2017 NBA Mock Draft #1 - Just Lotto and Lotta Trades!

Nothing brings my blogging out quite like the NBA draft. And with the NBA lottery out of the way, it's time for the first wild and highly unlikely NBA mock draft! I'll just go with the lotto picks for now. 

1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz
The Celtics will take Fultz #1. That much I'm sure of. Will he stay in Celtic green for long? I believe so but that could change. But with the Celtics' #1 priority being signing Gordon Hayward away from Utah, I'd be stunned if they made a deal on draft night. (I'd also knock Paul George off the target list unless he is willing to sign an extension, which I doubt happens.) Reports said that Ainge and Co. are enamored with Fultz and the C's have enough assets to make a trade without giving up the #1 so I think Fultz will be a Celtic for a long time to come.

2. Sacramento Kings (via Lakers): Lonzo Ball
I think Vivek wants a marquee name so badly that he agrees to deal the #5 pick and the expiring deals of Arron Afflalo and Langston Galloway for the #2 and Luol Deng (and his monster contract.) Deng actually could be a good veteran leader for the young Kings and there's no way Vivek won't be giddy about Ball and Hield lobbing alley-oops to Skal and Trillie. Lavar might not be happy in the Cali capital but Vivek has enough money to invest a little in Big Baller Brand, which could smooth things over.
The Lakers drop down to clear up even more cap space for their big push next off-season.

3. Chicago Bulls (via Phoenix via Philadelphia 76ers): Josh Jackson
Suns GM Ryan McDonough is on the hot seat and his Win Now plan kicks off with an all-in deal for Jimmy Butler. In a three-team deal, the Suns get Butler and Philly's #36 pick, the Bulls get #3, Dragan Bender (or Marquess Chriss), and Tyler Ulis (or TJ Warren), while the Sixers drop down a spot and nab Brandon Knight for their troubles but also have to eat Jared Dudley's contract.
With the Killer B's of Bledsoe, Booker, and Butler running the show, McDonough sets his eyes on a fourth B - Blake (Griffin). Or if the alliteration doesn't work out, Paul Millsap is another potential target as the Suns attempt to join the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
It takes a big offer to get John Paxson to give up on his current Bulls squad but I think this deal does it. Jackson could be the best player in the draft and a Jimmy Butler 2.0. Both Bender and Chriss still have a ton of upside while Tyler Ulis proved he was a legit NBA point guard (and potentially a starting point guard) at the end of the season. Not taking any major salary back opens up their books to make a run at top free agents this year and, especially, next year. Cap space and a new youth brigade of Ulis, Valentine, Jackson, and Bender or Chriss isn't a terrible way to kick of Baby Bulls 3.0 (or is it 4.0)
As for Philly...

4. Philadelphia 76ers (via Phoenix): Malik Monk
If Sam Hinkie was in charge, Josh Jackson would be a Sixer. But I think Bryan Colangelo is going to overlook the risky Best Player Available and opt to add a veteran point guard with a great work ethic in Knight as well as filling the major shooting void with Monk. There's a very real chance Monk is more Jamal Crawford than Devin Booker but this just seems like a Colangelo move. Jared Dudley adds a strong veteran presence (who they could dump for a pick at the trade deadline) and even with adding Knight and Dudley's contracts, the Sixers still wouldn't be at the salary floor yet and would be around 40 million under the cap.

5. Indiana Pacers (via Lakers via Kings): De'Aaron Fox
With Paul George not making the All-NBA team, the Pacers can not offer him the supermax, which basically means there's no way he's staying in Indiana. All signs point to the Lakers being the frontrunner and potentially only runner in the race for PG13. So why make a deal? I think Indy comes to them hat in hand and offers George for #5, #28, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov.
This move doesn't just dump Mozgov's contract, it cuts 4 million in salary this year and helps make the Lakers players in THIS offseason; they won't have to wait until next year. While I know many Laker fans will still prefer waiting, I think the possibility of landing Paul George while dumping the two awful Kupchak farewell moves is too good to pass up.
As for the Pacers, they salvage something out of a deal that was turning into vapor and Kevin Pritchard locks down his floor general for the next decade. In Portland, Pritchard went after Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless so I don't think Fox's lack of a shot will bother him.

6. Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum
The Magic are thrilled to land Tatum. He can take over the small forward spot, leaving Aaron Gordon to play at his more comfortable power forward position. They could opt for one of the point guards and call it a day on the Elfrid Payton Era but I think Tatum is too good of a fit to pass up here. 

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac
I can't imagine that Tom Thibodeau wants to get younger. I think he makes another a run at Jimmy Butler but the Suns outbid him. Lauri Markkanen makes some sense offensively but the Wolves can't really afford to get even weaker on defense. Now, I'll never put it past Scott Layden to make a bad trade but for now, I think the Wolves stand pat and nab the best player available, which is Isaac, whose upside is through the roof. 

8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina
The Knicks need a point guard and between Frank and Dennis Smith, I just feel like the Belgian is the one who Phil Jackson will think he can mold into a triangle-type player. Also, he has the potential to be a defensive menace, which the Knicks desperately need. Going for the foreigner with upside worked with Porzingis; maybe lightning can strike twice. 

9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith
Again, Lauri Markkanen makes sense here but I have to think that Mark Cuban is still hoping to make a playoff run in what might be Dirk's final season. Adding a point guard to bolster the backcourt makes more sense than bringing in Dirk's potential replacement. A trade is certainly possible but, at some point, Cuban has to realize that it's time to focus on the future.

10. Sacramento Kings: OG Anunoby
The Kings add a potential 3&D forward to team with the rest of their youngsters. 

11. Charlotte Hornets: Lauri Markkanen
Let's be frank, Kaminsky ain't that good and Markkanen offers most everything that Frank did except he seems like he might actually be able to deliver. Also, I think the drafts top tiers end at #10 so the Kings did the Hornets a favor by letting one of that ten fall into their lap. Markkanen and Kidd-Gilchrist could also pan out to be perfect complements.

12. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell
I think that Terrance Ferguson could be a guy who works his way up draft boards with good workouts but I think Van Gundy and Co. go with the safer bet, which is Mitchell, a kid who could replace and eventually improve upon what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope brought to the Pistons.

13. Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins
I wouldn't be stunned if the Nuggets finally dealt Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay this year but, for this pick, Collins seems like the consensus choice as he could be a nice complement to Nikola Jokic in the frontcourt. 

14. Miami Heat: Harry Giles
The Heat were one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season but they face a couple of key free agent decisions in James Johnson and Dion Waiters. And, once again, the team is waiting on Chris Bosh; they are now able to release him and his entire contract would come off of their cap (although it would be reinstated if he were to play 25 games for another team next season.)
While there are some intriguing names available at 14, I think the Heat swing for the fences and nab Giles, a kid who was the #1 recruit in the nation but has dealt with severe injury issues. 
 

Kevin MendoncaComment
2017 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

The NBA Playoffs are here! Let's take a look at the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference and see what the key storylines might be.

#1 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Chicago Bulls: A Referendum on Jimmy Butler
Should the Celtics have traded for Jimmy Butler? Should the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler this offseason or commit to building around him? 
Those are the questions that are going to be at the forefront of this series. Add in questions about Dwyane Wade's future in Chicago and Rajon Rondo's return to The Hub with the fact that the eight-seeded Bulls actually split the season series with the Celtics and you have an intriguing set of games on the horizon.
The Bulls are a consistently inconsistent squad. While they've pretty much danced around the .500 mark all season, with their playoff lives on the line, they managed to beat Cleveland and then lose to the Knicks and the Nets. 
I feel like the playoffs will bring the best out of the Bulls but it still won't be enough to take down the Celtics. Part of me wants to say this one stretches to seven games but for now I'll go with:
Prediction: Celtics in 6

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Indiana Pacers: The Return of Sir Lance-alot

LeBron James vs. Paul George is the marquee matchup but much of the talk could be around the return of Lance Stephenson. Lance helped make the Pacers dangerous a few years ago and then he became more dangerous to the Pacers' own locker room than to the opponent on the court. A short stint in NBA purgatory has helped Lance, who is now embracing his role and helped the Pacers make the second season. 
The Cavs have struggled in the back half of the season. They lost ten games in April; no team with that many losses in a month has ever won the NBA championship. Still, it's the playoffs now and I'm sure the Cavs will regain their stride. The Pacers could steal a game or two but their lackluster defense isn't going to be able to keep the Cavs from marching on.
Prediction: Cavs in 5

#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks: The Greek Freak Has Arrived!
The frontrunner for NBA's Most Improved Player award and darling of the blogosphere, Giannis Antetokoumpo will be the main attraction of this series. Meanwhile, the best team that nobody respects - the Toronto Raptors - will probably be used to life outside of the spotlight. The Raptors won three out of four vs the Bucks in the regular season and the one loss came when Kyle Lowry was out. The Bucks do have Khris Middleton now but they are also without Jabari Parker, who could've made this a more interesting matchup. The Bucks do have a number of wild cards who could add a surprise boost but ultimately, I think Dwayne Casey will have the Raptors ready to handle their business.
Prediction: Raptors in 5

#4 Washington Wizards vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks: Big vs. Little
I actually thought the Hawks were going to miss the playoffs. They hadn't been playing well and had the toughest closing schedule of anyone. Instead, they ripped off wins against the Celtics, the Cavs (twice), and Charlotte. And now they head into a series against a team that I think is susceptible to being overpowered by opposing bigs. Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard could put up some numbers against the Wiz.
The problem for the Hawks, however, is that the modern NBA is a little man's game and the Wizards have the much better players in the backcourt. Tim Hardaway Jr's quiet emergence as a legitimate NBA starter (17.5ppg since the All-Star break. 47% fg, 37% 3pt FG) helps Atlanta but I just don't see anyone stopping John Wall. I wouldn't be stunned if there was a disappearing act by Otto Porter and maybe Bradley Beal and Atlanta stole this series but my gut says the Wiz have enough to make it to the 2nd round. 
Prediction: Wizards in 6

After that, I see the Celtics duking it out with the Wizards but ultimately taking the series in 6. The Cavs shouldn't have much trouble with the Raptors, wrapping that one up in 5 games. 

As much as I'd love to bet on my Celtics to win the Eastern Conference, I think the Cavs just have too much and should be able to take care of business. It should be a five games series but if the Cavs take their foot off the pedal, it could go six or even seven. 

Kevin MendoncaComment
Black Rabbit Rose is ON THE LIST!

After the ho-hum Kong: Skull Island, I decided to try to boost my night by checking out the new magic-themed bar from the Houston Bros (No Vacancy, Good Times at Davey Wayne's, Breakroom 86, La Descarga). There was a 9:30 show so I hustled up Vine and down Hollywood to get there to see what the brothers had up their sleeve this time.

First tip: You have to buy your tickets online. I walked up at 9:15ish and was told they don't sell tix at the door. I was able to quickly buy tickets on my phone but I thought it important to share that online purchases are the only option.

The bar is a nice space and is the same set-up as the Houston Bros. last venture here, Butchers and Barbers. I'm not sure if I would go here JUST for the bar but it's great for pre-show drinks. I didn't try out the menu but, after seeing some of the plates on people's tables, I'll definitely be back to try out the food.
As for a date spot, best to reserve a table or show up early enough to get a spot at the bar. It's a smaller bar so if you miss out on those, you'll kind of be looming about in the middle of things (although there is a second, also small room with a Zoltan machine that you can hang out in as well.) Like many LA spots, it's dark and loud. That's good and bad for me; the darkness makes me look better but the music might test my diminishing hearing abilities. It might not be the ideal spot for first date convo but it isn't bad at all. 

The magic show was definitely entertaining and worth the $40, in my opinion. It featured multiple performers - two magicians, a juggler, a singer, and one other performer (I don't want to give away the whole show.) The magic is geared towards casual magic fans. I'm not an avid fan but having been to The Magic Castle and Derek DelGaudio's two shows, I've seen some top notch magicians. I was hoping for more card tricks but the tricks were good enough and the performers were such characters with solid humor that they made it all worthwhile. I can understand why magic fans might poo poo the show but, I mean, it's a magic show and it's tough to compare everything to The Magic Castle, one of, if not the best, magician's lair.

Black Rabbit Rose: 1719 N. Hudson Ave. Hollywood, CA 90028

Recxpectations for Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is the kind of movie that inspired me to do Recommended Expectations. A middling b-movie, it's the kind of big screen spectacle that some will eat up while others will be bored by. Saying whether I thought it was good or bad doesn't mean as much as setting the right mindset for people to head into the theater with.

NOTE: Reports are that there is a post-credits sequence.  

EXPECT: big fights and FX - that's what you came for and while there isn't much new ground broken, people who just like big creatures fighting will have enough to make them happy. And the film looks pretty fantastic. Won't be surprised if it nabs an Oscar nod for FX. Expect Blunt Force Cinema - not a lot of planning or thought goes into the proceedings; just people marching forward and fighting. Expect mostly generic characters - one or two people shine here but most of the characters are forgettable. Get ready for a muted tone - it walks the line in between serious and campy, delivering a film that has the characters (mostly) acting seriously but the audience giggled at many of the deaths. Sam Jackson is pretty dialed down here; could have used the bigger, badder Samuel L.

DON'T EXPECT: Much from Brie Larson or Tom Hiddleston; feels like anyone could have played their roles. Don't expect much of a Vietnam feel outside of some music choices and visual homages to Apocalypse Now. All of the characters feel like they could have come from any generation. Don't expect this to be the film that inspires a bunch of sequels but it won't be a franchise killer either. Don't expect to hate this movie but don't expect to remember anything besides the FX at the end of the year.

Recxpectations: Logan

As usual, this isn't so much of a review as it is setting recommended expectations for how I think people should head into the movie. It's spoiler-free.
Also note, I saw Logan in less than ideal conditions as the audio dropped out midway through the movie and, after twenty minutes of failed attempts to resolve the issues, the screening was canceled. I waited in line for half an hour to get a refund but then was able to sneak into a different showing that was pretty much at the point where my screening went haywire.
Side Note: During the twenty minutes of waiting for the screw up to be fixed, I was able to test my theory that, when things go wrong, you can get some laughs with "And the winner is La La Land." 

Tip: Show up on time. There's a short before the film that's worth catching.

EXPECT: A well-earned R-rating. From the opening line of dialogue to a gratuitous boob shot to action that quite literally doesn't pull any punches, this is not your father's X-Men. Expect a tone unlike anything we've seen in a Marvel movie. It's almost melancholy. Tonally, it's pretty much the anti-thesis of the giddy excitement one felt during the airport battle royale in Captain America: Civil War. That being said, the first half of the film might just stand up to the best Marvel has to offer. 

DON'T EXPECT: The momentum to carry through the second half. The film slows down quite a bit. Don't expect the film to break the X-Men series' Achilles heel of somewhat underwhelming final battles. Nor does it improve upon Marvel's nagging issue of somewhat generic villains (although Boyd Holbrook is very good in this.) Don't expect any other X-cameos - there are some references to events in the past and I was hoping for flashbacks that might include other X-Men but don't waste your time hoping for that. Don't expect to LOVE this movie because it's hard seeing your heroes beaten down by life and old age. The film has few-to-no moments that leave you thinking, "Ooh, that was fun!" It's not that type of movie. 

Overall, I definitely recommend "Logan." It's a must-see for fans of the X-series and will likely be mentioned in any discussion about the best film of the series. If you have to choose between "Get Out" and "Logan", I might still go with "Get Out" but it's close. 

A 1 and a 2: The Artists Who Dominated My First Two Months of 2017

I haven't been finding a lot of new music lately, mostly because two artists and one playlist have dominated my ears so far this year. 

The two artists have been Rationale and Dua Lipa. Both poppier than what I usually listen to but I've been absolutely addicted to their stuff so far this year. Dua Lipa is coming to LA in a week or so and I scooped tickets up as soon as I found out. Sadly, I missed UK-based Rationale when he was here last year and I'm not sure when he's coming back to the States.

I'm not completely sold on my mix here as it was a hastily made playlist but here are most of what Rationale and Dua Lipa have released. 

If you're not on Spotify, here are three tracks each from both artists.

Make It Happen March

OK, the first two months of 2017 haven't been my most productive. In fact, since I started FUNemployment a couple of weeks ago, I've seen some of my laziest days of my life. I went four days without getting dressed before 4:30pm and I closed the month by not getting dressed at all. To be fair, I was writing most of the day so I wasn't being completely lazy but still...

So I'm going to kick myself in the butt and declare this month MAKE IT HAPPEN MARCH. Time to stop putting off the goals and the To Do lists and get shit done. Whether it's a project you've wanted to start or been tinkering with or never finishing or something simpler like a restaurant you've want to try, stop making plans to make plans and actually go out and do it. 

My previous resolutions/goals flopped so for March, I'm going with:
1. Check out one new locale and one new event a week.
2. Finish three screenplays (I have a lot in various stages right now; gotta clear the deck.)
3. Record three songs (I've been putting this one off way too long.) I'd also like to at least get the video for the three songs planned.
4. Lose 5 - 10 pounds/work out consistently/eat better (Overall goal is under 200 for the summer; I'm at 215 right now.)
5. Again, since I haven't driven a car in 16 years, get my learner's permit and drive a car.
6. Make good on the Celebrating the 7's idea - watching films from the past decades (1997, 2007, 1957, what have you.) 
7. Read at least two books.
8. Blog more frequently. Even if just a progress report for these goals. 
I'm sure I'll think of other things but this is a good start. 
 

On the Radar: 02/27 - 03/05

Here are my top entertainment picks for this week. 
The TL;DR version is:
1. Logan (film)
2. National Treasure (Hulu)
3. Table 19 (film)
4. Shades of Blue (NBC)
Darkhorse: Headshot (Indonesian film)

FILM
"Logan", the X-Men related feature that will likely be the last time to catch Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Professor X and the first time to meet X-23, the young girl who kind of takes over for Wolverine in the comics, is the blockbuster of the week but I have to admit to having a soft spot for limited release "Table 19".
 

I'm going to wait for reviews on that one but right now, I'm willing to give it a shot, even if it has lukewarm reviews since it seems like a film that higher-minded critics might brush off as light fare even thought that's all it is designed to be.

Also coming out this weekend are: 
In Wide Release
Before I Fall: Essentially Groundhog's Day in High School, a young girl relives the last day of her life - a typical high school day that ends with her getting into a car crash. As the day replays over and over, she begins to question her actions and decision.
The Shack: A faith-based movie about a guy getting a letter from God after his daughter is murdered (I think, the trailer makes it seem like that) and he heads to the shack where her body was found but now three people (the Trinity) are there and it's a portal to a magical world that will teach him how to live again. Or something.
In Limited Release
Headshot: A new Indonesian action film from The Mo Brothers. It stars the lead actor from The Raid and while there seems to be a Bourne amnesia-type set-up, all you need to know if that there will likely some insane action scenes - that's the draw here.
The Last Word: A control freak played by Shirley Maclaine tries to direct Amanda Seyfried's obituary on how to write her obituary. When Maclaine's character realizes she's been a monster and has left no legacy, she tries to make a change before she croaks. It actually looks pretty cute.
The Wolves: A young basketball player struggles not to choke in big games so he can get a scholarship while his father (or step-father) raises the stakes by losing all of the college fund gambling. The trailer shows pretty much the entire movie.
Freedom to Marry: A documentary about the landmark Supreme Court decision on the rights for homosexuals to get married.
Also, Donald Cries and My Scientology Movie

MUSIC
I plead ignorance about the major new releases. Metacritic has the top three new releases as the post-punk Sleaford Mods, electronic Blanck Mass, and indie folk Nadia Reid. I've also heard of Bleached, a female pop-punk band and Grandaddy, an indie rock band but not well enough to have an opinion or any emotion about new music coming from them. 

I've totally dropped the ball on Songs of the Day so I'm going to switch to Artist of the Week. I'm going to start with the guy who has dominated my last few months, Rationale. Here's his latest single, Vessels. Not necessarily my favorite but still a very good tune with a solid message. I pre-ordered his album but it was canceled so I'm not sure what's going on but I've been addicted to his EPs.

TV
The top of my list is National Treasure, a UK Channel 4 miniseries that is coming to Hulu. It stars Robbie Coltrane, Julie Waters, and Andre Riseborough and focuses on a Bil Cosby-like comedy legend who is accused of rape by multiple women. 

However, that should not overshadow the return of Gino Anthony Pesi and "Shades of Blue" (OK, Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta are also in it.) I thought the first season flew under the radar and I hope that more people find it this time around. The second season premieres Sunday on NBC at at 10pm, following the premiere of Chicago Justice, the latest from Dick Wolf's "Chicago" franchise.

As for shows that are already on, Taboo roars into its final episode so if you want to catch up on FX's Tom Hardy-led drama, now is  the time. It's a testament to how good Tom Hardy and Jonathon Pryce are as actors because I'm not sure how good the show is but I can't stop watching it because of their performances. The entire cast is good in it but those two are standouts. It REALLY needs to stick the landing though so, if you haven't started it, you might want to wait to see how people react to the finale to see if the 8 episodes are worth your time. If you HAVE been watching, be careful of spoilers from Across the Pond where the finale has already aired this weekend.
For other recommendations, Legion (only three episodes in) is an X-Men-related series from Noah Hawley, the writer/director of FX's acclaimed Fargo TV show. So far, it's my favorite show on television. The Expanse (SyFy) continues to be THE surprise of the last year and is delivering a knockout second season. I don't think you'll regret catching up with The Mick on Hulu. Kaitlin Olson from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is hilarious as a ne'er-do-well aunt who has to take care of her stuck-up niece and nephews after their parents flee the country when their financial crimes are uncovered by the Feds. 

If you torrent shows or somehow have access to UK TV feeds (not sure my blog has a huge following overseas), the new seasons of standouts Broadchurch and top notch comedy Catastrophe are premiering as is Prime Suspect 1973, a new take on the Helen Mirren classic which was remade in Us starring Mario Bello (It was a decent show; just didn't get enough ratings.)
Catastrophe lands on Amazon Prime for us US viewers on April 28th. Besides being a great comedy, it features Carrie Fisher's last filmed role. I'm not sure when Broadchurch season 3 will make it Stateside. 

Preux and Proper is ON THE LIST!

My first time at Preux and Proper was kind of perfect. A group of friends who first bonded together at a wedding in New Orleans stumbled upon the N'Awlins-based restaurant and grabbed a drink and some quick grub. It was the day Prince passed away and they were blasting his classics and the whole thing kind of became a Prince sing-a-long. I didn't grab any food that day but I loved the space and it was a great time.

Today I decided to check out the Sunday Brunch. Going in, I was probably going to be forgiving because of the past experience, the fact that I liked the decor, and the waitress was beyond pretty and had a killer smile. (Whatever, I'm a sucker for a smile and curly hair.) The food, however, didn't disappoint.

I got the Chicken & Waffles and the BBQ Joint Fries. It took a few bites for me to get used to the Chicken & Waffles because they used honey instead of maple syrup but, in the end, I might have been converted. Very good. The chicken could have used some hot sauce and I foolishly didn't ask if they had some (the people next to me got hot sauce to put on their chicken.) The fries were very tasty although they were a little too salty for my taste. I might ask for lightly salted next time. 

The dinner menu looks great and there were other things on the brunch menu I wanted to check out so I'll definitely be back. And the downstairs bar area has shuffleboard which is always a bonus. 

This Week's "NOT HELPING!" award goes to...

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress, come on down! 

ProPublica's (a usually reliable site) tweet sums up the "story" right here.

Now, as you can guess by Judd Legum's tweet turning into a "This Tweet is unavailable" sign, something went wrong with the story. As it turns out, the Kuwait event that was the key cog in this controversy... was on Wednesday night. So while there might be an argument to be made about Trump visiting "his" hotel or how his family's blind trust is anything but, that's kind of dead for the time being since the press jumped over a story that was simply wrong.
In Legum's defense, he was going off of NPR and Reuters reports that claimed that the party was indeed tonight, the 25th of February. But this just hammers home the lesson to be learned from this: Always confirm the key facts of your story! A simple phone call to the Trump Hotel might have been able to help Judd avoid this embarrassment. But, alas, no attempts to confirm were made and now we have yet another example that Trump can crow about as FAKE NEWS!

Recxpectations: Get Out

So, for my own reaction to the film, I highly recommend "Get Out" and I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up on my Top 10 list of favorite movies of the year. Great acting. Great premise. I hate to overhype films but I really enjoyed this one. It's not going to win any Oscars but it's an entertaining night at the movies. 

Trailer Warning: Don't watch the trailer. As is the fashion nowadays, it gives away the whole film. For the premise: A black man visits his white girlfriend's family. As the weekend progresses, what initially seemed like a white family's awkwardness of handling an interracial relationship appears to be hiding something deeper and more dangerous.

That being said, onto the Recommended Expectations.

DON'T EXPECT: A straight genre film. Someone sitting behind me groused that it wasn't a comedy and he's right. While there are a number of funny moments (Lil Rel Howery almost steals the entire film), this isn't a Key & Peele sketch. It's not a Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright film like Shaun of the Dead or The World's End, which are comedic versions of genre films. "Get Out" is more of a psychological drama/thriller with some laughs. Similarly, it's not a straight horror film per se either. It's creepier more than scary. There's no gore (which many expect from the genre.) It's closer to The Stepford Wives, Arlington Road, or The Vanishing than the usual Blumhouse fare 

EXPECT: Get Out feels like a classic episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. The acting is great. The mix of creepiness and comedy is IMO perfect. The pacing is solid as the film clocks in at around an hour and forty-five minutes. 

Why I'm an Oscars grouch.

The Oscars are stupid.

Sure, there's probably a more delicate way to kick off this rant but let's just embrace the rant nature of it and just get to the point.

Art is subjective. There's no such thing as a "Best Picture." There's no truly objective way to judge a film. Take editing for instance. When "The Big Short" was nominated for Best Editing, some editors I worked with lauded the choice saying, "I noticed a lot of interesting choices they made," to which other editors responded, "But you shouldn't notice those choices! If you notice the editing, it's bad editing." So who's right? Neither, but both! Because there are differing schools of thought, neither of which is definitively right and wrong.
 (Tangent: When I was at The Broad Museum recently, I was looking at a piece of abstract art, wondering what made it "art", and the write-up commented something to the effect of "It broke the rules of abstract art", which stunned me since I thought the entire point of abstract art was that there were no rules.) 
Another example is Best Actor. How do we define the BEST acting job? Denzel Washington gave a great performance but he had the words of August Wilson in his arsenal. Might Ryan Gosling be  a better choice since he won over audiences with a character that wasn't as fully developed? Or what about someone in an effects-heavy movie who spent most of their time acting on a green screen set and having to imagine the world and characters around them. Better yet, I'm sure there is some actor out there who, despite having a novice director, barely-there script, and coked-up co-stars gave a top notch performance. 
Making matters murkier, there are industry whispers that a few Best Actor/Actress trophies should have gone to the film's editors instead of the actors. Word is that certain Academy-crowned actors actually gave terrible performances but the editors scratched together their best takes and made them look better than they were. 
The Oscars having any esteem becomes outright comical* when one looks at the rationales that Academy voters often give for their choices. Last year, a director told Entertainment Weekly that he was voting for Leonardo DiCaprio because "Any vegetarian who will eat a raw bison liver for art has my vote." What the hell does that have to do with acting?! Which brings up a whole 'nother issue - awards for degradation. Academy voters often give awards to people who go through massive weight changes for a role or punish themselves. Is that acting? Is that "better" than someone who just went into a studio every day but created an amazing character and performance? When did acting become a war of attrition?

*Sorry, did I say comical? I shouldn't have when discussing the Oscars since it mostly ignores comedy. 

This year adds another element of annoyance for me; the calls for actors to not be political. Supposedly, actors and filmmakers should just graciously accept their trophy and move on. I'm sorry but if you give someone a microphone and access to 30-40 million eyeballs, I think they get to say what they want. I'm sure if a conservative won and spoke in favor of Pro-Life values, the same people who are telling liberal actors to shut up and just accept the award would be falling all over themselves about how courageous and selfless an act it was that the person spoke out for the unborn. Either way, isn't an impassioned political speech, whether you agree or not, more interesting than listening to people thank a bunch of friends and co-workers you don't know?
I'm all for The Oscars being Hollywood's Festivus in which winners get to air their grievances. (Or, on a more positive tip, thank groups of people in the industry or in the world who are overlooked and underappreciated. Or promote their favorite charity.) 

And in the end, the Oscars just don't mean anything. People are up in arms because La La Land has more Oscar nominations than revered, classic musicals. Who cares? How does that affect anything? It's not like if I try to watch "L.A. Confidential" my TV will automatically switch me over to "Titanic" because it won Best Picture that year. Hell, none of the three films tied for the most wins (Titanic, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and Ben Hur) are in AFI's Top 50 of All-Time. (And no, art listicles aren't any better than awards unless they're used as a source of debate/discussion.) 

At least the Grammys, which are also stupid, deliver enough musical performances to make the show worthwhile. The Oscars usually have more staid musical performances and then relies on a stand-up comic to deliver their best PG to PG-13 material... DURING A 3.5 TO 4 HOUR SHOW!

Count me out. 

Today in Not Helping: AP's real leak/fake news

Yesterday, the press seemed to have Donald Trump caught in a lie when he said that the leaks on General Flynn were really but the news coverage about it was false. Well, thanks to the people at the AP, we now have a great example of how Trump's comment can be true.

First, the AP tweeted out a story that Trump was considering militarizing the State Guard units in order to round up illegal aliens. The AP said that the White House and DHS wouldn't respond to their requests for a comment on the story but they ran with the story anyway, going so far to add a headline, "Trump weighs mobilizing National Guard for immigration roundups"

The first blow to this story was Sean Spicer saying that the report was 100% false. "I wish you guys would have asked before you tweeted." The press jumped at that comment, saying that the AP asked for comment and the White House, almost as if this was a set-up, waited until after it was published to denounce it. They also cited Spicer's debunked-by-the-Prez-himself comments re: General Flynn as a reason why perhaps we shouldn't believe his "100% false" proclamation. In turn, reporters called on the AP to release the document that was leaked to them to help support their case.

Which the AP then did.

And it all fell apart.

Upon reading the memo, many journalists started shaking their heads at the AP for their gross mischaracterization of the draft memo that was an internal memo and might not have ever even made it to the White House - a fact that even the AP seems to admit now as they've changed their headline to "DHS weighed Nat Guard for immigration roundups." A not-so-subtle change in subject and verb tense. 

Making matters worse, as Gabriel Malor has pointed out in his Twitter account, the memo doesn't militarize the Guard rather it's just an extension of Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 287(g), which was signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton. 

So frustratingly, yes, there is a real leak/fake news issue. The draft memo is real but the reporting on it is wildly off to the point that it should be retracted and, probably, apologized for. This is yet another unforced error by the press that is giving Trump cover to claim the reports he doesn't like are fake news. It's another shot to the media's credibility and favorability rating which I believe is lower than the President's. For all the laughter that came from the media about Trump's press conference today, there needs to be some somber coverage about the Associated Press basically proving Trump's point. 
And also frustrating to me is that the AP continues updating and changing their story without adding any notes that the story has been updated. If you're going to tout a breaking news exclusive that you then have to double-back on and clear up the mistakes, you should have at the top of your article, bullet points of what changes have been made and why. 

So thanks AP for adding the annals of Not Helping. The days of trumping up (pun intended) non-stories to try to get clicks has to come to an end or the media will never rebuild the public's trust. 

Kevin MendoncaComment
2/14/17 - Building a Better Mendo

So today's Valentine's Day and I'm sitting on my couch typing a blog so I don't think I have to tell you how the ol' love live is doing. But I think one of the biggest issues is that I'm just not happy with myself. I want to lose weight. I want to invest time in my side projects. I did a good job last year (and this year so far) getting out and about more so now I have to put up or shut up when it comes to self-improvement and actually going out and accomplishing some goals. Or at least TRYING to accomplish some goals. 
Making matters easier, after three years on Cutthroat Kitchen, I've started a hiatus so I can use my FUNemployment time to get my shit together. So far, not so good as I've spent more time on my couch than, well, anywhere, really, so Valentine's Day is the new New Year's Day. Time to get those resolutions cooking. 
For now, I'm going to focus on some weekly goals.
1. Finish the script "The Cleanse" I've been putzing around with.
2. Record one song I have in my head.
3. Work out every morning and three times at night. 
4. The ongoing resolution - try out one new locale and one new event this week.

I'm not sure what I'm doing with this blog and I might turn it into more of a running diary. But I would like to get at least one post a day, even if it's just the Song of the Day, which I've been slacking on. 

(Oh, and Mendo is my nickname, hence the name of the post, for the few people who wandered over to this site by mistake and don't actually know me.)

Today in "Not Helping!": Chris Cuomo and the Botched Slam Dunk

Chris Cuomo was kind of given an easy slam dunk response to Donald Trump and he botched it. 

Cuomo had a lot of things going for him
A. He did bring up the Blumenthal's past problems with the truth.
B. Blumenthal has owned up to his lying about his service in the Vietnam War and apologized for it, something that Trump hasn't done very often. Some might not buy the excuse (when saying he served "in Vietnam", he meant "during" Vietnam, not actually "IN Vietnam.") but he's apologized and stopped repeating the lies.
C. A spokesman for Judge Gorsuch said that, while not addressing Trump's tweets specifically, Gorsuch believes that all attacks on judges on demoralizing. It stands to reason that Gorsuch would have found Trump's attacks demoralizing.

So what does Cuomo do?
First, he compares "Fake News" to racial or ethnic epithets which is the kind of grandstanding and Woe is Me nonsense that people don't want to hear from cable news, especially talking heads who aren't really journalists, in my opinion.  Fake News is not the new N word. Trump's petty attacks on the media do not equal the racism, sexism, xenophobia that minorities are often surrounded by. 
Second, he admits that Blumenthal ducked the question and then says that is fine. Now pretty much anyone Cuomo interviews can duck his questions and say, "Hey, it's fine. You said politicians do it all the time." If it mattered, Cuomo should have pushed back and not allowed Blumenthal to duck. He should have asked again, why Blumenthal has any credibility here. That answer, of course, was also a slam dunk because of the statement that Gorsuch's rep made. He could have said that Gorsuch told us privately that he found attacks generally demoralizing; he should speak up publically against Trump's attacks. He doesn't have to cite the case in question, just speak out against the Executive Branch attacking judges. Also, he could say he apologized for the lie and his constituents voted him in again so their confidence and forgiveness (as well as the lesson he learned via his egregious mistakes) gives him credibility.
Again, this was an easy slam dunk for Cuomo and he ended up like this:

And I realized that I should probably do something to try to help myself, rather than just calling people out so, for now, my helping of the day is a quick tweet to the Office of Government Ethics and Jason Chaffetz, head of the House Oversight Committee, about Kellyanne Conway's self-described "commercial" for Ivanka Trump.

It's not much but it's a start. 

Twitter Needs a Retraction Button

TL;DR Summary:
Social Networks should give media outlets a retraction button that, if a tweet/story is proven to be false, would send a corrected tweet not only to their followers but to the followers of people who retweeted their initial false tweet. (If they make it available to everyone, maybe call it a "My Bad!" button.) It would also delete the initial, incorrect tweet.
On a similar note, Facebook/Twitter should change the background color or font color of so-called parody or satirical sites to help people differentiate "jokes" from actual news. Or maybe just have a header ("Satirical Post") above those posts as they do with their "Suggested Posts."

The Full Thought
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the latest shooting, this one at a mosque in Quebec, was met with hasty reporting that ended up being false. In this case, news outlets quickly covered that the two suspects were in custody, one being a French-Canadien with some hints of white nationalist leanings and the other being a Muslim of Moroccan origin.
You'd think that upon hearing this, a red flag would go up. A Moroccan Muslim and a French-Canadien nationalist walk into a mosque... sounds more like the start of a joke than a description of a team of shooters. Still, people ran with the story. Fox News put an extra level of spin on it.

When Fox News realized their mistake, they quickly updated the story and made sure to point out who led them astray.

A second man, Mohamed el Khadir, was initially identified as an additional suspect by Quebec officials. Reuters and the French languard newspaper La Presse reporterd earlier that one of the suspects was of Moroccan origin, a report that was picked up by Fox News and other news outlets. But police later announced there was only one suspect in the attack, and Khadir was identified as a witness.

The language in that paragraph seems to implicate Fox's tweet more than excuse it. "A second man." "An additional suspect" Yet Fox's tweet focused only on him and not the white guy aka the prime suspect. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder if there weren't some ulterior motives behind their spin on that tweet.  

Now, given that they mistakenly accused a Moroccan man of shooting up a mosque and that the event was even cited by the White House press secretary as a rationale for President Trump's "proactive" immigration ban, you'd think Fox News would want to get out the fact that the report was wrong. But it wasn't until over 12 hours later that they sent out a new tweet (and it appears to be a scheduled tweet as many of their stories of the day have been tweeted about as well.) In fact, they haven't even deleted the old tweet; It's still out there with a bogus headline and since I took that screengrab of it last night, it's been retweeted out almost 100 more times.

That gave me an idea. "Fake News" isn't usually something that is shared with the intent of sharing alternative facts. People see a headline, believe what they read (be it the article or, often, just the headline), and share. Hours or sometimes days later when the truth comes out, it's too late. The fake news is out there and the correction rarely sees as many shares as the initial post.

So how about a retraction button. Ideally, it would first be for news sources. If Fox News sends out misinformation like the aforementioned tweet, they can update it and send a new tweet that will go out, not just to their followers but to the followers of everyone who retweeted it.  This way, most everyone with direct contact with the incorrect tweet could see the correction.
Part of me thinks that the re-tweet should go to the top of people's feeds, perhaps with an "OK, I saw this" button to dismiss it, although I could see people misusing that as a way to get their posts at the top of people's feeds. At the very least, it should also delete the initial "problematic" tweet. 
After seeing how the media utilizes the retraction or My Bad! button, social media sites could see if they wanted to perhaps use it at times when the publishers don't. For instance, if Twitter sees that Fox News hasn't updated their tweet, they could send out their own retraction, correcting this tweet and, in this case, connecting to the updated Fox News story. Or maybe just freeze the ability for said tweet to be retweeted, which would give people a heads up that something might be awry with the info in the tweet.
This, of course, leads to potential issues of bias, gray areas, and questions of limits (who do we retract: public figures, media, would there be a retweet threshold that would trigger test of tweet's veracity? How blatant does a falsehood or mistake have to be to get corrected?) but there are examples such as this tweet from Fox that are just simply wrong and have remained active despite being admittedly false. Also, the social media sites having that power might pressure members of the media to report themselves more quickly. Better to retract it themselves than be called out by Twitter or Facebook.

Along the same lines, I think Facebook or Twitter might want to come up with a new background or font color for satirical websites. Many "fake news" sites pass themselves off as satire or parody and I think it's beyond clear at this point that people can't be bothered to figure out if the story they just read was a joke or not, so giving the Onion and others a green background or blue font might help clue people in that what their reading isn't real. 

Fake News isn't going anywhere because nobody's really doing much to stop it or stop sharing it or even noticing/caring that what they shared turned out to be false. This could be one step towards solving the problem.

Kevin MendoncaComment
Amendments to Trump's Executive Order on Immigration

Elon Musk asked for amendment ideas that he could potentially bring to the President's attention. Here are six areas of President Trump's Executive Order on Immigration that I think could use clarity or an amendment 

Amendment #1: Green Cards
The initial statements from Trump's team signified that people with green cards would be included in the ban. Hours later, DHS secretary Kelly deemed "the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest." Clarity on this issue is needed.

Amendment #2: Children
Cases like this shouldn't exist.
I don't know what national interest would keep children from being united with their parents. If a child has a parent in the US, that child's visa should be honored. I'd also ask that we consider allowing kids be sent over to not just parents but to close relatives as well. If someone is here to shelter and give care to children refugees, we shouldn't let this executive order keep them from escaping their suffering. 

Amendment #3: Students/Medical
Two exceptions should be made for students from the countries in question.
1. An exception for students currently residing in the United States so that they can be allowed to go home over vacation or if there's a family emergency without fear of not being able to get back into the country. 
2. Students who are currently outside of the US but trying to get back to continue their schooling or residencies (as is the case of this young man) shouldn't have to wait three months to get back in. There should be some sort of process in which someone from a school or hospital can vouch for these people so they can get back in and continue their educations. At the very least, doctors, medical students, etc. should receive some help getting back to their patients here in the U.S.

Amendment #4: The Luol Deng Exemption
Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers is Sudanese but has British citizenship. If the Lakers go to play the Toronto Raptors, this executive order could prevent him from returning to the United States. People currently in the United States shouldn't have their business travel limited by this executive order. Perhaps there needs to be a new type of visa created for this and Amendment #3. A kind of exemption visa that allows them to travel despite the ban.  

Amendment #5: US Military Support
People in the countries in question have put their lives on the line to help our military. While refraining from issuing new visas might make some sense, renegging on visas that have been offered and, in some cases, earned by these men and women sends a terrible message and will make the jobs of our military in those countries more difficult. We should honor these visas and share the freedoms that we promised these people when they agreed to help.

Amendment #6: In-Process Refugees
The current vetting process takes around 15 months. I believe that we can let the process continue for people who've been through a year of vetting. Rather than shut everything down immediately, allow these people who have made it through most of the vetting to get a shot at starting over in the United States. 

Kevin MendoncaComment
Liberal Mania - Not Helping Vol. 2: WaPo's Josh Rogin

As frustrating as it is to watch President Donald Trump (or even type those three words), I find it equally annoying to watch the media's inability to get out of their own way. With his actions, Trump has opened up multiple doors for the press to walk through and point out his mistakes. Instead, the press decides, "Let's see if I can run through this wall!" 

The latest example is Josh Rogin's piece on State Dept. exits in the Washington Post. 

Step 1: Rogin posted his EXCLUSIVE "The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned.I saw the story posted a few times on Facebook. The lede was:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

But in this day and age, you have to wait a bit to make sure that the story is legit. Wait for a follow-up story with confirmation, ideally named stories, and not just rehashes based on the same initial reporting. 

Step 2: Rogin tweets out CNN"s take on the story. "Top State Department Officials Asked to Leave By Trump Administration." That story refutes Rogin's assertion that the people quit because they "don't want to stick around for the Trump era". Every new administration starts with people turning in their resignations. In this case, the White House, surprisingly to some, accepted these resignations. (Well, except for one person who had been planning on retiring for months and probably shouldn't have been included at all in the initial story.) 

Step 3: The Washington Post echoes CNN's story with a new story entitled, "Trump Administration Choosing to Replace Several Senior State Department Diplomats." It would seem that the Post has looked things over and decided CNN's version of the story is the one to go with. 

Later in the day, President Donald Trump would add to the litany of things that the Washington Post could have spent their time on by bringing a 20% tariff on Mexican goods that would be levied in order to pay for his wall, an idea that was so immediately shot down by both parties and pundits everywhere that Sean Spicer had to then go out and say that Trump was just spitballing and that the 20% tariff wasn't an actual policy proposal, it was just the kind of thing that we COULD do to pay for the wall or one of "a buffet of options" as Chief of Staff/Co-Head of Verbal Janitorial Reince Priebus noted.. Although, if it's a bad idea then it's not really a thing that we SHOULD even bother considering to pay for the wall, right? 

Unfortunately, Josh Rogin helped give conservatives a different talking point to focus on with his apparently off-base "exclusive". (I say apparently because, who knows, maybe I'm wrong and somehow Rogin will salvage his report with a new exclusive but, at this point, I'm willing to wrap this story up and say he gave a fairly uneven report, to put it nicely.)
Rogin has since tweeted out the new WaPo story but no word on whether he is rescinding his story or an explanation for the direction he took his tale but I'd hope that the Washington Post higher-ups and the ombudsman are grilling him and perhaps there should be some consequences. You can't have writers making mistakes like this with zero repercussions. I mean, you can because everyone does and it's why we're in the state that we're in today but eventually somebody needs to stand up and act responsibly. Why not today?

EDIT: Rogin has finally responded to someone and wrote: "Technically, they resigned, but the Trump team wanted them gone, so in a way they were fired." So basically, the general thrust of his story that the State Dept. people were making some sort of principled stand against Trump is wrong. Again, I think there should be consequences for this type of reporting. Or we should just change Michelle Obama's quote to, "When they go low, we go low but point out that they went low first so that makes it just the common sense reaction to those who go low."