Saturday, February 28, 2015

SATURDAY POLITICS: MadProfessah Urges NO Vote On *Both* Los Angeles Charter Amendments

The 2015 municipal primary elections in the City and County of Los Angeles are Tuesday March 3rd and yours truly has been active in the opposition to two duplicitous charter amendments that are on the ballot. The measures' supporters claim that they are intended to increase voter turnout by aligning Los Angeles' city elections with the state and presidential elections by moving the March 2021 primary election to June 2020 and the May 2021 general election to November 2020.  All future Los Angeles elections would be held every two years after that. There are many reasons why voters should reject this attempt to do lasting harm to our local democratic process and vote no on Charter Amendments 1 and 2.

The immediate effect would be to make Los Angeles the largest municipality in the country to have their local elections held in the context of the much more significant statewide elections held in even years. Oh, and for good measure they would give all officials elected in 2015 or 2017 terms of office that last five-and-a-half years instead of four year terms!

Even though the Los Angeles Times half-heartedly recommended a yes vote on these charter amendments, they highlighted the MULTIPLE problematic aspects of the measures:

But although we believe in the idea, we're disappointed in the execution. The City Council chose to align mayoral and citywide elections with gubernatorial elections starting in 2022, and to match the lower-impact council races with the presidential elections starting in 2020. 
If officials wanted the highest possible turnout for the highest-impact elections, they would have paired mayoral elections with presidential elections, which typically draw 70% to 80% turnout in the November runoffs. Also, there are more local races in a mayoral election year, so combining those ballots with the presidential would have meant higher turnout for a greater number of local races. 
 What's more, the city's March mayoral primaries tend to draw more voters than June primaries in gubernatorial years. Since 70% of city races are decided in the primary, some people worry that the city might not see a big boost in turnout by moving the mayoral race to the gubernatorial year. To switch to the new election cycles in 2020 and 2022, the City Council had two choices: either hold special elections in 2019 and 2021 for a shorter-than-usual 18-month term or lengthen the terms of city officials elected this year and in 2017 by 18 months, giving them a one-time, extra-long 51/2-year term. Not surprisingly, the officials chose the second path.  
As a result, voters won't know if they're voting in new City Council members for four years or 51/2 years — and won't find out until they learn whether the amendments have passed. There is also concern that local elections will be overshadowed by the national and state races. Local candidates will appear at the end of a long ballot that could include dozens of high-profile races. Campaigning may become more difficult and expensive as local candidates fight for voter attention and limited airtime. 
 Finally, moving the election won't address the underlying causes of low turnout — the civic malaise that prevents so many Angelenos from becoming engaged in the democratic process and leaves them feeling that local elections don't matter. Charter Amendments 1 and 2 treat a symptom of the disease, but not the disease. It is essential to continue to seek ways to cure that through campaign finance reform, civics education and diverse, engaging political candidates.
And this is what the supporters of the measure say about it to urge you to vote for it! Well, I disagree. We Angelenos deserve better. VOTE NO ON CHARTER AMENDMENTS 1 and 2!

Friday, February 27, 2015


Leonard Nimoy the actor who was most famous for playing an imperturbable alien on the classic television series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83, according to the New York Times.
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.
His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).
This is a sad day for all fans of science fiction!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

QUEER QUOTE: The Text Of What Anti-Gay Legislation Looks Like In A Post-Marriage Equality Era

Realizing that they have essentially completely lost the fight over marriage equality, heterosexual supremacists and homophobes and people who do not believe that LGBT people should enjoy the same civil rights as other targeted minorities have found a new way to enshrine discrimination against LGBT people in state law.

Here is the text of the West Virginia's copy-cat bill of the Arkansas law that was enacted earlier this week which prohibits and invalidates any ordinance in the state that protects LGBT people from discrimination.

It's called the West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act (HB 2881) and is today's Queer Quote:
(a) No county, municipality or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce a local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.
(b) Any local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy adopted before the operative date of this act that violates subsection (a) of this section shall be null and void.
Notice how similar this text is to Arkansas' Senate Bill 202:
14-1-403. Prohibited conduct.
(a) A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.
(b) This section does not apply to a rule or policy that pertains only to the employees of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision.
I have no doubt that this will be a popular idea among Republicans in many other state legislatures. It will be interesting to see how LGBT advocacy organization react. What's amazing to me is that the sponsors of these legislation are still using the language of "no special rights" that first became popular over 25 years ago and was thought to have ben neutralized by the Supreme Court decision Romer v Evans striking down a Colorado ballot measure that explicitly prevented the enactment of ordinances that protected LGBT people. The difference now is that the "no special rights" crowd are no masking their anti-gay bigotry in the notion of "uniformity." In other words if a state does not have state protections for LGBT individuals then that condition should be uniform, and local municipalities and cities should not be allowed to have local ordinances doing so. Because otherwise LGBT people would have the "special right" of being able to sue someone if they were prohibited access to public transportation, denied service in restaurants and private businesses or fired from a job or denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Do you really think in 2015 a majority of Americans believe the right to not face discrimination because of an identity characteristic is a "special right"? Good luck with that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Arkansas Enacts Bill Voiding and Prohibiting Local Civil Rights Ordinances

The Arkansas legislature (with strong Republican majorities)  has passed, and the Governor has allowed to become law without his signature, SB 202 "the Intrastate 30 Commerce Improvement Act," which basically freezes the number of categories that can appear in any non-discrimination statute in the state to the categories that appear in the state code. Surprise, surprise "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" do not appear in the state code and thus can not be categories of anti-discrimination anywhere in Arkansas. If a local jurisdiction did have such a statute, SB 202 voids it and prevents any local ordinances with new categories in the future.

Of course, the heterosexual supremacists are targeting LGBT activists, as part of the backlash for the successful fight for marriage equality. You can bet your bottom dollar they will not be stopping at Arkansas; there are TWENTY NINE states which do not have state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This is what four national LGBT civil rights organizations said about SB 202:
Recalling Colorado’s fatally flawed Amendment 2, which years ago explicitly targeted lesbians, gay men and bisexuals (and not heterosexuals), many are asking whether SB 202 is a similarly unconstitutional denial of equal protection. When the Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2 in Romer v. Evans, it underscored that the case record revealed anti-gay “animus” propelling the popular vote and no legitimate government reasons for precluding local nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, and for no one else. 
The sponsors of SB 202 have used sweeping language that raises many legal questions but the bill amounts to a transparent attempt to hide from the courts the blatantly discriminatory reason why it was adopted. This law and other unacceptable ones like it intentionally harm LGBT people and other minority group members. When it can be shown that a law has been passed to facilitate discrimination, that showing creates a presumption that the law is unconstitutional. There is nothing but discriminatory intent here. And no valid public interest can possibly be served by allowing private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics that might be covered by local ordinances. 
One of the legally and pragmatically wrong-headed things about this bill, which business and community leaders have been stressing to Governor Hutchinson, is that local governments are supposed to be independent “laboratories of experimentation.” Local control allows policies to be tested, with the good ones proving their worth and the bad ones failing. In many states where state-level nondiscrimination laws now protect LGBT people, those laws passed following local equal opportunity ordinances. People in those communities saw for themselves that those local ordinances created no problems for businesses, but instead had positive impacts — expressing a welcoming, safe and responsible environment for everyone. SB 202 seeks to kill that time-tested process, aiming to make it that much harder to ensure fair treatment for LGBT people throughout the state.

This could be the beginning of a very nasty set of stealth anti-LGBT pieces of legislation that will sweep through states that have Republican (anti-LGBT) legislative majorities and Republican governors, which after the 2014 election is a generational high.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TENNIS TUESDAY: #3-#4 Swap Places On WTA & ATP Rankings

Murray and Nadal Swap Places
Andy Murray moved up 1 spot to #3 in the World ATP rankings today following Rafael Nadal's surprising loss to Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the Rio Open last weekend. Nadal fell to #4 and has yet to reach a final in 2015, let alone win a title. He is playing on clay in South America while the Top 2 seeds (and most of the rest of the Top 10) are in the Middle East at the Dubai Duty Free Open.

Halep and Kvitova Swap Places
Reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova fell from #3 to #4, swapping places with Simona Halep. This weekend Halep won her second title of the year at the Dubai Championships by beating Karolina Pliskova, one of the hottest players on the tour right now.

Dimitrov Returns To Top 10
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov re-entered the Top 10 by switching places with 2014 U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic.

Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 OSCARS: The List Of Winners

Below is the list of winners from the 87th Academy Awards. In the Top 8 categories I predicted 7 of 8 correctly, and happily in the other category (Adapted Screenplay), the movie I wanted to win was The Imitation Game and it did! I thought Whiplash would be the surprise win in this category; Whiplash did win two surprise Oscars (editing and sound mixing).

Happily, the openly gay Graham Moore won for writing an excellent adaptation of openly gay Andrew Hodges' book about gay icon Alan Turing.
Best picture: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”
Actor: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”
Actress: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice.”
Supporting actor: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”
Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood.”
Directing: Alejandro G. Inarritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”
Foreign language film: “Ida.”
Adapted screenplay: Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game.”
Original screenplay: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”
Animated feature film: “Big Hero 6.”
Production design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Cinematography: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”
Sound mixing: “Whiplash.”
Sound editing: “American Sniper.”
Original score: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Original song: “Glory” from “Selma.”
Costume design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Documentary feature: “CitizenFour.”
Documentary (short subject): “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.”
Film editing: “Whiplash.”
Makeup and hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Animated short film: “Feast.”
Live action short film: “The Phone Call.”
Visual effects: “Interstellar.”
I'm glad that my favorite movie of the year, Interstellar won an Oscar (the same visual effects team also won for Inception which was also my favorite movie that year). Even though I confess I still have not seen Boyhood, I am not a fan of Birdman, I think it is simply Oscar bait. I would have preferred The Imitation Game or The Grand Budapest Hotel take the top honor.

Anyway, I am glad that for the second year in a row, a Latino man won Best Director, so diversity is still making an impact on the primarily lily-white Hollywood elite. Speaking of lily-white, who knew that Neil Patrick Harris was so pale?

EYE CANDY: Alan Taurus

Alan Taurus is a fitness model and bodybuilderthat came to my attention via Mechadude. As you can tell, the above photos were taken by the talented Jorge Freire. Taurus has also worked with other photographers like James Franklin.

Unfortunately, I am unable to find basic information like his age, height and weight, but regardless, I still think he is eligible to be Eye Candy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 OSCARS: My Final Prediction Of The Winners In Top 8 Categories

Below are my predictions for the Top 8 categories for the 87th annual Academy Awards. Last year I correctly predicted 6 of the Top 8 categories. Below I put in red the movie or person I want to win, and in blue the person I think actually will win.

Best Picture
  • American Sniper
  • Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash
  • Foxcatcher

SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game
WILL WIN: Birdman

Best Director
  • Bennet Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Theory of Everything
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel 
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
SHOULD WIN: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
WILL WIN: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

Best Actress
  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl 
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild
SHOULD WIN: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
WILL WIN: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Actor
  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch,  The Imitation Game
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
SHOULD WIN: Benedict Cumberbatch,  The Imitation Game
WILL WIN: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Supporting Actress
  • Emma Stone, Birdman
  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Meryl Streep, Into The Woods
  • Laura Dern, Wild
SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Best Supporting Actor
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood 
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo,  Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
SHOULD WIN: Edward Norton, Birdman
WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay
  • Birdman 
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler
  • Foxcatcher
SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
WILL WIN: Birdman

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • American Sniper
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash
SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game
WILL WIN: Whiplash

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 Nebula Award Nominations Announced!

The nominations for the Nebula Awards have been announced and there are some surprises:

  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
  • Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
  • Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
  • Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
Nominations for Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword was expected, since the first book in the series (Ancillary Justice) won the Hugo-Nebula double last year. Curiously the only fantasy book on the list is Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor (which I tried to read earlier this year and sadly I could not finish it.) I'm very surprised City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett was not on the list. I've been thinking about getting The Three-Body Problem for quite awhile; it is hard science fiction and this nomination increases the odds I will buy it soon.

I have never even heard of Trial By Fire, which like Leckie's work, is Book 2 in a trilogy, called Tales of the Terran Republic.

I read Coming Home by Jack McDevitt and I don't think it is one of his better outings in the Alex Benedict/Chase Tolpath series, but apparently the guy is a Nebula favorite (this is his 12th Best Novel nomination!)

Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation is the first book in his Southern Reach trilogy. It is very short but I read about half of the book and it did not grab me either.

My hope is that Leckie wins again, although I would be happy with Liu winning also.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Favorite Books Read In 2014 (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller)

In 2014 I read 70 books; they were all novels, in the genres of mystery/thriller and fantasy/science fiction. By far, the biggest fraction of books that I read are mystery/thrillers. I have recently made it through all 18 of Peter Robinson's DCI Alan banks mysteries and am currently making my way through Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch series (which I think is quite good) and Leighton Gage's Chief Inspector Mario Silva's series, which is also good and tragically cut short by the author's untimely death.

I had previously read all of Henning Mankell's Inspector Kurt Wallander books and the Steig Larsson trilogy and now definitely consider myself a full-fledged fam of Scandinavian noir. I was unprepared for how good the Inspector Harry Hole thrillers by Jo Nesbø are and surprised by the level of suspense in the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen!

Overall, however, my favorite reads of the year were from authors familiar to me (James S.A. Corey, Peter F. Hamilton, Daniel Abrahams, Brent Weeks, Tana French) continuing to bring me joy with their work.

I'm always looking for good books and authors to start reading! Feel free to make suggestions of books or authors you think I would like in the comments.

Favorite Science Fiction Novel Read In 2014: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Cibola Burn is the fourth book in the best-selling space opera series known as The Expanse. I have been a huge fan of these books from day one, and am very excited that the television adaptation of the books is slated to come to SyFy as a 10-episode miniseries later this year. Cibola Burn follows events in a planet which has opened up outside of our solar system as a result of the events that occurred in Abaddon's Gate. Cibola Burn is space opera at its best, with interesting ideas about conflicts between corporations and colonists, all in the context of a visionary future for humanity combined with non-stop action and peril for the familiar characters of Holden, Nagata, Amos and Avarasala. Corey also introduces some new characters and resolves some plot points which have been developing since the very first book in the series (Leviathan Wakes). This was my favorite novel (of any genre) that I read in 2014. At this point, I fully expect that Book 5 in The Expanse, Nemesis Games, to be my favorite science fiction and overall read in 2015. And from what I can tell about the television series so far, I expect that to be one of my favorites as well.
Yes, these are really that good.

Runner-Up Favorite Science Fiction: The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a return to the Commonwealth Universe for British sci-fi maestro Peter F. Hamilton, whose earlier books like The Reality Dysfunction and The Neutronium Alchemist turned me on to space opera in the first place. This book is intended to be the first book in another Hamilton duopoly called The Chronicle of the Fallers. His first duopoly in this universe was the brilliant Pandora's Star / Judas Unchained books which he returned to, somewhat obliquely, with his Void Trilogy (which are set a few thousand years in the future from the events in the first two books and inside a space anomaly called The Void in which advanced technology is stifled but mental powers like telekinesis and telepathy are possible). Despite the intriguing setting, The Void Trilogy were not as successful as the original Commonwealth Saga books (in my humble opinion). However, in The Abyss Beyond Dreams Hamilton has been able to combine the best parts of both of these prior works to produce a work which, while not as groundbreaking as the classic sci-fi of his Night's Dawn trilogy, is still as enthralling and engaging as anything the genre has to offer. And it's fun and funny as well. That being said, I am pretty surprised (and somewhat pleased) that I have found an author in James S.A. Corey who I think produces space opera as good as anything Hamilton has produced, but on a much more frequent timetable. It was still nice to see that the old master was able to show that "he's still got it" with his latest book, and I look forward to the concluding book in the series an I hope that he does NOT follow his promise (threat?) of never writing in the Commonwealth Universe again after he finishes the Fallers duopoly. (Unless he does so because he goes into Confederation Space, because that would be awesome!)

Honorable Mention (Science Fiction): Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross.
I have had difficulty finishing Charlie Stross books before despite the fact that he regularly gets recognized as producing some of the best speculative fiction around (multiple consecutive Hugo and Nebula nominations in the last decade). I picked up Neptune's Brood because it was nominated even though this is the sequel to Saturn's Children which I had not read (and still have not). This book was a whole bunch of fun, brimming with exciting ideas and lots of action set in well-imagined universe. Exactly what I love to get out of reading science fiction. One of my favorite sci-fi genre reads of 2014.

Favorite Fantasy Novel Read In 2014: The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

I actually read the all three of the currently available books in Brent Weeks Lightbringer series in 2014: The Black Prism (2010), The Blinding Knife (2012) and The Broken Eye (2014) and it's hard to say which of the three is the best. I think the third book has had the biggest impact on me of the three since now I have lived with these characters for well over 2,000 pages I am very invested as to what happens to them in the future. I believe that Weeks is improving as a writer; this series is already better than his Night's Angel series and there's (at least!) one more Lightbringer book to come. The main character is Kip, who is an out-of-shape, socially awkward 16-year-old who also happens to be the illegitimate son of the most powerful man in the world (Gavin Guile, known as The Prism for his powerful abilities to convert all spectra of light into solid objects and other forms of energy). Weeks has developed a fantasy series with a very interesting magic system  based on the seven colors of the rainbow and incorporated this into a complicated but intriguing political system and culture with many nuanced characters and exciting plot developments. The action is often breathless and the humor sometimes off-putting but once you start one of Brent Weeks novels they are often very hard to put down, and you are very glad that you didn't put it down until the end.

Runner-Up Favorite Fantasy: The Widow's House by Daniel Abrahams

I think of myself as someone who likes fantasy novels, but a review of my reading list in 2014 reveals I'm much pickier about titles in the fantasy genre than in the others that I consume. If I don't get caught up by a fantasy book early I am far more likely to give up on it than I would be if it were a mystery or science fiction book. One fantasy book I greatly enjoyed in 2014 was The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham. It is the penultimate book in the Dagger and the Coin series which is scheduled to be five books long. Amazingly, Abrahams has managed to keep to a schedule of releasing one book per year in the series for the last four years. Even more amazingly, he has been doing this while he has been adhering to the same schedule as one half of the writing team that produces The Expanse novels under the name of James S.A. Corey (see above). I don't know how they do it, but I am very happy that they do! The last book in the series will almost certainly come out this summer, and I expect The Spider's War to be awesome. Somehow Abrahams manages to have multiple strong female characters in a sword and sorcery tale that has monetary policy as one of its central organizing principles. If you are (or were) an economics major then this series is the one for you!

Favorite Mystery Novel Read In 2014: The Black Echo (and others) by Michael Connelly

Well over half the books I read last year were mysteries and 2014 was finally the year I discovered Michael Connelly. I'm not sure why it took so long; I like police procedurals and mysteries, and have read books of this genre set in Dublin (Tana French), Edinburgh (Ian Rankin), northern England (Peter Robinson) and London (Robert Barnard and Richard Galbraith) for years. I live in Los Angeles and love my adopted hometown. I knew intellectually that Connelly and Robert Crais set their books in this area but it wasn't until this past year that I discovered the joy of recognizing the setting in a book as a place I know in real life all too well (i.e. traffic on the 101 freeway, Griffith Park, Echo Park, et cetera). I still haven't read anything by Crais, but I expect that will happen eventually. I read twelve Harry Bosch books in 2014 and its hard to decide which is the "best" but I'm pretty confident the first one, The Black Echo, would be on the shortlist. I would also say that The Concrete Blonde, Trunk Music, The Last Coyote, A Darkness More Than Night and The Narrows are all excellent. I am only reading the Bosch series, not the other Connelly books featuring what I consider "side" characters (Mickey Haller, Terry McCaleb). I would say that The Overlook was not very good and so I hope that Connelly returns to form with the more recent books in the series. I'm not sure what I am going to do when I finish the last one, The Burning Room, published in 2014. I don't think I am interested in watching the Amazon series based on the books (called Bosch) but I am hopeful that regardless of its success as television fodder, Connelly will continue to produce more books featuring Harry Bosch.

Runner-Up Favorite Mystery: The Secret Place by Tana French

Tana French has long been my favorite mystery writer, (in)famous for her literate, genre-defying novels based around various detectives in the Murder Squad of the Dublin Police Department that began with stunning debut In The Woods (2007). Sadly, she has only written five books so far and some observers think that her first work was her best and things have gone downhill from there (I disagree). French's books are collectively known as the Dublin Murder Squad series and I think it is an interesting choice the author has made to not stick to a single main detective whom readers get to know more about and become comfortable with in book after book. (I think this may have been a problem with Peter Robinson's books--towards the end of that series the books were definitely declining in quality. However, my counterexample would be Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series, which I think got better as it went on, but that may have happened because Siobhan Clarke's role grew larger and so the cast of characters to care about was expanded.) Anyway, each of French's books is very different, and about very different mysteries. The Secret Place is about the death of a teenage boy on the grounds of a private girls school where one of the quartet of prime suspects is the teenage daughter of one of the few characters who has appeared in more than one of French's books: Francis Mackey. This ensures tha longtime fans of French's work are heavily invested in the outcome of the mystery in The Secret Place (could Mackey's daughter really be a killer?) The story involves digging into the tangled webs of deception and desire and envy and emotion that connect nearly a dozen hormonal teenagers and resulted in one of them on the ground with his head bashed in. The reader gets to see the investigation both from the perspective of the police investigators and from the student suspects; it is an interesting tightrope that French pulls off well. There are some aspects of the book which will not wear so well on some readers: much of the dialogue is in the argot of contemporary teenage girls and texts are central communication mechanisms to the story. In my opinion, the most glaring of these weaknesses is French's ill-advised decision to include actual supernatural elements as part of the narrative. Overall, The Secret Place is another unusual but memorable novel (with some flaws) from a superior mystery writer.

Favorite Thriller Novel Read In 2014: The Snowman by Jo Nesbø.
In addition to Harry Bosch, 2014 was the year that I discovered Harry Hole, the Norwegian alcoholic serial killer hunter. Hole springs from the creative mind of Jo Nesbø, who along with fellow Scandinavian authors Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson is one of the creators of a subgenre of mystery/thrillers known as Nordic noir. I think it is true that if you liked Mankell's Kurt Wallander books you will enjoy Nesbø's Harry Hole books. However, I would say that Nesbø's series on a whole is superior to Mankell's. They are for more suspenseful and action-filled, for the most part. Hole is an even more self-destructive anti-hero of the books than Wallander, but somehow the reader becomes attached to Hole and the supporting cast of characters in the Oslo Police Department. I read the first eight of Nesbø's Harry Hole books in 2014: The Bat, Cockroaches, The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil's Star, The Redeemer, The Snowman and The Leopard. In general I would say that each book is better than the last with The Snowman perhaps edging out The Leopard for the most thrilling read I had in 2014. I would strongly recommend the Harry Hole books for anyone who likes detective mysteries with pulse-pounding action and suspense. Nesbø will give you that and have you gasping for more even while you despair for Harry's future.

Runner-Up Favorite Thriller: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen.
This book was a complete surprise to me. The Department Q novels, of which this is the first one, were recommended to me because of my interest in Jo Nesbø books by's algorithm. (I guess my attraction to Nordic noir was easy to suss out from my wishlist and browsing history.) Jussi Adler-Olsen sets his books in Copenhagen, and his main detective is Carl Mørck, a detective who has been relegated to his own department of cold cases, in the basement of the police station primarily because no one else wants to work with him and because his bosses feel sorry for what he went through when two of his colleagues were shot right in front of him. This was a tougher slog to get through than any of the Michael Connelly books because Carl is not a compelling character but his sidekick, a Syrian emigre named Assad is great and kept me coming back to the story through the initial slow bits. And the ticking time bomb plot device (which I don't want to spoil here except to say it involves an abduction and kidnapping) makes the book literally impossible to put down from about halfway through the book. I had previously grouped mysteries and thrillers together as one genre but now I see that books like The Snowman and The Keeper of Lost Causes are more than just about solving the mystery of who did the crime, but also about drawing in the reader so that they are honestly worried about the well-being of the characters and curious and concerned about their ultimate fates. The Keeper of Lost Causes had me almost skimming the pages in order to advance the story to find out what happens, and isn't that what one wants in a thriller?

Honorable Mention (Thriller): The Quiet Game by Greg Iles.   
This is the first book in the Penn Case series of mystery thriller written by Greg Iles set in Natchez, Mississippi. After reading the first one I quickly devoured the next three (Turning Angel, The Devil's Punchbowl and Natchez Burning) and am looking forward to the forthcoming The Bone Tree  with baited breath.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Where Are The Godless? See The Map!

Gallup has published data on how the states compare on weekly church attendance, which I am taking as a proxy for "godlessness" (i.e. the less likely you attend church weekly the more godless you are.) The most "godly" states are the usual suspects of Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. I'm sure Texas must be very upset that it's tied for tenth place with 39% of respondents saying they attend services weekly. It should be noted that even in Utah a bare majority say they go to church once a week.

Joe Jervis prints this map indicating the various geographical distributions of the rates of church-attendance around the country:

California is surprisingly high, no?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

POLL: Even Republican Primary Voters Support Mariage Equality

Joe Jervis today blogged about a Washington Post poll that shows that even among Republican primary voters, who are more conservative than the country as a whole, more of them think opposition to marriage equality is an unacceptable position for their presidential nominee than think it is an acceptable position.

There is some question as to whether Republican voters were too dumb to even realize that the question was asking about support for marriage equality, since the way the question is asked it in the form of a double negative.

It should also be noted that for Democratic voters in those same states the number of respondents who found a presidential candidate who opposed marriage equality acceptable were: 26% (Iowa), 18% (New Hampshire) and 32% (South Carolina).

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Monday, February 16, 2015

EYE CANDY: Yusuf Myers (Again!)

Yusuf Myers is one of my all-time favorite Eye Candy models. He has been featured here many times before(September 9, 2012, June 25, 2012, July 7, 2009) even when I did not what his name was, only that he was just one of the hottest member of the "City Gym Boys." According to his Model Mayhem profile, Yusuf is multiracial, black and latino (Blatino!) and is currently 31.

As you can see, a lot of his best work has been done with photographer Dallas J. Logan. He is on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I thnk you can see why he's one of my faves!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

GRAPHIC: Age Gap In Same-Sex Couples Generally Greater Than Straight Couples'

Five Thirty Eight did an analysis of the average gap in ages between couples, and included male-male and female-female pairs in their data set (which was taken from Facebook). The results are interesting, because there is a significant difference:
Using anonymized data from U.S. users who say they are in relationships, Facebook found that the average age difference in gay couples tends to get bigger the older people get. Those in their early 20s have an average age difference in their relationships of about two to three years, but once people get into their 40s, that average age gap increases to about seven years. The age difference increases for older male-female couples, too (shown in red below), though not by as much. (Remember, this is self-reported data from people who make their relationship status public on Facebook.)
Any thoughts about why this age gap among gay and lesbian couples increases with age? The age gap between me and my Other Half is 37 months (just over 3 years), but we are in our forties so we are clearly outliers.

Happy Valentine's Day (Weekend)!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

SATURDAY POLITICS: LA Times Endorses Molina for Los Angeles CD14

MadProfessah has been following the race between Jose Huizar and Gloria Molina for the 14th District Seat on the Los Angeles City Council for quite awhile, since I live in the district in question, the incumbent Huizar is my Councilmember and the race seemed interesting, especially after Huizar admitted to an affair with one of his staff. I've generally been in favor of Molina, although Huizar seems to be running the more visible campaign (he clearly has a lot of money in his campaign coffers) because his lawn signs and billboards are EVERYWHERE in the Highland Park/Glassell Park/Eagle Rock/El Sereno sections of the district.

This week comes the news that the Los Angeles Times has made an endorsement in the race, and it is not for the incumbent:
Molina, who also served in the Assembly and had one previous term on the City Council, is the best candidate for the job. She is well known for her independence — a characteristic that is sorely lacking in City Hall at the moment. She has never shied away from questioning the status quo or challenging the power structure, though at times she has been more combative than productive. (A county department head once collapsed and had to be hospitalized during one of her grillings.) She was a fierce advocate for her district, developing neighborhood-level solutions in areas that had been long neglected. Molina became far more fiscally conservative after the county neared bankruptcy in the 1990s; her hawkishness on spending and labor demands is one reason the county didn't face the kind of severe budget crisis the city faced during the recession, and didn't have to lay off employees. Los Angeles needs more leaders who can say “no.”
Interesting development. The election is a little over two weeks away, but absentee voters (like myself have our ballots at home now and can send them in any time before March 3).

Friday, February 13, 2015

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Kate Brown To Become United States First Openly Bisexual Governor (D-OR)

Kate Brown will become the nation's first openly bisexual Governor today when she is sworn in next Wednesday after Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber resigned announced his resignation in the wake of an ethics scandal. Brown was formerly the Secretary of State of Oregon (since the state does not have a Lieutenant Governor!)

The Washington Post The Fix blog reports:
An open LGBT governor has never been elected, although New Jersey did have an openly gay governor briefly in 2004, after Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) came out as gay and admitted an affair with a man he had appointed to a key job. He resigned three months later. 
Brown is married to husband Dan Little; she has publicly discussed her bisexuality in past campaigns. She is already arguably the highest-ranking bisexual elected official in America; Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) became the first bisexual member of Congress in 2013. There are about 525 openly LGBT public officials in office at all levels of government, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Most of them are Democrats, said interim executive director Denis Dison, and only about 20 are Republicans.
Strange we haven't had an openly LGBT person elected as Governor yet, but maybe that will happen soon, maybe if Brown decides to run for the office in 2016?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

QUEER QUOTE: Federal Judge Issues Order Enjoining Alabama Officials To Issue Marriage Licenses

Federal District Court Judge Callie Granade issued an order enjoining probate judges in Mobile, Alabama from refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite spurious declarations from Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama State Supreme Court that the fact that the United States Supreme Court refusal to issue  a stay on Granade's previous order striking down Alabama's discriminatory marriage amendment caused marriage equality to go into effect on Monday February 9th.

This excerpt from the federal order is today's Queer Quote:
Accordingly, the Court once again makes the following declaration: It is ORDERED and DECLARED that ALA. CONST. ART. I, § 36.03 (2006) and ALA. CODE 1975 § 30-1-19 are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Probate Judge Don Davis is hereby ENJOINED from refusing to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs due to the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage. If Plaintiffs take all steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that Plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act or by any other Alabama law or Order pertaining to same-sex marriage. This injunction binds Judge Don Davis and all his officers, agents, servants and employees, and others in active concert or participation with any of them, who would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage. DONE and ORDERED this 12th day of February, 2015. 

Hat/tip to Chris Geidner 

Monday, February 09, 2015

NOW THERE ARE 37! Marriage Equality Comes To Alabama!

With the Supreme Court's 7-2 vote to deny their request for a stay on a federal judge's ruling striking down Alabama's ban on marriage equality, the Cotton State becomes the 37th in the union to allow same-sex couples to get married. Only Justices Scalia and Thomas would have approved Alabama's request for a stay.

Same-sex couples are getting married in the majority of the counties in Alabama today, despite attempts by Chief Justice Roy Moore and Governor Robert Bentley to not follow the rule of law as clearly articulated by the federal judiciary. Gee, when has that happened before?

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

EYE CANDY: Brandon Espy

Brandon Espy is a model, actor and photographer (see He is active on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. I think you can see why he is out first Eye Candy model for Black History Month. (Yes, he's phyne!)

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Better Call Saul (Breaking Bad spin-off) Debuts Tonight!

Since the Super Bowl is over, television is returning to original programming and tonight is the debut of Better Call Saul, the spin-off from Breaking Bad starring Bob Odenkirk's character, the morally challenged lawyer Saul Goodman. The first (ever) episode airs tonight and then the second one airs tomorrow.

I never saw the original Breaking Bad on television, instead The Other Half and I streamed the entire 5 seasons on Netflix. But I am excited to see if Better Call Saul can match Breaking Bad in its brilliance.

Also returning with new episodes tonight is The Walking Dead, which is television's most-watched drama, and will serve as the lead-in to Better Call Saul. Both air on AMC.

Friday, February 06, 2015

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: 25 Years Ago, NYT Noted "First Black Elected To Head Harvard's Law Review"

25 years ago today the New YorkTimes ran an article about Barack Obama, the first African-American elected to head Harvard's Law Review. Interestingly, in the very first paragraph they mention he was born in Hawaii and the races of his father and mother.

Hat/tip to Wonder Man

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Science Fiction Authors Featured For Black History Month

This is an interesting video which somehow I missed last year which is perfect for celebrating Black History Month. The video discusses the contributions and accomplishments of science fiction authors who happen to be Black or African-American, including some I have heard of like Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley and Samuel Delaney and some I had not, like Virginia Hamilton.

Noted fantasy author N.K. Jemisin (The Inheritance trilogy) is quoted in the video saying:
“When there were people of color in these books, they were in the background, or they died quickly, or any number of other stereotypes. For the most part, they just weren’t there. And in Octavia Butler’s works, they not only were there, they were prominent; they were protagonists.”
Enjoy the video, and Happy Black History Month!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

SHOCK! Serena Agrees To Play At 2015 Indian Wells; Ends 12-Year Boycott

Serena Williams has published an article in Time magazine today to explain why she is ending her boycott of Indian Wells, the second most prestigious (and lucrative) tennis tournament held in her home country.
Thirteen years and a lifetime in tennis later, things feel different. A few months ago, when Russian official Shamil Tarpischev made racist and sexist remarks about Venus and me, the WTA and USTA immediately condemned him. It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too. 
I have thought about going back to Indian Wells many times over my career. I said a few times that I would never play there again. And believe me, I meant it. I admit it scared me. What if I walked onto the court and the entire crowd booed me? The nightmare would start all over. 
It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001, driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever—not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality. Emotionally it seemed easier to stay away. There are some who say I should never go back. There are others who say I should’ve returned years ago. I understand both perspectives very well and wrestled with them for a long time. I’m just following my heart on this one. 
I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015. 
I was raised by my mom to love and forgive freely. “When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). I have faith that fans at Indian Wells have grown with the game and know me better than they did in 2001. 
Indian Wells was a pivotal moment of my story, and I am a part of the tournament’s story as well. Together we have a chance to write a different ­ending.
Wow. I was going to go to Indian Wells this year  (like last year) anyway but this makes it 2-3x more likely I will go, and maybe for multiple days. It's only a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, and near Palm Springs!

The only question now is, is Venus going also?


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