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5’7″, 190

I don’t know what’s going on exactly with the epidemic of American police assaulting and killing totally innocent people, but one thing has become absolutely clear: this is not just a few bad cops.

Tamir Rice, RIP

Tamir Rice, RIP


Some may cling to the argument that most police officers are just trying to do their jobs, and some may even believe that they protect and serve the public, as they are sworn to do, as they are portrayed on television. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there are NO good cops – but if there are, they are not the ones calling the shots.
What’s happening in Cleveland is clear proof of that. Last November, two police officers answered a 9/11 call, that a man in the park had a gun. They pulled up their car next to the suspect, one cop jumped out and shot the suspect dead. Immediately. There was no time for dialogue, he did not say “Put your hands in the air!” or “Get down on the ground!” or any of the things police say on television. He jumped out of the car and shot.
We know this because there just happened to be cameras in the park and the whole thing was caught on film.
Another thing that everybody can see on the video, quite clearly, is that the suspect was a little boy. His gun was a toy gun. O.K., a beebee gun. It might be enough to wound a pigeon, at close range, but it’s still, essentially, a toy gun.
The officer was never in any danger and any normal adult, whether trained in police methodology or not, would have seen that in about half a second.
Certainly, as Tamir Rice lay on the ground, bleeding to death, they could see he was a little boy. As they restrained his screaming 14 year old sister, they must have noticed they were dealing with children. Even if Tamir Rice had been a full grown, threatening adult, the thing to do at that point would have been to call for an ambulance and try to administer first aid.
That didn’t happen.
If the officer, after the shooting, had said “Oh, my God, I am so sorry, it was a horrible mistake and I am incredibly saddened that I killed a child” it might be possible to get beyond this, but he never said that.
If the Cleveland Police Department had fired him immediately, we might be able to say “He was a bad cop, but the department is trying to do the right thing.” That did not exactly happen.
Now the case is going to trial and the cop has the full backing of the Cleveland Police Officer’s Union, and the Police Department itself. His defense? “Tamir Rice was not the innocent, little child you see on the videotape. He was 5’7″ tall and weighed 190 pounds.”
For my European readers, that means his height was 175 centimeters and he weighed about 86 kilos. Kind of a chubby kid, but not exactly a giant. He might have looked like he was 14 or 15, but he did not look like an adult.
In addition, the police officer has still not expressed even the slightest regret. If he does not get sent to jail, there is something very, very wrong in America.

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Why Do They Want to Go?

Mars One, no two ways about it, is a gutsy project. Four astronauts will go to Mars. They will not come back. Others will go, after a couple of years. The population of Mars will slowly grow. Maybe after a decade or two, if technology advances, some of them will be able to come back. If they want.

Proposed Home on Mars

Proposed Home on Mars


But, they’ll go up with the idea in mind that they are never coming back. That they will live out the rest of their lives in an entirely artificial environment on a hostile planet. They will live in extremely close quarters with a very small group of people, and any trip outdoors will require a spacesuit.
There is no shortage of volunteers. There were thousands of applicants for the job. Some people seem surprised about that.
It shouldn’t be surprising. In a world of 7 billion people, no more than a small handful will do anything with their lives that really makes a difference. Yet, that is one of the great cravings of mankind; to do something special, to be the first at something, to make a mark, to actually change the future of mankind, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Who has the chance to do that any more in this world? No more than a handful of scientists will make great and memorable discoveries. Out of the millions and millions of writers who are writing, less than a dozen will be remembered at all 100 years from now, and yet writers write, painters paint, inventors invent, and explorers explore, but we’ve run out of new places for the explorers unless they go off planet.
We are like little sperm cells, swimming upstream, blindly obsessed like salmon, but only one will pierce the egg. These lucky few astronauts are the envy of the human race. They are the future, about to be born.

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The Legacy of Spock

Leonard Nimoy passed away just a few hours ago, at the age of 83. Science fiction fans everywhere mourn.
There are few other cases in film and TV history where an actor has been so identified with one character. It’s not surprising. Although Leonard Nimoy had many other roles, Spock was special. Spock changed television. Spock changed the world.

Leonard  Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015


I was 12 years old when Star Trek premiered in 1966, and me and my brothers were seriously excited. The only science fiction series prior to that on TV had been Lost in Space, and Lost in Space was crap. I think even the people who made Lost in Space were aware of how crap it was.
Star Trek was different. Sure, it was cowboys in space, but they took the science seriously enough that it wasn’t a farce, and Spock was a big part of that. The fact the he was always logical and super smart was a great plot device because it meant he could explain the plot as it went along. Also, he was the only alien on the crew. Future Star Trek incarnations learned from his popularity, and rectified that under-representation. He was the Jackie Robinson of alien characters in Sci-Fi series.
As an actor, as a character, and as a human being, he will be sorely missed. Thank you, Leonard Nimoy, for your life.

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The Lights are On. Is Anybody Home?

When I was in 4th grade, I had a bit of a crush on a girl named Dawn,so I like the name.
The Dawn I’m writing about now is a spacecraft,and it’s getting closer every day to a rendezvous with Ceres. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt and technically a dwarf planet. It’s the reason Pluto got demoted. It was either that or allow Ceres, and two or three other bodies, to be called planets. I guess the scientists figured that schoolkids needed a break and it would be easier to memorize 8 planets than 9, certainly rather than 11.

Signal from Ceres

Signal from Ceres


This is the first time a spacecraft will have a close up view of Ceres, in fact it’s now as close as we’ve ever been so every day between now and March 6th will give us a better and brighter view.
The trippy thing is, the thing that makes this expedition suddenly gossipworthy, is that there are two bright lights shining from the planets surface.
Of course, it will probably turn out to be nothing. The face on Mars, which was in all the anthologies of weird, unexplained phenomenon, wound up just looking like any other rock once we got a closer view. Ditto the canals of Mars. So, no life on Mars, we know that now.
But, counting moons, asteroids, comets, and assorted debris, there are still a whole lot of heavenly bodies we have not explored in this Solar System, and that’s all we’re going to be exploring for quite a while yet, because everything else is way too far away.
So, up until they figure out that it’s a patch of ice, or some reflective mineral, I’m assuming that E.T. is down there, trying to contact us.
Because that’s definitely the most interesting possibility.

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Now, Will You Believe Us?

For a long time, people who for some reason don’t want to believe that Global Climate Change (I don’t want to use the phrase Global Warming since it apparently confuses people) is caused by human activity (and why they so adamantly want to believe this, I don’t know -maybe it has to do with some mistaken notions about ‘jobs’ or, even more nebulously ‘the economy’) have clung to the fact that “not all scientists agree on this.”

Willie Soon

Willie Soon


That is true. Although the ratio is something like 97% to 3% that is, indeed, less than 100%.
Well, it just got a lot closer to 100%, and in rather dramatic fashion.
Wei Hock “Willie” Soon, one of the most often quoted scientists among that 3 percent, was exposed a couple of days ago. It turns out that he’s been paid over a million dollars by the oil industry to make that point. The ‘donations’ came from a few different companies, probably so it wouldn’t be too obvious, but a couple hundred thousand of it came directly from the Koch brothers.
So, his credibility is shot. You can’t quote him any more.
The strange thing is, I don’t really blame Soon. Sure, he was willing to sell out future generations for a lousy million bucks, but a million bucks is a million bucks and a lot of basically decent people would have been sorely tempted. I’m sure he said to himself things like “If I don’t do it, they’ll just find somebody else,” and maybe “Well, it COULD be true.” Nah, he probably never said that second one.
But the first one is true,and now the billionaire’s money will flow to the next sell out scientist in line. In the interests of truth, it would be a good idea at this point to investigate the finances of all scientists who deny man-made global climate change.
The number who believe it’s really happening might turn out to be 100% after all.

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Birdman

Well, since the kids are both out of town, Isabel at the grandparents and Sam with a friend, Helena and I were due for a date night. Since Birdman won the best picture Oscar and since I am a big fan of Michael Keaton, his portrayal of Beetlejuice was one of the great characters of all time and that movie where he cloned himself had one of the greatest lines of all time, i.e. “She touched my peepee, Steve. I liked it. I liked it a lot,” we decided to go see Birdman, at Lucerna, a classic Prague cinematic experience, with the very elegant cafe where you can hang out until showtime. I had a coffee and Helena had a chlebicek and a coke.

Michael Keaton working  out his issues

Michael Keaton working out his issues


I was a bit disappointed in the film. I can see how critics considered it a great film, there were brilliant performances. Michael Keaton did not disappoint, and Emma Stone as his daughter was brilliant, but Edward Norton, as the other insane actor in the onstage battle of egos, stole the show. There was some excellent dialogue, maybe too much excellent dialogue. The whole thing was so loaded with meaning that it was more of an intellectual experience than a film, right from the first five minutes where he’s staring into his dressing room mirror and there’s a little note stuck in the corner of the frame that says “The thing is what the thing is, and not what we say the thing is,” I may not be remembering that word for word but it was a nice thought, a true statement, and set the tone.
I liked the scene where his daughter tore into him for not having twitter, or facebook, and failing to accept that he was already irrelevant, it spoke to me and the reasons I blog, the film was very much about old men trying to remain young, as in the Edward Norton speech where he said to Sam (the daughter) that he’d like to take out her eyeballs and put them in his own head so he could see New York the way he’d seen it when he was young. I liked Keaton’s argument with the critic in the bar, when they discussed the various merits of films vs. live theater, and what it meant to be an actor vs. being a critic.
Wasn’t terribly impressed with the scene where he was flying, I thought that was kind of stupid.
It didn’t quite make it into the ‘great film’ category. My definition of a great film is one where you’re so wrapped up in the story, you forget you are watching a film and the moment it ends is a surprise because you had forgotten.
That didn’t happen. I give it about a 7 or a 7.5 out of 10, but if this was the best film of the year,then it wasn’t a great year.

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The Meanings of Words

As we debate the important issues of the day, it is important  that we all use the same words to mean the same things.  Of course, the problem is that the language is changing and it’s changing fast and it’s sometimes hard to keep up.  So, tonight I’d just like to weigh in on a couple of words, how they are used, and how I think they should be used.

Every time the argument turns to Israel,  as it tends to do, because to people who are interested in that unhappy little corner of the world there is nothing more important, any argument against the actions of the Israeli government will be met with the charge of anti-semitism.  Invariably, that argument will be countered by  some pedantic person who is more interested in linguistics than in  Zionism, who will be quick to point out that Arabs are semites as well, and therefore the word is irrelevant.

Shut up.  Although that may be the etymology of the word, everybody knows that it now means anti-Jewish.  If somebody wants to say anti-Arab, they say anti-Arab.

I object to the term being used in the overly defensive manner it is, to shut down any criticism of Israel.  Lord knows, there is plenty to criticize Israel for.  But I accept that it means anti-Jewish.

When the conversation turns to UFOs, there is always some person who thinks they’re a genius when they point out that UFO  just means unidentified flying object, so it might actually just be some swamp gas, or a classified military experiment.

Shut up.  We all know the acronym.  When we say UFO, we mean a spaceship with aliens inside it, and when we say aliens, we mean people from another planet, not just another country.

Now we  come to GMOs, and that’s the one where I think the definition is causing serious problems.  When we talk about genetically modified organisms, we are not talking about cross breeding plants, or even grafting.  GMOs at that level of technology have been with us for hundreds of years and are socially acceptable:  orange carrots, Golden Delicious apples, and almost all of the marijuana that is on the market today.  No, we’re talking more about something at the genetic level.

Even so, I don’t want to be an enemy of science.  If I thought that GMOs were being manufactured in order to fight plant diseases, make them more pest resistant, or even just to give them a longer shelf life, I’d be all for ‘em. But that’s not the case.

GMOs means Monsanto and Monsanto, as everybody who is not employed by them either directly or in their capacity as a government official agrees, is an evil corporation bent on destroying small farmers and gaining total control of the world’s food supply.  So, the way the word is used today, I’ve got to be against them.

Sort of like communism and eugenics.

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