Monday, August 31, 2015

Steve 'n' Seagulls

Steve N' Seagulls

If you're interested in hearing Finnish bluegrass bands specializing in covers of ACDC tunes you've come to the right place!  This is Steve 'n' Seagulls featuring Remmel, Puikkonen, Pukki Kaalinen, Hiltumen and Herman performing Thunderstruck.  The boys are having a good time.

And this is their cover of You Shook Me All Night Long.  They're embarking today on a World Tour, including the United States, so if you want to catch 'em check out the schedule at their website.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Election Demographics: 2016

THC came across this interesting 2016 Election scenario calculator published at Real Clear Politics by Sean Trende and David Byler. You can look at the 2012 results and then, for four groups, Non-Hispanic Whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian & Other, see how potential changes in the % vote for each party and turnout assumptions could drive the popular vote and electoral college results in 2016. You can find it here and have some fun playing around with it.

Rep. % Of Vote
Voter Turnout
R Vote (millions)
D Vote (millions)
Non-Hispanic White
Asian & Other
Popular Vote


Electoral College

One thing that jumps out from the 2012 data is the African American vote of which Barack Obama won 94%.  Romney won the remaining electorate (White, Hispanic, Asian) by 9 million votes. The other thing is the extraordinary AA turnout. In most elections, other than 2008 and 2012, AA turnout is usually 6-8 points less than White turnout.

When you play with the calculator tool you find that if AA turnout reverts to its historic norms and a GOP candidate can get 10% of the AA vote, they win the election if they also get 62% (instead of 60.2%) of the White vote and turnout edges up from 64.1% to 65% even if the Hispanic and Asian vote does not change.

If a GOP candidate could ever get 30% of the AA vote (similar to that of Hispanics and Asians) they would win the election even if White, Hispanic and Asian percentages remain the same. That’s why it’s predictable that the more the GOP attempts to court AA voters the more accusations of racism they will face from the D’s and their media allies.

The calculator also reveals some other surprising things. Because of the concentration of Hispanics in a small group of states it takes a lot of positive or negative changes for the GOP to make electoral college inroads based on that vote. In 2012, Romney received 27.6% of that vote. In 2016 a Republican candidate would have to drop down to 8% before another state switches to the D column and would have to capture 48% of that vote to swing one additional state to the GOP.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Power Shortage

Megan McArdle, whose blog you should be reading, wrote this about a decade ago.  It seems to resonate more with the passing years and regardless of who is in power.

"The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A View On A High Road

This is what road conditions were like in Europe from the fall of Rome until the 19th century.  The painting is A View On A High Road by Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), a Dutch landscape painter a pupil of the better-known Jacob van Ruisdael.  High Road was the term for a major thoroughfare.  Macadam and asphalt were a really big deal when they were introduced a couple of centuries later (see Forgotten Americans: Jacob de Smedt & Nathan B Abbott).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Calvary patheos)

THC missed Calvary during its theatrical release last year because like so many "small" films it was in and out of the one local theater where it was shown in the blink of an eye.  The reviews had been quite good and THC finally saw it on cable a couple of weeks ago.  The reviews had not prepared him for the real subject of the film.  THC could be a bit euphemistic and just say he found it moving, but the truth is he was crying during the final two scenes.

The setup for this Irish-made film is very simple and happens in the very first scene.  A priest in rural County Sligo is taking confession.  The penitent tells him that as a child he was molested multiple times by a priest.  He further discloses that the abusive priest is now dead.  After further back and forth the penitent announces that it would be a more powerful statement for him to deal with his abuse by killing a good priest rather than a bad priest and that he, the priest hearing the confession, will be murdered by the penitent in a week.  While the priest has suspicions about who's made the threat he does not know his identity for sure.

So it's a whodunit, right?  Well, that's what THC thought based on the reviews and the opening scene but it isn't really though it's a while before it becomes apparent that the filmmaker, John Michael McDonagh who wrote and directed, has something else on his mind.  It's not about who is planning the murder or about any of the flawed and very human members of the Church that we are introduced to in the course of the film.  Calvary is about what it means to be a good priest and the faith required to meet the demands of that role.  Though that burden is one that can be heavy at any time, by situating it in the midst of the terrible abuse scandals within the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland makes it very pointed.  It's a whatwillhedo and whyhedoesit rather than a whodunit.

After watching the film, THC (a non-Catholic) went online to double check his reaction by seeing how Catholic publications reviewed the film in light of its setting within the Church's sexual abuse scandal.  With the exception of one lukewarm review they varied from very positive to raves with one commenting that the movie showed "with extraordinary vividness, what authentic spiritual shepherding looks like and how it feels for a priest to have a shepherd’s heart" and Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput called it an "intimate, unblinking, unforgettable film". 

Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart, In Bruges, Gangs of New York) plays Father James Lavelle, a man who came late to the priesthood joining after his beloved wife died and who has an adult daughter.   Gleeson is always good, here he is simply magnificent, by turns funny, caring, caustic, baffled, questioning, loving and even violent.  The rest of the cast is excellent - for Game of Thrones fans Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger) plays a cynical atheist doctor and the great M Emmett Walsh (THC will always be haunted by his role as Loren Visser, the corrupt private detective in the Coen Brothers debut feature, Blood Simple) as an American writer living out his days in the village.  A French-Canadian actress, Marie-Jose Cruze, appears briefly in two crucial scenes to deliver a message of grace and acceptance in the face of an unfathomable and random event. in Game of Thrones, Walsh in Blood Simple)

The cinematography makes the Irish countryside look beautiful (perhaps not a hard job) and the screenplay has a great deal of wit in it, with lines that would never be allowed to appear in a Hollywood movie today.  The only weakness is a byproduct of the movie's structure.  Many of the characters were more caricatures and some of the dialogue too cleverly written.  It was only as the story developed that THC realized most of the roles were written deliberately as archetypes and that the priest is the only fully realized character.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bad Day In Pompeii

August 24, 79.

Think you're having a bad day?  What about these folks?   Glad they had at least one CCTV camera in place that day.