versions of each of these guys, and the different directions that their musical careers have taken, would influence and inform whatever music they might make? How would a new Temple of the Dog album sound now, in the 2010's?

Well, who can say for sure?

What can be said for certain is that the original album was released on April 11, 1991 - over a quarter of a century last month (sorry that I missed the anniversary date), and that it left a strong mark on music, particularly on the legacy of both of the major bands involved. It was a powerful, and generally positive, experience for all parties involved. That was so much the case, that this was what Cornell kept in mind when he decided to go ahead and join Audioslave.

Over a quarter of a century after this incredible album was released, and it still lives on to this day.

Here's to a great album from some tremendously talented musicians, back before they became household names!

Temple of the Dog Have Major Plans Following Chris Cornell’s Legal Victory By Brett Buchanan -  May 26, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Golden State Warriors Beat OKC on Road, Stay Alive in Playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors looked spent and ready to pack it in through the first four games of this series. They had lost Game 1 at home, although they did score a decisive Game 2 victory.

But then, in Games 3 and 4 in OKC, Golden State did something that they had not done all season long: lose two games in a row.

For the first time in either of the last two seasons, the Warriors had their backs pressed against the wall so much, they could feel the stucco. Over 200 teams in NBA history have found themselves down 3-1 in a series, and only nine of those teams fought their way back to win the series.

To say those are long odds would be an understatement.

Luckily, they had a home game for Game 5, and they took full advantage of the opportunity to get out of OKC and bring the series back to the Bay area, using that to earn a nice, solid victory, to bring this series to 3-2. The Warriors managed to avoid elimination in that one, but the next game would be a bit tougher, as they had to go back on the road now.

Still, OKC would be hosting Game 6, and that would mean that this one would be infinitely tougher for the Golden State Warriors to escape from.

Indeed, the Thunder were winning with five minutes left, and enjoyed a fairly comfortable seven point lead, when the Warriors did their thing and caught fire. Suddenly, all of those missed shots earlier in the series, which were so uncharacteristic of this team in particular, could be forgotten. Suddenly, these were the same Warriors that dominated the NBA to win the crown last year, and to dominate the league as they enjoyed a record winning season at 73-9 this year.

Klay Thompson hit a record 11 3-pointers last night, and a huge chunk of them came in the clutch, during those final five minutes. Overall, he enjoyed a 41-point night, and was instrumental in helping to lift the Warriors over OKC. On top of it, he said that he could have had more, as there were a couple of wide open shots that he missed. Still, hitting 11 three-points is a pretty remarkable achievement.

He kept Golden State in the game when they were teetering on the edge, losing by double digits, by being the only Warrior to hit clutch shots at that point. In the game's final minutes, he was joined by superstar Stephen Curry, who finally started hitting his shots, as well, during those final few minutes. That included some truly dagger in the heart kind of shots to essentially ice a game for Golden State that had seemed to belong to OKC just a few short minutes ago.

Curry scored 29 points overall as well, and played very well down the stretch, although this was Klay Thompson's night.

It needs to be said that that was not the whole story, either. Golden State's defense toughened up in a big way, forcing turnovers, although some of those turnovers could have been a product of suddenly sloppy play by OKC players, who seemed to show signs of tightening up.

Still, all in all, it was a familiar story, after an early part of the series that suddenly felt unfamiliar. While Golden State had struggled and looked uncharacteristically vulnerable through Game 4, trailing 3 games to 1, the Warriors now have taken two in a row, and have forced a decisive Game 7 on their home floor, at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Now, perhaps this would be a good time to remind everyone of just how dominant home teams have tended to be in Game 7's throughout history, although the same could be said just days ago for teams holding series leads of 3-1. So, it is difficult to say for sure what is going to happen, and that means, simply, we'll just have to tune in.

If I had to put money on it, I would say that, most likely, the Golden State Warriors take Game 7 at home, and move on to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers again in the NBA Finals.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Al Gore Still Denies Hillary Clinton, Says Will Endorse Democratic Nominee After Convention

Hillary Clinton really is close to receiving the Democratic nomination that would obviously mean so much to her. She has tried to get it before and, as we all remember, failed, ultimately losing to Barack Obama.

That was eight years ago. Now, she clearly feels that it is her turn, and she made sure that she did not repeat the same mistakes that cost her the election last time. Observe her methods, which is to obtain a war chest of funds from major corporate backers, including everyone's favorite Wall Street firms, particularly Goldman Sachs. Somehow, she also managed to make sure that the Democratic party elites, the establishment base, would be on her side no matter what, even when polls had her struggling or outright losing to potential Republican opposition candidates, while Democratic rival Bernie Sanders did much better, and was not hampered by the crushing negative ratings that Hillary has. Make sure that all of the proper tools are used to ensure that the voters themselves cannot choose someone truly progressive policies made following Carter's victory in 1976, which the Democrats did not want to see repeated), so that you have not only delegates with election wins, but superdelegates who can decide things regardless of what voters demanded. Make sure that you enforce the party's closed primaries in numerous states. Finally, just to assure her victory, several poll stations were inexplicably closed, while many voters were taken off the list or downright turned back when they showed up on election day. Then, brag that you beat your closest rival, Bernie Sanders, by two million or so votes, conveniently keeping out all the rigging of the system that worked in your favor.

Yes, Hillary has done some shady stuff throughout her career, and particularly in this election. Despite being the overwhelming favorite and presumed Democratic nominee since well before she ever officially announced her bid for the White House this time around, she still cannot manage to pin down the nomination that continually eludes her.

Somehow, she and her supports, which of course include the Democratic establishment, cannot seem to understand why such practices made to ensure that their candidate is the candidate just are not winning her any friends. In fact, they are increasing the issues with distrust and unfavorable ratings. Before this election cycle, when I saw an anti-Hillary bumper sticker, I kind of rolled my eyes and assumed that the driver was likely some right wing nut job. Now, I know a ton of people who would never vote for Hillary under any circumstances, including the very dim prospect of a Trump presidency, and these people are far from being right wing nut jobs. That is the effect that the actions of Hillary and the establishment Democrats have had.

Good job!

The more of her I see, the less I like her. There she is, dismissively waving off her own exaggerated reports of being under sniper fire in Bosnia, saying it was late at night, she was tired, and she misspoke. Her husband essentially says the same thing. Yet, there are videos of her saying it repeatedly, slightly different versions of the same fabricated story.

Now, if you watched those videos, you will have heard President Clinton saying something that reminds me quite a bit of President Ronald Reagan dismissively asking if people remember what they had for breakfast yesterday, as Clinton suggested that people might not remember a story all that well late at night, when you are tired. True, but most people, tired or not, would not necessarily fabricate whole parts of the story, particularly implying military action and threat when there is none. Also, as the first video shows, Hillary Clinton stated this same story not once, but several times, and often bright and early in the morning. Since the implication of having gone under sniper fire is self-serving, as it makes her sound so committed to peace negotiations and a willingness to stare danger in the face (not to mention an awareness of what real danger is), then this cannot be described as anything less than a blatant lie, especially cooked up to promote her political credentials. Also, frankly, let us call a spade a spade: it shows stupidity, shortsightedness, or arrogance (or perhaps all three) on her part in telling a story that she must have known reporters could easily check up on to verify whether it was true or false. They did, and now it has come back to haunt her, although he dismissive explanation of fatigue is clearly an effort to minimize how big of a deal it is, and thus, she obviously hopes, should soften the blow. But she is lying to benefit her political career, and there is no other way around it. She, like her husband, are professional liars, and they were just caught this time around.

Whether she was a liar before she met her husband, and whether or not they helped each other in the craft of lying, or which one helped the other more, there is no doubt that they are both ethically challenged, and cannot tell a full truth without at least a little embellishment, if they feel that it will benefit them. After all, how can one person proudly proclaim to have her politics rooted in conservatism, to the point that she was proudly a "Goldwater girl," while also claiming she is a moderate to a lot of whoops and cheers, yet also still proclaim to be the "real progressive" in the Democratic field running for president? That's a lot of conflicting political ideology there, and what it shows, to me, is that she is willing to say whatever she feels she need to cater to whatever audience she hopes her message of the moment will appeal to. If you don't like what you saw Hillary Clinton saying in a speech on the news this evening, just wait until the next day, or shortly after that, because chances are, she will say something at some point that you cannot disagree with. The only problem is which of her words to believe, and what her policies will actually be. Given that she likely will not bite the hand that feeds, you can bet a corporate friendly agenda is what will win out in the end with her. If there is one thing that she has always been predictable about, it would be that, and indeed, that would be the most self-serving thing that she could do, as a politician and in her post-presidency.

She has not been straightforward about a whole host of other things, as well. That includes her support of trade deals that have been detrimental to the conditions and stability of working Americans. She supported NAFTA, and she helped to craft TTP, even if now, she has backed up from that, and says she would not support it in it's present form. For that matter, she did not own up to the mistake that was her disastrous vote for the war in Iraq. And her ties to for-profit prison and for-profit healthcare are an impediment to real progress in those areas, rather than an asset, as she maintains her "insider" status and superior experience would be. Also, she had strong ties to defense contractors who get rich from war, so can we really expect the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency to be a peaceful one? I think not.

Now, don't get me wrong. I would love to see a woman as president, and would cast my vote for the right woman in a heartbeat. If Elizabeth Warren were running, she would have my full support. There are other women who have a lesser profile, but would be better choices for president than Hillary, including Jill Stein, who is also running for president this year. Hillary technically has more experience, but it is not the right kind of experience. It is the type of experience that assures basically more of the same, politics as usual. It is the kind of experience that is wrong for America, and I never understood how Hillary's supporters feel so strongly towards her, or how they truly believe that anyone, or at least any man, who does not support her is automatically sexist. Such nonsense. I do not support her for the same reason that I did not support Sarah Palin: because she is a cruel joke on the American people, and indeed on the world, in her own right. She, like Palin, would essentially continue much of the same nonsense that has long plagued this country. Things would continue to get worse, not better, and that would be for men as well as women in general. What difference does it make, then, if we had a token woman serving as president, giving the speeches that focused on what Americans want to hear, rather than what they need to hear? What difference would it make if the same speeches that we have heard from Reagan on down through two Bushes, one Clinton, and President Obama would then be passed down to Hillary? What this country needs is real change, and Hillary most certainly does not represent that.

This woman lies! Yes, we all knew that before, but she has lied - repeatedly - by embellishing a story that appears to enhance her own qualifications. This is the one major thing that she has in common with her husband - a casual approach to the truth, according to one of the pundits on Tim Russert's show, and that is as apt a way of describing it as any. They will say and do anything to get elected. Clearly, their standard of ethics are not much higher when it comes to where their funding comes from, for that matter. Increasingly, it seems that they are willing to go to any lengths and discredit and engage in character assassination in order to receive the nomination. They just cannot help themselves, drawn to the spotlight they are.

Al Gore still won’t support Hillary Clinton By Bob Fredericks May 23, 2016:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Obama Makes History as First Sitting US President to Visit Hiroshima

President Obama made history today, as he visited the site of the atomic bomb being set off in Hiroshima over seven decades ago. He became the first sitting president to visit the site since the event itself took place.

He laid a wreath to honor the victims, and then gave a speech, which happened to soon as I post this to have gotten all of the details, and although I was watching it, it was not exactly with pen and paper in hand.

Some things that he said, however, did stand out.

He said that nations holding "nuclear stockpiles must escape logic of fear."

Also, he also expressed that it is infinitely preferable for people of the world when scientists focus on all of the wonderful things that it can bring to human life, and not on ending it ever more efficiently.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sports Update for May 6, 2016

NBA Eastern Conference Finals

Wow! Cleveland sure responded with authority in returning back home following two straight defeats in Toronto, Canada.

The Cavaliers took over early and simply never let up, dismantling the Raptors and continually building on an embarrassingly big lead. The game really was never close, and was over well before the half.

Now, the series shifts once again to Toronto, where the Raptors hope to find a little bit more magic to keep this series alive. They are a scrappy team, and have played very well at home this postseason, earning a 7-2 home mark thus far.

However, there is little doubt that Cleveland will look to close out the series in Game 6, and avoid a potentially scary and dangerous Game 7, even if it is from the comfortable confines of Cleveland, where the Cavaliers have not only amassed an undefeated record thus far in the postseason at 7-0, but have played with considerable dominance in the process.

Many projected the Toronto Raptors to be overwhelmed in this series, and indeed, it has looked this was in the games played at Cleveland.

This next game, though, will be played in Toronto, which the Raptors have tended to play well in this season, as well as in this series. That itself should make Game 6 intriguing.

Roland Garros/French Open

There appeared to be one potentially shocking upset in the making, as Andy Murray dropped the first two sets against 37-year old Radek Stepenek. However, he fought back by racking up nine straight wins, enough to win the third set in straight games, and taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth set, which he eventually won, 6-3 after a rain delay. In the final set, Murray beat out Stepenek 7-5, to take the match and save himself from what would have been a crushing early exit.

Nine-time French Open champion Rafa Nadal had no such problems during his first round match, sweeping past Australian Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1.6-1. Once again, the 14-time Grand Slam champion and former number one is looking strong, and wasted minimal time and energy in moving onto the next round.

Djokovic also won, and then showed off his French language skills. He will be in action again later today, assuming there are no more massive rain delays at the tournament, which has seen a lot of them thus far.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Golden State Looks Far From Winningest Team in NBA History

It was an undeniably impressive season for the Golden State Warriors, made all the more so because they managed to go 73-9 and eclipse the mark of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to establish a new regular season standard of excellence.

As many people, myself included, have suggested, however, they absolutely needed to find a way to end the season with a championship ring to fully cement that greatness. Otherwise, it is just a regular season mark, and meant nothing when it counted the most. 

To be fair, the difficulty level of eclipsing a team like the 1996 Chicago Bulls makes it virtually impossible. Even after the Warriors enjoyed a historically dominating season last year and capped it off with a championship, many people felt that their regular season success was a bit trumped up, and that the team's weaknesses would be exposed.  San Antonio (the team that I believed might give them a tough challenge), Cleveland, and some even suggested OKC (which I did not, although apparently there might be something to that, after all). There were even some other tough teams that supposedly could threaten them, like Memphis.

The first time that I heard OKC might be their toughest opponents came around the last month or so of the regular season. But as a team that was hot and went to the NBA Finals a few years ago, I still thought of them as a team that came close, but did not quite do it. That basically was what I had come to think of them as, for that matter. A team that had enormous potential, even appearing for a while as the team best poised to emerge as a dynasty, but did not get the job done in their one and (so far) only NBA Finals appearance. 

Well, that might be about to change, because this edition of the OKC Thunder look like world beaters. They blew past Dallas in five games, and then knocked out the Spurs in six, taking two games in San Antonio - where the Spurs had lost only one game all season prior to that series.

Now, the Thunder appear on the verge of handing the defending champion Golden State Warriors - a team that lost only nine regular season games - four losses in a best of seven series. That would secure another NBA Finals appearance, with another shot at the title. 

And in the meantime, the historic levels of success that the Golden State Warriors had enjoyed to this point are on the verge of being largely forgotten. People would forget that perfect 24-0 start, or how they finished 73-9. People would forget that they were the first team in NBA history to complete a regular season without having dropped two games in a row. But the loss at OKC last night was their second straight loss, and puts the Warriors in a 3-1 hole, which few teams ever really fight back from to even force a Game 7, let alone go on to win the series. 

Maybe the Warriors will be an exception, as they were through most of the season. But OKC is allowing us to see a rare side of this Golden State team. That when someone manages to push them as far as they can go, maybe they do indeed break. 

Since the Warriors spoke of their own greatness, and many were comparing them (usually unfavorably) to the best NBA teams in history (particularly the 1996 Chicago Bulls), it needs to be said now that the Bulls were never forced into a Game 7 during the 1996 playoffs. Very rarely were they ever in Game 7's, although they usually won.

Golden State needs to find a way to force a Game 7, because obviously if they do not, they will have failed. All of those incredible, glittering records will have fallen by the wayside, and they will have been just another also ran. Another team that wanted to win a championship, but did not. They might be particularly memorable because of how dominant they looked, and that is where they might be remembered like the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, or the 2007 New England Patriots - both teams that achieved amazing success during the regular season and were on the brink of winning it all in the postseason, but just ran into an opponent who, finally, managed to stop them short.

Right now, OKC is looking very much like that team. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Toronto Raptors Even Series & Rain Delays at Roland Garros

The Toronto Raptors managed to take a second game in a row from the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers, who entered this series having swept to victory in each of the previous two rounds. Cleveland won the first two games at home in this series as well, which meant that they were 10-0 in these playoffs as the series shifted to Toronto.

A lot of sports pundits were less than thrilled, and said that Toronto just did not have the kind of talent to make a competitive series possible. And given that LeBron James had predicted that his Cavaliers would enjoy a perfect run through the postseason en route to a championship, people were perhaps beginning to believe it.

But all of that came crashing down when the Raptors blew out the Cavaliers in Saturday night, thus dashing the hopes of James and the Cavs of a possible run of perfection to the elusive title.

Then, last night, the Toronto Raptors looked ready once again. They were playing well, but really took over the game with a super solid second quarter.

However, the Cavaliers, to their credit, came out on fire in the final quarter, and even managed to erase what had once been an 18-point lead to take the lead briefly themselves.

Still, Toronto managed to make the big plays when they absolutely needed to, and were able (just barely) to secure the win and tie the series. Bismack Biyombo was particularly impressive with blocks of both LeBron James and Kevin Love.

No one is saying that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will fail to make it to the NBA Finals, which would be a record sixth straight NBA Finals appearance for James individually. Maybe they will even win the series and clinch a title for the championship-starved city of Cleveland.

However, they sure did not look as dominant as James' boasting in the last two games, and should get back to simply playing basketball now. An undefeated streak, or other levels of historical dominance, are not always great allies for the team having achieved it once the postseason rolls around. The winningest season in NHL history did not help the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, when the Colorado Avalanche managed to eliminate them in six games. It certainly did not help the 2007 New England Patriots, when they were on the verge of completing the perfect season, only to watch the New York Giants wrestle the title away. And don't look now, but currently, the Golden State Warriors are down 2 games to 1 in that series, and are looking decidedly more vulnerable than their 73-9 regular season suggested they were.

Likewise, the undefeated streak is over, and on some level, Cleveland should be glad, since they can dispense with thoughts of perfection, and can instead begin focusing on simply winning the next game, taking things a little bit easier.

Roland Garros/French Open

Not much to report yet at the French Open, as rain stalled play, which is actually rather typical for Parisian weather.

It is strange to think that this is the first Grand Slam tournament that Roger Federer has missed since 1999! Weird nowadays to think of such a major tournament in which he is not competing.

On the tournament's website, they were remembering the semifinal run by Pete Sampras 20 years ago. Yes, he reached the semifinal, and he also one other time reached the quarterfinal, but that was it for Sampras, as the French Open remained the one glaring omission in an otherwise legendary, nearly perfect, career. Like Wimbledon with Lendl, or like the French Open right now with Djokovic, the failure of Sampras to rise above previous limits and win this major on clay casts a shadow on his career, and is easily the reason that Andre Agassi, who only won eight Grand Slams himself (impressive, but falls considerable short of the 14 held by Sampras) is sometimes thought to be better than Sampras, while Federer and Nadal, the other two men who have won career Grand Slams since then, are also considered generally greater than Sampras.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sick Once Again

Well, I am sick again. Not sure what happened, or how I came to be sick, but this has been a surprisingly intense weekend, filled with sleeping and trying to alternately stay cool and then warm again, back and forth.

Yesterday, my skin literally felt hot to the touch, which is not comforting for anyone who falls ill like this.

My throat has been hurting, and swallowing has been difficult. It feels like my glands are swollen, and there is enough pain that it feels somewhat like what I imagine it must feel like days after being choked, when the physical pain is not as excruciating, but still hurts. On top of it, there are pains in the back of my neck as well. Just a bad scene, and with swallowing being difficult, and with my normally decent appetite being largely absent, eating and drinking have been rarer than usual. Particularly eating.

My hands always seem to feel cold, with those exceptions of when I am burning up. There was this pounding headache that was difficult to get past, although this did eventually go away.

Usually, during the course of a day, my arms and legs will feel wobbly and spent of energy, as if I were a heavyweight fighter trying to last through the final rounds of a title fight. This is similar to what I had to deal with in March, when my arms and legs felt the same way, and I was even stumbling at times back then. It has not been so extreme this time, although some aspects of it (like the sore throat) have been worse, if not even far worse.

Currently, I do feel better, although there was a point like that yesterday, too, and the symptoms came back with a vengeance.

Still, hopefully this time, it really will get better. Hopefully, this will prove to be the last time that I feel these symptoms for a good long while.

As to where it came from, I have my suspicions. I picked up Chinese food at a buffet place on Friday after work, and both my girlfriend and I felt sick by the evening. She had a sharp pain in her belly, while I had my sore throat and, soon, would have a massive headache.

At least this is not as bad as what I felt in March, because that seriously kicked my butt.

So, maybe that would be the silver lining here, that this is not nearly as bad as the one in March, which seems to have become the standard for being sick in my case, at least so far. Hopefully, I will not experience anything that challenges, let alone surpasses, that anytime soon. Or anytime, period, for that matter.

I do not have the body aches, but still, my body feels extreme fatigue. Despite getting a ton of sleep in the last couple of days, I still feel very tired. My body feels weak, and it always seems like I am ready to sleep, which is really getting annoying now. I feel almost as if I could sleep the entire day through, both day and night!

Now, I feel ready to do something that I very rarely ever do: go to the doctor! I hate going to the doctor's, and often times feel that here, in this for profit healthcare system that this nation has right now, it is every bit as much of a business as anything else. The doctor listens to your ailments, and prescribes something that he or she may or may not get something extra to push onto you. Maybe that sounds very skeptical, but I sincerely believe that there is more than a little of that kind of thing going around in this country right now.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Problem of Secret Trojan Horse Trade Deals & Elitist Economic Policies

Hillary Clinton recently announced that she would definitely be the Democratic nominee fo president, and that there was absolutely no way that she would be denied.

Saying such things, she really sounds like a member of the old guard. She sounds like a candidate of the old political order with a false sense of entitlement.

This woman, as I have said before, will say anything and do anything to get elected, and to reach the White House. After all, a lot of people suggested that she was not actually sure that she would run for president in 2016. Was there ever any real doubt, though? Almost everyone knew exactly what to expect, and most people did not believe her when she claimed to be weighing the options, and uncertain about making a run for the highest office in the land. No, everyone knew perfectly well that she would run, and run she did. Of course.

She was supposed to breeze past everyone, although as it turns out, Bernie Sanders proved to be a more than formidable candidate. In fact, if this had been an open election in each state, which of course is what it will be in November, instead of closed primaries, I am quite certain that Bernie would have won. Clinton has the backing of the Democratic Party elites, and of numerous Wall Street firms. But she has failed to win over the people, who still largely view her in negative terms.

People do not trust her, and many, many do not like her. Her disapproval ratings are through the roof, and it is a safe bet that some people will never vote for her specifically because of who she is, and what she represents in their eyes.

This used to be true exclusively of conservatives, but over time, particularly during this election cycle, it has become increasingly true to progressives. She simply cannot be trusted to carry out her word on things, and all of her campaign promises are just a springboard to get elected. There is no sense that she will actually make it a priority to pass these, and make this country a better place for all Americans.

Like her husband, and like President Obama to a certain extent, she is willing to make a lot of promises, and she can talk a good game.

The problem is that she not only will not pass legislation to empower the American people, but rather, being so heavily influenced by big corporations and Wall Street banks, she will actively seek legislation that will look and sound good in her words, but which will nonetheless work against the best interests of Americans.

She is just too beholden to these big corporations, and towards an economic system that favors the elites. She favors Trojan Horse trade deal that have been disastrous to American workers, and she continually finds herself in positions where she strongly advocates these kinds of things, making them sound good, but which time reveals was not good for American workers.

The Clintons can be labelled politically as Republican light, and indeed, she might make an ideal Republican candidate. However, she is supposedly a Democrat, and claims to be the real progressive. Of course, she also claimed that her political ideology is rooted in conservatism, and she also proudly proclaimed herself a moderate.

It's things like this that make you wonder just which Hillary Clinton you are getting this time. And for the most part, this was the accepted normal, because it had been that way for so long, we probably could not remember when it had been otherwise. This election, however, we have someone who is sincere, intelligent, and principled. Someone who has consistently fought for the little people in America, and someone who will continue to do so if given the chance to in the White House.

We don't have to settle for the lesser of two evils any longer. We don't have to settle for the race that everyone is expecting, but no one wants, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We can do better and, frankly, we need to do better!

Another Secret Trade Deal Leaks, Shows Corporations Still in Control Wednesday, 04 May 2016 00:00 By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed

Friday, May 20, 2016

Joe Hill Celebrates Release of Latest Book at Strand Bookstore [Videos]

the fireman
Image courtesy of  bryan's Flickr page - the fireman: https://www.flickr.com/photos/unconstructive_bry/1493640984/in/photolist-3gZiqL-jtatCY-4Jf9R6-enwz7w-68ubqY-8CxCJa-7f7waS-7f6MZ4-gwsgdN-aELXrc-7GBeEj-6meTqN-nvGUc-8DJKh4-jihguK-dTHU4X-9mXDQm-e9qxkZ-4yWZod-paqQMd-4s5hiJ-aNcNnx-fSi4-9sKk1v-9sNkeA-8FKgee-pEf5V5-ed6VWV-hmpzXP-qBeJxn-GKpM6H-dTHS6C-7yarsp-prDy66-qGJT8c-teuSK-6yw4Sq-92FJFw-4JC7pA-prU5LC-spL43R-paryos-pGWSw2-r18b9V-oWnNav-4MELmh-6EWeSL-4JC7JY-5FRppG-9HHhrR
Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Firefighter at Dusk
Image courtesy of Heather Paul's Flickr page - Firefighter at Dusk: https://www.flickr.com/photos/warriorwoman531/8327741521/in/photolist-aRnUQe-enxeK1-3RPKsz-6y55vR-suFERA-e9nx89-enwoqL-dFTRqn-enw5L5-eibiph-9fbgRj-eibijd-a7xGMS-enwLf9-qG6fcJ-4QaZV-wUP4g-eibiw9-5vNsyC-n82PgB-6Usepf-J7bix-enwCvj-isakJW-enwFV1-enxjkU-8za5VC-egxpVf-enwr6Q-ssDHuM-pMErBR-4QaNZ-4QaSA-enxmU7-enwtxJ-eibiQY-cfFBDo-qvu6fk-ei5yKv-enxxjj-enwRxf-ah1GhB-8jPtv8-fCb62m-2YzyN6-92uKPk-jzN2v-bQrYFH-4wgUtE-ays9wz
Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I wrote and finished this article the night of the event, hours after attending it. Submitted it by the next morning, around 6:30am. It was reviewed last evening, with corrections needing to be made, particularly with the size of the Youtube videos that were attached.

This morning, I woke up and saw that some corrections were needed, and did what was asked. Still, it only got published minutes ago, fairly late on Friday evening (eastern time).

Still, better late than never, right?

I had attended a Joe Hill booksigning in November, although I do not remember if I wrote a blog entry about that or not. That one was not exclusively him, although I did manage to get some copies of his books signed. This time around, I was more prepared, with several hardcover books, including the most recent one, "The Fireman."

Hill is quite a colorful personality. Despite enjoying some considerable success already in his writing career, he seems legitimately down to earth, and really kept the whole event fun.

Indeed, this was a night of good humor, and it was a good introduction to the book. Certainly, it made me want to read it, although it already looked enticing well before I ever attended this particular event. Going to New York City itself can be fun, so long as I do not overdo it. When I was younger, it seemed exciting, and for a while, I would make a habit of going literally every weekend.

These days, these trips are much more rare, although I know this was an event that would likely be worth attending.

Joe Hill Celebrates Release of Latest Book at Strand Bookstore [Videos] By Charles Bordeau on May 20, 2016:


Joe Hill celebrated the release of his latest book, "The Fireman," which just came out days ago, by coming to Strand Bookstore in New York City on Wednesday, May 18th. It is his biggest book yet in terms of length, which possibly makes it Hill's most ambitious writing project to date in his writing career. On Wednesday evening, the day after the book hit bookstores across the country, the horror author, who happens to be the son of horror icon Stephen King, came to Strand Bookstore in New York City to do a reading and to have a talk. Also, just to have some fun.  

This is a strange plague, known as Dragonscale. It is a mystery on many levels, as the debate of it's origins is never answered. Victims find their bodies covered with strange black and gold marks which can cause them to spontaneously combust. As a result, out of control fires are spreading throughout the world, as well.

Harper Grayson, a nurse who has seen firsthand exactly what this plague is capable of, finds herself mysteriously infected with this plague that is feeding off her body. She gets it just after finding out that she is pregnant, and she finds a renewed determination to survive long enough to give birth and give her baby a chance in this new, post-apocalyptic world. On top of having to cope with the challenges of a world being torn apart and literally catching fire, she has to deal with a marriage that is also completely falling apart, as her husband who blames her for getting this disease. He is filled with a rage that burns within that threatens to spontaneously combust, and bring Harper down with him.  

However, Harper holds out hope for someone who seems to have figured out a way to quelch the potential fire. He is a mysterious fireman with a British accent, and it strikes her that he might possess a certain knowledge and ability to keep the contagion in check. The question, then, is whether or not he can find him on time to save not only her own life, but that of the baby growing inside of her, even as physical evidence of the Dragonscale virus grows on the outside of her body.  

Despite the length of the book, at over 700 pages, Hill successfully manages to keep the tension rising as the books goes on. While the story of the spreading of a plague that threatens to end life on the planet as we know it would surely be enough to entice many readers, Hill's main strength as a writer is actually in the building of his characters.  

In his reading, which was taken from the middle of his latest released book, "The Fireman," for his Strand audience, Joe Hill describes a difficult predicament for Harper, the main character. She finds herself at a makeshift camp for survivors of this relatively mysterious epidemic, which infects more and more people over time. She is attacked and humiliated, and warned to take sides.   

After delivering his reading, Hill added a humorous musical interlude, getting three volunteers to play Hey Jude on the kazoo, while the rest of the audience sang his alternative lyrics that had a theme of "The Fireman." Then, he took questions from the audience, and engaged in general discussion, often revealing his strong sense of humor. He mentioned that the title of this book was actually taken from a short story by noted author Ray Bradbury, which was published in a magazine under the title "The Fireman." This story ultimately became the first chapter of Bradbury's iconic work, "Fahrenheit 451."

At Strand Bookstore, Joe Hill's celebrated the release of his latest book,  "The Fireman."  This book should help to further cement his already strong and growing reputation as an emerging giant in horror fiction. The friendliness and humor that the author displayed during this appearance also helped to cement his status as an accessible and very friendly public figure. 

Here is some recent video of Hill discussing his latest book, "The Fireman:"

The National Post: Joe Hill’s The Fireman pushes its characters and readers to the breaking point with the plague to end all plagues by Robert J. Wiersema, May 18, 2016:

Wired: Joe Hill's The Fireman is about the apocalypse. Naturally, it's optimistic by LEXI PANDELL. LEXI PANDELL, 05.17.16.: 

‘The Fireman’ author Joe Hill heats up with new novel by Scott A. Rosenberg, May 17, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NASA Reports That April Was 10th Consecutive Hottest Month on Record

Back in the 1980's and early 1990's, when I first started to really learn about, and then understand, the dangers of global warming/climate change, it was amazing to me that something so huge, that would clearly have such an enormous impact around the globe, was not taken more seriously.

Of course, that was the age of Reagan and then Bush Sr., and those were days when political and social consciousness were largely absent. There was seeming skepticism towards anything remotely progressive, because that was around the time that "liberal" became a bad word.

What astonished me and, frankly, disappointed me, was just how quickly and easily people would dismiss what was overwhelmingly the general consensus within the scientific community - namely, that human activity was responsible for the dramatically rising temperatures.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and more, and now, there is absolutely nothing surprising about prominent politicians who readily admit that they are in no positions to speak on the science aspect of this issue nevertheless systematically taking it upon themselves to dismiss the overwhelming scientific consensus, often citing doubts by other research (usually funded heavily by many of the same big polluters that are most targeted by tighter environmental regulations).

It looked promising there, for a while. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush admitted that there was apparently something to this global warming/climate change thing, and more and more political conservatives were increasingly admitting the same. This became even more pronounced following yet another massive storm that devastated a region, this time much closer to home for me, when Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the Jersey Shore and parts of New York. Many Republicans began to realize that this was not just hot air (pardon the pun).

Still, there was plenty of skepticism. For all the steps forward with politicians (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) finally coming around and realizing how urgent this issue is, there are others who make a point of denying the science of climate change. Sometimes, they resort to the same kind of mockery that this issue was met with back in the 1980's. There was Republican nominee Mitt Romney, suggesting that he had no interest in lowering the levels of the ocean during his acceptance speech. There is Donald Trump now, the presumptive Republican nominee, mocking President Obama for his belief that the biggest threat facing America today is climate change.

Yet, despite their refusal to believe, and every attempt that American conservatives make to try and politicize this issue, and despite the major media basically complying with this and making this a political issue (as if it warranted no scientific basis), the fact of the matter is that American political conservatives largely stand alone in the world when they reject science and turn a deaf ear to arguments calling for greater action. This, it turn, leads to inaction, which is nothing new in Washington. Inaction is what we have come to expect and, apparently, accept, for our politicians.

Environmental activists were adamant in trying to force action decades ago, back in the 1980's and 1990's, suggesting we were fast approaching the tipping point beyond which some detrimental impact would be unavoidable. Apparently, that came and went, and we are beginning to see what all of those doubts and inactions have led to. We had the second mildest winter on record this past year, and it was second next to the winter of 2011-12. At different points of the globe, we have some of the most extreme weather. Just in the past month, we had record floods in Texas, and unbelievable fires in Alberta. For years, the West Coast had a massive drought, although we have nonetheless seen flooding in other regions, including by the Mississippi River, as well as in Europe (and also Texas, most recently). And some islands in the Pacific are under threat of going under water entirely. Of ceasing to exist.

Now, here are more dire headlines that really should get us to worrying, if we can forget about celebrity news and other fluff that matters not at all in the lives of the vast majority of people's lives. Here is a story about how we have now reached one full year - that means twelve consecutive months - of record hot temperatures.

Again, what many people do not understand here is that we are talking about global warming. I remember one guy telling me, after we experienced a massive winter storm back in 2003, that the cold and snow "shoots the shit" (his words) out of the "global warming theory" (again, his words). I reminded him that it is not because it is a cold or snowy day in  Pomona, New York (which is where we were during this storm and conversation) that it somehow disproves a trend that is a worldwide phenomenon. I told him that he should not bother criticizing what he never stopped to even try to begin to understand.

One simple thing that most detractors do not understand is that global warming/climate change does not mean it always gets hotter, all of the time, all over the world. After all, we have seasons, and winter always follows autumn, which always follows summer. Of course, the temperatures should be expected to cool at that point, and that does not disprove global warming. Nor does bringing a snowball into a government meeting. What the scientists actually projected was more extreme weather, and that we certainly have experienced in the last two decades. At least, if you have been paying attention, then it is hard to ignore this trend.

And now this, with a year's worth of months that each set the record as the hottest months in history?

The detractors have been wrong before, and we just cannot afford to take the gamble in the off chance that they might be right, that maybe all of this has been blown out of proportion, especially when that very denial is fueled, almost quite literally, by greed and ambition to obtain more short term profits.

Here is the article:

April was the warmest month ever recorded on Earth: NASA International Business Times by Alex Garofalo May 14, 2016:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America and the Avengers are back.

Well, sort of. Yes, they are back, but they are not one, unified whole.

I think it is safe to say that this had a more original story line than Batman v Superman did. That movie just seemed to make a point of the two major superheroes fighting, for the sake of ratings. For the sake of numbers. This movie actually tried to utilize what is going on in the world and employ it to make the story line of the infighting between the Avengers more plausible.

So, indeed, it is a more enjoyable movie than Batman v. Superman was, because there is simply more fluidity. It makes more sense, simply put. Also, there is a lot more drama in this one.

In fact, it kind of reminds me of why, when I was a kid, Marvel seemed far more preferable to DC Comics, because after a certain age, the more real-life drama of the individuals involved lent Marvel a more legitimate feel. The two most recent superhero movies are perfect examples of this, with the fluffiness of the DC movie being contrasted with this particular Marvel movie, and found wanting.

Let's see why:

****Spoiler Alert****

There was a lot of buzz about the possibility that one major superhero, either Iron Man or Captain America, would end up dying. Without sounding morbid, frankly, I was disappointed that these movie makers did not take that chance. Yes, in the comic books, Iron Man defeats and then imprisons Captain America. They did not even go that far here in this movie, although several super heroes are indeed imprisoned, and another is seriously injured (although all signs suggest he will be back, and as strong as ever, if not stronger).

Indeed, there is much more of a story line here in this movie than there is with Batman v. Superman. At least they attempted to make it viable, as the damage done both in terms of structures and in terms of human casualties, forced the world's biggest governing organization, the United Nations, to try and make some kind of attempt to keep these powerful beings in check.

Naturally, this is not without controversy or resistance, although the party doing the main resistance, Captain America, might come as a surprise. And his main nemesis is Iron Man, who suddenly, and rather uncharacteristically, senses considerable doubt, after being confronted by the parent of one of his inadvertent victims. Despite his normal arrogance, it is Tony Starks who believes that the United Nations provisions here are within reason, and that all superheroes need to comply.

Captain America strongly disagrees, and this eventually leads to a major conflict at an airport and, later on, another major conflict.

The final battle makes the most sense. Throughout the movie, we see the image dating back to 1991. It is a personal memory of the Winter Soldier, after he had been given specific orders to kill someone of extreme importance, although we do not see who it is. We see this three different times, but the third time is at the end of the movie, when four superheroes (Captain America, the Winter Soldier, Iron Man, and the Black Panther) have reached a remote ex-Soviet military compound somewhere in very remote and frigid Siberia.

For the first time, the superheroes themselves are watching this (except for the Black Panther, who remains outside) see this footage, although only from one camera angle. We find out who the Winter Soldier has killed, and it is none other than the parents of Tony Stark.

Obviously, this enrages Stark/Iron Man. He asks Captain America if he knew, and Captain America admits to having known. When the footage is done, Iron Man goes after the Winter Soldier with a vengeance, relentlessly attacking him, and clearly aiming to kill him. While the previous battle involving the superheroes at the airport was a limited engagement, in which both sides seemed hesitant to really let loose on the other side, this one is a full out battle, almost seemingly to the death. Both Captain America and Iron Man are fighting with what clearly is rage at certain points, and this makes the fight much more believable, as well as intriguing.

Now, one of the things that might bother you, as it bothered me, is how they had this particular footage to begin with. True, this would be enough - more than enough, really - to set Iron Man off. That is not the issue. But how did they have the camera on the exact location of what seemed like a fairly remote road somewhere? Was it really so planned that they would have that footage and, if so, why? After all, this would compromise the Winter Soldier's innocence, clearly, and it would possibly compromise those who were in charge of him at the time. So, even if this was planned so specifically that they would know exactly where the Winter Soldier would carry out this particular execution, the question then is why they would do so. Or, maybe I am overthinking this too much. Probably, I guess so, although these questions still bother me.

In any case, there is a recognition that this is a superhero movie, after all, and so it would not do to overthink things, lest we overthink everything and lose sight of what this is supposed to be all about. Ultimately, I will admit to having had relatively low expectations for this film, figuring it would be another Batman v. Superman.

This one, however, is different. It is better. There is an actual storyline as to what adds tension between the heroes, and what ultimately brings them to fight one another. Also, despite the questions that I had about how such footage was made available, it is obvious how such footage would set the superheroes off against one another towards the end of the film.

Ultimately, this movie does not show a superhero dying, so don't belive that particular hype. Another thing that I think plagues this movie is the sheer amount of superheroes involved - literally a dozen. That means that there are a lot of them, and it sometimes feels like it gets in the way of things.

Yet still, all in all, this movie was better than expected. I was kind of expecting it to be worse, to be overly dramatic, and to have comparable levels of destruction to the Batman v. Superman movie, just to underscore exactly how powerful these superheroes are. But that really was not the case and, for the most part, this managed to stay relatively true to the feel of the comic books of old, while remaining entertaining and maintaining an appropriate level of drama.

This is an entertaining movie for a 10 year-old boy, as my son proved. Yet, it is also easier to digest for adults than Batman v. Superman was. Anyone who goes to these kinds of movies presumably knows what it is about, and thus what to expect. And this one will not disappoint or frustrate, as quite a few of the other comic book films have.

Captain America: Civil War Directors On Why the Ending Differed From the Comics  By Adrienne Tyler, May 15, 2016: