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No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Documentary Film Review)

Posted by on Aug 3, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

He was a receiver. 

He was possessed. 

He articulated what the rest of us wanted to say, but couldn’t say.

 

Writer’s Note:  No Direction Home:  Bob Dylan — (Duration — 3 hours, 28 mins) is currently available on Netflix.  Allow me to sum up the film-music-biopic documentary in one sentence:

 

Bob Dylan is nostalgia unless you were there and remember, or you know someone who was there and remembers, or you’re related to someone who was there and remembers that time and place before the matrimony of music and poetry and message and purpose that was changed by the lad born “Zimmerman” who appeared to be the most unlikely of poets and prophets, a lyricist not known for the quality of his voice nor revered for his ability to strum the guitar nor blow into a harmonica but who nonetheless shattered all the previous expectations and conventions of celebrity and superstardom and became the incarnate of an entire generation, the relectant recipient of a passed torch, and the shatterer of stereotypes — and all of this, and the man, and the music, and the backstory of how this perfect storm of a miracle in time happened is told in a sprawling nearly 3.5 hour long documentary stoked with rare footage, candid recollections, and (shocker!) arguably the most self-revealing interview ever done with Bob Dylan, who despite hundreds of prior interviews dating back to the start always seemed aloof and hostile to the responsibilties and pressures thrust upon him, who realizes this film might be his cinematic epitaph, a comprehensive collection of untold stories and set-the-record straight pronouncements on many of the singer-songwriter’s most memorable compositions which includes some of the most memorizing stage performances ever on recorded, some drowned out by hecklers, and the gaps in between of pensive introspection and outter expression of the shaggy sage who seemed not so much the origin as the conduit of a new sound, a new voice, a new expression, a new vision, a new aspiration, a new consciousness, a new conviction, a new idea, and new possibilities that music and words and idealoism mattered and were capble of greatness and had the power to end wars and cure racism and end poverty and bring awareness and heal and give hope to the helpless and that music and those words in his genre came not from grand orchestras nor amoed rock bands nor the roar of choirs nor techno wizardry but rather from solitude and the twangy strings of a weathered guitar and the pitch of a voice slightly out of tine and the look of a man who seemed frail and might otherwise be perceived as uncertain but who spoke and sang with the force of a sledgehammer, splintering all that was before and pounding the mantel of a new way of looking at things and thinking about things and doing things and all that’s expressed in this film, which must not be viewed as a look back but a vision forward as something sure to entertain, arouse, and inspire.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan is an absolute must-see.  I recommend it highly.

Note:  Okay, so that’s three sentences.

 

__________

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Movie Review: Joker

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 1 comment

 

 

My whole life people didn’t know I existed; now they’re starting to notice.

                                                                                                                          — Joker

 

I finally got around to seeing Joker last night.

My confessed tardiness to this pop cinema campfire was, and very much remains, boredom if not utter disinterest in any movie about a comic book character, a superhero, or a spaceship.  Batman, Superman, Spider-Man Iron Man….if “Marvel” is listed in the credits, I am — the invisible man.

But now, we’re stuck in the age of COVID, addicted to Netflix, and even curmudgeons like me are changing our stubborn habits, and besides — there’s more television to watch right now than any one person can possibly digest in ten lifetimes.

So, Joker appeared on my streaming feed, and finally, my curiosity slew the dragon of prejudice.  Oh, I should also mention — someone ponied up $150 for me actually write a review of the movie and post it on my website (true story).  “Will work for food” and even compromise my principles — if the price is right.

 

Meet Arthur Fleck

Joker is a movie about the transformation of a simple human being who’s trying his best to exist in an inhumane, impersonal, imperfect, poisonously pornographic unfair world.  It doesn’t just pull back the curtains on mental illness so much as rip them off the wall.  Behind the wrinkled cloth, we find a lonely and vulnerable man staring helplessly and hopelessly into the lens, a victim whose life has passed him by and now distant.  Finally, he reaches his breaking point.

We meet Arthur Fleck who lives in Gotham, a fictionalized rendition of New York City during a garbage strike, in 1981.  Our anti-hero resides in a seedy graffiti-plastered tenement building struggling to make a living as a party clown.  He does low-paying gigs all over town, from spinning “going out of business” signs on sidewalks to cheering up kids inside a cancer ward.  Fleck, the lovable loser, even with his glaring flaws, battered and broken by life, is largely sympathetic.  Gazing outside of smudgy windows on buses we see the reflection of an empty man capable of so much more.  Indeed, for those of us who have struggled mightily, at times — in careers, in love, and in life — we all have a little Arthur Fleck, a.k.a. Joker, inside us.  We all have our breaking point.

Fleck’s life takes one bad turn after another, through no fault of his own.  He’s robbed.  Beaten.  Humiliated.  Fired from his job.  While watching the vestiges of humanity slowly evaporate around him with every setback, I was reminded of another film, Falling Down (1993), starring Michael Douglas, a similar character portrayal of a seemingly “crazed killer” who is slowly prodded off the moral and ethical cliff not out of decisions he made, but rather because he is desperate and had no other place else to go.

When Fleck kills his first victim (actually three victims) in a random act of violence on a subway, we see him taking control for the first time.  Up until these murders, Fleck had always followed others — his mother, his boss, any authority.  He’d played by society’s rules, even though he had no voice in creating them, believed in the system, and it got him nowhere.  He’d been a pawn, about to be rooked and captured in a chess game he didn’t much know how to play.  After blasting multiple slugs into the torsos of three rich Wall Streeters who are on a drunken binge, Fleck manages to win a small victory.  It’s a fleeting moment of satisfaction, a tiny measure of justice, temporary glory in an inglorious existence.  He’s in control and the rush is intoxicating.

 

Introspection

“My whole life people didn’t know I existed; now they’re starting to notice,” he tells a social worker.

There’s some debate about the condition of the psyche, still unresolved apparently in academics, about naturing versus nurturing.  Joker makes a compelling argument that many criminals, killers, mass-murderers, even psychopaths aren’t so much born as they’re created by stormy surroundings and a cruel society.  They’re molded by forces outside the mind and the body — parents, co-workers, associates, friends, romantic partners, even the guy on the street we don’t know by name.  One day, one act at a time, slowly, like stones wearing down by the powerful forces of the waterfall, over time, we’re sculpted by those things which shape us, and ultimately make us who and what we are.

Joaquin Phoenix in the title role is every bit as riveting as the rave reviews he received from film critics and the Oscar for Best Actor he collected at the last edition of the Academy Awards.  Phoenix, his onscreen persona boosted by his quirky offscreen reputation as a nonconformist with an affection for the unconventional, seems not only at ease in the Joker’s skin; he’s made the character all his own.

“They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur,” the social worker replies.  “And frankly, they don’t give a shit about me, either.”

He snaps.

 

The Point of No Return

Predictably, Joker is a dark and sometimes troubling film to watch, though it’s also an illumination of shadows we often chose to ignore.  It’s exfoliation in an art form of the phony veneer that separates not so much rich versus poor but, those who flourish within a chaotic psychological dystopia at the expense of all its victims and outcasts.

Out of work, impoverished, and desperate, Fleck (Joker) tries to perform stand-up comedy in a small nightclub.  Although he’s done his homework and the effort is sincere, he’s terrible.  Plagued by a rare mental affliction that triggers uncontrollable laughter during inappropriate moments, Fleck is a walking, breaking, ticking time bomb.  Reminiscent of yet another film, Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982) — which stars Robert De Niro, who in this film plays a Johnny Carson-like role — Joker slides deeper into the crevasse of no return and ultimately goes beyond reactionary to premeditation.  I’ll be vague on this point so as not to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it.  However, for those who remember De Niro’s role as Rupert Pipkin, a lunatic loner obsessed with a talk show host, the parallels will be obvious.

Unfortunately, the script and the story take an annoying detour, which largely evaporates the audience’s goodwill.  Although he’s become a murderous clown, we’re so caught up in his condition, that we’re rooting for some consolation.  We don’t know exactly what we want — for the Joker to be caught or killed or perhaps continue on killing bad people who deserve to die.  So, we watch and wait, anticipating some conscientious resolution.

The unnecessary departure detracts from a fascinating meltdown when Fleck thinks he’s the illegitimate son of a rich power baron who refuses to acknowledge the long-lost relationship with his mother.  Again, without revealing more that might spoil the movie, the final scenes with acts of graphic violence seem gratuitous.  And pointless.

The first half of this movie sets up a fascinating premise, then the final half fails to deliver.

 

Grade:  5 on a 10 Scale

The shift to a more serious character-driven psychological thriller by Todd Phillips, best known for directing the comedy trilogy, Hangover, seemed like a natural progression.  The core of a great film was here.  But Phillips’ script (co-written with Scott Silver) gradually loses steam and becomes a one-man showcase for the thespian talents of Phoenix, and little more.

Joker has ephemeral moments of greatness, but not enough of them to overcome an aimless plot.  Phoenix’s best moments are not as the crazed Joker on various killing sprees, but rather the vulnerable void of a man with a blank stare, looking nowhere in particular, desperately seeking something to latch onto which will give meaning to his life.

I too, wanted this film to have some greater meaning, and although I was transfixed for moments, as the final credits rolled to the swansong of Frank Sinatra’s baritone version of the Stephen Sondheim classic, “Send in the Clowns,” I was disappointed there wasn’t more depth to this shallow portrait.

Joker is a film I cannot recommend.

 

Final Thoughts

My takeaways are:

  1.  Joaquin Phoenix can carry any movie, even with a weak script.
  2.  I remain correct in my negative assessment of movies made about comic book characters.
  3.  I just made $150.

 

__________

 

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My Position on the Kneeling Versus Standing During the National Anthem

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Pro sports are back and the debate about kneeling versus standing during the playing of the National Anthem has returned front and center.

I don’t claim to speak for all leftists/liberals, but my position is probably shared by a large number of Americans, perhaps even a majority.

Here’s my opinion:

#1 — If a player chooses to KNEEL during the National Anthem, I respect that decision.

#2 — If a player chooses to STAND during the National Anthem, I respect that decision.

There. See how easy that was?

It’s called freedom of choice. It’s called the right to self-expression. It’s called civil disagreement. It’s called having mutual respect for one another, despite our differences.

This shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp.

__________

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How to improve your garden without having to go outdoors

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Most of us have been there…we want the perfect garden, but we don’t actually want to spend the time outside that it requires. Gardening can be literally back-breaking work and whilst you might enjoy the end result, the getting to it can be not only disheartening, it can be downright off-putting. The changeable weather doesn’t help either – too hot and it’s exhausting to labour outside. But rainy and chilly aren’t favourable conditions either! It really does require a strong desire to have that sense of achievement in order to do it all yourself particularly when it’s likely you might not have a clue what you are doing in the first place!

It might not even be a simple case of the lack of desire to be outside toiling for days at a time. Maybe you don’t have the time because of work commitments or you care for others. You might not be physically able to complete the work or even be outside in the elements. You may also lack the right experience and don’t feel confident enough to complete the tasks that are needed, and that’s if you even know what needs doing.

So if you want to improve your garden but don’t want to go outdoors, what do you do?

 

Research

With the amount of social media accounts, websites dedicated to garden living and even magazines in print or online, you can decide in your head (or on paper) exactly what kind of look you want to achieve. You could even create a mood board if you so desire!

Then once you know how you want the finished article to look, you can go about finding where to source your items from. You can read blogs about the best places to buy and even do comparisons of materials and learn what flowers or plants go well together and when they need planting too and even learn about the different types of garden furniture available.

 

Order online

The internet has made our lives so much easier thanks to the websites that are available. The choice they carry is far greater than you would ever get in a garden centre and it is much easier to ensure you aren’t paying over the odds as many offer price parity. Make sure you use trusted retailers for larger items such as Aston Sheds UK for your garden shed and furniture sets as you wouldn’t want to struggle in the event you need a refund or have a query.

 

Get the right help

Then when all your items have arrived, you can even arrange someone to sort them for you, whether it be a gardener or another type of handyman to build your furniture and shed. You can search websites to find the right person to help and you’ll even be able to see if they have got good reviews to make sure you don’t end up paying over the odds for a poor service.

You can of course pick up the phone too if you prefer some human interaction to ask advice, get ideas, order the right products and book the right tradespeople. Either way, you can be sure you can get your garden looking great without ever having to step outside!

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Ways in Which the Gaming Industry Shall Function Post COVID-19

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in General Poker | 0 comments

Since the time the pandemic has hit humankind and proved itself to be a more fatal virus than the common cold (COVID-19 is not the flu), the world has come to a sudden halt. The virus has not only claimed lives around the planet and severely impacted the health of millions, but also cause a major slump in the world economy. Industries have found themselves going out of business and families have lost their primary source of income. A pandemic of this scale was probably never anticipated or seen before, and that is what has shaken the core of our very lives. The only way to survive the tanking economy is to adopt appropriate social distancing measures, frequent hand-sanitizing, wearing masks and including these same in workspaces. Let us just face it, we cannot live all our lives inside our homes and without going to work. Therefore, what we require at this point in time is education and awareness to combat the spread of the virus in the workspace.

Speaking of industries shutting down and families going out of work, one such industry that has been impacted by the pandemic is the gaming sector. Not many of us might know, but the gaming and gambling sectors contribute a significant amount to the economy of the world, and with these land-based establishments shutting down for an indefinite period of time, the economy has taken a hit. Therefore, what we must look forward to right now are the ways in which this sector will resume work once things start settling down. 

 

Masks, Sanitization, and Social Distancing:

This needs no telling, but for the sake of a wholesome discussion, we need to bring into light that land-based casinos, sports betting centers and other gaming establishments shall function keeping in tandem with the appropriate social distancing and sanitizing measures. Visitors to these gaming floors who are not wearing masks must not be allowed inside, and pre-booking of the floors could be very much entertained as a possibility. With a few number of people on the casino floors or any other gaming center, social distancing measures can be followed easily, and the spread of infection could be curbed. This way, the gaming centers do not have to shut their businesses down, and neither do they have to run the risk of community transmission. 

 

Online Casinos and Gaming Websites Shall Continue to Fill in for their Land-Based Counterparts:

People have turned to gaming websites and online casinos in their gaming and gambling pursuits ever since the period of quarantine began. These online counterparts of the land-based establishments have come in as a welcome relief and kept the industries afloat even in these difficult times. Gaming and gambling enthusiasts have found relief in these online sites. They do not have to make safe arrangements to step outside their houses to visit the gaming parlors because all that they would ever want to play are available right on their computer screens. For instance, online gambling California is now being treated as the primary source of gambling in lieu of land-based gambling in California, and the results have been quite impressive.

Fewer Staffs on the Gaming Floors, Weekly Rotation of Staffs:

Another brilliant way for these land-based gaming establishments to function even in these times is by involving only the necessary number of staffs on the floors, and getting them to work on a weekly basis. This way, they do not have to risk the lives of their employees, and neither do they have to lay off their staffs. Fewer people on the floors mean that adequate and appropriate social distancing can be followed and the chances of the infection to spread can be substantially minimized. Therefore, it is important that gaming centers work with less than half of their total number of staffs in order to get the spread of the infection under control and manage the pandemic to the best of their efforts.

Wrapping Up:

All that one can do right now is to be aware and enlightened about the ways in each one of us can handle the crisis and do our best to follow the protocols in the respective workspaces. It is important for industries and offices to open up if the sinking economy is to be saved from the stage of irreparable damage. Hopefully, the points that we have mentioned in this article are how the gaming industry would function once they start opening up and do their bit in the recovery of the economy. 

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Let’s Flood the Zone With the Truth

Posted by on Jul 29, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

 

 

“FLOOD THE ZONE WITH SHIT”

That quote, coming directly from the mouth of the man many consider the architect of the political virus known as “Trumpism,” former White House advisor and political strategist Steve Bannon. sums up much of what we see, read, and hear on social media.

“The real opposition is the (mainstream) media,” he said when asked about the Right’s unconventional political tactics. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

The tactic is nefarious — and brilliant, at least in a cold-hearted Machiavellian sense. It’s right out of the old Lee Atwater, Karl Rove dirty deeds done cheap playbook. First — create utter carnage and confusion, and then — provide clarity and an oversimplified solution.

The tactic is impossible to defend because it takes so much time for truthseekers and those genuinely dedicated to truth to expose, research, write, and try to counter-persuade those sadly gullible deplorables so tethered to trigger mechanisms (the flag, god, veterans, guns) that they’ll swallow any line of bullshit off the Breitbart and FOX assembly line, not to mention the troll sites littered with cockeyed conspiracy theories that number in the hundreds.

Flood the zone with shit.

It doesn’t matter most — if not ALL — of their “shit” consists of lies, exaggerations, and quotes taken wildly out of context to make their perceived “enemies” look bad. Truth has become irrelevant. It’s about destruction. Obama is a Muslim. Trump is Cyrus the Great. They want to destroy America. You’ve read the crap, and perhaps even shared it.

Fling so much shit we can’t beath.

That’s what we see here on social media, all the time. Memes, mostly unattributed (perhaps manufactured on some troll farm). Clever video clips showing violence with scary voiceovers, intended to frighten simpletons. OAN-style patriot news, that borders on self-parody.

Flood the zone with shit.

That’s what the Trump campaign, Right-wing douchebag media, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, and the brigade of chickenhawk foot soldiers in the army of the 92 IQ company are going — 24/7.

They are flooding the zone with shit.

I recommend using this phrase often, and tagging posts you see from Trumpsters. Call them out. Let them know they aren’t fooling those who take the time to consume information from reliable sources, and filter out idiocy. Make their dirt backfire. Make them smell. Make them stink. And, if necessary, block them.

Flooding the zone with shit requires a mass cleanup.

Now.

Because, in the next few months, lies will spread faster than COVID. They are desperate. They will do anything and say anything. We all need to do our part.

Let’s flood the zone — with the truth.

__________

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A Non-Partisan Observation on Congressional Hearings

Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

 

 

While watching the Barr hearings this morning (he’s testifying before a congressional subcommittee), my main takeaway is the utter failure of the parliamentary process. It’s a system that frankly — stinks. It’s broken.

I’ll skip the blame game and the castigation of congresspeople by name, which sadly make themselves such inviting targets of our collective derision. We all see and hear what we want through our tinted lens and filter, though I’ve come to a general consensus that both sides of the aisle, Republicans, and Democrats, often display an appalling lack of self-awareness.

The real culprit here is THE PROCESS. It’s counterproductive to the stated purpose of the congress (and senate, which is equally guilty), which is to carefully examine, research, listen, learn, debate, and vote — hopefully impartially with open minds.

As we’ve seen in so many previous hearings, the “witness” (in this case, Barr) makes his opening statement. Then, over the next several hours, committee members play a mind-numbing tennis match of back and forth “gotcha-isms.” Democrats point fingers and blame the witness, often not allowing him sufficient time to answer. Republicans shout, fling baseless accusations at parties not present, and flood the zone with distractions and counter-conspiracies. Each congressperson gets FIVE minutes to cross-examine the witness. The ridiculousness of the exhibition is amplified by the hearings being nationally televised, not to mention carved up and sound bit by extremist media, which will whitewash the dopey elephant. In other words, the committee members know they have just five minutes to put on a *show.*

This procedure would be laughable if it were not so painful to watch and hear. The witness isn’t really grilled, at all. He has the advantage of running out the clock with long-winded stonewalling, general professions of faux commitment to truth and the legal system, and (certainly in Barr’s case) disprovable lies.

Some percentage of those who ask questions have NO BUSINESS conducting a cross-examination. An even larger percentage (in my opinion) turn off the viewing public with irrelevant goose-chases and pandering. Many of the five-minute Q/A segments serve no purpose at all, other than to destroy earnest compromise and non-partisan pursuits.

I’m uncertain as to what changes need to be made in hearings of this nature. Perhaps we can look to and learn from the quite well-functioning parliamentary systems in Europe and other countries, where multiple parties somehow work together (mostly) without the political circus. I know that’s such a foreign, un-American concept — to learn from other countries and systems. Excuse me for making such a ridiculous proposal in the grand land of jingoism. American “exceptionalism,” for all the wrong reasons.

What I do know is — NOTHING will come from these hearings aside from each of us bole-weeviling ourselves deeper into silos of alternative universe echo chambers. Rather than blame the individuals who serve, as much as they do deserve blame, it is THE PROCESS, the horrific, counterproductive, absurd, divisive system that is guilty.

The system is to blame. It’s sick. And perhaps — terminal.

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What Casino Game has the Highest Return to Player Percentage?

Posted by on Jul 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

When playing casino games, you need to understand and know what to expect in regards to your chances of winning, and how much you stand to gain on average. This is what return to player percentage or payout percentage is all about. Based on the game you choose, there are games with high return to player percentage, while others have low payout percentage. This can also vary from one casino to the other. This is why you need to take time and understand what you are up to before you start playing.

Blackjack

With an array of casino games with a huge return to player percentage, blackjack is simply the king. It is a major. Blackjack is one of the most widely played casino games across the globe. The table game is available in different variations, and offers more chances of winning. Based on your preference, you can play live dealer blackjack among other variations that allow you to explore huge bonuses.

Most importantly, blackjack has a huge payout percentage of 99.45%. Even though blackjack is a lucrative game, its payout pays when you play well, using the right strategy and on the right platform. It is not a table game of chance but skill, and requires an optimum strategy for you to enjoy RTP. Online blackjack variations including Classic blackjack by Microgaming and Blackjack switch by Playtech are amazing options with the best and higher RTP compared to the standard blackjack.

When playing blackjack, the rule of thumb is to choose a casino that offers a great playing experience, make wise and informed decisions and build your strategy. These enhance your chances of winning and making the most of the percentage payout.

Slots

Slots also have a high payout percentage. Most slots have a 90 to 99 payout percentage. Based on the casino you choose and the slot machine you settle for, it is highly recommended that you go for slots with more than 95% RTP. Some of the best slots to explore include Blood Suckers with a payout percentage of 98 per cent. It is an enjoyable game with 25 paylines, 5 reels and amazing bonus rounds that can earn you more as you play. These are some of its lucrative features that make the game attractive to many players. Furthermore, it gives you great free spins to boost your winnings.

  • Ugga Bugga slot game has an RTP of 98.07 per cent return to player percentage. It has 10 paylines and 3 reels. Developed by Playtech, it is a slot game that is enjoyable to play, offers more chances of winning even with a single bonus feature.
  • Ooh Aah Dracula is similarly a popular Barcrest online slot game with a 99 per cent payout percentage. It comes with 10 paylines, 5 reels and exciting bonus features as well as scatter and wild symbols. Ooh Aah Dracula also offers free spins to boost your gaming or payout ratio.
  • 1429 unchartered seas is a volatile yet popular and exciting slot game with an RTP of 98.63 per cent. It is an exciting game that comes with unique, beautiful and expanding wilds that you can take advantage of when playing.

Roulette

Roulette is available in different versions including European, American and French versions. French roulette has an RTP of 98.65 per cent, European roulette 97.30 per cent and American roulette an RTP of 94.74 per cent. To enhance your chance for success, always settle for roulette version with the highest RTP. You also need to be keen on betting odds because they play a significant role in enhancing your chance of winning.

The other games with the highest return to player percentage that you can choose include craps with 98.64 per cent, Bacarrat with 98. 94 per cent and 3 card poker with 98.24 per cent.

With these options in mind, it is vital to note that an RTP is a crucial aspect of the game you choose to play. When combined with the right odds, it goes a long way to boost your chance of winning or earning more from your gaming sessions.

__________

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If Your Took This Clown Seriously, Please — DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT

Posted by on Jul 15, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

 

 

Anyone who made a fool of themselves and took the “presidential campaign” seriously of a confused rapper with the mental capacity if a kumquat deserves to be shamed and shunned. You’ve all become laughingstocks.

Hang your heads. In shame.

Celebrities pulling PR stunts: Just fucking stop. Please.

As if the current sad state politics wasn’t depressing enough, the amount of mass coverage given to a discombobulated moron who once called slavery “a choice” is an appalling indictment of our media. It’s a guilty verdict on the crazed insanity of social media (including some of you reading this) which collectively speculated on how much the rapper might impact the 2020 presidential election. If you tweeted or reposted anything related to this subject, do us all a favor:

DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT NOW.

I’m not using the great pretender’s name because he doesn’t deserve any free publicity.

There was NO FUCKING WAY this moron was going to get on the ballot as a presidential contender. Did ANY of you take a course in government or political science? Have you ever read a newspaper? You do realize getting on the ballot in every state at this late stage of the campaign and election would require MASSIVE amounts of money, staff, and volunteers. States don’t just list anyone who wants to run for president, even hip-hoppers. There are requirements and rules that must be met. Did anyone seriously think Trump’s red-hatted Uncle Tom was going to blow millions of dollars and try hopelessly to raise money in order to attract, what, 1 or 2 percent of the idiot vote?

Seriously, shame on you for buying into the ruse. Your gullibility is exposed.

There’s a lesson here, and I hope some might learn it. Quit feeding the beast.  Stop swallowing the latest social media trend topic. It’s tomorrow’s dirty diaper. It smells nice and fresh now, but in a day or so, it will be full of shit.

I feel dirty just for writing about this subject.

Rant over.

__________

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An Evening with Al Pacino

Posted by on Apr 25, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Music and Concert Reviews, Personal | 0 comments

 

al-pacino-thumb

 

Writer’s Note:  Back in January 2017, I penned this article after seeing Al Pacino interviewed onstage in a two-hour career retrospective.  I’m publishing it here for the first time on the occasion of Pacino’s 80th birthday — April 25, 2020.

 

Few can command a room just by being inside it.  Al Pacino is such a man, with an undeniable command presence.

That was my instant takeaway the moment when the spotlight hit the iconic film actor who was introduced to a Saturday night crowd of about 800 loyal fans at the Opaline Theatre inside the Palazzo.

Pacino had arrived in Las Vegas for an exclusive one-hight-only, one-man engagement.  Think Pacino unplugged.  Aside from the somewhat nameless and faceless interviewer who tossed Pacino plenty of softballs to smash out of the theatre, this was Pacino totally in the raw, mostly unrehearsed and unscripted.  While some of the questions asked were repetitive and maybe even a few of the answers were orchestrated for maximum impact, the intimate setting was also loaded with plenty of spontaneous moments and edge-of-your-seat recollections for classic movie lovers.  Most satisfying of all, Pacino seemed to sincerely enjoy the trip down memory lane, with pit-stops where you’d expect them on his 50-year-career.  He was a much better storyteller than one might have anticipated.

Indeed, Pacino personifies what it means to be a movie star.  He made the Godfather’s fictional character Michael Corleone into someone who’s real to millions, forever embalmed into cinema’s collective consciousness.  When we hear Serpico, we think of Pacino.  Sonny, the bisexual bank robber based on a real incident, is Pacino.  Scarface.  Dick Tracy.  Frank Slade.  Carlito.  Lefty Ruggiero.  Shylock.  Richard III.  Phil Spector.  He even played Dr. Kevorkian.

I was surprised by my own reaction, that Pacino’s best moments weren’t the highlights of his superstardom, but rather the low moments and the struggles, both personally and career-wise.  We can forgive but he can’t forget, and Pacino carries the burdens of pain from his childhood, though no amount of talking about his early life could quite remove the lingering sting of loss all these years later.

He talked about growing up in East Harlem (and later the Bronx), born into a lower-class household, raised by a single mother at a time when single mothers were widely viewed social outcasts, especially in Italian-American culture..  Pacino’s father abandoned the family when Al was 2.  Interesting factoid from the show:  Pacino was mostly raised by his grandparents who were immigrants from….Corleone, Italy.

Pacino seemed the most unlikely heir of what was to become his ultimate destiny.  He worked as a messenger, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk in between acting jobs consisting mostly of small roles in stage productions.  There was even a period when he was unemployed and homeless.  Sometimes he slept on the street, in theaters, or at a friend’s house.

In the 1960s, leading men cast in movies did not look and talk like Pacino.  Smallish.  Way too New York.  And way, way too ethnic.  By age 30, even though he’d studied at the famed Actors Studio under the tutelage of mentor Lee Strasberg (who would later play the legendary role of Hyman Roth in Godfather II),  his acting career was going nowhere.

However, everything was about to change, including public tastes and mass audiences’ demands for authenticity combined with Hollywood’s own methods of casting prompted by a new age of writers and directors.  New movies would need smallish actors, with New York accents, who were genuinely ethnic.

Pacino’s role, playing a heroin addict in his first film The Panic in Needle Park (1971) caught the attention of movie director Francis Ford Coppola, who had just won an Oscar for screenwriting Best Picture winner, Patton.  Coppola took a big risk and cast Pacino as Michael Corleone in what became a blockbuster film, The Godfather (1972).  Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, and even Robert De Niro tried out for the part, but Coppola insisted on Pacino, to the dismay of studio executives who wanted someone better known.

The stories of phone calls between Pacino and Coppola during the tense negotiations were told here, presumably, versions heard by the public for the first time.  Neither knew of the monumental tidal wave that was to come engulfing both of their lives, totally reshaping the careers of both men.  Now, Pacino remained every bit as appreciative of that loyalty, noting that no other film director would have gone to bat with such steely determination, especially given that Coppola was also relatively young and didn’t have total control of casting decisions.

As one would expect, there wasn’t nearly enough time to tell all the stories.  Even Pacino’s most obscure film roles elicited some hysterical recollections about on-the-set disasters and even the actor’s own missteps.

Pacino had clearly done this before, and his experience as an amiable storyteller showed onstage.  Yet, the actor’s occasional gaffes were among the most endearing moments.  When absorbed in stories, he’d often get excited and would sometimes even ramble off on tangents.  A few times, the moderator had to steer Pacino back on track.  This wasn’t annoying at all.  It gave the presentation a genuine sense of spontaneity, that we were privileged to be sitting in an audience sharing Pacino’s recollections of what happened when the cameras weren’t rolling.  I should add that not having any film clips, props, or other supporting materials actually helped the format.  Midway into the retrospective, everyone in the audience seemed to feel what a special moment this was and we were lucky to share it.

Las Vegas might be known for gambling, but it usually leaves nothing to chance.  The odds are known.  Most shows are the same, night after night, year after year.  Pacino’s recollections, though imperfect and incomplete, was in a sense the acrobat performing without the net — no notes and no script.  While other celebrities have done one-person stage shows, with mixed results, most of those efforts look way too contrived, even manipulative.  Not so, with Pacino.

Pacino has crafted a reputation based on playing tough guys in movies.  But his first love is stage acting and theatre.  After taking about 25 minutes of questions from the audience (most of which were terrible — thankfully, Pacino was gracious and answered questions he’s undoubtedly been asked hundreds of times and anyone with access to IMDB can lookup), the legend paid homage to Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, and Noel Coward.  It seemed Pacino wanted to talk more about stagecraft.  Unfortunately, the interviewer cut off some of the evening’s most passionate thoughts from Pacino.

The final few minutes included a short glimpse of what was then Pacino’s next major upcoming film project.  That night, he’d recently signed a deal to play Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Was it enough?  Was it worth paying $80 to listen to a film icon talk about his life and career?  Was this a show to recommend?

The answer is simple.  Hey, it was Al Pacino.

Enough said.

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