Monday, July 25, 2016

EYE CANDY: Demetrius Jenkins

Demetrius Jenkins is another phyne brother I found on Instagram (@demetrius_jenkins). It looks like he is in the Army, but I have no other information about him. If anyone knows his age, height or weight, let me know! Is he a model? A famous (not to me!) athlete? Not sure, but he has 65,000 followers on Instagram. I think you can see why!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

FILM REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

I had heard that Star Trek Beyond was not getting great reviews, but since I have been a longtime fan of the franchise (beginning with watching the original series reruns in the early 1970s as a kid and continuing with the Star Trek: The Next Generation series in college). I think I have seen every Star Trek movie there is (except perhaps one of the last movies with the ST:TNG cast). I've also seen and enjoyed) the first two Star Trek movies 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness and 2009's Star Trek with the rebooted cast starring Chris Pine as  Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as Bones. Anyway, with me, it was not whether I would see this movie, but when. And after hearing that John Cho's version of George Takei's Hikaru Sulu would be depicted as openly gay (having a male partner he's raising a daughter with) I got tickets to see it opening weekend!

My worries about reviews were unfounded since Star Trek Beyond is certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with an 85% rating. This is (slightly) lower than the first two movies, which had 95% and 86% ratings, respectively.

One interesting difference of the latest entry into the Star Trek movie franchise is that it was co-written by Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty, primarily as the comic relief) and  JJ Abrams has relinquished the director's role to Justin Lin but still is listed as a producer.

The most compelling aspect of the film is the killer casting and the nuanced performances as updates of the original characters. The three leads are (mostly) excellent, but in the smaller roles, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Cho as Sulu and and Pegg as Scotty all standout. As with most summer blockbusters, the effectiveness of Star Trek Beyond is dependent on how good (or bad) the villain is. The villain in Star Trek Beyond is Krall, played quite well by a mostly unrecognizable Idris Elba. There's also a new female character named Jayla played by Sofia Boutella (last seen as the woman with the crazy blade legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service).

The story this time is built around central themes of loss as we see Spock learning about the death of Ambassador Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy of course) who actually represented Quinto's Spock from a different timeline that intersected in the 2009 Star Trek. We also learn that Spock is thinking of leaving Starfleet and has broken up with Uhura again because in light of the destruction of his homeplanet he is feeling compelled to try and go to New Vulcan to find a Vulcan mate and contribute to rebuilding Vulcan society and culture. Unbeknownst to Spock, Kirk is also thinking of leaving the crew of the Enterprise, and has applied to become a Vice-Admiral at a huge space station near a mysterious nebula.

Of course, the Enterprise ends up exploring the nebula where it gets attacked by a huge swarm of powerful alien spacecraft that forces the crew to abandon ship as the saucer section is forced to separate and crashes on a planet. Krall captures most of the crew (with Uhura and Sulu) but Bones and Spock, Chekhov and Kirk and Scotty land on the planet in separate groups. It was good to see that Chekhov had a larger role than in previous films due to a freak accident that killed the 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin last month which means he will not be appearing in any more sequels.

In the end, the crew is reunited and we learn that even Starfleet officers can become corrupted and that people will come up with all sort of rationales to justify horrific actions. The visuals are exciting and the action is frenetic but overall this was a better than average entry into the Star Trek movie franchise.

Title: Star Trek Beyond.
Director: Justin Lin.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Release Date: July 22, 2016.
Viewing Date: July 23, 2016.

Writing: A-.
Acting: B+.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B-.

Overall Grade: B+ (3.33/4.0)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 CITI OPEN: I saw Monfils Beat Zverev

I'm in Washington, D.C. For the summer and so I decided to check out the CitiOpen.

I have attended the final before but it was supposed to be 100 degrees (and 60% humidity) so instead I went no the semifinals and saw Gael Monfils put on a clinic against Next Gen phenomenon Sascha Zverev (the youngest player ranked in the Top 30).

Gael won 6-4 6-0. He broke on the very first game of the match and only faced 2 break points (in the same game), which he saved with good serving and excellent movement.

After losing the first set Sasha was very disconsolate and just started going for too much and lost easily.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hate Don't P(l)ay: North Carolina Loses 2017 NBA All-Star Game Over Anti-LGBT #HB2 Law

Well, well! The backlash over North Carolina's discriminatory HB2 continues to build, as today the National Basketball Association announcing a decision to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina because that hateful law is still in effect in the Tarheel State.

The NBA released a statement:

"The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019.
"Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.
"Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community -- current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
"We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons -- including members of the LGBT community -- feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.
"We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.
"The NBA will make an announcement on the new location of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in the coming weeks."
Let's hear it for the good guys!

Hopefully the NBA moves the game (and its estimated $100 million in economic impact!) to a city and state with LGBT protection.s New Orleans, which appears to be the top contender, is in Louisiana which has no statewide ordinance banning LGBT discrimination.

Meanwhile North Carolina has two years to get its %*%#@ together and Repeal HB2!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

Last year The Three-Body Problem became the first book not published in English to win the Hugo award, the most prestigious award in science fiction and  fantasy last year. The sequel to The Three-Body Problem is The Dark Forest. This book builds more slowly than the first one and parts of it did not resonate for me. However The Dark Forest ends very VERY strongly. The last section of the book rescues it from being in the 3-4 star range and brings up to the 4-5 star range (on the Goodreads five-star scale).

The Dark Forest is a very different story from the first book. The central character, Luo Ji is a much more interesting main character than any of the main character(s) from the first book (except for the despicable Ye Wenjie of course).

In The Dark Forest there are other characters we get to know and identify with whose fates are known by the end of the book and whom the reader becomes invested in and sympathetic towards.

The author does an excellent job of portraying the far future in The Dark Forest and depicting what world reaction would be as human extinction became more and less certain depending on events that are revealed in The Three-Body Problem.

One of the key ideas of The Dark Forest is the idea that despite what is usually believed, alien intelligences in the galaxy are actually not sparsely  distributed and may actually  be malevolent towards humanity. Liu Cixin explains the  idea like this:
The universe is full of life. Life in the universe functions on two axioms : 1. Life's goal is to survive and 2. That matter (resources) are finite. Like hunters in a dark forest, life can never been sure of alien life's true intentions. The extreme distances between stars creates an insurmountable 'Chain of Suspicion' where the two civilizations cannot communicate fast enough to relieve mistrust, making conflict inevitable. Therefore, it is in every civilizations best interests to preemptively strike any developing civilization before it can become a threat.
This is such a unique and interestingly original idea that it makes the book a compelling read in my eyes. I look forward to seeing what will happen in the next one, called Death's End.

Title: The Dark Forest.
Cixin Liu.
Paperback: 512 pages.
 Tor Books.
Date Published: August 11, 2015.
Date Read: September 19, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.50/4.0).


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New Study Shows Zero Transmission Between Serodiscordant Couples With One Undetectable Partner

Great news! A recently published very large research study of sexual activity (58,000 examples of condomless penetrative sex) between serodiscordant couples (both heterosexual and homosexual, where one couple is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive) has demonstrated that undetectable people have a near-zero probability of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners.
Over the course of two years, the study tracked 888 serodiscordant couples — that is, couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative. This included 548 different-sex couples and 340 same-sex male couples. The HIV-positive partners maintained undetectable viral levels with antiretroviral therapy (ART), but the HIV-negative partners did not use PrEP. 
There were 11 cases in the study in which partners contracted HIV, but they didn’t get it from their partners. Researchers tested the virus in each case and confirmed that what they had contracted was not phylogenetically linked to their partners’ virus. In other words, it was conclusively proven that they only contracted HIV because they had sex outside the relationship. 
Simon Collins, a member of the PARTNER study steering committee, described the results as “simple to understand.” In a statement, he explained, “This provides the strongest estimate of actual risk of HIV transmission when an HIV positive person has undetectable viral load — and that risk is effectively zero.”
The implications of this result for public policy around HIV stigmatization in the United States are profound. There are numerous HIV-positive Americans who are serving draconian criminal sentences for having sex with other people due to misguided laws (combined with overzealous prosecutions and bigoted juries). Oftentimes, it is people of color who are disproportionately impacted, as exemplified by one of the most (in)famous of these cases, the so-called "Tiger Mandingo" case where a 23-year-old African-American man named Michael Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in jail after being convicted of multiple felonies in Missouri.

Hopefully, this new scientific evidence from the PARTNER study can be used to help organizations like the SERO Project support the repeal of some of these pernicious laws around the country.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Vika Pregnant, Davis Cup Semis Set, Rio Withdrawals, Sharapova Appeal Postponed

The United States started their quarterfinal David Cup tie with a surprising comeback win by Jack Sock over 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and led 2-0 after the first day after John Isner bludgeoned Borna Coric with his big serve. Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. The Bryan Brothers were unable to beat the doubles team of Cilic and Ivan Dodig, so then on the final day either Isner had to beat Cilic, or Sock had to beat Coric, and neither happened. France defeated Davis Cup stalwarts Czech Republic 3-1 when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated young gun Jiri Vesely. Defending Davis Cup champions Great Britain defeated Serbia without either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic playing for their respective countries. Argentina outlasted Italy as the South American country made it to the semifinals for the 11th time but still has never won the Cup. The semifinals will be played the week after the US Open.

2-time major champion (and current World #6) Victoria Azarenka announced via Twitter last Friday that she found out after Roland Garros that she is pregnant and that she intends to have the baby and then resume her tennis career afterwards. Interestingly, Kim Clijsters returned to tennis after having a kid and came back a much more mature player, and ended up winning three major titles as a parent (and had only 1 major win before getting pregnant).

2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic joins the long list of highly ranked tennis players who will skip the 2016 Olympics in Rio due to fears of the Zika virus. In addition to Raonic,  fellow elite players Tomas Berdych and Simona Halep have also announced that they will not be making the trip down to Brazil for the prestigious sporting event. Previously, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and John Isner have also said they are skipping the Olympics.

The decision on Maria Sharapova's appeal of her two-year ban for her use of the banned substance of meldonium has been postponed to September 19th, which means the 5-time major champion will miss two huge events: the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2016 U.S. Open.


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