Monday, August 19, 2019

America and guns

Here's how President Donald Trump has responded to recent questions about gun control:

"So, Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we'll see. I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don't want them to forget that, because it is. It's a mental health problem. And as I say -- and I said the other night in New Hampshire; we had an incredible evening -- I said: It's the people that pull the trigger. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger."

"I'm also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most Presidents would be. People don't realize we have very strong background checks right now."

- Donald Trump
August 18, 20119

Does that sound like a president who is going to get serious about gun control?  Does that sound like a man who is going to stop all the gun violence and mass shooting in the United States? Just days after a mass shooting at a garlic Festival in Gilroy, California,, a 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.  The El Paso massacre left 20 dead and 20 injured.
Hours later, it happened again, another mass shooting at a bar in Dayton, Ohio.

President Donald Trump's response to this gun violence and shedding of innocent blood is woefully inadequate.  It is especially galling since Trump has been stoking the flames of white nationalism.  He is also a strong supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The president's reaction to mass shootings is always the same.  He offers his support and prayers to the grieving families.  However, he and his Republican lackeys will never do what really needs to be done in order to protect innocent lives.  They won't do it because they need the support of the NRA and right-wing conservatives to win re-election in 2020.  Trump and the Republicans have to save their political skins, which seems to be more important to them than protecting Americans from gun violence.

This can't go on.  It is a scourge and it has to stop.  Most Americans know it.  Still, Trump and his cohorts refuse to address the problem.  They refuse to do what must be done.  Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have no place on the streets of America or on any city streets.  They should be banned PERIOD.

Trump stated that the U.S. already has strong background checks now.  If so, why are there so many incidents of gun violence?  Why are so many weapons falling into the hands of mentally ill people and white supremacists?  Why are so many Americans, young and old alike, rich and poor alike, living in fear of mass shootings?

Donald Trump has blamed video games and mental health for the shootings.  Yet, he refuses to take any measures to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who are mentally unstable.  He and the Republican-controlled Senate refuse to back legislation allowing stringent background checks.  Of course, Trump will never acknowledge his own complicity in the mass shootings, nor will the Republicans, nor will the NRA.  They just keep on repeating the specious argument that "guns don't kill people" ad nauseum.  Yes, people pull the trigger, but people also allow guns to be sold to the mentally ill and to  militant white supremacists.  More guns always equals more gun violence.  That's why countries with stricter gun laws have fewer shootings.  People who have to keep guns out of the wrong hands.  Guns can't do that.

The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows that:

89% of Americans favour expanded background checks for gun purchases.

76% favour "red flag laws" to identify dangerous persons and deny them guns

75% favour a voluntary buyback program in which the government would purchase firearms from current owners.

62% of Americans favour a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons.  (Why isn't that number higher?)

Only 25% favour the banning of handguns and 46% of Americans say someone in their household owns a gun.

For comparison, here a recent poll on gun control and gun ownership in Canada.  According to an Angus Reid poll (released May 24, 2019), found the following.:

* Half of Canadians (50%) consider gun violence a serious problem for the country, while half say political and media coverage of this has been overblown.

* 75% of Canadians would support a complete ban on assault weapons.

* 61% wanted to see a complete ban on handguns in Canada (support for the ban is considerably higher in rural areas than urban areas).

* Of those surveyed, 77% said they've never owned a gun, while 14% currently owned a gun.  9% had owned a gun in the past.

* Two-thirds of Canadians (65%) said they would support a tax
funded buy-back program for gun owners if the government banned handguns, assault weapons or both.

 - Joanne

Vocabulary Quiz #2

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #2

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  umbrage (noun)

A.  A large mound of garbage or refuse

B.  Leftover residue from a fire, such as ashes and burnt items

C.  Offense or annoyance, a feeling of pique or resentment at some fancied slight or insult

D.  A secret or hidden room in a mansion

E.  A leafy vegetable, most commonly found in tropical and Caribbean countries

2.  countermand (verb)

A.  To attack unexpectedly in battle

B.  To revoke a command by contrary order

C.  To spy on an other country as a double agent

D.  To unlawfully seize private property

E.   To withdraw support from a candidate during an election

3.  piscatory (adjective)

A.  of, related to a blood vessels

B.  of, related to, or dependent on pigs or pig farming

C.  of, related to animals that have fur

D.  of, related to, or dependent on fish or fishing

E.  of, related to swimming or swimming pools

4.  incontrovertible (adjective)

A.  not open to question: INDISPUTABLE

B.  that which is impossible to forget  UNFORGETTABLE

C.  that which can be changed easily

D.  that which is not portable and can not be carried around

E.   of cars, relating to sedans, not convertibles

5.  distended (adjective)

A.  postponed, delayed (as a decision)

B.  enlarged, expanded, or stretched out (as from internal pressure)

C.  shortened in length

D.  chopped up into smaller parts

E.  alone and abandoned

6.  inculcate (verb)

A.  to trespass on someone's property

B.  to invade

C.  to plunder and rob

D.  to teach by example

E.  to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions

7.  renal (adjective)

A.  relating to the lower body

B.  of relating to, involving, or located in the region of the liver

C.  of, relating to, involving, or located in the region of the kidneys: NEPHRIC

D.  of, relating to, involving, or located in the region of the intestines or the intestines

E.   of, relating to, involving, or located in the region of the pancreas

8.  obfuscate (verb)

A.  to make obscure, to confuse

B.  to be obedient

C.  to protest loudly

D.  to be controlling

E.   to demand strongly

9.  scurrilous (adjective)

A.  unreasonable, not logical

B.  not accurate

C.  very aggressive or violent

D.  containing obscenities, abuse, or slander

E.   ridiculous

10.  autophobia (noun)

A.  morbid fear of automobiles

B.  morbid fear of robots

C.  morbid fear of movable objects

D.  morbid fear of being lost

E.   morbid fear of solitude

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  C
umbrage (noun): Offense or annoyance, a feeling of pique or resentment at some fancied slight or insult  as in I took umbrage at the speaker's remarks

2.  B
countermand (verb): To revoke a command by contrary order: OVERRIDE, OVERRULE, VETO

3.  D
piscatory (adjective): Of, related to, or dependent on fish or fishing

4.  A
incontrovertible (adjective): Not open to question: INDISPUTABLE as in incontrovertible facts

5.  B
distended (adjective): Enlarged, expanded, or stretched out (as from internal pressure)

6.  E
inculcate (verb): To teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions as to inculcate in him high moral standards

7.  C
renal (adjective): Of, relating to, involving, or located in the region of the kidneys: NEPHRIC, as renal disease

8.  A
obfuscate (verb): To make obscure, as to obfuscate the issue; to confuse, as to obfuscate the reader

9.  D
scurrilous (adjective): Containing obscenities, abuse, or slander as in scurrilous accusations

10.  E
autophobia (noun): Morbid fear of solitude, as in the fear of being alone

- Joanne

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Blockbuster Baddies: Who is the Most Villainous Actress of All Time?

Here is a great infographic for film buffs.  Have you ever wondered about who is the most villainous actress of all time?  Here are some statistics and graphics to provide you with the answer.  I hope that you find this informative and entertaining.

- Joanne

Villainous Actress of All Time?

Bellatrix Lestrange, Mystique and Cruella de Vil.  All familiar names with movie buffs and filmgoers alike due to their cunning, cruelty and villainousness.  One of the greatest female baddies, Maleficent, is due to return to cinema screens in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.  Played by Angelina Jolie, her character is a powerful fairy who curses the King's daughter.

Casino Kings have trawled through almost 1,000 movie bios to find the most villainous actress of all time and which villainous role they're most likely to portray.  Hare are the results.

Top Five Most Villainous Actresses

- Glenn Close
- Helena Bonham Carter
- Sigourney Weaver
- Charlize Theron
- Jessica Lange

Glenn Close is the most villainous actress of all time, playing villains in 29% of her movies. She is perhaps most recognisable in her role as cruel dalmatian owner and fur enthusiast Cruella de Vil in the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians.  Close is closely followed by British actress Helena Bonham Carter, who famously portrays Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter franchise.

Unsurprisingly a cheating partner takes the lead for the most villainous role, with a slippery thief and corrupt authority coming in close seconds.

The USA tops the charts for the most villainous as 8 of the 10 actresses are American.

Top Five Villainous Roles

- Cheating Partner
- Slippery Thief
- Corrupt Authority
- Cold Murderess
- Evil Witch


Thursday, August 8, 2019

"My Country, Right or Wrong": Thoughts on Blind Loyalty

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
From a letter by Roosevelt, written in May 1918 and published in The Kansas City Star (as quoted in The Nation at War by James Scherer).

"'My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case,  It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober."'

- G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), British author
From The Defendant [1901]

"Burt you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile."

- Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000), English novelist
From Master and Commander [1969]


Lindsey Graham
The day after Donald Trump's infamous July 17, 2019 rally in North Carolina, when Trump stirred up hatred against four progressive Democratic congresswomen (all women of colour, all American citizens), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham made the following comment to reporters.

“for President Trump, if you embrace his policies, doesn’t matter where you come from, he probably likes you.”

- Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina)

There is some truth in what Senator Graham's said regarding Donald Trump.  As long as you agree with the president and wears a red MAGA hat, you are a patriotic American.  However, if your skin is brown or black and if you do not agree with the president's policies, if you are (horrors) a card-carrying Democrat, then you are characterized is an enemy, an alien, a communist, "the other."  That's why there are few African-Americans or Latinos at Donald Trump's hate rallies.

As a Trump supporter and enabler, the senator is horribly misguided.  If he truly agrees with Trump's views on loyalty and patriotism, then he is not fit to be a member of the United States Senate.  He does not comprehend the essence of democratic dissent and free speech.

"My country, right or wrong" is the philosophy of the Archie Bunkers of this world.  That's why I subscribe to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, G.K. Chesterton and Patrick O'Brian.  I believe it is incumbent upon a true patriot to criticize his or her own country, to point out what is wrong and what can be improved.  The true patriot cannot sit back and allow injustice to happen without protesting.  It is a civic duty and a responsibility.  I also believe it is dangerous and undemocratic to equate loyalty to one's country with loyalty to one's leader.  That is exactly what the dictators and authoritarian strongmen do.  That's the reason why Donald Trump admires Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin so greatly.  They don't have to tolerate criticism.  They can do what they want.

For Donald Trump, loyalty to the United States means loyalty to him. If one does not agree with him, then one is unpatriotic. This president doesn't seem to grasp the essence of democracy.  He doesn't realize that blind loyalty is not true patriotism.

- Joanne

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another mass shooting in the USA

Ho Hum!  It's a sunny summer day.  There's another mass shooting in the US of A.

According to CNN, a six-year-old boy, a 13 year-old girl and a man in his twenties were killed last night when a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in northern California.  The 19-year-old gunman purchased his AK-47 style rifle legally in Nevada on July 9.  At least 12 others were injured before the killer was shot to death by three police officers.  The victims, whose conditions ranged from fair to serious, were taken to taken to nearby hospitals.  Seven patients with gunshot wounds were transported to Santa Clara County Health System.  Their ages ranged from 12 to 69.  One was in critical condition.  Authorities are searching for a second suspect whom some witnesses claim was involved in the shooting.

It's worth noting that an Instragram post bearing the suspect's name referred to a white supremacist book.   Of course, white supremacists by Trump crowds shouting "Send her back!"

The whole incident absolutely sickens me.  Assault rifles should be banned.  These mass murders have become routine in America.  Innocent people (including children), enjoying a food festival on a summer day, should not have to fear for their lives.  Is this what America has become?  Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys will offer their thoughts and prayers.  Thoughts and prayers are good, but they are not good enough.  Much more is needed.  There must be tighter gun control and more background checks or these shootings will continue unabated.  They'll be more Parklands and Sandy Hooks and Las Vegas shootings.  Don't accept this.  Push for gun control legislation.

America, it's time for action.  Do you want to live this way, fearing for yourselves and your children?  It's time to stop this insanity by voting Trump and his Republicans lackeys out of office in November of 2020.  Tune out the National Rifle Association.  The NRA has blood on its hands.

I am disgusted and saddened beyond words by what happened in Gilroy, California on Sunday, July 28, 2019.  Don't be numb to gun violence.  Don't meekly accept that this is the new reality.


- Joanne

The 10 Most Bankable British Actors

Here is an infographic on the most bankable (and least bankable) British actors.  If you are a fan of British cinema, its facts and statistics should be of great interest to you.  I hope that all film lovers find it useful, informative and entertaining.  

- Joanne


Using data from the 50 highest grossing films, spanning from 1993 to present day, price comparison experts Money Guru analysed which British actors offer the best Return On Investment (ROI) based on their Box Office sales as a leading actor and the respective film budgets. They uncovered that Dame Julie Andrews is the most bankable British actor, offering a staggering 785% ROI and £6.85 for every £1 spent ($8.53 for every $1 spent). 

Here are the 10 most bankable British actors.

Dame Julie Andrews has claimed the title for the most bankable British star, offering a staggering 785% ROI (and £6.85 for every £1 spent) when looking at her worldwide box office sales as a leading actress in nine films. Andrews boasts a career that guarantees sales, with notable films including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.
The second British film star that drives cinema sales is another actress, Dame Julie Walters, with her huge 737% ROI generated over two Blockbusters. Throughout her career, she has been nominated for two Academy Awards and won a Golden Globe, while also boasting an extensive TV portfolio. While she is a household name within the British film industry, most of her popularity is generated as a supporting star. Yet, compared to Daniel Radcliffe’s 11 films, Walters will get you £6.36 for every £1 spent in just two films.

In third place is another actress, Dame Maggie Smith, with an ROI of 712%. Her ROI was calculated from her starring in seven notable films as the lead, such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Lady in the Van. Additionally, she also offers £6.11 for every £1.

Female British film stars are a better investment than their male counterparts

Surprisingly, it’s the British actresses that offer 15% more value than the British male actors.
In the past few years, there have been high-profile salary discrepancies in the film industry - particularly between male and female stars. It has previously been reported that the world’s 10 highest paid actresses make less than half of the 10 highest paid male actors, when totalling their combined salaries. While gender pay discrepancies are still very much a hot topic, Money Guru’s research suggests that female stars are more likely to produce a hit than their male counterparts.
Only two male actors make the top five list of actors offering the most value, Daniel Radcliffe and Rowan Atkinson. Whereas, Dame Julie Andrews, Dame Julie Walters and Dame Maggie Smith are the top three British film stars that guarantee Box Office success (based on their previous performances).
Previous reports have found that actresses played only 32% of the characters in the world’s top-grossing films of the 21st century, with fewer subsequently cast in lead roles.

Similarly, according to Forbes, the 10 highest paid actresses in 2018 earned a staggering £443 million less than the highest-paid actors. A notable example of the pay discrepancies occurred in 2018, when Michelle Williams received $1,500 for the reshoots of her role in All the Money in the World, compared to the $1.5 million salary of her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg.

‘Mr Bean’ is one of Britain’s most successful actors

Closely following suit to the most valuable actresses are Daniel Radcliffe and Rowan Atkinson.
Daniel Radcliffe is Britain’s ‘Chosen One’ when it comes to male actors with an ROI of 665%. Starring in 11 films, including the Harry Potter film series and The Woman in Black, Radcliffe guarantees Box Office hits and £5.56 for every £1.
However, closely following suit is Rowan Atkinson - otherwise known as the country’s lovable, Mr Bean. Despite stiff competition from Oscar winners, Atkinson is the fifth most bankable actor. His ROI sits at 628%, based on Box Office sales of five films, also offering £5.28 for every £1.
Atkinson’s combined Box Office sales total nearly £1 billion and he has starred in a number of popular TV shows and films, including the Mr Bean and Johnny English franchises.
Other stars making an appearance in the top 10 most bankable include the aforementioned Kate Winslet - boasting 12 films in the lead role - and Sam Worthington, starring in five blockbuster films.

Oscar wins do not guarantee Box Office triumph

The Academy Awards (otherwise known as the Oscars) are considered to be the most prestigious film awards for actors. While the awards are an honour, they do not ultimately spell Box Office success, according to Money Guru’s study. 
When analysing the Box Office success of British actors, Money Guru found that Russell Brand is more likely to bring in sales and provide a better ROI than Oscar winners, with lead roles in the likes of Get Him to the Greek and a supporting role in the hugely popular franchise, Minions. 
Brand’s ROI stands at 226% from just three films, compared to Academy Award winner, Sir Ben Kingsley, who offers an ROI of 208% from eight lead roles.

The 10 Least Bankable British Actors

Steve Coogan is Britain’s least bankable actor

According to the Money Guru study, TV and film star Steve Coogan is Britain’s least bankable actor, based on his Box Office success when cast in the lead role. While his career spans almost 40 years - with four leading roles, including Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - his average ROI sits at 86%. While Coogan provides £0.13 for every £1, he is well known for his supporting roles in Minions, the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Surprisingly, Ewan McGregor and Jude Law are the second and third least bankable Brit actors, with ROIs of 144% (£0.44 for every £1) and 149% (£0.49 for every £1) respectively. McGregor has starred in 25 films as the lead, including Oscar winner, Moulin Rouge, and Trainspotting.
Similarly, Jude Law boasts 10 lead roles and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for Cold Mountain.
Notably, only one actress, Helena Bonham Carter, made the Money Guru list of Britain’s least bankable actors, further reinforcing that actresses offer a better ROI than male actors, and should be considered for more leading roles.

So, the results are in. If you are looking to create a future Box Office hit, it’s worth noting that the top 10 British actresses offer 15% more value than the top 10 male actors - despite making less than half the money and starring in 68% less leading roles.

Standout Stats

  • Dame Julie Andrews is the British actor most likely to guarantee Box Office success, with an ROI of 785% on films with her cast at the lead.
  • Daniel Radcliffe is the British male actor that will guarantee Box Office success (664% ROI) - largely 
  • due to the success of the Harry Potter franchise - closely followed by Rowan Atkinson (628% ROI) and Sam Worthington (622% ROI).
  • ‘Mr Bean’ is one of Britain’s most successful actors. Rowan Atkinson is the fifth most bankable actor. His ROI sits at 628%, based on Box Office sales of five films, also offering £5.28 for every £1 spent ($6.58 for every $1 spent).
  • Surprisingly, women are most likely to ensure a Box Office hit, with Dame Julie Andrews (785% ROI), Dame Julie Walters (737% ROI) and Dame Maggie Smith (712% ROI) in the top three. Kate Winslet (583% ROI) also features in the top 10. 
  • The top three actors most likely to guarantee Box Office sales are women, which is surprising as women are only cast in 32% of leading roles in the film industry.
  • Steve Coogan (86% ROI) is the British actor least likely to guarantee Box Office success, followed by Ewan McGregor (144% ROI ) and Jude Law (149% ROI).
  • Russell Brand (226% ROI) offers a better chance for bigger Box Office sales than Oscar winner, Sir Ben Kingsley (208% ROI) and Oscar-nominated, Jude Law (149% ROI).
  • Oscars wins do not guarantee Box Office triumph. Russell Brand with an ROI of 226% is more likely to bring in sales and provide a better ROI than Oscar winners.