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)

"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

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.

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."

Donald Trump and The Botched Gotcha

Tonight we had another great example as to why the media and basic facts are losing their battle with Donald Trump. ABC's David Muir interviewed the President and he had a kind of GOTCHA! moment when he told Donald Trump that the author of the Pew report that the White House has been citing as evidence of voter fraud actually disagrees with President Trump and claims there was no evidence of voter fraud. 
But the President then responded with, "Really? Then why did he write the report?
Muir had no response.
Trump seized the silence and spun it that the author must be groveling to reporters. 
And with that, the moment was lost. 

What's most frustrating is that Muir's response was a very easy one. Why did the person write the report? Because it was an analysis of our current voter registration system, which most people would agree is flawed. However, admitting there are flaws in the system doesn't prove that there were fraudulent votes. For instance, Muir could have pointed out that Steve Bannon, Steve Mnuchin, and Tiffani Trump are all registered in two states; that doesn't mean they voted in both places.

Unfortunately, because Muir failed to make this point and instead responded with silence, it allowed Trump to give his completely made up rationale for why the researcher would claim zero voter fraud; an anti-media excuse that his base will undoubtedly eat up and regurgitate whenever someone questions the need for an investigation into voter fraud.
(The better-informed supporters might point to this report that claims non-citizens do vote and while it is small, it could swing electoral votes. Although there's a response to that study as well.)

Muir is hardly alone, though. I think he made a mistake that many people dealing with Donald Trump make. The mistake is that they don't truly understand the depth of Trump's misunderstanding of an issue. They don't understand that, when faced with a fact that he doesn't comprehend or like, he's going to search out a different way to cling to the "truths" he believes. One GOTCHA! moment isn't going to shake his faith in his own opinion. Trump's the guy who asks 19 friends "Should I?" and if they all say "No!" he'll look for a 20th friend to ask. Honestly, even if Muir had answered Trump's "Why did he write the report?" question, Donald probably would have clung to the idea that messed up rolls mean fraud. He would have put the onus on Muir to prove that they weren't used for fraudulent reasons. But at least then Muir could have asked, "Well, voter registration is messed up everywhere so why do you only think fraud happened where you lost? Why, a few weeks ago, did your team say there was zero proof of election fraud? Have you questioned Bannon and Mnuchin about their possible roles in the fraud?"

But perhaps what's most frustrating of all is that the Left has been handed a great opportunity to push for Automatic Voter Registration and they're passing it by to mock Trump. Yes, Mr. President, voter registration rolls are an issue. We do need to modernize. And the best way to make it cheaper, easier, and more reliable is Automatic Voter Registration! The gift and the curse of President Trump is that his ham-fisted way of dealing with things leads to a lot of opportunities but we usually miss them because we're focused on the ham-fisted way he deals with things. 

Celebrating the Sevens!

I've always wanted to watch more classic movies but I just never make myself sit down and do it. Most of the time, I just get lazy and put something on that I can half pay attention to as I clean or surf the internet or roll over and go to sleep. But 2017 is the year that Kevin Stops Procrastinating so I'm going to actually sit down and start catching up on the great films that I've missed over the years. As a little gimmick to keep me invested, I'm going to celebrate the movies from 10, 20, 30, etc. years ago. In 2017, we'll be Celebrating the Sevens!

1937: La Grande Illusion (Directed by Jean Renoir; Written by Renoir and Charles Spaak)
1947: Black Narcissus (Written/Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) 
1957: The Seventh Seal (Written/Directed by Ingmar Bergman)
1967: Weekend (Written/Directed by Jean Luc-Godard)
1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Written/Directed by Steven Spielberg)
1987: Au Revoir, Les Enfants (Written/Directed by Louis Malle)
1997: Taste of Cherry (Written/Directed by Abbas Kiarostami)
2007: Eve's Bayou (Written/Directed by Kasi Lemmons)

When choosing the titles for this first go around, I tried to go with films that I have never seen but, in one case, I made an exception. I've seen Close Encounters before but it was probably two decades ago so I feel like I could use a refresher. The 90's and Aughts will be tougher since I've seen most of the great movies of those decades so I went with one foreign film and one flick in Eve's Bayou that I've been meaning to watch since, well, 2007. 

To keep myself honest, I'm just going to go down the list so we'll always start with 1937. In this case, it'll be La Grande Illusion, a film I know pretty much nothing about besides the fact that the poster for it is seen on cinephiles walls all over the world. I'm going to try to watch one movie a week but I might double-up now and then to make up for weeks in which I might not have time to settle down with a movie (or if I want to see something that just came out instead.) 

So join me in Celebrating the Sevens!