Welcome! (I guess...)

For those of you who by some extremely unlikely set of circumstances happened to stumble upon this page, I apologize to you. For those of you who intentionally came to this page - yikes! As the title of the weblog indicates, these are my Ramblings About Whatever. There is a chance that I will ramble about just about anything (as I am in this introduction), but only a select few topics will actually make this site. Enjoy! (I guess...)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brooke Baldwin's Silly Question

I would much rather comment about happier things, or things that are more readily mocked, but yesterday I saw the exchange in the linked video between CNN's Brooke Baldwin and US Representative Corrine Brown.  See the video for yourself below.

Around the 5:55 mark, if you have not watched it, Baldwin asks, "would you, would your fellow African-American lawmakers be as concerned about this case if Trayvon wasn't black?"  This interview happened yesterday (March 28), but then earlier today, Baldwin was on her show and discussed briefly the responses she had received about the above exchange.  Forgive me, but I don't believe that video is available yet, but the gist of what Baldwin explained was that there had been mixed reaction to the question that I quoted above, and she then went on to detail the specific case that Representative Brown was citing, but then she also defended her question that I quoted as an appropriate question.  And it is with Baldwin saying that this question was appropriate to ask that I strongly disagree.

The simplest reason for why this question was completely absurd is that Baldwin did not just ask Brown whether she (Brown) would be as concerned if Trayvon Martin wasn't black, Baldwin asked whether Brown's fellow African-American lawmakers would be as concerned if Trayvon Martin wasn't black.  How is Representative Brown supposed to know whether her fellow African-American lawmakers would be as concerned if Trayvon Martin wasn't black?  As far as I can tell, Brown neither thinks nor speaks for all African-Americans in the House of Representatives.

But beyond this simple reason that this was a silly question if not inappropriate is that Baldwin's question seems to ignore a large part of the reason that there is such outrage in this case, namely that Martin was killed and there was no arrest and no criminal charge.  In those other cases that Baldwin cited earlier in the above video, as far as I know, there were arrests with criminal charges being assessed or there are ongoing criminal investigations.  One of the big problems with the Trayvon Martin case is that a competent investigation did not seem to have taken place at all.  It seems as if the Sanford police decided that they could not find evidence to dispute Zimmerman's claims of self-defense before taking the trouble to fully investigate the incident.  (Yes, it's strange that if you fail to actually investigate an incident that you would have trouble disputing someone's claim of self-defense.)  For instance, it seems absurd to me that the Sanford police evidently did not check Martin's cell phone records and interview his girlfriend, who was reportedly on the phone with him at the time this altercation began, because this information alone would seem to provide enough doubt about Zimmerman's self-defense claim to charge Zimmerman with some sort of crime.

And a last reason why this question seemed absurd is that the contention of many people, and not just Representative Brown and her fellow African-American lawmakers, is that Zimmerman only identified Martin as suspicious because he was black, and if Martin was not black, yet the same events transpired, then Zimmerman would not have likely gone without arrest.  Additionally, if the races of the individuals were reversed, it is the contention of many people, and not just Representative Brown and her fellow African-American lawmakers, that there is no chance that the black individual, being the shooter, would have gone without arrest by the Sanford Police Department.

But Representative Brown could have certainly done better in this exchange.  The information that she provided about the young girl in her district who had been killed was ultimately superfluous.  The easiest way to answer the stupid question as it was phrased by Baldwin would have been to say, "Well Brook, I cannot speak for my fellow African-American lawmakers, but yes."  And then she should have just left it with that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Case

I’m going to make a slight departure from the normal posts that I do, which are ostensibly comical and touch on a very serious topic.  And this topic is the mysterious and controversial death of Trayvon Martin.  There are countless online news articles about this subject at this point, almost exactly a month after the incident took place, that you can find out more detailed information on your own if you wish.  But I will try to give a brief synopsis of what supposedly took place in the next paragraph.  In the last couple of weeks, there has been increased national (and international) attention being paid to this story and with good reason as tensions in the Sanford, FL area where the incident occurred have heightened.  Indeed, in checking my computer’s history, I can see that the earliest that I became aware of the incident was on March 9.  But I will dispense with my introduction now and move on to my discussion.

The details of this story that as far as I know are not in dispute, follow.  On February 26, seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin was staying with his father at the home of his father’s fiancé or girlfriend in a gated community in Sanford, FL.  It seems clear from the reports available that Trayvon Martin’s younger brother was also present in the home at the time.  At halftime of that evening’s NBA All-Star game, reports suggest that Trayvon Martin left the home to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up a few items.  During Martin’s walk back, after entering the community, he was observed by twenty-eight-year old George Zimmerman from within Zimmerman’s vehicle.  Reports have suggested that Zimmerman was the captain of the community’s neighborhood watch, but the reports seem to be unclear as to whether or not this was an official position.  Upon seeing Martin walking within the community, Zimmerman called a police line.  Different reports that I have read differ as to whether this call was a 911 call or a non-emergency police line.  I will leave it to you to search for the recordings of the phone calls if you desire.  At some point after seeing Martin and reporting to the police, Zimmerman exits the vehicle and at some time later, a confrontation occurs between Martin and Zimmerman.  The end result of the confrontation was that Martin lay dead with a single gunshot wound to the chest while Zimmerman reportedly had a broken nose and an injury to the back of his head.  Various neighbors called 911 as they heard the noise from the encounter in the background, and I invite you to search for the recordings of these calls as well, if you wish.  A short time later, the police arrived, and the end result of that evening’s events was that Zimmerman was reportedly taken to the police station for questioning, buy ultimately released.

And now I’ll expand on a few of the details.  It seems impossible to me to believe that I am the first source from which you are learning the details of the story, but in case I am, I will inform you that Martin was African-American while Zimmerman has been described as White-Hispanic.  In a perfect world this would be irrelevant, and this is part of the reason that I chose to omit this information in the synopsis above, but anyone who believes that this is a perfect world is foolish and/or naïve.  I am going to leave to you to decide for yourself whether there was a racial bias motivation behind Zimmerman exiting his vehicle and allegedly pursuing Martin based on the phone calls to the police and character accounts by friends/acquaintances of Zimmerman (which again you can search for and the information is readily available online), but I think it is important to mention the races of the parties involved for a reason that I will come back to shortly.  But in addition to the added details that I just gave, in 2005 a so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was passed in Florida that says, and I am certainly paraphrasing because I do not have the law in front of me, if a person is in a location in which he or she is legally able to be, and s/he reasonably believes that there is a person who is going to commit severe bodily harm to another or some other felony, then the person witnessing this or about to (in their mind) be harmed does not have a duty to retreat, but can meet this perceived threat with deadly force.  And apparently, from what I’ve read or heard in a couple of instances over the last couple of weeks, this law supposedly if claimed by a person (if they claim they shot someone in self-defense) provides immunity from standard arrest.  (I admit that I’m not 100% certain about this last part, but I’m almost positive that I heard this as part of the explanation for why Zimmerman wasn’t arrested.  I think it was perhaps during the panel discussion on this week’s ABC’s This Week.)

And now I’m going to move on from just providing the facts or facts as I’ve heard them in this case to providing my opinion.  The person who bears the most responsibility for this tragedy occurring is George Zimmerman.  I don’t care what explanation, excuse, or spin anyone gives you, but the simple fact is that if Zimmerman had listened to the police dispatcher who was on the phone with him who told him that the police did not need him to follow Martin, this tragedy almost certainly would not have occurred.  To me, any person looking at this incident objectively would come to the same conclusion.  And I’m torn as to where the second greatest responsibility lies, but let me absolutely assure you, in my mind, regardless of Martin’s actions, it does not belong with Trayvon Martin.  The second greatest responsibility lies with either the Florida legislature and the person who was governor at that time who signed into law this foolish so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or the Sanford police department.  This seems obvious to me based on the reports that I’ve read.  It seems incredibly obvious to me based on reports that I have read that the investigation into the incident that the Sanford police conducted was sub-standard at best.  I have seen reports that Martin was tested for drugs and alcohol after he had died, but Zimmerman, the man who by all accounts was the one who shot and killed Martin was not.  I have heard from at least one report that I have seen over the last two and a half weeks that it is generally standard procedure after such a shooting to test the shooter for drugs and alcohol in his/her system.  But as I said shortly ago Zimmerman was reportedly not tested.  Now there is a chance that Zimmerman was on neither drugs nor alcohol on that evening, but the problem is that, if the reports that I’ve seen are correct, we will never be able to determine this.  If according to this absurd so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, the Sanford police were not allowed to test Zimmerman if he claimed self-defense, then the responsibility rests with the Florida state legislature and the then governor for this atrocious law.  If, however, despite the claims of self-defense, the Sanford police were able to perform drug and alcohol tests on Zimmerman, but elected not to do so, then they are fully responsible for this shoddy investigation and borderline obstruction of justice.  It seems patently absurd to me that, again if the reports that I have heard are correct, that after such an altercation and shooting, they would test the person who has been shot, but not the shooter for drugs and alcohol.

So now, just over a month has passed since this incident took place.  What infuriates me more than anything is that this guy, George Zimmerman, had absolutely no legal authority to confront Trayvon Martin, but since he did not heed the instructions of the police dispatcher with whom he was speaking, a seventeen-year old child is now needlessly dead.  I have heard reports that according to friends, Zimmerman has been crying and inconsolable at times over the last month.  I wholeheartedly believe this, and I have sympathy for him.  I cannot imagine what it would feel like if I was responsible for taking someone else’s life, nor do I ever want to know that feeling.  I get this feeling that this will haunt Zimmerman for the rest of his life, and I cannot imagine the strength that it will take to endure that heavy load.  I don’t wish such emotional stress on anyone.  On April 10, I believe that the Florida State Attorney’s office will be convening a grand jury to decide whether charges will be brought in this case.  Additionally, based on some of the information heard on taped police calls from Zimmerman, the United States Justice Department is looking into whether or not federal charges can be brought against Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights.  Only time will tell what becomes of this case, but I will certainly be paying attention.

Addendum: I left this out before, but one of the things that infuriates me the most about this case is that it seems completely unfathomable to me that if Trayvon Martin, being African-American, was the shooter that he would have been given the benefit of the doubt by the Sanford police and now, a month later, would have spent exactly zero days behind bars.  I estimate that probability to be zero.  The other thing that I wanted to mention is that the New Black Panther Party has apparently offered a reward for the citizen’s arrest of George Zimmerman.  I believe that it started at $10,000, but last I heard, the reward was up to $23,000, and they hope that eventually the reward gets up to $1,000,000.  This sort of involvement by the New Black Panther Party is precisely what is not needed in this situation.  They are helping the situation in no way, shape, or form.

Springtime at the Movies

Seeing as how this (we)blog is actually titled ‘Ramblings About Whatever,’ I decided that I would take the time to expand the subject matter of the posts since all of the more recent ones have been related to sports.  And so with that said, I’m going to now discuss a number of the movie commercials that I have seen in recent weeks.  (This should come as no surprise if you did take the time to read the title of the post.)

I should start off by disclosing that I very rarely go to see movies in theaters.  Since 2007, off of the top of my head, I can recall having seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Dark Knight, Quantum of Solace, Avatar, Fast Five, The Three Musketeers, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in the theater.  So, that’s nine movies that were released from 2007-2011.  There are a couple of points I should mention, however.  I know that Transformers was released in 2007, and I’m almost certain that I should have seen it in the theater, but I honestly cannot recall having done so.  A second point is that I saw four movies released in 2011 in the theater.  (Although to be exact, I saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on January 2 of this year.)  To recap, in the last five years, I’ve seen nine, maybe ten, movies in theaters, and of those nine or ten, four were from 2011.

So enough rambling – you can clearly see that I don’t go to see movies in the theater with any sort of high frequency, though, last year could be considered an anomaly.  With that I will launch into my discussion about the various promos for movies that I have seen thus far this year and detail the likelihood that I’ll actually buy a ticket to watch said films.

John Carter

When I saw the commercials for this movie, I initially thought that it looked intriguing.  I did not read a lot about the movie (and still have not), but I seemed to remember it being mentioned in at least one commercial that the eponymous character was from Earth and was supposed to help save this world, or something along those lines.  And if this fact (or assumed fact) doesn’t intrigue you as well, I think there is something wrong with you.  Because I still long for the day when I’m transported to some other realm and I’m asked to rescue the native population, don’t you?  Of course, after I’ve rescued the native population I would have to decide what type of dictator I wished to be, but I suppose that decision can wait until after I have actually liberated my future subjects.

However, another advertisement that I saw for John Carter mentioned something along the lines of ‘critics have said that John Carter is the first blockbuster of the year!’  To me, this is one of the more asinine things that I’ve heard said in the promotion of a movie.  It is perfectly analogous to saying ‘critics say that a lot of people are buying/going to buy high priced tickets to watch John Carter!’  This line is not a critical review of the movie and thus it seems absurd to me to use this as a promoting point for the movie.  A lot of people go to see crappy movies.  (One could argue that if you look at some of the movies that I have listed that I’ve seen that this is proof of the point I made.  But that person would be wrong because all of those movies are awesome!)  So all together this movie falls between the categories of Maybe I’ll See It-Maybe I Won’t and I’m Somewhat Unlikely to See It.

21 Jump Street

I remember watching bits of the television program in the 1980s on which this movie is supposedly based when I was a kid.  However, whereas I seem to remember that the television program was a somewhat serious drama based on serious topics, the movie that was recently released is ostensibly a comedy, the commercials for which seem to belie this point.  The bottom line about this movie from what I have seen from the commercials is that it looks extremely stupid.  I have never been a fan of Jonah Hill; I don’t find him very funny.  And everything that I just said about Hill applies to Channing Tatum as well.

I don’t feel that I have to say that much more about this movie.  In the end I would say that it probably rates in the category Probably Still Wouldn’t Watch it Even if a Ridiculously Hot Girl Wanted to See It.  (Okay, obviously one key would have to be just how hot the girl was, but regardless of how hot she was, I would have to question whether such a relationship would have a long-term potential if the girl was interested in watching such a stupid movie.)

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, which was released this past weekend is another movie that looked very intriguing to me, perhaps even more so than John Carter.  I guess part of this reason is that I have always been a fan of stories about dystopian societies, the events that led to the states of being in those societies, and the actions the characters take to try to change their circumstances.  Additionally, the cast members who I could identify from the commercials were all fairly likeable.  There did not to seem to be anything other than pure laziness that should get in the way of me seeing this movie.

However, as the days counted down, drawing closer to the release date for The Hunger Games, I started seeing media reports on various channels about the excitement building for the opening, including seeing hoards of people, mostly teenagers, camped out in tents waiting for either the Hollywood premiere or to get tickets to initial screenings.  Just as I became suspicious a few years back when I initially thought that the promos for the movie Twilight looked intriguing without knowing anything about the books, but realized that something had to be wrong when both my sister and a friend with whom I have almost no similar taste in movies were discussing on Facebook their joint desire to see the movie since they had both read all of the books in the series, I became a little suspicious about The Hunger Games.  There is no way that a movie that elicits this much enthusiasm out of teenagers could be worth my while to see in a theater.

So whereas by all rights this movie should probably fall between the categories Leaning Toward Seeing It and Maybe I’ll See It-Maybe I Won’t, the fact that it is a huge draw for teenagers knocks it all the way down to Not a Chance, No Way.

American Reunion

I think that the first movie in this series, American Pie, was released while I was in college.  I did not see that one in the theater, but I never thought it was as good as most of friends claimed it was when I eventually did see it.  Most of the characters just were not that funny to me.  The only actors who I liked in the movie were Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy.  Most of the other actors I could not stand, and it still is difficult for me to watch them in other movies.  (Jennifer Coolidge is perhaps the lone exception.)

Needless to say, I did not watch either of the first two sequels to American Pie, in the theater or on television/video/DVD.  So, I can imagine that it should come as no surprise that there’s no chance that I’m watching American Reunion in the theater since I’m fairly certain that the American Pie type of humor has not grown on me in the twelve years since I graduated from college.  Just in case you missed it, American Reunion falls into the category of Not a Chance, No Way.

The Three Stooges

This is probably my favorite of the movies to discuss because the discussion will be the shortest.  Since the time I can remember being capable of rational thought, I have not found The Three Stooges to be funny.  The promo commercials look stupid for the movie, and I cannot imagine a scenario in which this movie is not stupid.  And so this movie falls into the category of Not a Chance, No Way.

Dark Shadows

And finally I come to Dark Shadows.  I’m aware that the movie is inspired by the soap opera of the same name from the 1960s, and this might have caused my interest in seeing it plummet just on sheer principle, but it is a Tim Burton movie and Johnny Depp does appear in the film.

I have enjoyed most Tim Burton movies that I have seen and believe that he does an outstanding job of creating movies in the comedy/horror genre.  I thought that Beetlejuice was a fantastic movie and watch it anytime that I have the opportunity.  I enjoyed Batman, Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, and Alice in Wonderland.  Burton, better than anyone else, has the ability to present a story that while undoubtedly dark is also undeniably funny.

Additionally, I think that Depp is an outstanding actor.  No one does a better job of playing eccentric characters.  You can look at his performance as Edward Scissorhands, or his performance as Willy Wonka, his take as the Mad Hatter, and of course, his four performances as Jack Sparrow.  (I feel I must disclose that I have only seen the first three of these Jack Sparrow performances.)  He knows how to play the role of the lead actor who by all rights should be absolutely loathed, but somehow possesses an impossible-to-ignore charm.

And so with all of this said, Dark Shadows gets a rating of Likely to See It.  I should note, however, that seeing as how this movie is about a month and a half away from its premiere, this rating will undoubtedly drop as the release date gets closer due in no small part to my aforementioned laziness.  So please don’t be surprised if I provide an update a few weeks from now revealing that I have not actually seen this movie because there is a reason, after all, that I have only seen nine or ten movies in theaters in the last five years.  (Okay, let me clarify.  You should be extremely surprised if I update this post at all because I feel I have already written enough on this subject.  Perhaps I’ll write about other movies later on as the summer approaches.  But should the unlikely occur and I provide a proper update to this post, then you should not be surprised if I have not seen Dark Shadows.)


Let me make it clear that this is actually an addendum and not an update.  There were a couple of other movies that could have appeared in this post that would lean toward the Likely to See It rating.  These are Casa de Mi Padre and Wrath of the Titans.  Casa de Mi Padre would probably suffer because it's in Spanish, my Spanish isn't all that great, and I certainly wouldn't feel like reading subtitles throughout the movie.  Wrath of the Titans probably would garner the rare I'm On Line for Tickets as I Type.  I don't think I need to explain this one further.

I sure am glad that I am not a movie critic and thus can avoid watching most of these crappy movies.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


So I'm watching the Pennsylvania-Princeton basketball game this evening, and I'm in the rare position where I'm actually pulling for Princeton to win at something.  I'm trying to think of the few times I can remember this happening off of the top of my head and I can only think of two occasions.  The first was when Princeton was playing against and upset UCLA in the NCAA tournament in 1996, I believe, when UCLA was defending its championship from the previous year.  (I think the score was 43-41, or something close, but I'm not actually going to do any research into this until after this post because these are ultimately minor details.)  And the second, if I remember correctly, was when Princeton played the University of Texas in the 2004 NCAA tournament, but ultimately lost.  (This second example could be wrong as it could have been Pennsylvania that played UT, but I think that it was Princeton.)

So you can clearly see that over the last decade and a half I have rarely actually hoped that Princeton won at anything.  And this is because I hate Princeton and have hated them for quite some time (roughly a decade and a half).  I pulled for Princeton in 1996 because I had yet to start at Harvard and had no reason to hate Princeton yet, and I pulled for (possibly) Princeton in 2004 because of a deep hatred of the University of Texas.  (It should be noted that my hatred of the University of Texas might not exceed my hatred of Princeton, but since I knew that there was virtually no chance of Princeton winning that championship, it was okay to pull for them on that occasion.)

And so here we are now with Princeton getting the job done, leading 17-6 with about seven minutes left in the first half.  Things are looking good so far.  I need Princeton to win this game because I need Pennsylvania to lose this game so that Harvard's basketball team will make the NCAA tournament without having to play Penn in a one game playoff later this week, which they would almost certainly lose.  I know there's a chance that Harvard could still make the tournament even if they were to lose to Penn in a playoff, but I've never been a fan of giving Ivy League teams at-large bids to the tournament and see no reason to change now.  So dear Princeton, please win this game tonight so that my Harvard Crimson can advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time sixty or whatever years and lose in the first round.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Some College Basketball Watching

I already watched the majority of the Michigan-Illinois game this evening, which Michigan won 72-61, the team's first victory at Illinois since the waning days of the Fab Five Era (January of 1995).  As the game was drawing to its conclusion, ESPN was doing promos for the upcoming game on the network between the nation's number one team, Kentucky, and Georgia from Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

I decided to continue watching because though I have heard a lot about Kentucky's Anthony Davis and I believe he is as good as people say, I haven't actually watched him play very much this season.  And this seems like a perfect time to watch given that the season is getting close to conference tournament time and in a few weeks the NCAA tournament will begin.

But all of this is not what inspired me to write this post.  What did inspire me to write this post was an incident that occurred very early in the Georgia-Kentucky game, perhaps within the first minute, that will almost certainly make ESPN's highlights or perhaps their Not Top 10 Plays.  Georgia had the ball near the top of the key, with the player dribbling toward the right side of the court.  Another Georgia player cut toward the basket from the right side (I believe) and the player with the ball attempted a bounce pass to player cutting to the hoop.  And it is about this time when hilarity ensued.

Anthony Davis instinctively kicked out his leg as the pass was being attempted.  It was a great kick save as the ball deflected off of Davis's foot, launched in the air toward the out of bounds area,...and into the side of the face of the unsuspecting referee.  Good times, but oh, it gets better.  Well, the pass was hard enough that the ball hit the official with a considerable amount of pace still on the ball, the official was knocked off balance as he moved to the right side, and then finally he tripped and fell into the Kentucky cheerleaders that were sitting on the out of bounds baseline.

The whole incident was great as the good-natured referee had a smile on his face as he was helped to his feet and people checked on his well-being.  And the entire incident was great as I also had a smile on my face in laughter as the official was helped to his feet and people checked on his well-being.  For the record, the entire incident still would have been great even if the official didn't have a smile on his face as people checked on his well-being.  The guy got hit in the face with the ball, stumbled, and then fell in the cheerleader section!  Hysterical!