Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Most Religious Groups Oppose Anti-LGBT Discrimination

The PRRI (formerly known as the Public Religion Research Institute) has released research demonstrating that most religious groups oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse service to gay o lesbian people if doing so violates their religious belief. In fact, the only Christian denomination that supports such invidious discrimination is White evangelical Protestants.

PRRI summarizes:
White evangelical Protestants (56%) stand out as the only major religious group that favors allowing small business owners to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds. Fewer than one-third of white mainline Protestants (32%), Catholics (28%), black Protestants (24%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (21%), and members of non-Christian traditions (18%) support a religious exemption for small business owners. Notably, despite opposition to same-sex marriage, more than seven in ten (73%) black Protestants oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.
I would just note that the "unaffiliated" (which is the typical term used to describe the agnostic, atheist or "godless") oppose allowing anti-LGBT discrimination at a rate of 75% which is far above the 64% of all Americans that oppose this anti-LGBT discrimination based on religious belief.

This is another reason why I say it is very possible to be good without god.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Federer Wins Title #90; Vesnina Shocks; Kerber Regains #1; Miami Draw Decimated

The first important (non-major) tournament of the year is the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Last year Novak Djokovic and Vika Azarenka won the title. This year Roger Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka and Elena Vesnina outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova (in just over 3 hours) to win the titles.

35-year-old Roger Federer has reached his pre-Wimbledon goal of reaching the Top 8 in the world 3 months early by reaching World #6 this week. After a 6-month absence from the tour to recuperate after knee surgery, Federer has won 13 of his first 14 matches played in 2017. His only loss this year came to Evgeny Donskoy in a 3rd set tiebreak in Dubai. By winning Indian Wells for the 5th time, Federer won his 90th ATP tour title and record 49th "big title" of his career (18 Grand slams, 6 ATP Tour finals and 25 Masters shields).

The "Sunshine Double" is a rare feat in tennis that occurs when a player wins the Indian Wells tournament and then the Miami tournament which follows it; last year both Azarenka and Djokovic completed the sunshine double. The draw at this year's Miami Open will have reduced firepower because 8-time champion Serena Williams, 6-time champion Novak Djokovic and 2-time champion Andy Murray all have withdrawn from the tournament.

 As expected, the World #1 ranking on the women's side changed from Serena Williams to Angelique Kerber due to Serena Williams' withdrawal from the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne tournaments.

Monday, March 20, 2017

EYE CANDY: Tyson Bettis

Tyson Bettis is a 6-foot-6 model from Los Angeles who I discovered thanks to Pop Glitz. He has tens of thousands of followers on social media, including Facebook and Instagram. His Model Mayhem profile lists him as 30 years old (and 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds).

He's today's Eye Candy model!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 INDIAN WELLS: Federer-Wawrinka, Kuznetsova-Vesnina Finals

The finals of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open are now set. On the men's side it will be an all-Swiss affair, with Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. The two last met in the semifinals of the 2017 Australian Open, where Federer defeated the higher ranked Wawrinka in 5 tough sets on his way to winning his long-sought 18th major title. Federer is playing in his 43rd Masters final (now tied with Novak Djokovic) while Wawrinka is playing in his 4th. The two compatriots have played 22 times before and Federer has only lost 3 times, all on clay. I expect Federer will win this match tomorrow.

On the women's side the WTA tour has been devastated with World #1 Serena Williams' withdrawal from the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments. New World #1 Angelique Kerber lost early to Elena Vesnina, and although Venus Williams took the momentum from her first-round escape against Jelena Jankovic to reach the quarterfinals, she lost against Vesnina who is now playing the best tennis of her careers in her first Premier Mandatory final. The Russian will face another compatriot, 2-time major champion Sveta Kuznetsova, who last reached the final here twice before (2007 l. Daniela Hantuchova and 2008 l. Ana Ivanovic). For the second time this year, a final will be contested between two female players over age 30. Kuznetova is 31 and Vesnina is 30. The two are tied 1-all in their head-to-head. I'm rooting for Kuznetsova to win!

Back Home in Los Angeles

Got this pretty cool shot of downtown Los Angeles from the air.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Where Am I?

MadProfessah is in Berkeley, California for a workshop.

BOOK REVIEW: The Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King

I enjoyed reading my first book by Stephen King last year, which was the time-travel thriller 11/22/63 about the  assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I decided then that I was interested in looking at reading other books by King if they fit into some of the genres that I regular read: science fiction, mystery/thriller. What I discovered was the Bill Hodges trilogy, consisting of Mr. MercedesFinders Keepers and End of Watch. The trilogy is being adapted for television by David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies, The Practice, Ally McBeal, L.A. Law) into a 10-episode series to air on the Audience Network. Below you can find my reviews of the entire trilogy, which I read earlier this year.

Mr. Mercedes is a mystery thriller and adventure caper all in one. The book begins with a horrific scene of a large Mercedes sedan deliberately plowing into a long line of people waiting to be considered for jobs in a financially distressed town.

I love the trio of  characters the story is built around: Holly Gibney, a emotionally disturbed 40-something loner, Bill Hodges, a 60-something retired ex-cop and Jerome Robinson, 17-year old 6-foot-5 African-American honors student, The three work as a team of sleuths trying to stop a mass murderer from graduating to historic levels of domestic terrorism and mayhem. The mass murderer is Brady Hartsfield, who we soon learn is maniac responsible for the Mercedes incident which killed about a dozen people and injured even more.

Parts of the book are definitely formulaic but since this is Stephen King one never is sure if ANY of his characters are safe. He kills off a fairly major character every 75 pages or so and this is only a 400-page book! This raises the level of suspense to heart-stopping levels in the denouement because who knows, King is such a horror writer that you suspect he might just blow up 4,000 screaming tweeny bop girls.

I believe Mr. Mercedes will make a heckuva movie and maybe win Tilda Swinton another Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Holly Gibney.

I'm very psyched that it looks like the three main characters (Holly, Jerome and Bill) will be in the second (and third?) book in this series, even though the trilogy as a whole is known as the Bill Hodges trilogy.

Definitely looking forward to reading the whole thing!

Title: Mr. Mercedes.
Stephen King
Paperback: 448 pages.
Date Published: June 3, 2014.
Date Read: February 13, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: ***** (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


Finders Keepers is not as effective as the first book in the trilogy (Mr. Mercedes which was a clear five-star tour de force.) This sequel is at least as intensely suspenseful as the first book but suffers in comparison because our main characters (Bill Hodges, Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney) from the first book play less of a role in the story here. The book begins with a horrific home invasion and torture kidnapping of a world-famous, reclusive author. (Hey, I guess Stephen King took the adage "write what you know" very seriously!

This time we still get to see the inner monologue and perspective of the main villain/antagonist but while in Finders Keepers the protagonist  was Bill Hodges, this time it is someone new, a 17 year-old boy named Peter Saubers who makes an astonishing discovery in the woods that allows him to help his troubled family survive a difficult period (which happened as a result of the actions of Brady Hartsfield from Mr. Mercedes).

I must admit the device of showing us the thoughts and actions of the perpetrators along with those hunting them heightens the suspense to dizzying levels and makes the entire trilogy very compelling.

King does an excellent job of putting us in the mind of a 17-year-old who is in a perilous and precarious situation way above his head.

However in the end I was disappointed by two particular aspects of the book. The first was the VERY problematic incorporation of supernatural events at the end of the book. Secondly, I also feel like Jerome and Holly got short shrift in the sequel since they were my favorite characters from the first book.

Clearly characterization is not a strong point of King's (to call Peter Saubers' parents ciphers is too kind) but the world-famous author is also obviously making some larger point about the dangers of excessive fandom with the way how fictional reclusive author John Rothstein is treated in the book.

Finders Keepers is almost impossible to put down once you're sucked in (basically from the thrilling prologue). At one point I gasped aloud so dramatically (I finished the book on a plane) that my seat mate stirred and asked me what was wrong. "Nothing," I replied "This book!"


Title: Finders Keepers.
Stephen King.
Paperback: 448 pages.
Date Published: June 2, 2015.
Date Read: February 17, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: **** (4.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


The third book End of Watch in the Bill Hodges trilogy is the weakest of the three books that began with Mr. Mercedes and continued in Finders Keepers. The first is probably 5-stars and the second was well over 4.5 stars. These first two books in the Bill Hodges series worked exceedingly well as both suspense/thrillers and mystery/police procedurals.

I'm not a fan of the horror genre that I assume is what Stephen King is most known for (Carrie,The Shining, Misery, etc). This is the fourth of his books that I have read in the last year or so and I am beginning to appreciate how lots of people are fans of his work. All the books I have read are well-crafted with propulsive plots and often-clever characterizations.

End of Watch suffers from King's reliance on a metaphysical (i.e. supernatural/or fantastical) plot device that completely changes the genre of the book from its predecessors. In my opinion, this is a bad authorial decision.

However the book still succeeds as a thriller (this is clearly the primary strength of all of King's wring) and it definitely engages the reader by continuing to follow the characters of Holly Gibney, Bill Hodges and Jerome Robinson whose well-being we have been invested in since the first book (Mr. Mercedes).

I do hope that Mr. King makes more forays into the mystery-thriller genre while resisting the urge to indulge in adding supernatural elements in the future. It would be great to spend more time with Holly and Jerome!

Title: End of Watch.
Stephen King.
Paperback: 448 pages.
Date Published: June 7, 2016.
Date Read: March 1, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: **** (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.5/4.0).


Monday, March 13, 2017

EYE CANDY: Hayden Monteleone

Hayden Monteleone (known as Hayden Sanchez on Instagram) is a model who has worked with top photographers. According to his Model Mayhem profile, he is 28-years-old, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.

Hat/tip to Pop Glitz

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2017 INDIAN WELLS: Venus Saves 3 MPs In 1st Win Since 2001

Venus Williams won her first match at Indian Wells in over 16 years the hard way. The former World #1 faced another former #1 in Jelena Jankovic. The two have a very close rivalry, with the Serb leading 7-6 in their first 13 meetings, in which all but four have gone to three sets.

Jankovic led this match 6-1 4-1 at the 40 minute mark and for all intents and purposes it looks like the match would be over in under an hour. Then somehow Venus started connecting with her serve and was able to break back and even the second set at 4-all. Then she broke and served for the set at 5-4 but lost serve. Jankovic went up 6-5 and when Venus was serving she went down 15-40 or double match point. Venus saved those match points and another on the way to reaching a tiebreak, in which Jankovic again took an early lead of 4-2 but then lost it on a forehand error 7-5. In the third set Venus went up 4-0 and then the two traded service breaks until Venus served out the win easily at 5-1 to win her first match at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001 1-6 7-6(5) 6-1. The two now have a tied career head-to-head.


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