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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

These Are The Good Old Days? (JRD's Star Wars 2015 Review)

Frankly I wasn't sure what to expect when I went to see the highest-grossing flick of all time. Though I hate to carbon-date myself, I must confess to having seen the original Star Wars trilogy in the 70s and the redux of the 90s. Being a Darth Vader fan, I liked The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith best. Obviously they would have to up the ante to keep me in, and somehow they didn't disappoint.

The trick was to have played the nostalgia card while coming up with some solid new talent. Director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) picked up where he left off with the best of the Trekkie flicks, knocking this one out of the galaxy. The shining star is Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on a desert planet who comes across a droid called BB-8. It's a R2D2 knockoff that is carrying a map to the location of fugitive Jedi Luke Skywalker. She is accompanied by a rogue Storm Trooper who puts her together with the legendary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookie pal Chewbacca. Together they go up against the evil First Order and its fiendish enforcer Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Carrie Fisher returns as General Leia Organa, and she sends her top gun Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) out with her Resistance fleet to save the planet from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his Starkiller Base.

Ridley, reminding us of her namesake in Aliens, comes off with an unforgettable performance. She is a female warrior who carries the entire show on her back. Rey is not only cute as a button, but she knows how to fight long before she discovers she has the Force within her. It sets her up for a climactic battle against Ren, a Darth Vader knockoff, and it comes off as Movie Fight of the Year (sorry, Creed fans). The icing on the cake is the reappearance of Ford and Fisher, who inspire nerd tears as advertised. Seeing them together again is worth the price of admission. Oh yeah, and Luke Skywalker shows up in the final reel. Can't touch this.

I'm thinking Abrams should walk away with a well-deserved Oscar. He got overlooked for his awesome work with the Star Trek remakes...but this is payback time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What Trump Has Accomplished

GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump has played the demagogue on countless occasions throughout his campaign. Appealing to middle-class traditions and values, he has toed the hard line in polarizing liberals and conservatives across the nation. Slowly eradicating the gray areas that have given way to the censorship of political correctness, he has voiced opinions that most Americans dared not speak. Only this time, the entire world asks whether he has finally crossed a line too far.

What he has done is pushed the envelope farther than many of his supporters dare reach. Suggesting that America suspend Muslim entry into the US has infuriated Muslims across the globe. Considering their majority percentage of the world population, the multitude of nations they govern and their financial influence, he has tackled what may prove an indomitable foe. The media and political leaders throughout the country are joining ranks against him, and it may form a pattern to be seen worldwide.

Most Trump watchers realize he is just venting, and allowing his supporters to vent along with him. What he suggests is a legal, moral and logistical impossibility. We can no more ban Muslims than we can ban guns, tobacco, abortion, gays, drugs, pollution, or any other controversial persons, philosophies or practices that affect our society. This is a free society and our battle against radical Islam is all about preserving that freedom.

What he has done is raise the issue of political correctness to a new level. Anyone who takes his side for whatever reason does so under threat of being declared racist or prejudiced. This puts one at odds with all minority groups by default, which is the scariest ground to stand on in this day and age. Trump has put his supporters in the trenches, and any who dare raise their heads will almost certainly have them shot off. This commentator chose to write this article rather than send out a Tweet or Facebook post which might have been misconstrued and result in the loss of countless cyberspace supporters.

Whether or not this has shipwrecked his 2016 election campaign remains to be seen. The pressing question is how our freedom of speech will be reinterpreted and if political correctness is going to become a new form of censorship that will render the Silent Majority mute for the rest of this decade.

Friday, December 4, 2015

"The Blight" --- Another Sneak Preview!!!

Here's a sneak preview of JRD's latest women's fiction psychological thriller coming in 2016...

She was totally wired after Brad left the apartment and could not relax, much less go to sleep. She finally decided to take a ride down to the Hilton St. Louis near the ballpark downtown to calm her nerves. She hadn’t been there for a while, and the scenic view would probably take her mind off things. There were enough distractions in her life without having to worry about boyfriends fighting over her.

          It pissed her off that Brad would be trying to interfere in her private life. She knew he would move in with her in a heartbeat if she made an offer. Even though he understood it wasn’t going to happen, she resented the fact he was trying to mess things up with her and Kurt. And she knew that Kurt was not going to contend for her. He would just walk away, and that was what worried her most of all.

          There was also the issue with X. She realized she was trying to ignore the fact that the psycho killer was homing in on her. Brad sneaking up on her outside the apartment told her that she was getting sloppy. No one was able to get within a yard of her back in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her female instincts were getting dim out here in civilian life, if she could call it that. She had to stay sharp, she had to stay ready. Somewhere out there, X was planning his next move.

          The Three Sixty Rooftop Bar at the hotel was one of her favorite places. It afforded visitors a panoramic view of the Arch, the Riverfront and Laclede’s Landing further down the line. She used to go to Laclede’s all the time until the Ferguson riots. After that the gangbangers started pushing the envelope and making their presence felt throughout the area. It became too risky to have one of them make her from the street.

          She loved the lime-colored d├ęcor, the bar countertop matching the stool covers and the panels below the open flame grills. The subtle lighting offset the hearty fire off to the right of the bar. It provided a fireplace effect though the cooking aromas were reminiscent of the finest steak houses. The bartender was always friendly and often gave her a buyback when she visited.

          She ordered a Jameson Irish whiskey and promised herself to nurse it as an upbeat bossa nova tune strained through the bar speakers. It was sparsely crowded with tourists, off-duty hospitality staff and city personnel making up most of the clientele. It suited her fine because she needed some space right now.

          “Say, miss, were you at the hockey game?”

          She turned to face a giant of a man standing 6’4”, about 280 pounds. His hair was close-cropped and there was a hint of a beard and mustache growing in. She was fairly certain it was the Kansas City Terminator, Johnny Fairmount. She saw him once or twice on Metro Pro Wrestling and the new series, Independence Wrestling.

          “Nah, I quit going after they traded TJ Oshie. That kinda pissed me off.”

          “Yeah, TJ wasn’t too happy about leaving. We gave him a big sendoff before he left. Say, can I buy you a drink?”

          “Yeah, well…” she said before knocking out her shot in one gulp. “Why not?”

          He motioned to the bartender as he walked over and got his own drink in joining her. She signaled to the bartender to pour her a double, and he readily obliged.

          “Jameson? Great whiskey. I think I’ll have one,” he knocked down his drink and motioned for a refill. “So, what do you do?”

          “A little bit of this and that,” she shrugged. “Just try to get by.”

          “Ever think of getting into the entertainment business?” he asked, giving her a once-over. She was still wearing her workout suit, which failed to conceal her generous bosom and her hourglass figure.

          “What, like a clown?”

          “No, like behind the scenes,” he scoffed. “I’m sorry, my name’s Johnny.”

          “Yeah, I’ve seen you on TV.”

          “And you’re…?”

          “My friends call me Kirstie.”

          He extended his hand and was impressed by her strong grip. He was doubly impressed when she knocked down her double in one gulp.

          “No need to rush,” he waved a finger, causing the bartender to pour her another double. “I’m not leaving town until tomorrow morning. We’re on tour in Texas, then taking a run through New Mexico and Colorado.”

          “Sounds like fun.”

          “Wanna tag along?”

          “Nah, I got stuff to do.”

          Fairmount kept trying to make small talk, and she felt somewhat sorry for him. The poor bastard probably forgot how to chat with normal people. In his world, he roared and everyone listened. He probably walked into the wrestling bars along the circuit and had the groupies falling at his feet. In a way he was probably like a cop, drowning in a sea of cops. In his case, all he knew was barbell plates and cheap steaks. He was losing his connection with real life, just like she was.

          “Well, Kirstie,” he said as the bartender poured her third double, “I think you’re gonna have trouble driving home. Why don’t you come down to my room and chill out? I can order room service.”

          “Nah, I’m good,” she smirked at him. “I gotta go.”

          “Gotta go?” he was exasperated. “The party’s just started.”

          “Not for me. I gotta get up early.”

          “Now, look. A beautiful girl like you doesn’t need to be walking around downtown by herself at this hour of the night after drinking all that booze,” he said, stroking her hair away from her face.

          “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

          “C’mon, now,” he began kneading the back of her neck. “You just knocked down a hundred bucks’ worth of whiskey. You wouldn’t drink that much whiskey with someone you didn’t like, would you?”

          “Mmm, that feels good,” she said before shrugging him off. “That’s enough.”

          “Hey, darling, you wouldn’t be taking advantage of a stranger’s hospitality, would you?” he ran his finger along the neckline of her t-shirt.

          “Don’t do that,” she murmured.

          “You like that, don’t you?” his finger trailed down towards her bosom.

          “Last warning.”

          “What?” he leered.

          His finger stroked her left breast before she snatched the ball of his thumb and twisted it outward. She heard his wrist crackle as she grabbed her glass and shattered it against his temple. He wobbled slightly before moving toward her, at which point she had the barrel of her snubnosed .38 Smith and Wesson pressed against his head.

          “Now I asked you nice,” she said as the rest of the patrons froze in horror around the spacious lounge. “Where’s your fricking manners?”

          “Okay, lady,” she heard a voice booming from the end of the bar behind her. “St. Louis MPD. Put your weapon on the bar and step away nice and slow.”

          “Yeah, right,” she said, doing as she was told before sliding her purse down the bar in the direction of the voice. “I’m a cop. My ID’s in the purse.”

          Fairmount’s eyes were wide as quarters as he regained his composure and walked off. Kirsten held her hands out as the gray-haired man trained his pistol on her while rummaging through her purse with his left hand.

          “Detective Streicher,” he said, slipping his gun back in his shoulder holster beneath his suit jacket. He nodded as she picked up her revolver and came over to retrieve her purse.

          “Well, I guess that’s that,” she glanced over as Fairmount rejoined three other brutish men at a far corner table.

          “Word around the campfire was that you were an attractive woman,” the cop smiled. “I’m Bill Clinton from Homicide. I’d have to say those rumors were grossly understated.”

          “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

          “You’re wired kinda tight for a civilian bar. With your looks, you can’t possibly think you’re not gonna get hit on. You really should stick to cop bars.”

          “So what’re you doing here? You’re pretty quick on the draw yourself.”

          “I’m waiting for my wife. She has a strong aversion to cop bars.”

          “Yeah, must be the kind of people you meet there.”

          They watched as Fairmount and his friends headed out the door. Just before they left, he turned to her.

          “Sorry about the misunderstanding,” the massive athlete called over as the bartender began pouring the two officers a refill. “Drinks’re on me.”

          “No harm done,” she waved and smiled. “Thanks.”

          Just as the wrestlers left, a stately and attractive woman strode through the door. She spotted Clinton and a look of jealous anger swept over her face.

          “Oh crud,” he exhaled. “My wife’s here. I need to introduce you.”

          “Sorry,” Kirsten snatched her purse off the bar. “Gotta go.”

          “What the heck?” he gawked at her.

          “This is what you get for pointing guns at women’s heads,” she said sweetly.

          She swayed her hips as she strutted past an irate Mrs. Clinton, reinforcing her long-held belief that payback was indeed a bitch.